Saturday, April 05, 2008

Leica CL

Article on the Leica CL, a classic compact camera.
"By nature, a rangefinder camera ought be the compact, discreet, and low-cost alternative to an SLR for those who can live with its limitations, not something to put in a display case or go bankrupt buying."

Me, I'm still waiting for compact cameras designed for documentary work and street photography. Modern digital compacts actually have everything needed, except for operating speed. Autofocus in a pocket camera is just too slow for a lot of people-shooting work. Also I guess for serious work they need to be more durable.

I've actually heard of a press photographers who uses digital compacts for work in the field in war-torn countries and such. He loves that they are discreet, but he does complain about the focus speed, and that he needs to carry several because they are not meant for the beating professional work gives them.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Here's more evidence that we have no clue how to predict success: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected by 121 publisher. One hundred and twenty one! Holy shite. I can't imagine living through so many rejections.

I liked the book, but I think it let down the reader by being a search for the definition of quality, and then giving up and never reaching it. I've addressed this before.

Why can't we predict success? When millions of people turn out to love a book, you'd think that one of them would be in the place of one of the 121 editors who the book went through?

Friday, April 04, 2008

Online music store now the biggest

iTunes music store has just surpassed Wal-Mart and become the number one music store in the US. If anybody is still doubting if the Internet is more than a fad...

Sex Don't Scare Me None

"Sex Don't Scare Me None." An old favorite article which I've saved from bit-death on the web by reposting it.

Red One

Article about the Red One super-rez video camera.
Lots of data here.

It seems the Red One is shipping earlier than I thought. Here is a video about it.
And various ones at U-toob.

Iron Man revisited

The "mystery" of the Iron Man song.

I don't get the status of Black Sabbath, by the way. To me the drummer sounds amateurish, and Ozzy sounds like a choir* boy with a cold.
Probably I'd feel different if I'd grown up with it. That seems to be the overruling factor of musical appeal.

I apologize to Black Sabbath fans.

* "Choir" is pronounced "quire"? Geez.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Life after Death

Popular personal-development guru Steve Pavlina discusses Life After Death.


More about the relative importance of good tools.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


"I FEEL THAT the camera finds its main importance as a recording and communicating mechanism, and I should like to see it develop until it takes its place with the pencil and the typewriter as an instrument of our everyday language. Photography should be taught in the schools along with penmanship as part of postwar education's expansion.

"It is possible to perfect the camera to the point where it will become an automatic instrument which will focus, expose and process the film by the mere push of a button. In this way we will be able to realize a medium possessing an immediacy between seeing and recording unachieved by any other art.

"I would like to see the camera and photographic material so refined that we need never use anything larger than a miniature camera exposing single frames of 16 mm film. For this we need grainless film with dyes rather than silver particles as the sensitive medium. The camera should have a built-in lens turret, mounting a wide angle, normal and telephoto lens, a photoelectrically controlled lens diaphragm and an automatic dry processing chamber. A camera of this sort could be easily carried about along with a plentiful supply of film. You wouldn't have to wait for results. And it would never need intrude itself upon the scene being photographed, leaving reality unchanged. There should be color film with greater latitude and speed and controlled brilliance, as well as the black-and-white which will do for most purposes.

"This extreme simplification will bring photography to everybody. It will leave the photographer free to develop his creative and esthetic principles. And art, if it is to come from photography, will come out of the meaning of the photograph and the greatness of the observation of the photographer."

Written by Eliot Elisofon... in 1944!

The camera industry

Two interesting article about the camera industry in the last couple of decades, here and here. The latter for instance reveals some surprising, but creditable, theories about how the dot-bomb influenced the developments of digital cameras.

Charlie Brown

One of my favorite Peanuts strips.

I am subscribing to the Complete Peanuts collections (I have eight so far). It's a top-quality hard-cover publication collecting every strip from the fifty years of Peanuts, two years per book. Warmly recommended for fans of Peanuts.

I should note that if you start with the first book, don't judge it too harshly. It's good, but not yet great. The strip gets better and better as the fifties go along, until it hits its surrealistic stride in the sixties.

The only strip, to my mind, which came even close to Peanuts was Calvin And Hobbes, what years we got of it before his breakdown (I think it was). But great as that was, I find now that nothing is as re-readable as Peanuts is. My favorite Peanuts collection (a big hardcover omnibus collection sampling strips from a wide spectrum of years) I have read half a dozen times.

Open letter to Gary Groth, owner of Fantagraphics and editor of The Complete Peanuts:

Dear Gary Groth,
Permit me to express my great admiration and gratitude for your publication of The Complete Peanuts.
Both the ambition itself and the execution are of the highest caliber. And I'm certain that this high profile hard-cover publication will be invaluable in presenting and preserving Mr. Schulz's oeuvre, the greatest comic strip ever made, for current and future generations.
Sincerely yours, Eolake Stobblehouse

In 1954 there's a strip where Charlie Brown makes a comic strip featuring a man riding across the US on a power mower. (For some reason he considers this to be "science fiction".) I wonder if that strip gave David Lynch the idea for The Straight Story?


When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.
-- P. J. O'Rourke

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Music composing system

I've purchased/built a little semi-pro music composing system, a Musical Fidelity X80 Aviator system. It's pretty advanced, almost all it does is done in hardware, and makes almost pro-studio sound, and it's a Real-Time system (meaning no delays in signals).
The OS is Linux, and all the software is open source, and free. The amazing thing is that it does not have any screen, just the box, the speakers, and a keyboard. The whole composing process and interface is done with acoustic cues about what you're doing. It takes some learning, obviously, but when it becomes intuitive, it's great.
I've hard that Moby has been using the predecessor system, the X79, when he was on the road.

Update April 2: this was an april fools joke. There used to be an iMac on top of the hi-fi amp, and the keyboard got left behind. I thought they looked like they belonged together.
And now for something completely different:
"In 1998 [on April first], a newsletter titled New Mexicans for Science and Reason carried an article that the state of Alabama had voted to change the value of pi from 3.14159 to the "Biblical value" of 3.0."

TidBITS may change its format radically to cater to the short-attention-span-generation.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Trafford Centre, new wing

A brand new wing has just opened at the Trafford Centre by Manchester. The wing is called Barton Square.
Laurie and I went there today, and it's quite impressive, below are some pictures I took.
The walkway in the middle is wide as a Parisian boulevard.
And nude statues, the English are coming along.

This is why I love pocket cameras: I had no idea I'd need a camera today, it was just in my pocket. But I'm quite pleased with these pictures. Not high art, just snapshots or documentation, but very pleasant I think.

Again the little Canon 960/950. Look at the first picture, of the intricate floor design. The light was being reflected directly into the lens, and yet the exposure is perfect. Very impressive.
I have not sharpened them, they are actually so sharp that if I do that, they begin to look unnatural!
Only thing I had to correct was the white balance in those from inside the walkway. They were too green, I suspect the glass is green.

Laurie wondered what the development had cost. I hazarded £50M. Not a bad guess, I think, it seems to be £70M.

Camera pricing

Interesting article about how they price cameras, based on a camera I'm quite interested in, the hopefully upcoming Canon 5D replacement. (The 5D was the first compact/affordable full-frame DSLR, and a wonderful camera.)

"Market-research subjects often don't know in advance whether they will like surprise new features or not, because they basically like what they're used to. Maybe some new feature has low "thought appeal" but will have high actual appeal when the product is realized and photographers start trying it out and comparing notes.
"A couple of examples: autofocus tested poorly before its introduction (and we all know how that went for the companies that decided against it on that basis). And the APS system was perhaps the most well-researched new product in photo-industry history—it consistently did very well among focus groups and in all kinds of market research. But it flopped pretty decisively when it was actually brought to market."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Phones and time

Why doesn't my mobile phone keep track of time via the Net? It could just send a blip once a week and keep itself accurate. And it could know when it's summertime. Instead I have to go through a series of menus every so often because it's too slow.

Talking about summertime, I notice that nowadays it was not judged confusing enough in itself, so they managed to make it start at different dates in the US and Europe. Well done, folks.


Happy birthday, Vincent.

By the way, has any of you been to his museum in Amsterdam?

How NSA access was built into Windows

[Thanks to TM]

How NSA access was built into Windows. Article.
"Careless mistake reveals subversion of Windows by NSA.
A CARELESS mistake by Microsoft programmers has revealed that special access codes prepared by the US National Security Agency have been secretly built into Windows. The NSA access system is built into every version of the Windows operating system now in use, except early releases of Windows 95 (and its predecessors)."

I don't know about what to believe. I don't see this in any big media outlets, but that could be just because it's too new yet.
Update: Ooops, no that can't be it, I see now that the article is apparently from 1999!

Elephant painting

Elephant painting.
I'm not sure what to think. It seems unlikely that the elephant is able to translate two-dimensional drawing into three-dimensional space and vice versa. Maybe it has been trained to draw those particular lines?
Which of course is still impressive. It is clear that it is taking a lot of care, you don't see animals do that.

Swearing in court

In films and on TV you always see witnesses in court being made to swear with a hand on the Holy Bible.
I am wondering, do they do this also with Hindus, Muslims, Scientologists, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, etc?
And if they do, how well do they expect it to work to make a person swear on a book he/she has no relationship with?