Sunday, November 21, 2010

Photo star power

I've been marking photos with stars for a while now but don't really have a system. I feel like my ratings drift over time but worse I sometimes don't put ratings on photos because I don't remember how I use the stars. This, of course, means that I am building a backlog of photos that are unrated. This wouldn't be a big deal except I am thinking of making a photo book for Grandma and Grandpa at the end of the year and I don't want to wade through a year's photos to choose the ones that should go in the book. So here's a scheme:
5 stars - outstanding photo
4 stars - photo that I like a lot but something is less than perfect
3 stars - photo that is a worth looking at again (best in a series where none were great)
2 stars - photo was a nice idea but didn't turn out well
1 stars - bad photo but one that I can't bring myself to delete

After asking Google it turns out others have thoughts too:
deeje cooley on rating systems in general
austinpreneur explains his workflow including ratings (very good write up)

I guess I'll try my system for a while and see how it goes but austinpreneur's might be better.

Photo management software for Macs

So I use a Mac... and I went out and got iLife '09 when it came out because I wanted Places and Faces. Both turn out to be pretty cool. But the face recognition isn't that impressive. It misses a bunch of faces and even with hints it seems to make obvious mistakes. For example, I import an album of 20 picutres all of which are the same 3 people. I'd think that after I confirm/add faces to the first few pictures it could do a much better job guessing that the same people appear in the remaining photos. But nope--it will still suggest a name that appears in only 2 other photos from 4 years ago. And I haven't been able to find a workflow that I like for tagging faces. The best I've found involves lots of switching back and forth between keyboard and mouse.

But what I really meant to post about is the decision between iPhoto and Picasa for Mac. Here's the deal. Almost everyone in my family has a Google account. So Picasa web albums is a convenient way to share photos. And perhaps most importantly it is what my Mom has learned how to use. (I am sure she would learn a new website or two (or 50) if that's what it took to see pictures of her grandson but none the less our history is with Picasa.) Likewise my in-laws are used to Picasa web albums and so there is a large incentive to stick with it.

Given that I am going to use Picasa on the web it would make sense to use it on my Mac too. It seems to be  a fine program.

Things I like about it (Picasa's Advantages):
  • Good facial recognition.
  • The "People" view showing only suspected matches to let you confirm quickly.
  • The ability to rotate videos that were taken in portrait aspect ratio
  • Integration with Picasa Web Albums
  • The ability to load videos to Picasa Web Albums
  • The print layouts are easier to understand (e.g., you can print 4 3x5s on an 8.5x11 sheet of photo paper)
  • My wife uses it on her PC
iPhoto's Advantages:
  • Integrated with the Media Browser on the Mac (file open dialogs, other iLife programs, etc)
  • Tools for creating photo books are way better than anything I've tried on the web (Picasa has no built in tools--it just helps you get to web-based tools)
  • All my tags, ratings, and Faces are up to date in iPhoto
  • It has a 5 star rating system.
  • Full screen editing mode
  • Compare feature lets you view pictures side-by-side

Ideas for workarounds:
  • You can create a 5-Star rating system in Picasa using tags
  • You can buy an iPhoto plugin that says it will let you upload videos to Picasa Web Albums
  • You can export photos from Picasa to iPhoto to make a book
  • Write an Applescript/Automator routine to use iMovie to rotate videos
Sometime I'll make a decision. Right now I am squarely on the fence and using some of each.

(Updated: 1/2/11 to add the full screen and compare advantages to iPhoto)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

avoid Born shoes, HHBrown, and

at the risk of becoming just a consumer experience blog i have a rant....

I'm quite frustrated with Born Shoes and their parent company HHBrown. I had a pair of Borns that I loved. They lasted about 6 years--looked good, very comfortable. So when they fell apart I ordered another pair of the same model and size. When they arrived they didn't fit. After exchanging them they sort of fit but not well. And the new pair were of much lower quality--the seams were not well finished from the start and the stitching started pulling out after about 5 wearings. The place I purchased them ( did not allow me to return them because they had been worn. I started a correspondance with HHBrown who indicated that they would replace the shoes. After a few weeks trading emails with their customer service rep they stopped replying to me. I started back with their customer service website and NO RESPONSE at all. Needless to say I am not pleased at having paid a premium for these shoes when the company fails to stand behind them. I intend to avoid Born shoes, HBrown, and in the future and recommend you do the same.


Monday, February 15, 2010

A positive Verizon experience

So we traded down from a DVR to a converter box that lets us use FIOS to watch our standard definition TV. Deciding to trade down wasn't too hard--the DVR came as a freebie when we signed up. Once we had to pay for it we quickly realized that watching 3 or 4 TV shows a month was not worth the $30 we were paying. Deciding what to trade down too was more of a challenge. I am sure Verizon is just trying to compete and thankfully the market drives them to give me my choice of cable boxes (5 models to choose from) and channel packages (?? how many to choose from). After a few visits to the website and a phone call (not too long a wait) I decided to trade down to a basic converter box.

This is where it actually got good. I was waiting for the customer service rep to offer me my choice of weekdays where I could skip work to let them in to the house so they could swap boxes. Instead she said, "Your new box will arrive in 5 to 7 business days. You'll then have 30 days to take your DVR to the UPS store."

But it got even more pleasant. I made the mistake of packaging the DVR and taking it to the UPS store. (I did walk all around the block in the snow carrying the DVR but I can't blame Verizon for me forgetting directions to the store now can I?). When I got there the woman behind the counter said, "Oh your a Verizon customer--just leave it with us. You can take the box if you want. We'll re-package it." I was dumb-struck. I didn't have to pay. I didn't have to package. I didn't have to do anything. (Well I should have asked for a receipt--I didn't think of that until I was half a block away so I had to go back for it but again that is hardly Verizon's fault.)

All-in-all I was quite pleased. If you're a Verizon TV customer and find yourself needing to change equipment ask if they have the self-install option.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Choosing Hospitals

Choosing hospitals, like choosing insurance, seems like a super daunting task. Sure you can look at the newsmagazine "Best of..." lists but they are at best quasi-scientific and probably have little to do with the experience that one individual will actually have. You can also visit the Medicare Hospital Compare website but again it is a bunch of statistics that may or may not be relevant. A couple questions come to mind as I look at the stats on their site:
- Since these stats/surveys are about/from Medicare patients, who are generally older, sicker, and less well educated than I am how do I translate them for my own use?
- When I am wading through the stats how do I know what is a significant difference. Look at this graph about how well nurses communicated with patients. Does a 5% difference really mean that one is better than another? I assume that the sample size is large enough that these numbers are meaningful but they could be skewed by the department that most of the patients were in.

Ok so I haven't solved anything but at least I made a note that there is a place where you can get survey results that provide statistics about hospitals and that you can use these in an attempt to compare one hospital to another.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Legislative language

In musing about how Congress should stay on topic I found (which seems to be a very useful site). (No comments on how my first sentence is not related to the rest of my post).

As a result of finding govtrack and the full text of the bill I skimmed through the Credit CARD Act of 2009 and read the section allowing guns in National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges. The thing that struck me was the language used. I did student congress in high school and I know that the law has its own language. But some parts of this section read more like PowerPoint slides than legal language. The sentence that really got me:
Congress needs to weigh in on the new regulations to ensure that unelected bureaucrats and judges cannot again override the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens on 83,600,000 acres of National Park System land and 90,790,000 acres of land under the jurisdiction of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
Weigh in? Next thing you know Congress is going to leverage the synergy of the new process to produce outstanding results in all that they do.

Why doesn't congress stay on topic?

I've been thinking about this for a long time but the recent passage of the Credit CARD Act of 2009 prompted me to write it down. Would our government be better or worse if members of Congress were compelled to deal with issues one at a time? Or maybe not even that--members of Congress do need to multi-task and deal with many issues in a day. Would public policy/legislation be better if it were always limited to a single topic? We would end up with more bills certainly but would they be better?

Regardless of how one feels about credit card regulation or carrying guns in National Parks these topics are not in any way related. I know that there is a good deal of horse trading that goes on to get legislation passed. And I have heard the old saw about laws being like sausage. But even if the deal making includes unrelated topics it seems like the legislation itself should be on a single or closely related set of topics. Maybe there are big advantages to doing it this way that I just don't see but it seems ludicrous that such muddled thinking and writing are the norm and that everyone accepts it.