Monday, December 31, 2012

TV settings (and 3D)

It pays off to fiddle with the TV settings. I was wondering why the sharpening and contrast was suddenly way overdone. I looked at the Picture Settings, and for some reason, it had auto-selected a setting called "BD-wise" ("smart about Blu-ray Discs"?), which I'd not seen before, maybe the settings change according to which disc is in.
Most of the other settings looked equally horrible, (it probably had to do with this being from disc extras, filmed on ordinary video cameras) there was only one which looked much more soft and natural, called "movie". Lo this difference.
(The over-sharpening is more visible on the TV, the highlit hairs are really harsh.)

With "BD-wise" setting

With "movie" setting. (Both pics clickable.)

My new Samsung TV (3D) sadly doesn't have fine-tuning of all the separate options, unlike my older Sony.

BTW, it's a higher-end 3D TV model, active, high refresh rate, the glasses are light and don't bother me. Altogether quite nice, and so far I enjoy the experience on the few films I had with it. It's good fun.  I'm still not sure it adds anything really important though. But then again, it is pretty new (in the current incarnation), so maybe some interesting and inventive uses will develop with it as the years go by. Perhaps some uses which don't just use the two different views to replicate the third dimension...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Are the tools important?

It seems I helped to start a debate on The Online Photographer about exactly how important the camera is for the results.
About the widely-used arguments that painters "don't argue about brushes", Mike added a post.

I think it's a never-ending argument, because it's so complex. Which specific tools for what specific use? Sometimes it's mainly a preference, like Canon Versus Nikon, other times there are specific differences, like a zoom versus primes for street shooting, but exactly how important those differences are to a person and situation, can be very hard to pin down.

Adding to the confusion, some like doing the art, some just like the tools, and some like both.
For example, both Mike and me have a great affinity for an excellent lens, even though we both admit that the differences in the picture rarely have much, if any, influence on how the picture is received by the public or buyers. They are usually only really visible to the trained eye.



Bokeh test of the 75mm above. Photo by Reed

Friday, December 28, 2012

Love geek girls

This is Rachel, she was at ComicCon, asking the actors from Big Bang Theory to sing Soft Kitty in a round...
I love cute geek girls. I think maybe I missed out, never going to college.


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Thursday, December 27, 2012

"It's Super-Caaaaat!"

Photos via Imaging-Resource.

Here is the first legit photo of SuperCat, NYC's legendary and controversial feline superhero, who has been the scurge of evil-doers and big dogs in Central Part this year.


Cats, like men, are notoriously poor at expressing their feelings, but sometimes they use subliminal codes to do so.

Are moles a threat?

I sometimes get letters from people who are worried about moles on the models on my site. They worry they are a sign of cancer.
I think they are more common than people think, it's just that most sites and mags photoshop them away.
So I asked our pal Dr. Pascal. He wrote:


Moles are in their vast majority completely benign. Otherwise, 99% of us would die from metastatic melanoma!

See the "Signs and Symptoms" and "Diagnosis" sections on this page.

One extra element that's seldom mentioned to the general public, along with a Doctor's intuition, is the importance of chronology.
The majority of cancers evolve on a SUB-ACUTE time scale, meaning over the course of a few weeks. Acute is within hours or days at most, while chronic is within the scope of months/years.
Usually, we notice something on our skin for the first time as if "out of the blue". But if a skin peculiarity evolves (grows and/or transforms) within, say, 3 to 5 weeks, it's time to have it removed and examined by a proper lab.
Hence the importance of monthly breast self-examination.
Note: not everything of sub-acute chronology is a cancer, of course!!!

Final note: the ABCDEFG are good reliable criteria for when to act (without panicking!), but they can never be infallible. Medicine is all about risk assessing and managing. We often remove something that turns out to be benign (>90%, easily), but on the odd occasion, something which showed no warning signs whatsoever may turn out to be nasty. Once out of 10,000 or 100,000 times.
Simply put, the money & time & human cost of treating everything that could possibly be bad, would be completely unrealistic. There simply wouldn't remain any time left for just, you know, living life.
I know such people, who spend almost their every waking moment "taking careful care of their health". That's a severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a guaranteed fun-killer of life's enjoyment...

The rule of thumb is logic, common sense, and perspective. Guns kill far less people than cars, and yet we don't declare panicked war on automobiles. I believe that any random thing less risky than crossing the street (after looking both ways twice) is something we should just take our chances with.

"Fast 5" writer

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

It's S'winter

I love Isabella's singing and body language at the end, wonderful and loving musical parody.

Merry xmas, dudes and dudettes

It's funny, I always relax better on Christmas. Even though I don't have more to do on any regular Sunday.
Perhaps it's just the mind expecting you to be more Off. Perhaps it's that nigh everybody is Off on Christmas day, so there is less noise, both mechanical and mental.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Improved rental

Update:
Oh, durnit! Fooled by incomplete information! In the Video app on my iPad it said "29 days left" on the top. But apparently that's only the deadline one has to *start* the movie. Worse, when I clicked Start, I was told that I didn't even have 48 hours to finish it, but only 24. It seems 48 is only in the UK. It's crazy.
(iTunes on Mac has a tiny note about these times, but the iTunes app on iPad shows no clue about the draconian deadline when you're about to rent.)

Again, I really don't see what they have to loose by giving us a month! It's not like they need a tape or disc back to rent it to somebody else. And I think that many would rent more movies if they have less stress about whether they can finish it in time.

---
Wow! Proof that Apple listens to me! I complained some months ago how 24 hours for an online movie rental was much too little and that 48 hours, while better, was not all that great either, and I didn't see any downside if they would just go whole hog and give a full month to the rental period.

Today I tested a rental from the US iTunes store, and lo and behold, it's 30 days now! Cool, this makes it much more useful for the many of us in the Internet age with minuscule attention spans, who jump around between tasks like frogs on a hot tarmac.

And it's really not that many movies I want to keep on disk. These days the offerings and consumption is simply much too great, not like the eighties when you might watch a movie or two a week. And if I really want to watch it more than once, even three times rental is less than the price of buying it.
It's a downside though if you like the DVD extras. They ought to append those.

"Go on" and Laura Benanti

I'm becoming quite fond of Go On, Matthew "Chandler" Perry's new show. It's quite funny, and it has heart. And it has Laura Benanti. OMG, whattawoman. Excellent actress too, I think she could play anything serious, but she's also really funny in a super-subtle way. Masterly confident.



She has her own web site, good for her, I've often been a little shocked at how many actors don't. That's like having a shop, but no sign or show-window.

The trailer is long, and if you hate spoilers even for comedy, you may want to avoid it.     :-)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gangnam Style hits one billion views on YouTube

Gangnam Style hits one billion views on YouTube.
First video ever to do that. 

I heard about the video on South Park. It seemed to me to be just a perfectly ordinary rap-type music video. It's a bit funny and self-ironic and has some nice girls (I like the faux red-head), but nothing exceptional.  What the heck has made it break all records on Youboobs?

Update: I'm not the only one wondering. Thanks to A for pointing to this explanation, which I like.
I have to admit the thing is growing on me like a fungus. He does have a fearless and consistent sense of humor.
(English lyrics.)
-------
... Anyway, this version (I think it's the same song!...) has more of the girlie:



Update: aha: it's catchy. The kind that drills into your brain and sticks there until you take it out with a hammer or industrial drugs. You've been warned.

Below: Clint Eastwood must be so proud.

Creature Comforts, on art

[Thanks to Dave]
All from Creature Comforts, which I like a lot. It was an acquired taste for me, because unlike say Wallace and Gromit, there's no action, and the humor is understated. It is actual interviews with ordinary people, set to clay animation.



Some of these answers are quite interesting too.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The automatic research author

(Article) This is either great, or damn scary, or both!
If it really works well, I'd not have expected such a thing to happen for another couple of decades. Even in just one of the many applications he claims, it seems astonishingly advanced.




Computers won’t be replacing humans for writing the great American novel or entertaining the masses on TV, but it is obvious that computers will be an increasing fixture in the analysis and translation of content. This is a perfect complement to human creativity — not something for creatives, researchers, or consumers to fear.

I hope so. I think many people's first reaction is fear, particularly big visions of what happened to typesetters in the eighties soon happening to writers and video game producers and whatnot. But it does seem to potentially have great promise in areas where human production would just be too costly, where the potential market is very small. And the devil's advocate might say: if you can't do your job better than a machine, how much did you really contribute? Of course getting people to actually pay for the additional quality a human touch can add, can be very tricky, sadly.

... No sooner written than I stumble over an example of the sometimes-poor quality of human writing, this article on the very same site, about android sex partners. The writer talks about androids (humanoid robots), but calls them "cyborgs", which is another thing, it's part human, part machine, Robocop for example.

Update:
Bert said:
Wonderful... in some utopian world. Anyone who has done extensive research through literature will tell you that the bulk of the work is identifying and discarding the garbage. I cannot see how a computer would achieve this, except in areas where the amount of source material is large enough to isolate any and all outliers. And even that implies some degree of real understanding of the topic at hand...
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Karaoke the News: So Long, Farewell

Wow. Words don't do justice. "The Daily"'s farewell.

Kite master


[Thanks to Henry]

Not obvious at the beginning, but this is one guy flying 3 kites, the center one from hooks attached to his belt. 
Ray Bethell, a resident of Vancouver, B C, is one of the most famous kite flyers in the world.

Just incredible.
Note the ending. Dang nice.
What muscles does he use to control the middle one??

Update:
This one is also really great.

Cat-Friend vs Dog-Friend

I think this is quite funny.
Although I think the makers probably are dog-people, because they make the cat a total a-hole. Which I don't think they are, they are just aloof and generally selfish. I like cats though.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

"Elephant", Ebert review

"Elephant", Ebert review

"Wouldn't you say," she asked, "that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?" No, I said, I wouldn't say that. 
The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. "Events like this," I said, "if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous.
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The wrong statistics

Once in a cafe I put too much sugar in my coffee, because it was weaker than the coffee at my usual hangouts. I went up and asked the waitress for a bit more coffee on top. I didn't want to insult her coffee, so I said: "I put in too much sugar. I based my estimate on the wrong statistics".

Friday, December 14, 2012

Camera Cozy

Camera cozy, article/photos.



I know you'd never have guessed it was made by a woman, but it is! And she says she stuffs a hand-warmer in by the batteries, and in that case I can believe it does do some good. Though I may have preferred a simple black one for myself.
But there's a lot of charm to this light-hearted feminine approach, can't not love that.

Animusic II

Animusic 2.0, quite cool.

-------------------
Excepting the FB ads. And yesterday I wanted to vote for a charity, but it turned out I had to be a facebook member, *and* I had to sign up for something else too, to vote. Facebook is taking over, it's like the triumph of the lowest common denominator. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Another cheetah

Kirk found this video showing a close encounter with a cheetah in a safari park. It's a bit long, but pretty extraordinary.

Google in the old days

Google in oldie-timey computing.

Very funny. I imagine it must be doubly funny for people who have experienced such machines.


Here's an image search:



Man Of Zeal

Despite my high doubts about the new grey costume (which they hide well here, maybe they have doubts too), I must admit the Man Of Steel trailer is very seductive. Let's hope the film lives up to it.

It's funny how, every time it's been more than a couple of years since the last film with a superhero, they restart the whole story with origin and everything.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Catwoman Anne

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, hubba-hubba.
How do women *do* that? I couldn't get my knee to my shoulder if you paid me a million, and I never could, even when I was young and slim.


Anne's producer said: "She did the most amazing stunt work. And she did it backwards and in high heels."

The above is a reference, "remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, and she did it backwards and in high heels."
Both of them pretty dang outstanding accomplishments.  I don't get how they even *walk* in stiletto heels, much less dance or kung-fu fight.

Danish statue xmas


(Clickable)

Tine N took this great foto of Christmas spirit in Copenhagen. Thanks to her brother, my old friend Morten.
To my disbelief and great amusement, I was not sure where it is located, only to be told it is like fifty meters from where I lived for three years in the early eighties! Good grief. I guess I was too focused on my own path to look much at my immediate surroundings.
Charlie Brown to Snoopy: "Always about food. You dogs have a one-track mind."
Snoopy: "I prefer to think of it as singleness of purpose."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Alice Thomas Ellis quote

There is no reciprocity. Men love women, women love children, children love hamsters. -- Alice Thomas Ellis

Celebrations!

It's funny, people have days celebrating when an area was united with another area. And they also have days celebrating when an area was separated from another area.



I'm reminded of two neighbors I knew. They lived in one of those streets with all the same type of house erected at the same time. My friends took out the glass panels next to the door and put in wood panels. Their neighbor had done that ages ago, but around this same time, they put glass panels back in again. Both parties regarded it as a nice step forward!
(Thanks to Martin for the story, it was his parents.)

Cindy Lora-Renard

I'm not a big fan of "spiritual" music, at least not the most new-agey kind, it tends to be kind of limp. But Cindy Lora-Renard has some really lovely melodies.

Summer & Smoke

(Her songs are available via Amazon, CD Baby, or iTunes.)

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The War on Superman’s Underpants

[Thanks to Umbra]
The War on Superman’s Underpants, article.

When creating - and outfitting - the first superhero, Shuster was starting from scratch, and the closest version to what he had in mind was circus strongmen. This makes sense to me. Of, course, the modern argument against super-briefs is that old-time-y strongmen don't exist anymore, and today no one knows what they looked like or why superheroes are dressed like them. So take off those knickers, right?
I say thee nay!

I agree. If for no other reason than they have not yet managed to make a new-age costume which does not look silly or ugly. The latter applies in my mind to what's apparently the costume in the next Superman movie, ugh:


Much as I often favor grey as an artist, for the neutrality, on a superhero costume, it really does not work.  At least not on one like Superman, whose very essence, due to his invulnerability and his symbolism of Hope, is meant to be as flashy as possible.

Admittedly it is very difficult to make the comic book costumes translate well to the higher reality of movies. I don't think they really have found the formula yet. Batman perhaps comes closest (I just watched Dark Knight Rises, good one), though I think they tend to over-complicate them.

This Contact Lens Puts a Display Right On Your Eye

This Contact Lens Puts a Display Right On Your Eye, article.

OK, this I don't get. 'Cuz the eye can't focus on its own surface. Hold text a foot from your eye, you can probably read it. Hold it a couple inches from your eye, you probably can't. Hold it a millimetre from your eye, and you really can't read it.

One solution would be if there were a super-tiny projector to actually project onto the retina with micro-laser beams (somehow taking the light-bending of the lens into consideration). But such compact technology is at least a couple decades away, I'd think.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Bright As Yellow (repost) The Innocence Mission

I never really before noticed how beautiful the singer is, in an oddly fragile way.
(And I still would have put some yellow in the video, like flashes of famous old paintings.)

I really like the song, and the concept reminds me of the main direction and goal of my life, an abstract warmth, as yellow, which I guess is my perception of the Universal love many movements talk about. I realized many years ago that it was represented by beautiful things and people, but it was not *in* those things and people, it's something behind it all.

Roxy Music: Avalon

Update, TCG found this excellent live version:


This was one of the albums I had as a kid. Almost too sweet for my normal taste, but too good.
I love what they did with the female vocal in the last third.



I think, as an artist, it's a little bit of a pity: the album cover and the title suggest something epic, something timeless. (Avalon is the island from the King Arthur legends.) And the music really lives up to that, grand, bigger than life. But then when you listen to the lyrics, they're about a party and dancing.


Friday, December 07, 2012

The really big pay sites

Regarding the biggest (literally) nudie pay sites, a friend of mine wrote to me:


"What I've never quite figured out with some of these sites is how their customers actually consume the photos and videos. I mean, there  are only so many hours in a day, and the volume that these sites put out would seem to overwhelm whatever free time anyone could have."

I have thought so myself. How can anybody consume five sets of girlie pictures a day (often at over a gigabyte per set)? 

If you have insight into this, do chime in. 

Review: Samsung Galaxy Camera

Review: Samsung Galaxy Camera, article, TechRwanda.

I post it not because it has a lot of info you couldn't have guessed from the basic info of the gadget (decent camera, but if you don't need the apps, just get a regular compact camera, and so on). But because of the very poetic, almost Dadaistic language it has. (They may have used machine translation.) Lo:

There is simply one downside to this stuff included practicality-electric cell existence. At the point that utilized immaculately as a zoom lens, the apparatus can shoot around 170 representations and a couple motion picture cuts before using up electric storage device charge. Be that as it may provided that you put a 3G SIM into it, the electric cell existence takes a gigantic dip. The apparatuses can shoot around 100 to 120 visualizations when utilized with 3G. Samsung is savvy to the downtrodden electric storage device essence of Galaxy Camera and is pushing the unit an extra electric cell in India.
... Cons: No RAW uphold, absences basic access to settings for manual control, more gigantic and ample contrasted with normal focus-and-shoot camera, downtrodden electric cell essence.

"Poor battery life" becomes "downtrodden electric cell essence"? You gotta love that!


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Olivia and John T together again

I did not see this one coming. But good for them, cute tune, and I hope their xmas album is a success, they deserve that.




She is 64, he is 58. Maybe time has been kinder to him, he looks good. But then he probably dyes his hair, who has no grey hairs at 58?

Update:

Thanks TCG for the link to a making-of article.

Anyway, I think it's just a typical pop song, no worse or better than most.
And the video was an afterthought made in a rush, the idea came from the still photographer who also made it. The most amazing thing about that is actually that JT and ONJ did not get that idea themselves, it's pretty obvious that anything with those two together would be a hit. I mean, I am about the furthest from a musical fan, I usually avoid them, but I was a teen when Grease came out, and I liked it, still like it, it has great catchy pop songs like The One That I Want (which also has some nice spray-on pants, practically).

Doubling the frames...

'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey': How Is 48 Frames Per Second?, article.

Peter Jackson, 'The Hobbit' Director, On The 48 FPS Debate: 'If You Hate It, You Hate It', interview.

Technology keeps surprising me. I had the impression that 24 frames per second was pretty much what our eyes could distinguish. And here, a century after the invention of motion pictures, they suddenly come and tell us that 48 frames per second can be done, and lo, it's a radically different experience! So different that some people actually hate it, and the experience is taking the debate away from talk of the actual content of the movie shown. Wow.

Jackson:
my experience with 48 frames ‑‑ and I've seen hours and hours and hours of it, obviously ‑‑ is that it's something that becomes a real joy to watch, but it takes you a while... it's like watching a movie where the flicker and the strobing and the motion blur what we've been used to seeing all of our lives -- I mean, all our lives in the cinema -- suddenly that just disappears. It goes. And you've got this incredibly vivid, realistic looking image. And you've got sharpness because there's no motion blur, so everything is much sharper. And plus we're shooting with cameras that are 5K cameras, so they're super sharp. [...]

But the disappointing thing with CinemaCon is that no one talked about the footage. The first time we ever screened "The Hobbit," all the stories were the 48 frames stories. And then the negative guys, the guys that say this doesn't look like film -- the guys who are in love with the technology of 1927 -- are sort of sitting there saying, "But it doesn't look like cinema. This is not what we're used to seeing in the films."

A commenter who has not yet seen the film says that "real life has motion blur". This is a dumb thing to say. It does not. Motion blur is an artefact created by slow shutter speeds in cameras (the shutter smearing one fiftieth of a second worth of motion into one frame), it does not exist in life.

I'll be interested to see such movies in the future. Actually, watching blu-ray movies recently, I have noticed that even with the sharpest picture, as soon as the camera starts panning (either in live action or animation), it breaks up, it gets bad to watch. I would bet that doubling the frame rate will have a very positive influence on this.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

EveryTimeZone

Here's a handy-dandy likkle site: EveryTimeZone.

Just drag the green line to the date and time you wish to match, in the time zone you've been given the date in.

Why 'The Daily' Failed, 2 updates

Why 'The Daily' Failed, article by John Gruber

As often happens, JG has some good and simple observations.
Lessons:
1: Don't suck.
2: Start small.

They set up an operation with $25 million a year in expenses. But there’s no reason why a daily iPad newspaper needs that sort of budget. A daily iPad newspaper of the scope of The Daily might (but I doubt it), but that simply means the scope of The Daily was ill-conceived. News Corporation went no further than taking the newspaper as we know it — the newspaper as defined by the pre-Internet 20th century — and cramming it into an iPad wrapper. You can’t tell me a good daily iPad newspaper couldn’t be run profitably for $5 million a year.

What he said.
What's odd in this world is that many people have success confused with size. If your company is not huge, or at least growing very quickly, then it's not successful, or not worth consideration. That's completely wrongheaded. Many, many of the most successful people and companies in the world, measured both by job-satisfaction and finance, are small and have no desire to grow.

Update:
Check out Marco's (programmer of the Instapaper) new super-lean magazine "The Magazine".
I've subscribed. So far the writing is good, though maybe not compelling. We'll see how it goes. But I surely like his angle to it. No unnecessary costs for flash (or Flash). It takes much less to make a profit this way.

Update:
As time goes, and people begin to think of e-publishing as The way to publish, and as they start seeing the potential there, and the economy of starting small, then we'll see all kinds of great specialist publications which might never have been possible on paper. On paper you have that big upfront expense, and how are you going to find your audience? Because the Net is non-geographical, a small audience does not need to be in one place to be found.  Plus of course the shipping expense and work there used to be with paper publishing.

It is still the Wild Frontier right now, and Everything is Free, because everybody is fighting for mindshare. But things will settle down, and I think over the next decade or two people will begin to be able and willing to pay a little for subscriptions (also easier to take than it used to be), to get what they want instead of sorting through lots of junk. I know I'd be more than willing.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

USB plugs

I seem to count five different kinds of USB plugs.
This is woefully inadequate, we need 80-100 different ones. At the *very* least. Today I almost plugged in a cable right at the first try, that simply won't do.

OMG not again, O2 "service"

Sorry to be kvetching again, some things I just have to air. It's O2 again, my mobile phone provider. If I wrote the whole sorry story of the hour of my life wasted, it'd be as long a post as the last one about them. Instead suffice it to say that I get a text that my credit card has expired. The number in the text was out of date! I got their main number. Which had lots of menus, but no way to change the card details, and no way to get to talk to a human!!

I tried the web site. Impregnable. Many, many, many pages and links and menus, but 17 years of WWW experience did not help me find a place to change my payment details. Do they want to get their money? (In the middle of it, my login did not work, so I had get that changed to what I'm sure it was already.)

I got an chat advisor. After several minutes of trying to understand what I wanted (!) he gave me a short number to call if I'm to change my payment details. 
... I called that number. And again got their main menu, with no way of reaching a human or give my details. I just gave up for today, I can't handle it, they've defeated me. 

These days my temper has evened out, I don't often get mad at people. But messed computer software and bureaucrazies (hehe) can still give me the Donald Duck thundercloud above my head.

update: After more searching and clicking around, I finally found some info which hints that I'm using Google Wallet to pay them, lord knows why. And since I updated my info there yesterday, I'll assume all is OK. 

CG advances

See the videos here, there are some pretty amazing computer graphics advances.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Meg Lee Chin

Sadly I couldn't find in full length my fave of hers, "Heavy Scene". (Well, I did find it, but only shortened and pasted over a scene from the soft-porn gay TV show Queer As Folk. And with dialogue intruding in the music, so that's a no-go.) A pity, it has a unique and cool sound.
These are quasi-satisfactory substitutes.



Saturday, December 01, 2012

The perils of short-term vision

Jeff Bezos is building a 10,000 year clock in a mountain, article/video.
“The clock is a symbol for long-term thinking,” he said in the interview. “If we think long-term, we can accomplish things that we couldn’t otherwise accomplish.” As an example, he noted that asking someone to solve world hunger in five years might sound preposterous, but doing so in 100 years might not. “All we’ve done there is change the time horizon, we didn’t change the challenge. Time horizons matter. They matter a lot.”

I couldn't agree more. For example limited terms for presidents. I guess it's to limit the risk of dictators. But it also hamstrings them. You simply can't make any important and major change to a country in just 8 years, much less 4.

A modern religious organization I know of is very missionary. And they believe that mankind is lost unless they save it. They seriously want to Save The Planet. But the thing is that they are crippled by their short-term vision. To my knowledge they have no 50-year plans, not even 20- or 10-year plans. In fact it's so bad that 97% of the attention and energy in the branches is spent making sure that this week went better than last week (particularly financially). It is something they are very, very serious about, if statistics go down for one week, it's really bad, and the responsible staff are penalized.

That is clearly insane. If everything you do has to show results this week, then you are always cannibalizing future results. Just for one example, you won't be willing or able to spare staff members for long-time training, because they are needed to make money right now. And you alienate your staff and customers, because they are always pressured into emergency-operation mode, where sacrifices and extra work always has to be done Right Now, otherwise the sky will fall. For example, cutting down the lunch time breaks by half. There is hardly ever any feeling of Normal Operation, of calm, organized progress towards goals in the future.

A good example is that some years ago they had a big drive to translate all their materials into all the major languages. And it all had to be done before a specific date, like inside half a year. This was like usual taken enormously seriously, but was completely unrealistic, and the results was that not only were the staff and volunteers burned out by the end of it, all the goals had not been reached anyway, and the books and materials which had been produced were so full of mistakes that many of them had to be scrapped. Great big waste of time and money.

Great to Be a Baby

Great quote from this episode ("Agent Doof"): Candace, age 16: "Now we need one of those old things... like a web page printed on paper... a newspaper!"

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bury your iPhone

Here's a weird thing. Apparently this apparatus takes your iPhone inside it, but then replaces the iPhone's camera with its own lenses and sensor.

So I guess it's aimed at photographers for whom 8 megapixels are not enough. But what serious photographer uses a white-and-gold camera?

I guess an entrepreneur who is also a singer and names himself "will.I.am" should signal that you'll get something which is more sizzle than steak.



... Oh! It also has a slide-out keyboard!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sharp pictures

Ctein has a new article out about how to make sharp photos. I have not read it yet, but I'd just butt in prematurely with something I've thought about before:

Sharp pictures, pretty simple:

  1. Get a quality camera. They pretty much all are, now. 
  2. With a good lens. This is more tricky. How good you need depends on the use. For web images almost anything will do. For 3-foot prints you need a really good one. 
  3. Focus correctly. This is not hard, you just need to pay attention to where the camera has focused (if you have an autofocus camera, almost all modern cameras are). Most cameras will hold the focus if you press the shutter down half-way and re-compose (if the main subject is not in the middle of the frame).
  4. Hold the camera still. This takes a moment of concentration which many people forget, sometimes even experienced photographers. (I hold my breath too, though I'm not totally sure it helps.) You need a tripod or a shutter speed fast enough for hand-holding. The longer the lens (focal length), the faster the shutter speed you need. If the camera has stabilization, you may get away with 2-3 stops slower shutter speeds. 


That all said, many famous photographs are not at all sharp. Even the world famous moon rise photo by Ansel Adams is not very sharp, and yet has brought in probably millions to the photographer ('s estate). (Well, "not very sharp" compared to what his fine equipment could do. They say it's because his tripod was on top of his car and not on hard ground.)

It is easy to get into an addiction to quality, like sharpness. Lord knows I've been there, and I'm not even safely out yet, despite having learned this many times.
Well, the craftsman loves good gear, and quality. But to almost all the public, it doesn't matter one bit, they don't even notice unless it gets exceptionally gross.


Update:
Russ:

I think sharpness is more a preoccupation of gear-head photographers rather than appreciators of photography.

There is a lot of truth to this, though my short article here was on another level, trying to help less experienced photographers get better results. I edited some photos for a friend a while ago, and at least a third were just unusable because of drastic unsharpness. With a little education that's not necessary at all.

Key & Peele: Substitute Teacher

The 12M "best ones"

Area Woman Finally Uploads All 12 Million Pictures Of Her Vacation To Europe On Facebook, Onion article.
The online album, entitled “Eurotrip 2012!!!” was reportedly assembled from more than 15 terabytes of data spanning 960 16-gigabyte memory cards, each thoroughly documenting the landmarks, food, drinks, streets, buildings, plants, animals, people, signage, hotels, museums, sports, modes of transport, weather, and “miscellaneous fun” that Stevens and close friend Danielle Lu encountered along the way.

I think the article is gently poking fun at the phenomenon of lax editing of many online photo collections.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

All prizes are dangerous


In 1926, on discovering that his novel, "Arrowsmith," had been awarded what was then called the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, author Sinclair Lewis wrote the following letter to the Pulitzer Prize Committee and declined the honour. He remains the only person to have done so.

And the Pulitzer Prize for novels is peculiarly objectionable because the terms of it have been constantly and grievously misrepresented.
Those terms are that the prize shall be given "for the American novel published during the year which shall best present the wholesome atmosphere of American life, and the highest standard of American manners and manhood." [...]
I invite other writers to consider the fact that by accepting the prizes and approval of these vague institutions we are admitting their authority, publicly confirming them as the final judges of literary excellence, and I inquire whether any prize is worth that subservience.

Great observations. Just look at Hollywood. Even the most serious actors and creators are looking at getting an Oscar as the highest achievement they could dream of, despite the media- and commercial circus this award is. And even if it wasn't, it's just an award. Surely one doesn't make art for the awards, but for the art and for what it can do?
And surely subservience, other than that limited by time and mutual agreements, is anathema to all men, not the least artists? 

---
... "the highest standard of American manners and manhood." 

Oh no... Fine standards by themselves perhaps, in some circles, but to set them up as standards for literary value? Oh-em-gee. 


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Run, Cheetah, run!

See a cheetah run (about 50-60 mph), captured at 1200 frames per second!

What an amazing beast.
I'm almost most impressed by the fact that its head is going virtually in straight line, you could almost balance a cup of coffee on its head while it runs full tilt! Dang, that's precision.
Don't miss the making-of video. They had to build a 400 feet dolley track, high-precision to avoid wobbles.


Cheetahs on the Edge from Gregory Wilson on Vimeo.

Making-of:

Understanding Depth of Field in Photography

Understanding Depth of Field in Photography, article.

It's just the rudiments, but it's illustrated and seems pretty clear.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Who Made That Emoticon?

Who Made That Emoticon?, article.

You don't think about that somebody has invented something as omnipresent as that, it's like "who invented oxygen?". But Scott Fahlman did it, though he's also a researcher in AI.

By the way, not so long ago a friend misunderstood something I wrote because I used colon-bracket instead of colon-dash-bracket. She simply did not recognize that as a smiley face. And I think the full icon is slightly clumsy to type, what the shift key being used for the first and last character, but not the middle one. So now I have a macro which types a few spaces and then the full smiley face. So I just hit control-right-bracket:    :-)

When I first started on the Net, I was against them as many people are, they don't seem "literary" enough. But heck, most scribbles over the Net is *not* literature anyway, are they? They are more like conversation. And after somebody took a very risky joke literally back in 1997, I started using them.

If you think about it, it's just like conversation. If you are talking to a friend or two who you know well, you can make a tricky joke with a straight face. But if you're talking to a stranger, you aren't familiar with his sense of humor (or not), so you automatically smile when you do it, to show you're joking. The smiley face is exactly that, and it's a brilliant invention.

Camera deals.

[Thanks to tOP]

Excellent Black Friday deals:

Canon S100 at only $229! Wow, fantastic deal.

The best deals from B&H.
(A small sales commission goes to Mike from tOP, he richly deserves it.)
(And the S100 has my own affiliate link. I usually use those, if I remember. But I only ever write my honest opinion of any product anyway.)

In my opinion the only compact which beats the S100 is the Sony RX100, and that one is rather more expensive and slightly bigger.


Switching off your inner pedant

Editors: would you do me this tiny favour?, article.
I am making a new determination right now: I am going to switch off the pernickety, know-better side of my brain whenever I can, and hold my tongue if I can’t. Why? Let me explain. [...]
I’d really love it if I just didn’t notice those errors, but as that’s not going to happen, I will settle for calming the inner voice that wants to get a permanent marker and graffiti my editorial wrath (plus corrections, of course) all over that sign that says “Parking” Strickly for Customer’s.
-

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The living city? and monocycles

The producer from MIB III*: "I treat these vehicles (monocycles**) like they are another character in the story."

You always hear that. People say: "The city is like another character in the story".
What do they *mean* by this? Do they even know themselves what they mean, or is it just one of those cliches people pick up?
What do they do differently if "the city is another character" than they would if it weren't?


*Great fun movie! A more than worthy successor. Good story, great creatures and gadgets.

**It's said in the interview that there is no such thing in reality. Well, there is. Although admittedly it's a bitch to ride and will probably never be a big thing, though modern computerizing might help somehow with the balancing and turning.



Depth of Field, Bokeh, and Why All Cameras Are Not Created Equal


(Note, I feel the content/ad ratio is a bit low in this one.)

John P has some good points here, but I would argue with his arguments against mirrorless cameras. If you get the right lenses, like the fabulous and not-expensive Olympus 45mm F: 1.8, you can get great soft backgrounds.

This 45mm lens from Olympus (90mm equivalent) is really a phenomenon. It has image quality normally only found in much bigger and much more expensive lenses. (It's about $400.) The only concession to the low price is that it's not all-metal, but then that even helps to reduce weight. Olympus' own 12mm 2.0 of similar quality is all metal, but it is twice the price.  And the 45mm is perhaps even more praised.


Electric prodigy

Self-taught teen builds battery to power family home, article/video.

Not to mention his own radio station!



It's amazing. Most of us couldn't even build this stuff given the parts and instructions, but this guy apparently reverse-engineers it and builds it from scrap!

Mr. Winning is back

Just started watching Anger Management, the new Charlie Sheen TV comedy. Man, he seems like he aged ten years in the 1-2 years he's been away. Maybe he stopped taking whatever had him "winning TV".

By the way, this is at least the third show he's been in where his character is called "Charlie". What's up with that? Is he afraid people are going to forget his first name? I just think it's a poor practice, the audience is then not watching a made up character, they are watching CHARLIE SHEEN!

The Duchess photographer

Kate Middleton photographs. I like 'em.

Orangutan

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Paprika opening credits

Seems the song is called "Meditational Field", from the anime Paprika. I wanted to play the song for a while, but I couldn't remember its title!
(We've touched on the movie before.)



Here is another song from the movie (composer Hirasawa Susumu), clearly inspired by the main title.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Online video prices

The pressure is clearly on to get us to get all our video by download. For example the new Apple notebooks don't even have an optical drive.

But I think that to achieve this, they need to give a good think to their prices. Many of them are simply well over-priced. Just a movie rental here in the UK is often over $8 (over five Pounds Sterling).

Now, a season of The Simpsons on Blu-ray disk is less than $19, and it includes the artwork and a lot of extras. But a season of the Simpsons on HD for download, without extras, is twice that price on Amazon, and on iTunes it's a balls-shriveling fifty bucks...
It's just nuts. (Though small, shriveled ones.)
(If you buy the episodes one at a time, it gets worse: on Amazon season 23 swoops up to 65 dollars.)

What is the thinking here? "Hurrah, we save the costs of printing and distribution, so we will double the price!" ??

In the ebook world, customers are launching protests movements against books priced over ten dollars. I wonder how that market would go if an ebook were twice the price of a hardcover, let's call it $50. Not many takers, I guess!

Wide-Angle Macro

There's a new ebook about Wide-Angle Macro photograpy.

Great idea to get more of the background included. I wonder why there are almost no wide-angle macro lenses. They say it's because when you get too close you may scare insects away, or cast shadows on the subject. But clearly it can be done otherwise.


The book is cheap, only five bucks, so I think I'll get it just to see what he does for lenses. Perhaps turn around a normal wide-angle lens. It'd need to be good quality of course, and probably it helps if it's not a fast one. The problem is that a lens is always optimized best for a specific range of distances, and normally this is around half a meter to infinity.

With most lenses, if you get much closer than that, the quality suffers greatly. This is of course why we have dedicated Macro lenses. Apart from them also offering closer distance settings without adding special gear. Macro lenses tend to be not super-fast, most often F:2.8. But amazingly, and surely helped by that very fact, despite being optimized for very close ranges, they also tend to be very sharp at long distances, thus making good all-round lenses too. (Obviously they also tend to be a tad more pricey than normal lenses.)

This is the first photo in the book. Kool, isn't it?
(I hope the authors don't mind me showing this off.)

To make pictures like this, it's a great help to have a camera (like the new Olympus E-PL5) which have a tiltable screen which can turn all the way around to be seen from the front.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Scared Away - Shadow of the beat

Shadow of the Beat = Ugress.

I like the song. The video has bloody images from The Evil Dead, but that is apparently where the lyrics came from, so.



"The dark shadows, the dark shadows, moving in the, moving in the, moving in the woods..." 

Power cuts threat as sun storm hits earth

[Update: it turns out this is an old article. (There was no date, except the current date at the top.) So, never mind. I'll let it stand because it has a little background info too.]

Power cuts threat as sun storm hits earth, article.

The solar flare was classified as an X18-category explosion, meaning it can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms.
Although the charged particles present no direct danger to people on the ground, they could have a devastating effect on electrical equipment.
[...]  The result could be widespread power surges and even blackouts...

It seems it may be a good idea to keep important computers turned off tonight if you can, and unplug them. (A big powersurge can easily leap a turned-off switch, I've heard.)

An engineer from a big computer support company told me once that they always have a lot more work on the day after a lightning storm, particularly in the industrial areas, where a lot of devices are running 24/7.

I have installed powerstrips with power surge protection at critical places. Even so those have a limit, so I unplug the machines if an electrical storm comes close (less than several seconds between a lightning flash and the boom).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

One's Self is the bedrock


I care not so much what I am to others as what I am to myself. 
-- Michel de Montaigne

I think many people may protest against that idea. They'd feel that we are only here to serve others. That what we mean to, and do for, for example our family is everything, otherwise one is just being selfish. 

But I think it has a lot of merit. It does not mean that one should only work for and care for oneself, but that one can only *judge* oneself. One's self and one's connection to higher forces and callings. What others say should be taken into account, but the final judgement and decisions must be one's own, alone. 

Otherwise one is adrift on a sea of opinions, going to and fro as fashions change. Only be evaluating things by the best of one's abilities and then taking a firm stance and working from there, does one have a chance of making progress. 

I think it would be very hard to find anybody who has made remarkable, unique achievements, who has also not at some points been in spectacular disagreement with many of his contemporaries, maybe even to the point of violent attacks. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fuji X-E1 being tested, Canon, and Sony

The new Fuji X-E1 mirrorless system camera is being tested. One thing is clear: the image quality is very impressive.
To compare, here is the Canon 7D at ISO 3200, a critical speed.
And here is the X-E1 at ISO 32oo.
The X-E1 has a similar-sized sensor (APS-C, not quite full frame), but has a very obvious advantage in noise handling and general quality impression, and yet the X-E1 is a third smaller than the 7D, and also a third cheaper at around one grand US.

It should be said of course that the 7D is probably the best for many professional uses, it's more flexible, and it has many, many more lenses to choose from, since the Fuji X system is brand new. But still damn impressive of Fuji.
If you want even better image quality, an option is to step up to the even larger and $2,500 more expensive Canon 5D III, sample image. (Even more impressive, that picture doesn't even look like the sensor is strained! Even 6400 it takes in stride.) But you need heavy and very expensive lenses to make that camera pop.



Perhaps even more impressive, Sony's new full-frame compact camera Sony RX1, though expensive at $2800, actually right up there with the big Canon 5D III! Here it is at 6400, practically as sharp as the Canon, and noise-less! This is from a jacket-pocket camera weighing less than 500 grams.


Damn, a few years ago, this would have been my dream camera. In the mean time I've learned that 1: I rarely make the big prints which would show the difference, and 1: I feel bound when shooting with a camera with a fixed lens which is not even a zoom.
Some people get "into" shooting with a specific focal length, and I can understand and respect that, but me, I've found that when I have a zoom, I use it all the time and love it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Big-camera fans impress

Natalie's Rap

From this interview (along with "Thor") I learned that Natalie Portman had done a rap song. And not just any rap song, but as filthy as anything the big black dudes have done.
You can get an uncensored version, but I sort of think the bleeped version is funnier, you fill in the blanks yourself.





... And she really is this small, sweet, highly educated person. I guess the real talents keep surprising you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Big Brother in the sink

[Thanks to Imaging-Resource]
From Liamm.


Gasolin Theater concert - Good time Charlie and This is My Life



I sorta like it, despite it being very different indeed from the old original, one of my faves as a youngster.
This rendition show how much flexibility and depth there is in Gasolin's compositions, despite many "people of taste" dismissing them as worthless pop in their heyday, probably exactly because they were so hugely popular across age, gender, and class-divides. It's uncool to like what everybody likes.


Troels Lyby and Follinsmusik

In contrast, same song by Kim Larsen, co-composer, former lead singer of Gasolin. 


Another yet different version, by Tine. Good stuff.

Electric kettle? (updated)

I think that after over a decade, my trusty and pretty Danish electric kettle is nearing the end of its useful life.
What would you recommend for an electric kettle?
I'm looking for:
1) Reliability
2) Simplicity
3) A nice design

I like this design:



... The one I have now is similar, though unfortunately not matte. They had a matte model which was gorgeous, but it started failing very soon, and when I'd replaced it under guarantee two or three times (the store clerk started yelling at me!), I gave up and got the shiny "chrome" model.

You'd think that with something this simple, you could just buy anything and get a good product. But looking at reviews, that's just not the case. One very fancy kettle has tons of bad reviews because the lid sticks and the beautiful graphite covering starts to peel.

My current front runner is this one. I can get it at Amazon UK, I really like the looks, and the reviews are very good.


Hmm, I don't think I have ever had a kettle with the traditional design with the handle on top. One reviewer says it's better, and for sure it's better balanced.

Update:
Thank you all for the helpful feedback and tips! There were many things to consider.

I've decided to go with a Morphy Richards:


I like black or silver (and glass) a lot. But I have so much of these (in hardware, cameras, and gadgets!), that I decided to go for something a bit more colorful this time. And this one has the features I want, and good reviews.

DEFINR.com, faster dictionary

For a long time I have had a macro which looks up words on dictionary.com. (It copies a highlighted word, goes to the site, pastes it in and hits return.) But recently, their homepage has become so packed with ads and links that it takes simply too long to load.
So I googled for a fast dictionary, and found DEFINR. I don't have much experience with it yet, but it is definitely much faster, loads in about 2 seconds for me, whereas dictionary.com had crept up to around eight seconds. (I've kept adding delay time in the macro so the page would have time to load before the word could be pasted in.)
(Jakob Nielsen says that for the average person, a web page load time of 0.1 second seems instant. One second feels good. Anything over ten seconds is too long. (And especially for a little routine thing you do many times a day.))
Another fast alternative is NinjaWords.com.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Maze art

When I was a mere kid, I once bought a book with mazes. But the great thing was that the mazes were also art, drawings.
I loved that, and I miss the book, so I've been googling a bit. Of course there is quite a bit of it (as there usually is with the benefit of the WWW), but not very many that I love all that much, the bulk is clearly done without the benefit of long training. I kind of like the one below.

I like art which is incorporated into other things, double attraction.

Art by Jeremy

A control mechanism

In a book I'm reading:

"The priests decided it was a good omen, and yet a warning at the same time." 

What a wonderful observation. Whether a priest or a politician, when you want to control a group or population, you want to feed them both good news and warnings continually. Good news to make them feel their past work and sacrifices have been worth it, and warnings to keep them working and sacrificing.

"The Eastern front is victorious, and we have gained three new territories. We are truly the greatest group ever! 
But beware: we have intelligence that our enemies on the Western front are plotting attacks, so now is not the time to relax, we must work harder than ever!" 

De nattergale La' det lig'

While we are in the jazzy mood, here's a cool Danish song.
"La' det lig'" means "let it be" (til tomorrow).
"You know how you get up early in the morning..." ("yes, that can be dangerous") "And then you realize you really shouldn't have done that..." 

Ugress - Swing E Sesso

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thorium, safe nuclear energy?

[Thanks to Jimmy.]

Does abandoned Idaho mine hold key to energy independence?, article and video.

I'm fully prepared to believe that governments chose Uranium exactly because it's not safe, in other words, you can build bombs from it too.


Update:
Well, as always seems to be the case, there's another view. Dave points to this article.

In this world it seems there are never any simple solutions to complex problems.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Excuses for street photography

T. Leuthard has a list of excuses if you're challenged while photographing on the street.

"I'm a photo student and our teacher wants us to shoot people. He is very tough…" 
"I work on the 100 Strangers project (www.100strangers.com)…" 
"I love your beautiful eyes…" 
"You have an interesting face…" 
"I love your style…" 
"You are hot. Can I have your phone number…?"

Here's my first one:
"I am an undercover policeman. We suspect a nest of terrorists in this area, and one way of finding suspects is to see who will protest when we take their picture."