Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why Can’t Middle-Aged Women Have Long Hair?

Why Can’t Middle-Aged Women Have Long Hair?, NYT article.

There's a woman in this town who is at least fiftyish, and has very long grey hair, and she's just damn attractive. Beautiful.

An Interview with Pentax USA

An Interview with Ned Bunnell, President of Pentax USA, article.

A very good article for anybody with interesting in Pentax. I used Pentax SLR (ME-Super) in the seventies, again in the nineties, and now again. They have a certain je ne sais quoi. Part of it is compact prime lenses, which are rare as hens' teeth these days.

Here's a photo from the interview, it was taken as one of the very first photos by a mom* with her new Pentax K-r and the 55-300mm zoom:

It demonstrates that while compacts are lovely, bigger cameras are bigger for a reason. (And the Pentaxes are amongst the most compact DSLRs, amongst competitors of similar capabilities.)

*Who Mike Johnston had recommended a Pentax K-r with the two zooms. He himself recently got a K-5 like me, which is great.

Sony NEX is small

The perceptive reader will have noticed that in the past I've been wondering why digital cameras had to be so big compared to the sensor. For example, the Lumix GF1 is more compact than a DSLR camera, but if you see it without lens, it is still big compared to the sensor.

Well, there has been a quantum leap finally, the Sony NEX system, well at least the camera bodies, are really compact!
Lo this:

And the NEX (on the right) even has a significantly bigger sensor than the GF1... It is APSC-sized (around 18x24mm) like a DSLR sensor, versus the Micro Four Thirds system's (which the GF1 belongs to) 14x18mm. This can mean better low-light performance (the GF1 does not do well at 1600 ISO), and a bigger range in the sorts of low depth-of-field on has on hand (blurred backgrounds).
(Note: the GF1 has recently, finally been replaced, and the GF2 is actually a bit smaller.)

The lenses are much harder to make compact with a large sensor, though, so with a zoom lens on, the NEX looks rather odd, the lens is actually taller than the camera body!
But look at the difference with one of the most compact DSLRs with the same sensor size!...

The NEX-5 does not have a viewfinder obviously, but it does have a tiltable screen, which I like and which I think is an accomplishment on such a small camera body.
There are not many lenses for the NEX system yet, but I'll definitely keep an eye on it.

Snowstorm by Vancouver

Ray took these shots of a snowstorm over his neighboring mountains by Vancouver. I think they are kewl, almost spooky in an abstract way.

Short poem about schizophrenia

Roses are red
violets are blue
I'm a schizophrenic
And so am I

(Source unknown)

Friday, November 19, 2010

The guillotine

It seems American state executions are on the up and up. Well, something had to go up.

They are using all kinds of methods, modern and old. I am wondering why they don't just use the guillotine? People have survived electrocution, hanging, and injections, but I haven't heard of anybody surviving a proper beheading. (It may have stuck occasionally, but it's not hard to build a fool-proof guillotine.) Perhaps it's a desire to inherit nothing from the French?

(By the way, none of this should be taken as endorsement of executions. I think the differentiation between group-sanctioned murder and one-person murderers is a specious one.)

... Harsh subjects today. Tomorrow, funny animal videos. And perhaps the odd jealousy murder.       :-)

Robot soldiers

Robot soldiers are coming.

This seems to me to add insult to injury. Imagine sitting peacefully over dinner with your family in your village in some country which has some resource that a bigger country wants, and in runs two hundred robots and kill men, women, and children. Very "nice". Really underlines the tone of the whole thing.

Sure, it'll take years before robots can do this, and until it happens, they will always claim to critics that the robots will be used for other things.  But history shows that anything that can kill people will be used to kill people, mainly in war.

One of the rare Danish SF writers, Niels E. Nielsen, wrote a spooky, but excellent book, "Vogteren" or "Vartija" in translation. Well, I was a kid when reading it, but it made an impression on me, especially the central idea which is a "war" waged mainly by automatons, which are moving in one long line (never mind the doability of this) southwards across Africa, and with lasers killing everybody and everything bigger than a field mouse. I think it's a striking image of the inhumanity at the heart of war.

Fujifilm S1800 (updated)

The Fujifilm S1800 seems ridiculously cheap at $150, and yet I see no indications of any major weaknesses (beyond it being a small-sensor camera of course). Does anybody have any experience with it?

Though some of my keener fans/critics (you know who you are) say that I should Just Get Used To things becoming cheaper and better every year, I'm afraid so far I'm not used to it. I wonder if I'll ever be. (I wonder if I want to be, a sense of Wonder is so entertaining.) For example it was not so many years ago that industry insiders said that even if sensors were to become free, a digital camera would never become as cheap as a comparable film camera! Well, we have reached that point a few years ago and now we are well past it. This camera is a dang complex piece of gear, at a price many people don't hesitate to pay for a night in town.

The first thing I would suspect would be image quality with such a long zoom, but at a quick look it actually seems good.  I might even be tempted, even though a super-zoom "tween" (in between compact and DSLR cameras) or "bridge" camera is one kind of digital camera I have never owned or been much interested in.

Here's a good review (Photography Blog is surprisingly good).  From the conclusion:
"All of this would be fine if not particularly noteworthy on a £300 / $350 camera - but given that the S1800 only costs just £180/ $230 full-price [notice it's even cheaper now. E], we wouldn't blame you for wondering where the catch is. There are a few more caveats - only two available aperture settings, an all-plastic though not flimsy construction, somewhat misleading burst mode settings, and a rather low-resolution EVF and LCD - but all-in-all, the Fujifilm FinePix S1800 is a complete and very capable bargain."

I got one today. It's like they say, for the price it's a brilliant camera. And like they say, at the longest zoom range, you're lucky to get a sharp picture. Use it only when you have to, and take several shots to help your luck. (And this is 18x zoom. Now they even make 30x zoom cameras, rather silly I think. I still think less than 10x is best.)
See, the third one is the only really sharp one, even though the light was good:  (Click for big pic.)

Also, at the longest zoom range, focusing is often slow, and worse, the focus is sometimes off, even though it beeped and looked all right on the screen. This is odd, never seen that before.

But that's the only fault I've found so far. Otherwise it's an astounding camera for the price.
I would still  say despite all that, a pocket-sized Canon with IS and maybe a 3X zoom is the best way to go, overall. The S95, if you can afford it. Doesn't have long zoom, but great quality and less than half the size of this camera. Maybe a third of the size, a real take-everywhere camera with pro quality pictures, that Canon.  

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Virtual Pop idol has become reality! (updated)

Unbelievable. Used for example in William Gibson's excellent Idoru and All Tomorrow's Parties books (some of my favorite books ever), an "idoru" is a software created pop singer. And now it's real, and successful!

"A fictional 16-year old anime character by the name of Hatsune Miku has had chart topping hits and has been featured in online videos receiving millions of views. This has subsequently been followed by live performances in which the character is displayed as a hologram in front of a live band to the throngs of cheering fans. If that wasn’t surprising enough the character’s voice is not even human. It is synthetic and completely produced by a computer."

Some think it's creepy. I dunno, I just think it's cool. And astonishing. (Not even the voice is real... dang.)
It'll be interesting to see what idorus will appear as the tech matures. Of course the main difference between Gibson's idoru character and this real (unreal) one is that so far the real thing does not have artificial intelligence and self-awareness. So far. That's a very tough problem in computing.

Here's a video with more info on her. It's in Japanese, and though it has some instruction on how to get English subtext or audio (there's a Settings selection in the resolution menu for some reason), I didn't get that to work.

Philocalist said:
...much of it is available in HD ... try searching YouTube for 'Meltdown Live in HD (1080p 1920 x 1080)'!
Unfortunately, it gives the game away at this resolution though ... it would appear that it is NOT a hologram, but is actually a back-projected image onto a translucent screen.
The bright pinpoints of light originating behind 'her' from within the band are the projection unit, and around 1.06ish, you can briefly see the glass-like screen stretching across the stage, onto which they are creating the image.


Steampunk Iron Man custome

Nicely done. (Via dvice.)

Nickelback - Saturday Night's Alright

It's amusing how one song can be mutated into many different versions.

Here's Elton's original version.

Detroit lives

Thanks for Dan/Margaret for pointing to this docu about Detroit, which shows there are many more sides to "Motor City" than is generally shown these days, including very positive ones.
(You can fit Manhattan, Boston, and LA within Detroit city limits. Holy moley.)

By the way, users of the Safari browser should check out Extensions for it. For example I use  
  • YouTubeWide 
  • Turn Off the Lights 
  • A Cleaner YouTube
to make YouTube videos bigger and give a dark and simple background.

Other extensions I've found useful are:
  • TypeToNavigate
  • AutoPagerize
  • Thurly
  • Adblock
  • Invisible Hand

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beosound 8 and Soundsticks II

Beosound 8, desk system from my countrymen in Denmark, Bang & Olofsen, has taken the crown as the most expensive iPod sound-system at $ one neat grand. It will service an iPad too.
Obviously what we in Denmark call (with a german word) a "liebhaver" object, meaning a thing you own just for the love of it, and with the subtext that money is not an object.

I might look at it except that I have the outstanding Soundsticks II already in two rooms. They are compact, virtually High Fidelity, and way cheaper than the Beosound 8. They are actually shockingly cheap considering the quality.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Modern ruins

Apropos real estate and abandoned places: Ruins of Detroit. Woa. I'll bet people there in the sixties never believed it could come to this! Seriously, anybody would have laughed you out of the room.

Part of this series. There are several other interesting places.

Space-saving furniture

Thanks to Anna for the link to this video, the furniture really seems quite amazing. This took a  lot of engineering, I think.

Folding bottle

A man goes to the Patent Office with some of his new designs.

"I'd like to register my new invention," he said.

"OK," the clerk said. "What is it?"

"It's a folding bottle," the man replied.

"What do you call it?" asked the clerk.

"A fottle," the man replied.

"A fottle?" the clerk replied. "That's a stupid name! Can't you think of something else?"

"Maybe I could," the man said. "I've got another invention. It's a folding carton."

"And what do you call that?" asked the clerk.

"A farton," the man replied.

"That's rude!" the clerk replied. "You can't possibly call it that!"

The man said, "I guess I'll have to get back to you when I come up with a different name for my invention of the folding bucket!"

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Follow this simple procedure:

1) Hold down the shift key.

2) Hit the 4 key four times fast.

Macro (updated)

Andreas Weber has, amongst other things, some nice macro photos (super-closeup).

Normal cameras can only go so close, like maybe fill the frame with a book or so. Funny enough, many pocket cameras can do macro quite well.
Otherwise most system cameras have a dedicated macro lens. Not the cheapest lens in the range usually, of course, so one can use macro rings to put between the lens and camera*, or lenses to put in front (just a high-quality magnifying glass). But with lowered quality (less sharp), since most lenses are not optimized for very close range.

Macro lenses tend to be not very "fast" (not so big maximum aperture for the light), F:2.8 is typical. But they do tend to be excellent optically, both at close range and at far. Sometimes exceptionally excellent. Pentax' 35mm F:2.8 is a good example. It's unusual for a macro lens to be this wide (50mm-equivalent on a Digital Pentax SLR), but it has been called a "paragon" by lens connoisseur Mike Johnston. And Andreas has revealed that one of his lenses is the Leica 45mm F:2.8 for the Micro Four Thirds system (90mm-equivalent), this is an outstanding lens, which is reflected in the price, about $800.

*This is what the camera does usually to focus: move the lens away from the sensor.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sign language alive

American housing market now

American housing market now. Article. Some foreigners are being sold on American real estate for what seems like very low prices. But don't buy anything you haven't seen and investigated. Some areas are so bad you can't even give away a house. Many properties are simply abandoned.

So much for the old line that real estate is the only "safe investment". Some say "they ain't making more of it". That may be right, but for a few generations yet, there's plenty. You can live in Death Valley or Siberia or Sahara for free. Meteorites fall on the Earth all the time, but how often does one hit a human?
What you pay for is not the space, but civilization.

Plane ticket f sale

My friend Sally has a plane ticket (bought in a mess-up which happens when two people try to use a computer at the same time) from Manchester, UK, to Copenhagen, Denmark, Sunday 21.11.2010,  noon, direct. 110 GBP, half price. Put some sort of contact in the comments if interested.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Share and share alike

Look at this array of sharing networks I saw under an article:

That's ridic, methinks.
I am not sure I can pin down my unease about the explosion of Social Networks. After all I've always been a big proponent of communications.
Perhaps it's that when it gets popularized to this degree, communication and creations of real value and substance tend to drown in the overwhelming noise.
I have the same issue with parties. Unless you partition yourself off three or four people from the rest of the party, you have no choice to do any real communication. With dozens of people talking at once on top of music, they can't say three sentences in one connected thought, in fact often you're lucky to get one single sentence over clearly. It's gets all superficiality, no substance.

Anna said:

"Well, my perception of parties is different, but that's probably because I love to dance."

Ah yes, that's a different thing of course.

"For me, this blog is as if Eolake was sitting every day in a pub, and if you want to exchange a few words with him you can always drop by."

Let's make it a café (on general principles), and that's just it.

I've only once had a neighborhood café where it was actually like that (for a year or so, in Copenhagen), a group of regulars and owners and staff. I think it's rare, it takes a special balance of size and location and profitability.
Maybe it's more normal with pubs.


A spokeswoman for the National Portrait Gallery said competition judges chose the image for its 'artistic merit'.
She told Amateur Photographer: 'It is an intimate image but the gallery has decided it is suitable for this exhibition.
'A sign at the entrance indicates that there is nudity in the exhibition so that families and school groups can make their own decision about viewing.' 

I think that's a healthy attitude. Not forcing others to think what you think they should think.

You can see the un-censored photo here. Very beautiful. It would have been too if she had been wearing knickers, but less honest and frank.

It's just a hobby

[Update: It's probably quite few people who actually think it's "nuts", I think, upon reflection. Ah well.]
Some people think it's "nuts" to be as interested in and pleased by gadgets as I am. But for frig's sake, it's just a hobby.
And I'm nowhere near the cutting edge, look at this.
"Mr. Libin, chief executive of Evernote Corp., a start-up that makes list-keeping software, carries around a backpack that weighs 26.2 pounds. Speaking of lists, the backpack contains: a 17-inch notebook computer, an iPad tablet, a Samsung tablet, two phones, an SLR camera, two lenses for the SLR, a headset for making Skype calls, an in-ear phone headset, a wi-fi router..." (it goes on)

Me, I carry three or four gadgets (or often just my iPhone, it can do most of it after all). Of course I own rather more than that, but the thing is simply that I like them, they are fun for me. I've noticed that for many people they are scary, they are intimidated by gadgets. So I can see there is a cognitive break there.

I am aware that most people don't have strong interests. For them, their work five days a week, TV in the evening, and sleeping late in the weekends is enough. But some people need more. So they have hobbies. One guy likes gadgets. Another has ten aquariums. One has $70,000 worth of hi-fi gear. One likes climbing mountains, the steeper the better. One collects rare butterflies. One builds ship models.

Quotes of the peak

I like coincidences. They make me wonder about destiny, and whether free will is an illusion or just a matter of perspective. They let me speculate on the idea of some master plan that, from time to time, we're allowed to see out of the corner of our eye.

-- Chuck Sigars

On a long enough timeline. The survival rate for everyone drops to zero.
-- Chuck Palahniuk

I simply cannot understand the passion that some people have for making themselves thoroughly uncomfortable and then boasting about it afterwards.
-- Patricia Moyes

Oh yes. I never got how "we use next months wages on drink, we got sick, John got hit by a cicycle messenger, we got thrown out twice, I pulled a blonde uggo but coudn't perform..." relates to "we had an awesome time"...?

Underwater critters

Wow, at about 4.30, astounding camouflage.



Couldn't find out much about it, but got this sent twice, and that's really one hell of a hailstorm. Wouldn't want to be caught in that.