Archive for July, 2011

Exploring the Canon S95 camera

| July 31, 2011 | Reply
Exploring the Canon S95 camera

About a month ago, I purchased a Canon S95 camera for about $400. I sought it out because I wanted the ability to capture non-blurred photos in low light. It has lived up to its reputation as a good low-light pocket camera.

After I purchased the camera I traveled to Europe and then to Chicago. I’ve been exploring a few of the special settings of the camera and decided to share a few of the photos here at DI. One of the settings allows you to take “miniature” looking objects, such as this Norwegian town along a fiord (click the image for a larger image).

The S95 also has a wider angle lens then most other pocket cameras, allowing you to take in larger scenes. I really appreciated this in the Berlin monument regarding War and Tyranny–the beautiful space completely fit into the camera.

I was also able to fit large scenes like the Eiffel Tour (I patiently waited for the even clouds to ripen before capturing this image).

Of special interest to me is the “high dynamic range” setting, allowing you to take three photos with one click on of the shutter button. Then the camera itself processes all three photos into a single HDR photo. It’s important to completely stabilize the camera, or else the images will not coincide. I haven’t used a tripod yet, but I have used walls and fences–anything that might work to allow me to keep the camera steady. The following photo of Napoleon’s tomb is an HDR photo.

This photo of the main hall of the Field Museum in Chicago is another HDR photo. Notice the ghostly people walking around. This is a multiple exposure technique, and these ghosts are an artifact whenever you’ve got movement during the 3 seconds during which the camera is taking the 3 images. I rather like the ghost people–it shows movement within the finished still. There will obviously be times when I don’t want ghosts in my photos, however.

One other trick I’ll mention is the ability to take “stitch photos,” which combines several photos into a single panorama. The scene below, taken of the city of London from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral, consists of four separate shots. The camera offers a slick way to take the shots, and you then stitch them together, using special software provided with the purchase of the camera.

I’ll end this post with a gallery of other photos I took recently with the S95. Most of these are HDR photos. If you don’t see the gallery, click on the title to this post, which will take you to the permalink version, where you will see the gallery.

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How much spying is going on?

| July 31, 2011 | 1 Reply
How much spying is going on?

Consider this description of the N.S.A., from Jane Meyer’s New Yorker article called “The Secret Sharer,” regarding Thomas Drake (since publication, Drake has resolved his case and is not headed for prison). The N.S.A. is

an agency that James Bamford, the author of “The Shadow Factory” (2008), calls “the largest, most costly, and most technologically sophisticated spy organization the world has ever known.” . . . Even in an age in which computerized feats are commonplace, the N.S.A.’s capabilities are breathtaking. The agency reportedly has the capacity to intercept and download, every six hours, electronic communications equivalent to the contents of the Library of Congress. Three times the size of the C.I.A., and with a third of the U.S.’s entire intelligence budget, the N.S.A. has a five-thousand-acre campus at Fort Meade protected by iris scanners and facial-recognition devices. The electric bill there is said to surpass seventy million dollars a year.

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Noah’s plight and the world of Green Porno

| July 31, 2011 | 1 Reply
Noah’s plight and the world of Green Porno

According to the Bible, Noah was ordered to take one male and one female of each species. This part of loading the ark seems easy, at least conceptually.  Just gather up one male and one female of each of the many thousands of species of critters before beginning the journey.

7:2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.
7:3 Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.

But there is a problem: many critters don’t mate in the “traditional” way, using one male and one female. Luckily, there’s help on the way: a reenactment of the boarding of ark.  This delightful and informative “Green Porno” video features Isabella Rosellini.

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A Manufactured “Crisis”

| July 31, 2011 | 7 Replies
A Manufactured “Crisis”

The whole debt ceiling “crisis” is the latest battle in The Republican War on Christmas and, as usual, completely manufactured by Republicans for narrow political ends.

Since March 1962, the debt ceiling has been raised 74 times, according to the Congressional Research Service. Ten of those times have occurred since 2001.

The debt ceiling has been raised all these times without any of the Republican shenanigans now going on. If a default occurs, it will be solely the fault of Republican hyper-partisanship and completely unnecessary. If a default occurs, our nation’s economy will go into the tank as immediately billions of dollars will be extracted from the nation’s economy crushing any economic recovery and devaluing stocks by at least one third and causing a loss of US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of at least 5%. The US economic crash could spiral into a worldwide crash and precipitate another Great Recession or a New Depression.

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Insider Trading Writ Large

| July 31, 2011 | 6 Replies
Insider Trading Writ Large

Imagine, if you will, a country in which banking regulations were stripped down so far that worthless paper again becomes a hot commodity. Now consider that this had (as it inevitably must) blown up and caused a crash in the lending market and equities market and thus the economy in general. Further note that a necessary result would be a rapid rise in the price of precious metals, notably gold.

After a couple of years, that gold bubble would be ripe. People who had assets remaining when the junk bonds or sub-prime mortgages or whatever collapsed could have conservatively moved their money into gold, further depressing the equities market and inflating the price of gold.

But, wait. Because of government investing, the market was recovering too fast! So fast that the wealthy were unable to swap their inflated gold for depressed stocks at the optimum time. What to do?

Congress to the rescue! The wholly owned carriers of the banners of freedom and independence could be employed to create a palpably unnecessary crisis with a distinct deadline. Yes! This would quickly depress the markets and allow those holding too much bubble-gold to buy depressed stocks.

Meanwhile, those elected to carry the load of screwing the middle class could also jump on the wagon and buy up stocks just before the deadline hits. Then the price of stocks returns to normal levels, and the gold bubble can be allowed to pop.

I, for one, would like to see the trading histories of all those involved in the current crisis, and their friends and kin.

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Wind farm in Illinois

| July 30, 2011 | 2 Replies

While I was taking Amtrak from Chicago back to St. Louis tonight, I passed this huge wind farm. I took this photo out the window of the speeding train.

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Stark inequity starting to make the well-to-do nervous

| July 30, 2011 | Reply
Stark inequity starting to make the well-to-do nervous

At Alternet, Sarah Jaffe explains that Brazil’s wealthy folks finally learned that vast economic inequity was putting them at risk. You can either share the wealth or you can spend more on alarm systems and guard dogs.

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Greece as dress rehearsal for the U.S.?

| July 30, 2011 | Reply
Greece as dress rehearsal for the U.S.?

Michael Hudson, author of a book titled Super Imperialism,  looks to the privatization of Greece as what we should expect in the United States.   In the meantime, the media keep examining the issue from the perspective of speculators rather than ordinary citizens, who are about to be crushed with debt that they did not cause.

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Sacred things are tearing us apart

| July 28, 2011 | 4 Replies
Sacred things are tearing us apart

We human animals are an irrepressibly symbolic species. So much so that any thing can represent almost anything else. A cloth flag, a firecracker or a slogan can represent a social order. A piece of bread or an animal can represent a god. The bottom of a shoe can represent a harsh put-down.

We endow some of our things with a special significance, such that we deem them “sacred.” I struggle to define what is sacred, but Jonathan Haidt gives us a big clue: sacred things seem to be the opposite of things that disgust us. But there usually seems to be something more to those thing that are the most sacred; there usually seems to be a public declaration or at least an implicit group acquiescence that the thing is sacred.

By recognizing things to be sacred, we seem to endow them with other-worldly significance; with heavenly significant. Once a thing is declared “sacred,” it would be disgusting and, indeed, immoral to consider compromising with regard to that thing.

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