Saturday, June 21, 2008

Light painting

Wonderful Light Painting photos.

It's done with a long exposure, dark clothes, and a flashlight (torch).

Kung Fu Panda and other trailers

Loveth the animations. Kung Fu Panda looks like fun.

Oh, and I'm def gonna see Hancock too.
I'm glad to see that Jason Bateman has made the transition to the movies after Arrested Development folded. He was also with Zach Braff in The Ex, which I enjoyed.

And House Bunny. I like Anna Faris (Scary Movie).

I doubt I'll watch Ember though, even though it's nominally SF. Am I the only one who is fed up with the "thriller" kind of trailer? The inflated suspence, the swelling music, the fast cuts...

Talking about movies, I've just re-watched L.A. Story. It's one of my favorite movies ever. It's a nice love story, it's quirky, it's hilarious, it's seminal, and it's brilliantly filmed and cut.

Snopes and rice

You gotta love the web: there's hardly anything you can't find an instant answer to.
For example I was just reminded of a wedding some years back, when my sister told that the reason the rice was in little nets was that it made the stomachs of birds explode when they ate it. Thinking of it, it had the flavor of urban myth, so I looked it up, and viola.
(OK, so most people say "voila", but my mother's middle name was Viola, so...)

PS, doesn't "Snopes And Rice" sound like a movie title? Sort of like State And Main with William Macy. Boy, what a lemon that was. It was made in the rich style of Magnolias, so I thought at the beginning that it was a quality movie. But then the cracks started to show. Good example: an important appointment is accidentally erased from a big schedule board, and it is claimed and shown later that it was re-entered under the wrong date causing a missed appointment with the mayor, when in fact the movie clearly showed earlier that it was re-entered correctly.

Worse, of course, is when a movie deliberately misleads the audience. Like in Rules of Engagement with Samuel Jackson. One scene shows that the mob which was massacred was an innocent, protesting mob. A later scene shows the same mob at the same time, but this time all of them are firing wildly with automatic weapons at the embassy, completely changing the story.

But I digress. Big and often.

B/W digital

I wish somebody would make a black-and-white digital camera. Not only would it revive the feeling and the art of shooting in BW, but since there would be no colored microfilters over the pixel sites on the sensor, the apparent sharpness would be greater than a normal color sensor, since no extrapolation of color data would be needed. And without the filters the sensitivity would probably be two stops higher.

Imagine such a camera based on the Nikon D3 sensor. A sharpness equivalent to 20 megapixels, and nearly grain free images shot at ISO 25,000! You'd be able to make pin sharp hand-held photos in conditions so dark you could barely see what's going on.

This article from 2004 has data of a professional BW camera Kodak made, but never perfected.
"Without an anti aliasing filter and no Bayer color matrix, the resolution of a 6 mega pixel monochrome camera is astonishing. In monochrome, 6 mega pixels effectively does what it takes 12-24 mega pixels with a color matrix." [...]

"I ended up in shock at watching exposure times go from 1/60 or 1/125 of a second with my Leica M6 and film, to 1/800, 1/1200 and even 1/1600 of a second for the same aperture with the DCS 760m. With a base ISO of 400 exposures times are brisk – another advantage of a digital monochrome over a color based sensor." [...]

"The image quality certainly beats the pants off of anything I have seen on film in medium format and often what I have seen in large format in terms of resolution, gradation and dynamic range.
So why am I crying in my soup at this point?
Along the way, a serious problem came up with the images from my [Kodak] 760m. There is a form of “banding’ horizontal to the frame as the data comes out of camera."

Bert helps:
"I think the color bayer filter cuts out like 70-80% of the light, that's two stops."

Well, I don't know the numbers, but filters by nature block out part of the light, and a substantial part too, in the case of RGB filters.

I am no optician, but the Bayer arrangement always boggled me. There are two green pixels by image cell supposedly to increase the luminance channel's responsiveness. If that's the goal, why not leave the fourth pixel uncolored? This would provide a serious boost in sensitivity in low light, and mimic the eye much better(1).

I suspect that it has to do with charge bleeding, a phenomenon by which a strongly charged pixel will leak charges into neighboring, lesser charged pixels (this was quite a problem in early CCDs, and most likely still is a concern). The greater the charge difference, the bigger the problem, so ultra-sensitive pixels embedded into a filtered matrix may be more of a problem than an asset.

Mind you, I remember reading a few month ago about an SLR with a sensor that does just that (isn't it from Sony?). It has small, (uncolored?) pixels interspersed withing the Bayer matrix to increase dynamic range. I should have paid more attention...

In any case, it is certain that a pure B&W sensor is incredibly more sensitive (I own a few such video cameras, used for inspection & machine vision). I never measured it, but I would say that the sensitivity difference is more than two stops. But try to sell B&W sensors to the general population...

(1) The retina is composed of two different types of light-sensitive cells, namely cones & rods. (Apparently, a third type was recently identified. A lot more info in Wikipedia). Cones detect color, while rods don't. The rods outnumber the cones by 10:1 or more, and are also much smaller, yielding a far better resolution.

The brain is the key element in this system. It uses the information from the rods to compose and decode an image, and then uses the much sparser color information from the cones, when it is available, to add color to the overall picture. This is what newborns are so busy learning to do when they fiddle endlessly with small, well defined and brightly colored objects.

During this learning phase, the preprocessor located in the optic stem learns to recognize basic primitive shapes, to which color information can be easily applied. We are still far from the day where a camera with similar capabilities will become available.

Also worth noting is the sensitivity of the rod cells. While the color information simply vanishes in low light (try to reliably detect color just from the moonlight), our vision is still quite good. In fact, I have read somewhere that the sensitivity of the rods is such that they react to a change in illumination corresponding to a candle being lit in Paris... for an observer standing in New York.

And we wonder why images taken by mere electro-mechanical contraptions never really represent the world as we see it through our own eyes...

Update: Please excuse the many typos in my previous post, I'm still trying to get used to a new keyboard. I'll try to do better this time.

One thing I forgot to point out previously is that scientific instruments never use Bayer-filtered image sensors because of the extremely poor resulting information and the huge sensitivity penalty. This goes for all astronomical observation equipment (well, the few visible-light telescopes remaining, anyway), as well as other space exploration devices.

For example, all cameras aboard the many Moon and Mars landers are monochrome, yet equipped with filter wheels. When a color image is needed, a series of exposures are made, using various filters (seldom RGB, other bands are usually far more revealing).

Finnish business presentation

Finnish business presentation. This is why Europe will soar ahead of the US in the near decades.

Giving away money

Man throws money in the street.

He may have succeeded in spreading a little sunshine as was his intent.
(I think twenty thousand pounds sterling is way off, though, probably more like two thousand.)

I suspect one might be more successful at it, though, if one gave away one twenty-pound bill at a time, personally. For one thing I know that while I would pick up money on the street, I would feel foolish about it, especially being in competition with strangers. For another thing, I think most people feel guilty getting something for free, and I think they are more likely to be able to feel good about a twenty-pound bill, where more substantial amounts would be troublesome. And for a third thing, I think that the personal contact of somebody deliberately handing you something as a gift will make it mean a lot more than cash you pick up from the asphalt because somebody had so much he threw it away.

Friday, June 20, 2008

April Bowlby - Toes Are People

April Bowlby is a genius. And for how hot she is, see related YouTube vids.

Internet addiction

Internet addiction.
"Block explained: "The relationship is with the computer. It becomes a significant other to them. They exhaust emotions that they could experience in the real world on the computer through any number of mechanisms: emailing, gaming, porn."

Yes indeed. The healthy life to lead instead is to talk on the phone, frequent casinos, and watch the porn channels.

Pain au chocolat

Image by Luc Viatour.

Once in a cafe, I pointed at a pain au chocolat and said I wanted a "chocolate pain". This consternated a well dressed lady next to me, who wanted to know why I called it that. I said that I couldn't pronounce it in French. This almost upset her, she couldn't see how that was hard.
Like John Cleese says, humor is brittle.

Damien informed:
It's called a 'pain au chocolat' in most of France.... except in the southwest where it's a 'chocolatine'. And people would get very upset if you used that word in a parisian bakery ;-)
However you may have better luck with this one, it's pronounced [shockolattin]. No weird nasal vowels ! Not sure they will know it though.
Be carefull when asking for a "chocolate pain", you might end up shackled in a dungeon and flogged with confectionnery.

No, I can pronounce it in French, I just think "chocolate pain" is a funny term. It hints at the love/hate relationship many of us have with chocolate.

LEGO Death Star

Isn't it amazing how immortal the Star Wars universe is? OK, the hardcore fans may be considered geeks by some, but that's just ungracious, donchaknow.

Electronic Device Stirs Unease at Book Fair

Electronic Device Stirs Unease at Book Fair, NYT article.
"But excitement about the Kindle, which was introduced in November, also worries some publishing executives, who fear Amazon’s still-growing power as a bookseller. Those executives note that Amazon currently sells most of its Kindle books to customers for a price well below what it pays publishers, and they anticipate that it will not be long before Amazon begins using the Kindle’s popularity as a lever to demand that publishers cut prices."

Let's hope! It's greedy and bad business to try to stick to old prices when your expenses are suddenly cut drastically. Not only may low prices very well increase your profits by multiplying sales, they will certainly increase your exposure, and they will help combat piracy (copying and unauthorized selling) and "piracy" (free copying).

"All Marketers are Liars" - Seth Godin speaks at Google

"All Marketers are Liars" - Seth Godin speaks at Google.

It's a good speech, but the video presentation is almost worthy of Seth's own "this is broken" label. Somebody decided to put subtitles on the video. I am all for that, except I can't turn them off, and they are distracting. And Seth speaks really clearly. To make it worse, they are messed up. Special characters are replaced with a little diamond, making them more distracting and harder to read.
Further, when something is actually hard to hear, like a faint question from the crowd... there are no subtitles! And further yet, there are several mistakes. For example, one man says "and be ebay'ed", and it's transcribed as "and be delayed". And Seths says "I'm a big fan", and it's transcribed as "have a big brand", whatever that means.

Seth and Google are the biggest names in their respective field, and since this supposedly was produced by Google and they supposedly paid a lot for Seth, you'd think they would take care to do it properly.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

tOP's recommendations

Like Mike himself sez, this list is sure to be outdated soon, since new Canons and Nikons are expected any day now, but still, if you wan't a camera right now, look at tOP's recommended list.

I have been reading and linking to The Online Photographer since it was born a couple years ago, and I'm very pleased that it has grown into such a presence on the web (and I think even a half-decent income for Mike), because I've been a fan of his writing for much longer. I can prove it, I ordered his book The Empirical Photographer at least a year before tOP was born. Before the book was published, in fact.

I think Mike's writing combines several qualities which you rarely find together: it's entertaining, it's personal, it's relevant, it's sharp, and it has perspective. Oh, and an underlying wry humor. And he does not strain to get to any of these qualities, they are there because of who he is and what he believes, he can't do it any differently, and he wouldn't, no matter what anybody would pay him.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

DVD region coding

I should have known that wikipedia would have an article on DVD region coding.
"There are many purposes that region coding can achieve, but a primary one is price discrimination. Price discrimination is the economic principle of demanding a higher price from buyers who are willing to pay more. Price discrimination is especially applicable to movies, because the marginal cost of selling one copy (or viewing) is quite small, giving the seller great flexibility in pricing. There is great disparity among the regions of the world in how much a person is willing to pay for a DVD, and region encoding allows a publisher to sell a DVD for less money in the regions where the demand is low and more where the demand is high.
Another purpose is controlling release dates. One of the traditions of movie marketing that the advent of home video threatened is the practice of releasing a movie (to theaters) later in some countries than in others. The threat from video tape was muted by the coincidence that television broadcast standards, and thus video tape formats, were for historical reasons regional. But apart from region coding, the DVD format is meant to be playable everywhere."

Until about two years ago, there were hacks for Macintosh computers to allow changing the region indefinitely. But now we seem stuck with being able to change it five times. The "VLC Player" app will play any region DVD, but it does not do a good job, for instance on my machine it freezes when I try to fast-forward. Does anybody know a better solution?
(Found this article.)
By the way, I'm surprised Apple has bowed to the movie studios on this one, they usually come down squarely on the side of the end users, and what with this being purely a business issue, not a legal one...

More from wiki:
"Region code enforcement has been discussed as a possible violation of World Trade Organization free trade agreements or competition law.[6] The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned that DVD players that enforce region coding may violate the Trade Practices Act.[7][8][9] The government of New Zealand is also considering a similar ruling.[10] This, supposedly, means that all DVD players sold in their territories have to be region-free.
Movie publishers misused region coding when they released older material with full region coding—there being no requirement, per the stated cinema-blockout justification provided, to restrict sales to certain countries. There are concerns, voiced by organizations such as the European Union, that region coding was solely an attempt to enforce price differentials."

Intermediate glasses

Man, I've bought a lot of eyeglasses in the past couple of years. (Especially when you consider that my dealer sells two pairs "for the price of one" and you don't get it cheaper if you only want one pair (strange practice).)

Middle age hit me like a ton of chicks, and I started having problems with tiny text. So excitedly I went to my opticians last year and got varifocals. Sadly it seems that varifocals have the problem that the view is not really sharp when you look even a little bit to the side, so they are not very good for reading, the whole page/line is never sharp at once.

So last month I got proper reading glasses. And they are great for reading books with small print.

But they are not good for computer use, because the view is blurred beyond about 50 centimeters, and since I use a 30-inch screen, I use it at 70-80 centimeters.

So back to my opticians I went, and asked if there was such a thing as glasses for that distance. It turns out it's a common thing, they call it "intermediate" glasses.

So I got those glasses today, and as it happens, they are great. Not only are they perfect for the intermediate distance, but I can even see near-perfectly at the furthest distances (over 20 meters). And not only that, they work well for 99% of my reading.

So now I have glasses great for computer use, and they work great for almost anything I have need for, so I don't need to change glasses around.

You'd think this would be a good solution for many people, and that the opticians would use it often. Of course you could be cynical and say that I've used much more money at their place because they don't, but I generally find that the people you deal with in the world usually want to sell you the best product so you're happy the first time.

Anyway, just a little tip for ya, if you've reached the "trombone playing" reading age (you know, when you move a page in and out several times trying to find a good reading distance).

For Lease

I just find this very humorous. It's been for lease for over two years, I wonder why there are no takers...


"Wait a minute, that's your big secret? Alcohol? ... But isn't that just a temporary solution?"

"It's only temporary if you stop drinking."

-- Two And A Half Men.

...Written by bitter writer Chuck Lorre*. I like it a lot, but still miss his earlier show, Dharma and Greg, for which Jenna Elfman deservedly won an Emmy.

* His writing is not bitter. Except for his "vanity cards", which are inserted in a split second after each show. He is relentlessly bitter about his life. Although it may actually mainly be an attempt at humor. Of course he surely would not make the jokes like that if there were no truth at all to it.

Oooh, you gotta love Wikipedia, I just found out that while season 2 of D&G has not been released in the US, it has been in much of the rest of the world, and I'm getting it. The same thing happened recently, I thought season 2 of People Like Us did not exist, but it had actually been released in Australia, so on to eBay Australia I went, and got it. God bless the Internet and Wikipedia.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What kind of girl

"What would you say if I offered you a hundred thousand to have sex with me?"

"Your place or mine?"

"Actually I have a cash flow issue this week. How does a hundred sound?"

"What kind of girl do you think I am?!"

"We've already established that, now we are haggling over price."

Isn't it funny that most people would be offended if you offered them money for sex? Most of them already do things five days a week that they wouldn't do if they were not paid. What's the big difference?

Good times/bad times

I'm always struck by the fact that pundits universally proclaim times of rising real estate prices as "good times" and falling ones as "bad times".

Sure, rising prices are great for banks, for sellers, and for builders. But they are surely not great for buyers, especially not first time buyers. In much of the world right now, young buyers have simply been priced out of the market.

If the price of bread was rising 15% per year, it would be proclaimed a big crisis. But when it's real estate, that's somehow considered a big party.

Another thing which is striking is how little historical awareness pundits display, either by ignorance or duplicity. There are never more than 20 years between big falls in the real estate market (or any other market), and yet when trends are upwards, the feeling always seem to be that these Golden Days will continue forever. It's stupid and dangerous, it creates bubbles and "hard landings" as the Danes call them. This behaviour goes back to the Tulip Bubble in 1637!

Hans Lysglimt talking about markets. Relevant for stock owners.

The Danish economist Svend Jørgen Svensen says that the last real credit market crunch in the USA was in 1929, and that this was, along with a housing market crisis, actually what led to the more famous stock market crisis. Spooky.

Out of the mouths of babes

Translated from Danish by Eolake

In a nursing home the teeth are loose. They take them out at night and replace them in the morning. And pray.
Camilla, 6

Grandmas have very big bras. I can sit in one shell and my brother in the other.
Kaja, 7

The best thing about grandpa is that he is himself, he doesn't pretend to be some kind of normal person.
Magnus, 6

If a man says "I love you" to an old woman she becomes furious, because she's tired of hearing about it.
Amalie, 7

When you die you go to Paris.
Line, 6

God is just damn good.
Julie, 6

God is a soft man, he is almost transparent.
Kate, 6

God owns the sun. He turns it off at night because of the environment.
Nicoline, 5

God's mother is called Godmother. She is mother to all his children: Jesus, Moses, and Santa.
Henrik, 7

Being an angel is womens' work.
Anna, 9

Boy aren't like angels, not even when they smile.
Cornelia, 7

In Paradise they use greenery for underwear.
Therese, 7

If you kneel and beg in front of the priest, he'll give you a biscuit.
Frida, 6

I have a dog who believes in God.
Ida, 5

Reeza doesn't believe in God, he believes in Allan.
Kate, 6

When you die they put you in the ground, and the priest says "earth to earth, and stay there", and pours dirt on your head.
Hans Petter, 9

The marketing of fear

Update: a quite funny speech by Seth Godin, video.

The marketing of fear, post by Seth Godin. I like that guy, he has the big picture.

Another good one of his, which links into my own old money article.

Also Seth's: the intelligent "clowd".

And a good one on email etiquette. (Hmm, it's starting to look like I should just have pointed you to Seth's blog in general. This is unusually high signal/noise ratio.)

Golddurnit, another one, related to one of my pet peeves: that ebooks are priced like paper books, despite radically reduced cost of production and distribution. And also about old industries committing slow suicide by fighting new media instead of using them.

Audio interview.

iPhone pricing

The new iPhone can be considered to be more expensive, not cheaper, because subscription rates have gone up.
"The Reality Distortion Field is starting to wear off, and I'm getting a bad feeling about the iPhone 3G. Don't get me wrong - my complaint isn't about the iPhone 3G itself or how much it costs, but about how much more it will end up costing U.S. customers than the original iPhone thanks to higher monthly fees, and how Apple and AT&T are hiding that price increase from potential customers. (It appears that things are different in other countries, where plans for the iPhone 3G are little changed.)"

Monday, June 16, 2008

Canon 40D

The Canon 40D has become really cheap recently. Under $1000/£600! I am not sure why, it seems unlikely that it is about to be replaced.
[Video review. tOP post about it. Text review.]

It's a great deal, because it's not out of line to consider it a professional camera, for example it can take 6.5 pictures per second, which is very capable indeed. And it has rubber sealing for weather proofing and interchangeable focusing screens, both of which are features traditionally reserved for professional cameras.

It is not totally inconceivable that the 40D may be replaced soon, but that would be very early for Canon, who usually has an 18-month cycle, and this one is from August 2007. More likely is that a replacement for the full frame Canon 5D might come soon, which may have a very powerful low-light capability. But such a camera, of course, is sure to be over twice the price of the 40D.

The 40D is a much more capable camera than the 400D or 450D, but the latters are not at all bad, and much smaller and lighter:
... The D40 (still on the right) is dwarfed by the D1 Canons, though...

Good companions to the 40D are the new image-stablized zooms, the 18-55mm and the 55-250mm. Both are low-weight and economical lenses with high image quality. (Be sure to get the IS versions. Not only is IS invaluable, but they are sharper too.)

Paul said:
Excuse my ignorance, what´s the meaning of IS?

"Image Stabilization". It means it has a mechanism which counteracts the shaking of your hands so you can use longer exposure times, and thus shoot in lower light. It's very effective.
Other manifacturers have other terms for it, Nikon calls it "Vibration Reduction" and Sony calls it "anti-shake", etc.

Small is the new Big

I am listening to the audio version of Small Is The New Big by Seth Godin. It's totally excellent. Chock-full of provocative ideas and concepts for entrepreneurs. Warmly recommended.

One of the many things Seth takes up is that if your company has a need to engage in disingenuous marketing, that's a bad sign. If you have to trick people into buying your product, what does that say about it, or you? How about this for an example? (The popcorn has been added low on a Snopes page.)

Drawn Together

So I'm about done with Drawn Together season three. It's filthy, amoral, immoral, and patently offensive. Gotta love it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Poor construction

I've spent some time today on Dark Roasted Blend.
Another one: geoducks.
Is it just me, or are they vaguely phallic?


Slow art form.

Currently placed here.

Phun fotographers fotos

Phun fotographers fotos.

See, these are some positions which can be avoided with cameras with tiltable screens:

I like the expression on the cow's face: