Saturday, September 13, 2008

The 10 most decadent dictators

The 10 most decadent dictators, article.
1. Kim Jong-il, "Dear Leader" of North Korea since 1994. The son of the communist state's "Great Leader", Kim Jong-il has super-expensive tastes, with 17 palaces and collections of hundreds of cars and about 20,000 video tapes. On one state visit to Russia, he reportedly had live lobsters airlifted daily to his armoured private train. He is believed to spend around $650,000 a year on Hennessy VSOP cognac and maintains an entourage of young lovelies known as the "Pleasure Brigade"

I'd say this at least makes Dear Leader sound less dangerous to other countries. If he likes luxury, he is a little lazy too, and also he knows that any major instability would threaten his lifestyle. I would be much more worried about a man who's a hard ascetic.

A sex toy... from Philips?!

A sex toy... from Philips?!

Excellent. I'm thinking this is a sign of the continuing softening of the global fear of sex.

And if they keep their nerve instead of being frightened off by any early protests that may happen, Philips will make a mint. The planned price for this little plastic thing is sixty pounds (and one for ninety)! Some similar merchandize by competitors is sold for a third of that. Not that I know anything about it, of course.

"Britain is key to a successful launch into a global market that could be worth more than £1 billion, says Justine Guest, the head of consumer life-style marketing for Philips UK. Britain was the guinea pig for two previous and somewhat controversial launches: the bikini trimmer and an all-over body shaver for men. Britain is more open than other markets tested by Philips researchers, including Germany, the US and the Netherlands and a popular TV series has paved the way. “Our research says that UK consumers are open to this story. Sex and the City changed the way people talk about it,” said Ms Guest."

Hell, what happened to the famously sexless and demure Brits? More open than Holland?! Gee.

Eliminate the Mode dial...

This is the picture of the main mode dial of the new Panasonic G1. I post it not because of how special it is, but because of how common it is. Every serious camera has one similar.*

And it suddenly struck me, is this really a wise design? It seems to me that by far most photographers have a favorite mode (like Programmed or Aperture Priority), and leave it on that almost always.

I know that I change ISO far more frequently than I change Mode, and yet none of my cameras have ISO dials. And for cameras which have auto-ISO (becoming more common), I wouldn't need one of those either.

So I think camera manufacturers could make cameras cheaper and more durable and less intimidating to beginners simply by eliminating this dial and putting the functions on the screen.

And while we're at it, like I've said before, more money and bulk could be saved by also eliminating the viewfinder, whether EVF or SLR or rangefinder. My favorite composing device is is a tiltable LCD screen. It gives a more flexible viewpoint and a better overview of the composition as a whole. In a viewfinder you tend to look at details and forget the overall picture.

*Except the newer top pro cameras like the Nikon D3 and Canon 1D. So perhaps there's hope yet. Good feature changes often have a trickle-down effect.

Women of Avalon

Women of Avalon blog.

Stephen Haynes said:
Original source of the photoshoot from which this was derived: MagicFluteNudes. (Others from the shoot in prior posts there.)

unbearable lightness said:
Thank you for the post. The Avalon blog has received hundreds of visits from your readers.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Lin of Fluffytek blog send me some kind words about this blog, and like I often do, I then took a look at hers, and behold it's very cool. Only problem is it has some sexy pictures (that it appears she takes). You've been warned. :-)

I'm not likely to ditch my bachelor life, but if I do I want a wife like Lin, who apparently is liable to, upon discovering green goo seeping out of the light switches, run around the house screaming, 'The house is possessed! We’re all gonna die!'

People usually don't get it when I indulge in my more abstract humor, but I think I'd fit right in.

Flash prices (was: RAM prices)

I've ordered a Nikon D90 with UK dealer AJ Purdy, and they throw in two 4GB SD cards with the sale. How very nice of them, that's a good deal, I thought. And then I happened to look these cards up, and guess what they cost? Six pounds each!
Holy crap. I remember the first memory card I bought back in 2000. I think it was 64MB, and it was something like £170. Man, these things have dropped in a hurry! That's about 1/2000 of the price per MB in eight years.
I have stopped deleting pictures from the cards, I just fill them up and keep them as extra backup. That said, I haven't yet managed to fill up card recently!

By the way, unlike many gadgets, the Nikon camera is not spectacularly cheaper if bought in the US compared to the UK. Otherwise I might have ordered from Amazon USA. They will only ship to a US address, but I use a service I think TTL pointed me to originally, AccessUSA ( This service works great. They have lots of experience sending abroad with the least amount of cost and hassle with customs etc.


Timo points to this hacked eeePC running Mac OSX.
Interesting, but it's likely a rather technical hack, and likely to stay so for the while.

New Panasonic M4/3 camera

New Panasonic M4/3 camera.
Earlier than I'd expected for the first camera, nice. It looks quite promising to me. It's only a good half kilo including the kit lens, this was the sort of thing I was hoping for when they announced the Micro Four Thirds standard. If it has good image quality and fast reacting autofocus, then we may have a contender.

It looks like a small DSLR camera, but it's not, because the whole point with the M4/3 standard is that there's no room for a mirror, and that this allows for smaller bodies and lenses. Instead it has an EVF (Electronic View Finder) which hopefully has enough resolution to be useful. The EVF on my old Nikon 2400 is dreadful, highly pixillated. But for me, I'd have done just fine without the viewfinder, I'd prefer a tiltable high-rez LCD (update: I see now that it actually has that also, goody). Pressing the camera against your face just limits the camera's potential points of view, seems to me.

Omitting the viewfinder might also allow them to do even better as regards weight: this camera is only barely lighter than the Olympus E-410, and the latter is an SLR camera after all, with mirror and prism.

It seems the EVF is very good though. Imaging-Resource writes:
"Knowing that this would have to compete with the true optical viewfinders on digital SLRs, Panasonic has wisely selected a rather impressive EVF display. Using a responsive Liquid Crystal on Silicon design that is alternately front-lit by a trio of red, green and blue LEDs some 180 times per second, this display has an impressive 800 x 600 pixel resolution with full color at every pixel location, and no gaps between pixels. (Most electronic viewfinders have adjacent red, green and blue dots for each pixel, and gaps between pixels, resulting in a perceived loss of quality and "graininess" that makes them off-putting)."

See below, compared to an Olympus E-410, which is the smallest DSLR. The G1 is not really dramatically smaller, is it?
But then it seems to be aimed at giving a pretty full DSLR-like experience, rather than a "big compact" experience. I might be interested more in the latter. Like the Sigma DP-1, only without all the grim limitations of that one.

Update: because of my short attention span (if I were in school I'd be put on Ritalin for sure) I tend to read long articles in many bits over the day, so an article like this I often update many times over several hours. Sometimes I intend it originally to be just a short notice, but then I add observations as they occur to me. Just so you know.

Imaging-Resource had a positive early impression of the focusing speed of the G1. Their preview article also contains some interesting data about focusing systems. Seem that as processors become faster, contrast based focusing (taken directly off the imaging sensor) may become much more prevalent in the future, because it's inherently simpler and more accurate.

I-R is also pleased with tentative and brief testing of pre-production camera samples vis-a-vis image quality and noise. So all in all the first M3/4 entry may be a stronger one than anybody expected. Neato. It should be available in November, price unknown yet.
DpReview also has a big preview article. (Am I the only one who finds white text on black to be harder to read?)

Panasonic says that they have made it as much like a DSLR in order not to alienate Japanese buyers, and they made it not-too-small in order not to alienate US buyers... isn't it a pity that people are so conservative?

Publishing or conversation?

Regarding the post about the Minox spy camera, somebody wrote to me:

"Don't take this the wrong way, but I thought your column was not really worth the space and time of writing and publishing it. You don't have any particular knowledge or experience with the camera, and you've never seen any photographs made with it, but you're expressing disbelief that it could have been used for anything real? That makes it a seriously uninformed opinion. Who cares?"

Fair enough, I can see that point.
Except I was not giving an opinion, I was just expressing that there was something I didn't understand. And like often happens, lo, my readers helped me out.

When writing proper articles for proper publications (paper or online), one has to be careful to make research and only publish proper informed and considered opinions. But a blog, at least this blog, is not a proper publication and does not contain proper articles. It just contains "posts", which is a thing closer to a conversation than publication. It's very informal to me at least. It's just chatting.

Of course it may change nature from post to post. And a medium may be considered differently from person to person. I once had a correspondent who berated me for not leading in e-mails with "Dear (his name)". He regarded e-mails as letters, whereas I regarded them as conversation.

About quotes and judgement

"The sweat of hard work is not to be displayed. It is much more graceful to appear favored by the gods."
-- Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior, 1976

Graceful, perhaps, but won't it give young hopefuls the impression that they can do what you do without any heard work?

Of course, probably this is a quote not from Ms Kingston herself, but from one of the characters in her book. This means that perhaps it's not a reflection of the beliefs of the author. I think one might want to be careful with this.

Stephen Fry once attacked with great rancor the people quoting from Hamlet: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be". He pointed out that this was stated not by Shakespeare but by the character Polonius, who was a bit of a fool in Fry's opinion.

Of course another problem is that foolish things may be stated by wise people, and vice versa. Not to mention that adjudicating what's foolish and what's wise is something I find more and more difficult the more I mature. I actually suspect that letting go of judgement as much as possible may be the wisest course of all.

For example, the very same "neither a borrower nor a lender be" statement... Indeed I have been in trouble as both a lender and a borrower. I have quite big amounts of money out there which I'm not at all certain I'll ever see again. However, to learn from this that loaning or borrowing should never happen? I just don't see how the world would do without that, the way it's set up currently. Just for one thing, almost nobody would be able to buy a home or start a business.

I guess one has to just rely on case-by-case judgement and not on blanket policies.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mike Mitchell

Thanks to tOP for pointing to Mike Mitchell. Here's a guy who really works with the light, which is so central to photography.
A pity his site is so over-designed, and takes over the browser. I almost didn't bother to browse it. Like TV is made for advertisers, not the viewers, so web sites are designed for the designers to show off, not for the visitors.

Lines, and Peripheral Light

From seven years ago

I wrote this on the day after 9/11.

September 12th, 2001

Hoping For Calm Minds
by Eolake Stobblehouse

The total destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City yesterday is the most shocking disaster in most people's memory.

Words truly fail.

One thing is crucial, though: While even my thoughts (and I am a peaceful individual) turned to revenge (or at least to Justice, which often looks deceptively like revenge) when I learned about it, we need to keep our cool.

There are forces on this planet who would like nothing better than for martial law to rule, and for war to become prevalent. This is not a good idea. In other words, if people, especially politicians and other opinion leaders, lose their heads and start clamouring for violent actions on a big scale, speak against it. Even if they find the responsible parties with any kind of certainty (which is very unlikely), the real responsible people will be a smallish group of individuals, living amongst thousands of innocent people who had nothing to do with it.

Besides, whether we like it or not, nothing we can do, nothing at all, can make something like that right again.

Yours, Eolake


Leviathud wrote:
You only have ONE camera? For some reason I expected your floor to be carpeted with old cameras. The place littered with lenses and bodies the way most peoples places are littered with pens and scraps of paper. You have killed my illusion.

I don't want to do that. You called it.

Jade asked me recently why I had so many cameras lying around. I told her it's like with her dolls and bears, they comfort me.

... There is also the one I used here (Canon 5D) and a few in drawers and such.

Rockcut and Underwater

Large Hadron Collider

Doesn't this thing look like something from a James Bond movie? Only more colorful, actually.
No, seriously: I like it, but if it had been designed for an SF movie, the producer would say: "no guys, you need to make it look like it's real. Not just lots of exciting shiny bits, shapes and colors."

Talking and doing

Have you noticed that people who talk about doing something are rarely the people who do it?

For example, a friend of mine from many years ago would always talk very enthusiastically about these fantastically promising schemes he had cooked up which would make him rich. None of them ever can more than three feet away from the launch pad, and I'm sure none of them have yet. (One of them was apparently a shop selling door handles...)

But people I know who are successful, are people who just quietly put in a ton of energy and hours on something, it builds up and it works. When they talk, they talk about hobbies or movies or whatever.

Perhaps a very typical example is writing a novel. It's something that many dream about, but it's much harder than they think. And the guy who actually is producing a novel two thousand words per day, day in day out, is not the guy who will fill your ears about the great novel he will write. The guy who does that is the dreamer.

Perhaps it is because talking about something is a peripheral activity. And when you are somehow blocked from the central activity, you'll be pushed out into peripheral activities. For instance, in periods where I'm not very productive photographically, I'm obsessing about cameras. When I'm actually photographing, I'm not very concerned with them, I just use the one I have.

Leica lens rumor

Leica lens rumor.
8,000 Euros for a "normal" lens? Ow-ow-ow-ow! (Elven thousand dollars or six k Sterling.)
Damn, if real, that thing will have a depth of field measured in millimeters, even at medium distances. A-gwynna need a friggin' good focus measuring mechanism.
A thing like this is really a status symbol, isn't it? Like a Ferrari.

Rollercoaster of emotion

Gawd, this is more gay than a roomful of preschoolers on nitrous oxide. In so many ways. I'm glad I didn't have a TV in the eighties.

TTL points to this as having much more gravitas.

I had to have it explained. Not sure I get it still, though.

But really, I'm amazed at the repulsion I feel at the guy in the first video. The hair, the clothes, the face, the voice, the moves. It just makes me want to blow chunks. Is it just me?

This spoof site has some interesting text additions... "fetching tea"? What? The closest I could find was "tea potting", which seems... unlikely? (Especially second definition. Yeah, that's gonna happen.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Downloads: Artists Have Their Say

Digital Music Downloads: Artists Have Their Say. Article.
"In the middle of the park is Metallica, who has been quite vocal in the past in promoting the changing face of music; back in 2003 they allowed fans to download their music via the internet and in 2006 made their entire back catalogue available. Lars Ulrich was recently interviewed by San Francisco based radio station Live 105, and in regard to his new album said that "If this thing leaks all over the world today or tomorrow, happy days. It's 2008 and it's part of how it is these days"."

I find it interesting to see that this journalist either has forgotten or just don't see fit to mention that before that in 2000, Metallica became the center of a big shitstorm when they came out heavily against unauthorized downloading. It seems that they have made a successful turnaround after Danish Lars Ulrich became "the most hated man in rock and roll" in his own words.

PR words

Isn't it funny how easily duped we all are by promotions? Take for instance this Sony A900 advertisement. It tells us that the camera has "Bionz". And just like it is with the new Canon 50D having "Digic 4", we have to assume that this means something to the guys who designed the camera, because it sure as heck does not mean anything to the rest of us.
But: they tell it to us anyway, and it a proud tone, because when we see it, we think: "ah, they are very proud of this. That means there must be something to be proud of. Gotta git me some of that".

Computer art 1

It was pointed out to me that I hadn't placed the previous computer art on my home site, so I've done that now. (Gee, there were 38 pictures.)

A special treat

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

New iPods

Apple introduced new iPod models today, and iTunes 8. Included is "Genius", software which builds song list recommendations based on reviews/comparisons by yourself and by iTunes users.
And finally some cool iPod Nano colors. I thought they had been pretty lame so far, considering the potential. (Must be a bit of an inventory nightmare with this many colors, though.) I need a purple, a green, a yellow, and an orange. (I wonder if they will sell the whole set at a discount. They really should.)
Intro video here.

Hmmm, both the front and the back is curved. I wonder if that will make it less practical for my favorite use: on the top of my dresser, for reading audiobooks in bed.

TV ad here. If it had been me, I would have made it just like the great "She Comes In Colors" iMac ad from ten years ago. Although I admit I think this ad is really beautiful.

Update: Steve Jobs' speech has just been posted.
... Just watching it... it is just stunning how much streaming QuickTime video has improved. When it was fresh a few years ago, the picture was thumbnail sized, and froze all the time. What I get now, due to improvements in both bandwidth and compression, is TV quality. Great.


Thanks to Martin for reminding me of Brassaï.

What a great composition. Everything in it is in balance, and yet with tension.

Sony full frame

If you disregard the still-born Contax attempt early this decade, and the Kodak camera which was awful and short-lived, then Sony is only the third company to present a full frame camera, with the $3,000 A900. Will be interesting to see how it stacks up against the formidable competition of Nikon and Canon.
"The Sony DSLR-A900's full-frame imager is an Exmor CMOS type, with a whopping 24.6 megapixel resolution. Impressively, Sony has also incorporated its SteadyShot in-body image stabilization, making the Sony A900 the world's first full-frame DSLR to offer the capability."

Of course an issue is: does Sony have the lenses necessary to match a professional full frame camera? Even Canon and Nikon are struggling with this, and they have a head start.

I am guessing though that now we have two professional-rated full frame cameras under $3,000 (this one and Nikon D700), Canon may have to reconsider the $8,000 price for the 1Ds. Especially since the Sony has an even higher resolution than the Canon, which until now was unchallenged in this area. Seen from that viewpoint, the price of the Sony is a bargain.

Granted the big Canon is on a slightly different level regarding ruggedness and so on, but I think that there are many, many photographers who want the high resolution but don't need that ruggedness (or bulk and weight), and who will be only too pleased to save $5,000 in the bargain! Landscape photographers, architecture photographers, travel photographers, art photographers, etc. This camera may shake things up a little.

Imaging-resource continues:
"First, the Sony A900's image quality is truly awe-inspiring. Opening a file in Photoshop and hitting Command + to get to 100% reminds me of that scene in Blade Runner when Deckard uses the Esper photoanalysis machine."

OK, I've decided I don't need such resolution for the time being, but this still sounds like fun.

"What's sure is that the Sony A900 is a fit rival for Canon's best camera, which costs $5,000 more."

Sadly it seems that high-ISO noise is not pretty, just like with the smaller Sony models. So it won't compete with the Nikon D3 for reportage!

Back in 2001, I bought the then-revolutionary Canon D30, which was 3 megapixels. That's one-eighth of the revolution of this camera, it had nowhere near the same features or speed, and it was the same price. Dang.

Below is a screenshot comparing the Sony with the D90, both at ISO 3200, and both after Noise Ninja has been applied. The Nikon picture is viewed at 140% because of the difference in resolution. The Nikon is actually less noisy! A tremendous accomplishment by Nikon. The Sony is clearly sharper, but remember this comes at the price of a much bigger and more expensive camera body and lens. (Thrice the price and twice the weight.)

LumLand has a hands-on trial of the A900.
"The estimated price for this camera is AUD3999 for a body-only. Given that this is well under half that of the well regarded Canon 1DsM3, and that the images are very close in quality, then this has to be a great deal. You could buy the body and two top Zeiss lenses for much the same as the Canon.
As far as image quality is concerned, bear in mind that I had to look quite closely at the files – serious pixel-peeping really – to see the differences. I always figure that if I have to look this closely then the differences are probably so close as to be insignificant."

Monday, September 08, 2008

Cook up a good beat

Fun video.
Like Pogue said: "First couple times I saw this, I would have bet you money that the beatbox sounds were audio samples, added during the video editing. But once I visited the guy’s Web site, I realized that he’s probably the world’s greatest beatboxer—and that he probably made all those sounds himself as the camera rolled."

TTL informs:
Beardyman is the name of the guy cooking the "Electro Funk Daddy Superstar Break".

I find lots of subtle things that make the performance great: the overall rhythm of his delivery, how he switches from narrative to beat boxing and back; brilliant writing, like when he filters the low and middle frequencies out of white noise using a household sieve; and the believably "enthusiastic" style of some show host in a routine cooking segment, all of which when combined to his virtuoso command of beat boxing technique gives a rather surreal effect.

There are also things which to truly appreciate you have to now a bit about the history of music technology. For example his Roland 808 clap sounds exactly like the real thing from 1980s. Also, how he feels the need to include both a 808 clap and a 909 clap snare in the recipe and then perfectly renders the sonical differences of those two devices in the beat.

Also he does simultaneous stretching and low pass filtering of the "signal" when he slows down the beat. Not to mention doing it while playing the beat backwards!

New generations, and gone ones

Isn't it funny how many graveyards are smack in the middle of town, prime real estate?

New computer art (updated)

Orange Swirl

Gold Death Star

TTL said:
I wanted to see your earlier Artmatic renderings and went to but couldn't find them. Are they not there or am I just unable to locate them?

eolake said...
I never put them there for some reason.
... I've done so now.

Minox spy camera

Remember the Minox "spy camera"? Well, now there's a digital version. Amazing it took them so long, actually, considering a digital sensor can have much higher resolution than film.
I was actually surprised to read that these cameras were actually used by real spies, it wasn't just a promotional gimmick. I don't get how a 8x11 negative with a 1950's film (grainy), in indoors light can pick up enough detail to copy "documents". That negative is the same size as as the Kodak Disc format, which went under because the picture quality was awful even in 4x5 inch prints. And that was with much better/later films.

When Titans Clash

The lightning storm that engulfed the dust cloud from an erupting volcano, May 2008.

F***ing 'ell, talk about a lifetime photo opportunity.
Pics. Pics.

Way hotter than Gene Simmons

Damn, and she had to be a redhead, my only weakness...

(By the way, the sideways thing, Dakota Fanning can do too.)

National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month. Write a 50k words novel during November.
I don't think you have to be American to participate, I am guessing that the "National" part is just a leftover from the olden days when nations mattered.

If I am to do it, I think an interesting strategy might be just to deliberatly write crap, anything at all. It'll blast through all the internal-editor blockages, and I suspect a lot of ideas and qualities will seep in anyway.

L. Ron Hubbard, who was a high-volume pulp fiction writer, told a story about a lecture he had give at a university, where he said that "when you've written about 200,000 words, you'll know if you have a style". He felt he was being very conservative about that, but it seems he terrified these academia students, because they each tended to write something 5,000 words a month!

Margaret Cho

"I slept with this woman on the ship. And I went through this whole thing; am I gay?! Am I straight?! And I realized: I'm just slutty.
Where's my parade?"
- Margaret Cho

How to treat someone for shock

How to treat someone for shock, instructional video.


After three weeks in the Garden of Eden, God came to visit Eve. 'So, how is everything going?' inquired God.

'It is all so beautiful, God,' she replied. 'The sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking, the smells, the sights, everything is wonderful, but I have just one problem.

It's these breasts you have given me. The middle one pushes the other two out and I am constantly knocking them with my arms, catching them on branches and snagging them on bushes. They're a real pain.'

And Eve went on to tell God that since many other parts of her body came in pairs, such as her limbs, eyes, ears, etc. She felt that having only two breasts might leave her body more 'symmetrically balanced'.

'That's a fair point,' replied God, 'But it was my first shot at this, you know. I gave the animals six breasts, so I figured that you needed only half of those, but I see that you are right. I will fix it up right away.'

And God reached down, removed the middle breast and tossed it into the bushes

Three weeks passed and God once again visited Eve in the Garden of Eden.

'Well, Eve, how is my favorite creation?'

'Just fantastic,' she replied, 'But for one oversight. You see, all the animals are paired off. The ewe has a ram and the cow has her bull. All the animals have a mate except me. I feel so alone.'

God thought for a moment and said, 'You know, Eve, you are right. How could I have overlooked this? You do need a mate and I will immediately create a man from a part of you. Let's see... where did I put that useless boob?'

Sunday, September 07, 2008

D90 video

[Thanks to Neutral Day]

Nikon D90 video sample.
Sadly you can't have autofocus while video'ing with the D90. But you can have manual focus, which you can't with most camcorders. And you can use lenses with shallow depth of field (blurred backgrounds), which you can't with any.

Pizza with the nikon d-90 from MOVIE GUY on Vimeo.

Affirmation girl

This is brilliant.

I just realized this was made by LisaNova, who I've blogged before.

Seriously, I think Lisa is so brilliant that she is almost hard to watch. Just amazing. Such good looks combined with such power as a writer and as an actor, that's more than rare.
Here she is when she's not playing a character.

Lego transvestites

Lego transvestites.
"Even my kid was like “Fucking-A, this shit is disturbing” except that she’s three so it was more like she picked up the girl/boy and said in a really deep, masculine voice “My name is Lori?”"

Slow mo camera shutter

Ever wondered how the shutter of a modern camera looks when firing?

One-minute recap

Thanks to Conscientious for the links, a one minute recap of:
The Democrat convention and
The Republican convention.
Spot on, don't miss them