Books Finished in April 2016

(2 paper books, 2 ebooks, 2 audio books)

Blog “Spring Cleaning” – Phase 1

Recently, I decided it is time to do a “spring cleaning” on my blog. I’m not posting frequently in this stage of life and some of the clutter was heaping up additional “disincentive” to post.

Here is what I did for phase1:

  • Upgraded to WordPress 4.4.2
  • I updated a bunch of out of date plugins: Akismet, iThemes security, JetPack, and SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam
  • Updated my “About Me” page. Not profoundly different, just a bit of an update.
  • Refreshed the Blogroll (removed 7 items that are broken or no longer relevant, added four new items)
  • Clean out old comment spam (~30,000)
  • I trashed 100 of the 101 post drafts I have sitting around. Really, if I haven’t gotten around to posting it yet, is it likely I ever will? (The one exception is a P.G. Wodehouse reading progress post I’m keeping around)
  • I deleted two inactive plugins

 

I’m hopeful that this will freshen things up a bit. Are there any other areas in which this blog can be improved?

My Favorite Android Apps

Here are some of my favorite Android apps for various purposes (I’m omitting very popular web services like Gmail, Facebook, You Tube, and Twitter).

Content

  • DoggCatcher (Podcast software, Paid) -> Fantastic. I love this product and have never looked back. I use it heavily.
  • Feedly (RSS feed reader) -> Pretty good in a post-google reader world.
  • Chrome (web browser) -> Great browsing experience.
  • Pocket (getpocket.com–place to put stuff to read with text-to-speech for audio) -> Fantastic, now how do I get time to read / listen to everything I put on there?
  • FBReader (read ebooks, also has text 2 speech module) -> Very useful at times
  • VLC (video player) -> Fantastic, versatile, and much better than what the phones/tablets come with
  • Audible (audio book service) -> Good, if you have an audible account
  • ESV Bible -> Descent, simple Bible app, not many bells and whistles
  • GoodReads (reading social network) -> Excellent, with barcode reading for indexing a library.

Productivity

  • Todoist (todos) -> Superb todo tool. I would improve some things, but overall it is quite good.
  • HabitBull (setting habit goals) -> Just started with this one, seems a great way to record progress on various habits

Wildlife

  • eBird (bird sighting reporting app) -> I like it, but don’t use it as much as I like.
  • iNaturalist (general wildlife reporting app) -> Not as good as the website, but still handy and fun since it automatically does the location data and date for you.

Utils

  • Flashlight -> Great to have
  • JuiceSSH (ssh client) -> delightfully powerful and simple
  • SSH Server (ssh server) -> Not a huge fan of the program, but having an SSH server on my phone is useful

Storage

  • Dropbox -> Use it a ton
  • Google Drive -> Use it a ton

Other

  • The Weather Channel -> Essential for a nature buff
  • Flickr -> Great way to browse flickr galleries, uploading photos?… not so much.
  • Starbucks -> Well, you know!
  • Duolingo (language learning) -> I’ve fallen away from using this one to learn German, but I still regard it as fantastic

Books Finished in February 2016

(3 paper books, 1 ebook, 4 audio books)

The Sabbath and Nature

“The creation is a looking glass, in which we see the wisdom and power of God gloriously represented. God produced this fair structure of the world without any pre-existent matter and with a word…On the Sabbath let us meditate on the infiniteness of the Creator. Look up to the firmament and see God’s wonders in the deep…Look into the earth where we may behold the nature of minerals, the power of the loadstone, the virtue of herbs, and the beauty of flowers.By meditating on these works of creation, so curiously embroidered, we shall learn to admire God and praise him.”  – Thomas Watson (1620-1686)

Building an Enhanced Macro Setup

Starting off with my new (to me–it’s actually about 12 years old) Nikon D70S and a Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro lens, I decided to try out extension tubes. I bought a set of three Fotodiox extension tubes for $15. The set includes 7mm, 14mm, and 28mm, stacking together for a total 48mm. Basically, the extension tubes sit between the camera and the lens.

Here is a photo of the camera with the lens and the full stack of extension tubes:

tubesThe initial problem with this setup is that you (a) lose tons and tons of light, (b) lose the ability to autofocus, and (c) lose the ability to tweak your aperture.

My strategy for overcoming this had to be simple: reduce movement and increase light!

First, I rested the camera on a disk. Then I turned off the autofocus on both the camera and the lens. Then I zoomed the lens all the way in and positioned the object I’m photographing so that it is just under a inch away from the subject. Then I turned off the flash and figured out an external light source. Sometimes I used an overhead lamp. Sometimes I used the flashlight app on my phone. Sometimes I used both. I experimented pointing my phone light at different angles for different results and different shadow configurations. Then I manually focused and shot away!

I’m very happy with the result. I estimate that I get almost twice as much magnification with the $15 tubes! Objects that are in reality 1 cm appear in my images well over 20cm long. What I lose is photo quality and I have to with external lighting and obsessively remove movement.

I look forward to warmer weather and a chance to try this setup out on invertebrates. For various reasons, this setup is not very practical for field work. However, I’m hopeful that it will be very helpful in getting better macro photos of invertebrates.

Here are some links to some of my tests on Flickr:

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