Charles Pillsbury III

Geek. Dad. Writer?

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Archive for April, 2008

Breaking News from 2016: David Blaine dies in the midst of a moronic stunt

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My wife is convinced David Blaine is “of the devil.” I’m convinced his schtick has gotten old, and did so pretty much as soon as his first street magic TV Special aired. I’d like to make the not-so-bold prediction that Blaine will be dead within 10 years from either a specific stunt, or the cumulative effect of all the other ridiculous stunts on his mind and body.

Magician David Blaine has set a world record by holding his breath for 17 minutes and four seconds on Oprah Winfrey’s US TV show in Chicago.
The star was pulled from a water-filled sphere, and then said he had begun to doubt if he would achieve his goal as he considered his heart rate too high.
The previous record, which was 32 seconds shorter, was set in February.

[From BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Blaine sets breathtaking record]


Written by cpillsbury

April 30th, 2008 at 9:02 pm

Posted in Misc

Big chuckie

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Note: Yes, I went by the nickname of Chuckie as a kid. No, we won’t mention it again (unless I need another pithy headline and it fits).

I’ve never really thought of myself as a “big guy.” To be sure I was a bit tall as a kid, but so scrawny that “big” never described me. When I got to high-school I was 6′1″ and while a bit doughy at 185 lbs I was still not “big.” I started exercising a bit and quickly dropped down to 140-145ish though most of high-school.

A few years later when I got married I was a bit above 6′2″ and around 165 lbs (still pretty thin). Over the years I’ve packed on a few pounds here and there (more than a few apparently), and when I was looking at some baseball statistics I noticed that the given size of David Ortiz (aka Big Papi) of the Boston Red Sox (I was comparing batting stats for DH and first basemen) is 6′4″ and 230 lbs. Well, I’m an inch or two shorter than that… and about 5-10 lbs heavier than that.

Wait, I’m BIGGER, than Big Papi!?!?!?! I’m certainly not as beefy as he is, but I may have to re-assess my own body image as that of a larger man than I’ve always thought of myself.


Written by cpillsbury

April 29th, 2008 at 4:40 pm

Posted in Blog Entry

Gadget Envy… (photography edition)

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Of course my gadget envy isn’t all tied to the computing world. I’m also a photography fiend, and a movie fan as well. So maybe this will be a series of posts.

While I’m pretty happy with our EOS Rebel XT, I would certainly like to upgrade our miniDV camera. This HD camera from Panasonic in the $6K range would be nice one, but probably not realistic. What I think might be the most reasonable upgrade for us is something that’s solid state, under a grand, and shoots short things easily. Of course I’m also tempted by the “flip” revolution (of course I’d have to fight Jake to keep him away from the thing if we got one).

The main photography “wants” are tied up in other lenses. I’m very happy with our 1.8 50mm we got over the holidays, so I’m mostly looking at more zoom. The camera came with a decent 18-55mm lens, and with the 50mm fixed we’ve got most of the wider-angle uses covered. What we “need” is a big zoom. I’ve got an old 75.300mm zoom from my EOS A2E, but I’ve discovered that either the auto-focus doesn’t work with my DSLR, or it just doesn’t work at all. I took it to a Braves game and discovered that I’ve not entirely lost my eye, it’s tough to manually focus at that level of zoom.

I’ve looked at a few options, and I think I’ve narrowed down our “next lens” to one of four. The DSLR has the 1.6 multiplier (the sensor is smaller than a 35mm negative would be, so a 200mm zoom translates to a 300mm level of zoom on my camera), so I’m considering both 55-200mm zoom and 75-300mm zoom. The 200mm is as effective as the 300mm would be on film, but then a 300mm lens would give me 500mm function which could be very cool.

Lens Option #1 Tamron 75-300 $129: Cheapest of the options, and probably least likely. I’ve never had a Tamron lens before, but this gets good reviews, and meets my needs. I’d probably rather spend an extra $30 and get the canon Lens, but I’m not sure.

Lens Option #2 Sigma 55-200mm $139: This is actually FOR a DSLR, so it doesn’t get the multiplier I believe, but even at 200mm we’d have a nice zoom. My favorite lenses for my old 35mm cameras were Sigma ones. On one hand it won’t give us the deep zoom I’d like, but it’s such a good range of “standard” and zoom that it could be the “leave it on the camera” lens for trips to the zoo and soccer and such.

Lens Option #3 Canon 75-300mm $159: This is basically the new edition of my 75-300mm that isn’t working. It’s a serviceable lens, but it weighs a full pound and is sort of a “truck” kind of lens. The multiplier is in effect here and I enjoy how far in my old lens can zoom.

Lens Option #4 Canon 55-200mm USM Refurb $175: I’ve dreamed of owning a USM lens since 1992, which I’m trying to not let cloud my judgement. I don’t have a problem with Refurb generally (except laptops), and in this case I don’t think a refurb lens is a problem. The USM makes for a nicer/quicker/quieter auto-focus, and as it’s for a film camera the multiplier is in effect so it’s close to a 80-300mm equivalent. The lens is also more compact, and 2/3 the weight. It wouldn’t be as practical to stick on and leave (like the Sigma one would be), and it’s more expensive, but the weight and extra zoom would be nice.

I think right now I’m leaning towards either of the 55-200mm lenses, and trying to weigh saving $35 vs the plus/minus otherwise. This is going to be a lens I’ll keep for a long time, so the expense difference isn’t so much that it weighs very heavily on the decision.

Any other photographers out there with suggestions? Anybody have questions?


Written by cpillsbury

April 27th, 2008 at 8:24 pm

Posted in Blog Entry

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Introduction to Astrophotography

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A) I’m a photography… nut/fan/hobbyist

B) I’m an astronomy/space fan

so…. when I found this article on Astrophotography I was pleased.

Photography of the night sky can be an extremely rewarding hobby revealing the spectacular beauty of nature and wonders of the universe.

It can be as simple as a camera mounted on a tripod, or as complicated as you want to make it with liquid-cooled CCD cameras, robotically controlled telescopes, and computer-enhanced images.

Although astrophotography is a very easy hobby in which to get started on a simple level, it can be difficult to master at its highest level. You must be prepared to spend the time learning the craft.

But, don’t let this discourage you. Start out easy, shoot some star-trails with camera on tripod. Advance to piggyback photography and finally prime-focus astrophotography.

[From Introduction to Astrophotography]

FYI: I’ve made note before of other astro-photography projects I want to try.


Written by cpillsbury

April 26th, 2008 at 7:33 pm

Posted in Blog Entry, Misc

Vindication for Big Charlie

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My grandfather (Charles Sr) was inexplicably dubbed “big charlie” even though he was only 5′6″ish (I believe) and thin as a rail. He was known for going barefoot… everywhere. My father recalls that the only time he saw him wearing shoes when he was younger was as he stepped out of the car to go to church on the weekend, and he took them off as soon as he was ready to head home. So this research is good news for the Pillsbury propensity for going barefoot.

It’s your shoes. Shoes are bad. I don’t just mean stiletto heels, or cowboy boots, or tottering espadrilles, or any of the other fairly obvious foot-torture devices into which we wincingly jam our feet. I mean all shoes. Shoes hurt your feet. They change how you walk. In fact, your feet—your poor, tender, abused, ignored, maligned, misunderstood feet—are getting trounced in a war that’s been raging for roughly a thousand years: the battle of shoes versus feet.

[From You Walk Wrong]

I found this on Boing Boing, and they also linked to a product that mimics the barefoot experience without all the pesky cuts/calluses/no-service issues.

I’m not sure how research will show that clutter and piles of sheet music by the bagful will be healthy, but at least the barefoot was in his favor.


Written by cpillsbury

April 26th, 2008 at 11:06 am

Posted in Blog Entry, Misc

Disney does nature

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I think the injection of Pixar into Disney is doing good things for them (and us as consumers), so I’m optimistic about this new Disneynature venture.

the Walt Disney Company has established a new production banner to deliver two nature films a year starting in 2009. The effort, to be called Disneynature, reflects efforts by Disney to spur growth at its film unit after a retrenchment in 2006.

Disney’s chief executive, Robert A. Iger, said the success of “March of the Penguins” — a 2005 documentary from Warner Independent that cost $3 million to make and sold $127.4 million in tickets worldwide — helped spark the company’s interest in the genre. He also said that “Planet Earth,” the recent mini-series from the Discovery Channel and the British Broadcasting Company, delivered blockbuster television ratings.

“We were blown away by that TV series and we wished the Disney name was on it,” Mr. Iger said in an interview.

[From Disney Looks to Nature, and Creates a Film Division to Capture It - New York Times]

As the first thing coming out under that name is being done by the producer behind Planet Earth I’m even more optimistic than I’d otherwise be. My hope is that they bring David Attenborough on-board to narrate. I loved his work on Planet Earth, and recently picked up his Life of Mammals DVD from my library and thoroughly enjoyed it as well.


Written by cpillsbury

April 24th, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Misc

2:42 = the perfect song?

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Profanity laced article linked here:

The scientists then dug up this song by a group that pretty much defines one-hit wonder: the La’s. The song is “There She Goes,” and is so flawless that it instantly made everything else the band did pointless. This ditty is two minutes and 42 seconds, and is all about songwriting economy.

I listened to it and said, in my rich and sonorous timbre, in my typically concise and absolutely-nailing-it fashion: “Here is a song that has everything I need and nothing I don’t.”

The main riff acts as the intro. The verses are the chorus. The solo is 100 percent fat-free and leads right into a tidy bridge. And then we’re back where we started. It’s like some ingenious IKEA futon or Japanese love hotel where every component is doing double-duty. When “There She Goes” is over, I guarantee absolutely no one in the room goes: “Jesus, finally.”

[From Two Minutes and 42 Seconds in Heaven by Joshua Allen - The Morning News]

I quick look in my iTunes library reveals:

King Dork – Mr T Experience

You’re gonna kill that girl – The Ramones

Liquor Store – Less Than Jake

Your Way or the Highway – The Blake Babies

all clocking in at 2:42… I think that 2:42 may even be on the long side for me because at 2:41 I find:

Secret Agent Man – The Toasters

The Brews – NoFX

Ever Fallen In Love? – The Buzzcocks

He’d Be a Diamond – Mary Lou Lord

going down even further (thank you “sort by length”) to 2:35 I get:

Bad Town – Operation Ivy

Imaginary Friend – Bracket

At 2:31 Semi-OK by Mr T Experience

At 2:30 Alternative is Here to Stay by Mr T Experience

2:21 brings us Ugly by The Violent Femmes

1:36 Now I wanna sniff some glue by The Ramones

Judy is a Punk by The Ramones at 1:32

Mr Fancy Pants by Jonathan Coulton at 1:19

And the ultimate in brevity (if not musicality):

This Place Sucks (which could almost be the new tag-line for this site) by The Queers at 0:52


Written by cpillsbury

April 23rd, 2008 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Blog Entry

A little project to try (Biosphere)

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I’m hoping to do this (or let Alicia do this) with the boys this spring/summer.

We started with a Table-Top Biosphere, or as MAKE called it, a “Tabletop Shrimp Support Module” or TSSM. The whole idea is to create an entirely self-sustaining aquatic ecosystem within a completely sealed jam jar. If you do it right, your freshwater shrimp “aquanaut” will be able to survive for months without your ever needing to feed it or even open the jar. The ecological balance you create supplies all the air, filtering and food for all the creatures within the jar to survive in perfect harmony. If only the real world was this easy.

[From Producer's Notes - MAKE it at Home: Table-Top Biosphere | QUEST Community Science Blog - KQED]


Written by cpillsbury

April 23rd, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Posted in Misc

Fighting Christians

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Lest Christianity get too haughty about its peaceful nature, I hasten to point out it wasn’t that long ago that Ireland was fraught with intra-Christian fighting (though one could argue if it was really a theological difference). To that end, there are still fist-fights between denominations in Israel apparently.

Israeli police had to break up a fist fight that erupted between Greek and Armenian Orthodox clergymen at one of Christianity’s holiest sites.
The scuffles broke out at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Orthodox Palm Sunday.
Brawls are not uncommon at the church, which is uneasily shared by various Christian denominations.

[From BBC NEWS | Middle East | Fight erupts in Jerusalem church]


Written by cpillsbury

April 23rd, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Misc

How paranoid would you be if it was you?

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On the one hand you have to think “silly man”, but on the other hand you’d have to put yourself in his shoes, and while you might not reach the same conclusion, the odds against it happening are so staggering I’d at least go play the lottery to see if I could get other rare things to happen to me.

A Bosnian man whose home has been hit an incredible five times by meteorites believes he is being targeted by aliens.

Experts at Belgrade University have confirmed that all the rocks Radivoje Lajic has handed over were meteorites.

They are now investigating local magnetic fields to try and work out what makes the property so attractive to the heavenly bodies.

But Mr Lajic, who has had a steel girder reinforced roof put on the house he owns in the northern village of Gornja Lamovite, has an alternative explanation.

He said: “I am obviously being targeted by extraterrestrials. I don’t know what I have done to annoy them but there is no other explanation that makes sense. The chance of being hit by a meteorite is so small that getting hit five times has to be deliberate.”

[From Ananova - Man 'targeted by aliens' ]


Written by cpillsbury

April 18th, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Posted in Misc