Saturday, October 25, 2008

Light coming through

Perils of a Catholic Upbringing

[Thanks to Signalroom]

Perils of a Catholic Upbringing

As I walked down the busy sidewalk, knowing I was late for Mass, my eye fell upon one of those unfortunate, homeless vagabonds that are found in every city these days.

Some people turned to stare. Others quickly looked away as if the sight would somehow contaminate them.

Recalling my old pastor, Father Mike, who always admonished me to 'care for the sick, feed the hungry and clothe the naked,' I was moved by some powerful inner urge to reach out to this unfortunate person.

Wearing what can only be described as rags, carrying every worldly possession in two plastic bags, my heart was touched by this person's condition.

Yes, where some people saw only rags, I saw a true, hidden beauty.

A small voice inside my head called out, 'Reach out, reach out and touch this person!'

So I did.......

I won't be at Mass this week.

New art: Green Ice

I hope you will have a lovely weekend.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Renee Leaether

Some may wonder if I endorse the (apparent) messages of bands like Leaether Strip, or Skinny Puppy, or Ministry. The apparent antagonism and disdain for the world and authorities.
Not really. Just like, say, Abba, it's pretty much BS. I don't find my messages in music. I just like the music.
It is childish when Al Jourgenson of Ministry gives the audience the finger. But it's equally fake when Anni-Frid Lyngstad of Abba flirts with the audience. It's just something performers do to get the audiences to relate to them. Performers who become big names but don't like the BS have a hard time because the broad audiences demand it. They want interviews and stories about how the love life is going, etc. They want their pound of flesh.

If you ask what kind of music I like, it's simple: stuff like Renee Olstead and Leaether Strip.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Have fun all your life

Hasselblad vs Canon

I've been saying how my little Canon pocket camera takes pictures as good as about any camera I've had (except in low light or with volatile subjects). Now hark at Mike Reichman, he compares a $600 Canon with a $40,000 Hasselblad.
"We can now find DVD players at the check-out counter at Best Buy for $20. Imagine what the price is leaving the factory. That $20 DVD player's retail price includes components, manufacturing, R&D, packaging, documentation, licensing and royalties, shipping half-way round the world, import duties, and retailer margin. Only a few years ago DVD players cost $1,000. Now they're $20. The camera industry isn't going to be much different soon.
The lesson here, especially for newbies and amateurs (the pros have always understood this) is – stop fussing over each new camera's image quality. Now, even sub-$1,000 cameras are able to produce exceptional image quality – likely far better than most photographers are able to execute. Buy high end gear if you need it or want it. But, don't think that the better camera is going to make you a better photographer. As I've written before – most cameras are better than most photographers. This has always been true, and now simply more so than ever."

It should be noted that the similarity in quality only applies to some situations, and only to small or middle-sized prints.
See also comments on SeriousCompacts.

Wedding rings

[Pascal sent this picture.]

What an excellent design idea.

Anon comment:

Indeed, an excellent design ...

It reminds me on an old tantric technique I've heard about: Before a couple was allowed to be together, their wrists were tied up (left wrist of the one to the right wrist of the other), and they had to be together in this intimate way for 7 days - if after this week they wanted still to be together, they were allowed to be married ...

The Translucent Revolution

If you sometimes feel a connection, in your life or work, to "Something Great, Beyond It All", and you feel this has happened more in the last twenty years and not just for you, you might be interested in the book The Translucent Revolution.

Anon said:

I know this book, explaining the spiritual journey as three steps:
1. ego-bound state,
2. translucent state,
3. enlightened state.

It reminds me on Osho, explaining the spiritual journey also as three steps:
(Quote, as far as I remember)
"Enlightement comes in three steps:
1. the Buddha is following you like a shadow,
2. you are following the Buddha like a shadow,
3. you have dissolved into the Buddha - now you ARE the Buddha."

I'm not shy to out me as a long-year sannyasin of Osho; BTW the author Arjuna was also sannyasin.

And I'm also not shy to out me as a long-year "dirty old man" - enjoying much your DOMAI site, Eolake ... many thanks to you for doing that. IMO without a sense of beauty and humour any spiritual journey is simply not possible. In tantric tradition the whole universe is seen as "Leela" = Shiva and Shakti enjoying the erotic play of male and female forces, this game of hide-and-seek, of parting and unifying again. Basically a big YES to all what is, meaning: Tantra is basically non-dual, which is necessarily always misunderstood and misinterpreted by the dual mind. But you can live it, stepping out of your mind (the literal meaning of "ecstasy"), transcending it - remember your "DOMAI-moments" ...

Back to the book: In a way it is very comforting for anybody on a spiritual journey to know about being part of some "global alternative movement", so you don't feel alone anymore ... but on the other side it is also very much hindering your journey out of this very reason: Nobody can eat for you, nobody can drink for you, and nobody can do your spiritual journey for you, except yourself. A very simple and basic fact. So, you HAVE to be alone and to go alone into the darkness of knowing nothing, stripping away finally ALL your ego-feeding attachments (doesn't matter whether "negative" or "positive" ... ALL). Very painful, agonizing, a death in all aspects except your body. Very few people are doing this consequently, most people are avoiding this with all one's strength, even if they say: "I'm on a spiritual journey" - especially then. I see it all around.

In my experience, much more helpful in this way are the books of Jed McKenna (, or look at, who also describes three states of development:
1. Human Childhood,
2. Human Adulthood,
3. Spiritual Enlightement
(aka abiding non-dual awareness,
aka Un-truth Un-realization).

His books are true masterpieces, plain English without guru babble, humorously in a subtle way. I would like to quote something of the epilogue of "Spiritual Warfare":

"There are two emotions that inform and animate the human animal; fear, and a gratitude-love-awe mix that might best be called agapé. As fear goes out, agapé comes in. More accurately, a pure white light of consciousness hits the prism of self and splits outward to become the universe as we experience it. If the prism is gray and murky with ignorance, choked with fear, contaminated with ego, then so becomes the universe that radiates out from it. It's that simple. As the prism becomes free of such flaws, then the whole universe changes with it. It resolves into clarity, becomes brighter, more playful and magical. Because we are the lens through which it is projected, we are participants in its shape and motion; co-creators of our own universe.

That's Human Adulthood. Spiritual Enlightement is just the same, except you take the final step in purifying the prism of self: You remove it."

So, I recommend everybody: Have a sincere look at it, and review your life "dealing with your shit honestly" ...

Thanks for your comments, you have some good points.
Indeed The Translucent Revolution, while a good book, is limited. It firmly sticks around in the area where you still regard the Self and the Ego as real.
I recommend The Disappearance Of The Universe to augment it.

In My Secret Life

One of my favorites of Leonard Cohen's post-millennium (and post-monestary) songs: In My Secret Life.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

St. Louis is a ghost town

Some American cities, like Detroit and St. Louis, are now ghost towns.
I'm fascinated that we don't hear about this.
It must be because:
1: it happened gradually.
2: we can't do anything about it.
3: it's too big to face.

Read Susie Bright's story about her walk in downtown St. Louis in 2005 (the article covers other subjects first).
"I walked for an hour. I saw FIVE people. Five. It was the middle of Saturday. I passed hundreds and hundreds of empty burned-out, 18th and early-19th century buildings with nobody inside them. The handful of adults and children I encountered stared bug-eyed at me."

BTW, does anybody know what other cities are like this now?


CameraPriceDrops, a place to keep lookout for good deals.

Sony A900 review on video

Sony A900 (full frame camera) review on video.

Simultaneously, another big review of the same camera.

Photoshop CS4

OK, so I just installed Photoshop CS4 (aka Photoshop 11, so you're not confused...).
In fact I gave in and installed the whole dang Creative Suite, after all it's only seven gigabytes...
The installation process, this time, could not have been easier. In fact it did not even (this time) ask for the serial number of the earlier version I was upgrading from. I wonder why not. (I just realized: it must have a registration database on my hard disk. The reason Photoshop asked for it when I bought it separately is that it's considered a different product when bought on it's own and so was not included in this database.)

Also the app so far looks nice, and it loads way, way faster than PS CS 2 (which was not Intel processor native), so I'm looking forward to seeing how fast it is.

One big flaw though, which is always the same: It does not import my customized actions from earlier versions? I mean, come on, how basic is this?

Not just that, but it takes specialized knowledge to do it manually. Last time I just couldn't figure it out and had to recreate all my actions by hand. This time I quit the new app, started the old one, and figured out that I could export the old actions, and then find the file from the new app and import them. (I couldn't just copy the file since for some odd reason I could not find it anywhere.)

Apple for example has made tremendous strides in making it easier for users to upgrade software and hardware, but it seems Adobe is not giving it much thought.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Eolake Stobblehouse biography

Eolake Stobblehouse is seven foot tall when standing on the stairs.

Eolake Stobblehouse was know as "the sixth Beatle" when he played with Keith Richards in The Band.

Eolake Stobblehouse is a world-renounced poet who invented the Inverted Pentametergram.

Eolake Stobblehouse coined the term "red" for communist.

Eolake Stobblehouse has never lost a bet.

Eolake Stobblehouse ghost wrote The Old Man And The Sea for Michael Chrichton.

Eolake Stobblehouse is really a redhead, but prefers to use glasses.

Eolake Stobblehouse can run faster than a cheetah on wet ground.

Eolake Stobblehouse is the only man to be called "brother" by both the Dalai Lama and two popes.

Eolake Stobblehouse gave Bernard Picasso the idea for cubism.

Eolake Stobblehouse does not like broccoli.

Origin Of The Whirl

New art, two with green

Monday, October 20, 2008

Support woes

I rag on Scott Adams for being cynical, but sometimes I understand him. Oddly enough, it's usually the companies handling my subscription e-mail newsletter which make me feel this way. I started with a nimble, small company back in the nineties. Great customer service. Then they got eaten by a large company, then that got eaten by Yahoo. Goodbye customer service.

Yahoo deleted my list, and I couldn't even get the addresses. So I took a paid service. Small company, but it turned out their support got worse and worse and worse. So I had to change.

So I went to Sparklist. Rumored to be the best. And they were good... and then they got eaten by Lyris. A couple of years later, it seems Lyris is a huge company with many operations, and I can't get good support out of them. They don't do email support. I got a "support case" on their website (about having lost *all* my yahoo email subscribers because their email server got blacklisted), but now I can't access it, my login does not work. I got on the phone, but all the "help" I got was that since my login works on his computer, the error must be on my machine. But I've tried two different computer, three different browser, and two different Internet connections, and I still get "You are no longer logged in. Your session may have timed out. Please login again to continue."

In addition, this support case has been going on for over a month now, it's like pulling teeth just to get them to answer anything. I can't believe that any service can be so lousy.

Does anybody know a company who does email newsletter service and has good support?

Lens pouch

Does anybody know if there exists something like a lens pouch which attaches to your belt?
So you can carry a lens or two beyond the one on the camera, without the burden of a bag or the heat-insulation or geekiness of a "photo vest"...

Update: thanks to everybody.
The mention of "bum bags" made me think of something a bit more flexible, and this made me find a product I did not know existed: the camera belt bag. So I ended up ordering the Think Tank Speed Demon.

It's flexible, does not weigh down your shoulders, and it's much faster to get your camera out of than a shoulder- or back pack. Of course it only holds a small amount of gear though, basically one DSLR with one extra lens (maybe two), and various accessories. (They have larger varieties for bigger equipment.)

Think Tank's products are highly praised, and even this specific one comes with testimonials from working pros, so I'm sure it's not a toy.


One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.
-- Henry Miller

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.
-- Lin Yutang

Of course the trick is, what is nonessential? Most people would not exclude a girlfriend or kids, but I did.
And some go further, Peace Pilgrim for instance even eliminated a stable abode and a predictable source of food.

Update: just found out there's a Peace Pilgrim YouTube page. And a documentary here.
I also found out there to my joy that she focused on inner peace above peace in the world.
He was a mediocre conductor of a mediocre orchestra. He had been having problems with the basses. They were the least professional of his musicians.

It was the last performance of the season, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, which required extra effort from the basses at the end.

Earlier that evening, he found the basses celebrating one of their birthdays by passing around a bottle and getting quite plastered.

The performance was nearing its end. As the conductor was about to cue the basses, he knocked over his music stand. The sheet music scattered.

As he stood in front of his orchestra, his worst fear was realized: It was the bottom of the 9th, no score and the basses were loaded.

What gets me about this is that I haven't watched a single baseball game in my life, but the phrases are so ubiquitous that I still understand that joke.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Piet Hein III, Son of the Sequel

Damien points to this excellent collection of Piet Hein "grooks" in English.

Includes his translation of the one I posted a few days ago:

Taking fun
as simply fun
and earnestness
in earnest
shows how thoroughly
thou none
of the two

Oh, more good ones:


Everything's either
concave or -vex,
so whatever you dream
will be something with sex


As Pastor X steps out of bed
he slips a neat disguise on:
that halo round his priestly head
is really his horizon


Imaging-Resource has some excellent reviews and articles. Take for example this page. If you hover your mouse over the pictures, you get an explanation about the buttons and other features of the camera. In the first ninety seconds I'd already learned three things I did not know about my new camera.
... And in the next five minutes, five more.

It also strikes me from this page what an astounding number of features a modern digital camera has, even just physically. It's a miracle that they actually managed to bring them down to prices similar to film cameras, for they contain so much more.

... Of course this also means that to master them is a steep climb. I've used cameras for thirty years, and digital cameras for a decade, and I still get confused when faced with all the options they have now. I wonder how it is for newbies.
Just for instance, the D90, like many DSLRs, has four different settings for autofocus, and so far the single-point setting is the only one I really understand!
I better read IR's page on the camera's autofocus. It's much longer than the official manual's information. Man, these guys work hard.

Kids about e-book readers

Either British kids are very conservative by nature, or the BBC weeded out most of the positive opinions...
... Actually it looks like the kids were answering a question about reading on regular computers, but then they put the replies in an article about e-book reading devices, which are a different beast altogether. But news outlets love controversy.
Here are the first four quotes:

No way could ebooks every replace real books! Books are trying to get people away from the computer, so what's the point of reading them if you're just on the computer more? And if they were on the computer, people would start trying to get them for free and then it would start a book thing just like with music.
Claire, 14, Caerphilly

Maybe for some people it is a good idea, but I think that it would completely spoil the feeling of reading.
Jenna, 14, London

I would hate to see the day ebook overpower books. I'd say that books are more reliable than a computer screen, you know... I mean I would hate if I had to use ebooks because they could "shut down" or catch a "virius". So that would like never work for me.
Natalie, 14, USA

I don't really see the point. What's wrong with books as they are? It WOULD be harder to read off a screen. And, you can't exactly turn on the computer every time you want a bedtime story!! That would be a bit daft!
Bushrah, 13, Plaistow

Best man

"Worst best man". One of those little "accident" videos which often are faked, but I don't think this one is, and it's funny.

Handheld test, and RAW

I post this boring picture for two reasons:

1) It was a test to see how long a shutter speed I could hand-hold my 85mm lens at (since it does not have stabilization).
Nicely it turns out that 1/60th is quite usable, and that if I use the rapid-fire setting and squeeze off three or four shots at 1/30th, then one of them is usable! I am very happy with this discovery, I have not seen this tip anywhere else.
Furthermore, the first one is never the usable one, which means that doing this makes a big difference. (This picture was the third of three. The other two were more shaken.)
(This method would not have been so practical back in film days.)

2) It was a good opportunity to test RAW, which I'm trying to use more. As you can see, the highlights in the yellow leaves are clipped. Extracting the picture from the RAW file I was able to save them.

We also see that the camera-generated JPG has more saturation than the RAW. This of course can be moderated as on "develops" the RAW file, or later.

For those not in the know, "RAW" is the data from the camera in un-processed form, instead of made into a finished JPG file by the camera the way the manufacturer anticipated you'd like them to look. RAW files are bigger and need special software to "develop", but they contain all the data the sensor recorded, so they give more leeway for critical pictures.

1/30th usable, third in the rapid-fire set, JPG:

1/30th, from RAW, highlights not clipped:

1/30th, the first pic from the rapid-fire set, shaken:

Patrick said:
Since it is never the first shot, would pausing before actually taking a shot provide some benefit as well?

eolake said...
I think the main thing is the action of pressing the button jigging the camera. Unavoidable to some extend.

One should always pause anyway. If one just lifts up the camera and presses in the same breath, one will get lots of shaken pictures even at medium shutter speeds.
Pause, stop breathing for a second, and squeeze gently.

New drawing

Browser full screen

In Photoshop I can hit the F key, and the current window resizes to just beyond the screen size, so it hides all other apps, background, and windows, and even the window's own widgets like scroll bars. Makes for a wonderful non-distractive view, you only see the picture and the menu bar.
I just realized I would love to have the same feature in my web browser. Without resizing the window (and thus making text wider), just hide everything else except the text I'm reading.
Apple, Firefox, MS, how about it?

Instead of this...

I'd have this...

I could approach it as things are, but it would require: 1) no pictures on my desktop and 2) constant cleaning up windows so I only have one visible. Also the window edges and controls would still be there.
I suspect it would be pretty easy to implement this in browsers to work with just one keystroke like in Photoshop.

Update: I found a Safari plugin, Saft ("juice" in Scandinavian), which does this and more. I'll try it.
... OK... It works with some sites:

But not with others, because it just maximizes the window, so some text will follow and become nigh unreadable: