Monday, January 28, 2008

Here where the Lens is Wide

I need some advice from my photographer friends.

The question: What should my next lens purchase be?

The background: The TravelingRoths are going to France and North Africa this summer, and I want to make sure I'm as prepared as I can be for the trip, lens-wise.

Currently, I have two lenses for my Canon 40D:
  • 50mm f/1.8
  • 28 - 135mm IS
Here's what I'm thinking right now: the next lens should either be the 28mm f/1.8 or a 70 - 300 mm zoom. I love my current 50mm prime because it's wicked fast, and I can get by without a flash nearly all the time. I'm thinking of the 28mm prime because sometimes my 50mm is too tight (my camera has an APS-C sensor with a crop factor of 1.6, making the 5omm on my camera behave more like an 80mm in traditional 35mm terms.), plus it's also a wicked fast lens. I'm thinking of the 70 - 300 mm zoom mainly so I'll have a decent long zoom in my bag. In addition to this summer's trip, I think it'll be handy for the kids' soccer games.

So if you have an opinion about either of these lenses, or any other lens you think would be good for this summer's trip and beyond, please leave some feedback in the comments. Thanks in advance.
Friday, January 25, 2008

Finally Photos

I finally got around to embedding the photos from my trip to the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) inside the Joint Security Area (JSA) within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea) in my blog post for that day. I did not forget the three letter acronyms (TLA) though.

Click here to read the post (pops).

And for all my Korea photos, use this link to my Zooomr SmartSet.
Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Day in the Snow

We took the kids on their first Ski Trip on Saturday, traveling with a group from Mebane Presbyterian Church (MPC) up to Winterplace Ski Resort in Ghent, WV. I've been skiing many times before, and Jennifer has gone on a ski trip in the French Alps (albeit not to ski, but rather to speak French), but this was a first for the kids. We were all excited, I think.

We met at the church at 6 am, and all piled into various combinations of cars and vans for the three and a half hour drive to Ghent (with one pitstop on the way.) The forecast was for snow in Mebane, but we ducked out early enough to miss it. The drive was easy and very picturesque, especially the parts on I-77 in NC/VA and WV.

We arrived at Winterplace around 10, and spent the next 90 minutes or so filling out forms, standing in lines, and collecting our rented gear. Once we got all suited up, the kids and I headed out to the slopes, while Jennifer took the shuttle bus over to the tubing area. The kids and I were all over the place - up, down, falling, sliding uncontrollably, etc.
No Photos Please Out of the Binding
Needless to say, it was chaotic and tiring. We were dressed appropriately, however, so we had that going for us at least.

Making our way over to Ski School, we got into a class with about seven people and one instructor. We walked to the very gentle beginners slope, and practiced our very basic moves; skating, j-turns, standing up, etc.
Lessons for T
This slope had a carpet lift, which was far less problematic than the old rope-tows from days of yore when I was falling on skis all day.

We completed our lesson, and made our way to the lodge for some lunch. It was crowded, of course, and made moreso by people who looked like they came to the slopes to play Yahtzee. What? Get up! Some of us would like to eat our lunch sitting down (in a chair) for the first time today. Anyway, we didn't have much time for lunch, for we had to get to the tubing hill for our 3-5pm tubing tickets.

The tubing hill was impressive. Probably ten lanes, each a few hundred meters long, and a double carpet lift to get you and your tube to the top. The line was long, but it moved well, so we were able to do about six runs each in two hours.
T Queued
Also as a side benefit, we saw several people get hurt. The benefit was not that people got injured, but that a ride that has an injury factor at all means it's probably a lot of fun (for those who do not get hurt.) Like old-school playgrounds, before all the fun was surgically removed by lawyers and risk-averse school administrators. This ride was definitely a lot of fun.

The bulk of the ride was downhill, with various small bumps that you could possibly catch some air on, with the last part of the slope uphill, to bleed-off momentum. If you were very low mass, like someone say, Zoe's size, there was occasionally not enough momentum to crest the final hill, and the rider would become a walker to get to the end.
That only happened to Zoe once, as she is very aerodynamic.

We took the shuttle back to the main lodge, and the kids and I boarded up and headed out.
The Smallest Snowboarder
We went back to the basic slope to practice some more, until we were all out of energy. It was kind of a shame, as we were really starting to get the hang of it by the time our endurance faded.

The rest of the church group was staying until 10 pm, but we decided to bail, mainly for the kids sake. We took I-77 south to Oakland, WV where civilization seemed to reappear. We chose a Bob Evans for dinner, since none of us had ever been to one. After eating a hearty dinner, we went to the Super 8, and convinced the nice night auditor that she should allow us to check-in, even though the rest of our group, and our group leader, wouldn't be arriving for two hours. We brought Zoe in with us, and instructed her to look pathetic, so that it would sway the lady into breaking policy for us. It worked. We got our little room, got cleaned up, and easily fell asleep.

Sunday morning we met the rest of the group at the little breakfast area prepared for us,
Breakfast with Tristan
Breakfast with Zoe
ate some motel breakfast food, and had a brief devotional service, led by Jim Bailey, our group leader.
Jim Bailey

I convinced the group to pose for a picture.
Meb Pres Ski Trip
This wasn't easy because it was about 12F outside, and despite being on a SKI TRIP, the people seemed to be pretty cold-intolerant.

We got in the car, broke from the group, and made the three-hour drive back home, where it had snowed about four inches in our absence. Zoe got this great picture of it.

So we were a little sore, a little tired, and resolved to try it again next year. The kids asked if we could do skiing next time. I think that can be arranged.
Friday, January 18, 2008

Snow Bound

The TravelingRoths are headed to Winterplace Ski Resort (link) in West Virginia with a group from church for some snowboarding and snowtubing. We're all pretty excited, and we think we're about as prepared as we can be for people who don't see a lot of snow during the course of a typical year, and thus don't own a ton of snow gear. As an aside to that, it's supposed to snow 3-6 inches here at home while we're away. Isn't it ironic, don't you think?

None of us have ever snowboarded, so this is going to be interesting, to say the least. We've solicited advice from people we know who are skilled, and we plan on taking a lesson, but how we'll actually do on the slopes. . . we'll see. Jennifer is planning on just doing some tubing, where all you need is to dress warmly enough. I think the kids will be fine. They're low to the ground, solid muscle, and have the endurance of marathon runners. I'm not (as) low to the ground, not solid muscle, and have the endurance of a Pottstown cop. Plus, as I age, whenever I fall, all I can think about are knee ligaments and crutches (this happens to me at the beach too). I'm a decent skier, so the slopes are not unfamiliar to me, and I was a pretty good Snurfer rider as a kid, so we'll see. I'm hoping we all pick it up quickly, take to it, and make it a regular event for us.

Look for pictures, video, and words here later to see how it went, if I still have the ability to type.
Thursday, January 03, 2008

One Day in PA

Thursday brought a new first for me: the one-day business trip.

Connie and I booked the 7:00 AM flight from RDU to PHL, arriving at 8:15, allegedly. We boarded early, had space between us, and the flight was uneventful, other than a really long final approach with a couple of last-minute S-turns a few thousand feet away from the runway.
A Cloud Hangs Over Philadelphia
On the way off the plane, we heard the pilot complaining that they had to follow the 7:00 US Airways flight the whole way, and how slow they were. That is consistent with my experience with the two airlines: Southwest really tries to get places on-time, and US Airways just doesn't seem to care. 737 Winglet

We picked up my rental, a Jeep Liberty from Avis, and for maybe the second time ever, my Avis Preferred status actually worked. We went right from the shuttle to the running vehicle, bypassing the little desk. It was an easy drive to GlaxoSmithKline's Upper Providence site.

Did the normal work thing for the day, albeit in Pennsylvania. We had the 6:25 pm flight back, and had planned to leave GSK at 4:20, but everyone there said, "Oh, you should leave no later than three." I thought that was excessive, particularly since I'm from that area, and used to drive in that traffic every day, but when someone gives me the green light to leave work an hour early, I usually don't argue.

We drove back to PHL, stopping at MacDade boulevard to gas up the Jeep. We returned the car and hoofed it a few hundred feet through the parking garage to the terminal. (The shuttle ride takes at least 10 minutes.) We went through security and got to our gate by 4:15 - excessively early.

So we followed standard business trip procedure and camped out at the bar, a place called Chickie's and . . . . ? The walls had pictures of some dude, maybe the owner (Chickie?) and "celebrities" that were they not captioned would largely be unrecognizable, mainly employees of Philadelphia's football business.

It was way too early for dinner, so we enjoyed some beer: Blue Moon for Connie and Victory Hop Devil for me. When 5:00 rolled around, we ordered dinner. Mussles in white wine sauce for Connie and a Lobster Cheesesteak for me.
Lobster Cheesesteak

Lobster on a Philadelphia Cheesesteak? Some purists would consider this a desecration, but I liken it to Steak Oscar (steak topped with crab meat and hollandaise) or perhaps a portable Surf and Turf. A desecration is any cheesesteak I've had in the south, but I digress. This was really good. I highly recommend it.

We had checked-in right after lunch, and that was too late, as we were in the "B" group for boarding. By the time we got on the plane, there were no empty rows, save the last one. We took that knowing that the seat between Connie and I would be the last one occupied. I was right. There was one open seat on the plane, and it was next to me.

Another uneventful flight, with the hottest landing I've seen in a while. That pilot must have set a record in how quickly he got to the gate. You can tell that Southwest Airlines is serious about punctuality. The flight itself was probably about 10 minutes shorter than what I'm used to, which is saying a lot for a flight that's only an hour long.

Back to the parking deck and back to the house, arriving around 10 pm. A very long day for my first (and hopefully last, for a while) up-and-back in one day business trip.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Year 2007, Good Riddance

Just Wrong
2007 sucked.

In April, Jennifer was wrongly accused of plagiarism by a jackass professor of hers, and got rewarded with spending an extra year and $1800 in graduate school. We'll thank the school properly once she has that diploma in-hand, and is officially finished with them forever.

In July, we had to have our dearly beloved Labrador Retriever, Rabin euthanized. She'd been a part of our family for almost 12 years, and her loss was a big hit to all of us.

But not the biggest hit.

In October my mom had a one-time ever heart arrhythmia, spent three weeks in a coma, and finally died in November.

So we're all more than ready to say goodbye to 2007, and hope that this new year holds a lot more promise and better fortune than last.
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