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Illinois State Fair Follies and Fun

by Brandon August 21, 2010 03:26 PM

StateFairThumbnailAugust means Illinois State Fair time in Springfield. Since moving here in 2002, I've been to the state fair almost every year. While wading through the deep-fried foods, barnyard animals and people of all shapes and sizes, I occasionally see something that peaks my interest for the strange, unusual, silly or outright ridiculous. Like last year, this year was no exception. This year was even better. I found an amateur photographer's dream. [more]

This year, I attended the Twilight Parade. This is a parade that occurs on the opening day of the state fair each year. After all these years of fried foods on a stick, this would be my first Twilight Parade. I lugged my camera to a nice spot on North 11th Street to take in all the great parade action.

Like any parade, the Twilight Parade was full of floats and marchers from many groups and organizations. You can see the rest of my photos from the parade at the end of this post. I want to use this opportunity, however, to tell you about a little parade gem a nice horse left for some unsuspecting parade walker and how I, as an amateur photographer, saw an opportunity for some great photos.

Yes, I'm talking about horse poop. Where I'm from, horses are a staple part of any parade. This parade, however,976956015_RmccV-S[4] only had one group on horseback. Not only was the horse-riding representation at this event low, the position of this lot in the parade lineup was not considered. Clearly, no one thought of the implications of featuring horses, sans poo baggies or cleanup crew, in the middle of a parade. Sure enough, right as this horse riding pack was passing by my location, nature took its course for one of the featured steeds.

I've learned that one of the key pieces to being a successful photographer is the ability to see a photographic opportunity that others may simply overlook, or, in this case, run away from. Another, almost equally important quality, separating a good photographer from a person who points, shoots and moves, is having patience. I knew that eventually some unfortunate parade walker, taken in by all the fame and glory of participating in the Twilight Parade, would be completely ignorant of the danger awaiting them upon their path. At that point, my job became clear. I would observe and wait for the perfect photo-op.

Sure enough, after waiting about 15 minutes, the poor sucker below came strolling along. It wasn't clear if he was officially with the parade or just some dude who wanted to join in on the fun. Either way, he was in for more than he expected. I put together the montage below to illustrate what happened. Click it to view in all its glory.

How to avoid parade poo

To this guy's credit, I don't think a less agile person would have been able to pull off what he did. While he didn't escape completely poo-free, the consequences could have been far greater for a person not quite so able-bodied.

While inside the fairgrounds, I encountered a few other photo opportunities. The two photos below exemplify some of my peeves with the state fair: golf carts and disregard for the rules.

Senior ShuttleYesParking

Maybe these girls are seniors in high school? Golf carts wheeling around perfectly able people really aren't an uncommon sight at the state fair. It bugs me that people who really need this assistance aren't getting it. The moto above speaks for itself.

Don't let my griping spoil your state fair enthusiasm! Going to the fair can be a fun experience, filled with opportunities for exotic foods, unique shows and other events that make you think, "I had no idea that was a hobby." The gallery link below features pictures from the Twilight Parade and other days at the fair. Enjoy!

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Entertainment | LOL | Photography | Springfield

Prey for your lost laptop

by Brandon August 10, 2010 11:12 PM

Having recently purchased a laptop of my very own, I began to wonder what would happen if my Precious was lost or stolen. What would I do? There are commercial applications available, such as LoJack and others, that provide services to locate and recover your missing hardware. Some of these services even come with a money-back guarantee. Even with all these assurances, I still believe that any half-computer-savvy thief could easily get around a barrier like this. Regardless, looking into this type of application has been on my to-do list anyway, just to see what is out there.

A few days ago, I was catching up on episodes of Hak5 when they showcased the Prey Project. Prey is an open-source, free laptop recovery system. I'd tell you all about it, but just check out the Hak5 episode below.

I installed Prey on my MacBook Pro in just a few minutes. Installation was easy. I chose the control panel mode and created a new account from within the installer. After Prey was "running" (you get no visual indicators, icons, etc. which is what you want) I went to the control panel site and enabled the Alert feature under Action Modules. The message displayed as promised twenty minutes later.

Portable computer recovery software such as Prey, and others, is limited, however, and can only assist you if conditions are ideal. Those conditions include the computer being powered on and able to connect to the Internet. Prey will search for available wireless connections, but you'd better hope an open WiFi access point is nearby if your computer is locked via a password. If you don't have a password (and you really should) the thief will probably take care of establishing a network connection for you. If the thief is experienced with computers, however, chances of software such as Prey being successful is even more limited. An experienced person would probably keep your computer powered off and remove the hard drive after the deed is done. It's a good thing there are a lot of dumb criminals out there.

I plan to stick with Prey and hope that I never need to use it for its intended purpose. If you have a portable computer, give Prey a try. It's better than nothing at all, right?! If you choose the Control Panel tracking method you get to register up to three computers.

Let me know if you've used Prey or any similar services. Did you lose a laptop and activate the service? Did you get it back?

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Computers