Category Archives: Travel

Microsoft made something cool: Photosynth

I’ve heard the new Windows phone is awesome, too, but haven’t had a chance to play with it yet.

At first, it seemed strange to me that Photosynth, an incredible and free panorama-snapping iOS app, was developed by Microsoft. But then I began uploading my panoramas to Photosynth.net and happily agreed to share my panoramas on Bing Maps, as well, and I quickly realized that Microsoft did, in fact, have self interest in this endeavor. They’re populating Bing Maps with great 180-360 degree panoramas of famous and beautiful places.


The view from the top of Parque das Ruinas, in Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro.

Google added this element to Google Maps years ago when it purchased Panoramio in 2007, but like many Google-acquired start-ups, the service has sort of languished ever since (relative to modern efforts). It’s a good sign for Google Maps that Panoramio photos are no longer a primary feature, but not much has changed about Panoramio itself. There’s a neat API, at least, and a great collection of geo-tagged photos, but Google should probably introduce a competing app to rejuvenate submissions.


El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a former theatre in Buenos Aires, was spared destruction and given new life as the flagship bookstore of El Ateneo.

Anyway, Photosynth is awesome enough to make me re-install Silverlight and dust off my Windows Live (Hotmail) ID. Even though I took panoramas all over South America without 3G or Wifi access, when I went to upload them tonight, the photos’ metadata quickly brought up a list of nearby places to choose from. It was amazing how easy it was to assign each photo to a destination I am now 8,000 miles away from, without even consulting a map.


The Panama City, Panama skyline as seen from the harbor.

I’ve been through every iteration of panoramas in the last 20 years, with varying degrees of pain:

1997: I excitedly purchase a Kodak Advanced Photo System camera for its simple panoramic mode. My parents graciously pay a premium each time get my wide aspect ratio memories developed.
2002: My first Canon Digital Elph doesn’t have a panoramic mode, but I use clunky software programs to digitally stitch and assemble panoramas. The overlapping edges don’t look great.
2004: My next Canon point and shoot has a panoramic mode included in the firm/hardware, which consists of holding your elbows as steady as you can while rotating your torso enough to achieve a 30% overlap. The bundled panorama utility software stitches them together. Again, results are not great.
2005: I see that my friend in Leeds, England simply prints 4x6s and manually arranges them on her wall, as people have done for 150 years. I’m a little depressed how superior the analog treatment is.
2011: Microsoft releases the Photosynth app. It’s simple to use and is yet another smartphone app that makes the iPhone a justifiable replacement for actual cameras with far higher quality components.


Experimenting with a macro shot of my cafe carioca.

Oh yeah, I have a blog..

Three things I’ve been up to lately:

1. Watching every minute of the playoffs (and yet somehow missing Manny’s walk-off). In the meantime, I’ve come across a pretty solid directory of Red Sox- and Patriots-friendly bars in DC:

Red Sox bars (most pretty Pats-friendly too, especially Irish Times)

Pour House, 319 Pennsylvania Avenue SE Washington DC http://www.pourhouse-dc.com

Kelly’s Irish Times, 14 F St. NW, Washington, DC (Union Station Metro) (and Kelly is single on MySpace)

The Rhino Bar and Pumphouse, 3295 M St. NW (Georgetown hates the Metro) http://www.rhinobardc.com

Patriots bars:

Murphy’s Irish Pub, 713 King St Alexandria (King St. Metro) http://www.murphyspub.com/ (if you want your Brady jersey to smell like smoke)

2. Seeing Into the Wild and Tick..Tick…Boom!, a movie and a play, both of which make you want to go live on a lake somewhere.

(original soundtrack by Eddie Vedder…I like this video better than the trailer)

3. Hosting a monthly NetSquared DC Meetup in Adams Morgan. We bring together “social changemakers and technological forerunners” to meet and crowdsource a featured nonprofit’s online strategy. We affectionately call this “Pimp My Nonprofit”.

 

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who knew there were Photoshop tutorials on copying the “Pimp My Ride” logo?

…and generally exploring DC to my heart’s content. Except this weekend I’ll be home in Boston with Meghan for the Head of the Charles Regatta, which I’ve somehow never been to, and, as long as Beckett continues carrying the Sox, some hometown ALCS action.

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the glorified rowboats that lure countless undergrads to Boston

Make Way for Ridiculous

cross-posted from EchoDitto.com:

I wasn’t sure how New Yorkers were going to react to 50+ costumed bicyclists navigating weekend traffic in Manhattan, but it turns out that New York has a good sense of humor. Children looked on in awe, traffic cops smiled and waved us through intersections, and even when we inevitably drifted out of our lane, the people in cars were concerned about only one thing: What the heck were we?

The suits we wore were intentionally amorphous, but that didn’t stop people from hazarding guesses and in the process, projecting a little bit of their own personality in a sort of fast-moving Rorschach test. The safe-for-work category of guesses included bunnies, marshmallows, angels, and teeth (a guerilla marketing campaign by Colgate, perhaps?).

The majesty of the Aeolian Ride through Brooklyn and over the Williamsburg Bridge was tempered only by the fact that my neck was serving as masthead for what was essentially a sail. My chiropractor and spin instructor would have been appalled by my form, but it was still an unforgettable experience in mob art.

The ride ended at the beginning of the Deitch Art Parade, where we barely stood out at all. We got to lead the parade and then spent the remainder of the time riding in circles around some truly enduring hoola hoopers.

More photos of the ride and parade.

Riders in a Swarm

Harish has given me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to ride a bike through Brooklyn and Manhattan in a wind-inflated bunny suit with 51 others in a similarly ridiculous state of dress. The Aeolian Ride:

INSPIRED BY A LOVE FOR BIKES, CITY CRUISING, CRITICAL MASS, COSTUMES, SILLYNESS + THINGS THAT INFLATE, I DECIDED TO MAKE A FREE, MASS PARTICIPATORY EVENT WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR. IT EXCITES THOSE RIDING AS WELL AS DELIGHTS THOSE WATCHING, ALL THE WHILE TRANSFORMING THE LANDSCAPE INTO A PLAYGROUND OF WINDFILLED SHAPES.

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Now in its third year, the ride begins in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn and ends in SoHo at the beginning of the Deitch Art Parade, where we will meet up with people far freakier than costumed cyclists. Needless to say, there will be pictures. I didn’t want to run for office anyway.And for anyone looking to make the DC<->NY journey on the cheap, I’ve found a bus line that’s $5 more than Fung Wah but includes wireless Internet, a bottle of water, a reserved seat (!), and probably fewer explosions: DC2NY.com.

Give America the Real Cadbury

Last night I got into a discussion with some friends about the benefits of living abroad, even for a short period of time, compared to an otherwise homogeneous American experience. The conversation followed a predictable path, and my experiences in downtown London didn’t exactly trigger life-changing culture shock, but it was well-timed given this morning’s top emailed New York Time piece on The World’s Best Candy Bars.

Babel it isn’t, but there are plenty of good nuggets in this article. I never get cavities, but eating a Cadbury’s every time I rode the Tube sent me home to a painful dental visit (I suppose the cider may have also had something to do with it). It was worth it though. I’ve been in love with the Crunchie since my friend came home with them from Ireland in third grade:

With its crisp honeycomb interior, it’s what a Butterfinger might be if it went to finishing school and married up.

There are a lot of things you miss about America when you go to Europe. Water pressure and peanut butter come quickly to mind. But the selection, price, and quality of candy bars in the UK easily surpasses our crop, even if they only sell Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in ex-pat shops.

cadburyontube.jpg And when I got home, I soon realized that buying the overpriced Cadbury bar from the grocery store wasn’t going to do it: Hershey just licensed the name to charge a premium on their bland attempt at chocolate.

Mr. Smart, who has lived in the United States for 25 years, learned early on in his life here that British and American chocolate bars are different, even if they share a name and a look.

“One day I was eating a bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk and I thought, this has absolutely no flavor,” he said. “I looked at the label and saw it was made by Hershey. I was outraged.”

They’re cheap, too. You would think American candy companies would have realized the competitive advantages of subsidizing candy bars by now. I’m generally a pretty nutritionally-minded eater, but I felt nothing but awe when my friend bought 100 (British) Milky Ways for 17 pounds.

Anyway, if you find yourself in the UK or Ireland any time soon, I’ll pay you back the 50p.

Although I’ll probably crack and order some here.

Deep Creek

In the spirit of sucking life dry, I’m heading to Deep Creek Lake for the weekend. I didn’t even have to unpack my suit!

For some reason, one of the first things I knew about the state of Maryland was that it has no natural lakes. As Katie points out, it has puddles, creeks, rivers, bays, ocean…just no natural lakes. Can’t trust a state without a lake, can you?

Deep Creek Lake was created by an electricity company many years ago and purchased by the state of Maryland in 2000. They list a number of outdoor recreational activities but I think my priority is going to be SCUBA diving and trying to find some sunken electrical equipment.

Green Mountains, Boys

I’m in Burlington, Vermont for the next couple of days. Despite growing up a few hours away, I’ve never been to Vermont. In 7th grade I had to plan a week vacation in the state for social studies class and all I could come up with was a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s Factory followed by helicopter tours of the landscape.

For some reason, packing for the trip and flying here made me feel like I was going to another country. Maybe it’s because Vermont was the last to join of the original 13 colonies and still talks of seceding. Either way, I’m really looking forward to exploring Burlington and meeting with some amazing people along the way.

This completely pointless post brought to you by the wonderful folks at Burlington Airport who believe in free WiFi.

Read about the Green Mountain Boys.

 

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