Saturday, January 26, 2008


Even when I know I'll never use one, I still sometimes stroke my fetish for high-end products, like this one.

Mentioned before is the Red camera, which should ship soon. Laurie Jeffery told me he has ordered one. Interestingly, it seems a baby brother is on the way too.

Another new amateur DSLR

The new entry-level Canon.
One of the readers comments: "This camera has better features then my 1Ds, that cost $8,000." The 1Ds was the first really usable full-frame DSLR, and was released in early 2003. So five years later you can get similar features for one tenth the price. Remarkable.
What I like is that it, like the similar Nikon D40, is compact and light. I only wish it was not only entry-level cameras which were so.

The new 18-55mm kit lens with image stabilization is also getting remarkable reviews. Some say the sharpness (though clearly not the build quality) is similar to some Canon professional line "L" lenses, which is hard to credit, because you pay well for L lenses, both in money and in bulk/weight.
It's early to judge it, but it seems the companion lens may be a similar phenomenon. Meaning sharpness well beyond what you'd expect for the weight and the price.

This means that if you compare this camera and lens to my Canon 5D with the bulky 24-105mm L IS lens, you should get a slightly shorter zoom range, but virtually identical image quality, and at almost half the size, half the weight and half the price. For somebody like me, who value both portability and sharpness highly, this is rather amazing.

Here's a new article from somebody (Nick Devlin) who also like compact travel cameras.
He has the same experience I've had many times... you didn't intend to do "serious" photography, but you brought a pocket camera, and some pictures happened, and some of them were winners. Winners which did not happen with the Big Camera simply because you could not bear to carry that thing around that day.

How about that carp photo? Jim points out the similarity to one of Escher's masterpieces:

This is funny (from the above mentioned article):
"Despite the fact that I never grew to like composing on the LCD, I got excellent results working this way – at least as good as anything I’ve achieve working in my preferred mode. This continues to trouble me. I haven’t the slightest desire to compose my images on a TV screen. In fact, I actively dislike the process at both a practical and conceptual level. The idea of interacting with the world before my eyes through the mediating forces of a machine which disaggregates reality into a sterile digital code and reconstitutes a small and inferior electronic simulacrum of it inches from my face is distasteful to me. Yet, it worked with my way of seeing exceptionally well."

Hehe. Cutting off your nose...
I have found much the same thing. (Though I don't protest as much.) I think the good results may stem from the simple fact that when using an LCD screen one is looking at a picture while making a picture. It makes for a easier mental translation than when looking through a hole at "reality". One tends to see the composition as a whole, including the frame, instead of looking at the central element mainly.

Maybe this also means the rangefinder style of working is not for me. Saves me five grand right there. :)
I think reality is overrated when the end result is a picture.

Mr. Devlin also writes:
"To be blunt, I can’t see the point of non image stabilized cameras anymore. This tool is just too powerful to ignore."

Too true. Any camera these days which does not have full image stabilization has a very serious disadvantage. Which is a pity for a company like Leica which probably considers such a capability only relevant for amateur snap shooters, not for serious camera users. (Remember they only got auto-exposure decades after the others did.) Not to mention they probably don't have the financing to buy or develop the technology.

"AirBook" review

Steve Levy on the MacBook Air.
"Early in my writing career, I had an assignment to follow around a mohel--the guy who does ritual circumcisions in the Jewish tradition. My subject learned the trade by watching his dad, a renowned figure in the field. One day, father told son he was ready to handle the tools himself. Why now, the son wanted to know. "Most students ask me how much to take off," the senior explained. "You asked me how much to leave on."
Apple faced a similar question when designing the MacBook Air, the subnotebook computer that goes on sale next week."

Steven Levy is the author of the excellent book about the history of the Macintosh: "Insanely Great".

Friday, January 25, 2008

Circular phenomena

Another curious coincidence: in two days I hear of two different odd natural phenomena, and both of them circular in nature.

One is Snow Doughnuts. It's not really explained how the holes appear.

The other is dolphins and bubble-rings. What the heck are those smoke-ring-like bubble phenomena? How do they appear, how do they stick around, and how to they move through the water like that? It seems the dolphins blow them somehow, and it's clear that they are made from air and nothing else from the way they break up, but beyond that it's puzzling to me.

Well, Wiki has an entry on it. Still too me, it's one of those things that are too weird, like ball lightning.

Bert writes:
Have you seen the movie Pushing Tin? If not, you could spend a good moment watching it. But if you did, you will probably remember the scene where Billy Bob Thornton is swept in the air by the wingtip vortex of a landing jumbo jet. Here is another (very dramatic) illustration of the phenomenon.
It may appear mysterious, but the explanation is really quite simple.

Simply put, in order for air to push upwards (e.g. generate lift) on an aircraft wing, there must exist a very significant difference between the pressure below the wing and the pressure above the wing, the former being of course greater than the latter. How this pressure differential is formed is quite frankly a very complex topic, but thankfully is not necessary for us to understand how this happens.

If you simply picture the pressure differential between the two sides of the wing, you will agree that it is only normal that the high-pressure air from under the wing will tend to travel towards the low-pressure area on top of the wing, by any path available. It does just that around the tip of the wing, and violently so I might add. This is what causes the vortex on the photo above, and nothing else. Simple enough, no? (if not, take the time to picture it in your mind, it really is quite simple)

[open parenthesis]
Wingtip vortices tend to move away from the aircraft at a constant yet surprisingly small speed (a few kph). An opposing wind of equal magnitude can therefore nullify such lateral motion and make a vortex remain stationary (i.e. over the runway) for several minutes. Since these phenomena are usually invisible in clear air, they can pose a serious threat to approaching aircraft. In case you ever wondered, this is why air traffic regulations strictly enforce a minimum delay between two successive landings or takeoffs (the smaller the approaching aircraft, the longer the delay). This of course applies mainly to the vortices created by large aircraft.

It is also interesting to note that, for jumbo jets flying at ~35,000 ft above sea level, the outside ambient temperature is less than -50C. However, the temperature measured at the tip of the wing is near +50C (if memory serves well); that's how violent wing tip turbulence is. This temperature variation is also part of what causes the white condensation trails left by airplanes.
[close parenthesis]

The same type of vortices are also formed in water around moving bodies. They can be observed, for example, around the edges of a paddle. They are also created by dolphins fins, but are usually invisible when completely submerged. It is these vortices that "trap" the ring-shaped air bubbles and makes them appear stationary.

This may seem incredibly complex, but keep in mind that the dolphins, like all underwater dwellers, spend their entire lives surrounded by such phenomena. It is therefore only normal that they should perceive vortices quite precisely. It is however not so obvious (downright staggering, if you ask me) that they are able to develop a sufficient understanding, albeit intuitive, of those vortices to use those in their playful endeavors... wow!

MacSpeech Dictate

Finally, somebody is patching one of the few bigger holes in the Mac software landscape: a good dictation application.

Who's on First

Ray said:
You're too young to remember this one, but many years ago, Bud Abbott and his partner Lou Costello did a similarly hilarious bit called, "Who's on First?" about baseball.

Well, like many classic bits of Americana, if you follow film and TV, you can't avoid being aware of this bit. It would be like never having heard "Make my day." The dialogue has been referenced and used so many times. But actually I never before saw the original. Here's were YouTube proves itself invaluable once again, here it is.

Update, thanks to Steve: Who's on Stage. Quite clever, band names are confusing. "The Band doesn't play until later, right now we're listeing to Who."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Death Star canteen

Izzy Izzard illustrated. That's a hoot and a holler.
"That's Jeff Vader."
"I'm not 'Jeff' Vader, I am Darth Vader."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Protein shake

I've been buying some protein powder for a while. It's the only one I like. I can only get from the US (or Canada, actually), because food supplements are so heavily regulated it has not been exported yet and may never be. For the same reason the seller can't ship to me, so I've had a friend buy it and ship it to me.
The problem is that apparently UPS is getting more and more paranoid, and if we are to ship this perfectly innocent dietary supplement for personal use, now my friend has to fill out totally ridiculous forms for commercial shipping, with hundreds of nitty gritty details. And they may not even allow it anyway.
It seems the post office is similar in this respect.
This is such a silly problem. Any ideas how to handle this in an easy way?

Ysabella Brave

I was first pointed to her cover of What A Wonderful World. Considering that I like that song and that the people seem to love Ysabella, I was surprised to find I didn't like her interpretation all that much.
And then doubly surprised to find that I quite like her U2 cover:

Big Eyes

One million YouTube views in ten days!
It never ceases to amaze me the kind of thing that can become a hit in the Internet age. I don't know what to think about this one, except it's a funny and fascinating little thing.

It's interesting, though, that the Japanese, the most severe people on Earth, also has Cuteness down to a fine art.

Reminds me of another Internet phenomenon: Happy Slip. She has some talent and humor, but I wonder if she would be in the millions-view range if she was not so dang gorgeous. Of course you can say that about many.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


CheatNeutral. Pay others to be faithful to you.
See how long it takes you to find out whether it's a joke or not, and whether there's a point to it.

It's interesting how the Internet has made a rapid growth in bizarrely off-beat cultural phenomena like this, simply because if you have the skill you can make such a thing and reach a global audience for no money, whereas just fifteen years ago it couldn't have been done or would have been massively expensive.

The Executive Coloring Book

The Executive Coloring Book.
Fun. I had no idea anybody made such cutting satire nearly fifty years ago.
Thanks to Bert.


What a dramatic picture. I wonder how he made the near-black sky? Polarization filter? Or a software manipulation?
[Picture from ImagingResource. Photo by Baqer Mohammed Jawad.]

The one below (from the day before) is nice too. Nothing that hasn't been done before, but if that was a necessary criterium, we'd never see anything.
Photo by Melanie Wells.

Alex said:
As for the Hot Rod, the blur on the road is not in the direction of travel, so I suspect that was a still car with some reasonable good post processing.

bert said...
I concur with Alex, the 2nd photograph is fake. The wheels of the car are crystal clear, which would have required a very short exposure, yet the blurred background says otherwise...

Dang, you guys are right. I didn't spot that.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Why Mac surge

Pogue on why is the Macintosh platform suddenly expanding? Beats the heck outta me.

One of the comments on Pogue's page:
"I think it’s about potential. People see the potential with Macs, especially when it comes to integrating the computer, software, and peripherals into your life. There are just too many third party options on a pc and it’s confusing as hell. With a Mac, people can see, simply, what they can do.
I recently showed someone the iPhoto book I bought of my honeymoon. When people saw it, they couldn’t believe I did that with my computer and had absolutely no idea how to do that on a pc. I clicked on iPhoto and showed them the book button and they exclaimed it was time to finally get a Mac."

Indeed the easy photo-book option is one of the many great things about the Mac. I tried making one last year, and it was dead simple, and the product looks so professional.

No more anarchy in the UK

"Ministers are planning to implant "machine-readable" microchips under the skin of thousands of offenders as part of an expansion of the electronic tagging scheme that would create more space in British jails."

The Axis

Apropos prostitutes, how about this little scared-straight gem?

"Good time girls". Hadn't heard that term before, I like it.

"You can't beat the Axis if you get VD." Gotta love it. On the order of "duck and cover" as defence against the A-bomb.

Steampunk art

Stephen Rothwell "steampunk" art.
I don't love all of them, he has a clear and different voice.

The problem with collages as an art medium has always been making the different bits seem like they are part of the same image. I realize now that the computer age has made this much easier, since in Photoshop you can easily change the contrast, color, and other characteristics of each element to your heart's desire.

Darwin awards

If you haven't heard of the "Darwin Awards", it is about people who improve the gene pool by taken themselves out of the game.

You may say it's become cliche. Or that some of it may not be true stories. Or that it's mean spirited to laugh at them. I don't know, but I can't help but laugh. :)

[Update: apparently these are old stories, the real 2007 awards are here.]


Eighth Place: In Detroit, a 41-year-old man got stuck and drowned in two feet of water after squeezing head first through an 18-inch- wide sewer grate while trying to retrieve his car keys.

Seventh Place: A 49-year-old San Francisco stockbroker who often bragged he was "totally-zoned when he ran" accidentally jogged off a 100-foot high cliff on his daily workout.

Sixth Place: While at the beach, Daniel Jones, 21, dug an 8-foot hole for protection from the wind and had been sitting in a beach chair at the bottom when it collapsed, burying him beneath 5 feet of sand. People on the beach used their hands and shovels trying to get him out but could not reach him. It took rescue workers using heavy equipment almost an hour to free him. Jones was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Fifth Place: Santiago Alvarado, 24, was killed as he fell through the ceiling of a bicycle shop he was burglarizing. Death was caused when the long flashlight he had placed in his mouth to keep his hands free rammed into the base of his skull as he hit the floor.

Fourth Place: Sylvester Briddell, Jr., 26, was killed as he won a bet with friends who said he would not put a revolver loaded with four cartridges into his mouth and pull the trigger.

Third Place: After stepping around a marked police patrol car parked at the front door, a man walked into H & J Leather & Firearms intent on robbing the store. The shop was full of customers and a uniformed officer was standing at the counter. Upon seeing the officer, the would-be robber announced a hold-up, and fired a few wild shots from a target pistol. The officer and a clerk promptly returned fire, and several customers also drew their guns and fired. The robber was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. Crime scene investigators located 47 expended cartridge cases in the shop. The subsequent autopsy revealed 23 gun-shot wounds. Ballistics identified rounds from seven different weapons. No one else was hurt.

HONORABLE MENTION: Paul Stiller, 47, and his wife Bonnie were bored just driving around at 2 A.M. so they lit a quarter stick of dynamite to toss out the window to create some excitement. Apparently they failed to notice the window was closed.

RUNNER UP: Kerry Bingham had been drinking with several friends when one of them said they knew a person who had bungee-jumped from a local bridge in the middle of traffic. The conversation grew more heated and at least 10 men trooped along the walkway of the bridge at 4:30 AM. Upon arrival at the midpoint of the bridge, they discovered that no one had brought a bungee rope. Bingham, who had continued drinking, volunteered and pointed out that a coil of; lineman's cable lay nearby. They secured one end around Bingham's leg and tied the other to the bridge. His fall lasted 40 feet before the cable tightened and tore his foot off at the ankle. He miraculously survived his fall into the icy water and was rescued by two nearby fishermen. Bingham's foot was never located.


Zookeeper Friedrich Riesfeldt (Paderborn, Germany) fed his constipated elephant 22 doses of an animal laxative and more than a bushel of berries, figs and prunes, before the plugged-up pachyderm finally got relief. Investigators say ill-fated Friedrich, 46, was attempting to give the ailing elephant an olive oil enema when the beast suddenly unloaded. The sheer force of the elephant's unexpected defecation knocked Mr. Riesfeldt to the ground where he struck his head on a rock as the elephant continued to evacuate 200 pounds of dung on top of him.

Another big camera

A 160-megapixel camera from Seitz.
If you think pocket cameras are just toys, this might be for you.

From the zoo

There are some things children should not be exposed to. Gunfire, for instance, but not this.