|log (2001/09/28 to 2001/10/04)|
Thursday, October 4, 2001
On these glass discs that sit just before my eyes, a reader writes comfortingly:
Hey, the same thing happened to me when I got my first pair of glasses from lenscrafters earlier this year, and my eyes did adjust, for whatever it's worth.
So I will be patient a bit longer. Another reader's brain is:
asking: are they bifocals? If so, yes, smaller size, different lens material, even just a different person making them (and using a slightly different focal point on the lens) can greatly affect the result. If they're not bifocals, well... I just don't know. Sorry. :-)
Nope, not bifocals. I had bifocals once briefly (a year or two?) when I was young (Junior High?). I think there must have been a fad among eye doctors to give bifocals to the young, but it died out.
On the question of schmutz, a reader checks the "deal with it" button, and writes:
I'd even go so far to say under $1500. And in our case, I know it applies to free or borrowed digitals altogether. But, hell, it beats paying film costs and spending days in the darkroom.
Not only is this comforting camera-wise, but it is infinitely flattering to my ego to think that Heather Corinna (one of the goddesses of the whole sex-positive movement, and guiding light of Scarlet Letters) might be among my occasional readers.
Speaking of attitudes toward sex, a reader (probably responding to Your Name Written on Water) writes:
Or go read Tolstoy's "Kreutzer Sonata" for a powerful conservative take on the sex issue.
Now that's interesting! I'd always thought of that story as a case study in the dangers of a "conservative" attitude toward sex. It's about this guy who thinks of sex as something horrible and degrading, and basically he goes mad and kills his wife. The story is almost entirely taken up with an extended rant by this guy, in which he decries sex outside of marriage, sex inside of marriage, birth control, doctors, marriages not arranged by the parents, parenthood, violin playing, all music not directly related to an activity (marches, dancing, hymns), meat eating, and pretty much everything else in the world, in a rather transparent attempt to find somewhere to put his crushing guilt besides his own head.
A potentially interesting character study, although to my mind it's rather long-winded and repetitive; I wouldn't really call it "powerful".
Inspired by this reader's suggestion, though, I looked around the Web a little, and found (as well as the story itself) an epilogue or lesson written by Tolstoy himself, which has rather changed my impression of the story.
If I'm reading this "lesson" right, and if it's in fact meant to be taken at face value, Tolstoy is completely adopting the rantings of his pathological protagonist. Sex, even between married people, is an awful sin. Tolstoy longs with a painful longing for an imaginary past, an imaginary pure state where people work hard, eat only enough to live on, abstain from sex and alcohol and meat, and devote themselves only to God. Any falling away from that state is an abomination for which we should feel grinding guilt, and if society as a whole falls away from that state so much that women sometimes have sex with their husbands while they are pregnant or nursing, well it's no wonder that protagonists go crazy and stab their wives.
Ouch! Poor Tolstoy. "The Kreutzer Sonata" still strikes me as an indictment of the extremely negative and hung-up "conservative" attitude toward sex, and an illustration of how deeply unhealthy it is, but it seems that the author didn't intend it that way.
Learn something new every day.
Amusingly (or something), Immanuel Velikovsky (bit of a ranter himself) apparently wrote a number of "psychoanalytic papers", including one titled "Tolstoy's Kreutzer Sonata and Unconscious Homosexuality", in which he claims that Tolstoy's protagonist (and perhaps Tolstoy himself) are really deeply closeted homosexuals, and that that explains their extreme hangups with regard to sex. (Note that I don't endorse this view! I only link to it.)
Speaking of sex yet one more time, I've added Inexplicably Fancy Trash to the top half of the list, having demoted Parents Strongly Cautioned to the bottom half (since that slacker Mark Aster no longer even pretends that he's going to start updating again).
if I was a photographer
That's actually sort of insulting, isn't it? Hadn't occurred to me until just now. Anyway, speaking of photographs again, I hereby recommend the University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections. Lotsa great old pictures and stuff in there, all digitized.
On my "And so far, it doesn't seem to eat batteries too horrifyingly fast", Daniel writes:
I wonder what I'm doing wrong? I grabbed a D-510 to play with, and 4 brand new AAs last through about 20 SHQ pictures, about half with flash.
That does seem a tad quick. On the other hand! AA batteries are for moving electrons, and perhaps small streams of photons: use them in your Gameboy and maybe your penlite. For a big fancy thing with moving parts and stuff like a camera, I wouldn't suggest trying to keep it fed with AAs. I got a set of Olympus Ni-MH rechargables and a charger, and one charge seems to last about 300 pictures (some HQ, some SHQ, some flash, some not). The cute little Lithium 3V Camedia batteries that came with the camera (each one is the size of 2 AAs, and you use two at once in the camera) lasted about that long also.
Have we bombed anybody yet? I don't want to bomb anybody. Nanoprobes, that's the ticket. Nanoprobes.
So when I got these here new glasses at LensCrafters, I noticed that things in the middle distance were blurrier than I'd expect, and I asked the guy at the counter, and he said "why don't you try them for a day or two and see if your eyes just need time to adjust", and then after a day things in the middle distance were still blurrier than I'd expect so I went back, and the lady at the counter measured both pairs of glasses again and said again that they were exactly the same prescription "but some people can take a week or two to adjust".
So I thanked her and went away.
Whaddya think, readers? Does it really take a week or two for eyes that are used to glass lenses to adjust to slightly smaller plastic lenses with exactly the same prescription? Or are these folks just hoping that I'll forget to come back and complain again before the 30 day return period is over?
Thanks to all the readers who told us that the letter from Mrs. Justine Rachidi is a variant of the well-known 419 scam. I knew that; this was just a member of the genre that I hadn't seen before.
A certain Ed points us to a Salon article that considers the letters as a literary form:
And yet, because the letters have a certain rough-hewn charm and indicate a vivid imagination at work, one likes to think these bad rascals are not all murderers but, instead, simply hardworking con artists who've missed their true calling as novelists and have had to take up fiction writing's more lucrative sister vocation: fraud.
And the U. S. Treasury Department tells us just how bad it is:
Indications are that Advance Fee Fraud grosses hundreds of millions of dollars annually and the losses are continuing to escalate. In all likelihood, there are victims who do not report their losses to authorities due to either fear or embarrassment.
Would it be overly cruel here to mutter "Think of it as evolution in action"?
San Francisco officials have voted to ban Internet filters on computers in local public libraries, risking the loss of some $20,000 in federal funds.
I've put up another page of digital photographs! I know you've all been eagerly awaiting this. *8)
Do let me know if I'm starting to like scrape the bottom of the barrel or anything...
Flashbulbs! Does anyone remember flashbulbs? There were flashbulbs when I was little; they were these smallish bluish things shaped sort of like lightbulbs, but they could only light up once, for a split second, real bright. Afterward, they smelled extremely neat, and were real hot; you could burn your nose. Then later on there was a great new development: the "FlashCube". This was a gizmo that was cube-shaped, and could flash four times before you had to get a new one. I imagine it was really just four flashbulbs tied together.
Electronic flash just doesn't smell the same.
Here's Dave's Flashbulb Collection. On the Web, of course. Everyone's flashbulb collection should be on the Web.
The PATRIOT Act. Sheesh, talk about transparently obnoxious bill-naming. "Yes, I myself oppose the patriot act, because I am a slimy unAmerican traitor type."
The ACLU doesn't like it. Here are stories from ZDNet, Wired, and CNet. I have nothing to add at this time.
Uh-oh! Prayer may influence in vitro fertilization success:
New York, NY --- Prayer seems to almost double the success rate of in vitro fertilization procedures that lead to pregnancy, according to surprising results from a study carefully designed to eliminate bias.
Yipes! Now what does that mean, do you think?
Typo Madness! 41 variations on the name of teen star Britney Spears:
While registering altered versions of Web sites is common, Zuccarini's alleged registration of nearly 6,000 addresses and his extreme use of "mousetrapping" techniques make the case unique, FTC officials said.
By the way, that last story, and no doubt several others over the months, comes courtesy of the Benton Foundation, whose Communications-Related Headlines column is periodically copied onto some mailing list or other that I'm on. Despite the boring name, it's an interesting column, carrying (daily?) headlines and abstracts from timely news stories in the general area of communication and media and freedom of speech and all like that there. You might want to take a look at it yourself.
Website business: there is a rumor going around that the Webhost of this site (and theogeny.com and chessfamily.org) may shut down without warning at any moment. Unlike Ian, I have no clever backup nameservers and webhosts ready for such an eventuality (although all the content of the site is safely mastered on the laptop here). So if this site should disappear for awhile, it's probably just some webhost thing, and it'll probably be back before too long.
Don't believe everything you read Department: Philip Zimmermann: No Regrets About Developing PGP:
Did I re-examine my principles in the wake of this tragedy? Of course I did. But the outcome of this re-examination was the same as it was during the years of public debate, that strong cryptography does more good for a democratic society than harm, even if it can be used by terrorists. Read my lips: I have no regrets about developing PGP.
The DMCA is evil, take N+1: once again, we see this overly aggressive copyright law used, not to protect the author of a creative work from having it misappropriated, but to conceal a fact that someone would rather not be known. The EFF reports that the Mormon Church invoked the DMCA to force cryptome to take down a church document that says dumb things about homosexuality. Down with the DMCA! Yar yar!
(On the censored document itself: a casual search doesn't find another copy of it on the Web, but here's some notes about it (and some more), and a much more enlightened alternative document from a rather clued-looking website for Mormons of nontraditional sexual preference.)
that so blithely pierces mine fragile, shuddering flesh?
A somewhat safer dagger:
for a spaniard like me it is be a reference mark. in spite of i do not catch the complete sense of your content, happy birthday
Thanks! I trust that in fact no one catches the complete sense of my content, so you're okay there...
And perhaps from the same reader:
uops!! i miss the important thing. Achillea millefolium is for you. USE young leaves are edible and nutritious, and can be used as a salad herb. Ancient herb of divination. good compost activator and fertilizer. it develops psicomental energy...
I myself am edible and nutritious, and can be used as... Hm, well.
The enemy of my enemy Department: Apparently some of our Staunch Allies in the War Against Terrorism have been, like, harboring a few terrorists of their own:
On Monday, a suicide bomber from the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad drove a jeep packed with explosives to the main gate of the assembly and blew himself up, while others ran into the building throwing grenades.
What to do, what to do?
A pundit on NPR this morning went on for awhile about how well Bush had done in this crisis, and how high his approval ratings were, and said that this was especially impressive since the American People "watch their leaders more closely during a crisis".
Utterly and completely wrong. During a crisis, the American People (or any other functional people) align more or less in the same direction, smaller-scale differences forgotten for the moment, and it's very very easy to say things that will appeal to nearly everyone. In a crisis, everyone wants to be optimistic, and unless you totally flub it, your approval rating will go up just because even people who think you're an idiot will be reluctant to say so (the pundit in fact gave various examples of leaders in crises, and every one of them involved a sharp rise in popularity).
When the crisis starts to ebb a bit, and people have had time to look around them and think, then people's vectors will swing back toward their original positions, and leaders are once again in the very difficult position of leading a diverse and opinionated people. Crises make the public-opinion part of the job easier, not harder.
MRS JUSTINE RACHIDI writes, in part:
FROM : MRS JUSTINE RACHIDI
Right out of Mission Impossible or one of those novels with the colorful covers! I'd love to help out, and get involved in romantic adventures involving African politics, but unfortunately it's just a scheme to get lots of my money away from me (a web search on bits of the letter produces no hits, so I gather it must be a relatively recent scam; readers are invited to submit relevant URLs that they find).
On being Mycroft Holmes, Dad writes:
I thought that was the job you already have!
Well, yeah. *8) But only sort of unofficially, and I always feel vaguely guilty about it, especially when there are long intervals between the "being very useful" parts. I'd like it to be officially written up that way in the job description.
I've always wanted the Mycroft job, but I'll settle for the position of assistant, if it ever comes up.
A noble profession, assistant to the genius. The main task being to write it all up for posterity (ref John Watson, Archie Goodwin, etc). Considerably less responsibility.
Operation Great Minds With But A Single Thought: ftrain's generator of random military-operation names.
Medley (and others) point to In Defense of Freedom, where you can go and endorse a quite reasonable manifesto:
We can, as we have in the past, in times of war and of peace, reconcile the requirements of security with the demands of liberty.
Daniel points out that he is very silly. Do not, whatever you do, move the mouse on and off of that picture.
I've taken a bunch more pictures myself, of course, but I'm not going to post any more just now. Later, almost certainly...
Youth no less becomes
We were in the video store, and I was holding a copy of Blade Runner (another cultural icon that I don't think I've ever actually seen), but then I noticed some Star Trek moves, and suddenly discovering I was in the mood for something light and non-threatening, I traded in Harrison Ford for Marina Sirtis. Or more accurately I suppose, I traded in Phil Dick and Ridley Scott for the Star Trek® Brand Team.
It was very silly, too silly to even bother critiquing, but it was kind of fun. I should also see the one that tells the story of how the Klingons got to be Good Guys ("The Undiscovered Country"?). And of course I should see Blade Runner...
So I've now taken about 700 pictures with the digital camera, including thirty-one of a nice shiny apple that the little daughter brought home from apple-picking with friends. I'm very fond of it (the camera, not necessarily the apple); both my growing personal experience and reader feedback suggest that the schmutz effect is just the Way It Is, and I should find ways to deal with it. So I am.
I've even put up a Digital Photographs section on the Pictures Page (about time I updated something else on the site), including a page with a dozen pictures from the weekend (just 400x300 details or reductions; putting up entire megabyte-size 1600x1200 things frightens me at the moment; even so, don't expect the page to load real real fast).
Lemme know if you like 'em! They're mostly semi-abstract "objects and textures" stuff, rather than "cute scenes of family life" stuff (well, except maybe for the bears and the iguanas). It's much easier to get inanimate objects to hold still...
No one has voted for any of the "get a new camera" choices in the Schmutz Poll yet, which is reassuring. A reader writes:
It's a video RGB reproduction, which will always, always, always, always be inferior to a photographic print -- much as CMYK reproduction is ditto. It approximates an approximation of true color using combos of three (RGB) or four (CMYK) basic colors, rather than chemical processes which react to reflect the far more analog chaos of true life.
Which seems quite plausible. Another reader writes, similarly:
Sadly this seems to be the case, the more money you spend, the more you can skulk about in the shadows with complete clarity. My previous digital created the colour "schmutz" as you put it, in low light and as a result I had to be in bed by 8pm.
And along the same lines:
I was initially thrilled with my Kodak DC4800 until I started taking pictures indoors. I'm still happy with it, but I'm starting to wish I had waited and bought a Coolpix 995 off Amazon for only a couple hundred dollars more. I've used friends' sub-$1000 cameras, and all except for the Coolpix seem to have low-light, indoors pix issues, unfortunately. I may still go ahead and sell my Kodak, eat the loss and buy a Coolpix one of these days.
I don't have to struggle with that particular decision, fortunately, because I can't imagine ever owning anything called "Coolpix" (shouldn't it really be "KoolPix"?).
I have the same phenomenon in my camera. When you get down to the pixel level in "grey" there seems to be random colors which smooth out under less magnification. I've never noticed that it was a particular drawback - in fact I never noticed it 'till you mentioned it. The first examples look ok!
Sorry for having brought it to your attention! *8) I don't know why I noticed it so forcefully right at first; probably the kinds of pictures I was taking. I doesn't seem to be simply a low-light thing; the last two pictures on the page from the weekend for instance (sunset on the back steps, and lights in the parking lot) are in pretty low light, but even at full resolution I don't think there's much schmutz. So it's something subtler (and, apparently, often avoidable).
A lazy reader writes:
please to tell us what kind camera is it again?
It's an Olympus C-700 UltraZoom. Please write that down (Operation I've Told You Three Times).
At this point readers begin to get silly:
To your extra-noisy sensor, say the following in a loud voice: "Hey! Ya wanna shaddup ferasecond? I'm trine take a pitcher heah fercrissake!"
Another reader writes, right there in the comment box of the question about digital cameras:
GROUND ZERO AND THE SAUDI CONNECTION
which is perhaps a mistaken search attempt, perhaps some odd form of spam, perhaps an attempt to drag us back into harsh reality from the comforting folds of our digital images.
Speaking of comforting folds, someone who may be Nicholas Urfe writes:
By the way. Go read "Your Name Written On Water," for a good naughty story charge that also makes you think, and not just in a "gee I'm deviant like de Sade" kind of way.
Thanks! It's now on the Wish List (with seventy-odd other things). Although it sounds kind of Sad.
Back to silly again, a(nother?) reader writes:
Edges of what books? I'm inclined to go with option d) your real life eyes need adjusting. This camera apparently shows things the way they really are!
Funny you should mention my real-life eyes! Just this morning at the Gym ("Lifting heavy things gives you strength! (Despite being really really boring!) Strength Crushes Enemies!") I dropped my very old glasses on the tile floor and the frames (frames? frame?) broke.
So now I'm wearing new (and much lighter, having plastic lenses) glasses, and my beard and moustache are nicely trimmed (because I had to wait around the Mall for an hour while they made the new glasses and there's a trimming place right near LensCrafters) and I have the latest issues of "High Times" and "Heavy Metal" and a few Tomb Raider collectible cardgame cards.
Oh, and also a new wallet, which despite being exactly the same as the old wallet, right down to the logo, doesn't have nearly the capacity for random useless cards (not having been gradually stretched over the years by the addition of random useless cards). So I've removed from my wallet the following things (I was going to list these, then I decided not to because I'd already babbled on too long, and then I decided to again because I like babbling on):
One card from Cybersmith, an early Internet Café sort of thing that let you buy computer time and keep it on your card. This card probably has a few dollars of computer time on it, but I suspect Cybersmith is defunct (hint: the card contains no URL),
Wasn't that interesting?
Maybe tomorrow I'll tell you about using the camera as a diskette, and Mrs. Justine Rachidi.
The mysterious Microsoft.com page that I discovered awhile back has been enhanced. Now you can exercise mostly-undescribed "Best Bets" and "ListCacheBB" forms, and view long stack traces as the underlying applications throw exceptions!
Mister Language Person returns:
Let's see how these elements combine to form this example sentence, written by Marcel Proust:
So, this digital camera stuff. I'm considerably happier with the camera today than I was yesterday. It looks like a good replacement for the family 35mm film camera used for casual heartwarming snapshots, vacation pictures, portraits of relatives, and the occasional art-shot of a tub toy. It can play that role very well, producing snaps that will look very nice printed (by a color printer, or good old Mystic) at 4x6 or 5x7.
It also has lots of advantages over the old camera in that role. You can take umpty-zillion pictures without wasting any film, and only print the ones you like. (We've taken about 350 in the last two days, ten or twelve rolls of film, and we don't feel a bit guilty!) You can take 128 (or 256, or even more) pictures on a single SmartMedia thing, without having to stop and fiddle. You can see the images instantly, you can get them onto the computer instantly for manipulation and elaborate digital forgery. And so far, it doesn't seem to eat batteries too horrifyingly fast.
In one setting, it's a real simple point-and-shoot camera. Turn the little knob, and now you can play with whitebalance and stuff. Turn it more and you can play with the aperture, the shutter speed, the ISO number of the virtual film. In the limit, you can set everything including the focus yourself. It can take three pictures in sequence at different brightnesses so you can decide which is best, or it can just keep taking pictures as long as you hold down the button. It can take movies and record sound (I haven't gotten around to trying that yet!).
So we're having lots of fun.
Now the next question is "Can it take breathtakingly clear 1600 by 1200 pictures where every pixel is exactly the right color, that will look great blown up to 8x10 or 11x14?". The answer to that seems to be "probably, sometimes".
It can do it pretty well if there's lots of light. Here's a little snapshot of some Scenic Trees:
It looks good at snapshot size (or at least as good as you'd expect from the extremely casual way I took it). Now let's look at the actual pixels at 1600 x 1200 size. That looks pretty decent, too; it's okay that it's blurry, since it was a long way away, but all the pixels are at least the right color. If I'd put the camera on a tripod and adjusted the various expert-like parameters right, it'd probably look even better.
(Forgive the random scattering of images around this page; I'm not very good at these inline-image things. Images are usually confined to the lefthand border.)
Now here's a snapshot in much lower light: a bit of a slightly messy room:
This also looks as good as I deserve it to look as a snapshot, but look at this detail of a couple of the books. Now in real life the edges of the pages of these books are pretty uniform white, with maybe some fine grey shadows. They are not a riot of pale red, pale green, pale orange, pale blue all writhing together in a sort of confused paisley texture.
This nasty texture, which I call Schmutz, shows up in many of this camera's low-light pictures when viewed at full resolution. It even shows up in some flash pictures. I don't think it's a compression artifact, because it showed up in the one uncompressed TIFF test shot I took. It's pretty much absent from the daytime outdoor pictures I've taken; but it's in nearly all of the casual interior shots I took last night. It disappears when these are shrunken down to snapshot-print size, so I'm not too enraged. But I do wonder.