Graphics Fun with Orb Weavers

This probably guarantees my place in the Nerd Hall of Fame on the basis of not only spending so much time with a spider, but then spending so much time making graphic art from a spider.

Out of the series of photos taken of this spider, only 2 of them turned out somewhat ok. This view is looking downwards, and since the spider was clinging upside down from the web, this is the underside.

I was trying to use my Kodak digital camera with two magnifying filters attached, from a range of about 2-3 centimeters away from the subject. Apparently, just a millimeter or so throws off the focus, and on a sunny day its quite difficult to determine the image quality by looking at the LCD because of too much glare.

Once I touched them up in Adobe Photoshop, I couldn't help from trying out some of the filters such as the Stylize > Glowing filter which produced the multicolor effect, and also trying create a green glowing outline that might be used as a desktop background by first desaturating, selecting just the light areas, then adjusting the color balance and hue.

To the best I can determine from my Audubon guide to North American spiders, this is one of the Large Jawed Orb Weavers, perhaps the Venusta Orchard Spider, part of the family Tetragnathidae. The guide says:

These orb weavers are easily recognized by their unusually large, powerful jaws, or chelicerae. Like Orb Weavers, they have 8 eyes, and 3 claws on each foot or tarsus. Many species spin orb webs although in some species only spiderlings produce webs. There are about 25 species in North America

Sys-con's Robert Diamond is very accommodating

So after my mini-rant late last night when I found a crappy photo of me up on MXDJ, Robert Diamond dropped me a note to smooth things out, and he asked for a photo that I would approve of to be used in lieu of said crappy photo. Nice guy! Thanks Robert!

I made the recommendation that they only pick up my ColdFusion RSS feed since that is what's relevant on MXDJ, not my Spain photos, rants, or biology blogs, and I even whipped up my own graphic to replace said crappy photo.

Voila! I love Adobe Photoshop :-)

I made this from a photo of me standing on Sentinel Bridge in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire. Although, I wouldn't be surprised if they scribbled a mustache, a missing tooth, and a eye patch on it ;-)

(note to self: use more emoticons to show I don't bite)

So, my formal apologies for being a weener and picking apart their website, and a big Thank You for asking!

Curiosities abound at MXDJ

Steve Erat - Industry Blog ... Really?

Looking at my blog referrers, I found this one popping up quite frequently today:

When I clicked on this link I was taken to a blog aggregator that displayed a list of images in the left menu, and to my surprise, there was a rather low-res graphic of me, with a banner "Steve Erat - Industry Blog". Really? Industry blog? Hadn't thought of it that way before. To me its just my personal blog. In fact, it says so on my TalkingTree banner image.


Roses are red, blogs are blue

As a Valentine's Day gift, I spent this weekend building a new blog for my wife based on Ray Camden's BlogCFC, merged with the Aura skin.

The new blog is called Casa ArbaÃ’il, the name of her family's second home in a small village up in the Pyrenees of Spain, where my wife spent many summers growing up and where we continue to travel each Christmas. As a native of Barcelona, a Catalan speaker, a current resident of Massachusetts, and a chemist by profession you'll find future blog entries on these categories. As soon as her we get her domain name mapped to our ISP then the blog will located there, until then it remains on


Epson Perfection 1670 Photo, Negative, and Slide Scanner

I'd like to recommend the Epson Perfection 1670 Scanner for the purpose of scanning photographic slides. I recently purchased one at Best Buy for just $89 which is very reasonable compared to its big brother the Epson 3170 for $189. I read the CNET reviews and a couple of them seemed negative, but I figured I could always return it if the quality really was sub par, and that was why I bought it directly from a local store rather than by discount mail order.
Thumbnail View of Resulting Image from Scanning Two Slides at 800 pixels/inch  (image height reduced from 3000 to 300)

Setup was easy, although the many layers of wrapping and stickers was a pain. It includes a black frame to hold either a strip of negatives or two slides. This frame lays on top of the glass pane, and after removing the white reflector on the under side of the lid, a top light is exposed. In slide mode, the scanner shines this light through the slide or negative and onto the electronic receiver under the glass.

After some testing, I settled on a scan resolution of 800 pixels/inch. The scanner generates an image of the black frame and the two slides (a smaller version of the scan result is shown to the left here), and then the user must later perform image editing to isolate each slide into its own image file. Because the slides were scanned into this combined image, the resolution needs to be larger because you end up trimming it down to separate the two slide images. Depending on image detail, this combined slide image was typically 2 - 4 MB, and then each image isolated from it ranged about 800 kb - 1 MB. I tried to up the resolution to 1200, but the scan time was unreasonably long at 3-5 minutes. At 800 dpi, the total time to put two slides on the bed, scan them, & remove them was about a minute and a half.

I recently scanned my Yellowstone and Alaska slide collections, each one culled down about 125 slides per set. To scan a set of 125 images, crop the individual slides from the dual scan, and then edit the images in Adobe Photoshop to remove the specs of dust and improve the brightness required about 6 hours each. At 6 hours per set, that pretty much ate up my weekend, but to have high quality digital images made from my withering slides provided a great relief. I think the Epson slide scanner was a very good purchase and well worth the cost. In 1997 I had some of those slides scanned at a little shop on Kneeland street in Boston, at a cost of $1.25 per slide. I recently checked prices and found that $1 per slide was about the norm, which would have cost perhaps $250 in total.

Previously, I purchased the Nikon Slide Copying Adapter ES-E28 for my Nikon Coolpix 995. This requires an external light source and I found it very difficult to get sufficient light, and even pointing it at the Sun on a very bright day wasn't good enough. The problem was that the center of the image would be at a higher brightness than the edges, making it look like the slide was taken in a tunnel. I was very unhappy with the slide scanning feature of that adapter. To the contrary though, I scanned some negatives with ES-E28 and I found it worked very well.

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