Monday, December 30, 2013

Stephen Gillette photos

Our old pal Stephen Gillette (no, sadly no heir to the Gillette fortune), a fellow connoiseur of compact cameras, still makes cool photos
Amongst other things, he has made a series of circular photos, something you don't see often these days. 






Saturday, December 28, 2013

"Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities"

This seems like a very interesting book, Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The book for those who love good tools. (It doesn't only talk about physical tools, also principles, review sites, etc.)


Sadly it is not yet available in ebook format, which I'd prefer for legibility and portability. But looking inside it, one can understand that the transfer will be a lot of work indeed. Even on the currently biggest iPad (10-inch), those pages will require zooming in. And for converting it be read on a Kindle...!


Friday, December 27, 2013

The RX100 In Concert, Yaaaaaaaaaah

Here are some impressive impressions of what some old men can do, and what one small camera can do, the Sony RX100, which praises I've long sung. ... A pocket camera?? For concert photos??!



Doing well by doing good

[Thanks to Bert]



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy holidays and spammers


Happy holidays to all ya lovely readers. 

======

You know how I often find a neo-Dadaist poetry in spam. Here's a new one. It's from one of those blog comments where people just want to put in a link to their flikkin' affiliate site, but put in a paragraph of generic "comment"-like chatter to fool the bots and hopefulle even the editor:

Definitely believe that which you said. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the net the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people think about worries that they plainly don't know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people can take a signal.


Wow. I love when I sometimes manage to "define out the whole thing without having side effect". Yes, and people can take a signal, it's so true!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Photographer Has Blower Confiscated by TSA Because it ‘Could Fly Like a Missile’

Photographer Has Blower Confiscated by TSA Because it ‘Could Fly Like a Missile’, article.

(It's a dust blower, fully made of rubber/plastic.)

In the words of Steve Jobs: "it kind of makes you ashamed to be human".


And it's not even the first time.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Daylight bulbs??

You surely know about energy-saving bulbs, CFLs, compact fluorescent lamps. Cost a little more, but live much longer, and uses just a quarter of the energy. Great.

What I was sadly not aware of until recently is that you can get daylight versions of these!
(Note: this is not "cool" or "blue-ish" light, it is white light. Neutral. It can seem cool because over decades we have gotten used to the strongly orange-y light from normal bulbs (se photo below). But this is the light spectrum like it comes from the sun, and it is what our eyes have evolved to make use of.) 

Especially here in Northern UK, it's easy to get into dark moods in the wintertime, because it simply is so dark outside, and the body/eyes need daylight. The night lasts like 16 hours or more, and most of the days are dull and dark too.

I just got several of these daylight bulbs, and to my surprise, they make a difference right from the start. I feel cheerier and more energetic. If this is a lasting effect, it's a major thing. It seems to me now, already, that the old orange-y bulbs is kind of "dying light" in comparison to this energising daylight.

When I got my first "100 Watt-equivalent" energy-saving bulb years ago, it didn't seem to me to live up to the promise of that much light. So I bought 100w-equivalent this time too (25W). And they are certainly that, this time! Bright. These may even be too bright for some uses, we will see as I get used to it.
Anyway in general, I think some people will have to take a couple of weeks to get used to having the daylight spectrum indoors.

I really think they should be known about much more widely. Get a trial one today.    :-)

PS: of course they are a blessing for indoor photography too, much less problems with color balance.

Oh, and another thing: if you are reading ebooks on an e-reader without either backlight or frontlight, just the basic grey-ish e-ink screen, you may find that the full-spectrum light makes reading easier.

Oh, if you doubt there is much difference, look at this! :



Update:
Bert said:

...you might want to add, to the attention of northerners like us, is that as soon as you start heating the house, from fall all through winter, the energy used to light your days is essentially free, since it will end up as heat anyway. So, whether you spend the money on "invisible" heat or light up your days and chase depression at the same time, the cost doesn't change much.
Of course there's always the wear on the bulbs and that's where the latest generation of ultra-long-lasting bulbs really shine - many just won't die! And the savings on doctor visits, pills, cold medicine and whatnots offset the cost of the bulbs many times.
-
(Yes, In all the years I've used energy-saving "bulbs", I've only had one single one die on me.)
There are recommendations of the newer LED bulbs, I'll look into those also.

Update 31 Dec:
Nicola wrote:

Just thought I'd let you know I received the daylight bulbs a few days ago and you're right, they have already made a huge difference, it's like a springtime afternoon outside in here, most pleasing!
And they've added a kind of cool clarity to the atmosphere, first of all was a little disconcerting though have got used to that now :)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

iPotty

Yes, it does have a cover to keep the iPad blameless, but still... "iPotty"? LOL.


Here's is one of the best Amazon reviews:

In these times of extreme busyness, you can't help but get frustrated sometimes and think "there's just not enough time in the day!" With this item, your capacity to "get s*** done" is increased exponentially.

PROs:
* Get s*** done
* Colors are not only pleasing to the eye, but scientifically proven to encourage productivity and movements
* No need to flush, built-in incinerator removes waste after motion sensors detect your absence
* Small enough that you can leave your iPad installed and just carry the whole thing with you
* Can download a free bidet app (although after the trial period, you have to pay for it with an in-app purchase)
* Installing your iPad doesn't cover up the camera lens, for easier multi-tasking (Skyping and wiping?)
* Seat sensor technology detects up to 4 individuals, adjusting seat height and warmth automatically according to programmable presets
* Magnetic smart lid keep animals out, and scents in

CONs:
* No Bluetooth support, will not sync with a smart watch or wireless headphones
* I'd love to see this in a champagne color or maybe customizable lids

This is the best money I've spent in years... I will be buying more of these. 2 thumbs up!

UPDATE: I have dropped my review down to 4 stars. Currently, my left buttock is securely lodged in the seat. While I wait for the fire department to arrive, I wanted to share my further experience with this product. Since I was unable to Facetime for help (less than ideal Wifi access) and had fallen over during my struggle, it wasn't until the mailman found me on the front porch that I was able to call for help. It clearly needs some sort of safety mechanism to prevent cheek lock.

In ya pocket

My pal Jimmy told me:

I suggested to a friend, who's always broke, to keep a $100 bill in his wallet at all times, which I started doing decades ago and it got me out of the starving artist rut.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Not For Astronauts

(Let's just skip the issue of sound in the airless environment of space/the moon...)

Instagram Selfies Earned a 19-Year-Old Criminal 142 Felony Counts

I love/hate how the Net now allows a word to come into existence and become ubiquitous in a week. Like now a self-portrait photograph is now called a "selfie". Sigh.

Instagram Selfies Earned a 19-Year-Old Criminal 142 Felony Counts, article.
when the police asked him his occupation, he replied “thief.”


Monday, December 16, 2013

Sinéad O'Connor - Just Like U Said It Would B

Paid employments

All paid employments absorb and degrade the mind.
 - Aristotle


Aristotle had a first class mind, but I really disagree with this one. Maybe it's true for some, or many, kinds of employment. But I have had at least thee major employment relationships which were nothing but good for me. Which paid me the money I needed, where I was of very good service to my employer, and where I learned a lot, generally about dealing with people, but also things about what we worked with, like using computers, or even linguistic skills, and a bit about navigating the business world. 

Sure it's true that we are all equal, and that the senior/junior relationship is artificial. But heck, what is not artificial in this world? If you simply don't take things too seriously, and if you do your job well and there is mutual respect, and if you make sure that you don't let anybody push you into areas you don't want, then there need be no problem at all. 

A period of employment can be a great learning period, and it can even be a way of life for those who don't have the desire to be self-employed, who is more interested in things which won't earn them  money. The employment is great, because you need not take your work home with you, and in spare time you're free to do your thing. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

35mm quality

I was looking at a picture from this iPhone 5s-shot series on my 30-inch screen. And I recalled how before digital cameras I thought I didn't have gear which were up to "landscape" pictures like that, with the details. But these look nice. Not bad at all.

We compare them to photos by a current Real Camera, and they're a bit less in resolution and low-light performance, so they may feel slightly second-tier. OK. But it struck me: they are really at least as good as what you got with a 35mm camera and normal color film! (Maybe with Kodachrome and a Leica you could do better, but that's an exception, very expensive and needing a tripod most of the time.)

That is really mind-bending, when you remember that the camera is a pea-sized pod sitting in the corner of a hand-device which is a powerful computer and can communicate globally.


If twenty years ago I had seen what we now have in digital photography, I might have killed myself from sheer impotent frustration that I couldn't get it there and then.     :-)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier

News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier, article

Can I just say... THANK YOU! I've been saying this for years and years.
(I'm living it too, mostly. A couple years ago I tried getting a newspaper, it was a good one too. But it was just too boring, there was so little I was interested in.)
Some famous writer said "try living without a newspaper for a couple months, you will feel better."
Amazing to find this article on a newspaper's web site!

My stance is that "news" content just manipulates your emotions (usually to depression or fear) without giving you any data which are useful. If that wasn't bad enough, they are unreliable to the point of surrealism. Talk to some people who have been in the paper, they usually tell you that they hardly recognized the story.

The article has several good points, here are a couple:

News misleads. Take the following event (borrowed from Nassim Taleb). A car drives over a bridge, and the bridge collapses. What does the news media focus on? The car. The person in the car. Where he came from. Where he planned to go. How he experienced the crash (if he survived). But that is all irrelevant. What's relevant? The structural stability of the bridge. That's the underlying risk that has been lurking, and could lurk in other bridges. But the car is flashy, it's dramatic, it's a person (non-abstract), and it's news that's cheap to produce. [...]

News is irrelevant. Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business. The point is: the consumption of news is irrelevant to you. But people find it very difficult to recognise what's relevant. [...] 

News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). [...] In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress.


Read it here

I think part of why we are addicted (not an idle term) to the news is that we don't dare look away.
It is like if there's a lot of noise and commotion down the street, we feel compelled to check up on, for what if it's something which might threaten us?
Only there is always noise and commotion somewhere, and we can't do anything about most of it, so having the news bring it to our face is self-defeating.

And by the way, I think this is why I dislike Facebook (and such) so much: it has so many things in common with the news; the time sink characteristic, the superficiality, the unreliability...

Update:

Bruce W. said...
... I read news from several sources, including several non-US news sources (e.g. British, Russian, and others). The different points of view on the same "story" are astounding. Like the story of the three blind men each touching a different part of the elephant.

Couldn't agree more.
The amazing thing is that somehow the news media have managed to build in a circuit in our heads that says they are neutral and objective. "If it says so in the paper it's true" is often said sarcastically, but there would be no need to say it if we didn't somehow believe it.

And even if they *tried* to be objective, which I think they rarely even think about, then it's just not possible. Complex issues by nature look different based on your viewpoint and background.

Update:
Graham said:

I've managed to give up news media for short periods such as for a long weekend when I had to go into hospital for an operation a couple of years ago. 

But for longer periods that that, I'd be worried that I was missing out on knowing something I needed to know about what was going on locally or in the world. I'd be interested in learning from other people as to how they deal with that anxiety.

Google Open Gallery will let artists make their own digital museums

Google Open Gallery will let artists make their own digital museums, article.

Very kewl.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Inside Amazon, 60 minutes

This 60 Minutes video is a very interesting insight into Amazon's distribution centers etc, including some on the drone research project.
For me it's very telling how they are pushing every aspect of the business to get a better edge. For example they have computer algorythms to optimize how shelf space is used, and they now can stock twice as much in the same space as they could five years ago. This is not your father's mail order company, and it explains a lot.

====
Oddly, it seems 60 Minutes continue using Flash for their videos, so they can't be viewed on tablets. More than that, on my laptop it failed to play on Safari and on Firefox, only the newest version of Chrome played it. 

Update: If the video fails to play, TCGirl found it on YouTube. 

The internet mystery that has the world baffled

The internet mystery that has the world baffled, article.

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

New "Diana" lens...

You may be aware of the "Diana" camera. It's an old plastic camera from Hong Kong, super-cheap, with a primitive plastic lens. It makes pictures like this, and some artists are using it for just those qualities:



And now somebody has invented a lens which is supposed to mimick the Diana camera's images, only in the comfort of your own digital camera!


And they've done it a step better! To quote the site:
You’ve had a crush on Diana since you loaded your first roll of 120mm film. But, all that money spent on film developing and time spent with your DSLR has taken it’s toll on your Diana devotion.
It's time to rekindle the old spark with the Glass Diana DSLR Lens! It’s a glass Diana lens that’ll mount right onto your Nikon or Canon DSLR.
This Diana lens is all grown up. It’s comprised of three coated glass elements for higher contrast and sharper focus than the unpredictable plastic Diana lenses of yore.

Here are some results from this lens. Sharp as anybody could wish, practically. But toy-camera-like? I don't thiiiink so.

Although I do actually think that the tones and colors are quite beautiful. Really. I wonder how I could achieve that look, without dealing with a manual-focus lens? How can a lens make the colors more saturated?

(Actually I think a little under-exposure may be responsible too. I've sometimes seen a satisfying increase in saturation when I underexpose a stop, or even simulate it in the computer.)




(I really like these two pictures.)

Ostriches Freak Out Over Weasel Ball (Updated)

[Thanks to Bert]

This is totally hil.

update: this video keeps being taken down. A pity. 

(Vid was taken down. We try again:)


(I had to ask how the toy works. It has a small motor with wheels in the ball, which makes it run randomly.) 

The look of it reminded me: when my niece was just six or so, I gave her a present in the form of one of those little fuzzy slinky animals with a thin "invisible" string, so you can make it seem to run over your hands and such. She was happily dragging it around the house, making it crawl over the carpet, and to make sure we were all fooled, she kept saying: “Look! I’m not even pulling the string!” 

Hungarian power plant

[Thanks to Philippe]
I can't believe a control room on this scale is a century old!
Cool place too.




iPad Art - Morgan Freeman Finger Painting

I don't get how he did the things like the skin texture... did he really zoom way in and finger-paint each tiny speck in the texture? That's nuts.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Amazon go-bots in the air (updated)

[Yes, just as expected, some already are loading their shotguns...]

[Amazon is already presenting this on their site.]

This will of course raise howls from luddites, but I'd love it, it's almost enough to make one move to an urban area.
Article.







I wonder though where they will drop the parcels, especially in the case of apartment buildings.

I've actually been thinking about how we could make delivery of physical items follow the development of digital delivery. I had not considered drones, but of course, it's perfect.

No mail for you today, you Net-addicted freak! (updated)

It seems that the computer gremlins really don't want me to do any emailing today.

First, just as I had settled down to handle all the over-nigh email, business and personal, crack-bzzzzzz-ummmmm.mmm... The power went. All over the neighborhood.
That took a couple of hours.

Then when the power was back, possibly because of the sudden interruption*, Apple Mail app was angry with me and said it would have nothing to do with my mail files. It would have to "import" ALL the mail again! Now, I am not sure what it means, because it already *has* all the mail, where does it have to "import" it from?

Well, that has already taken at while, meaning hours. I've used Mail for 3-4 years, and guess how many messages it has to reestablish? One million, three hundred and twenty-two, nine hundred and sixty-one emails! Holy mama funk. Ridikuwush.




*After all these years, I've now finally decided to get an Uninterruptible Power Source, UPS.

Update:
OK, I got the UPS Battery Backup today. Man! That thing is only slightly bigger than a shoe box, but it weighs like a TV set! Solid fokker!
It seems pretty simple, and I've got it plugged in and working now.
I would say "I should have gotten one years ago", but actually Northern Europe has pretty stable electricity, and this is the only the third outtage I remember in 11 years (back in Denmark, I don't recall any... well, actually one, back in the early eighties, and maybe a couple when I was a kid), and the first which actually happened while I was on the computer. Still, it was a rather abrupt feeling, and it did seem to mess up Mail causing it to take hours to reestablish itself, so I feel good about having it.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

"Eat jelly, you purple freaks!"

The headline (and my new motto at the top) is from Despicable Me 2.

I could write a long review about all the things I find brilliant about that movie. But I'm sure there are already hundreds of good reviews doing that. So I'll just say: if you like computer-animated comedies, you'll love this. Get it. (If you can display 3D, even better, movies like this are made for it.)

One of the telling aspects of a great animated film is the LIGHT.
Click on this, and enjoy that wonderful light.

By the way, I think they make a little mistake by featuring basically only the Minions on covers and such. I feared that the other characters, for example the girls, would take a secondary place to them. Fortunately this is not true, it has a full character gallery, all used well.

One of the best new characters is Lucy Wilde, agent of the Anti-Villain League. This adorable redhead is a mess of delightful contradictions: She is bubbly, inventive, tough and super-resourceful, a bit bashful, clumsy, slightly sadistic and yet loving, and a martial-arts master.



Saturday, November 30, 2013

"These super-people are real, and they are on our side"

Interesting people with super-normal skills (or "powers").
For example, Dean Karnazes ran 50 marathons in 50 days! And he ran from NYC to San Fran in 75 days! Holy damn.

Kim Peek had eidetic memory. He had memorized 12,000 books perfectly. When he was offered a book on gambling to read, he refused, saying that using his powers for gambling would be "unethical". That really stumps me. I know that casinos ban gamblers who can count cards, a rare skill. That to me seems to be the unethical thing. You set up a game with some rules, making sure that overall the odds are all on your side, making lots of money. Then because one person has exceptional natural skill, you refuse his right to play! That's like banning somebody from playing basketball because they are too tall or can leap too high.

Then there's Wim Hof, who scoffs at winter.
He has been dubbed "Iceman," because the Dutch have no imagination. Hof's ability is so great that even when submerged in freezing water that would pretty much kill a normal human in a few minutes, his body temperature barely drops, and when he climbed Everest (in bicycle shorts, we really can't stress that enough), he said it was easy.

I think these and other examples lend a lot of credence to the idea that the Universe is not all that damn physical, but a sort of live hologram, created and controlled by some kind of Mind or Lifeforce outside of it (which we ourselves may ultimately be part of). In other words, anything can happen.

======

And a guy who can split an air-gun pellet in half with a sword. The thing can't even be seen with the human eye!



(What is it with the Japanese and their super-noisy TV show? It's like they are so repressed in most of life's aspects, that when they do let loose, they go all overboard.)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Mette and drawing

Some of the photos/paintings in the last post reminded me of this one from the mid-nineties, one of the very first drawings I made on a computer:


I made it from a photo I took of my friend Mette:


It was taken indoors, hand-held, with a tiny pocket camera (which shot film), the outstanding Konica Big Mini (had a great lens). We made big prints from some of these shots, and I'm amazed at the quality we got, given those factors.
I was so careless about the technique because I'd imagined them only used as basis for drawings, but they turned out much better than expected, so I've used them for all kinds of things. Mette had a big print of this one framed on the wall where she lived with her parents, and she said people really liked it.

Living paintings

Bert found this really cool page of models which were skin-painted like various types of painting/drawing techniques, then photographed.




A toy amongst beasts





This could be expanded. If somebody were really clever and had the funding, I guess a small tree-climbing remote-controlled camera box could film abes in trees. It would have to be damn strong though, and able to hold on strong, those things have each the strength of ten men (I wonder how, they must have a different kind of muscles). And it should perhaps be camouflaged, and move very slowly, so they get used to it.

But what an engineering challenge! Even without any big animals around, making a good tree-climbing robot is a tall order. I doubt anybody has made anything like it yet.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Datamancer out

RIP, Richard Nagy, Datamancer, has died, seemingly in a car accident in California.
(Someone said recently: "Every year we postpone self-driven cars, thousands more die.")

Way too young.
I considered him a friend, and a working genius.
I was one of the few lucky enough to get one of his works while time was.

(I even made it work with an iPad!)


Update: I'm happy to see that he managed to sell the big project, The Clacker. I'd heard that the eBay auction didn't work. It would have been sad if he'd not been able to sell it after years of work.


Monday, November 25, 2013

"Funny moments"



 "You remind me of an old girlfriend of mine."

An Instagram Movie

This video is put together from pics found on Instagram.
I dunno... apart from a couple of things, like the rocket-shaped ice lolly being juxtaposed with the rocket, I don't see why it's so interesting. (The pro site I found it on were very enthusiastic indeed.)
OK, it's a fresh idea, and it's taken some labor, but I don't necessarily think these things alone will make something Good Art.
Am I just getting too old? Should I give up trying to understand "yoof culture"?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Expression

The most important aspect for art in connecting with an audience is expression. Not just what expression does it have, but perhaps even more importantly: how much.

This is not as obvious as it sounds. Many artists (in the widest possible sense) get so wrapped up in the technique, and in their own relationship with the work, that they forget about the audience. And as a consequence, many many works of art have barely any expression at all.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

NovemberLight2 (updated)

(23 Nov: I added three pics.)







Update:




Taken with iPhone 5s. With HDR, which fought a valiant fight against the surprisingly contrasty light this afternoon.
Apple is to be commended for not overdoing the HDR (contrast correction by combining several exposures) so as to get the unrealistic images where a sky is about as dark as a black cliff. No, it just corrects to get a bit more detail in the shadow and highlights, good.

This fantastic light, along with the dramatic clouds and the autumn colors, makes this quiet burg look grand. (Carefully choses viewpoints and compositions don't hurt, of course.)

Update:
JP said:
On a cloudy day, the building and gate in the first photo would be foreboding. Excellent detail, depth of field and composition.

On this lovely day, I did not see it as foreboding. But: