Monday 18 July 2011

First Fortnight London Photographs.

Not all of them - I think I've taken around 1200 photographs so far. But just a few highlights.

Westminster Abbey.
I've visited this area twice, and well. It is *amazing*. I couldn't take photos inside, of course, but here's a few of the outside ones.

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The side of the Abbey, and St George.

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Shot of some of the stonework including buttress.

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A slightly closer shot of a buttress, amongst other things.

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Some amazing stained glass in the Cloister area.

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Some very old stonework, supporting the ceiling.

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Decorative ironwork gate leading into the Chapterhouse.

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Fountain in a secluded garden on the Abbey grounds.

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The gate into the garden.

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Across the cloister, looking at the wall of Westminster Abbey.

Of course there's lots more photos in the same album - just click on any of the photographs to go through to it.

London Museum of Transport.
This museum basically covers the history of transportation in London, especially with respect to public transport. I was pretty disappointed with my photography efforts here - I'll have to go back with more time and take better photographs.

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This is actually a kind of peepshow card set, created to advertise the under-Thames tunnel around 1843. The photo is taken looking through one of the eye holes.

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Map of trolleybus routes.

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Cigarette case with engraved tube map.

The War Rooms.
I didn't find these particularly interesting in and of themselves, and it was very low lighting throughout, making photography very challenging.

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An interesting point of detail, having the post and first aid boxes on a pillar.

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One of the more interesting maps in the place.

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An enigma machine.

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Typewriter used during the war to transcribe written notes.

Out and about on the streets.

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Taken on the edge of St James' Park. Whee bumblebee!

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Obligatory photograph of Big Ben.

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Random ironwork gate at number 54.

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Fence outside St Margaret's.

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Detail on hinge at Westminster Cathedral doors.

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Glass sculpture in an open-air mall in Victoria.

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Yay, reflections. This bench was kind of uncomfortable to sit on, though.

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Taxis all in a row.

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Random hairy moss.

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Speaking of random, Random House HQ.

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Geraniums ftw.

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Ornamental lamp post base seen on Pall Mall.

... And I think I'm going to leave it there, for a bit. There are a couple albums I haven't included here, but I'll get around to them, I'm sure.

Sunday 17 July 2011

Awesome things about London

  • Waking up warm. This is very important to me, since I still have the cold I left Australia with, and breathing warm air at night makes it a lot easier to sleep.
  • It's not that cold, even though it is. I think it's got something to do with it being much dryer here - less ambient humidity (even when it's raining) makes it feel a lot warmer. 
  • The tube. There are stops everywhere, at least in the inner areas, even if it's sometimes a little hard to figure out which direction to go in.
  • London is flat. I've found one gentle incline so far, and other that, it's been more level than some tabletops. It makes the city really walkable, and extends my walking distance quite considerably. Makes cycling easier too.
  • Everything is really, amazingly cheap. Eating (and drinking) out, groceries, etc. Except rent. And possibly clothing, although that could have more to do with the shops I've found than anything else.
  • They understand internet here. I have a month-to-month SIM which for 10 quid a month, gets me 250 minutes talk time, unlimited data, and unlimited text. It is quite possibly the only internet connection I really need. So far, the coverage is awesome too.
  • Things to do. I think it will be really difficult for me to run out of things to see in this city. It's really accumulated a lot of historical debris.
Yes, I will post photos. I promise. Really!

Thursday 14 July 2011

Really Weird Things About London

There are a few things that are sticking out to me here, and are kind of really bloody weird to an Aussie.
  • No blankets or top sheet. The only thing above the mattress is a doona ('duvet'). This makes it hard not to overheat at night - or rather, hard to adjust to changing weather.
  • Market segmentation in retail - it's very different here. To get something like an organic face moisturiser or bodywash, I have to go to an upmarket supermarket/department/beauty store, I can't just get it at my local. To a point, this happens in Brisbane too, in that there isn't much choice, there's usually only one brand. Here, there's zero choice.
  • Range in supermarkets. Supermarkets carry so many extra types of things (booze and clothing) here, there's not much choice in other things.
  • Instant/2 minute noodles. Not something I'd expect to miss, but as an emergency relatively safe meal, they're great - except they don't really exist. I suppose not so surprising, given the relative lack of Asian people around. Never before have I understood the term 'Australasia'. 
  • Stand on the right, walk on the left, some of the time. 
  • Luggage on public transport. It's normal to catch the tube to and from international transit, it seems. So there's people with luggage everywhere. Very strange.
  • 6pm peak hour on the tube. Apparently people knock off work later here.
  • No awnings over streets. Or, well, almost none. It does make for a lack of shade - not that it's really sunshiny enough here to worry about. 
I'll think of more weird things, I'm sure.

Friday 8 July 2011

Hell, and how it happened to me in the heavens.

My flights were an experience I'd rather not ever repeat.

Begin Tuesday afternoon, with selling my car. The buyer I had fell through, so I went and saw a dealer - who wanted some paperwork from Qld Transport. This is 5.30pm - and my flight tomorrow at 2pm, dictates getting to the airport around 11am so I can say goodbye to my family and get through security and whatnot.

At this point I stress out. Just a little bit.

I get home and repack my bags so that I won't get charged the earth, have dominos for dinner, and collapse in a stupor of nervous exhaustion around 11pm. I sleep poorly, partially because of nerves, and partially because I have an epic cold leading to both noseblowing and racking, convulsive coughs at intervals.

I'm up at 6am, jittery and tense, because before getting to the airport, I have to provide myself with significant quantities of tissues, breakfast, papers from Qld Transport, and a receipt for the sale of my car. Of relevance here is that Qld Transport offices don't open until 9.30am Wednesdays, and it's school holidays, so they're packed out with tests and such.

Breakfast got skipped, because I can get something at the airport, and there's food on the plane, right?

I get my tissues and head on over to the Qld Transport office. Standing room only. Fortunately, it turns out that the papers I want were simple to get, I had the right documents on me to get them, and I was at the counter for less than 5 minutes.

10.15am, at the car dealer. The bloke I need to talk to is in a meeting. Cue stress.

11am, out of there, being driven to the airport by the wonderful @limobyjames. Stress levels lowering, slightly.

At the airport, I checked in, and as I was walking away from the checkin desk, the lights go down. The power outage takes the checkin system offline, slowing checkin for everyone after me, the poor blighters. Time for a chat and coffee with my family (not enough time) - we're interrupted by an announcement telling people on my flight to go through security now, as the power outage is making it slow. Being the good airport citizen that I am, I bid farewell to my family and head through security - which takes all of about 5 minutes. This annoys me, because while I approve of quick security processes on principle, I could have spent more time with my family. Grr. It's now about midday.

I wait for my medication to settle, and go get some lunch from noodlebox. They take their sweet time, and get my order wrong. I get my correct order at 1.25pm - and my flight is called for boarding at 1.30pm. I eat what I can of my noodlebox in the queue, chug a Coke, and board my flight.

2pm, getting ready for takeoff, I'm told that the gluten free meal option definitely contains dairy. This makes me feel ... not great. It'll be around midnight, Brisbane time, before I can get a meal at Chiangi airport in Singapore, making it about 28hrs between meals for me. My travel agent was informed by Qantas that the gluten free option was also dairy free. I struggle through the flight - the plain rice and greens are safe enough, but not really enough to stave off the tired/nauseous/headachey feeling that I get when hungry. The lemonade and coke help, but aren't food. Of course, I was also constantly blowing my nose and coughing, which I'm sure wasn't any fun for my seatmates, either. The staff tell me they've radioed ahead and that my next flight should have a vegan meal for me.

The descent into Singapore is not something I want to remember. My left ear did not pop for nearly an hour, and my right only with difficulty. I was trying all the tricks, none were working. It was incredibly painful.

12amish, brisbane time, we land in Singapore. My medication has worn off, and I'm staggering from tiredness. I've got a four hour layover here, and I wander around looking for food. I find some chips which are incredibly gross - I get through about two before I can't eat any more. I find some crisps that are better, and have some juice, but it's not enough. I can't find anything else that looks safe. Of course the staff at the fast food don't know what's in their products - when I can get them to understand what 'dairy' means. At this point, I'm not in good condition - people keep asking me if I'm okay. I catch sight of myself in a mirror, and I understand why - my face is entirely red, my eyes are swollen and red, and I generally look pretty bad. I get to my gate, and collapse to await boarding. I'm trying not to fall asleep, because I know I won't wake up - I don't want to miss my flight. I don't dare take my medication, either, because I've had a small amount of food - I don't want to make the nausea I already have worse. We take off at midnight, Singapore time.

The flight from Singapore to England I remember as a series of wakeful moments, where I would cough convulsively, blow my nose, feel guilty about waking my seatmate up, sip some water, and go back to sleep. My tissuebox is emptied when we're over Eastern Europe somewhere, so I fall back on pursepacks and reusing tissues as much as possible. Food situation much the same as the flight from Singapore - no vegan meal for me, stuck with the occasional softdrink or juice, no actual food as such. My head is incredibly painful, my face feels like it's burning, each breath rasps in my throat, and I struggle each time I cough to not retch as well.

We land 6.25am London time. My seatmate (an incredibly kind young man) gets my things from the overhead lockers, and we disembark around 7am. I stagger as fast as I can through the seemingly endless corridors to get to border control and baggage pickup. I think I probably walked nearly a kilometre. Once I get my bags, through customs, I see Steve - we meet and I can't let go. This flight was bad enough to do by myself, but if he hadn't been waiting, I would have been in significantly more dire straits. After discovering that there was nothing worth eating at Heathrow either, we go buy me an oyster card and catch the tube home. Once there, Steve heads off to work, and I grab eggs, bacon, and potato waffles from the mini-Tesco downstairs and cook myself a long-awaited meal. 40 hours without an actual meal, while ill.

Travel with a strange food intolerance sucks, and travel with a cold on top of that sucks worse.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

The adventure begins.

Today I fly out of Brisbane, to go live in London. I'm really going to miss the city, the people, and my comfortable sense of place.

I'll be studying for the next half-year or so, getting more of my degree out of the way. I'll be back in Australia for a bit early 2012, for LCA in Ballarat, seeing rellies and friends, and uni prac work. If you're in London, look me up!

I hope to update my blog and photos somewhat more frequently than I have been lately - as anyone who has been around me knows, my life has been insanely busy for the last few months.

So, fare thee well, Brisbane; I shall see you again in a while.

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Wednesday 11 May 2011

Living the label

A few months ago, I posted about getting my diagnosis of idiopathic hypersomnia. Anyone who's been given a diagnosis like this knows that the label and the meds are only the first step. Adjusting to the reality of a lifelong crippling condition is a much longer process.

I will have this disease, this illness, this incapacity for the next 60 years. Every morning, when I open my eyes, it will be there. Every morning, I will wonder, "Will the meds work today? Will I be able to function today?". Every night I will go to sleep thinking, "Did I set my alarm for too much sleep, or too little? Will I actually feel like I've slept in the morning? Will I be able to get out of bed? Will I be able to work tomorrow?". Every time I travel across a border, I will worry, "Do I have the right forms? Have the rules changed? Did the person I asked at the embassy know what they were talking about? Will I be arrested?".

This condition affects about one in 25,000 people. That means that in Brisbane there are perhaps eighty other people who have this. It's a grab-bag condition; the not-otherwise-specified category; the none of the above box. There is no specific set of symptoms, only symptoms that taken together, don't fit anywhere specific. It's enough to show there's something definitely wrong, and that it needs treatment, but that's all. And, unlike other grab-bag diagnoses, it has very few people in it, compared to the number of people in similar disorders. Narcolepsy, classified as a rare condition, is about 1 in 1500 people - or 16 times more common than idiopathic hypersomnia.

Given this, it isn't surprising that there is no known cause. There is no cure. There is also no research being done on finding a cause or a cure. It affects so few, and whilst it comprehensively screws over my ability to do anything, it's not life-threatening. There are far more urgent, more necessary medical issues that need the research, the funding, the understanding, and the cures. At least, there's a treatment.

Well, there kind of is. I don't know if it's just me, but some days, the meds don't work well enough. They work enough to keep me awake enough so that I'm not constantly going to sleep, but not enough so that I'm in any state resembling alert. I can get out of bed, shower, catch a bus, go to work - but I can't think, and it takes a tremendous effort to do anything other than stare blankly in the direction I'm facing at the time. I won't fall asleep for most of the day, but the usual midafternoon dip I will easily sleep through if given the opportunity. I already take a large fraction of the maximum daily dose - I can't go much higher on these meds. It simply isn't legal, to the best of my understanding.

I despair, sometimes. For the rest of my life, I know that awakening in the morning is going to be difficult, and that I may not be alert that day at all. I have serious doubts that I'll ever develop my career - who'd want an employee who carries these drugs, who despite that, can barely function some days, who has to call in sick because they're too sleepy to even get out of bed, despite the best modern medicine has to offer? My friendships have certainly suffered; I fall asleep at gatherings, or have to go early, or simply can't turn up at all. I can't make reliable commitments, because I have no certainty about whether I can physically keep them. I'm young, in the prime of life - if this is what I'm like now, I am truly terrified by how limited my life will be in my fifties, let alone older. How will I cope then?

How do I cope now?

Saturday 9 April 2011

365project, bonanza edition - Day 33, March 30, to Day 43, April 9.

I've been somewhat busy lately, so I haven't been posting my photos.

As always, click on the photos to go through to their galleries, and please thumbs up any you particularly like.

In any case, here they are for the 10 days:

Day 33, March 30.
Wet Red.

I have been trying to get a good photograph of geraniums for a few weeks. Finally got some that turned out.

Day 34, March 31.

I called this one Changelog. I know it's a pun, but eh, seemed appropriate at the time.

Day 35, April 1.
Backfill day. This photo was taken on the 8th April.

Yellow Bells

Day 36, April 2.
Grown-up Sorbet

These sorbets were very grown up indeed. Passionfruit and mango; lime, gin and pineapple; and chilli and shiraz. Delicious, although the chilli one was really quite spicy. Part of a meal with my mother-in-law at Litse - we took her out there for dinner after picking up my shiny DSLR (DSLR wheeeeeeeee!).

Day 37, April 3.
Dun Dun Duuuhhhhn

So of course I had to take photos of the new shiny. Here it is, in all its glory.

Day 38, April 4.
Mine, all mine!

And today I got a lens. And took 200ish photos. >_> I may have been a little ... enthusiastic. Or maybe a lot enthusiastic. Um. New toy geekery is my excuse. I did a whole post on some of my favourites. Instead of doing my climate assignment. Oops.

Also, for some reason when I set the aperture to greater than about 4ish indoors at night, the shutter speed goes to something like 1/10 or worse, and I have no idea why. And my hands shake. Getting the distinct feeling I need either better/more lights at home, or a tripod, or both.

Anyway. I think this is my favourite photo of the night.

Trying to add this photo to was the point where I discovered that apparently, .JPG is not an image file extension, although .jpg is. Hrm, said I. Approximately.

Day 39, April 5.
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Day 40, April 6.
Morning light

Taken about 6.15 in the morning. The sunrise on a cushion near my balcony door.

Day 41, April 7.
A simple meal

Gluten free gnocchi, lamb, and home-made pesto. My first ever pesto, in fact. It worked really well, and the meal was absolutely delicious. Not only that - nearly all the photos I took of it didn't suck! That's a first for me and food photography, for sure. Here's a bonus one:

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Day 42, April 8.
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Tough choice for today - I had two photos I liked equally. Fortunately, I missed the 1st of April, so I got to include both photos :) Serendipity, for sure.

Day 43, April 9.
Love is a red, red … chrysanthemum?
A red chrysanthemum Steve got for me. I'm not entirely sure I did it justice, but oh well. I tried.

Which brings me up to date for today. Yay! Hopefully, I will get some time later today to implement a more streamlined process, and also hopefully, I won't have so much interference from assignments and whatnot in future. Also, I will read the rest of the camera manual so I can play with something other than the aperture.

Monday 4 April 2011

Management issues

Also known as - so now that I'm taking real photos, how the hell do I manage them?

The downside of having a real camera and lens is that all of a sudden, I'm taking a lot of very bad photos - and I can't tell this until after I've uploaded them to my computer.

What I've been doing up until this point is uploading everything to my photo manager on my machine (f-spot) and then uploading everything to whatever gallery it belongs in on SmugMug. I've been keeping my taken photos on my phone, as a backup. With larger files - this process is going to become unworkable. It will just take too long to import the photos to my machine. Not to mention running out of harddrive space, and laptop harddrives aren't that cheap to upgrade, either. I do have a network 2tb drive that can be used for backup purposes.

I guess this post has three major questions:
- How do I streamline the process of getting my photos off my camera and in the appropriate gallery on SmugMug?
- How do I set up automatic backup for good and mediocre photos (but not the really bad ones) from my not-always-on ubuntu laptop to my smb store? Clearly this relies on me sorting the photos first. That, or synchronisation of deletion of useless images. Either would suit.
- How do I make posting my 365project photo easier?

A few points:
- I like having my photos organised by year/month/date on my filesystem. It makes it a lot easier to figure out what I have and haven't uploaded, and also much easier to locate a particular photo, usually. I have many more days than I have subjects, you see. Also, it happens automatically - subjective sorting takes time, and whilst I do that for SmugMug, doing it twice would suck.
- I don't like manually organising files into folders. It is annoying, time wasting, and bugs me. This also explains the current state of my music collection.
- I don't mind tagging photos. It's simple enough to do in f-spot, although does not seem to be preserved on upload to SmugMug, which is annoying. Tagging things twice bugs me, although it may be useful metadata for a backup solution.
- I have limited HDD space, and living in .au, limited upload capacity. Aside from taking lower quality photos (which I am considering), how do I automate post-processing into a smaller size for upload, as well as keeping the larger size for backup in the network store?
- How do I streamline all this, especially with respect to my 365project? In an ideal world, I'd run a script with the path to the photo, and the following things would occur:
- the photo would be tagged '365project' on my laptop and SmugMug;
- the photo filename would be added to a spreadsheet (or other tracker) of days and dates for my 365project;
- the photo would be added to my project on
- the sharelink for medium size embeddable from smugmug would be output.
- Extra bonus points: the blogger post would be entirely constructed and posted - possibly including a file of title, bonus surrounding text, and hashtags as a commandline parameter.
- And this would probably be a good time to trigger the photo backup, as I'll have been through the photos to pick one out, and there will probably be fresh photos on the system.
- Some notes here: blogger, 365project can both get posts via email; the tracker spreadsheet should ideally live in my dropbox.
- It would also be nice to have some form of easier method of uploading to SmugMug in general - the built-in in f-spot doesn't appear to work. Any tips on getting that working would be great.

Okay, power's about to get cut here; energex is upgrading some cables. I'll post this, and think some more.

Writey writey words ...

Today I did lots of stuff.
- slept 4 hours
- found my black cardie
- forgot my gym gear
- forgot breakfast
- did not cry, or freak out, or lose my calm
- booked a massage
- wore contact lenses for the first time in a couple of years
- related: decided I really REALLY need to get/find a pair of sunnies
- bought a lens (EF 50mm f/1.8 II)
- changed the layout/style of my blog to stop the right hand edges of my photos being cut off
- took 200 photos
- uploaded some of the nonblurry ones to my SmugMug page
- ate a cookie made by my husband

I'm really enjoying learning about my camera and my lens. Tonight was mostly playing with the buttons - white balance, aperture, general settings. I still haven't really played with shutter speed or ISO. I used flash a few times; the lighting at home isn't great. Also? I have really shaky hands, it seems.

Very much looking forward to tomorrow, and getting the focus where I want it for a change. Well, so long as my hands don't shake, anyhow.

In aid of that, I'm going to head off to take out the contacts, curl up around my climate textbook, and sleep.

Shiny new thing.

I may have gone a bit crazy with the photo taking tonight. I picked out the not-sucky ones, and uploaded them for your viewing here. Some highlights of tonight's shutterbug clickyhappy:

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They're fairly thematically similar tonight.

A final couple, a bit different - a photo taken of me by the dearly beloved, and a self portrait, of sorts:

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wheeeeeeee new toy!

Sunday 3 April 2011

self.has(dslr) == true; Now what?

Yesterday I picked up my shiny secondhand Canon 450D:
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I bought it from my father-in-law, who has upgraded to a much shinier 550D. Lucky for me, he didn't want the original bag the 450D came with:
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Yay! New crumpler! I've been eyeing off the crumplers anyway (4 and 5 million dollar homes) but this one will do just fine. I'm thinking about picking out the "EOS" though.

Now that I have my new shinies:
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the observant among you may notice something missing. I don't have a lens - yet. That's today's task - to find and buy my first lens.

The lens I'll probably be getting is the EF 50mm f/1.8 II. I really *want* the EF f/1.4 USM, but can't really afford it at this point. I'm going for a prime lens as I want to learn how to operate my camera well - once I've done that, then I'll figure out all the other fancy stuff that goes along with lenses that do zoom and all that stuff. Also? the f/1.2 weighs 130g, and it's tiny. As someone moving from a mobile phone to a DSLR, small and light are very, very good things while I get used to it.

But where do I buy it?

Currently I'm looking at secondhand on ebay, pickup (so I can test it when I get it straight away, and resolve any issues immediately) or some online retailer sourced via shopbot. Physical stores seem to be relatively expensive - a difference of about $50 on the 50mm f/1.2, which is a lot considering retail is $150. On new lenses, I imagine the warranty is with Canon rather than the retailer - can someone verify this? If there are specific online stores I should be looking at, please let me know - I'm a total babe in the woods here. At this point, I'm not interested in overseas retailers, either - I want the lens NOW. A week is about as long as I want to wait before I have it in my hands. The other consideration is, of course, return and complaints. It's a lot easier to do that for local retailers, online or off.

For my next lens, on the other hand, I would also like recommendations for reputable overseas online dealers. Also for things like filters and lens reversers and mount adjustments and bits.

Speaking of, what should my next lens be? I'm looking at the one the camera usually comes with - the EF 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. I'd be getting this one around Christmas, probably. I'm open to other suggestions, of course, but that one seems to be flexible, reasonably inexpensive, and has decent reviews. On the other hand - I really really REALLY want to do macro photography. I haven't investigated lenses there yet, although I plan to very shortly. Still, recommendations for a macro lens?

Finally, other bits. I would like to get from crumpler the Industry Disgrace as I have noticed the strap on the camera digs in and is uncomfortable after about 30 seconds. And tripods. I'll pick up a gorillapod or knockoff, but for a real one, I still have about no idea. I really need to get into a shop which has a) a large range, and b) helpful staff who are not run off their feet at the time when c) I have time to spend.

Okay, time for me to go read the manual. And do assignments that are due tomorrow ...