Wednesday, December 31, 2008

River Road will reopen tonight

I wouldn't count on it being open for rush hour, but you never know. WSSC says that repairs to the 8500 block of River Road in Bethesda, MD are nearly finished. They replaced 80 feet of pipe and even after the road opens they will still be working in the area so they will have flagmen that may temporarily stop traffic.

River road has been closed for 9 days by this water main break. This is a pretty important commuter road so I am glad it happened around Christmas when many people are taking days off. I found a video of the reconstruction that was taken on Christmas Eve.

[where: Bethesda, MD]
[where: Montgomery County, MD]

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Kid's days at Lebanese Taverna in Bethesda

Tuesdays in December and January, the Lebanese Taverna Restaurant in Bethesda, MD is having Kid's lunch days on Tuesdays. There is a musical performance then lunch where kids eat free (one per adult purchase). Last Tuesday we went, but missed the performance. After we ate I was shocked to find out the kids eat free was only for the people who made it to the show. The manager was nice though and gave it to us free anyway. I'll be going again on Tuesday, but will make sure I get there on time.

The food is good. I got a Mediterranean Mezza Platter, which is a sampling of nine different things (I couldn't explain what most of them are). It looked a little sparse when I got it, but it turned out to be very filling. Especially since some of the foods are meant to be eaten with the delicious, fresh made bread they bring you.

The kids menu is different than most, more than just chicken strips and burgers (but they have those too) I liked the Chicken Schwarma Pita Pizza.

The shows are from 10:30am to 11:30am with lunch immediately afterwards.

[where: 7141 Arlington Rd, Bethesda, MD]
[where: Montgomery County, MD]

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Review: Philips Dimmable CF floodlight

Back in April I got the Philips Marathon Classic 65 Energy Saving Dimmapble Reflector Flood BR30, A compact flourescent bulb in a reflector floodlight package that can be used in recessed lights or track lights. I got it because it says that it is dimmable and I have a set of 7 recessed lights on a dimmer that I use all the time.

The bulb is rated at 8000 hours (thats 333 continuous days or about 5 and a half years at 4 hours a day) . It uses 16 watts and produces 630 lumens, roughly equivalant to a 65 watt incandesent bulb. It is more expensive than most CF bulbs at around $12, but that is the price you pay for the form factor and dimmableness.

Even though I needed seven, I only bought one because I wanted to see how well it worked first. It does, as advertised, work with a dimmer and dims correctly, however, there are a number of downsides. It doesn't dim as low as regular incandescents, if you dim it too far it just cuts out. It also takes 30 seconds or a minute to warm up. When you first turn it on, it will come one dim with a pinkish cast to the light. As it warms up, it brightens.

As you might guess, I wasn't thrilled with it, but the energy savings were considerable so I wanted to see if I would grow on me. I bought a second one a week or two later and installed it next to the first. Almost 9 months later, I can say that I got used to it, but never grew to like it. A couple of days ago, one of the bulbs stopped working, this is very dissapointing. It comes with limited warranty, most of the times these are useless since they require the receipt and proof of purchase, but, since I was uncertain about this bulb, I did save both so I am going to try returning it and see how that goes.

The verdict: Finicky dimming, takes a while to warm up, one of my two bulbs died really early. I'm not going to buy more and will probably wait a couple more years before trying them again to let the technology improve a bit.

UPC: 0 4667 15041 9

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Small watermain break in Bethesda

An eight in water main broke Seven Locks Road, closing it. Since this road was being used as the River Road detour after yesterday's huge rupture, they had to detour the detour. Sevel Locks should be open by 7pm tonight, but they are running out of roads to have detours on. If a watermain breaks on Green Twig Road, Honeybee Lane, or Cindy Lane before 7pm, there could be trouble.

[where: Bethesda, MD]
[where: Montgomery County, MD]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Big watermain break on River Rd

River Road seems to have turned into a river this morning. A huge water main broke, flooding the road with four feet of water and trapping more than a dozen people in their cars. They had to use boats and helicopters to rescue some of them. More info including pictures and video at channel 7. The break seems to be on River Rd between Bradley Blvd and Seven Locks Rd, just outside the beltway.

Parts of Bethesda (including my house) are currently experiencing low water pressure. I'd expect it to get worse before it gets better, prepare for a bit of time without water and the inevitable boil water advisory, keep an eye on the WSSC homepage.

[where: Bethesda, MD]

Monday, December 22, 2008

Traffic lights being replaced EW hwy and Pearl St.

I just noticed that they are replacing the traffic lights at the corner of East-West highway and Pearl St. This is right as you are coming into downtown Bethesda, MD at the McDonalds. Instead of posts on all the corners, there is going to be one post and a boom going across the intersection. It is one long boom too, going diagonally across pretty much the whole intersection. The old poles were peeling and rusting so this is needed maintenance.

[where: Bethesda, MD]
[where: Montgomery County, MD]

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mid-day road work on Wisconsin Ave

They are currently doing some midday road work on Northbound Wisconsin Avenue (MD-33) at Old Georgetown Rd/East-West Highway in Bethesda, MD. It is blocking 2 of the 3 lanes and causing traffic to back up. Right now, they are grinding away some of the pavement in the middle lane, it doesn't look like a major repair so hopefully it will be done before rush hour starts.

Update 3pm:
They patched two spots, one in the middle lane and one in the left lane, right by the traffic light. From the looks of the road (and a partial traffic report I heard on WTOP) they first did a couple of patches half a block earlier by Montgomery Avenue, one in the right lane then one in the middle lane. Perhaps there were potholes there? can anyone say either way?

[where: Bethesda, MD]
[where: Montgomery County, MD]

Monday, December 15, 2008

Old Old Georgetown Road

If you are going north on Old Georgetown Road, just where it makes a hard right turn by the Toys R Us to get to MD-355, you can see a small road straight ahead. I've long found it odd since it doesn't connect to Old Georgetown Rd or Executive Blvd, though I vaguely recall it used to. There also doesn't seem to be much of anything on the road. So, I've long wondered, why is it there?

Over the weekend, I ran across an image on wikimedia commons then things started to make sense. A long time ago (when I don't know) Old Georgetown Rd went straight there, connecting to Rockville Pike above Montrose Road.

I was at the Toys R Us this weekend, in a futile attempt to find a Wii Fit so I decided to walk around back there and sure enough, the road is officially called "Old Old Georgetown Rd" Although the old signs (like at Montrose road) just give the old name, "Old Georgetown Rd".

[where: Rockville, MD]

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Get rid of your old electronic junk

Bethesda Green is hosting an E-Cycling Day on Sunday, December 14, noon – 4 p.m. at Walt Whitman High School (7100 Whittier Blvd, Bethesda, MD 20817).

The Electronics Recycling Drop-Off Event, partnered by Montgomery County Division of Solid Waste Services, offers residents an opportunity to recycle small electronic appliances, calculators, camcorders, CDs and floppy disks, CD players, cell phones, computers and computer-related products, consumer electronics, copiers, cords and cables (including chargers), digital cameras, electronic typewriters, fax machines, microwave ovens, personal digital assistant equipment, printers, projection equipment, scanners, telephones, small electronic toys, TVs, and VCRs.

There will also be a free raffle for a Samsung LN26A330 26-Inch 720p LCD HDTV (ENERGY STAR® qualified).

I know I have some stuff that I want to get rid of. I hope they re-use it where possible instead of just crunching it up.

[where: Bethesda, MD]

Monday, December 8, 2008


I was walking through Bethesda Place Plaza over the metro station today and saw a duck head lying in a corner. I had to look at it a couple of times to be sure about what it was, and no, I didn't take a picture, nor do I plan to. But it did get me wondering about how it got there without it's body, I've never seen ducks in the plaza, and with the fountains off, there doesn't seem to be anything to attract them. I couldn't come up with a single plausible scenario about how it got there, but I did come up with several implausible ones.
  • Someone is walking into work and reaches into their bag for keys. On getting the duck head instead they say "Oh, so that's where it went" then they toss it on the ground.
  • Someone sees a duck in the plaza and rips its head off, keeping the body (as a souvenir? to cook and eat?) And again, I haven't seen ducks there before.
  • A duck is in the plaza and some duck-predator catches it and eats it. But how many duck-predators live in downtown Bethesda? and if there are any, are they big enough to take off with the body? I could see a cat catching a duck, but not removing the body.
  • A duck is flying and hits one of the buildings, the dead bird falls to the ground. This actually seems most likely, but I'm still left with the messy detail about where the body went.
Any ideas?

[where: Bethesda, MD]

The Bethesda Apple Store

It seems that the Apple store on Bethesda Avenue will be closing. That sounds provocative doesn't it? It is really just moving, so the current store is, in fact, closing, but a new one is opening on the other side of Bethesda Ave. The new store is being built next to Rio Grande Cafe and will be a two-story affair. I read about it and decided to go by the construction this morning to take a look.

In case you are curious, the place they tore down was part of the strip of stores next to it. There used to be a blockbuster store there. Google Maps still has the old photo.

[where: 4860 Bethesda Avenue, Bethesda, MD]

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bethesda's First Snow

I have a pretty loose definition of "First Snow" About the only requirement is that it sticks to stuff and doesn't immediately melt. That was enough, however, to discount the flurrys we had a couple of weeks ago. This morning, I woke up to Snow, stuck to stuff. Yes, not much, and just on leaves and such, not on the street, and it is gone this afternoon, but I'll count it as Bethesda's first snow of the year.

[where: Bethesda, MD]

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bethesda Avenue at night

As winter rolls ever closer it is sometimes nice to forget about the cold days, the wet days, and remember the warm summer nights. An evening stroll along Bethesda Avenue makes my list of things I am thankful for. This picture is from July, outside the Barnes & Noble book store. Photo by G. Edward Johnson.

[where: Bethesda, MD]

Friday, November 21, 2008

Here there be eels.

I went for a walk on the Sligo Creek trail in Silver Spring, MD and saw a sign from our friends at "Friends of Sligo Creek" letting me know that American Eels live in Sligo Creek. I really had no idea. (I didn't even know that there were freshwater eels, let alone living in Maryland, let alone living this close to me.) They breed in the Sargasso sea but spend most of their life here. Another interesting tidbit is that Maryland produces the largest harvest of eels of all the states.

I also learned that posting advertising on trails by creeks is an effective way of reaching people like me.

I didn't actually go there to look at the flyer, I went for the walk and to generally check it out, I've never been there before. Sligo creek is fairly narrow, one side of it has Sligo Creek Parkway and the other side has the trail. The park itself is pretty narrow so you can almost always see both the road and the houses along the side of the park. Along the trail there are numerous small playgrounds for the surrounding neighborhoods. This time of year most, but not quite all, of the leaves are off the trees and the paved trail was covered with a layer of leaves. There were a reasonable number of people on the trail (it was a weekday morning after all, why weren't they at work). A mix of joggers, walkers, and people pushing strollers.

[where: Silver Spring, MD]
[where: Sligo Creek Trail, Silver Spring, MD]

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We're number 30!

Congratulations Bethesda, MD (and the rest of the Bethesda-Gaithersburg-Fredrick statistical area) the CDC ranked you the 30th healthiest place to live in the US. Handily beating out Northern Virginia, which came in at 41. 30th doesn't sound so bad when the list has 184 entries, putting Bethesda comfortably in the top 20%.

From there, things get a bit more confusing. It is supposedly based on 2007 data, but the study that is linked by several news outlets is for 2006. "Surveillance of Certain Health Behaviors and Conditions Among States and Selected Local Areas --- Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), United States, 2006" That's a mouthful. Further, the CDC says "A news outlet recently conducted an analysis of CDC′s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) 2006 data, released August 2008. The outlet ranked some cities healthiest vs. unhealthiest, but CDC does not rank cities."

Other news articles reference a particular part of the BRFSS the Selected Metropolitan/Micropolitan Area Risk Trends (SMART) database. It doesn't explicitly rank them, but I guess you could get a decent ranking if you put the time into it. It also has 2007 data, so I bet that is the true source of the report.

It has all sorts of nuggets of information, for instance, 10.5% of the people here are binge drinkers, 34.3% are overweight and 18.1% are obese, even though 31% consumed 5 or more fruits and vegetables a day.

[where: Montgomery County, MD]
[where: Bethesda, MD]

They even pulled out the hoses

This morning the fire trucks came to the Chevy Chase bank building on the corner of East-West highway and Wisconsin Avenue (Route MD-355) in Bethesda, MD. They closed off two northbound lanes on 355 (out of 3) and two westbout lanes on East-West (again, out of 3). That really causes traffic problems. I didn't see anything obviously wrong although they did have the hoses out and connected to the buildings standpipe. As I am writing this, they are packing up the hoses and getting ready to go home, so lanes should re-open soon. I didn't see anything on the WTOP traffic page about it but it was the lead story on the traffic report I heard.

[where: MD-355 and East-West Hwy, Bethesda, MD]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Free Food on election day

I saw this article on the WTOP web site. There are a number of places that will give you free food today if you vote including California Tortilla, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, and Ben & Jerry's.

It's neat, and patriotic, but it really is to get you to go into their store, not to get you to vote. I can't even imagine someone saying "I wasn't going to bother voting, but since I could get a free donut, I did."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sign overload

I took this picture a couple of months ago. It looks like one of the signs is missing, I gues it didn't apply. The remaining eight Signs on the sign are: "Danger Hard Hat Area", "Danger Overhead Lines", "Restricted area no atmittance", "Fall protection required", "No tresspassing or loitering on this property", "Designated Drug Free Work place", "No drugs or alcoholic beverages allowwed", "Fire extinguisher located inside trailer"

[where: Bethesda, MD]

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Are the Republicans true to their platform?

Here's an interesting article on ReasonOnline Nothing short of defeat will put the GOP back on its limited government track It makes a useful point. It says "The Republican Party has ... given up all pretense of any allegiance to limited government." The evidence? "In the last eight years, the GOP has given us a monstrous new federal bureaucracy in the Department of Homeland Security. In the prescription drug benefit, it's given us the largest new federal entitlement since the Johnson administration. Federal spending—even on items not related to war or national security—has soared. And we now get to watch as the party that's supposed to be "free market" nationalizes huge chunks of the economy's financial sector." Worse yet "This administration believes that on any issue that can remotely be tied to foreign policy or national security (and on quite a few other issues as well), the president has boundless, limitless, unchecked power to do anything he wants."

The article isn't optimistic about an Obama administration either saying "He'll just be bad in different ways". Nor is the argument about choosing the lesser of two evils. No, his argument is that since neither party is truely about a conservative, limited government, if the Republicans lose they will have to regroup and rebuild "around the principles of limited government, free markets, and rugged individualism".

It's a good read, not going to the level of insightful because it doesn't go in depth enough but it is an interesting opinion.

On a lighter note, one of the ads that was on the page had the text "Who's more likely to Cheat: Obama or McCain" Is that really the most important part of the election? Where is the "Who's more likely to put the country in an extended depression?" or "Who's more likely to piss other countries off more?" (Neither of which I know the answer to)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Of all the ridiculous things

A few months ago, they took out the perfectly speedbumps on Fernwood Road in Bethesda and replaced them with identical speed bumps. What was the point of that, there was nothing wrong with them (except for their very existance, I'm not a big fan of speed bumps). Yesterday and today they have been doing the unimaginable. They took out the speed bumps again, and are replacing them with....(wait for it)....speed bumps... that are just like the once they are taking out... you know, the once they just put in two months ago. What are they thinking? In the space of a few months, we have had three sets of speedbumps and there was nothing wrong with the first set. Do they have that much money lying around that they can replace them over and over? Did they forget they just replaced them? I'm not positive, but these new ones might be one inch smaller than the old ones, but is that a good enough reason to remove the whole thing and start over?

[where: Fernwood Rd, Bethesda, MD]

(did I use to much bold and italic?)

Monday, October 20, 2008

It's election time

The presidential elections are coming up quickly and I saw this great bumper sticker. Not sure if it will change my mind about who to vote for. Here is a an old Ford truck with a NIXON/AGNEW bumper sticker on it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Can I leave Pallets there?

I noticed this sign on the loading dock of 3 Bethesda Metro Center Plaza. "Notice. No Trash, No Pallats. Violators will be charged" Is it ok if I leave pallets there? Does anyone proofread signs anymore? How long has it been there? If managment notices, will they replace the sign or just leave it?

Here's another sign on on the same loading dock. It starts "NO PARKING IN LOADIING DOCK. For Unloading Only". What's this, A loading dock where you can't load? Why don't they just call it an unloading dock. And, what if you need to load something, where do you do that? To be fair, there is yet another sign on the loading dock that says you can use it for both loading and unloading.

[where: 3 Bethesda Metro Center, Bethesda, MD]

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Where is the stock market headed?

The Dow first closed above 10,000 on March 29, 1999. Here it is again at10,000. Is this what Prince meant when he said "Party like its 1999"?
With the DOW crashing down from over 14,000 to below 10,000, I start to wonder where the market is headed. Is now a good time to invest? Will it keep going down? Should I be planning the DOW 5,000 party? Will it just trade sideways for a while? I don't have the answer to any of these questions, but I did a few interesting tidbits.

Looking at the DJIA chart I can see that the rate of growth picked up significantly around 1995. In fact, if the rate of growth had stayed the same as it was between 1985 and 1995, we would be around 7,500 now. If the rate of growth had stayed where it was before 1985 then we would be somewhere south of 5,000.
Is 7,500 what the Dow "Should" be at? I think that there are fundemental changes to the world economy. Outsourcing has hurt U.S. workers some, but helped U.S. corporations and Indian and Chinese workers. The market largely reflects what is happening to Companies, not people. U.S. companies are more global now too. These things should push the rate at which the stock market increases up a bit. On the other hand, markets tend to go from overly optimistic to overly pessimistic, so they could well go below 7,500 before coming back.

The Dow is a pretty poor index to track, the S & P 500 is much better, extrapolating the growth rate from '85 to '95 out to today would give us right around 800, about 20% below where it is now. There are other things to consider.

Take a look at the average price to earnings (PE) ratio of the S&P 500, it has fluctuated from below 10 in bear markets to around 20. After 1995 it goes up and peaks above 45. The historic norm is 15 (but the period of 1995 to 2000 pulls up the norm a bit, I think the norm was around 12 pre '95). Figuring out the P/E is a bit tricky, but you can get close by looking at the PE of "S&P Depository Receipts" Ticker symbol SPY. That shows a PE of around 13. Of course, if earnings (the 'E' in P/E) deteriorate, that could push the P/E higher even if prices go down. If we are headed to a P/E below ten like serious bear markets in the past, we still have a ways to go by this measure, but it looks reasonably valued at this point.

Another way of looking at the value of the market is by looking at the dividend yield. For a long time, the yield has been going down and is quite low. Way back in 2002, when the Dow was at 8,500, Bill Gross, the manager of the worlds biggest bond mutal fund said the dividend yield of large market indexes need to be 3.5% for the index to be fairly valued. Getting there would result in the Dow going down to 5,000. (or companies increasing their dividends). The S&P is currently yielding 2.18%, so by that measure it still looks overvalued, even 8 years after the article was originally written.

You can look abroad too, the Japanese Nikkei average closed at almost 39,000 at the end of 1989. Right now it is at 9,200. 18 years after hitting it's high, it is still down over 75%. How is that for depressing.

To me, it looks like the market could go down a bit more, but then again, maybe it will go down alot, or maybe it will start going up. Dow 7500 is possible, Dow 5000 seems like unlikely, but I can't rule it out. Looking back in time only tells you past trends, it is myoptic to only consider these. Who knows what will happen next.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Oh look, fire trucks

I was driving on Old Georgetown Road on Tuesday and noticed that Del Ray Avenue was closed and there were lots of fire trucks. I took a look around and it seemed like the activity was around 4930 Del Ray Ave. home of the American Gastroenterological Association. (If we were playing scrabble, that would be worth a lot of points). It didn't look like there was a fire, no smoke or hoses, but I counted 9 fire trucks, two rescue squads, one ambulance, a couple of police cars and a couple of other fire-related equipment.

A bit of digging on the BCCRS web site suggests it was a Box alarm for a building of higher than 7 stories. This should bring out five engines, three trucks, one rescue squad, one ambulance, two duty officers. That is pretty close to what I saw. I had to look around the Bethesda Fire Dept website for the definition of a box alarm. As best I can tell, it just means they got an alarm call and this is the pre-planned set of equipment they send to the scene before they know if it is really a fire or not.

There is actually a difference between fire engines and fire trucks, fire engines have hoses and pumps, fire trucks just carry equipment. I am not entirely sure, but I think there were 5 engines and 4 trucks there.

If you know anything more, post it in the comments.

[where: 4930 Del Ray Ave, Bethesda, MD]

Dow 10,000 Party!

The dow first broke the 10,000 point barrier in March of 1999. There was much celebrating. On October 6, 2008 the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed the 10,000 point mark again, but this time on the way down. In honor of it closing below 10,000 for the first time in years, the next day we had another DOW 10k party. It wasn't quite as festive. Hopefully we won't have to have a dow 5,000 party.

This is reminiscent of when the dow hit 1,000. I looked it up since I don't personally remember it. The dow first closed above 1000 in November of 1972. The last time it closed below 1,000 was in late 1982, a full 10 years later. We are about 9.5 years after the first close above 10000 and it seems likely that we have at least another half year, so we will probably beat the 1,000 record. So far, it hasn't been as bad though, after hitting 1,000 there was a horrible bear market and the dow bottomed at 577.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Looking back at the parks half marathon

It has been a few weeks since the Parks Half marathon in Montgomery County, and, as I posted earlier, I took a bunch of pictures. I figure now is a good time to reflect on the experience.

It was actually more fun than I expected. My expectations were fairly low, I mean, standing in one spot for a couple of hours hitting the shutter button over and over and over isn't high on my list of things to do before I die. Maybe I picked an unusually good spot (right after the tunnel under MD-355) because I saw several runners who were being encouraged by friends and/or family, even a family running together. I also enjoyed the person who started juggling when he saw the camera. I got a good percentage of the people who ran by, but there were many groups of people (more than I expected) and there were sometimes people who's number was obscured the whole time. On the flip side, there were also a couple of people who straightened out their number when they saw me. I was surprised at how good people looked. After 13 miles of running on a very humid day I expected to see more people barely hanging in there, but most people looked like they could keep going a few more miles.

After posting the pictures I went hunting for blog posts about the race. I found a few posts. It was interesting to read about the race from people I saw (and in most cases had photographed). One particularly interesting one was by a woman who found out she was pregnant after finishing the half marathon.

On the photography side, it wasn't hugely challenging, the hardest parts were trying to make sure that I got a photo of each person in a group, where that person was in focus. Framing wise, I wasn't sure if it would be better to zoom in on a runner, or show a bit more of the surroundings, and if I should take it as a portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal). Overall, I think the portrait close-ups came out best, however, if I had a more interesting background they might have come out better (your suggestions are welcome). Swapping memory cards was also a challenge, both getting a new one out while still taking pictures and making sure I didn't run out of space right as a big group went by. Once I got home going through the pictures and adding the bib numbers was a time consuming chore, it took much longer than I thought it would.

I'm not sure if I will do it again, in many ways I would like to, but the bib-numbering was a huge time sink. I could easily get to the start of the race, take pictures, then drive to the end of the race and take more. If I do it next year I will probably set up before the tunnel so there will be more trees and trail in the background instead of bare concrete.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Taste of Bethesda is coming up on Oct 4

It's that time of year again, Taste of Bethesda is on Saturday, October 4, 2008. If you've never been, you should go. It is a chance to sample food from a bunch of the restaurants in downtown bethesda. They close off some of the streets in the Woodmont Triangle area and you can buy tickets for samples of the food. They also have free live music and stuff.

[where: Bethesda, MD]

Testing out

Money Aisle is a web site that tries to match you to a good rate on certificates of deposit at participating banks. The concept is great, you tell them the amount of money and the term of the CD and 70 or 80 banks bid for the rate. The upside is you don't have to accept the winning bid, so trying it out doesn't cost you anything or commit you to anything. If you accept the bid, you open the account directly with the winning bank (all are FDIC insured)

I actually want to open a CD so I was interested in finding out if I could get a better rate there than anywhere else. I compared the results here with what I found on and (a single bank, but one with high rates). I ran several auctions, to find the impact of term and amount invested on the resulting rates.

First, $10,000 for 1 year (all of eloan's cd's have a minimum amount of 10,000). After a minute of bidding, the winner on MoneyAisle was... eloan, the site I had independently identified, and, the rate was exactly the same, so I gained nothing by using moneyaisle for that one.

Second, I ran an auction for a cd of $4,000 for a 3 month term, the winning offer was about 3.26%. I went to the winning bank's website and the rate they offered was 3.25%, so there was a very slight gain by going through moneyaisle. I re-ran the auction for $5,000 to see if more banks participated, but got the same winning bank, this time with a slightly better rate of 3.28% I liked this, I really was getting a higher rate from the bank by running an auction!

I then looked on and it turned out that there are half a dozen banks offering rates higher than that and I don't have to go through an auction.

In the end, the auction didn't get me the highest rate available, and didn't even get me a much higher rate from participating banks. The idea has promise, but if you try it, make sure you also look at to verify that you are getting the best rate. Until they can beat the best rate at bankrate, they are not the best choice for finding CDs.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Playing at Bonkersville

The beach is made for warm sunny days, not windy, rainy ones. So, what should you do on a rainy day at the beach? I went to Bonkersville. It is an indoor play place with some large inflatable play stuff. A really big inflatable doulbe slide, a maze with a big slide, another maze inflatable thing, and a moon bounce/slide. Yup, everything there included a slide. All that in a big room with a padded floor and a big open space for running. They also have a wooden train table and some areas set aside for parties.

We were the first ones there, about 15 minutes after the place opened. It wasn't crowded at all, but then, it was a school day. At first I was worried that there wouldn't be enough to do, but my kid had fun running and climbing, getting pretty tired after an hour. It made for an extra long nap that day, which is my criteria for success. Once you pay, your good for the whole day, so we left and came back late in the afternoon to burn off more energy. They also have free wifi, so I was able to surf the internet on my phone, which was a nice bonus.

It is reasonably priced and good for an hour or two of activity. I think it would be best for a small group of kids, like a play date. It also sounds like an excellent party idea. We almost went back the next day too, but the weather cleared so we were back at the beach.

The major downside is that they don't allow outside food and drinks, that kind of bugs me, since it is clearly not for a good reason except to enhance their revenue (You can't bring a bottle of water in, but you can buy one there).

I couldn't help but think of was it could be improved, and came up with a few suggestions, More comfortable chairs for the adults would be one, as would beanbag chairs. Another train table would be good, and if they also had the plastic trikes, they could charge for the under 2 crowd (currently free, but not much for them to do, the inflatable stuff is too big). A ball pit would be good too, but that would take up a lot of space. The air blowers where not obnoxiously loud, but you could always hear them, they never fully faded into the background, so muffling or moving them outside would be good. Don't take the suggestions to mean I didn't like the place, I would go back there again even with no changes.

Bonkersville is located in Lewes, DE, just up the road from Rehoboth Beach.

[where: Lewes, DE]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Crepes at the farmer's market

Today was such a nice day that I decided to walk around until I found a good place for lunch. This turned out to be good, because keep forgetting to go to the farmers market. They have a little stand that makes crepes, but I never walk by there on a Tuesday (until today).

The place that makes them is Crepes at the Market. It is a casual but well run cart. No need for a cashier, there are four wine glasses, for $1, $5, $10 and $20's, you make your own change. They were busy the whole time I was watching, the line was short but there were always at least a couple of people in it.

I had the Asiago, Turkey, Peppers, and Tomato crepe. The peppers were a colorful mix of red, yellow, and green peppers. The crepe was good, I ate it all pretty quickly. The turkey could have been spread out a bit more and I didn't get much from the Asiago cheese, next time I will try a cheese with a stronger flavor. If I remember, and if there is a nice day before the end of October, I will head back there again.

The farmers market is at Veteran's Park on the corner of Woodmont Ave and Norfolk Ave in Bethesda on Tuesdays and Saturdays from May through October. The park is supposed to have free wifi, but I was unable to connect to it, I'm not sure if it was their problem or if my phone was having trouble, I'll have to try again later.

[where: Woodmont Ave, Bethesda, MD]

Monday, September 15, 2008

Parks Half Marathon Pictures

I went to the parks half-marathon this weekend. Not because I enjoy running, I certainly didn't run in it, but because I wanted to take pictures of the runners. I saw it as a kind of a challenge, to see how many of the runners I could take a picture of. I took about 1600 pictures in the hour and a half that I was there.

They were limited to 2,500 entries and from what I could tell, they were all used, or at least close to it. There were only 2037 finishers. The race started at 7:00 am and they claimed you had to be able to finish in 2:45 or less, so everyone should have been done by 9:45, since they didn't start everyone instantaniously, add 15 minutes or so for the start and everyone should have been done by 10:00 am, right when I left. However, they let people finish until 10:25, so I missed about 50 people because of that. I also got there a little late and missed the first 25 finishers.

I took multiple pictures of some people, but then, I also had cases where the same photo had multiple people in it, so I figure about 1,400 people I got a picture of, or almost three quarters of them. For the time I was there, I got a picture of virtually everyone. Sometimes a runner would be on the far side of a group and I wouldn't get a good picture, but if you finished before 10am, I almost certainly have a picture. Is that good or bad? It is pretty decent. The biggest problem I had was with people who had their bib number on their left leg. I had trouble getting the number in the picture which makes it tough to find them later.

They had a bunch of rules, some good, some bad, for instance Runners must have their bib numbers visible at all times. Makes sense, but what is the definition of visible? any part of it? The whole thing? I saw several where I couldn't see the bib at all, a bunch where it mostly covered or crumpled so you couldn't read any of the numbers. To allow safe passage for all half marathoners regardless of their pace, please do not run more than two abreast during the race. Thats a nice sounding rule, but how could you possibly enforce it. And if you did, would it be fair? How would you pass someone if they were already running two abreast? I saw lots of runners in groups four across. Use of headphones...during the race is prohibited and will be cause for disqualification from the race. I saw lots of people listening to music and why shouldn't they? The roads were closed, so they didn't have to deal with cars. This is the dumbest rule they had.

Here's a gem in the Results section "All results will be posted immediately as they are available at the finish line and on this web site." Followed by "Complete results will be posted on on Sunday afternoon and on this web site by Monday, September 15, 2008." So they claim that results will be posted on that website immediately, while also claiming that they won't be on the website until the next day. Did they even read this?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The fine print gives

So often you see a great offer, but when you look at the fine print you find lots of restrictions. It happens so often that I was suprised to see the opposite happen. The big print gives you restrictions, the fine print takes some of those restrictions away. I have seen this brand of gas station run this promotion a couple of times.

In big print it says "Free Cinnamon Bun with Purchase of 20oz Coffee" The small print elaborates on that, letting you know that instead of a cinnamon bun you can also have a sour cream donut or glazed donut, and you don't have to buy a coffee, you can get any 20oz hot beverage. Kudos to Exxon for doing this.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Another good lunch at Quiznos

I have been going to Quiznos pretty frequently recently. It's a combination of convenience and the $5 large subs. The one I have been going to, is the one on Montgomery Lane, part of the Bethesda Place plaza complex. Twice now I have had really good customer service there. Today, I wanted lettuce and onions on my sub, but I somehow said tomato and onions. The guy making the sub asked to confirm that I didn't want lettuce (but of course, I did want lettuce, so he added it). A couple of weeks ago, I was looking through the glass to make sure I got what I wanted on my sub and the person at the cash register noticed and before taking my money asked if I had gotten what I wanted. It is fairly rare that people working at fast food restaurants pay much attention to the customer, and having it happen twice at the same place is worth mentioning.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Did you know that buses sometimes stop?

Of course, I don't know anything about this, but I'd speculate that the driver of the car cut into the bus's lane, not realizing the bus was stopping.

I was out for a walk on Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda and saw this accident involving a bus and a car. There were a couple of (assumidly) Ride-On related vehicles, the bus, the car, three police cars and an ambulance. After a while, a flatbed towtruck and another ambulance came by. The second ambulance didn't stay long so I don't think anyone was seriously hurt.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An article about ship salvage

I actually saw an ad on a website for this article and it looked interesting, so I clicked through and read all 10 pages. High Tech Cowboys of the Deep Seas: The race to save the Cougar Ace. It is about a salvage company and their effort to save a car-transport ship that took on water and was abandoned. It talks alot about the people who do this type of stuff and what they did for this particular job. They only get paid if they are successful but they can make a lot of money.

There is also an article from the Wall Street Journal about what happened to the cars from the boat. How to Destroy Brand-New Cars.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Montgomery County Fair

Today I took the day off and went to the fair. It's a great place to take little kids, although sometimes they are afraid of the animals. When I was a kid, Old Macdonald's Barn was my favorite place, and it still is. Every year they have piglets and ducklings, and goats and sheep, it is a great place to get close to the animals.

They have other stuff besides animals, We took a tractor ride around the fair, and sat on a school bus and a Ride on Bus, and the fire department had their big ladder truck to look at and a moon bounce for the kids. There is also pig racing, but I wasn't there for that.

Anyway, if you have young kids, the fair is a great place to take them. The fair runs through Saturday, the 16th.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Original Pancake House: Smothered Chicken Sandwich

I didn't plan on going here, since I wasn't in the mood for pancakes or eggs, and hey, what else do they serve? Fortunately, they have a lunch menu with sandwiches and salads and such. I chose the Smothered Chicken Sandwich. Grilled chicken breast topped with bell pepper, sauteed onion, Bacon and Cheddar Cheese and served on a Kaiser roll. The benefit of it being a breakfast place is that I could get hash browns instead of french fries with it.

The sandwich was very good. there were three thick slices of bacon on it, hanging a little bit off the side, as well as the bell peppers and onions. The cheddar cheese was melted over the vegetables. Also a plus, the sandwich wasn't greasy. The hashbrowns were also excellent. Lots of shredded potatoes fried to a golden brown crisp on the top and bottom. They even brought me hot sauce with the catsup. As a bonus, this was one of the cheapest sandwiches on the menu.

The wrap up? I will no longer avoid this place. The do have good options if you don't want pancakes. There are many locations across the country, but only two Original pancake houses in my area,
7700 Wisconsin Avenue Bethesda, MD and 12224 Rockville Pike Rockville, MD. I went to the bethesda one which is at Bethesda Place Plaza.

The George W. Bush Sewage Plant

Those nutty folks in San Francisco are putting a measure on the ballot to change the name of the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant to the The George W. Bush Sewage Plant. Funny but pointless. A couple words more at CNN

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dispense As Written (DAW)

The other day I got a prescription, and on it was a note to the doctor "IF you don't want this prescription substituted with a generic, write DAW in the box below" I thought it odd, but the doctor is French, so I figured it may be a French word, even though it looks more German than French. Today I just found out that D.A.W. stands for "Dispense As Written", ie. don't substitute a generic.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Norkys Rotisserie Chicken: Norkys chicken breast sandwich

Norkey's is a new rotisserie chicken restaurant on Old Georgetown Rd in Bethesda. I had the Chicken Breast Sandwich. It is a pretty simple sandwich, chunks of rotisserie chicken on a baguette with lettuce and onions (and Mayo, but I didn't get that) My first impression was that it was larger than I expected. It was pretty tasty, chicken with a lightly charred taste that helped the flavor. The chicken chunks were a good size and moist. It was pretty reasonably priced for what you get too. The only negative was that the onions should have been separated better, I'd occassionally get a bite with too much onion in it. It also came with a small side of spicy mayonaise sauce. I tried it, but the spiciness overwhelmed the light flavor of the chicken.

This was my first trip to Norkies chicken, but probably won't be my last. The location isn't the best, and it is more geared towards carry-out than eating there, so keep that in mind. They also deliver (limited area, minimum order, blah blah). Another note, the sides you can get with the rotisserie chicken are pretty much all starches, fries, rice, and potatoes, stuff like that. It is located 7812 Old Georgetown Rd, Bethesda, MD. They also have online ordering options, but I haven't tried that.

Friday, June 13, 2008

To be a bee in Bethesda

I was walking through the plaza over Bethesda metro station and saw a nice bee swarm on one of the maple trees. It is right on the plaza and they have yellow 'No Parking' tape blocking off the area so it is easy to find. these swarms only last a few days before they move on, so this is a rare chance to see a swarm in a very convenient place. Bees aren't as aggressive as they are swarming, so you can probably get fairly close without any problems, but if you are allergic, you might want to bring your epipen.

Location: Bethesda Place Plaza, Bethesda, Maryland
What: Bees, glorious bees
Why: Because it's spring

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I view perl like..

I see perl as much like a leatherman tool, except, in addition to the usual complement of screwdrivers, pliers, and knives, it also has a lockpick set and a microscope. And a chainsaw, and an arc welder. And a limitless supply of duct tape.

And just in case you don't know, perl is a programming language, though, if you don't know that, this post probably isn't relevant to you.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The War on Photography

Bruce Schneier has a good essay on the increasing restrictions on photography and how the reason given is security and preventing terrorism, but it really doesn't do either.

We've been repeatedly told to watch out for photographers, especially suspicious ones. Clearly any terrorist is going to first photograph his target, so vigilance is required.

Except that it's nonsense. The 9/11 terrorists didn't photograph anything. Nor did the London transport bombers, the Madrid subway bombers, or the liquid bombers arrested in 2006. Timothy McVeigh didn't photograph the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The Unabomber didn't photograph anything; neither did shoe-bomber Richard Reid...

You can read the full article about Photography and security on his web site.

Even if terrorists did photograph something what do you think they would use, a big obvious camera, or a cellphone camera, or maybe one hidden in their sunglasses? The people who are hassled for taking a picture aren't terrorists, you'd never notice the bad guys taking pictures.

Friday, May 9, 2008

South Beach Livng: Savory Pork

One of Kraft's South Beach living microwave meals. Chunks of pork, onions, and celery in a savory sauce with pecans. The pork was nice and firm, the chunks neither too large or too small. The pork depended on the sauce for flavor, not having much of its own. Suprisingly, the celery retained some of it's own flavor, usually you don't see that. The sauce was thin and lightly flavored, but this wasn't a bad thing, it went well with the other flavors in the dish. The pecans were more of a garnish, but added a nice bit of crunch now and then. They were a welcome addition. The Vegetables are green beans with yellow bell peppers. The green beans were decent, the yellow peppers were, as is often the case, mushy. Some of the sauce from the meat side spilled over and livened up the vegetables quite a bit.

The dish is split into two sections, the smaller one was filled to the brim with the meat, the larger one was less than half full with the vegetables. I have to wonder if this was deliberate or if the just mixed something up. I think this tv dinner ended up being ok, certainly not a standout, but not bad either. (230 calories, 9g fat; 13g carbs; 22g protein; 28% sodium)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

South Beach Living: Kung Pao Chicken

One of Kraft's South Beach Living brand of microwave meals. Diced meat chicken, red peppers and peanuts in kung pao sauce with a side of broccoli, water chestnuts and Yellow peppers. The vegetable side is mostly broccoli with a a decent number of slices of water chestnuts and small squares of yellow bell pepper. The broccoli was firm, not too overcooked, but not crunchy either. For some reason, many of the flowers were removed from the stems, it didn't affect the taste, but was unexpected. The water chestnuts added some nice crunch, there was no sauce on the vegetables.

The chicken was diced, not cut in strips like the box said, but that is probably for the better, as I didn't need a knife it had a decent texture but not much flavor. Once piece of chicken I got had a piece of bone in it. The box says it is mildly spiced and they aren't kidding, there isn't a whole lot of flavor to the sauce except some bites would be a tiny bit hot. The peanuts add crunch, but again, not much to the flavor, and the red bell pepper bits add color only.

Overall, I'd say they have quality control issues (for both the broccoli and the chicken). The tv dinner was bland, certainly not the rich flavor I would expect in Kung Pao Chicken. (250 calories; 9g fat; 14g carbs; 25g protein; 26% sodium)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thimian Thai: Chicken Pad Ka Pow

This is a pretty new Thai restaurant in downtown Bethesda. I went there for lunch and had chicken Pad Kapow, thin strips of chicken stir-fried with thin strips of red and green peppers, onions, and basil, all in a brown sauce. This dish is somewhat spicy. The peppers and onions were perfectly cooked, still with some crunch to them. The chicken was also good. The sauce was really, really, good. Just enough heat to really let you know it was there, but nowhere close to overwhelming it. It was also very flavorful and really soaked into the rice. The yellow walls of the restaurant don't add to the atmosphere, but the food was excellent and I plan on going back there.

Thimian Thai is located at 7525 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda, MD. Directly across the street from the Clark Building. Restaurants in the location prior to this one include Gator Alley and Uncle Jed's Roadhouse.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rice Paddies Grill: Chicken w/ Ginger Sauce

This is a small restaurant, where you walk up to the counter to order. There is seating but a most people going there seem to take out. There is a big window into the kitchen where you can watch them make the food. Since they cook everything when you order it, it can take a while when they are busy.

I got the Chicken with Ginger sauce, chunks of chicken stir fried with onions and green and red peppers (and is gluten free). It also came with a side salad and steamed rice. I think the chicken had been grilled before it was stir-fried and that added a nice taste to it. The sauce was smooth and the ginger didn't overwhelm the dish. There was plenty of everything and I briefly considered not finishing it. At first I thought it was a little on the high side, given that it wasn't really a sit-down restaurant, but, the taste, plus the quantity, plus the side salad changed my mind. I think the price was perfectly acceptable given what you get. I liked it and will probably head back another time, the lemon grass chicken looks appealing.

Rice Paddies Grill is located at 4706 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814. It is next to a Starbucks.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Future of Video Cameras

At the pro and prosumer level, I don't know. I don't have any experience in that area, but I would expect them to have their following. People who are really into pictures use DSLRs and I think people who are really into video will want high quality gear.

Consumer video cameras are in for some hurting. The market for them will shrink considerably. Point and shoot cameras will tread deeply into their market.

Consider this: Most video cameras today are tape based. when you are trying to tape your kids entire recital, this is fine, it's nice to get the whole thing in one go. However, few people actually do this, and fewer still actually watch these videos. Most videos are short, no more than a few minutes, and tape can be a real drag since it isn't random access.

More and more they are going to hard disks or flash memory, giving people random access to their clips. This trend will continue.

But let's think here. What other kind of camera uses flash memory, has a nice optical zoom and is taking better and better video as time goes on? That's right, point and shoot cameras. Why take a dedicated still camera AND a dedicated video camera when the still camera can do a decent job at both? The rare times when a dedicated video camera will do better just won't justify their cost, weight, and hassle.

My predictions for the next 5 years:
  • Video cameras will continue to increase in resolution. 1920x1080p full HD will be the standard.
  • Few, if any, will use tape, most will use flash memory (16 or 32 GB cards maybe?) some will use hard disks (large enough to get your whole vacation on, 200+ GB)
  • Their market will be smaller than it is today.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Future of Cameraphones

Cameraphones have a bright future. Pretty much everyone has a phone, almost all of them have a camera already, so even if people don't use them, they will remain a check-off feature that everyone has. Given this, you can't really judge the success of them as a camera just by sales.

The real advantage that they have is that you always have them. You don't have to debate whether or not to take them or make sure you remember to grab it. You just have it.

The downside is the picture quality is fairly poor and I don't see that changing a whole lot. The sensor is just too small, and if you make it bigger, then it and the lens take up more space and add weight, both of which are at a premium on phones.

In the next five years I predict:

  • the pointless megapixel race will continue 2MP now, probably 4 or 5 in five years. Mostly useless over 2MP and totally useless over 3MP, the quality just isn't there, even in bright light.
  • LED flashes: This will help things a little. More and more phones will get white LED flashes on the camera. They will actually help a lot of shots where camera phones are used, a group of friends taking a picture from a few feed away, like at a party or sitting around a table at a restaurant. As a bonus, they can be used as a flashlight.
  • Video: They currently have pathetic video (mine does something like 176x144 at 10 frames a second). This will get better, but who knows how much. I think in 5 years, most phones will be doing 320x240 30fps and high end ones will do 640x480 @ 30fps.
  • Phones with real cameras will remain a small niche. There are a couple of them now, with real flashes and zoom lenses. Here's the problem. The bigger camera parts add weight and bulk, and you have to carry them around all the time, even when you don't need the camera. Better to have a smaller, not as good camera with you all the time for those spur of the moment things and bring a point and shoot when you know there will be photo ops. There are some people who carry a point and shoot everywhere, and a camera like this would be an advantage for them, but I doubt that is a huge market segment.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The future of Point and Shoot Cameras

Point and shoot cameras seem to be in a dismal spot, with cameraphones eating at them from the bottom and digital SLR cameras pushing down on them from the top. However, think that they will have a strong niche for the foreseeable future. Their growth will probably slow, but they are far from extinct.

What's going to save them? Size, picture quality, and video.

Picture quality: Seems like an odd strength, given that it is much worse than a DSLR, but instead compare it to a cameraphone. Cameraphones have tiny sensors and tiny lenses, which means that they only take decent pictures in bright light. P&S cameras, with their larger sensors and better flash can take better pictures. Plus, the more advanced feature like face detection work better when you have more processing power to dedicate to them. And Zoom, how many camera phones have a 3x or 4x optical zoom?

Size: Seems like an odd strength too. They are much bulkier than a camera phone. You actually have to remember to take them with you instead of always having them around. However, compared to a DSLR, they are much, much smaller and lighter. You can put it in your pocket or bag without it being uncomfortable.

Video: Given that we are mostly talking about still cameras, video may seem like an odd strength, but really, it is the point and shoot camera's secret weapon. 5 years ago, they took 320x240 video at 15 frames a second without sound. Now almost all of them take 640x480 video at 30 fps with sound. That means that today's cameras take good enough video that you don't need a video camera for you 30 second to several minute clips. Where will they be in 5 years? Definitely taking HD video, probably at 1920x1080. For short videos they will be perfect. Longer ones will be fine, there will be plenty of flash memory, but I think they will compress things too heavily to do much editing, still, for most people, this will be all they need.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Future of Nikon DSLRs

Nikon digital SLRs fall into four broad categories
  • Pro, such as the D3. Clearly aimed at pros, big, heavy, and emphasis on image quality
  • Prosumer, such as the D200 and D300. Suitable for some pros, well built, very good image quality
  • Advanced amateur, Currently the aging D80. Not as well built, fewer features than the prosumer, but pretty much the same image quality
  • Amateur, D40 and D60. Entry level to slightly better, aimed at people who want to take good pictures without an excessive amount of effort.
Here is where I see it going. In general, I expect the number of megapixels on digital cameras to creep up, regardless of the segment. Hopefully sensors and image processing will increase at the same rate so we will have a net win.

On the pro level I think Nikon will stick with full-frame (FF or as Nikon calls it, FX). The increase in image quality is too much to give up on. I think they will have two cameras, one lower megapixel, with large photos-sites, fast, great image quality, great for sports and low light. This is where the D3 is now. The second camera will be an answer to Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, Full frame, smaller photosites, high resolution. Aimed at pros who aren't doing low light or action. Nikon doesn't currently have a camera in this segment, but I would expect them to have one soon, probably using a sensor based on the new Sony 25mp sensor. Prices will be $3,000-6,000 on introduction.

Prosumer cameras are aimed at less demanding pros, as backup cameras for pros and people who have photography as a serious hobby. the Dx00 cameras fill this segment, the D300 being the current one. I think Nikon will stick with the APS-C (1.5 crop factor) sensors here. There is a huge cost advantage that isn't going away. Since the sensor size is fixed, you don't get the Moore's law curve bringing prices down. Build quality won't be up to the pro line, but will be very good, with metal chassis and weather sealing. Great for the amateur who takes the camera out regardless of the weather. Prices will be $1,600-1,800 on introduction.

Advanced Amateur. Still for people who really like photography. lesser build than the Prosumer cameras, fewer features, but still more than most people use, image quality on par with the prosumer cameras, but about a year behind. The D80 currently is in this segment, but will probably be refreshed with a D90 that has the same sensor as the D300 by the end of the year.

Amateur. People who want good quality pictures, but don't want to spend a huge amount of time learning photography and fiddling with settings. People who are stepping up from a point and shoot, or people who are on a limited budget. Currently both the D40 and D60 are in this segment, but it is a big segment with diverse needs Nikon could introduce even more cameras here, in the film days they had 5 or 6 on the market with slightly different feature sets (but the same image quality, since it was film). I expect a camera at a cheaper price point than the D40 (either a D30, or continued price reductions on the D40).

Sensors in the next few years.

Sensors are a specialty product, expensive to design, a limited useful lifetime,and relatively low volume, Thus, outside the pro line, Nikon will leverage the same sensor across many products. Cameras with price differences of hundreds of dollars will have the same sensor. Remember, in the film days, all cameras used the same sensor (the film), so the low-end $250 camera could take the same quality pictures as the $1000+ pro body, the only difference was features. It worked then, no reason to think it wouldn't work now. At any given time I expect the lineup to look roughly like this:

  • Pro: FX high megapixel sensor
  • Pro: FX low megapixel sensor
  • Prosumer: high MP DX
  • Advanced Amateur: same sensor as prosumer
  • Amateur: at the high end, same sensor as prosumer, at the low end, an older generation, slightly lower MP sensor
You could easily have 5 different bodies targeted at different market segments and only have two sensors different sensors. Of course, since Nikon doesn't refresh all the cameras at the same time, you will see the new sensors come in on the prosumer line and trickle down over the course of a year or two to the other segments.

Megapixel predictions

As the number of megapixels goes up, they noise goes up (given a similar generation process, new generations often are slightly better for the same number of megapixels). The value of each pixel goes down too. going from 6MP to 8MP is a one third increase in the number of pixels, but the increase in the printable image you get goes up much more slowly. A 6MP camera is 3000x2000 pixels, at 300dpi you can print it at a size of 10x6.7 inches, an 8MP camera is 3456x2304, at 300dpi you get 11.5x7.7 inches. That's it, only an inch and a half wider. As the megapixels go up, the increase is even less impressive. A 12MP camera has 4288x2848 pixels, the Pentax K20 has 14.5 MP which gives it a resolution of 4672x3104. That is only 384 pixels wider, or about an inch and a quarter at 300dpi.

This won't stop them from slowly increasing the MP and people getting excited. I expect on the DX front that they will increase the number of MP by 2 or 2.5 MP every other year.

Model number predictions.

Nikon is running out of model numbers. for the pro line, they have DN where N is a single digit, at the D3 they still have a ways to go. The Prosumer line is DN00, again where N is a single number. At D300 they still have room there too. At the Advanced Amateur and Amateur level they are really in trouble. They have already used the D40, D50, D60, D70, and D80. Most people expect the D90 to come out this year. The D50, and D70 aren't available anymore, and the D80 is on the way out. They could come out with a new low-end model and call it the D30, but they really need to either change their numbering scheme or stop giving them a new number every time they bring out a new camera.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lean Cuisine: Deep Dish margharita pizza

Part of Stouffer's Lean Cusine casual eating classics menu. A single serving pizza with chunky tomatoes, garlic, basil, and tomato sauce with extra virgin olive oil. Pizza usually has lots of cheese, thus, lots of fat. Doing pizza the low-fat way is tough. If you look at the picture on the box, the pizza shows lots of cheese. That is deceptive, there isn't very much cheese on the pizza, and what cheese there was, wasn't evenly spread out. There is lots of crust (it is deep dish afterall) a reasonable amount of tomato sauce and diced tomatos, aand a little bit of cheese. The box said to put it in for 2:30 to 3:30, but for an extra crispy crust, put it in for an extra 30 seconds. I like crispy, so I cooked it for 3:30, which ended up drying the crust out (but it was crispy) I probably should have cooked it a little less. (lesson learned). The pizza itself was decent, you wouldn't confuse it for pizza parlor pizza, or even pizza delivery, it still has lots of calories for what you get, with a 25% coming from fat. If you really crave pizza, this could fit the bill, but I wouldn't make it part of my regular menu. (320 calories; 9g fat; 48g carbs; 14g protein; 23% sodium; 6 weight watchers points)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mauna Loa: Maui Onion and Garlic Macadamias

Macadamia nuts coated with a garlic and onion seasoning. I like macadamia nuts, however, they have a fairly subtle flavor that is easily overwhelmed by whatever they are paired with. Garlic and onion can both be strong, so I was worried that I wouldn't be able to taste the Macadamias at all. Suprisingly, they the garlic and onion doesn't quite overwhelm the macadamia taste. I can't decide if I like them or not, but I do know that I like the unflavored macadamia nuts better. If you really like garlic or just want to try something unique, then give these a shot, otherwise, I would stay with normal macadamia nuts. (200 calories; 4g carb; 2g protein; 7% sodium; per quarter cup serving [28g])

Monday, January 7, 2008

Lean Cuisine: Grilled chicken caesar

One of Stouffer's Lean Cuisine cafe classics bowl. Grilled white meat chicken with broccoli and garlic flavored radiatore pasta in a parmesan-ceasar sauce. Different than most because it comes in a bowl, not a tray, but it cooks like any other tv dinner. The chicken is good, tender and very chickeny. The sauce complements but doesn't overpower it. The pasta was right to the edge of overcooked, but wasn't. Again, the light sauce goes well with it. Broccoli came out crisp, not overdone or soggy. All the part came together well. Overall, a nice microwave meal. (240 calories; 7g fat; 25g carbs; 18g protein 29% sodium)