Posts tagged ‘photo’

Droid Turbo Review

I am extremely happy with my Droid Turbo phone on Verizon.  A few notes for those thinking about buying a phone:

Why Android over iPhone

  • I have been an iPhone guy through 2 generations of phones, and still love my iPad.  But I am exhausted with iCloud and Apple proprietary calendar and mail.  I don't use those tools, I use Gmail and other Google tools, and I got exhausted constantly farting with setup issues.  Things I had to use IFTTT to do on the iPhone happen automatically on Android.  And don't even get me started on duplicate photos in the iPhone/iCloud world.  Drives me crazy.
  • If on your desktop you live in the Apple world, buy an iPhone.  If you, like me, use Gmail, Google Calendar, Google drive and other such tools, it makes a heck of a lot of sense to switch to Android.  Google drive is woven into the operating system at many points.  And even better than on the desktop, Android is great at working with and recognizing multiple google accounts without signing in and out.  For example, in the photo viewer, you can view all your photos together from all your accounts.
  • The one downside is I don't use Google hangouts and Google+, and those are woven in as well.  I had to replace the text messaging app with something else (I use Chomp) but that is the great thing about Android - things that are fixed in iOS are customizable in Android (it is also the bad part of Android if you don't want to mess with that -- I would never put my wife on Android, for example).
  • As a downside, all the variation in phones and customizations mean that you are not guaranteed to get Android updates when they come out.  It depends on your carrier and phone manufacturer.
  • The ability to load up all my music for free (even FLAC files which they automatically convert online to high quality MP3) and stream it to my phone is way better than Apple's capability.
  • I think that most of the feature and OS leadership in the last 18 months has really be grabbed by Android.  Except for the fingerprint capability on the iPhone, everything in the iPhone 6 and iOS 8 was just catch up with Android.

The Good about the Turbo

  • Honking big battery.  Yes, it makes it a bit heavier and bulkier, but it is way lighter and less bulky than, say, and iPhone with a mophie battery case.  I never even come close to running out, even when I use it travelling as a GPS in the car for several hours.  You don't realize how much your interaction with your phone is influenced by battery life until you don't have to worry about it.  I can even leave the screen on bright all day
  • Wireless charging.  Awesome.  The mini-USB connector sucks vs. the iPhone connector because it is not reversible so it is much harder to insert.  All that goes away with wireless charging.  Love it.
  • Fast charging.  You can use the fast charger to blast a ton of life back into the phone in just 15 minutes.
  • Near stock Android.  I like this over the glossy custom overlays Samsung and Sony and every other company apply.  I did replace the front end with the Google Now front end, which is nearly identical but it has Google now cards on the leftmost screen, which I have come to enjoy.  Fun travelling in particular when it pops up photo sites or destinations near me.  Its news suggestions are tied into my browser history and are pretty spot on.
  • Near stock Android also pays another benefit - you will get Android updates much faster.  All Motorola phones (given Google's ownership) are early on the list of phones that will get Android Lollipop upgrades.

Things that are fine

  • The camera is fine.  Focuses relatively fast, takes decent pictures, but not as good as you might expect from the specs.  But competitive with other phones.
  • The screen is supposed to be a selling point, with its above HD resolution, but almost never can I tell a difference.  At some point, the eye just cannot see more pixel density.  It has some tradeoffs in that the higher pixel density can lead fonts on some websites to be almost unreadable (no one has really programmed for this high of a pixel density yet).  Also, the higher pixel count requires more power, which reduces some of the advantage of the larger battery
  • The screen is AMOLED, like the Samsung Galaxy phones.  It is a love it or hate it thing.  The colors on AMOLED tend to be oversaturated.   Ironically, I can live with that.  I am SUPREMELY fussy about the colors on my TV's and in particular on my movie projection system, but I don't care so much on the phone.  Certainly it makes the desktop bright and attractive

Things that are a negative for many reviewers but don't bother me

  • "Its ugly".  That is the #1 review comment.  Shrug.   I think it is fine.  Sure, the Moto X with the bamboo back is awesome looking.   But I am deeply into functionality here.  The curved back feels nice in the hand.
  • There is only a single speaker.  I have come to understand that millennials are fine listening to music on crappy tinny speakers.  I would never listen to music on laptop speakers, and especially not on a cell phone speaker.  I only use the cell phone speaker for occasional speakerphone calls.  And it is fine for that.

Things that do bother me

  • I wish it had a memory card slot.   I have 64MB which is likely enough, particularly since I have all my music loaded up online with Google play music and I can just stream it most of the time.  But I would feel better with an expansion slot
  • I wish it was water resistant like the Galaxy S5.  Wireless charging makes this even more doable since you can plug up the USB port.
  • I wish it had iPhone's awesome fingerprint scanner
  • Why do they have to design $800 electronic devices that break when dropped to be so slippery?  The edges are finished in some kind of rubbery stuff that is very grippy.  I wish they had done the back in the same stuff.  That fake nylon webbing stuff on mine is slick, though not wet-bar-of-soap slick like, say, the HTC One M8.

In Case You Are Not on Twitter...

...This is the sensation of the moment, from Barack Obama's Twitter account (apparently real and not a spoof)

BbuN8iJCMAA34dL

Expect this to be the most photo-shopped image of the next 24 hours.  My guess is that this is the new punishment for not being insured -- they send this guy to your house to watch MSNBC with you all day.

 

Global Warming Folly

I have not written much about climate of late because my interest, err, runs hot and cold.  As most readers know, I am in the lukewarmer camp, meaning that I accept that Co2 is a greenhouse gas but believe that catastrophic warming forecasts are greatly exaggerated (in large part by scientifically unsupportable assumptions of strong net positive feedback in the climate system).  If what I just said is in any way news to you, read this and this for background.

Anyway, one thing I have been saying for about 8 years is that when the history of the environmental movement is written, the global warming obsession will be considered a great folly.  This is because global warming has sucked all the air out of almost anything else in the environmental movement.  For God sakes, the other day the Obama Administration OK'd the wind industry killing more protected birds in a month than the oil industry has killed in its entire history.  Every day the rain forest in the Amazon is cleared away a bit further to make room for ethanol-making crops.

This picture demonstrates a great example of what I mean.   Here is a recent photo from China:

20131211_china1

 

You might reasonably say, well that pollution is from the burning of fossil fuels, and the global warming folks want to reduce fossil fuel use, so aren't they trying to fight this?  And the answer is yes, tangentially.   But here is the problem:  It is an order of magnitude or more cheaper to eliminate polluting byproducts of fossil fuel combustion than it is to eliminate fossil fuel combustion altogether.

What do I mean?  China gets a lot of pressure to reduce its carbon emissions, since it is the largest emitter in the world.  So it might build a wind project, or some solar, or some expensive high speed rail to reduce fossil fuel use.  Let's say any one of these actions reduces smog and sulfur dioxide and particulate pollution (as seen in this photo) by X through reduction in fossil fuel use.  Now, let's take whatever money we spent in, say, a wind project to get X improvement and instead invest it in emissions control technologies that the US has used for decades (coal plant scrubbers, gasoline blending changes, etc) -- invest in making fossil fuel use cleaner, not in eliminating it altogether.  This same money invested in this way would get 10X, maybe even up to 100X improvement in these emissions.

By pressuring China on carbon, we have unwittingly helped enable their pollution problem.  We are trying to get them to do 21st century things that the US can't even figure out how to do economically when in actuality what they really need to be doing is 1970's things that would be relatively easy to do and would have a much bigger impact on their citizen's well-being.

The World Needs Obsessive People, Even If I Am Not One Of Them

This photo is kind of cool of a disassembled VW (via Twisted Sifter)

exploded-view-volkswagen-golf-mk2

But this response from the from a user at the Club GTI forum is simply awesome.  An excerpt:

They left the 3/4 sync hub pressed onto the input shaft, and captured by that would have to be 3rd gear, because 3rd isn't on the floor.

The selector detent bolt is missing as well.

They're short one roller bearing, unless it is in the case still.

They're missing the 13mm nut to hold the selector bracket to the selector assembly.

They show 12 of the 14 bolts used around the trans casing, missing the 2 shorter ones under the selector area.

5th gear circlip and washer are missing.

5th gear retention bolt and washer are missing.

They're short one 17mm drain/fill plug too.

etc. etc.  This is exactly the guy I want in charge of the engine overhaul on the next aircraft I fly in.

Photoshop Practice

I am working on a couple of euro-style strategy card games at the moment.  The first is a business start-up game, and the second is a space-themed game loosely based on my experiences playing the Traveler role-playing game years ago.   A good stock image account (I use Shutterstock) gets me everything in terms of card images I need for the first game, but royalty-free space images are harder.  However, it is actually possible to start with prosaic industrial and other images and hack them to look futuristic, but it takes some work.

So I have been working on Photoshop skills.  If I could digitally paint, I would paint beautiful concept art, but I cannot.  So my Photoshop training has focused not on painting per se but on hacking images together and overlaying effects.   A LOT of the work is learning to do selections well to mash up images and then overlaying a few effects.   I can make a really good laser beam now, for example.  Take a modern weapon, have a laser beam come out, wala a pretty functional sci fi gun  (Don't believe me?  Look at the Death Star Turrets in the original Star Wars movie and tell me those aren't essentially current-era battleship turrets with green and red light coming out).  I wrote earlier about the lessons I followed in making custom planets.

As an example, here is the lesson I did last night.  It is not production value because it started with a low-res iPhone photo my daughter sent me and as you can tell from the edges and especially the hair, I did not spend much effort getting the edge selection just right.  But my daughter liked being a cyborg:

Click to enlarge

 

She has dark brown hair and dark brown eyes, so she is not the ideal model for this because those are hard to colorize well.  Blondes may or may not have more fun, but they are much easier to colorize.  The downsize of the exercise is that she loved the hair and now wants to color it that way for real.

LineQuest, err Comic-Con Report

Having now been to my first Comic-con International conference in San Diego, I have come up with a new official T-shirt for the event.  It will say on the front, "What is this line for?"

That was the question on everyone's lips.  No matter where you went, either in the exhibit hall or in the meeting room area or outside, there were lines everywhere.  There were lines for giveaways.  There were lines to get in rooms.  There were lines for autographs.  There were even lines to get tickets to have a preferential place in a line later.   One line, for the largest theater that had the hottest programming, was over a mile and a quarter long, with people lined up overnight to get in.  There were so many lines it was often unclear what lines were for.  Five people could likely start a line randomly by simply standing in line at some random spot and people would start getting in behind them.

I have decided that the origin of the word Comic-Con is not actually from Comic-Convention but in fact is actually a corruption of COMECON.  It is an organization that has embraced the old Soviet economy with both arms.  It has bent over backwards to absolutely ensure that no allocation of scarce resources will be based on price -- thus the incredibly complicated process for even obtaining a ticket to the event in the first place.  So all goods are free (or in the case of a 4-day ticket, very inexpensive) and allocation of scarce resources is entirely by queue.

A one-day pass to see the exhibit hall and people-watch the Cosplay is well worth the price, both in money and more importantly in time.  My son and I had a great time.  But any attempt to enjoy any of the programming content will require at least 1 hour of line-standing for every 1 hour of program time.  And if the program has any recognizable person's name in it, or if the title includes the words "Star Wars, Star Trek, or Firefly", then you can count on at least 3 hours of waiting for every one hour of programming.

As an example, my son and I showed up 1-1/2 hours early for an afternoon program called something like "Star Wars vs. Firefly."   We were about 50th in a line that eventually ran to about 600 people.  We thought we were in good shape.  Foolish mortals.  It turns out people showed up at 7 and 8 in the morning for the first program of the day in that room, and then never left, solely to get to the 1:30 Star Wars/Firefly program.  None of us in line outside the door at 1:30 got in.

I am not going to argue resource allocation methodologies here -- this is a private event and they are welcome to do it any way they wish.  And since their target audience tends to be young and perhaps under-employed, then I can see how an allocation methodology based on investing one's time rather than money would be appealing to that audience.  Again, a day at the trade show and people watching the Cosplay is worth it.  As for the rest, if you are someone who will wait in line an hour to save 10 cents on gas, you will probably love it.  If you are someone who thought the FastPass system was the greatest thing ever implemented by Disney, they you should likely give the programming a miss.

A few other notes:

  • One of the shorter lines was for autographs from Stan Lee, which goes to show how far Comic-Con has evolved from its roots
  • Building on the previous observation, I saw only one or two booths on the entire (huge) exhibit floor actually selling vintage comic books
  • The Cosplay is everywhere but the best place to see it is just outside the hall where the photographers are taking pictures of folks coming in.  This is one area Comic-Con is really missing an opportunity.  If I were them I would create a red carpet ala the Oscars for Cosplayers to come in and everyone else to watch.   Put in some grandstands and big screens, maybe even with live commentary or voting
  • The masquerade is very miss-able.  A costume competition but it is run in a tedious manner and the Cosplay on the exhibit floor is better.
  • Fortunately I have a lot of nerds in my clan so I came away with good gifts.  My son got an autographed Summer Glau photo, my daughter an autographed Benedict Cumberbatch photo, and my niece an autograph of the most current Doctor Who (sorry, my first Doctor was Tom Baker and I can't keep track of the new ones).  My son also scored a Disney Princess calendar drawn in that, ahem, fantasy style made famous in publications like Heavy Metal.  It is sure to horrify my wife and daughter, which I assume was half the point.

Disney Princess Half Marathon

Well, as promised, I wanted to post our race day picture from the half marathon.  This was done for my daughter's benefit, who set the goal to run a half marathon about 6 months ago and figured the promise of a Disney trip would be incentive to stay on top of her training.

princess_marathon_s

She schlepped that tutu and that tiara for the whole 13.1, walking only at a couple of the last water stops.  This event was 95% women, and attracts a LOT of folks who really don't run the whole thing, so it was a great place for her to begin.  It's also pretty laid back, as there are actually character photo ops every mile, though we skipped those.  I have not seen our time, but we probably did about 2:45.  That's 20 minutes worse than my time five years ago -- it would be nice to say I was holding back to stay with my daughter but in fact she pulled me through the last mile.  Muscles and cardio were fine but the knees and ankles really can't take it any more.  But I proudly wore this bad boy all day.

If you are interested in this sort of thing, it was a great event, going through two of their parks.  The only problem is that it has to take place before the parks are open, so we had to set the wake-up call for 3:15 AM.  Uggh.  The butt-crack of dawn, as my sister calls it.

And yes, I did help make the tutu, with the aid of this video.  It is videos like that that remind me there are whole worlds of which I am virtually unaware.   Note the number of views - 1.4 million, on making a tutu.

Things I Didn't Know

I had always assumed the cover for the Beatle's Sgt. Pepper album was just a photo mosaic, a cut and paste of photos that was then re-photographed into the final image.  But it appears to have been shot life-size all at once.  More here.  Apparently Hitler and Jesus just missed the cut.  Can you imagine anyone even bothering with this in the age of Photoshop?

Whatever the Motives, the Results Look Eerily Like Racism

I have been reading of late some histories of Germany in the 1930's, with a particular emphasis on racial laws and policy.   Over time the expanding bans on Jewish participation in the economy and society as well as preferences given to non-Jews for government jobs led to some practical problems, including:

  • What percentage of Jewish blood made one Jewish?  The Nazis messed around with this problem a long time, in part because of Hitler's absolute reluctance to get involved in such details.  Was it one grandparent?  Three grandparents?
  • How does one test for such things?  In the thirties, there was an boom in geneology research in Germany, as everyone raced around trying to figure out what evidence was sufficient to establish someone's race

It would be nice to think we put this kind of thing to bed, but here we are in the 21st century running around trying to answer the exact same questions

This story reminded me of the 1980s case of the twin red-haired Boston firefighters who claimed to be black, based on a photo of a great-grandmother and alleged oral history. While I remembered that they had gotten fired for their alleged fraud, I didn’t remember this detail:

Under current rules, said [general counsel to the state personnel office] Ms. Dale, candidates who say they are members of minority groups are judged by appearance, documented personal history and identification with a minority community. Disputes over claims of minority status are resolved by the Department of Personnel Administration.

 And indeed, there eventually was a two-day administrative hearing, in which the hearing officer determined that the twins failed all three criteria, and thus were not black. A judge upheld the ruling, finding that the twins had claimed minority status in bad faith.I have to admit being under the impression until now that as a legal matter, minority status was an in issue of self-reporting. But at least in the Massachusetts Civil Service system, one can get fired for “racial fraud.”

  • Every year, in the name of some sort of racial harmony, I have to sit down and report to the government on the race of each of my employees.  For 364 days a year I can ignore the race of my employees, but one day a year the government makes me wallow in it.  Here are part of the instructions:

Self-identification is the preferred method of identifying the race and ethnic information necessary for the EEO-1 report. Employers are required to attempt to allow employees to use self-identification to complete the EEO-1 report. If an employee declines to self-identify, employment records or observer identification may be used.

Where records are maintained, it is recommended that they be kept separately from the employees basic personnel file or other records available to those responsible for personnel decisions.

Race and ethnic designations as used by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission do not denote scientific definitions of anthropological origins.

I am told we are trying to create a society free of racism, but the results sure look a lot like racism to me.

Oh, For God Sakes

From today's AZ Republic

Women have wrinkles, pores and curves. And there's a movement across the world to make sure advertisers can no longer pretend otherwise.

Now, that movement has come to Arizona.

House Bill 2793, proposed by Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, would require advertisers who alter or enhance a photo to put a disclaimer on that ad alerting customers that "Postproduction techniques were made to alter the appearance in this advertisement. When using this product, similar results may not be achieved."

Really?  You mean my wife isn't going to suddenly look like Demi Moore if she uses Dove soap?  Next you are going to tell me that drinking Miller Lite does not cause me to suddenly be surrounded by hot women.

Update:  Apprarently this is about empowering women by treating them like moronic rubes

"As an organization, we are all about empowering women and eliminating discrimination," Richard said. "We want to make sure that young women get a better start and better self-image."

He said girls need to understand that these photos aren't all real. Someone has airbrushed out the model's wrinkles and pores, or put a woman's head on top of a computer-generated perfect body.

"You need to disclose that so our young women don't grow up thinking a poreless face is possible," he said. "That's not the way that I think anyone wants to raise their daughters."

Atlantic City, 1910

The thumbnail does not look like much, but the detail is incredible.  I can't remember a photo this old that one could zoom down so far in and look around.  Click to see the full version, via Shorpy

Joe Arpaio, Web Mogul

Joe Arpaio, I suppose seeing how Ben Quayle rode his writing gig for the Dirty into Congress, has decided he wants to compete with all manner of bottom-fishing web sites.  He has created a special web feature in a what he states is an attempt to drive more people to his web site -- the goofy booking photo of the day.

Several local lawyers, including some mental health advocates, are asking if it is appropriate for a sheriff to run online contests to vote for the inmate with the worst booking photos.  This is a great example of a situation (like video surveillance) where public officials have less, rather than more rights and privileges than ordinary citizens.  Kudos to Scott Ambrose for making a point that is seldom made, and we should remind politicians of all the time:

Arpaio says that booking photos are aired in the news media every day. A local alternative weekly even took a page from Arpaio's playbook earlier this year and let readers have fun with some of the sheriff's mug shots.

"Sheriff Joe will argue that 'I can do this because New Times can,' " Ambrose said. "There's lots of things the government can't do that you and I can."

I have another question - for what possible public purpose is Arpaio spending taxpayer money to drive people to his web site?  This is so incredibly self-serving its hard to believe, but fits right in with Arpaio's whole history of taxpayer-funded self-promotion.

PS-  I have always argued that booking photos should not be public information, as they amount to an improper punishment.  The legal system has a technical term for someone who has been arrested but has not gone to trial:  Innocent.

Getting Really Close

I have decided to save the photo-essay of my speaker-building project until the project is finished and I can put it all in one long post.  However, just as an update, I am really close to done.  The three speakers (left, center, right) will go behind my accoustically-perforated projection screen.  As you can see, the enclosures are complete and primed and the crossovers are complete and installed.  The special paint I ordered arrived today so I can paint this weekend and install the drivers.

The funny shape of the openings at top are due to my choice of drivers -- the tweeter will be a horn-style driver, an approach I wanted to try for home theater in a large room (movie theater speakers use the same technology).  The cabinet is ported for bass response -- that is what the rectangular opening is in the upper right.   These are based on a design by Pi speakers.

Knock on wood but given my total and complete lack of carpentry skills and experience (think Anthony Michael Hall in the Breakfast Club, the geeky kid who fails shop), I am just thrilled with how they are coming out.

Just a teaser -- all will be explained soon....

Over the Top

I got this in an email from something called the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC.  They seem to be worried about the passage of the Dream Act, which I have not paid much attention to.

If we lose in the Senate tomorrow, most future battles will be fought as we retreat step by step, while millions of illegal aliens become legal workers, students, and voters who are used to replace Americans and put in positions of authority over us.

May God Save The United States.

Rally your kith and kin and join us shortly after dawn on the East Coast for our next battle tomorrow.

We must hold the line in the Senate! WE STILL HAVE A CHANCE TO STOP THIS NATION KILLING LEGISLATION BUT WE WILL NEED ALL OF YOUR HELP IN THE MORNING.

May God favor our efforts.

Holy Cr*p, you would think Hitler's panzers were rolling into Washington.  Seriously, this is all because millions of immigrants might become legal workers and voters like, uh, nearly every one of our ancestors who came from somewhere else?  Their apocalyptic vision is legal workers and students?

This email just gives the lie to the PAC's name -- obviously they are not for legal immigration or they would be thrilled that formerly illegal immigrants suddenly become legal.

On many occasions I have had people tell me that I was stupid -- explaining to me that this issue is not about immigration per se but the rule of law, and that their objection was to the illegal behavior not being punished, not immigration itself.  Fine, here is the fix -- make them all legal.  The formerly illegal immigrants will be, as you say, legal students, workers, and voters. Problem solved, right?

I get told all the time by immigration opponents that they are open to legal immigration, but we have to deal with illegal immigration first.  Really?  When thousands of Arizonans were breaking the law and getting photo-radar tickets, did we say that we would only do something about photo-radar when the problem of illegal speeding went away?  No, we got rid of the hated cameras, and most folks holding photo-radar tickets got amnesty (in the form of the state choosing not to pursue the high percentage of people who threw away their tickets rather than paying them).

Postscript: I am not religious, but I wonder if folks who are find the use of God in this context offensive.  Doesn't this imply God hates the Mexicans?  Does God love your family, who happened to enter this country when immigration laws were loose, but hate Xavier who wants to come here just like your family but does so in a time when immigration laws are restrictive?

It reminds me of winning football players who say, to begin interviews, "I want to thank God..." as if their victory were the result of particular favor payed to them by God.  I have always wanted to see a losing player follow such an interview with, "well, you heard it:  God was against us.  What chance did we have?  I think we kept it pretty close given that an omnipotent deity was working for the other team."

More Adventures in Photography

I am still trying to figure out how traditional film photographers got great outdoor photos.  I struggle with haze and a loss of vibrancy in distant photos, as if the images were photographed through dirty glass.  Maybe filters?  More vibrancy in the film (I know that drove a lot of Kodak users to Fuji)?

Anyway, I don't have to rely on film, and can fiddle around with Photoshop until I get things right.  I used it in this image to lighten some dark areas and then eliminated the haze effects by painting the whole image with a low-opacity color burn (I used to use a neutral gray for this but I have had better luck using a color with much of the blue taken out (using the RGB sliders in the color selection)).  I gave a second helping of the color burn to the buildings only, to make them pop a bit.  I try to stay far away from the contrast controls - every photo I have ever ruined started downhill with the contrast control.    Instead, I went into each of the R-G-B channels in the "levels" section and fiddled with the distributions a bit, in effect widening the distributions (only a little) to get a tad more contrast.

I think it came out pretty well -- I was at an art show with a guy selling almost this exact same photo from the exact same spot and I think mine compared favorably with his art shot.  The only thing I think might have improved it was to get morning light, but I was not going to camp out for 18 hours to do so.

Anyway, this is Vernazza, one of the five towns of Cinqueterre on the Italian Riviera, taken from the fabulous walking trail the connects the five towns.  As usual click for enlargement.

On the monitor screen, the colors are perhaps a bit over-saturated but by trial and error it looks great on paper (at least with my printer -- the color variation among printers and papers is really astonishing once you start paying attention to it).

Below, by the way, is the original digital image.  If someone can tell me what I am doing wrong (filters, camera selection, etc) to get such crappy original images, I would be appreciative.  It looks like I haven't cleaned the lens or something.  All I am using is a pretty good quality UV filter (mostly just to protect the lens) on a Nikon D50 with the stock Nikon lens.

Gone

I am heading for Italy for two weeks.  No blogging planned except perhaps some photo-blogging.  I expect you guys to have this country straightened out by the time I get back.

A Small Rollback of a Government Irritant

Via Valley Fever

The day has finally arrived, Arizona: The state's much-loathed photo-radar speed enforcement program comes to an end tonight.At 11:59 p.m. today, the plug will be pulled on all the state's speed-cams and anyone caught speeding past one will no longer have to fear a process server dropping off a nasty-gram at their homes.

Unfortunately, 1) bazillions of red light cameras will still be on duty and 2) I believe this only applies to state photo-radar cameras -- city cameras will still exist.  So I am not sure if this applies, say, to cameras on surface streets like Frank Lloyd Wright in Scottsdale.

Layout Progress: Base & Initial Trackwork

This is part of a recurring series on the evolution of my n-scale switching layout.  More after the break...

Continue reading ‘Layout Progress: Base & Initial Trackwork’ »

How About a Little Skepticism Here?

I was emailed this photo as a "shocker" and "outrage" as it somehow is the smoking gun to show what immigrants are after.

Really?  You don't think there is any chance this is a plant or satire?  I understand that the folks protesting are far more radicalized, and have different goals, than the average immigrant, but it really takes a lot of credulousness to take this picture as representative of the goals of Mexican immigrants.

Mistaken Identity

I guess its lucky they didn't send the SWAT team in for her, as she might be dead now:

[Victoria] Aguayo has filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court, after she was arrested, indicted, and nearly prosecuted for her "role" in the infamous "Desert Divas" prostitution ring.

One problem: Aguayo was not a "desert diva" and the evidence suggesting she was is laughable at best.

On one of the "Desert Divas'" many Web sites, the agency advertised an "escort" named "Tia." "Tia" is described on the site as being "thin, white, and blonde" and has a tattoo on her stomach that is clearly visible in the topless photo of the "diva" Aguayo's lawyer was kind enough to send New Times.

Phoenix Police Detective Christie Hein identified Aguayo as "Tia" based on the photo on the Web site when she arrested her on August 28, 2008, the lawsuit claims.

We've seen pictures of both "Tia" and Aguayo and we gotta say if Aguayo can be identified as "thin, white, and blonde," so can Aretha Franklin.

Aguayo is -- to put it politely -- more of a "plus-sized" woman, she's black, and is missing the tattoo that is so clearly visible in the photo of "Tia" on the "Desert Diva" Web site.

Simple, um, mistake, right?

After being arrested, Aguayo spent nearly two months in jail before she was granted a supervised release pending an upcoming trial.

While she was in the clink, Aguayo lost custody of her daughter, Jasmine, and has since been unable to get her back.

Post-War Devastation

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

02394a.preview

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

Because Minor Drug Cases Weren't Clogging the Courts Enough

The civil courts of Maricopa County (which includes Phoenix) are being overwhelmed by photo-radar cases from state photo-radar trucks on state highways.

In the 2008 fiscal year, ending June 2008, the total annual filings in the justice courts amounted to 435,014, which included DUI, traffic, misdemeanor and civil cases, according to the county. Since November 2008, speed-camera cases have flooded the justice courts, averaging 42,326 cases a month, accounting for 50 percent of the filings. Administrators for the justice courts expect the total might reach 600,000 this fiscal year.

Of course the solution proposed is not to get rid of the photo radar but to raise fees to cover the administration.  But you could have guessed that without me telling your, couldn't you?

Coolest Stuff I Have Worked With In A While

Electro-Luminescent wire.

el-wire-light

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:

s1_020_b4squaw_sep64

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.

rr3

rr1

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

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

Gates-Type Encounters with Police Happen Every Day, Irregardless of Race

Some cops just abuse power, and make up rules as they go along.

Gordon Haire, a former newspaper reporter and former police officer, was sitting at a table on the campus of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston when he snapped a photo of a university police officer strolling towards him.

Officer Tim Wilson then came up to him and told him he was not allowed to photograph the Galveston National Library, which apparently is so top secret that only a Google search will reveal its true appearance.

Wilson told him it was against the law to photograph the building because it is a security threat.

Haire, 66, told Wilson he did not believe him.

Sensing the impending terrorist threat, Wilson asked for Haire's identification.

But having lost his drivers license, Haire was only able to produce a Medicare card (he had arrived by bus for a doctor's appointment).

The cop then asked for his full name and date of birth, then relayed that information to a dispatcher through his collar microphone.

"He's giving me a hard time," the cop said to the dispatcher, according to Haire.

The cop finally left, but not before informing Haire that it was illegal to even photograph the sidewalk.

Julius Shulman

Julius Shulman, creator of perhaps my single favorite urban photo, has died at the age of 98.  I like the black and white version linked above better than the color, which I confess I had never seen before.