Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam
March 11-14, 2012
Temp: 13-19°C

The first stop on our dance-fueled tour of South-East Asia was Hanoi, Vietnam. There was no dancing, but there were friends and relaxing, which was exactly what we needed.

We stepped off the plane and realized very quickly that we should have checked the weather report before packing our carry-on bags. Luckily, we had each packed a pair of jeans and a light sweater, though that almost didn’t happen since we were coming from a very hot and dry stint (mid to high 30s) in Kanchanaburi.

After getting through Vietnamese Passport Control, we were welcomed by our hosts, Dan and Michelle. While I had met them once before, quite a while ago, I didn’t really know who they were when we landed. That changed quickly, as the entire four days we spent with them were like days spent with good friends.

Our view in Hanoi.

After relaxing and being introduced to Avatar: The Last Airbender, we saw a bit of the town, took in a tourist attraction or two, and took a few photos. Some activity-specific posts will come in time, but here I wanted to show an overview of our time in Hanoi.

The places we’ve been in South East Asia all have their similarities in architecture (among other things), but Vietnam is the place where the narrow building was king — even in establishments where you wouldn’t expect them to settle with a narrow plot of land.

A single-wide hotel in Hanoi.

Yes, it does look like this hotel only has one room per floor. And yes, this was a common sight with businesses and homes in Vietnam. They likely had more rooms in the back, but nothing like the hotels we were used to seeing in Bangkok — let alone Canada.

There were some attractions that were easier to discover than others, and this one kind of snuck up on us as we were walking along the lake in the touristy area of Hanoi:

Beside the naga bush was a symbol of Vietnam’s place in the world. Or, at least an artist’s rendition of Vietnam’s place in the world.

Sometimes the best scenes unfold around you when you least expect it. We were walking along, on the way to some delicious Papa Roti, when a wall of balloons appeared in the road ahead. It was one of those times I was very happy to have my camera at hand.

And finally, a visit to the lake temple wouldn’t be complete without some serious pondering, courtesy of Kelly.

Our time in Hanoi was short, but it was just what we needed after the last few months and weeks of being on the go in Thailand and before the next few weeks of dancing and being on the go in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Pentax K-x memory card problem: solution update

I’ve long since fixed the memory card problem I was having five months ago with my new Pentax K-x, but I just realized I hadn’t updated the saga on here.

I left it in Part 2 with a possible solution and a new approach to memory card management. It’s been working fine since updating the firmware and formatting the card in-camera a few times. Since then I’ve relaxed my proposed approach without any problems. Specifically:

  • I have plugged the SD card directly into my computer’s card reader for importing, and this has not been a problem;
  • I have deleted individual photos in-camera without problems;
  • I have deleted all photos in-camera through the “Delete All Photos” menu option without problems.

So, really, it looks like it was a firmware update that did it. Update the firmware in your cameras, kids. And format your memory cards in-camera before using them.

I’ve taken thousands of photos on that card since fixing the problem, so it’s definitely working as it should.

exercises in missing the point

Power & Politics podcast from February 17, 2012

It was disappointing how neither the host nor the NDP MP saw (or, at least acknowledged) the political and satirical value of the Vikileaks30 account. Yes, it was personal information. Yes it was so-called “private” information. Yes, its publication was unwanted. That’s the point.

I did enjoy the general tone of the conversation, though.

G.I. Jay-Z

Ninjas ninjas everywhere!

I don’t know the story of the first G.I. Joe movie (outside of what the trailer told me), but it looks like they’re bringing the second one around the what made the comics so awesome in the early-to-mid-90s. Ninjas! Action! Excitement! Ninjas! Snake-Eyes! Snake-Eyes being awesome! Jinx. Red ninjas! Yellow ninjas? Snake-Eyes! Tommy! Tommy vs. Snake-Eyes (though not as much a mid-90s thing)! Scarlett!

See the ninjas for yourself!

What you see above is an example of why they’re bringing back all the 80s and 90s franchises in movies. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

I haven’t seen the fist G.I. Joe movie yet, but that teaser and this trailer for the second one are bumping it to the top of my “watch the comic-based movies of the past decade” list.

One thing that just struck me, though: my impression from the first movie’s trailer was that they by-passed making it a U.S. exercise in hyper-violent patriotism by making it a European or NATO-based team (not quite sure which, but that was the impression I got). The second movie looks set to make it much more Real American Hero(tm).

on my inadequacies as a photographer in a technological age – likely part one in a series

If I were counting down the days until the end of my contract in Thailand, the numbers would be getting rather small. But I’m not, so who really knows?

With one month left of work, we’re looking ahead to the following two months of travel around Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. There will be scuba, swing dancing, and sights galore throughout Southeast Asia. And photos. Lots of photos.

Oddly enough, even with the advent of digital photography in my life, I haven’t been putting (m)any of my photos online for friends, family, or foreigners to see. They’re currently locked away on my hard drive, waiting to be catalogued, geo-tagged, and left alone for another chunk of months or years. That’s what happens to digital photos, right? Never developed, rarely opened, often forgot? To that end, I haven’t even been keeping up with the Photo a Week thinger I started a few months ago. That’s the kind of thing I need, though, to get in the habit of not only taking photos on regular occasions, but showing them and learning from feedback. A couple of friends are doing 365 day projects, where they take a photo each day and post it online, but I’m not even to the point where I can keep that up on a weekly schedule. Though maybe that’s a good impetus — the commitment and routine of doing it daily.
(They’re each taking a decidedly different approach to taking/posting photos every day. Steve is going more of the “make each photo a challenge” route and posting every day, while Maria is using it as a way to document her year in photos and to look back at her technical progression, and posting the results weekly. I think Maria’s route would be the best for me, considering my current skill level and increasing unwillingness to sit down at my computer every evening and while away my time online.)

So all of this was to say that I have a few thousand photos I’ve taken since October and nothing public to show for it. I’ve been playing around with some galleries and such to showcase some of my shots, have toyed with the idea of going the Tumblr route, have debated throwing things up on Flickr, but haven’t actually put any of those things together yet. It’s a weird conflict between wanting to show my photos and wanting to control and manage the things I put online in the way I want to. The problem is that if I keep going that route, I won’t ever do anything with my pictures, so in the spirit of actually doing something without having totally figured out the best and most amazingly technological and aesthetic and future-safe way of doing it, I present to you….a photo:

Photo of Christmas Tree at Central World
Outdoor Christmas tree at Central World, Bangkok (2011)

This is one of a small collection of Christmas tree photos I’ve taken in Bangkok. The collection is small, but the trees are massive. I guess they have to make up for the lack of snow.1 There was another tree inside the mall2 that was also impressivly large. Not as nice as this one at night, but impressive nonetheless.

  1. Which brings up a weird expectation about Christmas: as much as I love the movie White Christmas, our association of snow with Christmas is just as normal (or abnormal, as the case may be) as 30+ degree weather and whatever constitutes a Christmas tradition in Thailand. Normalcy (and expectation of that normalcy) is relative. 
  2. This is also the mall where I found a DC Comics store. Not a store where they sell DC comics, but a DC Comics store where they sell merchandise with DC Comics characters and words on them. Shoes, shirts, bling, etc. Alas, not a comic was to be found. 

Canada’s "Dutch Disease"

Will Oremus:

It’s well known that America’s dependence on foreign oil forces us to partner with some pretty unsavory regimes. Take, for instance, the country that provides by far the largest share of our petroleum imports. Its regime, in thrall to big oil interests, has grown increasingly bellicose, labeling environmental activists “radicals” and “terrorists” and is considering a crackdown on nonprofits that oppose its policies. It blames political dissent on the influence of “foreigners,” while steamrolling domestic opposition to oil projects bankrolled entirely by overseas investors. Meanwhile, its skyrocketing oil exports have sent the value of its currency soaring, enriching energy industry barons but crippling other sectors of its economy.

Yes, Canada is becoming a jingoistic petro-state.

He could have dialed it back at times, but overall worth reading.

The forgotten manuals

At Practically Efficient:

Understanding people—the fundamental ingredient in any personal or professional pursuit—is probably the most practical knowledge you can have. And there’s probably no better place to read detailed descriptions of people than fictional stores.

He also says a lot about reading books vs. online. The entire post (and even comments) are worth it.