Posts tagged ‘photos’

The Last Days of the Tsars

Some really nice pre-WWI color photography from Russia.  I am a sucker for old color photos.

And People Trust Government?

I have total sympathy with those who distrust corporations.  Distrust and skepticism are fine things, and are critical foundations to individual responsibility.   History proves that market mechanisms tend to weed out bad behaviors, but sometimes these corrections can take time, and in the mean time its good to watch out for oneself.

However, I can't understand how these same people who distrust the power of large corporations tend to throw all their trust and faith into government.  The government tends to have more power (it has police and jails after all, not to mention sovereign immunity), is way larger, and the control mechanisms and incentives that supposedly might check bad behavior in governments seldom work.

Here is a great example of behavior that is inconcieveable in the private sector, or, if found at a private company, would quickly result in its extinction.

The system that Lower Merion school officials used to track lost and stolen laptops wound up secretly capturing thousands of images, including photographs of students in their homes, Web sites they visited, and excerpts of their online chats, says a new motion filed in a suit against the district.

More than once, the motion asserts, the camera on Robbins' school-issued laptop took photos of Robbins as he slept in his bed. Each time, it fired the images off to network servers at the school district.

Back at district offices, the Robbins motion says, employees with access to the images marveled at the tracking software. It was like a window into "a little LMSD soap opera," a staffer is quoted as saying in an e-mail to Carol Cafiero, the administrator running the program.

"I know, I love it," she is quoted as having replied.

Anyone want to be how many of the guilty in this case will be around in 5 years.  The over / under from Vegas is "all."

Post-War Devastation

We associate photos like this one with the devastation of post-war Europe.

In fact, this is a post-war photo, but it is of Charleston, South Carolina after the Civil War.   We seldom think of such scenes as being relevent to the US, but the South was at least as destroyed after the Civil War as Germany was after WWII.   Sherman's march to the sea in Georgia was famous for its devastation, but in their letters, many of Sherman's soldiers say they were particularly ferocious in South Carolina, the state that they most associated with the war and its start  (though much of the devastation in Charleston was self-inflicted, as a fire to burn the remaining cotton and keep it out of Yankee hands spread to the rest of the city).

Full sized image at Shorpy

Coolest Stuff I Have Worked With In A While

Electro-Luminescent wire.

I am a little late to the game on this stuff -- apparently hobbyists have been using it for crafting.  For example, who wouldn't want a Tron outfit?

To date, I have mostly sheltered readers from the geekiest of my hobbies: model railroading  (Yeah, I know what you are saying -- how can anyone who spends hours a day at a computer writing on arcane bits of business and economics issues possibly be anything but cool?)  This may soon change, as I am starting a new N-scale layout and I will probably inflict some in-progress photos on you folks.  To get an idea just how crazy I am, I build my own track from wood strips and bundles of rail and tiny, tiny spikes -- so we are not just talking about putting the old Lionel out on a green table cloth.

Anyway, for some time I have wanted to build a layout that is primarily meant to be run in the dark as a night scene.  So I am experimenting with a lot of technologies, from florescent paint to tiny LED's to small bulbs to get ideas for various scenes.  The EL wire turns out to be a dead ringer for scaled down neon, so I expect to use a lot in the city part of the layout.

I will leave you with a photo of the layout that probably inspired more people (including myself) into the hobby than any other  -  by the master, John Allen:

If you get intrigued with his work, more photos are here.

I wish I had more pictures of my old work, but they seem to have been lost in a move.  All I have left is a few poor-quality, poorly-scanned under-construction photos of my first layout from years and years ago.

Postscript: Can a hobby be geeky if Rod Stewart shares it?  He has built an absolutely stunning layout - one photo below and more here

And yes, the work really is his own, he didn't just pay someone to build it for him.

Cool Trompe L'oeil

Cool Picture

At first I thought the picture here was pretty lame - big deal.  Composition, not great.  Detail, blah.  But then I started zooming in.  And in.  All the way to the point I could almost play the music from the sheet music of the band in the lower center of the picture.

The Original 9/11, Except it was on 9/16

This was a bit of history I never knew:

"Wall Street bomb." Aftermath of the explosion that killed dozens of people in New York's financial district on September 16, 1920, when a horse wagon loaded with dynamite and iron sash weights blew up in front of the J.P. Morgan bank at 23 Wall Street. The attack, which was attributed to Italian anarchists, was never solved. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection.

This is from Shorpy.com, a blog that has daily posts with really nice photography from the 19th and early 20th centuries.  The photo above is actually just a thumbnail - go to the original post and click on the full size image.  All of their photos are posted in huge, high-resolution scans.

Cities from Space

This is a pretty cool collection of photos from the ISS of the world's cities from space, sent to me by a friend.  These are an order of magnitude more detailed than you are used to seeing in other earth-lights photos.

Update from Hollywood

Unfortunately, despite several appeals, I have not taken any photos around the hotel.  One reader asked if I have seen anyone famous.  The answer is, I don't know.  Let me explain.

Some years ago (maybe 8-10) my wife and I were driving through Malibu on vacation, when we stopped at a little coffee shop for breakfast.  After we were done eating, my wife went to the bathroom while I sat outside on a bench to wait for her.  Sitting there was another husband who was clearly also waiting for his wife to come out.  We chatted for about 5 minutes, with this British gent telling me he had just gotten back from London on business.

Well, my wife came out and I met her at the car.  The first thing she said to me was "Oh my god, you were talking to Pierce Brosnan."  I said "??"  Sure enough, on reflection, it did seem to be he, particularly since my wife also recognized his wife from People magazine.  In my defense, one does not expect to encounter James Bond in a psuedo-Denny's wearing sweats and a week-old beard.  But since then, I have not really trusted by celebrity-identification skills.

Great Moments in the Traditional Media

A decent sized newspaper is doing a story on one of our campgrounds for their paper, which is great news.  However, they want some photos.  I directed them to our web site with links to Flickr, where they could view the photos and actually download full resolution versions of the images.  However, after some back and forth, it seems that no one at the paper is able to accomplish this.  So I am now downloading the images they want off the Flickr page they are looking at and sending the images to them via CD / snail mail.  Sigh.

Great Moments in the Traditional Media

A decent sized newspaper is doing a story on one of our campgrounds for their paper, which is great news.  However, they want some photos.  I directed them to our web site with links to Flickr, where they could view the photos and actually download full resolution versions of the images.  However, after some back and forth, it seems that no one at the paper is able to accomplish this.  So I am now downloading the images they want off the Flickr page they are looking at and sending the images to them via CD / snail mail.  Sigh.

America's Worst Sheriff

I am working on a longer post on Sheriff Joe Arpaio's sweeps through Hispanic neighborhoods to round up the usual suspects (Mayor Phil Gordon has asked the feds to investigate these practices, which I hope they will do).

But this one is just weird.  Apparently Phoenix tax money is being used by Arpaio to train Honduran police, in a program that makes sense (from a Phoenix point of view) to no one.  Sheriff Joe watchers will enjoy his numerous nonsensical explanations, though the last one probably is the correct one.  For those outside of Phoenix, sit back and enjoy the weirdness -- its the only consolation we here in Arizona get for having the worst and most abusive sheriff in the country.

Explanation One:  Arpaio looks to small Latin American countries as models for his police force

Sheriff's officials told the county Board of Supervisors that the
Honduran National Police possess the "intelligence data, knowledge and
cultural experiences to benefit the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office."

Explanation Two:  We can't tell you, because it would endanger Sheriffs' lives (this is an Arpaio oldie but goodie):

discussing efforts in Honduras could endanger the lives of law-enforcement officers in both countries....revealing details could put lives at risk

Explanation Three:  Honduras supplied millions of photos for Arpaio's facial recognition software (yeah, I know non-Phoenicians, this is weird)

The sheriff's facial-recognition software program is supposed to be among the biggest beneficiaries of the Honduras engagement....When Arpaio was first confronted about the department's trips to
Honduras, he said the agency had received "millions" of photos from
Honduran officials.

Explanation Four:  Its a RICO thing, so we can't tell you (at least, it uses RICO funds)

The agency has spent more than $120,000 on Sheriff's Office employee
salaries in Honduras, and an additional $30,000 in RICO funds seized
from criminals. And some of the trips occurred during a time period
where the Sheriff's Office overspent its overtime budget by nearly $1
million.

Explanation Five:  We can't talk about it, because that would open up public officials to scrutiny for their actions:

The Sheriff's Office will not grant interviews to explain how and why
the program was started and what the benefits are to Maricopa County,
because officials say discussing the program fuels criticism

Equal Protection? Bah!

From Disloyal Opposition:

L.A. councilman Dennis Zine is urging a proposal in the wake of the
pop star's latest psychiatric emergency that would implement a 20-yard
"personal safety zone" around celebrities after Spears' ambulance had
to be surrounded by police cars and helicopters late last month to
prevent the paparazzi from snapping photos of the singer en route to
the hospital. ...

The tentatively termed "Britney Law" would
have the right to confiscate all profits from any photograph taken
without signed consent within the bubble of safety around any celebrity.

Ethanol and Deforestation

From an AP report:

The widespread use of ethanol from corn could result in nearly twice the greenhouse gas emissions
as the gasoline it would replace because of expected land-use changes,
researchers concluded Thursday. The study challenges the rush to
biofuels as a response to global warming.

The researchers said that past studies showing the benefits of ethanol in combating climate change
have not taken into account almost certain changes in land use
worldwide if ethanol from corn "” and in the future from other
feedstocks such as switchgrass "” become a prized commodity.

"Using good cropland to expand biofuels will probably exacerbate
global warming," concludes the study published in Science magazine.

Promoters of biofuels often hold up Brazil as an example of a model ethanol mandate.  Forget for a moment that in fact ethanol still makes up only a small percentage of the transportation fuel market in Brazil.  Think of all those satellite photos we used to see of farmers burning the Amazon to expand cropland:

1016nasa

I know that correlation is not equal to causation, but the fact is that this land clearing, which has always one on, really accelerated after the Brazilian ethanol mandates and subsidies.  My prediction is that careful academic work in the coming years will pin the blame for a lot of the destruction of the Amazon on ethanol.

Moonbattery has a fitting conclusion:

The study's findings aren't likely to change government policy, since
ethanol mandates are a political boondoggle that only dupes expect to
have any effect on the climate. If the first caucuses were held in
Hawaii, they'd be forcing us to run our cars on macadamia nuts instead
of corn.

Garbage Nazis

Apparently, the garbage nazis have won the contract in Seattle.  To remind you, here were some of their proposals in their bid for the contract:

If [CEO Chris] Martin is allowed to implement what he calls "my best
idea, my get-people-riled-up thing," we could all soon be subject to a
kind of garbage audit, too. He wants to bring the equivalent of the
red-light camera to your front curb. Just as the traffic camera
captures you running through a stoplight, CleanScapes' incriminating
photos would catch you improperly disposing of a milk carton. (It
belongs in the recycling bin.)

He also has advocated mandatory waster audits, whatever those are.  This is the choice that libertarians face every day -- we can either vote for a party that wants to listen to our phone calls or the party that wants to search our garbage.  Put a pizza carton in the recycling, you spend a night in the box.  Put a milk carton in the trash, you spend a night in the box.

It's never too early to start google bombing the company's home page:  Garbage Nazis

Giant Trash Island

I am more than willing to believe that too many people treat the oceans as a big trash can.  In particular, I have written before about how Southern Californians in general seem to love to leave their trash lying aboutHowever, I am going to call bullshit on this article:

In reality, the rogue bag
would float into a sewer, follow the storm drain to the ocean, then
make its way to the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch - a heap of debris floating in the Pacific that's twice the size of Texas, according to marine biologists.

The enormous stew of trash - which consists of 80 percent plastics
and weighs some 3.5 million tons, say oceanographers - floats where few
people ever travel, in a no-man's land between San Francisco and
Hawaii.

Marcus Eriksen, director of research and education at the Algalita
Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach, said his group has been
monitoring the Garbage Patch for 10 years.

"With the winds blowing in and the currents in the gyre going
circular, it's the perfect environment for trapping," Eriksen said.
"There's nothing we can do about it now, except do no more harm."

The patch has been growing, along with ocean debris
worldwide, tenfold every decade since the 1950s, said Chris Parry,
public education program manager with the California Coastal Commission
in San Francisco.

Uh, right.  Funny that it does not seem to show up in satellite photos.  Again, I am not minimizing the fact that a lot of jerks litter and the trash ends up in the ocean, but the floating island of trash twice as big as Texas and growing by 10x every decade?   I'll file that right next to the story of the grandmother who tried to dry her cat in the microwave.

The Green Security State

Via Hit and Run:

Chris Martin, Coldplay lead singer founder and frontman of the CleanScapes waste removal agency, is bidding for a piece of Seattle's garbage collection contract.

If
Martin is allowed to implement what he calls "my best idea, my
get-people-riled-up thing," we could all soon be subject to a kind of
garbage audit, too. He wants to bring the equivalent of the red-light
camera to your front curb. Just as the traffic camera captures you
running through a stoplight, CleanScapes' incriminating photos would
catch you improperly disposing of a milk carton. (It belongs in the
recycling bin.)

"We could do it the nice way," he says, meaning
his company would e-mail you pictures of your detritus, along with
helpful information about separating out recyclables. Or, he says,
CleanScapes could send the pictures on to municipal inspectors, and
"the city could enforce its own laws." (While the city has sent warning
letters, no fines have ever been issued, according to Seattle Public
Utilities.)

The vast majority of recycling is a net loss, both in dollars and in energy.  Only a few items (scrap iron, aluminum cans, bulk news print) make any sense at all in curbside recycling programs.  Milk cartons are not one of them.  The rest of the curbside recycling we do is merely symbolism actions that demonstrate our commitment to the cause, much like reciting a liturgy in church (Interestingly, the more honest environmentalists have admitted this, but still support the program because they believe the symbolic action is an important source of public commitment to the environment).

I guess it is not surprising to see folks like Mr. Martin bring the full power of the state to bear to make sure you are sorting your milk cartons correctly.  After all, in previous generations, the powers-that-be in small towns would employ people to watch for folks skipping out on church, and nations like Cuba still use neighborhood watches to spy out political heresy.  It's just a sign of the times that now such tactics are being used to smoke out environmental heresy.

Nothing Sinister Here. Move Along.

A while back, I discussed an effort by Anthony Watts to create a pictorial data base of the US Historical Climate Network, the 1000 or so temperature and weather sensors whose data are used in historical climate numbers, including IPCC and NOAA and GISS global warming data bases. 

Already, this effort has identified numerous egregious installations that call into question the quality of historical temperature measurement.  Note here and here and here and here.  The whole data base is at SurfaceStations.org and my humble contributions are here and here.  Was 2006 the second warmest of all time, or did 2006 have the most hot exhaust blowing on measurement instruments?

Roger Pielke, a climate scientist in Colorado, reports on an odd response by the NOAA to this effort:

Recently, Anthony Watts has established a website [www.surfacestations.org] to record these photographs. He has worked to assure that the photographs are obtained appropriately.

As a result of this effort, NOAA has removed location information
from their website as to where they are located. This information has
been available there for years.

There are a few USHCN stations at people's homes, so in some cases there may be privacy concerns, but most all of the ones I have seen are at public locations, from fire houses to ranger stations to water plants.  Pielke offers up a logical solution for where there are privacy issues:

"over 4 years ago there was a big push in the Cooperative Observer
program to make sure that all 7000+ sites across the country were
photodocumented. All 120 Data Acquisition Programs were equipped with
high quality digital cameras. Most took photos. However, at the higher
levels where they were developing the upload and archive system for the
photos the issue of observer privacy was raised and as best we can tell
the result was that those photos were not archived and certainly are
not available."

This is a very disturbing development, as individuals in NOAA's
leadership have used their authority to prevent the scientific
community and the public access to critical information that is being
used as part of establishing climate and energy policy in the United
States.

The solution to this issue is, of course, straightforward. Either
make the photographs where datasets are being used in research (i.e.
the HCN sites), available, or permit others to take them. Privacy
rules, such as not publishing the names and addresses of the observers,
should be made, however, the photographs themselves, viewing the site,
and views in the four orthogonal directions must be public. Volunteers
who are HCN Cooperative Observers need to either grant this permission
or not volunteer.

If you observe the state of climate science at all, you will know that any measurement (e.g. satellite or radiosonde temperature measurements) that conflict even the slightest with the main story line of anthropogenic global warming are subjected to intense and withering scrutiny.  Even the tiniest source of error or methodological sloppiness in these conflicting data sets cause global warming zealots to throw out the data as flawed.  It is instructive that perhaps the sloppiest data set of all is the surface climate measurement system they use primarily to support their case, and it is one they show absolutely no interest in scrutinizing, or letting anyone else scrutinize.

Relatives in for a Visit

Unfortunately, it was long distance and dark, so conditions were not very good for photography.  Still waiting for that perfect photo-op, but it's surprisingly hard when most family visits we get are at sunset and sunrise.

Coyote1

Update:  By the way, for any of you dog photographers out there - is there a good way to get rid of the bright eye / green eye in dog (or coyote!) photos that is the equivalent of human red eye?

Photography Bleg

I am only a novice photographer, but am trying to get better results than I used to with just a compact digital camera.  I am using a Nikon D50, in this case with a 18-55 zoom lens and a UV filter.  I am shooting at maximum res. and quality because I have a big memory card so what the heck.

This is the kind of shot that is frustrating the heck out of me.  This was taken in the afternoon down the beach from the Torry Pines glider port.  The problem is that the subject on this day looked gorgeous through the viewfinder, but the pictures are coming out looking much hazier than I remember it being.  Is this a filter issue, a settings issue?  Or is it just normal under certain light conditions?  And is there anything in post-processing (e.g. photoshop) that I can do to get rid of some of the haziness?  On the latter note, I played around with contrast and color saturation but couldn't get anything that looked natural.  [click on thumbnail below to see larger version]

Torrypines

Update:  I played around with this link in the comments, and got this, which is OK but I introduced some noise, but with some practice I got better.

Test_beach

After practicing, I tried it with my photos out the window of the London Eye and saw a great improvement, with before and after below:

BeforeAfter

Nothing substitutes, of course, for taking the right picture with the right initial settings at the right time of day, something I need a lot of practice on.

On the upside, I took some closeups of flowers that just looked gorgeous:

Flower

Arthur C. Clark Prescient Again

Beyond just being a good writer, one of the things that Arthur C. Clark did in his science fiction was to posit technologies that seemed outlandish, but turn out to be fairly prescient.  For example, the Fountains of Paradise posited a space elevator approach that seemed unreal when I first read it but now is being actively considered.

I am reminded of this as I read this story about photo-shopping out cigarettes from old childrens book photos in a spasm of political correctness.  I won't jump into the fray on this one, except to observe that Arthur Clark actually predicted this in his book Ghost from the Grand Banks.  It actually was not one of his better works, being a rather listless tale of multiple entrepreneurs competing to Raise the Titanic (Cussler did the story with a lot more dramatic drive if poorer science).  Each of the entrepreneurs in Clark's story had made their money from some interesting new technology they had perfected.  One of them had invented a series of digital processing algorithms to remove cigarettes and cigarette smoke from old movies in a response to a hypothesized backlash against smoking.  In 1990, I thought this was the stupidest and most unlikely thing I had ever heard.  Oops.

My Wife's Handbags up For Rising Star Fashion Award

I tried to warn you to buy one of my wife's designer handbags before she got famous.  It may be too late.  Next week she will be a finalist in the Phoenix Rising Star Fashion Awards:

Phoenix may not be an international center of fashion, but it is a hotbed of design.

The Valley brims with independent designers who make everything from
purses to baby clothes to yoga wear, all available at local boutiques
and/or online.

Three promising Valley designers will receive Rising Star awards on Thursday, given by the Phoenix chapter of Fashion Group International,
a networking organization for fashion professionals. Awards are given
in three categories: clothing, accessory and interior design.

Kategrovespurses2
(click image to enlarge)

Sorry, newspaper photos really don't scan very well.  They just had to use the chick with the guitar for the online article, so my wife's photo didn't make the online edition.  Many of her funky handbag designs are online, and I posted here about the last exposure of her designer purses in Yes Magazine.

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Katrina Satellite Photos Before and After

When you first see the comparison of Katrina before and after photos, you will think the "after" photos seem underexposed.  Examining the larger images, you will find that they are not underexposed, just everything is now covered in dark green water.  What a mess.  Here are downloadable versions of many of the same photos.

Update:  These photos of the Mississippi Gulf Coast don't have the flooding, but very dramatically show the type of damage sustained.  The USGS has a gallery of before and after Katrina photos here. This site shows the levee breaks in New Orleans from space.

Other Katrina-Related Topics:
Technocrats and the Katrina Response  **Popular**
Bottom-up vs. Top-down Solutions
Hurricanes and Big Government
In Defense of Price Gouging
Fallout of Federal Control and (here too)

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A Very Different Perspective

As the owner of a small blog as well as of a number of small commercial websites, I spend a lot time trying to Google to index me higher (hey, you, down here, look at me).  So its strange to me when I see this:

WASHINGTON : Agence France-Presse has sued Google Inc. for
copyright infringement, alleging that the Internet search engine
included AFP headlines, news summaries and photographs published
without permission.

In a suit filed in a Washington court, AFP sought damages and interest
of at least 17.5 million dollars (13.1 million euros) and an
interdiction on the publication of its text and photos without prior
agreement.

I know several news agencies have tried this.  My guess is that this is a bid for payment rather than delisting.  It would be interesting to test them and see what their reaction would be if Google said "OK, we'll drop you".  My guess is that if Google purposely did not include AFP in their news index, they would probably get sued instead for anti-trust.  Damned if you do, damned if you don't.  Something Walmart is probably coming to understand nowadays.

 

Tsunami Before and After Part 2

Best laid plans.... I try to run a small business and economics blog and 90% of the hits I have gotten over the last 2 days have been on Tsunami before and after pictures.  OK, well, I have have been updating the original before and after post with links to people who really are blogging the tsunami and its aftermath.  Nature has some amazing before-after satellite shots, including these, which are wider angle views of the original shots I posted:

Beforeafter1a_1 Tsunamibeforeafter1b_1

These shots are chilling, and help explain the death toll better than any single photos I have seen:

Tsunamibeforeafter2a Tsunamibeforeafter2b

Makes me think of Atlantis.  Hat tip to the Nature site to Marginal Revolution.

For more before and after images, look here and  here and here (in this last link see the powerpoint download in the lower left).  This site has a ton of tsunami blog links, including pictures and video.  Here is a link-filled roundup (new 1/4) and an older one here, and another here.  And here is a dedicated blogHere is a 1/5 roundup of Indian blog posts about the tsunami and its aftermath.  And here is a local blog with news.  And here is the Amazon Red Cross donation page.

Update:  A more recent roundup as of 1/11 here.