Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thanks Steve

I was sad to hear the news today that January's MacWorld conference would be Apple's last, and that Steve Jobs would not be present for the final keynote. Apple's press release was upbeat, mentioning the number of visitors that they can now reach through Apple stores, or through their web site, and that the influence of trade shows was waning, but to me it was the end of an era.

I can remember so many Januarys, furiously refreshing the web pages of engadget or MacWorld as news trickled out of the keynote, and alternately clicking back to Apple.com to see if the store was back up, to see the new product pictures & specs. Evetually, they would be there, the new greatest thing I didn't know I needed. And I would want it.

I want to thank Steve Jobs for what he did at Apple. I think his second period of leadership was more significant than his first. OS X, the iMac, the titanium Powerbook, itunes, the iPod and the iPhone have not only changed Apple in their turn, but looking back, each embodied an idea, that things could be better if people worked hard enough to make them that way. They were always a physical manifestation of cool. And you didn't have to wait long. He wasn't talking about stuff they might do. They had already done it. He had one in his pocket, "these are shipping today."

Thanks, Steve.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Work Progressing on Giant Dirt Pile

I'm fascinated my the work going on at the Silver Spring Transit Center construction site. From my office, I have a bird's eye view of the demolition work for the last few weeks.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday at the Obama Wall

I went down to the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday to photograph some of the people writing messages to President-Elect Obama. Its part of my desire to be a more curious photographer, and to seek out subjects to photograph. I'm trying to be better about following through when I hear about an event or situation that might make make an interesting photo or story. I've learned that when I ignore that inside voice to go and witness something, I usually regret it. I was impressed by how joyful the crowd was. Even as they waited for their turn to write their message, there was a party atmosphere.

More images are on my website: www.jonathanbruckphotography.com.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Drumming up new freelance work

As the fall turns into winter, my opportunities for outdoor sports to photograph are dwindling.

I decided this week to try a new tack to gain some wedding photography experience by offering to assist or serve as a second shooter for free. I put the ad up on craigslist last night, and I'm anxious to see if I have any takers. My goal is to build up some solid experience and a few contacts that I can work with in the spring/summer wedding season. It wouldn't hurt to be able to afford some better equipment.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Subliminal Message?

Campaign signs at my community's polling place.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My first marathon (sort of)

I shot photos at a marathon for the first time yesterday. The 33rd annual Marine Corps Marathon had over 25,000 runners, and took over most of Arilngton, Virginia.

Although I had originally secured media credentials to shoot for myself, I signed on with Marathonfoto to shoot candids and souvenir-style photos after runners completed the course. I did it partly because it was my first time shooting a marathon and I though it would be better to learn with other photographers than try to figure it out while it was happening. It was a really long day, starting just after 4am.

I got to the Iwo Jima statue at 5:30am, got my camera, and set off to the start. We had to walk about a mile through the start area to the staging area. then we approached runners in the dark and started taking their pictures. We shot these candids as the sun came up and right through the start of the race.

After the racers were off, we changed flashes and got into our positions for the souvenir photos. Starting around nine am, I stood, kneeled and squatted until three in the afternoon, when there were no more runners lined up. It was exhausting, but I could appreciate that it was meaningful to many of the runners who would bring their families, or pictures of their family members with them for a picture.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The last few days have been a blur

I'm surprised that I survived the last few days, its been non-stop activity.

Last Thursday, I met someone after work to give him a tutorial session on using Apple's Aperture. It was easy enough to answer his questions, and show him how to organize his Aperture library, but it made for a long day.

Friday after work, we prepped the yard for our sod project.

Saturday we put the sod down, and realized that we didn't have enough, but we couldn't do anything about it. The turf farm was closed till Monday morning. Saturday night we went to the Websters' house for dinner to welcome Vin back from his recovery in Richmond.

Sunday morning, we met Dave at Avalon and went mountain biking. After that, we ran to the grocery store, stopped home to water the sod, and went to Vin's to watch the Redskins just beat the Cleveland Browns.

Monday morning, Jenn went to work, and I picked up the rest of the sod and put it down, then went to work around 11. I'm exhausted and I need a nap. But its done, and we have a real yard.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

2008 SM 100

I just got back from Sunday's Shenandoah Mountain 100, and as always, it was a great time. Photos are up. Congratulations to our buddy Jonathan for completing the course in under 11 hours.

After unpacking, I got to work turning around the 1000 or so images I shot, including sending some to cyclingnews.com for publication with the race brief. I was up until after midnight, but I got everything posted to my site.

Photo of Chris Eatough, mens first place finisher.

Update: cyclingnews.com has picked up my photos from the race. (link)

Friday, August 15, 2008

I love my iPhone

My first two weeks with the iPhone 3G are over, and I don't know how I got by so long without it. Right now, I'm writing this on my way to the metro. Last weekend, I was walking the dog, listening to music, took a call from Jenn, stuck in traffic on I-95. I was able to talk to her, look up her location on google maps, check the traffic and direct her to an alternate route, all from my iPhone.

It's like waking up in the future.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Home improvement projects always seem to take longer than I expect.

After months of living with paint swatches all over the bedroom walls, we're finally putting our final color up in the master bedroom. Before we painted, we pulled off all the baseboards to re-route the cable tv jack. Jenn and I started together and got two walls done early last week, and Jenn continued while I was in New York. While Jenn was away this past weekend, I got the last walls' two coats on. We still have to paint & replace the trim, and do some touch ups, but I can see the beginning of the end.

Friday, July 11, 2008

HMS Home Warranty is a Rip Off

I'm extremely disappointed with our first home warranty call.

We got a home warranty when we bought our house. Last month when our Ritetemp programmable thermostat broke, I mistakenly thought our HMS home warranty would cover the repair. Instead, when the repairman arrived, he told us that our warranty would not cover replacing our programmable thermostat with another programmable model. We would have to use a plain replacement model, or pay an additional $325 for a new programmable one.

I thought this sounded fishy, so I called HMS and spoke to Quan in their Customer Service Department. She assured me that that was not the way it was supposed to work, and to have the repairman call the authorization department. After half an hour passed, I called home and my wife told me that sure enough, the authorization department would not pay for a new one.

I called again, and spoke to Karina, who told me that it was HMS' policy to replace the defective unit with one with comparable features. At this point, I tried to clarify that a programmable thermostat and a regular thermostat did not have the same features, and that's why they had different names. The different name, I stressed was due to the central nature of the programmability. She continued to refer to their offer of 'replacement' that I had to remind her that what she meant was a downgrade. But this is apparently the same to HMS.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I think it will be five more years before we go back to Davis, WV

Jenn and I spent the Fourth of July weekend camping with our friends in Davis, West Virginia. It rained every day.

After dropping Sam off at the kennel in Frederick, we arrived and set up in a light rain. Vin, Mike, Tris, Jonathan and Jessica had arrived earlier, and set up two pop up canopies, connected by a tarp. the tarp provided a lighter, dry area in the middle that we referred to as the 'atrium.' After dinner, we played cards all evening.


After a late start, we scrapped our scheduled river trip to try to get a ride in. We rode the Plantation Trail, which has been a wet mess every time we try to ride it. Think of it as riding upstream through waterfalls, and across mud bogs and you'll have a pretty good idea of what the trail was like. Jenn bailed out early and Jonathan and I rode the Allegheny trail to take her back to camp. Jenn drove Wheaton and I to rejoin the group at the Blackwater Falls campground, and we set off for the Dobbin House Trail. It seemed really short, with not much to it. After Dobbin House, we had a short road ride back to the end of Allegheny, and a long 2 miles uphill back to camp. During the second trip up Allegheny, the sky opened up and poured rain on us.

Sunday was departure day for everyone but Jenn and I, so after breakfast, they set about packing up, and getting ready for another ride. Sundays ride was the Leadmine trail, a steep, 3 mile climb followed by a sweet rolling, off camber downhill. Once we got to the trailhead, It was raining hard enough that Jenn and I decided not to ride. Instead, we went back to camp to try to make an alternate plan for the day. We had lunch in the rain and waited till about 4 before giving up on the idea of getting another ride in.

Instead we decided to explore the Canaan Loop Road in the CRV, and saw some impressive waterfalls and streams. We would our way around to the Table Rock trailhead and set out for a hike. What was supposed to be a 15 minute hike stretched into 45 one-way before we gave up. The trail was more of the mud bog from the day before, and we decided to call it a day. We went back to camp to make dinner, and I noted on the ride back that there was no one else camping there Sunday night. After dinner, we tried to ignore how much creepier the woods were without all our friends around.

Monday we were packing the car up when some Canadian mountain bikers rode by and asked us to describe some of the area trails. We told them about our trials on Plantation and Allegheny. They asked about an area called 'State Champion' or 'State Championship' that supposedly drained well, but it was the first time I'd heard of it and couldn't offer any help. The drive home seemed to take forever, and we spent hours drying everything out in the back yard.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Office renovation

Most of April and May was spent with the office in various states of disrepair. When we decided to have an office, Jenn and I though it would be nicer to remove the trim around the window, closet, door and the horrid access panel to provide a more industrial look. After removing the window trim, I decided to replace the two panels with one large door. It sounds easy, but it took a lot of time, working mostly at night. I'd sand, clean up, and put down some more joint compound to build up the edges where the trim was pulled off. Each layer needed to dry overnight so I could usually only get one step done at a time. I spent a Saturday building a frame and then mounting a drywall panel to it. Once that was up, the paint went up pretty easily.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Humans can see into the future

MSNBC.com has posted an article that suggests people can see into the future, but just a tenth of a second.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Union Station DC Bullying Photographers

Check out Andy Carvin's post about his experience being bullied by Union Station security guards for taking a photograph at Union Station.

Monday, April 14, 2008

First carpentry project

Sunday night, I completed my first carpentry project in my new house. It was a relatively simple objective: replace the sagging bottom shelf in a bathroom cabinet. Saturday I picked up the board at Lowes, and Sunday I measured and cut the board.

My first challenge was with my equipment. I had to cut two shelves out of a board, and had no sawhorses or clamps. I wound up holding the board with one hand on my folding camp table, and using a circular saw with the other hand. As you can imagine, the board shifted around. Also, I'm not sure how old the saw blade was (its borrowed), but it really made a mess of the edge.

I made a critical miscalculation in my measurements: I did measure for the shelf to fit into the groove on either side of the cabinet, but I also split the shelf down the middle to get it into the cabinet without removing the middle support piece. when I cut the shelf in two, I failed to adjust the size to account for what the saw would remove. As a result, it was not as good a fit as I would have liked. The split also required building a support underneath to hold up the shelf and keep it from moving around.

Although it did not come out as nice as I hoped, I was proud of myself for getting it as close to right as I did. I think I may regroup and try it a second time.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The thing about buying a house

Having just bought my first house, I've gone through several adjustment phases. Following the move, the first phase was of course unpacking and setting up house. This took a couple weeks, pausing for trips to furniture stores, home goods, etc. Following the unpacking was the adjustments phase(glasses should go here, because...)

You also develop this list in your head of all the things you need to do. These tasks may never be completed, but in your mind you feel like you're this close and just need to work a little longer. I've found the only way I can deal with this is to set a time limit when tasks will stop for the night.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The best month

We just passed out first month in the new house, and we are so happy. I can't describe the feeling. Its like when you're on vacation and you just walk around and check things out, and see where things are. Its not a big house, but its big to us and we spend our time trying to make things 'just so.'

Monday, March 3, 2008

Our New House

Closing Friday was a breeze!

Thanks to everyone we worked with: Jill, Kara & Rhonda with Long & Foster Bethesda, Travis and Peggy at Wells Fargo.

Jenn and I went in to closing Friday at 10, and we were done by 11. Saturday was Moving day and was busy from start to finish.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Four days till closing

This week is advancing like the clink clink of a roller coaster working up that first hill. I've got a mix of anticipation and nerves as we close in on settlement set for the end of the week. Tonight is our final walkthrough. I've checked with the mortgage company, and it looks like they are all set in terms of the forms they need from us. We've made plans fro the movers, and the pets.

As I walk the dog this week, I've been thinking about all the time I have spent on Capitol Hill, and in the city. I think its going to be strange to live somewhere else.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Are You Ever Going to Use The VCR Again?

Our apartment has become a maze of boxes, leaving little tunnels for us to move around in and live out the remainder of our cit lives. Jennifer and I took a break from packing up the apartment over the weekend to go for a walk around the Capitol.

On the way back we found a bunch of computer boxes thrown away by the DSCC. We knew who they belonged to because nobody had removed the packing list. But they were big, Dell computer boxes and I thought they would be perfect for transporting the components.

As I was packing them, Jenn asked if I needed to take the VCR. It took me back a moment. I remember when I got it. A stereo VCR. STEREO. I thought it was hot shit. It was the beginning of my home theater. Now, here I was, trying to decide if I ever would use it again.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Drama

We presented an offer on Tuesday afternoon, and waited to hear back. Wednesday came and went, and most of Thursday. Thursday night, our agent called us to tell us that she had received a counter to our offer. They had offered to give us the closing costs we wanted, but had raised the asking price of the house. I was furious. I wanted to tell them to keep it, but instead we managed to put together another counter, raising the price we were willing to pay closer to the original asking price, and reducing the amount of closing assistance we were asking for. We also stated that this would be our best & final offer, and that the offer expired after 24 hours.

We submitted the offer to them at noon on Friday. At 4:00 we got a call from the seller's agent asking for an extension on the time limit. Apparently they were anticipating another offer and wanted to compare the two. This was too much, and I told the agent that our deadline was firm. We were also nervous that this deal was over, so we made arrangements with our agent to look at the other townhouse in the community that had come down in price during the week while we were negotiating. We would see that one Saturday morning.

When we arrived at the other townhouse, our agent notified us that our offer had been accepted.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Offer

Jenn and I went out again Saturday and looked at a bunch of places, armed with new, improved pre-approval letters that raised the quality of the houses we got into by just a little bit. We looked at about 8 more houses, and ended with a townhouse. The townhouse came out as the winner, with a good combination of finish quality, size, and features. We wanted to be sure, so we saw a couple more houses on Sunday, and took another tour of the townhouse. We really liked it and spent Monday afternoon preparing an offer.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What I want in my house

Jen and I went house shopping for the first time Saturday, and we were really disappointed by the quality of houses we saw in our price range. The first one was in a neighborhood that showed some promise, but was a dump inside. In fact, after 2 or three dumps, I think our real estate agent got worried that we were going to give up the whole thing. She was more than happy to recommend that we use her mortgage guy, constantly repeating "you should call Travis,...that's why you should call Travis" It got to the point that I wanted to say "enough already." I expected this, but coincidentally, I've been reading about recent lawsuits in the area involving our real estate agent's company, and the mortgage company she keeps pushing.

So now Jen and I are trying to prioritize the things we want in a new house.

More than one bathroom
Two bedrooms with flexible other space, or three bedrooms
A community we feel safe in (walking at night, etc)
A Basement with outside access
A washer and dryer
Trees and green space
Gas furnace
Walkable to Metro/bus lines
A good school (not just for our kids, but for resale of the house)
Reasonable commute(one hour or less)

Central Air
Gas stove
Entering in to a hallway, not the living room

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Heading for Suburbia

Just before we applied for our mortgage, Jenn and I realized that we thought we could afford more than we really can. It happened slowly: we started at the right number and didn't see anything we thought we could live with in the area we wanted. We assumed people were overpricing their properties, so we increased the top end of the search one step, then two. Then we looked at houses to see what they were like inside, and then somewhere we lost track of what our true price range was.

We are hoping to find something in the DC suburbs just outside the Beltway.

Pre Approved.

I go the call from our mortgage officer that we've been pre-approved, and now its time to start looking at houses in earnest.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Which pants should I wear to ask for a great deal of money?

Today's a big day. Jenn and I are going to the bank to apply for our first mortgage. I'm excited and scared at the same time. We freaked this weekend when we realized that we had been looking at houses way out of the range of what we could afford. But I think if we can get into something and pay on it as opposed to continuing to pay rent we'll be ok. Our next house will be better than this one, but we have to start somewhere.