Pumpkin Man Nod

I spent much of today panicking over a photography project due in this Friday. The idea I’d been planning and working on for a few weeks fell through due to a combination of my muppetry and some unfortunate timings, so I came up with a new plan this evening, and called a friend in the hope he might be around to help. Not only was he around, but he didn’t complain once about spending much of the evening doing this:

Pumpkin Man Nod

Which isn’t as easy as it looks. I have impressive friends – thanks, Nod!

I’m going to London tomorrow to develop the films and hopefully get a few decent prints. I’m annoyed with myself that it’s ended up so last-minute, but I’ve learnt not to leave anything mission-critical to the last few days, and plenty more besides. Hopefully the prints will turn out ok tomorrow – not sure what I do if not…

Rediscovering an old Suntax flash

A few years ago my grandfather presented me with a ‘Suntax 9800A’ flash for my old Canon film camera. It was fairly old and required manually setting the shutter-speed/aperture via the use of a chart on the back, but was nevertheless a massive upgrade from the on-camera flash and a generous gift. Unfortunately the time delay between taking and viewing film images meant I never fully got to grips with the unit, and it lay in a drawer for a few years.

I recently happened upon it while digging out A-Level certificates for my photography degree application, and took another look. I immediately spotted something I’d completely forgotten: it has an adjustable head. This means I can angle the flash upwards and bounce it off the ceiling, resulting in a completely different effect from the usual chav-in-the-headlights look of the on-camera flash. With a digital SLR I could see the results instantly, and after a few dozen experimental pictures I quickly realised what an excellent tool it is. I’m hoping it will improve images from parties, which usually turn out something like this:

Tamsin’s 22nd - Smaller

Which is passable for your average snap (even if the composition needs work), but I want more, dammit. People’s faces are flat and blasted with light, and it quickly falls into darkness at the back of the picture. A couple of weeks ago I took the Suntax along to a birthday party:

Teapot Nod Anansi Boy Nod Nobody wants to play

These aren’t posted as particularly great photos, but I think the lighting is softer and much more pleasing than before. I’m itching to try it out at a dance, although the ceilings tend to be high and the bounce technique may not work so well. I’ll have to pick up some kind of diffuser.

Unfortunately I’ve now lost the flash’s accompanying booklet, and am unable to remember what the white/blue/red setting on the front means. I’ll have to join a forum at some point and ask. I must also properly and belatedly thank my grandfather for the excellent gift!

It’s coming to get me

While walking around Charlecote yesterday, we took the following amusing picture1. Seems innocuous enough, right?

An novelty shot of an innocuous sign that happens to contain fishes...but look deeper...

I didn’t notice something at the time. If we look more closely:

Smart water returns!

It’s back! I blogged about Smart Water a year ago. I am no less creeped out by the concept today. Back then the sign was a long way from me. This is only five minutes drive from my flat! It’s coming to get me! I’m batting down the hatches and readying the sawdust.

  1. amusing for perhaps three people, all of whom were there at the time. Let’s be fair, however, for them it’s damned funny []

Wiilly good fun (sorry, had to be done)

Yesterday night was spent playing with a Wii. Stock levels are still astonishingly low, and my friend Nod finally picked one up with the help of www.wiipreorder.co.uk. It arrived on Saturday, and was swiftly configured. I’ve never been one for consoles as I quickly get bored of pressing buttons1 but the Wii really is good fun.

The motion sensitive controllers mean playing tennis is a joy – it’s good enough that you can aim the ball, rather than just getting in its way – and two people leaping around a lounge makes for some entertaining moments. It supports up to four players, which would just be dangerous πŸ™‚ I was also impressed by baseball (really quite tricky) and bowling (not so tricky), but the standout game was Rayman Raving Rabbids, which is completely mental.

In it Rayman the picnicking duck is kidnapped by a giant and placed into an arena with a crowd of dynamite and scythe-toting rabbits, and made to complete increasingly insane tasks in order to win plungers that allow him to climb a wall to his escape. It’s like David Lynch doing Watership Down for Dreamworks. The tasks are mini-games that take full advantage of the Wii’s motion-sensing abilities, from simply pumping the controllers up and down to make Rayman run very fast (this is surprisingly tiring) to whipping one in circles around your head as to throw a cow as far as possible to flicking the controllers to destroy rabbits attacking Rayman on the dancefloor, perfectly in time with the beats and syncopations of Cyndi Lauper songs. My favourite, however, involves Rayman manning some kind of beach-hut when from the sea rise hundreds of snorkelled zombie rabbits. Obviously the sane solution to this predicament is to fire your gun of carrot-juice at the invaders, filling their snorkels with orange goop until they drown. Aiming is done by the right hand while the left furiously pumps the carrot juice gun2. It hurts like hell, but is oddly entertaining.

If I could afford a Wii I’d pick one up in a heartbeat, but for now I’ll steal Nod’s πŸ™‚

  1. PC games have a mouse, so it’s different. It is. []
  2. yes, it is possibly the most euphemistic children’s game ever []

Partying with karts and balloons

I spent Friday evening blowing up balloons. Many, many balloons.

We ran out of space on the sofa soon after

The pictured Nod and I were helping arrange a surprise birthday party for our friend Ben, and decided balloons were the way to go. We started off with twenty, but it quickly became clear this was waaaay too few and one late-night trip to Sainsbury’s later we had packets containing another eighty. Surprisingly few explosions ensued, and at around 0030 we finished and came up with the notion of moving them all upstairs, with the intention of pushing them down on top of Ben the next day. Moving 103 balloons upstairs is not, it turns out, as easy as you’d think. After a couple of ad hoc schemes failed we finally moved them two at a time, and they were loaded into the spare room.

Balloon moving

Seven hours later I left the flat for the main party event: go-karting. Ben had been told to be up and ready to be picked up from Oxford at some ridiculous time of the morning, and was then taken to the go-karting centre where we all met. I think it came as a complete surprise.

I’d never been go-karting before, and had a great time. We changed into jumpsuits, which to be honest made me feel more like a teletubby than Damon Hill, and were assigned a car before a ten-lap practice session. We were ranked according to fastest individual laps, then went straight into a thirty-five lap race. During this time Ben, in his desperation to get past the clearly superior driver, twice sent me spinning into the barriers resulting in large red lights flashing and the ‘marshals’ having to push me back into position. In the end I let Ben win by more than one lap, it being his birthday and all πŸ™‚

When you’re only twenty centimetres away from racetrack the acceleration is quite something, and it took us a while to work out the best methods of controlling the car. We were helped by young-Londoner-Simon, who figured it out very quickly and rocketed past everybody within a couple of laps; it was quite the spur.

After a short break we had another 35-lap race, in which I came 4th after taking various corners with a little too much gusto. Ben won again. In the overall rankings he was first, young-Londoner-Simon second and me third, and there was a short podium session to celebrate this. Everybody had aches and pains afterwards, whether it was through banging an elbow on the petrol tank or just the strain of the heavy steering wheels, but I think we all agreed it was worth it.

Then it was back to Nod’s, where we unleashed the balloons upon Ben:

I don't think he was expecting that

and spent two hours attacking him with them:

Incoming! Swirling balloons

It seemed like the thing to do.

Various of us had to head off early to get ready for the Christmas Ball (I slept well that night), which was an unfortunate quirk of timing, but I’m pretty sure Ben had a good time. It was certainly one of the more action-packed mornings this year. Of course Nod now has a house full of balloons, which must present a challenge if he doesn’t want to annoy the neighbours by bursting them…

Croquet

I played croquet last night. My grandparents used to have a set, but I probably haven’t had a go in over ten years. It was good fun! We played two rounds, which I lost and won by large margins, which economically suggests I’m about average. Nod explained the rules and demonstrated proper swingy-though-the-legs technique.

Nod at CroquetTaking aim

I was happy to discover large numbers of possible euphemisms resulting from croquet equipment, all of them firmly rooted in the giggles of 13-year-old schoolchildren. This made me happy.

Next time: horses.

wongaCast #1

When you go around to Nod’s house for a games evening with a newly purchased iPod microphone, there’s only really one thing to do. And that’s record the first wongaCast! For the uninitiated, a Podcast is a downloadable audio show. This is not worthy of the word ‘Podcast’. If, by any chance, you’ve happened across this page searching for new Podcasts, you’re unlikely to understand a word of what’s going on unless you know me. It’s about one minute long and can be heard, in full and unedited (as will become apparent), here:

wongaCast #1 – 27/05/05

I should point out that the guessing game involves me acting out the word in question. Also, the word ‘inaugural’ appears much more than it should do. What can I say, I was excited πŸ™‚