Thursday, September 1, 2011

Musical Weekend

Day 198 - Free Candy

A while back (months) some friends decided to have a musical weekend. The always wonderful Wine & Spirit played at the Altar Bar once again drawing a crowd. Free Candy also made their Pittsburgh debut the same night. They played two shows that weekend, one following Wine & Spirit at the Altar Bar and again at the Hard Rock Cafe two days later. They celebrated the occasion by giving away free candy as their name suggests they do. But apparently many people at the Hard Rock are not fans of candy, because the night ended with many pieces left.

Wine and SpiritSo while at these small concerts I decided to break out my handy dandy camera and take some pictures. (Who's surprised?) There were many worthy shots and even a few videos. This was my first time trying to capture some videos with my Nikon D3100 and I learned a very important lesson, a tripod helps a ton. Unfortunately I don't have one, so I'll stick with still shots.

One thing that surprised me is the quality of the lighting at the Altar Bar. The stage is pretty evenly lit allowing for me to concentrate more on composition and less on worrying about whether the shot will require extensive post processing. The back of the stage is lit as much as the front even though it is under a quite large overhanging platform. I was even better than the Hard Rock's lighting.

More people from Slippery Rock attended these concerts than usual which isn't hard to do when there are two Slippery Rock bands playing. I even managed to catch up with a few friends. When not taking pictures, there was always someone to talk to. This needs to happen more often.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Altar Bar

At The Altar Bar

A few weekends ago I attended a concert at the Altar Bar in Pittsburgh and tested out my new 55-200mm lens. The wonderful band Wine & Spirit was playing along with several other local bands providing me with plenty opportunity for testing under various conditions.

I'm not quite used to how much it zooms in. All the cameras and lenses I've used in the past didn't even come close to the amount of magnification it performs. My least magnifying lens is 18mm. That's more than 10x magnification! It may seem insignificant to you but to someone like me who's only seen that amount of magnification in microscopes it is kind of a big deal.

Day 91 - MusicThe lens far exceeded my expectations for zoom. I was able to capture close-ups of the people at the back of the stage.

This was also the first time I need to switch lenses while on my feet. Things happen so quickly at the concerts that there is no time to return to my camera bag to swich lenses. I was nervous through the whole procedure. I kept my other lens in a small bag over my shoulder so I wouldn't need to carry my big camera bag. When the time came to switch, I brought the small bag to my front and opened it. Once there I switched the lenses and put the bag back behind me. All this while being careful nobody walked into me, it is a bar after all.

Monday, March 28, 2011


About a week ago was the first SRU Braddock Care Break of the year. Just like all prior care breaks to Braddock, we performed various tasks in Braddock, North Braddock, and Turtle Creek (not crick). Some of those tasks were picking up litter, painting, helping at the local food bank, and cleaning up the library. Even though individually they may seem insignificant compared to the larger community, it is by these small steps that the communities and residents benefit.

Braddock Resident

This year held particular significance for me. See, this was my first care break as an alum. You might be asking why I would attend an event organized for students. The answer is simple, it's a worthy cause. Braddock is one of the most run-down and impoverished communities perhaps in the nation. It wasn't always that way and there are people who want to see it return to its former glory. I met some of those people the first time I attend a Braddock care break. Seeing their dedication made me realize how bad things can be even a few miles from my home.

Day 78 - Care Break

Last year I missed an opportunity to attend one of these care breaks. Coming back this year reminded me of how my work makes a difference in the community. Its something everyone should experience. If you have a chance to volunteer in your or any community, don't pass it up. Your work will be appreciated potentially more than any you've ever done.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Not Much New Here

Day 61 - Wine & Spirit

I recently purchased a new camera (Nikon D3100) and wanted to shoot some victims people with it. Wine & Spirit presented me with the first opportunity with their little concert at Garfield Artworks with Verona Red and Atlas. And it was an excellent opportunity to test how the camera performs in low light. The artworks had only one light directed toward the stage. In the photo above you can see it shining on the left side of the image. Plus it didn't help that all the walls and ceiling were stark white creating a poor background. Needless to say I didn't get many shots I consider worthy of public viewing.

More importantly I heard and met a wonderful new band! Verona Red played songs which I didn't want to end. All of their songs impressed me, which is quite an accomplishment. You should listen to them on their myspace page. They also had some of the coolest merchandise I've seen in a while. If you didn't attend the concert you really missed out. The band has local ties so there's a good chance they'll return in the future for you to see and hear.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Day 8 - Sunset

Wow, three months since last time. That can't be good. I have to check facebook and twitter to remember everything since then.

In late October I visited SRU for homecoming. Every year, my photos of homecoming are technically nice but lacking compositionally. This year was no different. The weather is usually overcast giving soft shadows and pleasant textures. But there always seems to be something in the frame which I don't want.

Court Walking to the Line

The success of my homecoming photos motivated me to once again participate in Project 365. I loved the first year doing it and learned a lot about photography. This time, I will be trying to do the same, but with more enthusiasm. It's been a lackluster beginning, but I expect to improve shortly. This year's phots can be found in my Take 2 set.

In other news...

I recently began messing around with Unity. For someone who's worked almost exclusively in 2D it is a bit daunting to add the third dimension. Right now I'm still going through tutorials and such. If you know of any good resources please let me know about them in the comments. So far the most difficult part is understanding the choices of the makers of the tutorials. The engine is capable of primarily running two languages, JavaScript and C#. For some odd reason the developers chose to write everything in JavaScript. I understand how it makes the engine more approachable, but JavaScript leaves too many questions unanswered.

If that last paragraph interests you, you will be glad to know I started a new blog focusing exclusively on my software engineering antics. it is very young and my experience with technical writing is limited to the few papers from my computer science classes. Give it time, I very much want to make it succeed. Check it out at

Time to go prepare for the AFC Championship. GO STEELERS!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010: Water


Water, a substance necessary for a person to live. Yet, as many as "one in eight" people in the world today don't have access to clean water. It might be hard for some people to imagine given the ubiquity of water in developed nations. Let's say you turned on your tap and thick, brown water with a strong stench came out. This might happen for a number of reasons, but you would only have to deal with it for typically less than a few hours. Water like this is a fact of life for many people living in Africa. Some people even walk for miles to retrieve water like this.

The easiest, and most beneficial solution to this is to build a well within close walking distance of the locales that need water. Wells provide a source of water that is close where it is put to use. This reduces time spent transporting water allowing that time to be spent on more beneficial activities, like education and healthcare. It also provides naturally filtered water as opposed to water that may come from a contaminated pool or stream.

Unfortunately, many villages are unable to afford the building of a well. Digging a well requires time, effort, and money. The process involves large equipment which small villages cannot even rent due to cost.

This is where you can help. Many charities like allow you to donate money to help build wells. Donating is easy and it takes only a few minutes. Your donation can help provide a person with safe water for life.

If donating money is not enough for you, take another step. Do what this Slippery Rock Professor did. (Regular readers should have seen this coming)

Dr. Wukich, an art professor at Slippery Rock University, makes water filters from clay and straw or sawdust. He then takes these water filters to developing countries to demonstrate the effectiveness of them to the locals. Then he does what any professor would do and teaches them how to make these water filters. The raw materials, clay and straw, are easy for anybody to obtain cheaply or even freely. The clay and straw are then mixed and pressed into a bowl shape. Once dry, the filter can be used again and again to filter water. You can see more about the process documented by the Braddock Library Water Filter Project.

Through even a little work you can help people around the world gain access to water like that seen at the beginning of the post.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Almost Moved

Lake Arthur

Back in August I said goodbye to the place I've called home for the past five years. Slippery Rock is a wonderful place and I would love to call it home again in the future. But for now, home is Pittsburgh.

I'm now living in a two apartment house in the Dormont neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The house formerly belonged to my grandmother who lived there for almost 60 years. During that time, her and my grandfather performed minor repairs but never major renovations. The only exception is the garage which they built. Because of this, the house (construction, furnishings, etc.) is in almost exactly the same state it was when my grandparents moved into it. Most of the construction is still the original from whenever it was built. The wiring is mostly original, which makes three prong outlets scarce. Living rooms are organized so that a fireplace is the focus as opposed to the modern custom of a TV. The cellar is leaky and contains no ventilation whatsoever. And the internet is a far far away place which requires substantial travel to venture even remotely close to it.

Some of these issues have been resolved. Communication utilities (i.e. TV, phone, and internet) have been combined into one, cheaper provider. Accessible wiring has been updated to follow modern building codes. Fireplaces are difficult to change so those will remain the same. All these changes got me thinking about what the house would be like if it were not split into two apartments. Either I have a really good imagination or it's damn nice. It has a master bedroom, 2 regular bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, full kitchen, dining room, living room, entrance, bonus room, cellar, and attic. The bonus room has a wonderful view with ample natural light making it perfect for a reading room or study.

In between all this fixing of the house my time has been spent working on programming challenges. At the moment I am working on Packing Your Dropbox. I was very eager to try this one because of how well I can pack things efficiently. The thing is I never really analyzed what algorithm I was using. Upon thinking about it I found the crucial part is finding the largest sides which fit together perfectly. However the challenge is different as it does not provide the boundaries, instead asking that they be calculated. More on this when I have a final working solution.

The other challenge is finding a new host for my Facebook app, My Nickname. Since I first created the app I have been able to use free hosting providers. Facebook recently updated its developer platform to have more features and be more secure. Unfortunately, my current provider doesn't support Facebook's new API at my current cost of free. I had a hard enough time finding any provider which supported the old API. There don't seem to be any providers which freely support the new API. Now I'm faced with a choice: host it myself or pay for hosting.