Saturday, August 23, 2008


Neutral day photographic news site.

I'm amazed I keep finding good sites I've never heard about.

Anyway, one thing I liked about it immediately: the design. "They" tell me that background graphics are outdated, but I tell you I'm sick of all sites having either black or white backgrounds. Booooooring.

A friend visited me back when the WWW was a new thing, and I showed her around the web a bit, and she commented on all the black sites: "don't they have any imagination?" And this was 13 years ago! Not much new under the sun.

Back to NeutralDay, it is also refreshing to see a dash of humor in a recipe, as I try myself, for example he writes:
"Now I wasn’t planning to post my predictions for Photokina till after Photokina ends, as I’ve learned that way they tend to be significantly more accurate [...]"

Update: he has a worthwhile comment on full-frame, economics, the 5D, and image quality here.
According to recent rumors, an upcoming Canon 50D and surely also the future 5D replacement may be very interesting in high-ISO ways.

Archiving photos

tOP discussion on archiving/storing files/photos.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bangla Bangers

Building a supercar in a month, from an old junker?


From Shorpy's. (Sadly too few girruls there, mostly town pictures.)

Camera evolutions

360 degrees

Mike Reichman points to this 360x180 (almost) view of an Olympic event. Takes a while to load, but is fun to zip around in.
(Holy frig, that's a lot of people who want to go there and sit looking at tiny people running far below.) is about collecting volunteer efforts to put subtitles on films/programs. Sounds cool.
For example, TTL found this Danish program about Tim Ferriss (Four Hour Work Week), with English subs. If nothing else, you'll have a chance to hear how Danish sounds.
My interest peaked in the middle of the video, when it turns out that they got Tim hisself to visit the two hardworking "cases" in Denmark and see how he could save them time.

Why Men Crave Real (Not Perfect) Bodies

Why Men Crave Real (Not Perfect) Bodies, article.

Normal is not

[Thanks to Alex for the link.]

I've come to suspect that it's very unusual to be "normal", and it seems research supports that.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Error message


If you cast a 99-sided die 99 times, what are the odds of number 5 not coming up?

And for a 9-sided die cast nine times? And a 999-sided die cast 999 times?

This is not a riddle, I just want to know.

Anon informed:
If you cast a 99-sided die once, the probability of 5 not coming up is 98/99. If you cast a 99-sided die twice, the probability of 5 not coming up either time is (98/99) * (98/99). So, the odds of the number 5 not turning up after 99 throws is 98/99 multiplied by itself 99 times. This works out at about 0.366.

For a 9-sided die, it works out at about 0.346, and for a 999-sided die, about 0.368.

It's related to the mathematical number 'e'. As the number of faces increases, the probability gets closer and closer to 1/e.

Thank you.
I had an intuitive feeling the number would be about the same, but I couldn't get my head around the math. (School is thirty years ago after all, and I don't think we ever got into probabilities.)
I also felt that the number was not all that small. 0.37 sounds about right.

3D humans

3D humans are getting there.

And Emily.

Freedom fries

I've just watched A Night At The Opera. Wonderful film, but if you're familiar with it, you may have noticed that it has some very odd cuts in it. It starts very abruptly, without explaining where we are in the world (Vienna), and during several conversations, there are abrupt holes, clearly several seconds missing, very clumsily cut.

I had assumed the original negative had been damaged. But in the commentary it is explained that the film (the original) was cut for release during WWII... because they wanted to remove any and all references to Italy, which was then An Enemy.

How about them apples? Would you like Freedom Fries with them?

...Aaaand 63 years after the end of WW2,they still haven't released a restored version? I thought Berlusconi's Italy was a good friend and ally in the Iraqi adventure now.

They can't. The friggin' idiots cut the original negative!

Bowie: Never Let Me Down

From Bowie's overlooked 1987 album Never Let Me Down.
Beautiful melody. Imagine it in a cover with the right female singer.

Of course Bowie's hair and outfits were deeply unfortunate in the eighties, but what can you do.

Computer art?

Can somebody tell if these are painted (based on photos though, obviously), or done in computer?

If the latter I wonder what software they are done on. There was a quite wonderful app named PhotoArtMaster, which sadly is gone now, and also never worked well on my Mac (it was java and abysmally slow). But I'd love to find some good software for making art from photos.

Update: OK, found the artist. It seems they are actually hand painted.
Very skilled and very pretty. Though a bit, uh, fluffy. No doubt selling like hotcakes.

Update: examples of what PhotoArtMaster could do. It's briliant. It's done with software from a photo, but looks less like a photo than those above.

I have lost contact with Don McCrae who made this picture (and the software). So I googled him, and found out he is in LinkedIn. Reluctantly I joined so I could contact him. And I find out that to use the LinkedIn email system I have to upgrade to a paid membership for a minimum of $20 per month! F***ing bullshit. What good is a social/business networking site if you can't use it to contact people?

Kabel Yaache said:
LinkedIn is a great system, and if it's 'bullshit' that you can't get it free, then that becomes the filter to keep non-serious users and players out. Like the $15,0000 fees required by some country-clubs - if you want access, you can afford it. If you have to ask 'how much', then you are permitted to stay the hell out and play golf in your back yard - and talk to your dumb neighbour instead of business professionals.

No no, paid services are fine, of course. What's BS is that they invite you to join for free, and then you find out that the service is hobbled to below usefulness. They should tell you up front what you get and what you don't.

Car designs

Talking about weinermobiles.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lens design

It's amazing how many options there are for lens designers. Look at this, these four lenses are the same focal length and the same aperture size. And yet there are huge differences in size.

The size influences thing like sharpness and vignetting. It's much harder to make a small lens (given the same sensor size) than to make a larger one.

The one on the left is brand new, the first new fast Normal lens in many years. It's a Sigma.
I really like zoom lenses, but I also like choice and compactness, so I appload Sigma (and Pentax) for being rank-breakers and actually produce new, high-end prime lenses (non-zoom) designed for digital.

From the review:
"The most striking aspect of this comparison is the sheer size of the new Sigma; it's distinctly bigger than the Canon (previously the largest in this class), and simply dwarfs the petite Pentax. This is fundamentally a reflection of the monstrous optical unit in the Sigma, which is designed to minimize vignetting at wide apertures; the front element is fully 60mm in diameter, compared to less than 40mm on the other lenses. The relative weights reflect these sizes (the Sigma tips the scales at 505g, more than twice the Pentax's 220g) and in turn the prices correlate with those weights; in this case you're literally paying for all that glass."

Weekend snapper wars

"Has our increasingly paranoid society declared war on the humble 'weekend snapper'?", Daily Telegraph article.
"An amateur photographer is chased by the police after taking pictures on the seafront; another man is frogmarched away when using his camera in a town centre. Since when did carrying a camera in public provoke so much suspicion and hostility?"
... "The police were responding to a 999 call from someone who claimed to have seen Rigg taking photographs in a public park earlier that afternoon. They had tracked him from a control centre on a series of CCTV cameras before sending the squad car out to apprehend him."
"The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) is unequivocal on the matter: 'Police officers may not prevent someone from taking a photograph in public unless they suspect criminal or terrorist intent,' they say in a statement. 'Their powers are strictly regulated by law and once an image has been recorded, the police have no power to delete or confiscate it without a court order.'"

Finally these issues are reaching the mainstream press.

Howard added:
Front page of the 'Metro' free paper in London today: Police falsely arrested a man for taking photographs of them reversing their van the wrong way down a one-way street before parking outside a Fish and Chip shop and going in. The man was held for five hours before being bailed. During that time he was forced to have a DNA swab taken as well as his finger prints. The arresting officer claimed - among other things - that the photographer was drunk and disorderly, carrying drugs and behaving in a threatening manner. The charges were later dropped and the Chief Constable of the Constabulary concerned issued a written apology. The arresting officer has apologised in person, but has not been disciplined. The photographer is now pursuing a civil action against the officer and the Police Force.

This highlights one of the very real dangers that we are, to quote the UK's Information Commissioner: "sleep walking into a surveillance society". The irony here is that the Police acted illegally, yet it was the innocent photographer who had his DNA taken not them. That DNA will now be on the UK national DNA database (remember, even though the false charges were dropped), and there is currently no routine mechanism in place for his DNA to be removed from that database.

So far, I have never been challenged whilst taking photographs in public places, or even while just carrying my camera and bag. Perhaps I've been lucky, maybe I've just not been in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am left wondering how much of this hysteria is a reaction by both the public and the authorities to what they might see as excesses of the Paparazzi? I don't know, I just raise the question for consideration. One just wonders if things go on as they are, how long before a photographer gets killed in such circumstances?

The Holographic Universe

The Holographic Universe, book chapter.

Indict Dubya

Indict Dubya, article by Rosemarie Jackowski.
"Impeachment has its flaws. It trivializes the war crimes. It is better than nothing, but not by much. Impeachment can result in removal from office. The criminal prosecution of George W. Bush could result in a life sentence or the death penalty."

Eric said:
Bush is the kind of man that thinks he's done us all a favor by running his administration the way he has. He strikes me as the kind of man that wants to do the right thing, who thinks he's doing the right thing, but he's too steeped in his personal dogmas (and I don't mean in the religious sense) to listen to reason.

At this point I don't see any purpose in punishing the man. Impeachment would be a slap on the wrist, and imprisoning him or sentencing him to death doesn't make any sense when all the damage has already been done. Punishment for a leader is largely symbolic; it is a clear sign that we, the people, are not willing to accept what has been done. What power would that message have now? "We'll put up with whatever shit you pull while you're in office but as soon as you're done with your second term we'll let you have it!" That's like a parent that starts counting down when a child is doing something he's not supposed to be doing, and when the child doesn't cease the parent says how angry he is and starts another countdown.

The focus should be on fixing the mess and reducing corporate and governmental corruption. Perhaps punishing Bush would be a step toward regaining our dignity, but I get the sense most people don't care about solutions when they talk of his punishment so much as they are out for blood. The American people have to stop playing the victim and they need to stand up to daddy government. They've got no heroes but themselves and no one else to blame if things continue down a wayward course.

To me, the point of an indictment would not be to punish or correct Bush. Of course that's absurd, he is just a small cog. The point is to send a message to all Americans and to the whole world that unprovoked war-mongering is murder. Obviously many, many people need this message, otherwise there would be peace on Earth.

Update: it just struck me: Those who pushed the war said that the purpose of it was to get rid of the evil Saddam regime. They got rid of it. So how come there's still fighting?

The Most Important Thing

By cool coincidence, I just found an old teaching which touches exactly upon what I already blogged yesterday ("what matters most"), and I made a post on my spiritual blog about it.

How things change

What you can buy now, fun post by Mike.

Canon news

What a PR flop of Canon to release these two bits of news on the same day.

[picture is from here.]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ban dihydrogen monoxide

(This is not new news, though.)

What Matters Most

This is making me feel middle-aged: social networking sites baffle me enormously.

For example, I wanted to link to the recent post "What Matters Most" on Stephen Shapiro's blog. But I can't figure out how! There's no obvious permalink, and when I click on "share this", I get a miles-long list of services or sites I've never heard of, but still no simple link to, well, link to. Either I'm overlooking something obvious, or the programmers of that blog and that service have.

... Ah, now I found out that the grey links at the top are supposed to be tabs, and one of them contains a way to link on Blogger (you have to give them your Blogger login). But it still is lacking the most basic feature: simply to tell me the permalink.

Anyway, I think the "What Matters Most" (title: "My Quought of the Day") post is important. I've spent a lot of effort thinking about this in years past, and I found that it kept changing for me.

According to Hollywood movies, the big problem in America is that many Americans value their job higher than their family, and the big message is that Family is the most important thing in anybody's life. But maybe that's not true for everybody.

Update: Stephen himself tells me there's supposed to be a permalink feature, only it's missing at the moment. And that the link I was looking for is here.

Update: TTL points to this Tim Ferriss interview, which touches upon the issue.

Most of Tim's suggestions in The Four Hour Work Week are clearly very good juju for many, many people, particularly in America. So many people live in self-inflicted slavery to so many things.
So maybe I shouldn't even criticize it, since the criticisms probably are only relevant from my personal perspective, which is much different than most. I don't use very much time at "work" at all.
But from my perspective, the perhaps normally good advice to only check email a couple of times a day is off. What if you love checking your email? And also, from the response times most companies have, it does not look like most people check their mails ten times a day.
Also, from my perspective, it looks like Tim is basically taking away one type of hyperactivity and replacing it with another. Zipping around the globe and becoming tango hero and cheating to become Chinese kickboxing champion? Why? What's the point? Of course, that's a matter of perspective, some people want an extroverted and very active lifestyle, others think the inner life is more important.

TTL said:
Eolake, I think you may have misunderstood Tim Ferriss's message. Whatever activities he chooses to engage in is not the point. Those are just his preferences. Other people like to do other things.

What he advocates is to not postpone that which one most wants to do in life until retirement, or until some other condition is met. But rather to find a way to do those things now. He then gives examples and strategies on how to make almost any activity possible right now even with very little money.

What each of us wants to do with our life of course differs a lot. But it behooves us to follow those impulses as soon as possible. For it then brings new ideas and opens up new avenues for value fulfillment.

If you love checking e-mail then obviously that's part of your value fulfillment. But for many of us it is an addiction that hinders our ability to do something that's ultimately more valuable and pleasurable. Personally, I don't agree with some of Tim's ideas on communication -- for example his preference on using phone instead of e-mail -- but I understand the point of ridding oneself from the addiction.

Traveling to Argentina to learn Argentine tango is a bit like spending time in India to learn yoga. There's no choice if you truly want to master it. Asking what's the point in learning to dance is like asking what's the point in life in general. You and I may not choose that particular activity, but I certainly see the point in it. Same with martial arts.

Tim Ferriss has a fantastic can-do attitude and he serves as a great role model for busting limiting beliefs.

Dedicated Word Processor

Ray mailed me the story below.
It's a thing which has been puzzling me for a couple decades now: why isn't there a decent dedicated word processor? Especially a portable one. It would be easy to make a wonderful one, since the screen and power requirements would be much less than for a web-surfing machine.
(Of course I know why. I think. I guess the market is perceived as too small.)

Some products, like the Dana, have a good start. But I bought the Dana, and the screen is simply lousy. It's too small and the contrast is way too low. A pity, since the keyboard is great.

But for heaven's sake, if they can make that $200 third-world portable Xo thingy, somebody can make a good dedicated portable word processor.

Update: I guess I should mention that I mean a machine for writing on. As soon as you get into formatting and all that jazz (basically desktop publishing), a PC/Mac is much better. But a real writer, novelist or journalist, can really use something which is just great for typing on, has several lines of text on a high-contrast screen, and weighs less than a kilo.

Ray wrote:
Away back in the early nineties, I had a little Canon word-processor, and back then, those only had a viewing screen big enough to show about three words of the active line of typing. But otherwise, it was a marvel of technology, and had features not found in the more famous IBM Selectric, or the others of that day, now all extinct. One rainy weekend, I sat down to it and let my imagination go wild on the topic of the perfect word-processor. It ran to two or three pages, single-spaced.

When I sent that missive off to 'Dear Mr. Canon' at their Canadian headquarters, I thought they'd all have a good laugh and forget it. A couple or three weeks later, though, I got a letter from their Manager of Customer Service, saying that they liked my ideas so much, they'd sent them on to Tokyo headquarters for consideration by their engineers. That was all I heard about it until one day many months later, when I walked into the nearby mall's office supply shop, to get more ribbons for the word-processor which prompted all that.

There on the display table by the front doorway sat the new model Starwriter 30, with all the features I'd been day-dreaming about, plus many others. I looked it over, and asked the manager if he had one in its box in the back. He said, "Yes, but don't you want to try it out first?" I replied, "Hell no! This little beauty has some of my own ideas in it, and I already know it's going to really kick ass, so just bring me one, please." I bought it on the spot, and I've still got it, and Canon is still supplying me with the IR-100 ribbons for it, even though all the others are now probably in the junk. Mine's still working just as perfectly as it did the first day I unpacked it. Unfortunately, Windows 95 came out at almost the same time as this Canon word-processor, and the great little Canon machine had one glaring flaw - its computer language is different from the standard used by the world's real computers, so the disks I use in it aren't readable on my computer. The result was predictable - it quickly faded from the scene. But it's a hell of a word processor, and it does things that no other one in history has ever been able to do - like holding ten pages of single-spaced typing in memory before needing to download onto a floppy disk. And being able to hold 108 separate text files on one of those 1.44 DD floppies. And that viewing screen? It has one that holds six full lines of typing plus a toolbar on top, and it tilts on hinges to avoid overhead glare. Like I said - it's a really marvelous little machine. And I may have the last one in captivity at the moment....and I'm keeping it :)

TTL said:
Your specs sound much like the Eee PC. I'm not sure if it's an improvement over the Psion Netbook, though. Or, for an even lighter (pocket size) writing tool, the Psion 5mx is still unmatched.
I'm not sure if any of these portable gadgets help much in actually getting stuff written, though. To complete anything of length it seems the cushion of your chair plays a much bigger role.

As it turns out, Flickr has a good Alphasmart community, and they informed me that the Alphasmart Neo has higher screen contrast than the Dana, so I'm getting one of those.

I like writing in cafes, it helps me concentrate.

Neither the Eee PC nor the Psion have full sized keyboards, unlike the Alphasmart machines. And those have good keyboards even, better than any keyboard on a laptop I've tried.

Update: search this blog for more on the Alphasmart Neo. (Search field is upper left.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bread and neighbors

Mmmm, my apartment smells of fresh-baked bread right now. Nice.

A few days ago I gave a still warm loaf to my new neighbors. More personal (and actually cheaper) than wine. They were delighted.
Just trying to be neighborly. The fact that they are nice young women has nothing to do with it.

Peace Pilgrim 100

Peace Pilgrim is (would have been) 100.

Digital zoom

Ray tries for the long view.

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band

25 years ago, I visited a friend, and she gave me two records that a friend of hers had bought in the US in the early seventies. She thought they were both weird and probably similar. It turned out one of them was weird and crap, and the other was weird and wonderful.

These days it seems that The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band is rescued somewhat from obscurity, by what unlikely means I don't know.

Here's one of my favorites, Delicate Fawn, only found in this version. Here's Queen Nymphet. They also had some very acid songs, but sadly I can't find any of those on Utoob.

It strikes me that in the early eighties, the early seventies seemed about as far away as they do now. Am I alone in this?

It also strikes that Queen Nymphet is one of the very common type amongst pop/love songs, the DOM fantasy: a pretty young woman throws herself at you, but nobly you tell her she's too young. Same theme in Pale Rider, and many other stories.

Form and Function

I had a reader letter for DOMAI from John:

There is an old joke which involves an artist and an engineer. Naturally they are at a bar-and they are arguing about which profession created the female form. The artist is eloquent about his claim. "Only an artist would have thought of the brilllant articulation of space on the female body-the geometric procession from spheres to triangles. The light and shadow play as deep clefts meet tall plateaus. The change in tone, color, and texture as you move around the body. Clearly artists had to have created the female form." The engineer is equally eloquent. "But those simple things mean nothing compared to how all the parts work together. Touch the body in one place and it emits a sound from another. A simple act can bring a new life. The female body is an instrument more finely tuned than anything in the greatest symphonies. This has to mean that the female body was created by none other than engineers."

Now I have read all your past newsletters, letters, and articles, and I am surprised none of them has come forward with this simple truth. What the artist and engineer are really debating is form vs function. It is debate as old as the ages. And what makes your site stand out from others is you focus on the form and not the function.

Which boldly leads me to take a leap at an old debate. It is not that hard to define pornography. It is the depiction of function. And what is art? It is the depiction of form. I dont presume I am the first to argue this-I just have not seen it where it belongs-on Domai-the epitome of form.

As a follow up, Irv Thomas (author of Derelict Days) wrote:

What you sent happens to remind me of an argument I had many, many years ago with an instructor in an Art in Architecture class that I was taking. The topic of the test had been Good Design, and we were supposed to speak to a range of instances, whether they were good design or not, the primary criterion being Form follows Function, as was then in vogue.

Where we disagreed was on a single instance: a vehicle shaped like a hot dog (being actually a hot dog stand on wheels). I knew what answer he wanted, but I said instead that it was good design!

He objected, predictably: "A vehicle should look like a vehicle, not a hot dog."

I took a mark against my grade, but stood fast on my point: "It may have been built as a vehicle, but its purpose was advertising and sales: it is Good design!"

I answered:
Surely, and if he'd been a good teacher he would have seen that too.

In any case, what does "look like a vehicle" mean? Unless the form actually inhibits function, what's wrong with it?

What does a chair look like? It can look like anything, so long as you can sit on it.

Of course it's a good ethic to let form be subordinate to function, but you can go too far and neglect form altogether.


TTL sez the farting preacher is back.

It's funny how god always needs money.

American Graffiti

I'm just re watching American Graffiti. That's a wonderful George Lucas movie, and it's hard to credit just how different it is from Star Wars.

"You're a regular JD."

I'm not a car buff, but the cars in this film are just luvverly.

Why would they make a sequel to a movie like this? The story was all about one single night, that was the whole point.
... Looking it up, though, it seems they did the sensible thing and made it very different. It also has good reviews, so maybe I'll check it out.

Update: There's an outstandingly good making-of documentary on the disc, and it's 75 minutes long! What one doesn't realize is how groundbreaking American Graffiti was. It was one of the first films to use an all-rock soundtrack, and to make the music sound like it was playing in the environment. And it was very hard to get made because Lucas wanted the four stories it tells to be interwoven with each other, not told sequentially, and the studio refused to do it this way, because it had never been done before. These days it is the way you do things.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ministry: Worm

Ministry: Worm. One of my favorites of Ministry's songs made since the millennium.

M4/3 interview

Interview with Olympus about Micro Four Thirds.

My view on the M4/3 is that it will take some time to develop, since it will take new bodies and lenses, and it will be very demanding of LCD screens and of autofocus, but if everything pans out, in a couple of years we might have some cameras as I've dreamed and talked about; compact cameras in full professional quality and speed.

One of the things he says is that full frame (35mm size) lenses need to be very big in order to have top quality. This is supported by the enormous size "enjoyed" by the new top-notch Nikon zoom lenses. Those are real dang big! (Note Lloyd's boat picture, I like it.)

John Lennon interview


Reason for absence.

Far out table designs.

Mushroom time lapse video (beautiful and creepy).

Classic computer ads.

Girl flies off the handle on train. Funny at first, but then it becomes clear she is really unstable.

Batgirl Barbie?

Batgirl Barbie? This is the first time I've thought Barbie was cool.

What's uncool? Well, Mattel, Inc. believes they have ownership of the name "Barbie" (which has always been a nickname for somebody named Barbara), and they shut down an amateur web site named "Barbie Strips" and left Barbara the owner with big legal bills.