AI9, Round of Two

It’s seriously not even close, is it? Crystal just wiped the floor with Lee, didn’t she? All of Lee’s shortcomings were on display tonight, while all of Crystal’s strengths came through. She played it ten times better than he did, and I almost had to feel sorry for him.

“Everybody Hurts” and “Beautiful Day,” really? Could they have been anything other than karaoke? I felt badly for him on “Beautiful Day.” Without that guitar, he might as well thrust his hands into his jeans pockets and stand there motionless.

Though I did have kind thoughts for him when I saw him just staring out into the crowd and taking it all in. You could see it was slightly humbling for him. He seems like a nice enough guy. He’s got a voice that would fit well in commercial bland copycat radio. He probably has a career.

But he’s nowhere near as good as Crystal, who somehow managed not to cry at the end of that lost song, barely. And, sure, her ode to Simon may have been awkward and she didn’t know where she was walking to in the introductions, but — she sang her face off tonight.

Tangent: The great thing about high definition TV? You can clearly read along with the contestants as the lyrics float up the teleprompter. I actually don’t have a problem with them being there, and I didn’t ever catch either Lee or Crystal relying on them. (Crystal sings with her eyes closed half the time, while Lee is glancing awkwardly to either side to avoid the camera, I guess. Still, the occasional grin was endearing.)

So, there you have it. An often boring season ends with the two strongest contestants, and one was able to pull it off.

While anything is possible, I think Crystal wins this one tomorrow. I love the Idol Finale show. It’s a true spectacle. Can’t wait to see what they come up with for Simon. And will Paula return to say her goodbyes while Andrew sings “Straight Up?” Will there be duets between the contestants and beloved contemporary artists? How much of a workout will the gospel choir get this year? What matching outfits will the Top 12 wear at the top of the show? etc. etc.

Photographic Lesson #5

Ferris Wheel at Night

Ferris Wheel at Night

This picture was taken at 8:30 p.m., about a half hour after official sunset time. The sky looks pitch black, but it’s really still a dark blue. Ramp up your ISO high enough, and you’ll pick up that color in the sky.

You can even see some clouds in the sky in this image, as blurry or noisy as they might appear.

Photographic Lesson #4


It would be a minor thing here, but I really wish I could have had the camera lower. Shooting at eye level with your subject can often make a BIG difference in the final image. Here, it wasn’t possible. I had a second or two to fire off a pic. Crouching would have meant losing the pic, so it’s a compromise. (ALL of photography is a compromise, you quickly learn.)

Photographic Lesson #3


The big trick about shooting animals at zoos through fences is to put your glass close to the fence and shoot at a wide open aperture. The fence disappears.

Sadly, this trick doesn’t work while on a moving train where the fence is a few feet away. Still, look! BISON! MOOSE! Cool!

Photographic Lesson #2

Bad Bird Backgrounds

Bad Bird Backgrounds

Be aware of your backgrounds. They can ruin a pic. That garbage can behind the bird on the left is a killer.

I knew that going in, actually. I saw it there. But I thought I’d give the bird shot a chance. I could always crop heavily in, right? But the bird isn’t looking all that great when seen close up, either, so the whole thing is a wash. Still, it’s a good lesson to learn.

See more pics from my trip to the zoo all week at

Photographic Lesson #1

How to ruin a good pic: Overexposed Highlights

How to ruin a good pic: Overexposed Highlights

Lesson #1 of photography: Always check your settings before taking a picture. I forgot I had played with manual exposure at the last set of animals at the zoo before taking this pic. All my ostrich pics turned out way overexposed because I thought I was still in Aperture Priority mode. Whoops.

This is the only pic that was salvageable. The rest were far too blown out to recover any details in Lightroom with. Still, that hot spot in front of the bird’s beak destroys the pic.

My Trip to the Apple Store

I’ve been a Mac guy for about five years now. Still use my original Mac desktop as a matter of fact, a creaky PowerPC based leviathan with a second hard drive installed to handle all the photos, music, etc.

I’ve rarely needed to use the Genius Bar. I used it once when a power pack died on my monitor, and one other time when my first iPod had battery issues after a month or two of use. (I sense a pattern, all of a sudden.)

So when my two year old laptop developed issues — the backlight turned off after opening the screen past 90 degrees — I went to and made an appointment for a Sunday morning visit to the Genius Bar.

It went very smoothly. An employee with an iPad found my appointment and got me the next available genius. The Genius, himself, (Hi, Doug!) saw what was wrong and had two possible diagnoses in an instant, explaining them clearly and succinctly. (It was just the backlighting, and one of two issues were to blame.) He gave me both price quotes.

Then he saw some chips on the plastic around the edges where my wrists rest, and told me it would be a free repair on my model and lined that up, too.

I gave them the laptop, sheepishly admitted my insecure password for it, and was on my way.

They called a couple of hours later and I returned to get everything back in one piece and fully functional again. $100 is a lot cheaper than a new laptop, though let’s face it: I’m a tech geek. A new laptop would have been cooler. ;-) (Completely unnecessary, though.)

On the way out the door in the morning, I got to touch an iPad for the first time.

Steve Jobs is right — it IS magical. Everything glides across the screen. It’s like everything is on ice, it moves so quickly. Pinching to zoom in and out happens quicker than anything I’ve ever seen a computer do. Swiping from page to page is slick.

And then I had to go, because my daughter was getting antsy inside her stroller. I showed her a video off and she was entranced, but I didn’t want to push it.

Sadly, the Mrs. was home sick and couldn’t witness the glory.

When I went back in the afternoon to pick the laptop up, the two tables with six iPads each were crowded with people checking it out. I saw lots of kids — tweens and teenagers — showing their parents the iPad, and lots of people smiling. It’s true — when you get yours hands on the device, you can’t help but fall in love.

No wonder Apple just hired a Nintendo fanboy to manage their iPad Games section. This thing might upset the entire portable games market, even at its larger size in comparison to the DS, PSP, et. al. (Wait, are there others past those two?)

So what’s the point of all this? The iPad looks really cool. It gives a great demo to those playing with it. And the Genius Bar worked for me yet again. Heck, thanks to on-line scheduling, it worked better than ever.

I’m a happy Apple guy.