Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rachmaninov had big Hands

The Filth and The Fury

Just watching the documentary about the Sex Pistols, The Filth and The Fury.
Before this, from what little I knew I was under the impression that Sid and Johnny were under-educated, crude, rude, blunt, randomly aggressive, and uninteresting persons. Imagine my surprise when it turns out I was completely right.
The music was all right though.

Sexual Misconceptions

Violet tells:
"When I was about 5, I got curious and asked my mother what sex was....
Her reply:"When a man hugs a woman, then the woman gets pregnant and has a baby. But that's against the law if you're under sixteen."
Naturally, I had recieved a few hugs in my time, so cue me spending the next two months terrified that I was going to have a baby and be arrested..."

Sexual Misconceptions.
[Thanks to Ian.]

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hin Chua

Hin Chua photo art.

Photokina videos

Imaging-Resource has videos presenting many of the interesting new products on Photokina, the big photographic trade show taking place this week in Germany.

(If you use the excellent Pithhelmet ad blocking software in Safari, these particular videos won't play, so turn it off or use Firefox.)

Update: One of the videos show a new Fujifilm Real 3D Camera, which shows 3D on the display!

Another cool product is a new weather proof casing by Camera Armor. Sadly they only make it so far for the entry level Canon and Nikon DSLRs. (See here about the risk of rain, even for pro cameras.)

Fuji film camera

Fuji is coming out with a camera which uses an interesting capture medium from last century, known as "film".
Wow, talk about bucking a trend!

Maybe film will stick around, like vinyl records have.
On the other hand those in the know tells us that a film factory is spectacularly expensive to run, so it has to have a market over a certain size to survive...

Home robot

I heard somebody had a leak and they were on vacation, and so were the people living downstairs, so two apartments were ruined.
While the communications aspect of this robot may be a bit silly, it could have averted the worst parts of a situation like the above. Just check in with it in the morning and in the evening.

The wheels are ingenious. Each one has mini-wheels on it which can go sideways, so the other two wheels can push it in that direction.

More videos here.

Leica S2 picture

It might be smaller than the largest Nikons and Canons, but it's still a pretty solid chunk!
Pic from here.

There's fresh info on the camera here.

By the way, Ctein made an interesting comment: that image quality is not proportional to the area of the sensor, but to the linear measurement. So this camera will not natively have 50% better image quality than a 35mm-full-frame camera (everything else equal), but only 25%. Not as dramatic.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Search tip

David Pogue gives a neat Search tip.

I'd used this on some sites before, it's amazing how poor the Search function is on many sites (including Blogger), but I'd not thought it could be used for virtually all sites.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Biggest Financial Story of the Past 50 Years

Update: big article in The Guardian.

The Biggest Financial Story of the Past 50 Years
, Motley Fool article(s).

Time to dig out our Hitchhiker and glance at the cover: "Don't Panic".
"During the next few days and weeks, the markets promise to be extremely volatile. The response from Wall Street and the financial press will range from euphoric to despondent, and much of the advice you hear will be emotional and short-term in focus."

I won't claim I'm not happy I ignored the hype and stayed out of the stock market.
(On the other hand when the dust settles, this looks like a "buying opportunity".)

The amazing thing is that this always happen after periods of runaway greed and excessive lending... and yet they never see it coming! WTF?

"If there's only one thing you take away from the Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch stories of the past few days, let it be this: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

That article hinges on what I've learned in recent years: when people tell you that you should expect double-digit returns on your investments, don't believe them. Anytime you get above maybe five percent (and that's before inflation too), you get into risky waters. If you like risk, that's fine, but you must be aware that you're taking it on.

One must realize that THE ECONOMY CAN'T GROW TEN PERCENT PER YEAR. If it does, there's some kind of bubble. Why? Because money is based on real products, and the overall factories, people, education, etc, just can't grow that fast.

In other words, unless you're a gambler, you'll just have to face that a couple percent above inflation is all you can expect. I just settled down for that after I realized that I got bored thinking about money after a while.

(Note, I updated that article today.)

"The average company increases earnings only about 4% to 6% a year. That's far lower than most investors presume. Maybe the media devote too much coverage to the most rapidly growing companies; maybe we're just a bunch of eternal optimists. But perpetual earnings growth of 10% to 15% -- the kind of growth Wall Street analysts often assume -- is extraordinarily hard to find." Article.


I read that the next version of Photoshop will have high quality display scaling of images on screen on any display size, not just 100%, 50% and so. Finally!!! What the heck took them so long? It's not like we haven't had computers which can handle it.

It will also have merging of several images with different focus, to get infinite depth of field. Great, I just paid for software which does only that! :-)

5D video review

Update: you also have to see Vincent Laforet's 5D video. It's pretty damn cool on it's own, and then you realize that this is a short-short movie made in one day. By a guy who never made video before. With a camera he's held for half a day.
Canon owe this guy for this marketing favor!

This video is going viral like a wildfire.
Here's a behind the scenes video.
It seems Laforet has the clout to, with hours warning, a) get permission to fly helicopter over NYC, and b) get permission from Moby to use a song.

... Hey, I didn't know Vincent was my twin!
It's spooky.

It seems like the Canon 5D is kicking ten kinds of caca out of the Nikon D90 when it comes to video capabilities.
Mike Reichman has a video review.

And here's another love-fest. It's too much now.

One Exposure

One Exposure, censured online photo gallery.
Generally too slick and commercial looking to really keep my interest. But I guess such a thing will be, perforce. And doubtlessly it's all pro quality.

By the way, look at the picture below, isn't it lovely. I'm sure it's a candid picture, the expressions are much too alive to be posed models.
And this is just the kind of photo that we have much better opportunities for making these days, with the great low light capabilities of digital SLRs. It's great.

It's funny by the way, how men only ever pay rapt attention like this if there's a beautiful woman or a football match.
I wonder if beautiful women realize how unusual this kind of attention is. Probably not, since they get it all the time.
Actually I remember comments from Gwyneth Palthrow and from Emma Thompson, both of them had the experience of being made fat or ugly by heavy makeup, and both of them were shocked by the change in the reactions they got from men around them.

The Culture, and Floating cities revisited

In the Floating Cities post, I'd written:
"By the way, what happened to science fiction with vision? It seems to me that modern science fiction is mostly about dystopic futures and characters who are petty criminals and druggies."

Alex commented:
All the glitz and wow SF I've read may have had the hi-tech and the bold dreams, but once you passed the surface image you were soon in a dystopia. Very little SF I've read has had the golden age be a lasting thing. It all seems to be not so much about how good things could be, but how man will be lost in it all. Take an old simple example, Flash Gordon - technology abounds, and is abused by an evil dictator. Farenheit 451 is set in a tech age similar to ours, but man is becoming an ignorant consumer. The hopeful Foundation stories still have a decline between golden ages. The Silver Locusts have colonization of Mars, but Earth falls victim to internal politics. Likewise "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress". I guess we have to go back to tales like "Argonauts of the Air" to see someone striving for technology, and doing okay by it (even though the hero gets killed). There is "A Transatlantic Tunnel(Hurrah)", apart from some antagonism from the shipping lines, the technical side is a success. The future in "Seksmisja" seems pretty good, until we realize it was actually someones play pen in the now. I cannot think of a single High Tech SF where there is not strife. Maybe there is a whole sub-genre I've missed.

Back to Eolake:
Strife, OK. There has to be some conflict for most readers to pay attention. But what I don't like is the small-think, claustrophobic feel to most of it. A feeling of apathy and grime, without relief.

A good example of the opposite is Iain M. Banks' Culture books. Yes, most stories take place on the edges of the Culture, where the action is, but The Culture itself is "as close to a utopia as I could get it and still have a recognizable human society," in Banks' own words.

Banks was asked by a journalist if he would (really) like to live in the Culture, and he said "god yes!" And I can understand that. The Culture, covering thousands of worlds, is so affluent that it has no use for money, anybody can live like Bill Gates without working. It has great artificial worlds and intelligent machines, and it has spaceships which are small civilizations in their own right. And it's benevolent. The Culture is just cool!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Friendship at first click

Friendship at first click
by Virginia (Ginny) Ellis

I found myself awakened,
In the middle of the night,
I stared into the darkened room,
And thought about my plight.

I rolled over, tossed, and turned,
I was not in any pain,
Had I gone to bed too early,
Or had I gone too late again?

I checked the lighted dial,
On my trusty bedroom clock,
Too early to begin my day,
I should be sleeping like a rock.

So I lay there in my cozy bed,
Wide-eyed and bushy-tailed,
I might as well get up, I thought,
And check out my night's E-mail.

So I staggered to my desk and chair,
And revved-up ye olde computer,
I logged on the Net so fast,
I guessed I was its only viewer.

For who, with any sense at all,
Would click-on at three A.M?
Well, I got my answer pretty quick,
When I heard ping, ping, ping, and ping again.

Golly! Did I have E-mail!
Everybody's up!
Don't these people have a life?
They all must be hard-up.

And then I thought, well, here am I,
Right along with all the rest,
Connecting to my Internet friends,
Who, I've learned by now, are best.

They're always out there for me,
As I am here for them,
I don't think my life will ever be,
Just quite the same again.

"Love at first sight" is not thought odd, So why not "friendship at first click?"
No need to dance or play shy games,
It's an Internet benefit.

Ann Landers says that friendships,
Made on the Internet,
Smack of foolish adolescence,
By adults who do consent.

Well, she and Martha Stewart,
Can take their advice and go,
To that place that's not in Cyberspace,
But lies directly there below.

At three A.M. I found a friend,
Who was awake and doing fine,
Of course she lived on the other side,
Of the International Date Line.

East Coast friends soon then clicked on,
Followed by South and North,
I did not weep I could not sleep,
Such warmth was pouring forth.

Where else in all the world,
Could such support be claimed,
In the wee, small hours of morning,
By simply clicking on a name?

Bill Gates has become my hero,
I may build for him a shrine,
For all the beautiful people,
He has sent to me Online.

40mm lens, and Sally Mann

Sally Mann doesn't f***k about when using cameras, lookkit this. Man.

I got the picture from this article, where Mike Johnston talks about how Sally got him interested in the 40mm lens as standard lens. The fact that she has an opinion about something like that also speaks for her awareness as a photographer. Women can be excellent photographers, but they are often quite disinterested in the tech aspects of it.
I love Sally's work from the nineties, her use of tones and compositions are marvelous.

I've bought this documentary about her, but I've not had the chance to watch it yet. But the DVD contains the old mid-nineties documentary about her which I watched back then, and which was really good.


Funny coincidence: I just found this picture of the toy camera in use.
It's kindly lend me by Thorsten Overgaard, Danish Leica fan, photographer (top rank judging by the celeb portraits on his site), and writer.
Here he writes about the girl with the camera, about Roger Moore, and the experience of photographing a Danish Royal wedding.
"... whenever there’s 75 still photographers and 50 television cameras in one place to shoot the same event, it might involve a lot of interest and money. But the type of stories and events that I usually like to do is the positive stories out in the outskirts, not necessarily exclusives in the exclusive way that you have to know the presidents dog personally, but just exclusive in the way that no one thought of it as a great pictures or a great story before you did."

Thorsten himself writes in a comment under the article: "It's nuts, the interest in royals. Did another shoot the other day, and instantly a handful of pictures was sold. Nothing special, just royals in them."

Indeed. We are very interested in Royals, because they are special. Why are they special? Because we are interested in them.
I feel I should be above it, but I'm not, not 100%. I think if I met a Danish prince, I'd probably be a little bit awed. And it's dumb. There's probably several things I do better than either of them, but just because such a great number of people think they're special, I get that feeling too.
Some people get above such feelings, but most of them do it by becoming contrarian, and that's not a lot better, methinks.

Taxes or Death, what's to choose?

Monsieur Beep sed:
The tax system is the interface where socialism sucks capitalism.
This statement has been manifested in my mind during the last few days.
Put it as you will: Tax IS theft, of the serious kind, I might even add!
I'm not alone with my opinion.
And what is your opinion?
Imagine, Eo, you just keep getting a fixed sum of money every year, no matter how hard you work, even if you don't work at all.......aahh, I'm repeating missen, already blog=commented on this here a while ago.
OK, just give me one good reason for a tax rate of more than 10%(at most).
I think this can be rectified only by a revolution.

I agree, except that revolutions never work either.

Anyway, I used to think that taxes was theft by "the tax man" or by "the government". What makes the problem so big, though, is that it really is theft by the whole of the population.

It really is exactly the same as 12 people living in a commune, and one of them has a windfall, and all the other gang up on him and demands he hands over half. It's the same, no difference, except it's codified.

The group will always demand a contribution from the individual, and more if he has more. Not because it's Right in any way, but because they outnumber him and so they can.

What shows the seriousness of this group abberation is that a "flat tax" is considered a fixed percentage regardless of income. Whereas a true flat tax would be a fixed amount regardless of income.

I've been looking at international tax havens. They do exists, which is interesting. But so far money has not been important enough for me take a step like that.

Both Beep and TTL have earlier recommended The Alpha Strategy. While the book has its faults regarding saving strategies, it does have a wonderful explanation of we all steal from each other, creating high taxes and inflation.

Leica and Fisher-Price

[Thanks to Luke S.]
The Leica S2 and the Fisher Price Kid Tough Digital Camera -- separated at birth?

Sure, the Leica has more megapixels, but isn't that just a number for marketing?

Well, the Leica has ninety times the number of megapixels, but does it come in blue or pink? Can you drop it down the stairs and still keep using it? Methinks not.


Quick recommendation:
Ideal, TV comedy featuring Johnny Vegas and written by Graham Duff. Funny, fresh, original. (I can't find it on Amazon USA.)


What do people use accounting software for, like MYOB? I've never used anything like it in my life, not even spreadsheets, and I've run my own business for 10 years. I just ship my receipts off to my accountant once a year, and that's that, pretty much. Don't people know if they can afford, er, whatever, without typing everything into windows?
I'm not stating any opinion, I'm just curious, there may be something I don't know here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Orion Conspiracy

The Orion Conspiracy. A short film. It's fictional, but seems to take seriously many ideas which are afloat in conspiracy theorist circles, including the idea that somebody is planning a fake alien attack in order to rekindle the war economy. Though how 12-foot tall proto-humans are relevant to that is not clear to me.

Pentax K2000

It's being drowned out a bit by all the big news right now, but the new Pentax K2000 (aka Km) seems nice. It is low-price, low-weigh, small-size, but full image quality. It includes new light weight lenses. And even in-body stabilization! I applaud Pentax for this.
Early preview.

It is clear that Pentax is coming in fighting. They are also announcing several high quality lenses, wide and long.

In other Photokina news, Olympus announces the development of a new semi-pro model.

Man, this Photokina sure beats the pants off the last one!

Naked In The Roses

I've been told by the author Richard Taylor that his book Naked In The Roses was inspired by Quite cool.
I haven't read it yet, but Mr. Taylor has been successful before both as a screenwriter and novelist, so it's probably good.

"I wanted to let you know about NAKED IN THE ROSES and how it was inspired by you and DOMAI, and also to say that I admire DOMAI very much. It lifts humanity and it portrays women as the flower of the human race, which of course they are.
"... about a fictional American with a website dedicated to tasteful nudes and the problems he runs into operating it in our often hypocritical and altogether too prim society.
"I find most sites dedicated to nudes to be unintentionally funny, or repugnant in some casual and meaningless way. I read in Shelley Winters' autobiography years ago that she thought she'd invented the lip pout so many women employ when photographed, thinking it sexy. (She also took credit for 'Shelley' as a female name, having borrowed it from the male poet.) What is wonderful about DOMAI's women is that they don't pout their lips, they don't pretend sexual arousal, they don't try to look like anything but what they are — beautiful young women at ease with themselves. They smile. Their personalities are expressed in both pose and countenance. Their humanity has not been cloaked in pretense and posturing. They are truly lovely and to click through the photos in DOMAI is to take a stroll through a field of multicolored flowers in their first hours of bloom. It is to be reminded that even as age burns us to dust, or some other quicker, even more outrageous fate may await us, there are always more flowers to bloom, more hope, more beauty."

Olympus M4/3 concept camera

Seemingly just an early concept prototype, but I like it. This is more what I imagined when I heard about the Micro Four Thirds system.
Isn't that just a beautiful "sixties" design?
More info.

New Leica system! (update 3)

OK, I did not see this coming.

Just as I'd pretty much dismissed Leica as a dinosaur in the digital age, they come forth with a completely new camera system and fomat!

The Leica S2 has a format which is 50 percent larger than full-frame cameras, both in terms of megapixels and milimeters. And yet it is smaller than the Canon 1Ds. (Though larger than the 5D.)

And it has already a line-up of entirely new lenses.

Wow. It will be highly interesting to see how it performs in speed and image quality. It will be a tough test, because since it has a 35mm-like form, people will be comparing it to 35mm-sized camera rather than to medium format cameras, even though the latter would be more fair. But if it performs well, this could be a really influential release.

I'm rooting for Leica with this one. The big boys could use some hard competition.

By the way, the article is real, I got the issue this morning.

1001 Noisy Cameras has a good phrase for what Leica has been doing recently: playing possum! Very funny.

Update: It's official now. Pictures here. I think the camera and the lenses are beautiful. A powerful, simple, modern design.

Now we all wonder what the price will be like. The cost of developing this system must have been astronomical.
Update: Apparently it's aimed to be 20k Euros. This is more than the 31MP Hasselblad, too bad. But if it's really as awesome as Leica claims, it'll be worth the price for many.

Best article so far.

And here is one more, from the launch.
"Pretty impressive lineup. The CS lenses already give wide-angle, normal, macro, and tele. Then, the standard S lenses bring extreme wide angle, long tele, fast standard wide-to-tele zoom, fast portrait lens, and a wide tilt-shift. Word is that Peter Karbe, the head optics designer has been very hard at work. The performance of these new lenses is being heralded as reference class optics with no measurable distortion or vignetting anywhere in the frame, and no software correction needed to optimize the performance. This last part is a certain jab at Hasselblad. MTF charts of these lenses are supposedly totally flat with no drop."

The last part is an astounding statement, I have never seen an MTF chart which did not fall off. (Meaning that the lens would draw exactly as sharp at the edges of the image as in the center.)

New presidential candidate

... threatens McCain's base.

Photo journalism art

Here are some journalistic photos which goes way beyond what we're used to seeing from that area.

On a different note, I find it fascinating and puzzling how many people will allow themselves to become unrestrainedly emotional about another person. No human being, whether he's a lover, a guru, a politician, a musician, or whatever, can be the savior of another.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The misappropriation of femine beauty

"If we are going to move beyond pride and shame to a strong humility regarding our bodies, we must stop listening to the voices that tell us beauty is either trivial or dangerous. It does matter that every girl learns to see herself as beautiful and offer her beauty to those around her in appropriate ways. It matters that we allow each other to put our longings for beauty on the table where they can be taken seriously. It matters that any loss or lack of beauty, from aging to mastectomy to thighs that our culture deems "bad," be grieved honestly and cleanly. Beauty is not trivial or dangerous. It is powerful and important. It deserves to be on the agenda for any faith community wrestling with the big spiritual issues of our time."

I'm not sure why he would turn to theology to find answers about beauty and psychology, but I do agree with his conclusion above.

Resolution puzzle (updated)

Here's a challenge for you brainy types:
There's a lot of evidence that in many instances, you can increase the level of detail a camera delivers by either improving the lens or by increasing the pixel number.

It seems to me logically that if one works, the other shouldn't. Because if improving the lens makes the picture sharper, then that means that the individual pixel is smaller than that len's blur point, and if that's the case then putting in more pixels should not make a difference if you don't improve the lens also.

And conversely, if improving the pixel density makes the picture sharper, that means that the len's blur point is smaller than each pixel, so therefore it should make no difference to improve the lens (without improving the pixel density).

Update: Ctein, a top dog in photographic technical savvy, helps me out:

A technically accurate explanation is very complicated, but I can give you the easy version by referring back to film photography (the mathematics is very different for discrete digital samples, so this is correct but inaccurate).

In analog, continuous imaging, the final blur circle is the square root of the sum of the squares of all the contributing blur circles. That is:

Blur(total) = SQRT (blur1^2 + blur2^2 + blur3^2 …).

Examples of sources of blur are film resolution, lens resolution, focus error, and camera vibration. For the sake of simplicity, ignore everything but film and lens resolution.

If you have a lens that is capable of resolving 100 line pair per millimeter and film that is capable of resolving 100 line pair per milliliter, the above equation says that the combined resolution will be 70 line pair per millimeter (approximately). In-camera film tests bear this out, by the way.

Suppose you were to double the film resolution. The combined resolution of film and lens would now be 90 line pair per millimeter, about a 25% improvement. A visible and significant change. Conversely, if you doubled lens resolution, you'd also see 90 line pair per milliliter. (If you doubled both, the resolution would jump to 140 line pair per millimeter.)

An asymmetric example: let's start with film that resolves 100 line pair per millimeter and a lens that resolves 150 line pair per millimeter. The combined resolution is 83 line pair per millimeter. If you double the film resolution, the combined resolution improves to 120 line pair per millimeter. If you double the lens resolution instead, the combined resolution is 95 line pair per millimeter. Improving either resolution visibly improves total resolution, even when one is much better than the other.

To put it colloquially, it's not the weakest link in the chain that determines the resolution of your system, it's the combined weakness of all the links. A chain with two weak links is less strong than a chain with one weak link.

As I said at the beginning, the math is very different for digital camera sensing, but it would lead you to the same conclusions ( although with different numerical results, of course) for pretty much the same reasons.

Thank you so much to Ctein (it's a hard C: "K-tein"). This is cool. It tells us that the two factors have to be way out of balance for it not to pay off to improve even the stronger one. (But of course it will always pay off better if you improve the weaker one.)

It's still counter-intuitive to me, but since it's supported both by math and by experience, I guess I'll have to bow to it! :-)

And by the way, an example of what this means in practical terms is that for me, it means that if I do eventually decide to get a high rez camera like the new Canon 5D, I don't have to invest in the very newest and most expensive lenses for it to make a difference (in big prints).
See, this was not just theory for theory's sake. :-)

Of course it's still a question of what that might mean for me artistically. And so far it seems to me that usually the answer is "not very much", so I'm cooling my heels. After a point, there's a diminishing "return on investment" in resolution. Where that point is, is a matter of application. Landscapes or architecture usually need much more resolution than portraits or snapshots.

Statutory rape

We have to take these things seriously.

When pictures hurt web sites

When pictures hurt web sites, article.
"The company has found that when placed on Web pages, images can act as barriers to action rather than the sort of eye candy that generates sales when placed on magazine covers. Users don’t just ignore them; they try to look around them. Worse, when action buttons (or “triggers”) such as subscription fields or purchase links are placed near or even on those images, users look straight past those too then click away."


Laforet and the 5D's video

BlankPhotog pointed to this Vincent Laforet article about the video capabilities of the Canon 5D2. He is not a videographer, and the article is overly breathless to my taste, but then there's the claim that the 5D2 takes better low-light video than the Red camera, so it can't be bad.

It does take longer clips than the Nikon D90, and higher resolution, and I think it has a mini-plug for a microphone which is essential for decent audio, so maybe it's actually a possible solution for serious video, we'll see how goes.

Rocket Man redux

All wonderful versions, but Kate is hottest.
(Oh, my pal Laurie (male) knew her when they were teens. I'm envious. Apparently he inspired the Man With a Child in His Eyes song.)

Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers

Odd book titles.

One of my favorite odd possessions is a book called "The Extraterrestrial Life Debate 1750-1900". A very thick book, it's a historical treatise on scholarly debate about life outside Earth, and it's written in the most amazingly academic language. I won it in a contest.

The same site also points to a Nipponese video with a slapping machine. Those Japs are off their lids. :-)

Floating cities

I like people who think big.

Also the Lillypad.

By the way, what happened to science fiction with vision? It seems to me that modern science fiction is mostly about dystopic futures and characters who are petty criminals and druggies.

Has it come to this?

Has it come to this? Cute kitten videos?

Polish movie posters

Polish movie posters. Cool stuff.