500D and EF-S 18-200mm Lens

Canon’s XXXD line of DSLRs is probably its most popular. Consistently it has offered superb value, producing high quality and high impact images despite being an entry level line. Several years back I got the chance to play around a friend’s 350D, which inspired me to buy my first DSLR, the 400D. I was so happy with my 400D, and it had served my photography needs very well. I’ve also gotten my hands on my brother-in-law’s 450D, albeit for just a few minutes. However, Canon’s latest 500D remains a stranger to me.

My wife’s nephew used a 500D and EF-S 18-200mm IS USM at my wedding last year. He was no pro photographer, just a regular bloke who cared about capturing good memories. It was only recently that he was able to give me copies of his photos, and I must say I was impressed at the results:

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It was overcast on our wedding day, and there was a frosted glass canopy about 3 stories high of the facade of the chapel. This provided a very natural and subdued lighting. The photos above were taken at full 15MP resolution and ISO1600. As you can see, high ISO noise is essentially nullified when the image size is reduced. The photos were also taken between 70mm-90mm (35mm equivalent at 112-144mm). Shooting at this telephoto range produces beautiful backgrounds that are compressed and with a subtle yet satisfying bokeh. Kinda makes me want to invest in a telephoto lens.

Using the photos above to judge on, I’d have to say I’m impressed with the 500D (and the EF-S 18-200mm lens). That camera is capable of producing pro-quality images regardless of who is holding it. Considering on getting a 500D? I hope the photos above have convinced you more.

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Note: This blog serves 3 purposes — a micro review, to say thanks to Vincent for such beautiful photos, and to just pay tribute to my lovely wife from whom I have full support with my blog writing. ūüôā

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The Fort After Dark

The Fort has somehow become my second home, and yet the place never fails to bewitch me. It’s beautiful day and night, with just the right amount of skyscrapers that do not block the sun and traffic that does not pollute. I know that this beauty might not last for long, and so I decided to capture The Fort by night in photos.

I walked around Rizal Drive, DSLR in hand, and making the most of the cool January evening air. This was also a good chance for me to test my camera’s low light prowess (and limitations).

Deutsch Bank Building

Net Square Building

Rizal Drive

Rizal Drive cor. 29th St.

Rizal Drive going to St. Luke's Hospital

Street Sign

I decided to shoot in RAW for post processing flexibility and details, but RAW images tend to be noisier than jpegs, and even noisier in low light and long exposures. I tried to keep the noise controlled by pegging the ISO at 400, but the grains are still evident when viewed at 100%. Noise shouldn’t be an issue if the photos are to be resized for web as you can see (or not see) in the photos above.

Overall, I was impressed by the 50D’s performance in low light, except for the noise, which the D300 could probably do better. The EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 lens did a great job too, mainly for staying sharp wide open. The lens also kept chromatic aberrations at bay: if you would look closely at the building “Deutsch Bank” and “Net One” signs, there is almost no aberrations.

BMWs Ain’t All That

Last night, I was chugging my way home on my wife’s Hyundai Getz CRDi when a BMW E30 325i harassed me by quickly tailing my ass and overtaking on a tight side street and cutting me. The Bimmer’s arrogance quickly got to my nerves. Somehow, in a split second, I decided that I can kick its ass, even on a Getz. We were about to merge to EDSA and it was my chance to find out.

I knew the driver was going to gun the throttle as soon as he entered the highway, so I let him go first. But I also floored it a heartbeat after. The Bimmer’s exhaust roared as I tailed it. To my surprise, my Getz accelerated almost as fast as the E30 did! I was behind him by about 10 meters, nothing more, and this was considering that I let him go first. The chase was short, and we had to brake after 400-500 meters or so as there was congested traffic up ahead.

The quick dogfight was quite embarrassing, as the Getz was bellowing thick black smoke all the way, and let off a long, noisy screech as I hit the brakes (and almost lost control, no thanks to the absence of ABS). ¬†Still the experience put a grin on my face. I wasn’t able to pass the BMW, but it couldn’t shake me off either. The driver of the E30 was probably scratching his head. How could a lowly Getz tail me like that? He may have had the notion that my Getz was the 1.1 gas variant. What would happen if it were an open stretch of road? I really can’t say. But it sure felt like I had a fighting chance.

I could come up with a thousand and one speculations on why the “race” turned out the way it did. The BMW seemed to look stock (no performance modifications). Could it be because the BMW had a much older, worn and tired engine? Could it be a “lesser” Bimmer, guised under the 325i badge? Power-to-weight ratio and torque advantage of the Getz Diesel? Yes, the Getz did have some advantage over the old BMW, see specs comparison below.

Whatever the case, I drove home with the thinking that BMW’s ain’t all that, and inversely, the Getz can be all that given the proper circumstances. That’s a case of Initial D underdog thinking for ya.

The Specs

Getz CRDi: power = 110 hp; torque = 175 lb ft; curb weight = 1112 kg.

BMW E30 325i: power = 171 bhp; torque 166 lb ft; curb weight = 1190 kg

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Note: I used to drive a second had BMW E36 325i several years back. It already had much mileage (about 120,000 kms) and I’m assuming it wasn’t cared for very well by its previous owner. That E36 felt like it had punchy acceleration, even for an automatic. But truth is, in an E36, I lost to a dogfight versus a stock 1.6 Toyota Corolla Altis. That was when I realized that old BMW’s aren’t worth much, especially if they aren’t kept in top shape. This mindset was probably why I had the crazy notion to take on the E30 last night.

Subaru Touch-Up Paint Review

It’s a well known fact that forum sites are great repositories of knowledge, specially if you’re looking for niche or very specific information. If you have a car and would like to learn more about it, go join (or lurk) in a car forum. Better yet, don’t just go to any general car forum, but to a forum specific to your car’s make or model.

It was in a forum where I discovered where to source a touch-up paint for my car. Although I don’t have any scratches or chips on my car’s paint job yet, I anticipate that it will get some over time. Being a motorist for over a decade, I have had my share of paint chips and scratches with my previous cars, and I usually let them be because touch-up paints with the exact color match is hard to find. That is why, when someone from the forum offered to have them sourced from the U.S. and shipped to Manila, I didn’t pass up on the chance.

My touch-up paint is an original from the U.S. dealership, that is why I know I’m getting a good product. It’s very innovative, as it offers two ways on how to apply the paint: via traditional brush, and the more innovative roller ball tip.

Touch-up paint showing the ball point pen applicator.

My Subie does have two small paint chip dots on the hood which I got from driving behind a truck whose rear tires were spewing pebbles. My chance to try out the paint. Because the chips were so small, I decided to use the ball point applicator. Pressing the roller ball tip on a surface causes a small amount of paint to ooze out, so I pressed the tip on the chip. In doing this, one must be careful of applying too much paint that it will lump over the chip. I was able to cover the chip with paint, and the results were satisfactory. I wasn’t able to make the chips disappear completely, but at least the chips’ tiny craters were now painted over, instead of being black (and obvious) dots. The “pen” applicator is nifty–I couldn’t imagine retouching the chips using a brush. Although the brush would still have its purpose: for long and/or big scratches and chips which I hope I wouldn’t have.

For 580 pesos, my touch-up paint is an affordable insurance for spot repairs of paint blemishes.

Truvia Natural Sweetener

I use artificial sweetener whenever I can. I try to avoid unnecessary sugar and calories whenever I have the option to leave it out, such as in my coffee or whenever I feel like drinking a cola. I want to keep my sugar intake in moderation because I know that in other prepared food such as pastries, the sugar simply cannot be taken out.

I have grown accustomed to the taste and the use of Equal, Splenda, Pal Sweet and the like. I’m aware that these are artificial, and could possibly be doing my body some harm. But I also am very sure that I do my body a favor by keeping it away from too much sugar and calories.

Recently I discovered another brand of sweetener called Truvia, and was able to obtain a box of 40 sachets.

My box of Truvia artificial sweetener

Truvia is said to be a natural sweetener as opposed to being an artificial sweetener. It is sourced from boiling Stevia leaves and is calorie free. It is now what I take with my morning coffee (for the next forty or so days, that is). It’s FDA approved, so I don’t have to worry about side effects. Besides, what would ingesting 40 sachets do to me? I’m not sure if Truvia is available in Manila already so my box of Truvia may well be my first and last.

Physical Appearance

My initial observation is that a sachet contains more, and bigger granules than Equal. While an Equal (or a Splenda) sachet contains about half a teaspoon of fine powdery substance, a Truvia sachet contains about a full teaspoon of crystalline and sugar like (yes!) granules. Somehow Truvia’s apperance gave me an impression that it is a safe product, because it looks like real sugar.

A Truvia sachet. Notice how it seems more "filled" than an Equal/Splenda sachet.

Taste

A cup (about 240ml) of home brewed coffee–Starbucks or similar–is always a part of my breakfast. It is essential to kick start any given day. To my taste, a sachet of Splenda or Equal, is enough to give my coffee just the right amount of sweetness. So when I tried the Truvia, I also added just one sachet with my morning brew. My initial observation is that a sachet of Truvia is less sweet than a sachet of Splenda or Equal. The difference is not that much, but enough to be noticed. This is interesting, the fact that a sachet of Truvia contains more “powder” than a sachet of Equal/Splenda.

The good thing is that, for me, the Truvia didn’t have any perceivable aftertaste,¬† and is the closest thing to real sugar. And the slightly weaker sweetness is actually to my preference, as I like my coffee to be a bit on the bitter side. You’d have to agree that too much sweetness kills the flavor of the coffee.

Truvia is indeed a pleasantly sweet discovery.

On Facebook Status Updates

I set my Facebook homepage to Status Updates only, and every time I load the page, I get a rich, colorful palette of status messages. If my Status Updates hompage¬† were a painting, it would look compare to a surreal Picasso. I’m saying this because I am amazed and amused at the diversity that I read on the screen. Indeed, there’s an infinite variety of people in this world. Each with their own background, and with something to say.

I acknowledge that Facebook is a public domain, and that I choose whom to add as friends. So I shouldn’t be complaining right? Uhm, I’d have to warn you that this blog is one huge rant. I just hope the readers of this blog take it constructively, and all for the greater good of making FB a better place.

While I acknowledge the diversity of the people and their status messages in Facebook, I also believe that there are similarities in how or what people post, and that the similarities can be used to  group or classify major types of Facebook status posters.

That said, here’s my first attempt at classifying Facebook status posters.

The 12 Types of Facebook Status Posters

1. Confucious Reincarnated – This type loves posting quotable quotes, proverbs and wise sayings. They probably want to awe the world by projecting an image that they are immensely deep, profound, intelligent, and a person of substance. Truth is, they may just be Google-ing¬† “quotable quotes” and being handy with the cut and paste tool.

2. The Food Twitters – This kind habitually posts everything that goes in their stomachs. Had this for breakfast, ate that for lunch, going there for dinner. Frankly my dear, we don’t give a damn.

3. The Human GPS device – Close relative of #2, except that this variety uploads all about where they’re at, where they’ve been and where they’re going, even if its just from their houses to 7-11 and back.

4. Mr. Mysterious – This species has a guilty pleasure of posting cliffhangers and incomplete phrases, with the hope of harvesting a lot of comments, mainly inquiries and requests for an explanation. Clearly this species like the attention. A typical post would go something like: “getting there…” or “waiting for it to come” or simply “…”

5. The Optimists – My personal favorite. Nothing like seeing rays of sunshine every time you log in at FB.

6. The Pessimists – Posts nothing but trials, tribulations, challenges and despair. They ought to hang out with The Optimists more often.

7. The Txt Spk Gurls – Unknown to many, netiquette discourages text speak. I don’t know why text speakers choose to be that way, and why they fail to realize that text speak immediately tags a person as someone from the bottom end demographic.

8. The Jet Setters – This breed knowingly or unknowingly brags about their travels. It’s my personal pet peeve and it really makes me scratch my head. Why broadcast that you’ve been around? No wonder they love going around the world, they’re worldly b**ches!

9. The Extroverts – A virtual life of the party. This bubbly kind loves to meet and greet. If you have such friends on FB, prepare yourself for a daily dose of “Good morning world!” and “Hello to everyone, I’m still alive!” type of useless FB spam.

10. Mr. In-the-Know – This breed basically just posts what they have seen on CNN which everybody knows already anyway. This type was the first to post that MJ died, or that Tiger Woods is caught up in a scandal. You’re into current events eh? So is everybody else, you dork!

11. The Misunderstood – This species has close DNA with Mr. Mysterious. But while Mr. Mysterious intentionally wants to arouse inquiry (and attention) from peers, The Misunderstood simply has the wrong notion that everyone can read their brains or between the lines of their posts.

12. The Flatulent Brain – Probably the worst of all classifications. They are basically a combination of all the other classifications. This kind doesn’t filter what comes out of their brains and goes ahead to type it online!

So what am I trying to say with these classifications? Well, to each his own really. I personally keep my status updates to a minimum, and this is to keep my privacy and to avoid being misunderstood. I often have a lot of things in my head, and the Internet is my great temptation to broadcast it. Let’s face it, the reward of positive comments and “like” clicks is addicting. But believe it or not, out of the dozens of mental Post-It drafts of status updates that I get to think of in a day, only about 1% make it online. While I am very opinionated here at The Geek Lounge (where I have semi-anonymity), I’m very prudent of what I state on social networking sites. I strongly believe that what you say can and will be used against you, sometimes even in ways you can’t imagine.

Here’s my all-encompassing guideline on how to post a Facebook status update:¬† before posting, imagine as if you are in a podium, about to speak in front of a huge audience from all walks of life and from all over the world. Imagine that it took some considerable effort for these people to drop by and listen to what you have to say. Then, imagine that you can only speak a few phrases or sentences. Is what you are about to say worthwhile to all the people listening?

50’s Diner, Baguio City

I visited Baguio last week to get my cold climate fix. For me, the best time to visit Baguio is in January, when the place is at its coldest. At that time of the year expect 15-20 Celcius, almost like the West Coast in Spring.

One of the highlights of my visit to the Summer Capital is my discovery of 50’s Diner on upper Gen. Luna Road, corner Brent Road. I noticed the place is packed especially at night, and people even wait to be seated. Curious, I tried it out.

The ambience tries to be a 50’s diner, complete with neon, 50’s movie posters, a broken jukebox and waitresses dressed like sailors. But it is far from high end. A local Johnny Rockets it ain’t. It’s not even a Gram’s Diner equivalent, but somehow one is able to forgive the mediocre aesthetics.

Facade of 50's Diner, Gen. Luna St, Baguio City

A look at the menu will disorient you. The Diner usuals (i.e. burgers, milkshakes and fries) only make up a third of the place’s offerings. There were a lot of non-diner food available as well, including pizza, pasta and viand-and-rice combinations. A slight case of identity crisis here.

Another thing to notice is the prices of the food. They were cheap, and I mean really really cheap. A cheeseburger is priced at 50 Pesos and the average price of the food items is about 80-120 Pesos! One can budget about 150-200 Pesos here for an entree and smoothie and leave the place bloated and happy. You wouldn’t spend more at 50’s Diner than you would at Jolibee! Good prices is probably the owner’s business strategy, and could be one of the reasons why the place is always packed. Maybe they can keep the prices reasonable because they have no air-conditioning (typical of Baguio restos). That can really cut down operational costs.

Just for fun, I ordered the most expensive item: the “Mix Grill.” What I got was this:

The Mix Grill

The monster platter that you see above is a mix of grilled chicken, pork chop, and jumbo hotdog, along with minute steak, home cut fries, and buttered veggies. ¬†Believe it or not it’s only Php 180! At this price one would typically expect small portions, but the Mix Grill was a belly buster. The best part is that it tastes great! My favorite bits were the tender minute steak and the greasy fries.

If you’re visting Baguio, I’d recommend paying 50’s Diner a visit. Expect a heavy crowd, specially at lunch and dinner. Most likely you will wait to be seated, but in my opinion it’s worth the wait. Try to be early if you can, around 11am for lunch or 6pm for dinner, to avoid the hassle. The best way to get there is on a cab, as I’m pretty sure the cab drivers know the place. It would save you time looking for it and would free you of parking hassles, as parking space is very limited.

Just to be realistic and fair, do not expect T.G.I.Friday’s caliber of food. But I assure you of a tasty, hearty and satisfying meal at a great value. What’s more, 50’s Diner is a “Baguio only” experience and surely beats going to SM Baguio and dining at tired and boring “Manila usual” restaurants.