Posted by: Mike P. | July 24, 2010

New Toys

It’s fascinating that there is actually a rating for the quality of out of focus-ness that a lens generates when the objects exceed the depth of field.  See what you think.  I suppose to be fair, I should have used the same focal length on each lens.  This is why I am not a scientist.  I’ve also been playing with cameras for 9 hours straight.  Oh, and the 70-200 came today 🙂

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Posted by: Mike P. | July 24, 2010

Camera Raw and the Blog Header

After reading Real World Camera Raw for what seems like a very long time (it is a good book; lots of info), I finally generated what I hope is a better image. I always need to keep in mind that I am somewhat color blind – a minor hinderance for someone doing color photography, I suppose :-). But, the histograms and other information we have available to us when image editing can keep strange color casts out. I least I hope so. I’ve included the previous version below for comparison. If there is anything obviously wrong with the one above, please let me know instead of simply never coming back here!

Old blog banner, Fair Hill, Maryland

Old Banner

Posted by: Mike P. | July 20, 2010

TED Interviews Julian Assange, WikiLeaks

This TED Interview with Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks is worth watching.

There is always a danger in dumping raw intelligence out to the general public. Most of us are not aware of the norms for various activities, for instance. What is it really like to sit in an Apache helicopter, for instance? Indeed, most Americans have never been in armed combat of any sort, or have even been through such training. Interpreting the actions of the soldiers that day is indeed difficult. But, to do so completely misses the point. The soldiers were following standard engagement orders. The captions added to the video make this clear. Each time the helicopter fires, it receives permission to do so. If a question needs to be raised as a result of the video, it is how the US engages the Iraqi population, and not the conduct of those specific soldiers.

WikiLeaks makes an attempt to verify the information it gets, or trick some rather clueless companies into verifying the information (see the video!), and it tries to put the information into context.

As more laws are written to suppress discussion, “Veggie Libel” laws, for example, an open forum for the discussion of topics that matter is increasingly important.

Posted by: Mike P. | July 15, 2010

Annie’s First Cross Country Jump

Annie's First Cross Country Jump

Annie’s First Cross Country Jump. In the ring, the jumps fall down if you hit them. In the country, they are quite solid 🙂 We bought her a fancy vest to protect the torso. Did she wear it? No, it was too hot. Well, it was hot, I’ll give her that.

The main purpose of these posts is to test Flicker integration with WordPress. I’ll probably change this post a few times.

Well, this isn’t bad. I like the slideshow, and the fact that you can go full screen. I am not thrilled with the pop out to flickr, but I think you actually have to do that to maintain the terms of service. Overall, it is the best photo option I’ve seen for commercial WordPress.

Oh, check this out. From this blog posting:

Posted by: Mike P. | July 14, 2010

This should be an Exciting Blog

‘Cause I write like:

I write like
Dan Brown

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Posted by: Mike P. | July 7, 2010

Dance!

More than anything else, this is an attempt to see how photos can be presented in WordPress.  The photos were taken in a relatively dark auditorium with a Canon T1i and a Canon 18-135mm f4-f5.6 EF-S lens.

The slideshow is OK, but I think I prefer the gallery.  The trick seems to be to upload images and directly store them in the gallery.  Images that are already uploaded can not be added to a gallery.

This dance program is very good.  The area I live in is not that heavily populated, so we are lucky to have such a great program nearby.  Each year, Cecil Dance Center teaches approximately 400 girls and young women.

These photos were taken during the June 18th, 2010 dress rehearsal.

Posted by: Mike P. | July 7, 2010

Corporate Greed Transforms to Utter Stupidity?

Could it be that as a corporation becomes bigger and bigger, and the greed which is bred as a result of deregulation also creates sheer stupidity?  Once a corporation achieves this level, should it simply be killed since it is now a danger to us all?  By way of evidence, I offer the following gem which was posted on the great mailing list “comp.risks” by Robert Charette.

According to BP PLC’s 582-page 2009 spill response plan for the Gulf of
Mexico, walruses along with sea otters, sea lions, and seals are among the
“sensitive biological resources” that could be harmed by an oil discharge
from its operations in the Gulf. The only problem is that walruses, sea
otters, sea lions, and seals don’t happen to live in the Gulf of Mexico, and
haven’t for a considerable period of time — like millions of years.

Posted by: Mike P. | July 6, 2010

Tea Party – A Dangerous Force

This is a good article that reminds us to not under-estimate the tea-party and its impact.

Depending on where you live and the people you associate with, you might not recognize the depth of feeling and the level of misunderstanding these people have. But, they do; it runs deep, and they are paranoid and dangerous. With the correct leader, they could easily be turned into a force similar in power to the Bolsheviks or the early days of the Nazi party.

Please understand: I am not equating the ideals of the tea party with that of the Nazis or Bolsheviks; that does not make sense. But, we clearly have is a leaderless, angry, relatively large group of people looking for a leader who can sell them on the idea that he or she back their ideals.

Their ideals, sadly, have been proven wrong again, and again. Deregulated economies devour all but the richest.  Sometimes, even the rich, but the people at the top always survive.  The rich are not cannibals.  A belief in “God”.  An idea that when used in politics can be used to justify just about any behavior.  “God” and “heaven” are also powerful motivating factors that can be used to get people to do things they would otherwise never consider.  “Strap on a bomb, go over to those people and blow yourself up.  I promise – you will go to heaven.”  I am well aware that the actual motivating factors for most suicide bombers are deeper than this.  But, the “heaven” promise certainly does help.   Instill some hopelessness, and you have yourself a bomber or a soldier willing to commit any required atrocity.

Ironically, a deregulated economy is likely to devour the majority of the tea party members first since in many cases they are in the most fragile positions in the economy. Small businessmen, various sorts of middle level management, and of course the already unemployed or retired are easy targets since they have some amount of money that can be absorbed, and are unlikely to see the attack coming until it is too late.

The financial backing of the tea-party is nearly limitless. Individual companies such as Koch can now pour money into elections. They have the strategy and power to manipulate the process to meet their own ends.  If they are successful in forcing a deregulated internet, look to very slow response times on anything critical of the elite.

I stood on a dock on the 4th of July watching a boat parade. Various boats went by with the usual decorations. About mid-way, a boat came by with an effigy of Obama sitting on the deck, signs about bail-outs, and on the stern, a sign about the AIG bailout. The crew made motions to dump the Obama effigy into the water. They didn’t actually do it, but that was most likely because they were good boaters and knew they would have to pick it out of the water. The scary part wasn’t a few boaters exercising their right to free speech. The scary part was how loud the crowd on the shore was in support of the boat.

I have to admit, I did not feel like trying to face them down, possibly by myself.  Kinda ruined the evening for me.

Posted by: Mike P. | July 5, 2010

Greedy Corporations

This has been bugging me for a while now, so I am just going to get it off my chest.

People keep writing about Greedy Corporations. I maintain that this statement has an obvious adjective in it.

First, let me be clear: by corporation, I mean public or very large private firms. If you are a small business owner, I am not necessarily addressing you.

Of course corporations are greedy. Their job is to make money. They have no other purpose. Of course BP cut corners when making decisions regarding safety. If their actuaries did their job and chose the proper corners to cut, then BP will have increased profits. This is true for all companies.

Let’s repeat: all companies will cut all possible corners, skirting laws, and even breaking them if we forget to fund officials to enforce the laws we do get passed. Companies are locked in a struggle to the death, each trying to out do the other. This is what capitalism is. Capitalism is not about innovation or doing the right thing or anything else except making the most profit. If innovation brings about increased profit, then an innovation will be deployed. But, if the same or better profit can be made by skirting rules or breaking unenforced laws, what path will a company take? What path should it take? If the company can turn a profit by advertising itself as “green”, then perhaps that is the path it will take. But, that path will only be maintained so long as management is convinced that a “green” path makes more money.

The fact that “we” do not to what to want face head on is that the gulf gusher is not BP’s fault, but ours. BP has limited free will. We have free will. Electing politicians who gutted/failed to enact regulations was simply stupid. If you voted for such people, then you created the problem in the gulf, not BP.

We burn oil at an insane rate. When I stand at the corner of a major highway near where I live, maybe one in fifty vehicles gets 30 mpg. Why? Why are we still supporting an SUV lifestyle? This just does not make sense. Why do we not have high fuel taxes with rebates for the poor, or perhaps tax coupons issued to those who can not afford to buy newer, lower mpg vehicles? The gasoline juggernaut just keeps right on chugging along. And we continue to vote into power those who make this lifestyle viable. Sarah Palin and similar pundits offer pearls of wisdom such as drilling the ANWR will solve our problems. From what I have been able to tell, a blowout would be far more difficult to deal with in ANWR than in the gulf. And look at the wonderful success they are having in the gulf. Supposedly, the entire problem in the gulf occurred because “we” forced oil companies to drill deep and difficult. What we should have done is reduce the need for such drilling, and elected those who would have voted for better safeguards. Pre-drilled relief wells. BOPs with double cutters.

We are making some progress, I hope, in areas such as home insulation, energy-efficient glass and properly sealed doors. But, why does it not occur to the general public to lower the demand even more?

Oh, and let’s just pretend global warming doesn’t exist. We ALL KNOW that global warming was dreamed up by some scientists. And besides, China will just keep burning carbon based fuels, so there is NO possible solution. Even though we are China’s biggest customer, we are, well, just hamstrung. Nothing we can do at all. I had to sit through this lame ass argument the other night at dinner. Good grief.

The problem in the gulf is not “greedy corporations.” The problem represents our failure to understand the issues and elect people to office who can create the proper playgrounds for the corporations to play in. And if China does not want lower emissions, perhaps India will. Or perhaps we can help develop Africa. We have options. But so long as we keep voting into power those who are either morons or else those who put the interests of major corporations ahead of the interests of the world at large, change may come in a deadly and irreversible form.

By the way: is anyone but me bothered by the stupidity of burning such a complex molecule? Look at all the things that can be made from it. Well, anyway. I keep expecting to be visited by aliens who smack us upside the head for burning something so valuable. I have a strange mind 🙂

Posted by: Mike P. | June 24, 2010

Can’t Wait for Breakfast

Now that I finally start flossing at night like you are supposed to, this is what Bonnie and Annie got for me when they went to the beach!

Breakfast Floss

Breakfast is also great late at night, as we night owls all know

Fortunately, I love breakfast late at night, too. I don’t usually eat it by the yard, but that’s OK! It’s the thought that counts.

Posted by: Mike P. | June 20, 2010

First Macro in Many Years

First Macro in Many Years

We were riding around in our golf cart and came across this patch of flowers. This particular image was taken as a Canon Raw file – the first time I ever took one. Very cool. This image is so different than the jpegs shot at the same time. Much better color and sharpness. It seems like post processing and the purchase of mucho memory cards and storage might be future 🙂

Canon T1i, 18-135mm Canon lens

Comments? I really don’t know what I am doing. Just playing 🙂

Heck, this isn’t even a macro, more like a close-up?

Posted by: Mike P. | June 20, 2010

Avatar

When a friend saw Avatar, she wrote a tweet that of course I can no longer find since both of us have deleted our Twitter accounts that date from that time.  She did a twittercide first, and then I followed soon after.  But, it was a very independent thing.  At least I hope so.  I had retweeted her a few times to a large audience.  Turns out hash tags are the best way to get tweets out.  I block most followers, save the email and then unblock them later.  Hopefully no one takes it personally, but it’s not fair to have followers who you never intend to follow back.  So, blocking causes the follow to drop, and unblocking is sort of a “hey, don’t take it personally”.  But, I have seriously digressed, which is probably a major sin for a writer.  But, since I am not a professional writer, I will sin left and right.  And up and down, too, just to make sure I have it everywhere.  Sin, sin, sin.  SIN.  Who decides what the sins are?  Ohhh… anyhow.  A question for @TheBloggess.  Not that she is a sinner.  But, she will probably make up a funny answer.

Back to Avatar.

The tweet was something like “I laughed, I cried, I whooped”,  and I whole heartedly agree.  It is really one of the best statements that can be said of the movie – it just leaves you bursting with a sense that the world does not need to go the way it is going.  There is hope.  I suppose there are movie critics who made some comment or another, but it just does not matter.  The point of this movie is to leave you with a sense of self and the world community we are members of and the pride that being a member of this connected world can bring.  And it did.

Posted by: Mike P. | June 17, 2010

Scary Growth or I am Just Being Silly?

Scary Growth?

What the heck is growing on that arm?

So Silly :-)

So Silly 🙂

Ok, I know, a little lame.  Kids in the US, and perhaps the world, spend lots of time collecting and trading these things.  I suppose on one hand you could say it is a waste of money, but they seem to have lots of fun doing it.  The other neat part of the culture is that some kids freely give bands to other kids.  Sure, there is trading, too.  But, I think anything that promotes freely giving to someone else among kids this age is a good thing.

Technical notes:  The flash head was rotated 180 degrees and then pointed nearly straight up to the ceiling to give the nice even light distribution.  The flash head focal length was set incorrectly because I had not read the manual when I took these shots!

Bands and layout by Annie.  Minor adjustments made by Bonnie.  Otherwise, they would not all line up so nicely.

Posted by: Mike P. | June 16, 2010

Shooting Video with a DSLR. The Possibilities!

If anyone needs inspiration on what they can achieve with the new HD video SLRs, check this out. The opening video is just amazing. Look at how clear the image is. The depth of field. But, the skills necessary to shoot this are non-trivial as well. It will take me some time before I can get those results.

Also, this is a really good forum for Canon DSLR owners. All manner of information in what appears to be a friendly forum.

Any other forums you frequent? Leave a link!

Posted by: Mike P. | June 16, 2010

iPhone as a Generic Controller

This is so cool. What this particular device actually does is somewhat obscure, and you may or may not find it interesting. But, it shows the efficacy of an idea I had a while ago, which is that the iPhone would make an excellent controller platform for all manner of devices.

When I first saw the iPhone, I thought it would make a great controller for model trains. MTH makes a dedicated device to control your trains, as does Lionel. Just imagine the customization an owner could do with a touch display that is as sophisticated as the iPhone. And the best part is the manufacturers do not have to make anything.

I suppose the downside to the idea is Apple’s rather anal attitude about product licensing. A business could find itself in serious trouble should Apple decide “they just do not want the iPhone doing that”. If Apple keeps up that attitude, then someone else will invade their market. Until Microsoft illegally shuts out all competition except for a token piece of the market for Apple and kills all innovation. Or Google.

Myself: I would like a TV remote control application for the iPhone. I think one exists, and it would be nice to have.

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