Video: The Streets of Bangalore India

You'll never complain about the traffic in your town again! Driving in Bangalore, India is not for the faint hearted. Bangalore has undergone an extreme population explosion in the last decade with the growth of the IT Industry. In my experience, Bangalore has unparalleled traffic congestion and chaos compared to anywhere in North America or Europe.

The first 3 minutes of this video are the last stretch in our daily commute from the Leela Palace Hotel to the Adobe office on Bannerghatta Road along the IT corridor. Starting at 4 minutes into the video is a backseat view from a ride inside one of those yellow-capped auto rickshaws from the office to the nearby Forum Mall. It was as much fun as an amusement park!

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My Recommendation for the Best Massachusetts Home Inspector

Our recent home buying experience was one filled with lots of research, paperwork, planning, and conversing. At times it seemed overwhelming, and my wife did a great job of managing things, especially during times that wore me down. However, among all my interactions with attorneys, real estate agents, insurance agents and such, my experience with the home inspector was the best. If you're in the market to purchase a house in Massachusetts, I highly recommend Paul Rogoshewski of Harmony Home Inspection.

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Our New Home and the Home Buying Experience

For several years now my wife and I have been researching towns of Eastern Massachusetts to find the best neighborhood to begin a family. In 2006 the real estate bubble in the Northeast finally began to deflate, and for the first time in a decade it became a real estate buyer's market. Coupling the favorable market conditions with regular seasonal lows, we felt the time was right and this winter our search intensified.

We considered factors such as the best schools, lowest crime, amount of open space, commuting distance, housing prices, and overall quality of life. Each year Boston Magazine publishes comprehensive spreadsheets which rank nearly 200 Massachusetts towns by more than 30 factors, including population, average house prices, percent change in prices, student spending, SAT scores, MCAS scores (Science/Math, English), crime rates, contamination, open space, disease rates, average age, and much more. Although this data is published in tabular format as a magazine insert, on some years Boston Magazine made the data available via Excel or CSV document download. We've kept some of these downloaded comparisons and found them to be very handy.

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Fake Miniature Photography with the Tilt-Shift Technique

I've recently discovered Tilt-shift photography. The original technique involves actual camera and lens manipulation. By tilting a lens attached to a camera by a bellow an effect is achieved where a narrow slice of the image is in focus, producing an artificially shallow depth of field which makes the image appear to be a miniature or scale model of the real thing. Tilt-shift photos are said to be "faked".

Its recently become popular to produce the same effect digitally using tools such as Photoshop, and Flickr has some excellent examples as well as tilt-shift pools for both "real" tilt-shift and digital tilt-shift. I'm just getting started with this technique by following some tutorials.

My own tip... When buildings in the scene rise above the surroundings, the default gradient selection will cause the lens blur effect to blur some parts of the building while other parts are in focus. A better result can be achieved by manually "painting" the selection when in Quick Mask mode so that all parts of a buildings or structures in the same plane are selected, then when the lens blur effect is applied the building will appear to pop out of the background better.

This is definitely a lot of fun, and its a great creative outlet in the winter if you haven't had the chance to get out do actual photography. Here's my tilt-shift set on Flickr.

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My first talk - ColdFusion MX 7 Server Administration

Introduction slide for lecture 14 of Developing Web-based Database Applications In December 2006 I was honored to provide my first public presentation ever as guest speaker for Harvard University's course Developing Web-based Database Applications (CSCI E-253). This course is part of the Extension School curriculum for the Master of Liberal Arts in Information Technology and the Certificate in Applied Science concentration in Information Systems and Electronic Commerce, and it focuses on the use of Oracle and ColdFusion MX as the vehicle of learning database design for the Web.

The instructor requested that I provide 2 hours of material for the full lecture on the topic of administering a ColdFusion server. This resulted in a very comprehensive crash course presentation on ColdFusion MX 7 Server Administration from page request flow, to understanding directory structure and critical config files, to managing the web server connector stub, to walking through the ColdFusion Administrator, and including ColdFusion and JVM tuning. As a conservative estimate, I spent nearly 30 hours of my own time to build the presentation.

The course was part of Harvard's Distance Education program, which provides live, streaming video from the classroom to remote students around the country and around the world, in addition to the local students in the classroom. My presentation was conducted in state of the art video production classroom equipped with a control booth, several remote controlled cameras, and two slide screens. The control booth technician made me feel like I was on a Hollywood stage, providing hand signals to me as he counted down to begin live broadcast.

Surprisingly, I did a decent job without any major hitches. You can imagine how stressing this scenario was for a first-time presenter. Based on this experience, I intend to review my presentation to expand or contract some topics as necessary. Then if there's a need, I may offer the presentation to other groups when time permits. Since having joined the ranks of ColdFusion QA this year I've been much busier than I was in Technical Support, and even more now that my wife and I immersed in house hunting and negotiating, but things should slow down by the Spring and allow me to get back to this.

For now, here's a few screen shots from the preso, and I may generate blog entries for each of these topics in the near future, but hopefully there's some value in just having these cartoon diagrams. You may also want to check out last year's post on How ColdFusion Receives and Processes Requests.

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Small towns are in the big leagues of writing ... and photography

My photo of Concord Main Street Market and Cafe after a snow storm was published in the December 2006 issue of The Writer Magazine. The photo set the mood for an article titled Small towns are in the big leagues of writing, a reference to Concord's notable literary history including former residents of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott. I would add to the list current resident Alan Lightman, author of the former NY Times best seller Einstein's Dreams.

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How to create HDR images with Photoshop's Merge to HDR

A couple weeks ago, I visited Zion National Park where I made some shots that I intended to merge into HDR images, and inspired by a discussion at my local photography club I thought I'd settle down to get it done. While I was at it I created a tutorial to share with everyone.

Here's a quick shot that demonstrates the input and output of an HDR shot to help you get the general idea:

Merge to HDR

The final HDR image represents what my eye saw at that moment even though the camera wasn't able to capture it in one exposure alone.

What is HDR? High Dynamic Range... Think of a scene that has bright sunlight and dark shadows. A single image can't capture all parts of the scene in a proper exposure, but if you take a series of photos of exactly the same scene while altering the exposure between each shot, then later you can blend the images together in Adobe Photoshop CS2.

Wikipedia describes HDR imaging (HDRI) as:

In computer graphics and cinematography, high dynamic range imaging (HDRI) is a set of techniques that allow a far greater dynamic range of exposures (i.e a large difference between light and dark areas) than normal digital imaging techniques. The intention of HDRI is to accurately represent the wide range of intensity levels found in real scenes ranging from direct sunlight to the deepest shadows.


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Long weekend in Zion National Park

This past October my wife and I had the opportunity to vacation in Zion National Park in southern Utah, following the Adobe MAX conference in Las Vegas that month. This was my first time in the Southwest USA, and while I'm not inclined to return to the Las Vegas Strip, I would love the opportunity to spend at least a couple weeks visiting Bryce, Arches, and the Grand Canyon. I've been very satisified with the photos I've taken in Zion over the brief three day immersion, so I anticipate photographing much more from that region.

The Wikipedia article on Zion National Park begins with the following:

Zion National Park is a United States National Park located in the Southwestern United States, near Springdale, Utah. A prominent feature in the 229-square-mile (593 km≤) park is Zion Canyon, 15 miles (24 km) long and up to half a mile (800 m) deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River... A total of 289 bird species, 75 mammals (including 19 species of bat), 32 reptiles and numerous plant species inhabit the park...

Human habitation of the area started about 8,000 years ago with small family groups of Native Americans; the semi-nomadic Basketmaker Anasazi (300 CE) stem from one of these groups... The Kolob section was proclaimed a separate Zion National Monument in 1937, but was incorporated into the park in 1956.

The geology of the Zion and Kolob canyons area includes nine formations that together represent 150 million years of mostly Mesozoic-aged sedimentation. At various periods in that time, warm, shallow seas, streams, ponds and lakes, vast deserts and dry near-shore environments covered the area.


We rented a Chrysler Sebring convertible at the Las Vegas airport, and made the trip to Springdale, Utah in just 3 hours. The highway from Vegas to St. George is largely desolate and uninteresting, but as soon as you get past Hurricane the scenery begins a dramatic change. I won't be renting the Sebring again because my eye level was the same height as the visor and the top of the windshield, forcing me to turn my neck and slouch down in the seat in order to get a good view, and even with the top up I couldn't get past the visor's annoyance factor.

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My Second Cover on New England Printer and Publisher Magazine

November 2006, NEPPApril 2006, NEPP
The trade magazine New England Printer & Publisher has once again selected one of my photos for its cover. The November edition bears an image of a long exposure over Memorial Drive, taken in September from the Long Fellow Bridge as part of my Boston at Night set. The April edition of this year featured my photo of Concord Center at night.

This November cover makes a great addition to my growing collection of references while I pursue my interest in photography.

Adobe MAX 2006 on Flickr

My week in pictures... on Flickr.

Adobe MAX Developer Conference, October 23-26, 2006, at The Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada.

MAX 2006, the annual Adobe user conference, offers the Adobe community an unprecedented opportunity to learn about Adobe software, interact with industry experts, connect with other Adobe software users, and have lots of fun.

Choose from over 100 unique sessions organized into eight tracks in topics such as web design, rich Internet applications, and mobile and devices.

Connect with other members of the Adobe community at a variety of networking opportunities, including the community lounge, sponsor lunches, and "Birds-of-a-Feather" sessions.
www.flickr.com


See also the Adobe MAX 2006 Flickr Pool and all photos tagged with Adobe MAX 2006

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