Friday, November 20, 2009

S90 grip

Richard Franiec has made a gorgeous aluminium grip for the Canon S90. I'm impressed with the looks, the quality, and the fact that it does not make the practical size of the camera any bigger.

Ukrainian officials theft

(Warning, this post contains swearing.)

As an exchange of favors, I sent a valuable camera by UPS, a Canon 5D Mark 1 with an expensive zoom lens (collectively worth maybe $2000), to a friend in the Ukraine. I included a letter which made it clear that she had not paid anything for it.

When it arrived, Ukrainian customs told her that they needed an invoice to give her the camera. So I wrote one for her.

Later they told her that the invoice was wrong, it was a different camera, and a 18-55mm kit zoom lens. She told me to write an invoice which did not mention the specifics so much.

And today she got the parcel, after over a month... it contained an old, super-cheap Canon camera, with a cheap kit zoom lens. [Update: and it's even broken, I am told now. And they made her pay $200 in import tax for a broken camera!] It did not contain the camera I sent her. They fucking stole the fucking camera and the lens! I can't fucking believe it.

And I don't even think there's anything she can do, in practice. Even if she can, it will surely be a lengthy and exhausting battle which ain't worth it.

Bird dance

It's not exactly a pro quality video(!), but it's a spectacular phenomenon. (And they speak Danish in the video. One guy says that if one bird leaves the flock, the falcon will get it. I imagine a falcon was near.)

[Update: anon points to this one, which is clearer. Notice the movements starting around 3.18... wow!! If this is not evidence of a group mind, I don't know what is.] (I can't remember how to make a link to a specific point in a youtube video...)

Lou Reed, Nick Cave

I think it's cool when an artist branches out. Like when Nick Cave became a novelist, or Lou Reed a photographer. It seems Nick uses the new Leica M9, which is a very impressive camera, a huge step up from the M9. Actually it seems to be beating the big full-frame cameras in image quality, something I did not see coming.

And Cave's newest project is extremely "new media" indeed.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Leica X1 review

Leica X1 review.

So, as one might have hoped, it's an excellent camera, with outstanding image quality for its compact size.
"In terms of overall IQ it puts every other small camera that I've ever worked with to shame, and challenges many DSLRs."

And as one might have feared, it joins the legion of compact cameras with too-slow autofocus. No great street- or action-photography camera, then.

So it's still only Panasonic which has solved the autofocus speed in this type camera (with the G1 and the GF1). What a pity.

Fake orgasm radio clip sparks BBC row

Fake orgasm radio clip sparks BBC row, article.
"The BBC was criticised today after a radio presenter played a clip of Meg Ryan faking an orgasm during a show broadcast during the time of the school run.
Steve Harris, presenter of the Drivetime show on Radio Solent, played the 10-second recording from the movie When Harry Met Sally when talking about a drug being heralded as the female version of Viagra."

What fascinates me about these things happening all the time is that the main argument from the offended people is: "how do we explain it to the children?"
Are people really that terrified of tricky questions from their children?

Dust and scratches (2nd update)

I'm being offered to buy some images which are scanned from slides. Some of them have dust and scratches on them. (Below is an extreme example.)
I've tried the 'dust and scratches' filter for it in Photoshop, but to get rid of the problem, the setting must be so high that the picture is totally blurred after. (One can use it partially, but it's a lot more work.)

I once used a scanner which had a filter which handled this during the process of scanning*. This filter was magic! It seemed like it removed all dust/scratches without noticable hurting the image detail at all. I don't know how the hell that's even possible (someone did, see comments.), but I'm looking for a similarly effective filter (Photoshop plugin or Mac standalone app) which can be used on the finished files. Does anybody know one?

* (Oddly I saw this on the computer of the guy who is offering me these images, and he showed it to me! It seems he omitted the filter on some scans for some reason.)

Update: it turns out, luckily, that it was a mistake he included any pictures like this, so maybe I'll be able to get them without those flaws, one hopes. (We'll see, I know he got rid of some slides after scanning for space reasons.)

Update: I was pointed to Dust/scratch software by Polaroid. After some searching, I found it here. The remarkable thing is that the software is no longer downloadable from Polaroid's site, but... it is anyway, via! I had no idea that this site also includes archives of hosted files! (And I would not have guessed it, since most linked images seem to get lost on that site.) This could be important.
(Philocalist: "It might be worth pointing out that the link you give is specifically for the Mac version; this page will give you the PC version, just click on October 15 2007 link on that page.")

... Below is my first try with the Polaroid software (in the PS plugin version). It is far more effective than Photoshop's filter. There's still some scratches left, but all the dust is gone with much less softening of the image compared to Photoshop, which is impressive. It would have taken a looooong time to spot all that dust by hand.
(Note: it seems the plugin did not work in PS CS4, but it does work with CS1. It's probably not tuned to Intel Mac software.)

... And just for completeness' sake, here is what I could do with a bit of fiddling, history brush, and such. A bit tiresome process, but then this was a very damaged picture, and without this software it would have taken at least ten times as much as the maybe ten minutes I used.

More on romance...

Anna had some interesting comments to the post Romance:

Maybe the same difference as the one between dreaming of a car and owning a car ? Or any other thing one wants to reach or own in this life ?

After I separated from the first boyfriend with whom I had this kind of relationship, I was wondering how it will be possible ever to do the same thing with somebody else.

Later I realized it is totally different with each person.

It is funny, if I read the word "romance", I don't think sex. It is well, spending time together in a romantic atmosphere...

We experience the world through our cognitive system, our brain. There is maybe not much difference between giving sexual input through 3 dimensional or 2 dimensional women.

With a 3 dimensional, you get a lot of optional *benefits*, like eating together, laughing together, expressing and getting tenderness. But if these are not important or if a person gets these from other sources, 2D women are quite a good option. :-)

Especially with an overpopulated planet...

I think the 'car' comment is insightful. Virtually all of us think and feel that human accomplishments and possessions will make us happy. And when we reach the summit of one of them, and still are not really happy, then we immediately turn to the next one, surely this must be it.

... Ah, yes, "romance", what does it mean? I have decided for myself, perhaps cynically, that at its heart it really means "sex". Sure, it's a lot more than that, but really, if there is no sex involved or at least hoped for, is it romance? I don't think so, then it's friendship.
I once wrote an apparently sweet story named A tale of Two Kingdoms, a comedic romance of a prince and a princess. Only few people ever remarked on the fact that the prince only fell In Love with the princess after he had seen her nude and had started lusting after her.
We like to think that there is this elevated thing called Love which is separate from sexual feelings. And there is, but then it's not really Romantic Love, but Brotherly Love, or Friendship Love, or Universal Love, or Love for one's Work, or one of the many other kinds.

I'm glad to hear somebody else say that "2D women" can be a good option. I think it's generally supposed that a romantic relationship is one of the things you must have in your life, or else it's incomplete. But like Anna points out, the (highly valuable) things you get beyond sex in a romantic relationship is simply the same things you get from friendship. Perhaps with one important exception: physical touch.

(Anna also posted a nice and pithy longer comment under Romance about her grandmother who was anti-social until late in her life and then changed.)

1000 Lb Gator Shot in Houma, LA

[Thanks to Henry for the pics]
Sometimes I have vaguely wondered about the attraction of hunting and shooting things. But looking at these pictures I had a realization... you can almost see them say: "Hey, look: I WON!"
Of course we will kindly overlook the fact that they had to use a gun to win. :-)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Digital analog clock

Mike J points to this sorta cool clock.

I'm reminded of the title sequence of a movie (was it Almost Famous?) which had a hand write the titles with a pencil, it was really nice.

DPreview for pixel-peepers

webpics galore

P-04referent (whatever that means) said:
Reminds me of one Darwin Award winner, in 2007 I think. That zookeeper was trying to treat a badly constipated elephant. Gave it two full bottles of laxative, then an oil enema, and still no result. So he "went back" to have a look (don't ask!). At that precise moment, the powerful treatment(s) suddenly gave result at last. The man was suddenly hit by an explosive discharge, he fell and violently hit his head on a sharp stone on the ground, while at the same time getting his face buried under 200 kilos (about 400Ibs) of elephant dung. It was never found out for sure which of the two was the cause of death. Too messy for the coroner to "dig into the case"...
Believe me, you've never heard an elephant sigh in relief until you've heard THAT one!

Laying blame

Psychiatry enables us to correct our faults by confessing our parents' shortcomings.
-- Laurence J. Peter

I had a friend years ago who went to a psychologist at length, for god knows what reason. He told us that one of the "therapies" this guy used was sitting on my friend's back, twisting his arm on his back and pinning him to the floor, to demonstrate what his parents were doing to him supposedly.

And obligingly he started blaming his evil parents for all his troubles.
Only thing is I met his parents, and you would have to look far and wide to find more mousy, bland, middle-class, inoffensive people. His mother was quiet and pleasant, and his father spent his life planted by the TV.

We have to rise above being a doormat, sure. But we also have to rise beyond blaming others for our own lives.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Cheryl Nicolai came by and left an informative comment under the post about her portrait work.


The WikiReader (TidBITS article) is cute. Only it ought to be able to get updates piecemeal, not just the whole of WP in one 4GB lump. But I have a fondness for one-trick ponies.

Miele, my Miele

Thanks to Monsieur Beep and TTL for recommending a Miele washer. I ordered the Miele W1613.

... I got it today, two days after I decided I needed a new machine.

So far I'm delighted. The thing looks and feel just beautiful in real life, and it oozes quality. For instance it has an acrylic curved sheet over the front of the door. It's probably a safety future for when the glass it hot, but it also gives an almost spaceship-y feel to it.

And it is very user-friendly too, nothing like million-settings nightmare I beheld at my neighbors'.

Two very big and burly men delivered it, but even they struggled to get the ninety-nine kilograms of metal up the stairs and into place. (I tipped them well.) They asked me more than once why the durn thing is so heavy, and of course I had no answer for them, other than "I guess Miele judged it necessary".

Oddly, the reviews said it has no separate spin cycle, but it does. Also, when the guys tested it, they could not stop it again, and said that some of the more expensive machines could not be interrupted. This I found hard to believe, and found out after leafing around in the manual a bit after they left that he had accidentally activated the Safety Lock by holding the Start button three seconds. All I had to do was the same, and it unlocked and could be stopped/drained. (It's a smart feature if you have small kids.)

Funny enough, though, at first it seemed like I couldn't. It turned out that I was just being too enthusiastic and careful: the second press of the Start/Stop button I pressed maybe half a second, and it seems this was too long. When I just pressed it briefly, it reacted like expected. I suspected this was so after confirming with the manual that otherwise I had it right. It's practical to have a feel for how machines work.

By the way, though I read of some machines having a bigger drum than this one, this one has a much bigger drum than my old machine. And it's as quiet as one can expect a washing machine to be, also nice. The spin cycle sounds so much nicer than my old one... high tech, sorta like a jet turbine, only not loud at all.

Update: I just finished my first load. All went perfectly. Well, at the start I thought the door leaked, but it was just that Einstein here had closed it on a sock. :-)

After it's done, and until you open the door, it runs an "anti-crease" feature, rotating the drum every minute. Kewl.


[Thanks to Charles]

Isn't it interesting that nerds (geeks? whatever) has so low social status (more so in the US perhaps?) Some of the richest and most influential people in the world are geeks, and yet it seems that being able to dress to the fashion and socialize well are more important to people.

Anti-bullying week

Personally I'm not worried about bullies on YouTube, but this is at least a bit entertaining.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stewie and Hustler

I'm just watching season eight of FG, and it's surprisingly good.
This one, apart from furthering the society-wide sub-literate error that "vagina" is now being used for "vulva" (the vagina is just the inside tube), is totally hil.


The last romance I had was with a young, pretty, blonde female doctor, a couple of years ago. She absolutely refused to believe, because I am running a nude pay site, that I am not living the life of a major Casanova. Well, I am not, so maybe I am not qualified to make this statement:

Sex is a lot more boring in real life than in the imagination.

What do you think? Is your experience different?

Leopard seal mothering

Bert wrote to me:
"This must be one of those days where either I am easy to impress or impressive stuff just keeps coming! Have a look at this video."

Well, I also thought it's a pretty dang amazing story. The video is a bit over-produced in the contemporary style with way too much and loud music, but the story makes up for it.

The Mandelbrot set

If you followed your stuff in the eighties, you'll have an idea of Chaos theory, and know the Mandelbrot Set.

There is a great set of renderings, high-rez, on Wikipedia.

Also, Bert has just found an interesting attempt at rendering it in three dimensions. Very cool.

This one is awesome in full size:

(The site/author sells it in high-rez render poster.)

Tommy asked:
OK, for the rest of us uninformed low-lifes, could you please explain what this is..

Woa, that's a tall order. It's a whole science. I recommend Wikipedia for the lowdown.

But it's the study of finding order in apparent chaos. It turns out that many apparently chaotic things, like many shapes in nature, can be repeated by pretty simple mathematical formulas, you take two numbers in reiterative calculation (you take the result and put it into the formula again, and if it at length approaches zero, you color the node in the two-dimensional grid black, and if it approaches infinity, you color it white). You will find shapes like leaves and snow flakes and so on.
(What I get from this is that maybe god or nature uses a big computer to make the immense detail in nature.)
One of the characteristics of these drawings is that they are infinitely detailed. But also that you tend to see repetition of shapes at various scales.
The Mandelbrot Set is one of the most famous of the graphics generated this way, and so far as I recall, from one of the simplest formulas.

Photoshop tips

If using Photoshop (at least on the Mac), if you have made important changes to the settings, or recorded an Action, quit Photoshop before you go on, because the stupid application does not save these things until it quits.

Also, if have an action which involves pasting something, uncheck the "export clipboard" option in Preferences/general, this allows you to go to another app while PS works on many pictures in the background.

... Although strangely, if the pasted item is moved in the Action, Photoshop has to stay on screen, not be truly in the background, otherwise it won't work. Weird app.

By the way, I just noticed something cool about Snow Leopard: in the highly useful file preview (use the spacebar while a file is highlighted, you will see a big version without having to open an app), it can show PDF pages and HTML pages, and not only that, it will even scroll in a page, and if you click on a link, this link will open in your browser! Neato.

Browser reload

A question for the tech-heads:
It seems to me web browsers typically either: 1) Load the page you ask for, from cache (from disk) if it has it, regardless of whether the page has been changed or 2) loads the page afresh, regardless of whether it's in the cache.

Safari used to do the latter, now it seems to do the former, which is quicker, but you have to refresh to be sure you have the latest version. So why doesn't the browser just ask the server if the page has been updated since last visit, and then refresh the page only if it's been changed?


The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself.
-- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

He who reigns within himself and rules his passions, desires, and fears is more than a king.
-- John Milton

Two opposing ideas in today Quote of the Day service. Interesting. Looking at Wilde's idea (while admitting it's from a work of fiction): while it's true that what you resist sticks with ya, I think that he who gives in to every temptation is not above a dog. My new neighbor has a lovely wife with a lovely smile. So I should just follow my pants and hit on her with all my might? Or, if we take the logic to its extreme, follow the lizard brain and take her by force? I don't think that leads to a very happy life.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mountaineering video

This is an hour-long video, so I'm not sure I'll last through it, but Tommy found it and his tips are usually solid, so there it is if you're just a little interested in climbing.
Warning: 7-8 minutes in he talks about a fatal accident in such gory detail that it made my stomach turn.

The picture here is of a mound made of the dinner plates/bowls from the people who have died on mountain K2. Yep, mountaineering makes a lot of sense. :-)

Jennifer Maestre, prickly sculptures

Jennifer Maestre, prickly sculptures.
Pretty amazing, that odd combination they have of snuggliness and hostility.

Washing machine (updated)

My washing machine has started leaking, and since it is basic and came with the apartment seven years ago, I thought I'd just get a new one.

I looked at one of the neighbor's machine recently, and it had more buttons and settings than Microsoft Word. I had no idea how it worked. That's what I don't want, I want something simple and user-friendly, but good quality.

If somebody has a good tip, I'd be grateful. A web search was not so helpful.
(The space for it under the kitchen counter is 60 cm deep, 60 cm wide, 88 cm high.)

Also, a tip about a good UK dealer for these things...? I live near a Currys and a B&Qs. I'd like a dealer which will install the thing and has good service.

The Miele W1613 seems to be the thing. (Also it's the first time I've come across the revoo review site, it seems to be very good.)
Update 2:
I've ordered it at M&S Large Appliances (see comments for my steam-of-thought entries on this decision) (I don't much see who it'd interest, but heck, I wrote it so there it is.)

Update 3:
Well, at least one reader was interested, that's nice. I must say the "web 2.0" thing has us spoiled with reviews and such research options these days. It's just five years ago I last need a large appliance, a fridge/freezer, and I did not think to research it, I just went to Currys and bought the one that looked like a good one. (Fortunately I got lucky with that.)

There's a reason for everything

[Thanks to Judith]

Benidorm the comedy

"Benidorm" the comedy (US link - UK link).
This is surprisingly good. First, I'll contrast by quoting from a review by G. Thomas:
"Benidorm is in fact a place on the Costa Brava (Mainland Spain) Frequented many years by the Brits. Benidorm (the place) is notorious for it's loud and obnoxious English & Irish bars, Littered with the typical tacky tourist, equivilant of Trailo Trash.
Benidorm comedy series is based around several families from Great Britain who spend every holiday in Benidorm, and never really travel anywhere else. Benidorm sterotypes typical trashy families dealing with tanorexia, drinking problems and sex.
If you love the new British comedies, and are able to understand English accents that are not typical Queens dialect then this is a must.
Crude, lewd and a little rude Benidorm is "Laugh out loud", and has taken the UK by storm."

This is all true, but what surprises me is that not only is series two, which I've watching now, at least as good as series one, but it rises well beyond it's genre. For one thing it's not just "good fun", it's really hilarious. For another thing, it's beautifully filmed, they actually manage to sometimes make a down-market big-concrete hotel look beautiful. And third, even while being rude and funny, somehow it manages to also be subtly pithy and touching.

For example there's an older couple, both of them are ridiculously over-tanned (their grandson expects any (unlikely) offspring to be "orange"), and pretty ridiculous overall (for example the woman insists on a motorchair, even though she can walk fine). The man shows up to the hotel's careoke night dressed like John T in Saturday Night Fever, complete with jewel-studded belt buckle. He looks shocking, and he plays it to the hilt, deadpan.
And then he gets up to sing a love song to the ol' gal... in falcetto! And then proposes to her. And carries her out, under great struggle. It's all LOL funny, but damn it all if it does not at the same time manage to be sort of sweet!