Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cranky Monkey race #1 photos up.

Sunday I spent the day sitting in the weeds of Wakefield park (...again. This is becoming habit-forming). EX2 hosted the first of the 2007 Cranky Monkey race series. Two of the three races went off without a hitch. Rain at the beginning of the third race cut it to a single lap (but made for some cool photography!). The day was a bit overcast. I was actually hoping for some bright sunlight shooting, since most of the bike photography I do is in the waining light of the late afternoons/evenings.

My photos are up on my pbase site. Same rules apply. You want small web/blog/email-resolution images for non-commercial use? Take em. You want bigger, printable-res digital shots, they're $10. You want prints, they're $20. Email me.

Racer carving the banked downhill berms section at Wakefield

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sigma EF500-DG external battery pack hack

Standard disclaimer: What follows is intended for informational purposes only. If you try it and blow your shit up, it's not my fault. Don't come crying to me. Proceed with caution. Caveat emptor. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Ipso facto. Et tu Brute? YMMV. You have been warned.




Cheap external battery pack for a Sigma EF500 DG Super flash

A month or two back, I built a DIY external flash battery pack for my old workhorse Vivitar 283 flash. The battery pack allows the flash to recycle from a full-power flash burst in about 2 seconds, instead of the 10 seconds that it takes normal AA batteries. Shooting at less-than-full-power yields almost instantaneous recycle times, and near continuous flash use.

The downside of this is that the Vivitar is an old, low-tech, brute-force flash. There are few things you can make it do aside from unceremoniously barfing out a bunch of light when you push the shutter button. In addition to the Vivitar, I also own a Sigma EF500 DG Super flash. The Sigma is a newer, more high-tech piece of equipment, with many more advanced features and capabilities. It is higher power -- it rates a GN (measure of flash power) of 150 vs. the Vivitar's 120, understands Canon's advanced TTL-II metering, has fractional power settings, hi-speed sync mode, and second-curtain sync capabilities. In short, all the bells and whistles of a modern flash.

The main drawback of the Sigma was that it offered no external power port, so you could not (easily) hook up an external battery to the fancy flash. So you had two choices: you could use the fancy Sigma flash, with the slow-recycle AA batteries, or the fast-recycle DIY battery pack with the low-tech Vivitar flash. I wanted to use the fast-recycle DIY battery pack with the high-tech Sigma and have the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, nobody had shown how to do this yet.

Using the instructions (and battery pack) from the DIY page above, then taking a bit of info from the photos of the dissected Sigma flash on this page, then mixing in the male half of a teeny little metal sewing snap from my grandmother's sewing kit (thanks Granny! Dead 7 years and *still* helping me out!) I was able to rig the Sigma to make use of the external battery pack.

The key was to figure out which two (of the four) battery contacts inside the flash transferred power to the flash (and what the polarity of those contacts were). After that, you just had to lay the snap into the bottom of the battery compartment over top of the positive contact, since the contacts themselves are protected by a plastic lip. The nubbin on the sewing snap protrudes below the plastic lip, and touches the metal contact. Finally put the dummy AA batteries into the correct slots in the flash (positive-to-positive, negative-to-negative else bad things will happen), close the cover, hold it in place with something as high-tech as a rubber band, and you're all set.

For anybody wanting to try this themselves, I'll try to explain what goes where:

Tilt the head of your Sigma flash so that the unit lays flat on a desk (if it were attached to your camera, the flash head would be pointing at the ceiling), with the "Sigma" logo right-side-up so you can read it, and the battery compartment on your right-hand side. Open the battery compartment. The two battery chambers you want to use are the ones closest to the desk. The one closest to the flash bulb is the positive contact. The one closest to the flash shoe is the negative contact.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Busy week.

Busy week. Quick summary:

Monday and Tuesday I was out at Summit Point Raceway shooting photos at a Ferrari of Washington track event. Hope to post more of those shots soon. For now, here's a ~$1.2 million Ferrari Enzo making the rounds (with a little Lotus Elise (I think) in the background):

Wednesday I was at the Warped Tour with my kid. Didn't take the camera cuz the rules said "no professional (changeable lens) cameras". 5 seconds after walking in, I see the first of probably a hundred SLR cameras. Mental note: always take the camera. If they turn you away at the door, all it costs you is a walk back to the car.

A quick note to the Warped Tour promoters: Please, don't ever have a stage named the "hurly" stage, and a stage called the "hurley.com" stage. This subtle difference will elude some (many? most?) of the people trying to see the good band on the hurly.com stage, and result in me (us) seeing the crappy band on the hurly stage. Also, if you feel the need to have two such similar named stages, how about *not* putting them on opposite sides of the world, so that once I (we) realize our mistake, there is no physical way possible to trek back to the other stage and see the band we wanted to see in the first place. Just a suggestion.

Spent almost 10 hours in the sun. The highlight being a 40 minute stint (their entire set) in a dusty Bad Religion pit. Just about more than my old-ass body could take. The pit claimed a new CD I'd purchased, as well as my sunglasses. Ah well.

Thursday the wife and I headed to Shepherdstown, WV. We spent the night in a German Inn-thingy, and had extra-yummy Gruel for din-din in the attached German restaurant. Yay.

Friday, we signed up for a half-day "flat-water" kayak paddle down the (Potomac? Shenandoah?) river. When they say flat, brother, they effin' mean flat. Like hardly a ripple of current to help you along. At about the halfway point, the winds picked up significantly (headwinds, natch.) and turned the latter half of the paddle into a death-march. The last hour was a all-out sprint to the pickup spot, so that we wouldn't get left. Not as much fun as we'd hoped. Oh, and we both have rather ouchy sunburn on random spots, due to our limited use of sunscreen. Wise, ain't we?

Saturday I don't think we did much. I forget. I had hoped we could take the day and just chill. I think we accomplished this for the most part.

Sunday I was up and out of the house early to shoot the first (or second, if you count the 12-hour) Cranky Monkey mountain bike race at Wakefield. The first few hours went pretty well, tho the day was overcast and didn't provide the bright light I had hoped for. By the start of the third race, the skies had opened and dampened the course a bit. Midway through the first lap of the third race, the thunder rumbled, and the race was halted. I debated sticking around to see if it would be re-run, but all indications were that it was over. I cut out, and headed for home. I hope to have some shots of that posted one of these days soon over on blog.toofattorace.com. Here's teaser of a racer with a little something stuck to her helmet (a "little something" being about 10lbs worth of old-skool video camera on one side, and steel counterweight on the other).

Monday (pre-blogging), the wife leaves for a couple of months training in San Fran. Should prove to be a strange stretch of time. I've never been apart from my one and only significant other for that long of a time. Hope I remember how to boil water, else dinners around here are gonna be pretty rough.

Monday, July 23, 2007

If you can't laugh at yourself...

...who can you laugh at?

It's a moot point anyway, cuz I usually provide all the laugh-at fodder anyone could need. For example:

Couple o' nerds (and a couple o' strangers) at a MegaGroceryStore for a Harry Potter book sale.

Nice face on that big one, eh?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Just doing my part...

...to make sure JK doesn't go hungry :-\

Months ago, I ordered the 7th and final Harry Potter book from MegaOnlineBookstore. Safe in the knowledge that it would be delivered into my hands (or, mailbox) without any further effort on my part.

Last night, on the eve of its in-store release, the wife, kid and I went to see the 5th movie in the series. Afterwards, I mentioned to the kid that maybe it would be fun to go to the MegaBookstore across the street and see what the line-standing HPNerds were up to (both of us being HPNerds, ourselves). And if the scene weren't crazy, maybe we could stand in line ourselves and pick up a copy of the book a bit earlier than the local Pony Express would deliver the next day. Since we're both clamoring to read it, having two copies won't be excessive. And after we're done with them, I figured I'd donate the spare to a local library or other worthy cause. The wife (having met us at the movie theater) had her own car and thus her own means of escape, was able to opt out of this little nerd-adventure.

We stopped by and found a few hundred people lined up out of the store, along the front of the building, and all the way down the side of the parking lot. If I had to guess, I'd say there were at least 300 people there. The MegaBookstore employee I spoke with said that if we got in line at that moment (roughly 10pm), we would "probably" get a book, and "probably" get outta there by 3am. This was clearly unacceptable. It served only to instill in my kid a need to find an "out of the way bookstore where we might actually be able to get a copy close to midnight". I wasn't sure I was ready to go on a quest for a book which would be delivered to me 12 hours hence. But on the drive home, there was an accident blocking the road, which all but forced us onto the highway away from home, and towards far-away bookstores.

Taking that as a sign, we headed west, trying to think of out of the way bookstores where we might have a chance of scoring a book, and being home by sunrise. Before long, I remembered seeing an in-store display advertising the book at a local MegaGroceryStore. Thinking to myself "nobody is gonna go to a grocery store to buy a book", we decided to scope it out. When we arrived, we found various kid-friendly HP gonigs-on. When I asked an employee where the line began, they replied that there were four checkout lanes cordoned-off downstairs where the lines would be forming. We went down and found in two of the three lanes, a single HPNerd waiting. This left two empty lines. We took up residence in one and began our wait. It was now 10:30pm.

Over the course of the next hour and half, the lines formed and grew. By the time midnight drew near near, all four checkout lines snaked towards the door, and beyond. I'd say about 100 people were waiting. Maybe 150. As the final moments ticked down, the store manager appeared and explained that they had 800 copies of the book, so there was no danger of running out. He also said that the store was able to get 5 copies of the extra-special-fancy-boxed edition. These would be available on a first come first serve basis. What can I say. A sucker and his money are soon parted (twice!). The pressure was immense. The first person in each of the other three lines excitedly snatched up copies. When it came time for a yea or nay from me, with all the eyes of the other HPNerd line-standers enviously upon me, I caved. The price of the "normal" edition was ~$20. The price of the fancy edition was ~$45. What the hell. I already have a "normal" edition on order. Why not go for the gold!

Being one of the firsts in line attracted a bit of attention. At one point, we were approached by Tammi Marcoullier, a reporter for the "Loudoun Extra" supplemental section to the Washington Post. She asked to take our photo (me, my kid, and the 12 and 10 year old girls who were in line just behind us). Loudounextra.com ended up running a little piece on the event, quoting each of us.

After making our purchase at exactly 12:01am, my kid bee-lined for the exit, making her the first to emerge from the store with the coveted book (sparking cheers from the rest of the HPNerds in line). It was pretty fun. We got back into the truck, and drove all the way home with the passenger-side reading light on. She started reading at about 12:03am. She finally went to sleep at about 10am today. After a solid 10 hours of reading, she's about 50% of the way through.

Friday, July 20, 2007

W@W3 photos up

Photos of the third Wednesday at Wakefield race have been posted.

Mine are here.

My buddy Ben's are here.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

W@W #3 (7-18-07)

(Crossposted from that other blog of mine, since I don't know if anybody knows that this one exists yet).

The threatening rains held off, so a friend and I were able to go out and shoot the third Wednesdays @ Wakefield race last night. He got some amazing shots using some fancy off-camera flash techniques. Really cool stuff (and depressingly better than my own stuff!). Once he gets his images posted online, I'll put a link here (and on all the usual message boards) so people can see his work.

For my shots, I was attempting something different. (Different from Ben's stuff, and different from my usual stuff). I was using a flash while shooting at a really slow shutter speed and panning along with the riders as they passed. (Called "Dragging the shutter"). 1/80s, 1/60s, even down as low as 1/30s. Consider that I usually shoot at 1/250s and wish I could go faster (and still be able to use a flash), those are some slow shutter speeds. This gives a really cool effect when you can pull it off correctly. The problem is that its really hard to pull off correctly. I shot about 450 images over the course of the evening. I've only given them a cursory going over and I can already tell that there are a lot that need to be culled. I think I got a few really nice shots. But for each nice shot, I probably have 20 or more throw-aways.

Anyway, I'll be processing/culling my images tonight, so hopefully I'll have them online by tomorrow. They'll be in their own directory here:


I'll post to all the usual places when they're up. Thanks to the riders who had nice things to say to me last night. It's always cool to hear that people are seeing and enjoying your work.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Told you so.

See. This is why the media blackout must begin ASAP.

[No idea if the following linked article contains spoilers. I read the first paragraph then got nervous that they were gonna say something stupid, so I didn't finish reading it. You have been warned.]

CNN says "Harry Potter spoilers spread over Internet"

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Recent PostSecret postcards that have hit close to home:

I totally do this. It may not be the only factor, but it's a heavily-weighted one.

While I didn't postpone my vacation for the book, I'm gonna be imposing a media blackout around myself from the day the book hits the streets untill the day I finish reading it. If some dipshit radio DJ or bloggertastic web-nerd blows the ending of a...what...10-year story for me, I will be forced to hunt them down, and pound them into dust. And you can put that in my official police confession. I'll sign it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Pay up, $ucker

Virginia is rethinking the bullshit, exorbitant fees they recently tacked on to some driving offenses (including some relatively minor ones...$1000 for "driving too fast for road conditions"??). Strangely enough, the subjects...err...citizens of our fine state were right pissed.

Fees for Driving Infractions to Be Reassessed
GOP Lawmakers in Va. Rue 'Mistake' of Including Minor Offenses After Protests

Not sure how much petition sites like this matter, but if you wanna attempt to tell them that they can take their fees and stick them up their collective asses, click below:


Thursday, July 12, 2007


I got the Monkey dirtworthy again after finally finishing up some half-complete upgrades:

* Changed out the rear tire (thanks DT)

* Removed the fancy 18t Boone Ti cog (thanks for the loaner, DT)

* Added new slightly less fancy 20t Surly cog (thanks DT)

* Changed out my flat handlebars for a new Titec/Jones H-bar (thanks DT). (Note: If Titec woudn't have had such a crappy totally-Flash-based site, I would have linked directly to their product page. But alas...)

* Changed out the old brake cables for new. (F* you buddy, this was all me!)

I gotta say, after only one ride, I'm loving the new H-bars. Although they make me feel kinda like I'm driving a bus when I'm sitting high atop the Monkey's 29" wheels and XL-sized frame

I took the bike out for a quick shakedown spin around my ~9 mile neighborhood trail. I'm not sure if it was because of the new bars, or just the difference in the ride of the 29er vs. the 26er I've been riding a lot lately, but the ride definitely felt more smooth. Almost like I was running suspension. I really like the hand position on the new H-bars, too. The swept-back placement felt very natural. The 20t cog made a huge difference as well. I made all of the climbs with relative ease (with the 18t cog, it was a struggle). Spinning on the flats/downhills was expected, but was no worse than the spinning I do on my 26er. And to be honest, I need all the help I can get on climbs. So I'll deal with the spinning.

I may pick up another set of the H-bars for my 26er. Anybody doing another team buy anytime soon ;)

Monday, July 09, 2007


One of the best tools to arrive on the net in nearly forever is BugMeNot. BugMeNot is site which hosts a database of generic log-ins and passwords to many sites which require you to log-in before showing you their (free!) content. Think washingtonpost.com and nytimes.com. They're two of the worst offenders.

The thing with BugMeNot that gives me an occasional chuckle is that I never know who I've logged into a particular site as (I'll usually save my BugMeNot-generated login info in my browser so I don't have to retype it). So I will sometimes go to washingtonpost.com, and will be greeted with a small "Hello MRFUCKWADPOOPYPANTS" at the top of the screen. Other times, there will be something less angry. My current washingtonpost.com login greets me with "Hello lovvver". Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy getting my daily news.

Coolest. Jam. Session. *Ever*. Period.

Spinal Tap + an Army of Bass Players @ Live Earth


Said NME:

"...However the real centrepiece of the performance came before the closing 'Big Bottom', before which David St Hubbins introduced 'every bass player in the known universe...'.

Joining the band were [among others] Foo Fighters' Nate Mendell, Metallica's Kirk Hammett, Bloc Party's Gordon Moakes and Madonna's bass player and producer Stuart Price.

However, Metallica frontman James Hetfield and the entire Beastie Boys also made it onto the stage to join in the fun.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Garden and *what*??


I mean...uhh...

I just wanted...to...uhh...rant about...

Oh fuck it. It's beyond words (and logic, and reason):

Garden and Gun Magazine

And in case you though I made that shit up (and created the website for fun), you can subscribe via Amazon.com (tho I wouldn't recommend it, but that's just me).

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Back at it.

Saturday, the girl and I got back from a much-needed week at the beach. I spent most of my time doing as little as humanly possible down there. Read a couple of pure fluff books. Snoozed a lot. Did a kayak tour of a swampy/marshy river. Went out one day and half-heartedly took some shots of some kite surfers who were playing near the shore. (If any turn out un-horrible, I will probably post them here).

Upon my return home, I found that the Sigma lens I sent in for repair had finally returned. It had been with them for over a month. When I opened the box, I was pretty surprised (and quite happy) to see that instead of repairing my lens, they had shipped me a brand new one, complete with lens cap, shade, protective bag and all documentation (why it took them a month to swap a lens is beyond me, but I'm not bitching). Not a bad deal considering that I bought my lens used for about half the retail price. Perhaps customer service isn't dead after all.

Also in my absence, my pre-ordered copy of the new Bad Brains CD had arrived. I held (and still hold) great hope for this CD, as it was produced by Adam Yauch (MCA from the Beastie Boys) who has been a lifelong Bad Brains fan. The disk didn't hook me immediately, but I think it's stronger than their last one (perhaps two) studio releases. Maybe it will grow on me. But it could never come close to the seminal "I Against I".

And while we're on a musical subject, it looks like Bad Religion have a new disk out next week. They are one of those rare bands who's current work totally rivals their early stuff. They don't seem to have lost a bit of steam or creativity over the years. I'm holding my breath for this one. I expect great things.

Anyway, the Sunday after my return home, I met up with Spearman and his girl Donna for a ride at Rosaryville State Park in MD. I'd been off the bike for weeks, so I fully expected to get my ass handed to me by both of them. Lucky for me, they spent the night before boozing and didn't get home till 2am. Since they were both riding with hangovers, I didn't get dropped *too* badly. Spearman still managed to handily leave me in the dust. But he was kind enough to wait up every couple of miles.

Monday night, I drove down to Arlington then biked into Georgetown where I met up with Spearman again, this time at a favorite pizza/beer joint. Our final destination was a free outdoor show at Fort Reno by local punk legend Ian MacKaye's band "The Evens". (It also didn't hurt that the opening band was that of former McKaye band mate and Fugazi bassist Joe Lally). Once Butch, the third member of our motley crew, arrived we remounted our bikes and pedaled up Mount Georgetown. Essentially heading straight north into the city. Arriving at the park, we locked up our steeds, met up with Donna and Stoner and set off to find a place in the grass to recover from our climb. (Well...at least *I* was looking for a place to recover). As we walked around, we saw another local punk hero, Henry Rollins wandering through the crowd. Mostly unmolested by the gathering horde.

Eventually we found a clear patch of grass and settled in. Before long, another local hero, Gwadz, comes wandering by and hangs out for a bit.

The show was decent, although not really my kinda music (I prefer the edgier/angrier/loudier kinda punk). The event provided the photographers amongst us (basically, everyone other than Donna and me) an opportunity to shoot some up-close-and-personal photos of the bands in action. I made the choice not to bring my camera along (not wanting to ride with pounds of expensive stuff strapped to my back. I knew the climb outta G'town would be bad enough without it). Gwadz has some photos posted on his blog (linked above). Spearman has promised to post his, post haste. Not sure where (or even if) Stoner and Butch share their masterpieces. But I'd like to see what they were able to catch. They both have skillz behind the lens.