I Think Too Much…

Stuff I've learned that helped me thru life

What Canon 7D Kit should I purchase?

About a month ago I had the opportunity to sell my Canon 20D and decided to throw in my 28-105mm USM lens in with it.   So I needed a new DSLR and a lens.  After long debate I decided to go with the 7D and saw that there were 2 kits available.  There was a Canon 7D with a 28-135mm lens or a second package that had the Canon 7D plus a 18-135mm lens.  The package with the 18-135mm lens retails for an extra $100.  Both are Canon lenses, have image stabilization and are f:3.5-5.6.  The packages appeared to be comparable and it made sense that that the wider Canon lens was slightly more expensive.  I now realize I should have looked a little closer at the 2 packages.

So I decided to go with the Canon 7D with the 18-135mm lens.  The primary driver behind this was the Canon 7D magnification.  If you are not aware, the Canon 7d, like many other non professional cameras,  have an inherent zoom factor of 1.6x.  So a 18mm lens on the Canon 7D, is equivalent to a 28mm lens.  As  I stated earlier, I had a 28-105mm that I originally purchased for a film camera.  The Canon 20D also had the 1.6x magnification and I often missed the ability to shoot at 28mm.  So long story short, this is why I went with the package that included the 18-135mm lens.  What I did not realize, was the lenses were not as similar as I thought.  The 18-135 was an EFS lens and is not a USM lens.

At this point I can’t say that I regret my purchase, but I can say that I wish my 18-135mm lens was a USM lens.  The fact that the external focus ring moves when I use  auto focus is pretty annoying and it is rather loud.  I have other Canon USM lenses that I will likely use if I need to shoot high action, but if I didn’t I am not sure what I would do.

Anyway if you are looking to purchase one of the Canon 7D Kits, be sure that you understand the difference between EF vs EFS lenses and also what a USM means.  It may not make a difference to you, but  had I known this before, I may have waited for a deal on the other Canon kit and purchased that one.

Was Inception all a dream?

My friend mentioned that he likes to start at the extreme and disprove it until he gets to something that make sense.  With Inception, he started with the theory that it was all a dream.  Yes, the entire movie was a dream.  When he first said that, I told him, there was no way that everything in Inception was a dream.  However the more I thought about it, the more I started to think… maybe Inception was all a dream.

Most of the items make me think inception was all a dream revolve around Mal.  First of all, every time she shows up, she is trying to sabotage Cobb.  Why would she do that?  If Mal get’s Cobb killed he will kick up.  The last time Cobb remembers Mal, they were in the hotel when she killed herself because she thought that the reality they were in was not real.  What if she was right?

A couple other aspects of Inception that make me question the reality of the entire movie are, Cobb/Mal’s totem and the fact that they said that Cobb was the only person to ever find his way back from limbo.  What makes Cobb so special.  Nothing in the movie suggested that Cobb possessed special abilities that would enable him to find his way back from limbo.  In fact, when he revisited the world that he and Mal built, they never showed how he was able to get out, only that he washed up on the shore again, found Saito and only had 1 bullet.  They don’t show you what happens, only that Cobb and everyone else wakes up and everyone else appears to be fine.  While it is not impossible that he has special abilities, but rather maybe he is just like everyone else and is still stuck in a dream.  This pointed me to my Inception ending theory.

Finally we have Mal’s totem that Cobb is calling his own.  Remember the part in Inception where they said nobody else could touch your totem as only you can know the balance of it.  So if Cobb is using Mal’s totem he knows the balance as well and now has the ability to impact the results of spinning it….

I am sure there are many other clues in Inception that suggest the movie is a dream and I am sure that there are things that you saw that invalidate what I have said here.. .either way Inception was a great movie and you should definitely go rent or buy it:

Inception Ending Theory

When Inception ended, the entire audience yelled, “aaaaawwwwww” .  Maybe it is just me but is it really a mystery?  The primary giveaway, or primary flaw in the movie, is when Cobb comes home, his kids are in the same location, the same clothes, same time of day… Everything, related to his kids, is exactly as he remembered and they showed throughout the movie.  So either Christopher Nolan (writer) is messing with us, or the end is clearly a dream.  After being away for a while, of course we all wish we could go home and thing are exactly as we remember, but the reality is, things always change.  So what about the rest of the items that are different… how does Cobb now know what his kids look like when they turn around? How does he have Mal’s totem?

Inception was clearly very well thought out.   Everything in the movie was purposely placed there.  So remember  when they introduce Cobb’s dad?  Why did his dad need to teach him everything that he knew.  Nolan needed a way to connect Cobb to his family.  Someone who could accurately architect Cobb’s home as it was when he left.    Without the link to his father, the ending would have needed to be completely different.  So my Inception theory is that the ending is a dream, that is architected by Cobb’s father.

So why would Cobb’s father leave him down there and not help to bring Cobb back up?  If Saito fails to make it back, there is nothing for Cobb to return to.  So Cobb’s father identifies what would put Cobb at peace, creates the reality, guides Cobb there, and leaves him.  That said, what is the deal with Mal?  Why does Mal keep trying to sabotage Cobb?  It’s a stretch but was Inception all a dream?.

Xtreme-Buggy.com review

If you travel to Punta Cana, the excursion offered by xtreme-buggy.com is a must.  Well I should say if you have at least one person who is good at driving a stick and you are cool with getting dirty…. REALLY dirty,   This excursion can’t be booked thru your hotel.   If you visit the tour area of your hotel, you will find some other excursions that are much cheaper.  While I did not go on the other excursions, I do know that you will be in a much larger group, a smaller buggy, will go much slower and will not get as much personal attention.

We booked the all day excursion and chose to share a buggy with another couple.  I was not at all bothered by the fact that I had to share the driving.  There was ample opportunity for everyone to have a chance to drive.   The only thing to be aware of is that you are driving a sand rail.  It is not a burly hummer.  So while you can have a ton of fun, you need to careful with it.  At the begging of your excursion, Charlie will tell you to treat it nicer than you treat your wife.

We stayed at Excellence Punta Cana, which is along the route xtreme-buggy travels, so they were nice enough to pick us up from the hotel.  I think this was also because we were the only people booked for the day.  From the hotel we traveled a short distance before we turned onto a dirt road.  It was not more than 5 min before we encountered our first series of mud puddles.  The initial puddles are much smaller than the ones you will encounter later in the buggy excursion, so my advice, is to get dirty as early as possible, because you are not going to escape it.

After about 15 min we came to a small town where we stopped for some fresh squeezed juice and snacks.  Charlie, our buggy excursion guide, was really good about depicting what life is like in Punta Cana to us and showing us different things about the town.  Life in Punta Cana is definitely different than the US.   It really makes you appreciate what you have.Extreme Buggy in Palm Trees

Next we entered into a palm tree forest situated right on the coastline.  About 15 miles into the forest we found Charlie’s friend who cut up some fresh coconuts for us to drink and try the meat.  I learned the hard way that not all coconuts taste the same.  My wife friends were saying how much they enjoyed theirs, but mine was not so good.  Apparently you can’t tell how ripe a coconut is until you cut it open.  I just happened to get the one that was not quite ripe.  Of well it was still a neat experience.

That was the last stop until our final destination, Harley Heaven.  The roads to this hotel had been pretty torn up by recent rains, leaving behind some pretty deep puddles to ride thru.  Once at the hotel we hosed off and the hotel owner served up some fresh fish, a pesto shrimp pasta, rice, salad, plantain chips and fresh fruit.  After lunch we got into a wagon pulled by 4 Ox and headed down to the beach for a quick swim and then over to a river behind the hotel where we went kayaking.  When we returned from Kayaking, it was time to head back.  We took a slightly different route home.

Anyway, if you travel to Punta Cana, I definitely recommend looking up extreme-buggy.com.

Muddy extreme buggy

This is why Extreme-Buggy is not for people who don't like getting dirty.

Life in Punta Cana

As part of our extreme buggy tour in the Punta Cana, our guides Charlie and Angela took us into a town to teach us about the local culture. The first shop we went into was the local market. The shop was small and on the corner of the counter was a small assortment of produce. The produce was mostly covered with flies and in some cases was already cut up. Apparently the many towns in the Dominican Republic do not have power 24 hours a day. As a result people come to the market and are allowed to purchase all or part of any item. So if their soup for the night requires only half a cucumber, they the store owner will cut a cucumber in half and allow the customer to buy what they need.
Punta Cana Grocery
After the market we crossed the street and went to the local hardware store. The store was set up like the parts department of a car dealership. While there were some items accessible to the customer, most items sat behind the counter. The store was packed full of many different items. Imagine if you took the variety of home depot, limited each item to only 1 or 2 and then removed all the variety. Charlie mentioned that we could get just about anything we needed, as long as a specific item. As an example one of the people we were traveling with needed a power splitter. The guy said, well no, but I have an 6ft extension cable that has 3 ports on it. My friend said that was more than he needed and decided not to purchase…. I don’t think he would do very well in Punta Cana.

Site Catalyst and Time on Site

When analyzing your web traffic, time on site can be a very valuable metric. However, when using Adobe’s Site Catalyst, you can only track a users time on your site if you also enable pathing. Unfortunately, the creators of Site Catalyst decided to tie the time on site metric to their pathing capabilities. While that may not seem like a big deal, it is also important to realize that out of the box, you are only able to enable 5 sProps for pathing. So when you are decided what to place in your sProps, be sure to think about what you are going to want to use for pathing and what sProps you are going to want to analyze a user time on your site.

One key way that i have used time on site, is when trying to determine the impact of a frequency cap on a banner ad. Often times an advertiser will want to place a frequency cap of 1 ad per user per session or 24 hours. But what if they come to you and ask to increase the frequency that the ad is seen but they don’t want the ad to be displayed twice in a row. How do you pick an interval that will accomplish this. The easiest answer is to review the amount of time a user spends on your site. If the average time on site is 10 min, then you will need to set your frequency cap interval to less than 10 min. so 1 per 9 min or 1 per 5 min. In this scenario, the average user will spend an average of 10 min on your site and is likely to see 2 of your advertisers ads. Without the time on site metric it becomes very difficult to determine an effective frequency cap to ensure a user sees an advertisers ad twice in one session.

How To Remove Banner Ads

There are a number of different ways to remove banner ads. You could use your host file, you could install a plug-in, or…. before you go down that path, ask yourself a question, “How much would I pay to view this content?” I am sure there are some sites that you would pay to view the content, but what about all the other ones? Chances are, you would be visiting far less sites.

The unfortunate reality is that banner ads, overlays, prerolls, etc, all ensure the majority of the web remains free.

If you were to remove banner ads from all sites you visit, you are contributing to the decline of free content on the web. You could argue that you are but one person and will not make a difference. But how do you feel about people who don’t pay taxes? What about people who don’t vote? By allowing enduring the banner ads and prerolls you are helping to pay the salary of the person who created the content you are viewing.

Pandora is a great example. They offer free streaming music to their users, but don’t forget that they have to pay royalties to the artists. Not only that, late last year the FCC decided to increase the royalty fees to play copyrighted music. I later heard rumors that if Pandora can’t figure out how to increase revenues, they would have to shut their doors. So what did they do, they took their existing banner ad strategy and grew it. They started adding interstitial ads, audio ads and they even started to limit the amount of free music that you could listen to in a month. For those who hated advertising, Pandora was kind enough to offer a subscription service where you can enjoy unlimited music without ads. But for those who wanted to enjoy the music for free, they dramatically impacted the experience with more ads and limited listing abilities. While it is nice that Pandora offers both a free ad supported version of their service and a subscription option, most sites do not have the luxury of doing this. It is either all or nothing.

A larger example of why you should not disable banner advertisements is net neutrality. Net neutrality is a much larger threat to free web content, but again further supports the idea that everything that you consume is part of some business and that business is in business to make money. If you remove the money you remove the reason to be in business.

So before you decide to remove banner ad, let me ask you these 2 questions, how annoying are banner ads really? And can you endure the variety ads in exchange for FREE information?

If you still feel compelled to remove the banner ads from your web browsing experience…. Well…. Otherwise thanks for not removing my banner ads.

URL Escape Codes

Ad Server Redirect issues
Depending on the ad server you use, URL escape codes may or may not be part of your every day job. As a Google DART for Publishers (DFP) customer, I encountered this issue only a couple of times. However as a Google DART Enterprise (DE) customer I encountered this issue on a regular basis. There are 2 primary issues. Issue 1 is that a url can only have 1 question mark in it. Issue number two is if the value of one of your url parameters contains an ampersand (&) a browser will think that you are declaring a new variable/parameter. In both cases, the solution involves using the URL escape codes found in the table below.

SPACE %20 = %3D
# %23 > %3E
$ %24 ? %3F
% %25 [ %5B
& %26 \ %5C
@ %40 ] %5D
` %60 ^ %5E
/ %2F { %7B
: %3A | %7C
; %3B } %7D
< %3C ~ %7E