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I’ve had a fascination with point and shoots since I sent $9.99 and a coupon from the back of a cereal box, for a Kodak 110 with those horrid flash cubes. Crude in its simplicity, it was compact, and it took many a memorable photo.

My love for P&S photographing has not diminished. I am head over heels in lust with a camera. It’s the Fuji F70 EXR. Here, in a nutshell is the technology of EXR simplified.

Wow!!! For a camera to have this type of sensitivity to the dynamic range in a shot, is a real paradigm shift for an intelligent P&S camera.

I know, I just got my latest toy last February, and it’s now being considered for that great bin of eBay. Camera technology marches on, and I’m right there in its wake. Maybe I ain’t riding the crest, but I’m right there paddling into the wave. I love you Fujifilm engineers!

Footnote: For any of you who have owned Canon point and shoots, I have two words for you “battery door.” Hah, you know what I’m talking about, dontcha? This has bothered me since I got my first Canon digicam. They have the cludgiest battery doors of any maker I’ve used. The Canon camera I’d owned previously, had a visible gap in the door when the batteries were inserted, and the door closed. There wasn’t a tight fit to the body.

I’ve reason this week to even be more frustrated with the door design. I stupidly popped the AA batteries in backwards, and now can’t open the door to get them out. I had to mail it back to the service center to rescue myself from this mistake that I will never make again. Yeah, my bad, but also, Canon’s lousy design.

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The way we learn in school is like stuffing cats in a sack. They don’t stay in there and you just get upset with the whole process. You didn’t cram the Pimsleur. Don’t start cramming this new vocabulary and grammar. Mellow out and spend the same thirty minutes a day or a bit more noodling through this kind of book with its CDs. Milk it. Milk it big time until you have worked your way through it all at your own pace. R. Earle Harris.

That’s got to be one of the funniest analogies I’ve heard in a long time. Makes me not so worried about the pace I’m taking to learn two languages at once.

The Pimsleur Russian is coming along slowly, and I’ve decided to learn the Cyrillic. In for a penny, in for a pound. Here’s the kicker, why do Russians read typeface on signs, but write in script? Trudging along.

Brown University website on writing Russian script.

Ready to play the 10,000 Pyramid ? Here are the clues:
– Edward Scissorhands.
– James Franco, was Peter Parker’s friend and later nemesis.
– James Dean, the actor, not the sausages.

This is my first movie review on this blog. Normally I don’t like reviewing movies aimed toward a younger audience, for reasons I shall write down, then just as discretely, delete.

This is all I knew about the movie going in.
1) Teen flick.
2) vampire movie
3) Big book tie in

That first one alone would make me run screeching toward the other end of the movie theatre. I’ve been a fan of good (not mediocre) vampire movies, since Dracula, starring Frank Langella. And my daughter likes the book series.

Somehow I found myself watching a pretty funny Youtube parody of Twilight, and was intrigued. A user uploaded the entire DVD movie in 12 parts. vive la internet. So I sat and watched that, out of sheer curiosity. What was the fuss all about?

These were my thoughts.
1) She’s utterly depressing, which this movie translates to “attractive” to lumbertown high school guys. Does this actress have any other expressions besides sullen heaving and muttering through her clenched teeth?
2) One of the female characters describes Edward Cullen as extremely good looking. I had to search high and low on screen for him. Oh — he’s in the centre of the shot. Pale, yes? Devastating? Uh, nee man.

The two of them flip-flopped between like/hate/like/hate. Yeah, whiplash is exactly how I would describe it also. So I just got off the merry-go-round, and let the characters have at each other, while I chomped on my popcorn. I never got fully vested in their interactions and relationship.

I was one of those fortunate few who weren’t jaded by the book, and I didn’t expect much, which was good, because “not much” was exactly what I got from the movie. It was a retelling of Romeo and Juliet meets
Beauty and the Beast.

I read the novel later in the evening, just to see what it was that made the series so popular. Maybe I was missing something. Turns out, I didn’t miss much there, either. The movie is fairly close to the book, only with more action. Too bad. I was hoping the series was an improvement.

In at least one way, the book was far worse than the movie, in its Mary Sueish depiction of Bella. Every boy in school was attracted to the main character. And she was beloved by an Adonis of an eternally young and undead boyfriend. I think at one point she even exclaims in typical Sue-monologue “I can’t believe this Adonis is in love with me.” I don’t know how that escaped the eyes of the publisher. But more power to the writer of Sues. At least the movie didn’t push the Sue-ish aspect of Bella. Bella – Belle (from Beauty and the Beast?).

If I’d read the book earlier, I would have been greatly disappointed by the casting of Edward Cullen, again no Adonis. But then, as the actor himself explained, maybe he was only an Adonis, in the eyes of Bella. That’s a much better explanation of why Adonis turned out to be a lookalike to Peter Parker’s best friend and nemesis, Harry Osborn.

Again, as a testament to the actor’s craft, without having read anything beforehand, I felt he came across as James Dean-ish, with the attitude, and — mostly the absurd flair of troll hair. I later discovered that’s the American icon’s accent he was aiming for.

The movie could have been better, but it could have been worse. I think the only saving grace was that it plays better the second time around. Overall a three out of five, if only for the novelty of vegetarian vampires who sparkle like diamonds in the sunshine … as opposed to Tolkien elves that glow like nighsticks in the dark.

I am learning two foreign languages at the same time. Well, not exactly at the same time. I started with Afrikaans over seven months ago, and I’m using Pimsleur Russian just this month. The Russian is coming along very slowly. Not because it’s particularly difficult, just because I’m lazy. The Pimsleur comes in about 25 minute doses, which is just compact enough to tackle per sitting. I should but I don’t study it daily.

The Pimsleur site says that if I know about 80% of the material in the current lesson, it’s okay to move onto the next lesson. Otherwise review this lesson again. I was stuck on Lesson 1 thinking I had to master it, but I forged into Lesson 2, which repeats much of Lesson 1. Then it was onto Lesson Three and Four. It’s like eating chips. I could not stop.

For a day, I sidetracked at looking into Cyrillic , so that I might read the words I was pronouncing. Once I got used to seeing the different types of letters, it didn’t seem too hard to read, but the writing of the letters is intimidating.

Afrikaans is relatively easy, given the relationship of English to Dutch. Russian is as far a language as I can imagine and is for me, rote memorization. But Pimsleur makes it amazingly painless. This is an excellent system of interval teaching. The first few lessons were straightforward, “excuse me, do you speak English.”

Then there’s a bit that had me cracking up, toward Lesson Three. The narrator says “tell her you understand Russian”. I say it in Russian. The Narrator says “but you’d better add ‘just a little.” I say that too, in Russian. Finally he says “and ‘not very well.'”. I don’t know why this made me laugh, but it seemed like a twist of humor they inadvertently injected in what was otherwise a dry dialogue.

Also, at this point, I was getting a touch of mental fatigue, and instead of Russian, I answered back automatically in Afrikaans. “but you’d better add ‘just a little'” To which I answered “net ‘n bietjie.” The mind is a terrrible thing to waste.

At 11PM I set my cellphone alarm to go off in five hours. I tell myself I’m just going to hear the alarm, ignore it and go right back to sleep. My sleep time is a sanctuary. I camp out on the couch by the computer so I can’t give myself a reason not to get to it. Zzzzz.

The pulse of “Funky Band” ringtone filters through my consciousness. What the? I grope for the phone, and the time reads 3:00AM. Did I misprogram the alarm? Nope, it’s a phone call from my son in the other room. I hear dead air on the line. He must have butt-dialed me. I go back to sleep.

Chirp chirp chirp. That’s the 4AM alert. Amazingly, since I was wakened from deep slumber at 3, I was not too groggy at 4. That, plus the fact that I had to use the bathroom, prompted me to easily roll off the couch. Note to self: if I ever have to rise before the chickens again, remember to drink tons of liquid before bedtime.

Brêkvis met Derrich, indeed. Derrich may be brêkking his vis, but I’m still digesting my pre-midnight snack. If there is no law against waking up in the dead hours, there ought to be one — with a life sentence and no parole. Was my brain parked on “stupid” when I set that alarm? …Grunt.

“Cut the whinging, suck it up and stick it in gear, Grant,” barked the pushy Wakeup Angel as she mercilessly whacked me with her wand.

I fire up the computer at 4:02. Geez, I hope they didn’t start the show without me. The last time I watched a TV show a few minutes late, I missed Josh Groban’s entire opening performance. I quickly log onto RSG, and I hear a woman announcer reading the news. Well, this is not the right sound. The host, Derrich Gardner is male. Did I miscalculate the time difference? If I don’t catch any hint of David in a bit, I am back to REM in a snap.

I start up my audio recording program, Audacity. I hit the record button. I should see spikes of sound, but it’s flat lining. Blast. I’ve got no input sound. Now that’s just ducky. My hubby fixed the sound card just yesterday, and the settings may have changed. For a few sweaty panicky minutes I poke around the system’s audio settings, hoping the newscaster continues to stall for me until I figure it out.

Drawing on the three brain cells active at this godforsaken hour, and some sheer luck, I get the recording working. Just in the nick of time as they cut to Pretoria and the Kolonnade Centre announcement for David Fourie. Hmm, I thought it was to be an interview, not a concert. What a delightful surprise! He starts off with my favourite Jy Soen Soos ‘n Engel and follows shortly with my other favourite, Vir ‘n 100 000 Jare.

David Fourie - Vir 'n 100 000 Jare

David Fourie - Vir 'n 100 000 Jare

As I’m listening, I had an epiphany … this is my very first David Fourie concert! I’m huddled in front of the keyboard and soft glow of the computer screen, like the proverbial gathering around the family RCA listening to The Voice of Firestone.

David is actually singing live, a coupla thousand miles away, on a whole other continent!!!! A little chill of excitement rushes through me. I am nearly as much a part of his audience as the people standing in front of him. Though I can’t give the same immediate audience feedback, I can do so electronically. All this, thanks to a personal invitation from a new friend to kom luister, through the magic of the internet, and a radio station that reaches its tendrils throughout the world.

Radio Sonder Grense

Radio Sonder Grense

Music from a CD has its own beauty and perfection, and sounds the very same on every play. But there is absolutely nothing like the raw energy of a live performance. I like the audience interactions. He had the audience sing with him on Lucky, and I think he had some girls dance along to Kaboemielies. He sang some songs from his new CD, and returned to some of my favourite standards, Land in die Suide, Hou My Vas, Stywer Vas. That latter was cut short for some reason, but he soldiered onto the next song just fine.

Sandwiched between David’s numbers (after all, this is David’s concert! :)), I half-listened to some cool acts and guests: an office band, singer Bianca le Grange , the manager of the Centre, a contestant winner(?), and a rep from the zoo. Once in a while the RSG feed would skip out, and has to reconnect and reload the buffer for what seemed the most excruciatingly long amount of seconds.

At noon Pretoria time (6AM NY time), I crawled back into bed, and slept another four hours. Good thing it was a weekend. As I am no college student, partying up til the wee hours, and bouncing back in the AM, this body will surely pay me back today.

For a David Fourie concert, it is quite worth the price!

I swear, my kids are smarter than me. And that’s not just a stupid proud parent speaking. If anything’s wrong with the computer, or I need software help, I turn to them, because both of them have surpassed me in education, in some areas. If it’s any consolation to my ego, I’ll always best them in maturity.

Here’s an example of how savvy the next generation is. I was using Camtasia, a free screen capture tool. The audio came across alright, but the video kept giving me a black screen upon playback. I googled the answer and the main solution was to turn off my graphics accelerator. Mind you, I didn’t even know I had one, til I looked at my system tray.

Lo, there, among the icons, is well, a graphics card icon from Intel. Poked around the control panel, and found Display settings and a little slider to turn the accelerator off. Turned that off, rebooted, and still… black screen. Tried turning it off in lesser degrees, but nothing worked. They say that when one loses something, it’s always in the last place you look. The last place I looked was Youtube.

This user was discussing loss of audio while using Vista. I wasn’t having either of those problems, but then he uttered the magical word: codec. In his squeaky pre-pubescent, high-pitched voice he said “you have to make sure you’re using the right codec.” Now that little tweener sent me on the right path. I tweaked the video codec, and voila! Camtasia started recording video for me.

Thank you, to the thirteen year old kid on Youtube who supplied that hint.

Part two. I played with Camtasia for a good long time, and decided, if this is a good thing, there must be a better thing. Never satisfied, I went a hunting again. I found Ask Toolbar, a Firefox plugin with the same “Ask” branding as “Ask Jeeves.” It’s not only better than sliced bread, it is better than chocolate.

You can visit any HTML site that imbeds flash video, and it’ll suck that FLV right out of there, with the push of the “save video” button. But install with caution. It does not have trojans or any such, but some users object to the other shades of its features.
It works like a charm for me.

I was perusing comments on some of my favourite music videos. One comment gave me a knee-jerk reaction. It called Afrikaans an ugly language. He’s entitled to his opinion, as wrong as it is. Obviously beauty is in the ear of the beholder. Afrikaans, to my ears, sounds like a mellifluous mix of German and Italian, with its soft gutteral G’s and rolled R’s. When it’s sung, it’s even more pretty.

It takes a genuine xenophobe to condemn an entire language as “ugly.”
Miriam Makeba: “It isn’t a noise, it’s my language.” En, dis my nuwe gunsteling taal.

It’s funny, when I first heard newscasters speak in Afrikaans, my first impression was to agree with one person who described it as sounding like English pronounced backwards!

The person who wrote the “ugly Afrikaans” comment, wrote in English. A good portion of English words derive from Dutch. By extension, he denigrates parts of the very language in which he is writing. Now isn’t that ironic?


LoremIpsum’s profile is also at the DihanSite

Extra notes and tidbits about my second youtube video on Il Divo at Nassau Coliseum, 2009.

I noticed it getting a ltitle cooler later in the concert stadium. Maybe it’s because I stopped moving. I did notice in my videos that there was a sheen of sweat on Urs’ face early in the concert, and that he stopped sweating later in the concert. Did they crank the A/C up for the singers? Something to consider.

I uploaded this video as I recorded it. Raw. No changes or edits. This is the first concert I attempted to record on my new digicam, a Canon Powershot 110IS. I know, I should have practised. While in movie mode, I attempted to zoom in closer. When I hit zoom again, it made the picture look bigger, but it’s just blowing up the existing pixels. So that’s why the picture looked really noisy halfway through this video. Lesson learned, zoom only once during recording. What I did do right, was that in lieu of trying to take stills in low concert light, just put it into movie mode, and extracted stills from it. The resolution isn’t as high since my max is 640×320, but better than my previous attempts at flashless photos.

While being checked through at the gate, the ticket-taker said that he was relieved this was such a well-behaved crowd. I checked the Coliseum listings and a week earlier, Bruce Springsteen and his E street band played there. It must have been quite raucous, compared to Il Divo fans.*

I arrived exactly on time 7:30, and the show didn’t start til around 8:00. I was expecting a warmup act. There was none. It was all Il Divo show. I also expected hoards of souvenir sellers in the Coliseum lobby. Maybe it was my bad timing, and they’d all packed up, but the only time I saw souvenir programmes sold, was in between acts.

After the concert, there were some goofy drivers on the road. I was stopped at the light and the guy behind me passes me on my right, to run a glaringly red light. Then there was a fender bender, on the road to the Merritt Parkway (did I name that right?). I stopped, the car behind me stopped, and the car behind him…did not…stop. I heard that horrendous thump of a car against car, and I didn’t feel anything. The car behind me did not hit me in a chain reaction. There go I by the Grace of God. That must have ruined at least two peoples’ evenings with Il Divo.

At my work, there’s a large sign about avoiding swine flu. In big bold letters “Avoid large social gatherings.” This concert was in Long Island, where a bunch of schools closed due to swine flu, or avoidance thereof. I saw not a single face mask in the crowd.

* note. Someone should write a book about the humorous observations ushers say about concerts. At a Josh Groban concert, during a bathroom break, an usher asked my hubby “Who is he, some kind of opera singer?” My hubby was dragged to that concert, so I don’t even know if he had the correct answer to the question.

Il Divo in Concert

In this computerized age, there is no match for the immediacy of a live concert. I could buy music and play it over and over again, and get instant aural gratification. But to sit in an audience with thousands of like-minded souls, all attuned to the musicians on stage, is an experience on a different plane.

Il Divo in Concert

I saw Il Divo last night a the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, NY. This was the first time they visited the Coliseum, but not their first visit to NY. Il Divo was magnificent. Or, in Afrikaans-style English: Il Divo were magnificent! They were pitch perfect, with not a missed note or hair or crease out of place. Four really classy looking guys with golden voices, singing really classy sounding songs. I love their music, their sound, and their eye candy.

Il Divo in Concert

Digression…Urs signs autographs with his right hand, but from these shots, he’s a microphone switch hitter!

Back to the programme…each of our Divos got to introduce songs or talk to the audience. David, our American Divo was boisterous. Carlos, the Spaniard was a shameless flirt. Sebastian, the quiet Frenchman was reserved and respectful. And Urs, from Switzerland(**) spoke English with an enchanting lyricism.

The Libra that I am, I have a yang to balance the yin. If I have one criticism of the concert, it’s … what is with the perturbing backdrops? They’re singing this one song, in another language, which sounded fine and beautiful. And then I look up, and displayed on the four floating projector panels, are women’s white dresses. Then flames start to lick at the dresses. It would be fine if they were just dresses, but the dresses looked like they were wrapped around bodies, so it was as if the non-existent woman was being viciously consumed by flames. If their intent was to convey creepiness, they hit the target, otherwise it was negatively distracting. It would have been better to lose those backdrops and focus on the singers. I liked a few of the more classic panels, like the starfield and the stained glass.

There were also gorgeous models on the screens. I think that those photos were intended for the men in the audience who were forcibly dragged by their women to this concert! If they’re going to be bored senseless, they may as well be entertained by pictures of pretty women. That’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.

Il Divo in Concert

Il Divo performed their encore in tuxedos with tails, and their rendition of “Amazing Grace”, and later, “The Impossible Dream”, while signing autographs and shaking hands with the fans. Perfection. I was amused that they were leaning over, signing and schmoozing, but sang in perfect unison, without skipping a beat or waivering a note.

It was overcast and rainy all week. On the night of the concert, the skies cleared — for Il Divo. Bravo, gentlemen!

Here’s my youtube of their banter.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That was the concert review. Now for a shameless website plug and more hardware geek talk.

Shameless website plug:

Dihan Slabbert Fan Site
If you enjoy powerful vocals in contemporary pop music, I invite you to come have a listen. My fan site is dedicated to the sultry music of a wonderful and exceptional talent. He performs a half a world away, in South Africa, and his name is Dihan.

www.DihanSite.com

It is a flash site, and will take a few seconds to load. I promise you will not be disappointed by the wait because his voice does match his stunning looks! 😉

End of shameless plug.

Geek talk:
Nassau Coliseum Seating Chart Il Divo

If it’s possible to love an inanimate object, I am incurably attached to my new Canon Powershot SX110. It takes the most incredible low light photos. With 10x Optical magnification and image stabilization, it is the ultimate concert camera. The Il Divo photos(*) on this blog page were image captures from an AVI, shot from the distance shown on the venue seating chart above. Don’t ask me how far that is, I am hopeless with distances.

It’s a bit larger than the slim digicams today, with a body that’s a chunky throwback to a compact film camera. But the pictures. Be still my beating heart. The pictures are extraordinary, and the sound is above par for such a tiny device. How I love my cameras. Sigh.

(* Please feel free to steal my photos for your own edification and use. If you’re feeling magnanimous, I only ask for a small favor, a link back to my http://www.dihansite.com. Thank you kindly!)

(** thanks to Lisa for the correction. I am probably the most geographically challenged person you’ll ever meet).

The stars are in alignment now.

1) The transfer to the Linux server worked, within hours, without a hitch.

Okay, there were three minutes of frigid horror. When I first invoked the index.html, the whole site was black. I mean nada, nothing but the favicon icon at the top. Okay, that means at least that part of the html file executed. What happened to my swf?

I do not know how the left field solution came to me so fast. I was just lucky that I’d been reading articles about jumping from Windows to Linux servers. In a forum, someone was asking about a broken script, and the reply was that “you never know with Linux, it could anything from a case sensitive file name to…” Somehow that little bit of information stuck in my head, and popped out at the right time.

I checked the file names in my index file, and lo, there was a subdirectory that has one uppercase letter. The directory name in my root was in all lowercase, so it wasn’t picking up the .js file. I just thank whatever inspiration brought me to zero in on that minute detail, but I changed the directory name, and bingo, it worked like a charm. Saved me a heap of headaches having to really figure that one out.

And no, there is no logical reason for filenames to be case sensitive in any OS, no matter how Linux lovers justify it. Variables named XYz should always equal variables named xYz. Computers may see it as different, but we are humans, not computers.

2) I was not able to do the redirect through the “content – Site Redirects” because I could not for the life of me tell what parameters they wanted. So I just created the .htaccess file, uploaded it to my root, et voila!

Useful site for redirection: http://www.javascriptkit.com/howto/htaccess.shtml

3) My preloader for my little swf files is working. The traced bytecount was wrong, and preloader graphic kept showing up when the actual movie was running. I deleted the preloader graphic from frame 2, but it also disappeared from frame 1. I fixed it with a little sledgehammering and addiition of a keyframe.

Three solutions in a row. I should retire while I’m ahead.

A few words on the Afrikaans training. How many months has it been now? Six, I think. I can write like a second grader, and read at the third grade level. I’m not trying too hard, but it’s become a daily habit to read, listen to or watch something in Afrikaans.

When reading Dieburger, I look up twenty words or more, which, oddly is an improvement over looking up every other word. I can easily understand articles written in a conversational tone.

The sounds and audio flow is no longer foreign to my ears. I can pick out individual words and look them up. I have to actively listen when hooked into Radio Sonder Grense. http://www.Rsg.co.za. Radio announcers are the easiest to understand because of their enunciation.

Writing long sentences is still hard, and the spoken, hopefully, will come when I catch onto the written.

To add another level of difficulty to my task, I’m at the beginning of learning spoken Russian through the Pimsleur method. Now, instead of English, I’m starting to substitute Afrikaans words, when I can’t remember the Russian words. If I get too confused I’ll just drop the Russian, to learn later.

I must be going through a mid-life language crisis — so many languages, so little time! [insert eyeroll here]