Friday, June 27, 2008

JMO - Judicial Activism

The very words ("Judicial activism") the conservative and religious right like to say when the state and federal courts and especially the Supreme Court issues a decision don't like or disagree with, such as abortion rights. Well, the same works both ways, whether they like it or not, we can do the same, say when it's not right.

The Supreme Court in their 5-4 decision striking down Washington D.C.'s 30 year old gun ban overstepped their rights to assume the Constitution allows each and every citizen the right to own guns. Yes, I know, the decision was only about one law, and all the rest will have to be sorted out through the courts, but they opened the door for anyone to challenge any laws governing, and especially restricting or limiting gun ownership.

We're headed into a old, er. wild, west mentality, and it's dumb and stupid. And those five Justices are both when it comes to respecting and protecting the rights of citizens not to be killed by someone who wants to own and use a handgun because he can and will when it suits him. Sure, he'll commit a crime doing so, but then it won't matter to the victim, will it? They'll either be dead or in serious condition, their life changed forever by the hand of a gun owner.

Is this what those five Justices wanted and wanted to say to Americans? We don't care about your freedom to be safe?

We all know the problems illegal handguns and weapons have brought on America and Americans. And now we have the legal handguns and weapons too to contend with in our lives, just wondering if someone who thinks it's cool to own and use a handgun might decide to use it for no reason other than his imagination of a threat?

The D.C. law had a good effect in reducing handguns and the associated crimes and violence from handguns. And now one stupid asshole decided he wanted one in his home because he felt threatened? How about supporting better police and law enforcement? No, you just want to shoot anyone on your property?

How is this decison going to reduce crime? How will it make the rest of citizens who don't own or want to own a gun feel? Safe and secure in our community? About our neighbors? About people we visit? Do you think criminals are going to think twice about entering a home because the people may have a gun and use it? It hasn't stopped them yet, so how and why will more guns help?

This was the worst case of judicial activism I've seen in many years. And the dumbest by supposedly smart and wise men. I guess I thought wrong. They're neither, just arrogant.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The death of a lab

I read today's Seattle PI about the sale of Ivey Imaging, or rather the closure of the business and the sale of the digital equipment to a graphics company. I don't, as many photographers here do, get why. Ivey Imaging was the last and the best digital/film lab and print service in the Puget Sound.

I had my only award winning photo printed there. I've had a lot of other prints made and many rolls and sheets of film processed there. They were good and affordable. Now we here don't have a lab left in business for which will do all films, namely B&W, E-6 and C-41 roll and sheet film processing and print to any size you want. They weren't always the cheapest, but they were always the best.

And now they're gone. For what? The buyer didn't buy the business, they wanted the equipment, but only the digital equipment. The film lab which was profitable (why not, it was the last in the area) wasn't a consideration in their plan. It's simple gone, and all the customers are left to find a new lab, the closest in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

But wait, they bought the company's customer list too. Gee, a ready market for their new digital printing service? After all the buyer is a tradeshow banner and graphics company. All I can say, which I doubt will happen, is I hope they don't contact me (being on the list, ok, an incidental one). They will get an earful.

And so, photography here changes as in all major cities as film labs and print services quit, left to the ever shrinking on-line services and home production. Does it effect me? Like the lower shelf in my refrigerator and vegetable drawer is full of 35mm and sheet film. Ya think?

I hope the employees who lost their jobs the best. They were cool and great people. They deserve better. And the rumor another company may be interested in the film lab? Well, photographers are always full of hope. How else do you think we look at a fresh roll of film?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

JMO - The Truth be told

As they say, "Timing is everything." Well, almost everything, but for George Bush it is everything. As we slowly find out the truth behind his presidency, all the corruption and secrecy is coming into the light. He can't get out of the White House fast enough. And I hope more and more comes out to show what a real asshole and liar Bush was and what an enemy of our country Cheney was. They tried to steal our government for their own agenda.

Why the sudden rage?

Today the Washington Post has a story about an internal investigation of the Justice Department which showed a clear and consistent pattern of hiring only republicans into positions in the department based on the individual's political perspective than their resume. They hired attorney and employees to foster an extreme conservative, religious, corporate-friendly agenda. Plain and simple, they corrupted our Justice system at the top and throughout the Department.

The report says the selection commitee routinely overlooked or rejected resumes from well qualified attorneys who were described as democrats or independents, especially liberal. And they rejected anyone with ties to any organzation, such environment, human rights, civil rights, etc. solely on the basis of their affliation. And then selected republican attorneys with lesser qualifications.

Today the New York Times reports the White House refused to open and read an e-mail from the EPA with the documents they intended to release that would define greenhouse gases as pollutants and subject to regulation by the EPA. That was last December! And now the EPA is releasing a new version of the same document which say greenhouse gases "may" be pollutants but not necessary to regulate.

And we will never know which energy corporate executives were friends of Cheney and participated in his energy task force. And we will never know what was said and what was done, but we do know now that their meetings in 2002 were part of the strategic plan for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We know the war in Iraq was about oil for the Administration's corporate friends. The rest of the reasons were for public dissemination. They weren't the reason, just the explanation and now the excuses.

But we know now it was all a pack of lies. And we've been slowly learning this over this last year or so.

And we know the Homeland Security Administration isn't about security, but about coercing money from Congress, our money, in the name of national security to displace the Contstition, our civil rights and liberties, with control and surveillence. Control at the airports, which aren't useful or productive (no one has ever been arrested, indicted and convicted for being a terrorist through the airport/airline passenger and baggage searches).

And we know while proposing "tax saving" measures to cut social services they're spending unreal amounts of money on the miliitary and wars. We've become a military society with the look of a republic. We're spending $10-12 Billion per month for everyting associated with the two wars. And we know $ Billions have been lost or unacconted for in Iraq, much of it in cash, now in the hands of corporate exectuives, corrupt Iraqis and the various groups we're fighting. We're funding both sides of this war.

I could go on and on, but the more we know, the more we discover just how focused and corrupt President Bush and Vice President Cheney was, and both lead a corrupt White House Administration and Federal government with their politiical appointees.

Ok, enough of Bush-bashing. How about Schwarzenegger? He ok'd a deal to delay the overdue payments from Tribes for Casino taxes, currently at $30 Billion in arrears, to next year and only making payments on the debt. This after a Tribe contributed $45,000 to an initiative cause backed by Schwarzenegger just last month.

What's that about timing?

Such is life these days. History seems to keep coming back to bite Bush where he sat and made his decision about lying to the American people. I hope more comes out and he leaves office with a lot of it on his face.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

JMO - Floods and CNN

I watched the story on CNN about the flooding in Gulfport, Illinois (article and video), and listening to you would think FEMA can't do anything right for the flood victims. And while I'm not a great fan of FEMA after the Katrina disaster, both the hurricanes and FEMA's reaction and help, or lack of it, but in this case FEMA is entirely right and CNN simply screwed the story every way but right.

And why you ask?

For one I've studied floods and flooding on and off since my graduate school years in the middle 1970's and I researched the history of the flood insurance program when conducting a natural hazard perception study of the Skagit River in northwest Washington. And with my work as a hydrologist with the USGS, I worked with local water rersourece and emergency management agencies for the collection, production and dissemination of real-time streamflow data.

In short, I'm knowledgeable and experienced enough to see the flaws in the CNN story.

For one, the FEMA representative is correct in that the law only specifies actions for the 100-year, or 1 percent flood event, namely that communities be provided flood inundation maps for that flood event, that communities ensure the development and implementation of flood managment and mitigation plans for federal disaster funds, that mortage and loan institutions only provide loans for homes and property in the inundation zone with flood insurance, and that real estate agents and brokers advice buyers of the need for flood insurance with the mortage before they buy the home and property.

Anything more extreme than the 100-year flood is not covered in the law, and is outside the control of FEMA and the federal government. So if a community, like Gulfport, has leeves for the 500-year, or 0.2 percent, flood event, none of the rules apply. It is up to the property and home buyer to determine the risk and get flood insurance at their expense. No one, including the local government or FEMA has the obligation or responsibility to tell them, or even alert them.

And when a leeve of this level of protection breaks, it's not FEMA's fault the town got flooded and it's not FEMA responsbility to write checks for the loss of home and property. And for the reporter to insist the government failed is wrong, completely wrong. It's the risk they took living in a community with such flood protection and the consequences they got when it failed. Not the government's.

What didn't they see and understand about living behind a high leeve holding back a really big river?

It is not the responsibility of the taxpayer to bail out those people in Gulfport. And it is disingenuous of the reporter to imply it is. But apparently the reporter decided the truth wasn't essential to the story. I'm sorry those people were flooded, but they knew the risk and chose to live there, and they knew flooding was a possiblity where insurance would have helped. But did they ask? No, they expected to be told.

And when faced with the reality the government didn't have that obligation, they chose to vent through the media, specifically CNN and this one uninformed reporter.

And why just to the 100-year flood event?

During the 1960's when the debate was going on in Congress and the federal government qbout flood insurance, it was hard to force the insurance companies, mortage brokers and loan companies, and the home and property owners to agree to flood insurance in the first place since the federal government had written full damange and recovery checks to everyone and every community, and to require all of them to help foot the bill wasn't easy.

And at the time the scientist said that the best statistics could only reasonably accurately determine a 100-year flood event and the best mapping could only resolve the inundation depths of a 100-year flood to plus/minus three feet. And when tasked with mapping the inundation areas, the Federal government got earfuls at meetings to reduce the area or move the line within the floodzone to remove homes and property from the requirement for flood insturance, and that was by the home and property owners too.

So, the 100-year flood event was the best case compromise, where people agreed and science could accommodate. And it's been fought ever since to raise it by the very same groups of people who fought it then but then cry foul today when flooded, the home and propetry owners. Why? Flood insurance, althought subsidized, isn't cheap, and few home owners like writing checks for what they see isn't necessary, until it floods.

In short, home and property owners want the federal government to bail out their stupidity. Harsh but true. I heard it over and over in my research and over and over in other news stories, namely it's not their fault they live in a flood zone, and it's the government's responsibility to pay for it anytime they get flooded. Sorry, that's what flood insurance is for, not my checkbook. And it's especially true in the case in the story.

The town was protected by a 500-year flood leeve, eliminating the requirement to inform home and property owners and to mandate flood insurance. And it wasn't the community's responsibility to have a flood management and mitigation plan to receive federal funds. So should the federal government pay for a leeve failure caused by a flood?

These are the same people flooded in the 1993 Mississippi floods. They knew what happens and what could happen? And that's not stupidity? And we should pay for it again? Sorry, stand in line behind the Katrina and other disaster victims, they're well ahead of you waiting for their money. At least there we know with Katrina FEMA, the Corps of Engineers and the President were the stupid ones and deserve to be held accountable, but weren't. Here they weren't.

But being an election year, and in the Midwest, it won't surprise me if Congress passes a recovery bill to help and by this fall, they'll get their checks to rebuild in the same place again with a new, rebuilt leeve protecting them. Any bets they opt out of flood insurance for the 500-year flood event with the home and property insurance because it's too expensive?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ads on Websites

One of my favorite Web sites is It's probably one of the, if not the, best Website for photography. I started being a member and later a subscriber 10 years ago. I value the work of the Website folks and the value of the members, many who are international photojournalists and professional, commercial and serious photographers. For an ordinary photographer like myself, it's a goldmine.

So, why the column? Well, a few years ago they began using ads for the revenue to help offset the costs of the operations. Running a Website isn't cheap with hardware, software, networks, Internet connections, and lastly people. Many of folks are part-timers and volunteers, such as the moderators for the different catagories in the community forum. I felt my subscription was helping while getting more in return from the members.

In short, it's a great bargain for so little. In October of last year, NameMedia bought While they promised providing new financial resources wthout interferring in the work of the Website, I was, and still am, one who believes that promise won't last long, at best a year, before members and users begin to see changes that involves more than the workings of the Webiste and current member information.

Anyway, my complaint is about ads on Websites. Every Website design books and professional recommends you minimize the amount of other Websites content on your Website. That's impossible in this day of ad revenue from Google, Yahoo, and other big Websites which generate their revenues from the proliferation of ads. But you certainly can try to minimize it and its impact on users viewing your Web pages while maximizing the revenue.

Somehow, though, I think the idea of the money escapes Website folks, and that balance gets lost or tilted toward revnue than toward members and users. It's the old adage, "It's all about the money." And personally I think has been tilting that way, where the ads are getting more pronounced and more prolific. And often the ads interfer with the downloading and display of the actual content.

If you look at the Website feedback forum you'll see a consistent pattern of complaints about the ads, and specifically a few ad servers which either delay or halt the download and display of the content of the Web pages. This has been my experience almost every day, and the reasons are due to the load from the ad servers. I believe this as has new Web servers which has dramatically improved the download speed.

The problem is all that speed and performance is useless if the Web page has to wait in the middle for the ad server to deliver the ads. You can overcome this by restricting the images from ad servers, specific domain ids, as some browsers allow you to do, but that's only some browsers and that doesn't block images or ads from other Websites which the originating Webserver only provides throughput and can't be blocked because the originating domain is lost or hidden.

And my point? Ads and the revenue from ads is addictive, and it seems it's prevaded But from their perspective, can I really criticize them, especially if I were in the same situation? Well, it seems the purchase of the Website has a corporate interest for its 600,000 members (however the number is over 2 million registered) and it's obvious some people who worked hard in developing the Website got a nice check for it. I can't fault them for that, I would do the same.

I can, however, fault them for going down the road of being less member focused and more revenue focused, or so it seems at times when you waiting for the Web page to finish loading because the ad image won't load. And it's why my Website, small and obscure as it is, is and will be ad-free. Whilie I still recommend and access it quite a few times per week, I would caution people about the ads, be patient or just hit stop and reload if the Web page display slows or halts.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

NPR - Solstice Thoughts

Well, at a minute before 5:00 pm yesterday (PDT) the summer solstice occurred and the earth began its orbit back from one extreme to the other next December. It's a day here in paradise where there are a lot of events, including the famous Fremont Fair, famed for its outragous people, many nearly nude, and for its eclectic sense of itself with the fair at Gas Works Park. Here in paradise people take the solstice as an excuse for forgetting yourself.

Anyway, I'm also a fan of Formula One having watched races in the early 1960's in Germany. And this weekend is the French Grand Prix. Sadly, it's not always a good race as there is little passing and most of the winners were from the first row of the grid and almost all from the first two rows, meaning where you start matters where you finish, especially if you want to win. And then Ferrari is the favored and favorite.

Besides being a good car, Ferrari is noted for getting favors from the officials running Formula One since they know as Ferrari goes so goes Formula One. It's unfair as the other competitive teams, McLaren, Renault, BMW, etc. don't seem to be as competitive this years as with most year (yes, Ferrari did have some bad years, mostly when McLaren, Lotus, etc. had better engineers and equal drivers). Is sad that Formula One is Ferrari and everyone else.

Don't buy the favoritism? Well, when Lewis Hamilton hit Kimi Raikkonen's car in the Canadian GP he was penalized 10 spots this weekend, but when Kimi hit Adrian Sutil's car, he wasn't penalized. I've seen track marshals and workers help a Ferrari driver which was illegal under the rules and then refuse to help another car, when they go off and need/want help getting restarted or pushed out of the sand.

When a McLaren engineeer got the design specs. for last year's Ferrari, McLaren lost all their team points and paid a $100 Million fine. When Ferrari hired another McLaren engineer in the middle of the season last year, they weren't penalized at all. The engineer had for more information about the team and the cars than in the manual, but FIA, the governing board of Formula One, didn't nothing against Ferrari, only punish McLaren.

It didn't used to be this way, but started when Michael Schumacher became Ferrari driver and won 7 championships for himself and the team. There were years when Lotus, McLaren, Renault and other teams were dominate for a year or two, and Ferrari was competitive but not usually the winner. But since Michael, Formula One has been all about Ferrari, and the FIA gives them just that little bit of edge to be the dominant car every year now.

This was also true when there were two tire companies, now only Bridgestone. While Michelin had 6 or more of the teams to make tires for and had to balance the tires between all the cars, Bridgestone set up an engineering shop in Ferrari's team shop and specifically designed their tires for the Ferrari team and all the rest had to adapt and adjust to those tires. Now with Bridgestone the sole tire, there is more variation in the tires, but it still seems to favor Ferrari. It's a real "Hmmm..."

While it's still fun to watch, it's not fun knowing it's not a level playing field anymore with one favorite team who wins most of the races anymore, excepting the rare bad luck like the Canadian GP this year, and everyone else who's on the next lower level. This sounds questionable, but considering all the money in the sport with each of the teams, like Honda, Toyota, BMW, etc, and especially McLaren, why hasn't any team been consistently competitive with the Ferrari.

It's not all about the engineering. And it's not all about the edges each company and team tries to push the rules, but just maybe Ferrari is given a little more latitude near the edge of the rules? I think so and the race results show it.

Anyway, that's my rant for the day. And other thoughts.

Well, why is the public campaign reform program not working? When almost all the candidates forego public campaign money, they cry the program doesn't work. But didn't they develop and pass the program (through Congress), so they created a system and a program that they don't like, don't want and won't use?

This baffles me except it is a ruse to make it appear it's campaign reform when it's not really used?

And even John McCain who used it for the start of his campaign, then decided against it when he was getting more money than the program allowed. In short he used it to build his campaign and then left it when it worked. And when it was shown that violated the rules, he had to give the money back, the Federal Elections Committee who oversee the program, foregave him for this oversight.

The system they created is broken but they don't want to create one that works? Why? Money? They know the program they want we don't want, which is unlimited campaign financing and all the PAC and 527 groups you want, and the program we want, simple public financing and no PAC's or 527's, they and the lobbyists don't want. Big money wins. So they create a system and program to appear it's what we want then simply leave it on the shelf to do what they wanted anyway.

And they say our democracy isn't working. It is, if you're rich and only want only other rich people to participate and eventually control government to do even more for the rich. And the rest of us pay the bills.

This one I love. Remember the Democrats crying about the FISA law? And promising not to do what the Republicans, especially the President wants? And they said they would only vote for the return of our civil rights and liberities, meaning privacy and protection from warrantless surveillence and searches?

Well, they lied. And big time. The Democrats became the Republicans and voted for the Republican version of the FISA law. We lost everything, again. And we'll have a government uncontrolled and unfetterred in its ability to spy on us at will, and there will be nothing we can do when it happens.

It's not about finding terrorists. It's about spying on people. They used bait and switch to sell us fear of terrorists and got fear of our own selves. We are, in their view, the enemy of their government. It's not our government anymore, because we're have little protection and few rights against government surveillence and searches.

Overkill? Not really because all the government has to do is claim a suspicion of providing material support to terrorist groups and the judge doesn't have to see any evidence, but just the FBI's word we're suspects. And there is nothing we can do to stop the telecommunications companies from aiding the NSA, CIA and FBI from their surveillence. In fact they'll have to do what they ask or face legal problems of impeding and obstructing an investigation.

We have lost and losing more every year Congress meets and passes new FISA laws. And we won't get it back. Fear has won for both the terrorists and our govenment. It's never been about terrorism, because why else would our own government suspect all of its citizens being terrorists and need to conduct surveillence and searches at will without notifiying us?

Gee, lots of rants at life. Ok, have I said MySpace sucks now? I won't get into that because I have a MySpace Web page, but I rarely use it anymore. It's all hype and little content. It's like New York City tv comedy, all fluff and no stuff.

Ok, I'm done with Solstice thoughts. I'm working on small updates to the Website, namely learning to do a simple contact form Web page. Yes, I know, simple dumb stuff, but it was an interesting lesson.

And I found a 1896 report on Mt. Rainier's glaciers, but Israel Cook Russell. It is the first exploration of the glaciers on the Moutain, and written in that era style of nature and science writing. It's almost boring until you remember they had no roads, no modern technology, little navigation tools, modern clothes, etc., and ask yourself if you could do the same. I couldn't, but it's a great read with some interesting 1890's photos too.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why you can't win

I was reading about Firefox's new 3.0 browser (due 6/17/08) with its embedded color management system for viewing images. And as expected the argument ensued about what that really means to photographers to prepare images for viewing images on the Web. And thinking about that along with the workflow producing images, either scanning film or using original digital images, and realized you can't win displaying your images on the Web.

I say this for a number of reasons. I'm not the technically smart or experienced person to know the specifics, I read for the ideas, concepts, and logic, and read for details when I need to know something more or do something. But then I read enough to do or know what I want and move on. So, if you have issues with the statements, I'm open to learning more.

My point here? Well, no matter what you do to produce the images you want, you can't win in producing images which are the same with all the viewers and technology. Except in print. You can go from original image to print producing what you want and what everyone else will see, their own color-blindness notwithstanding. Anything else is at iffy to a point. Why?

First, one advantage to film was that it was there in its original format. It is what it is, the transparency or negative as it was exposed at the time. All the adjustments had to be made in the camera, mistakes corrected to some degree in processing. You used a variety of films and sometimes light adjusting filters for the light condition, but you were limited to the film's response and latitdue.

Digital cameras, especially the mid-level and high-end ones, have a lot of features and capabilities which not only encompasses almost all films, except infrared film, but also white/color balance, color temperature (light source), etc. In other words you have an almost infinite range of adjustments to capture the image. In addition you have the raw format which is just the original image information.

After that you now get the image into the computer, the tiff from the scan or the raw/jpeg from the camera. This is the initial digital file. With that you have the full orchestra of photo editor tools to do anything including pushing the image into the realm of art. You have fewer capabilities with jpeg images because they more closely match film, but with raw, it's unlimited.

And with that into the processed file you have the additional tools of color management. And this is where things can go wrong or into unintended consequences. You can control the choice of color for the display on your computer system and with your printer. You can even send color profiles with images to printers. But it's the Web that changes everything.

Why? For one, you're limited by the monitors display capabilities. It doesn't pay to produce images of higher quality than the monitor can display. It might make you feel good to do it but no one will see it. In addition, many older PC's and all pre-Vista PC Windows operating systems don't have the monitor callibration tools.

In addition, Web browsers use the computer's color management and display and can't be adjusted. In effect the photographer is stuck not knowing what computer and color system the viewer uses to display the images. The best you can do is use standard color management, usually sRGB, for your Web images and know that those with the correct color management and display will see the images correctly, and that's only if their monitor is calibrated. All the rest could and probably will display differently.

In the end, use standard tools and color management, be consistent and then leave the rest to the viewer. If they don't like it, it's not your fault, it's their computer, or their taste.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Photographers are not the enemy

I was reading Bruce Schneier's column on photographers and he hits the nail on the head squarely and with good force to describe why photographers are not the enemy. Why distinguish between a tourist, which any terrorist(s) would try to look and act like, and serious to professional photographers exercising the profession or make in living?

More and more photographers are being harrassed, detained and arrested, to be released later and never charged with any crime (becaue it's not illegal), and often they have been asked to surrender or destroy their film or flash cards. My incidents with authority pale in comparison to those the column above list with links to stories of working photographers, and to the abuse by law enforcement who don't understand let alone follow the law. Why police departments don't do more to inform their own officers is beyond belief.

Even a case in Seattle, when police falsely arrested a photographer photographing an arrest from a safe distance, was settled in favor of the photographer and the Police Department issuing new polices about the rights and the treatment of photographers. As long as we're not interferring with the Police's work or photographing in restricted or prohibited areas, we're free to work free from police interference.

The point that the column makes is that terrorists don't take photographs, and whatever planning they make, they use consumer level cameras to appear innocuous to everyone else, essentially blend into the crowd. They don't act like serious or professional photographers and they don't use mid-to-highend camera equipment. It's too much for what they need. That's the truth and reality that seems to escape the police.

And it escapes the police serious and professional photographers are their friends. We take thousands of photos and images which can help them if and when they need them. We're everywhere taking photos of everything. What's not to like with the sheer number of images available to them? And with all the surveillence cameras now in use, videotaping or photographing the same scenes or people we are, what's the difference? Just it's them and we're not?

And to all you tourists or locals who fear photographers, why? What is your fear of a photograph? It's a camera. Just a better one than yours, but still just a camera. It doesn't kill or hurt anyone, and the photographer is just another person like yourself. So why worry about us? If you bought a better camera and started being harrassed in public, how would you feel? You're just an innocent photographer, like us.

Get the picture?

And if you saw a friend who is a photographer or a photographer you've worked with, such as for family portraits, weddings, etc., doing street photography, would you suspect them? Would you think others should or would suspect them? No? So why suspect other photographer because you don't know them? We're all strangers until we meet, so what's the difference if we're a photographer?

Why does the camera and/or lens make the difference? If three people were taking the same photograph, one with a consumer point & shoot, one with a comsumer level DSLR and one with a professional level DSLR, what's the difference, who would be the suspected terrorist? Why would a terrorist buy a $3-8,000 camera and another $2-3,000 lens when a simple consumer camera with a built-in lens would do?

Get my point?

Photographers are not the enemy. Far from it, they're people who work in the photography field, have better equipment, and enjoy taking pictures. Nothing else.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Opera Browser

This is a warning about Opera (browser) and Macs.

If you have a Mac and want to install browser Opera, don't. Or at least check your Adobe software after installing Opera. Why? I updated my Opera version which had no problems to date with any other software package I have, including Adobe's Creative Suite and GoLive 9. But after updating, Some of them, especially GoLive, wouldn't start. It would open the opening window with the package and spin the rainbow icon stopping at "Loading Rendering Libraries"). Nothing else happened.

So after some time sorting out where the problem lies, meaning running disk utilities for permissions, uninstalling and reinstalling GoLive 9, and trying a few other things, I uninstalled Opera, and lo and behold, everything worked and my Mac ran slightly faster. If you have any problems, you can simply remove the Opera applications and the libraries in the user directory (search for folder/file names with the name Opera), and restart the Mac, and everything should work again.

And yes, an e-mail has been sent to Opera about a bug in the latest version, to which I won't use again. Sorry, I paid good money for GoLive and like it, so it's not a choice of which to jettison from my Mac.

So my advice now? Don't use Opera browser or beware it has bugs that conflict other package and effect your Mac.

NPR - My Father

Father's Day is this weekend. My father died November 8, 1994, just two days past his 75th birthday. In his later years of life, after a quintuple heart bypass, which the cardiologist said would only extend his life a year, two at most, he set three goals in his life, to pay off the 30-year mortage to his home in Aurora, Colorado, the first and only home my parents every bought and then owned, to celebrate the 50th anniversary with my Mom, and to see his 75th birthday.

And the morning after this birthday, he didn't get out of bed. He fell into a semi-conscious state and died the next day. He didn't recognize anyone around him and he kept having conversations with people long dead. My sister and brother's children were there and try as they may to say goodbye to their grandfather, he didn't even recognize them. My Mom was saddened that he, the man she spent over 50 years with, didn't even recognize her. I doubt she ever got over it, until she died in 2006.

So what can I say about Father's Day? Not much because I was estranged from Dad and he was enstranged from us kids. He kept to himself for the entire time we grew up. He was an Air Force officer with a career goal in mind, which I suspect he didn't quite get there, retiring one rank lower than he wanted, as is the politics in the military. When we were in Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, he wanted to be a full colonel, but that wasn't in their plans.

So he agreed to transfer to Germany, get the promotion to lieutenant colonel, and retire with 23+ years. I can't argue with the time we had there, it was great for a kid to live there in the early 1960's. And while he made time for some events in our lives, he mostly spent the time working. I can only really thank him for the trips to auto races in Germany and France, seeing international Formula and sports car races and some of the greatest drivers in the world.

It was at one of those races I pretty much lost any interest my Dad had in me, and really more of anger and maybe even hate. It's a long story but my brother and I were horsing around and caused a pot of hot water to spill into his lap as he was making dinner for us on the last night there. He was taken to a local hospital, but he blamed and never forgave me. I can understand but can't understand. Aren't parents supposed to love you?

Anyway, he was also a little angry at Mom when we left Germany. He was being transferred to the States to retire (requirement). Mom wanted the family to go home, visit the folks (both) and then move to Colorado. But Dad had a lucrative job offer to work in London with a significant pay raise in the same field of security. Mom threatened to take the family home if he took the offer.

I'm not sure if she would have done that but Dad decided to decline the offer. My brother and I agreed with Dad. Having lived in Eurpore for half my life then I liked Europe and wanted to grow up in London and England. And Greg was in his first year of college so he could transfer anywhere and also liked living in Europe. I don't know what my sister wanted, but it always seemed Mom was the only one who wanted to go home.

After we travelled around and settled in Denver, Dad found a job with the Civil Service as an entry level property manager. Over the years he rose to a GS-1, a grade lower than he wanted, but always took pride in his work. Then when faced with some extensive surgeries his boss told him to retire instead. Again, faced with the choices, he didn't meet his own expectations. And in retirement, he rarely did anything as his ailments and conditions simply caused his body to slowly quit.

Over the years after I was kicked out of the house, we rarely spoke and mostly his advice was do what you're told and don't complain. What could one expect from a career civil servant? He rarely spoke about me with the other kids, let alone having done some of the first thing in our extended family or to accomplish some career goals.

He never understood why I went to graduate school to get a Masters degree in geography, and when I sent him the thesis, he put it away and never mentioned it again. When I was promoted to a GS-12 he didn't say anything. Only when Linda and I divorced, the first in the extended family did he mention I didn't do enough to keep the marriage together for the sake of the family.

The last time I saw him was a year before he died and less than a year after his heart bypass. He was so self-absorbed he didn't really notice much except just living. He looked, as they say, like death warmed over, as I learned the next year when Mom called to say he passed away.

In the end, Dad lived with his own demons, from his time at home in the late 1930's before he joined the Army during WW II, and he took them with him. I'm sorry he never learned to express himself. It was his personality but he missed the opportunity to be a father and a dad.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Updated MPG V2.1

Click on photo for Photo Guide

I've updated the Mt. Rainier Photography Guide (click on image above), nicknamed My Photo Guide (MPG), now version V2.1, with a Sun & Moon information Web page for sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset, and sun and moon azimuth. It's an initial draft version and will go through some reviews, edits and updates for awhile. I hope this helps photographers visiting Mt. Rainier NP, and you're always welcome to send e-mail with suggestions, questions and problems.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

NPR - 4:00 am conversation

I've written before that sometimes I wake up around 4:00 am, make some coffee and sit on the deck watching and listening to the early morning, and holding a conversation with myself. I like to free think as they say, conduct a wandering and varied train of thoughts, which sometimes leads me to some interesting and often helpful conclusions or ideas about my life, some decisions I'm thinking about and some things I'm going through.

Today was another except I woke up at 3:30 am, so 4:00 am had to wait a bit. Being near the summer solistice, light comes early, starting about 4:30-5:00 am so I get to see the slowly fading night and the slowly approaching day. This time it's about something I'm going through. It's like a bridge over a wide, deep canyon that doesn't appear to be secure or safe, where only the ends are holding it up. And my thoughts?

First you have to start, then you have to transistion over it overcoming your fear of it failing and you falling into the darkness below. Second, you have to reach the halfway, the top of the arch, to see the rest of it to the other side. This I knew. But lastly, which I didn't fully realize, is that once you get a ways up the depating side, you have to burn that end, and you have to hope the bridge stays up.

Because you can't see what supports the bridge, only the ends. What supports it is your faith in yourself. That faith doesn't necessarily have to be stout or strong, just enough to get you over the canyon to the other side and on with your life. The bridge will wobble and sway, that's the reality of being on a bridge in the world today, the winds of time and the forces of events aren't always soft and gentle. They're all too often like a thunderstorm in the desert or a major storm hurtling through the mountains.

And you don't always have to walk. You can stop, take some breath, get a rest, look at the scene and ponder the world from where you're at then and there. But you have to know you can't and don't want to go back. That's not a choice, only going forward at the pace that works for you. And only you know that pace. It's your life and your choices, so everything has to fit into the whole of your life.

And sometimes you will walk backwards, looking at the past, where you've been and how you got there. That's ok too. There are handrails to guide you so you don't fall off. It's just that you can't think the past is also the future, and you can't walk back down to the original side. For you see, if you do, you'll always wonder, "What if I had continued...", and you'll never know. That's the interesting part of the walk.

You simply have to walk ahead and rely on your intuition and faith. The bridge will hold you. Even when you won't think it will.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

We will see

Every photojournalist and street photographer has had both good and bad experiences with police, especially those photographing crimes, police investigations or civil events like protests. And the police in some cities are notorious for their aggressive behavior with photographers. Their actions are never aimed at tourists taking travel or casual photos of places, family, etc., but always against the professional photographers.

While I'm just an ordinary photographer, I've had my good and bad moments with police. And occasionally with government workers and people. Some folks just don't like a camera pointed at them or even in their direction, and they often express it verbally and sometimes physically. It's all part of street photography in all its flavors. So, why the post?

Well, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) will issue a new policy on the conduct of police with photographers who are not impeding their work or violating their space or a crime scene, see article. This stems from an incident in which the SPD unlawfully arrested an amateur photographer taking pictures arresting a suspect.

I haven't photographed events where the possibility existed of clashes with the police or photographed the police involved with suspects or other people in the performance of their job. At least not outside the routine stuff they do at event or situations where they're there to watch auto and pedestrian traffic, such as a parade, street work, etc. It's always when they've been very informal with the public so I've been given some leeway.

The ACLU in Seattle has assisted a number of photographers over the years who were falsely arrested or had their equipment illegally confiscated, and is involved in the new SPD policy.

What baffles me though is the shortsightedness and narrowmindedness in the arguments for threatening, hassling and arresting photographers, for a number of reasons.

First, almost everything visibly public has already been photographed and available through the Internet, the media or in books, so why bother photographers doing it again?

Second, photographers aren't terrorists. No photographer has been indicted and convicted for terrorism or providing material support to terrorists.

Third, police should ignore them and focus on their job. If they did, they wouldn't have to worry about photographers, except those who get inside crime scene areas or in the way of the police, then they're free to arrest them.

Fourth, more photos help. When police need help with a crime, they often ask the public and the media for information and photos of any crime or suspects. So why restrict photographers?

Fifth, surveillence cameras and Webcams already exist. So, while the government is photographing everything and everyone continuously, citizens can't? Kinda' seems illogical to me.

Anyway, that's my thoughts on the issue. And we'll wait to see what the SPD's policy actually says and then if it's actually used by the officers.

JMO - Learning from history

I was reading the reviews of Scott McClellan's book and listening to some of his interviews, the perfunctory media tour to promote the book. While it's fair to say his book is overdue and late to the scene of bashing the Bush administration for the runup and selling of the war in Iraq, it's important to note it was necessary and helpful. And reading the critics of him and his book I came across a point that people are making which is wrong.

Remember when Bush pushed the runup and selling of the war off the table by implying what's been done is done and we can't go back to redo it? And remember when he said it doesn't matter anyway becasue it's always about the future? Remember the sequence since the 2003 State of the Union address for the reasons for the war? They changed annually as the past ones became obvious lies. But Bush then and the critics now miss the point about history, and living it again.

Bush and many Republicans have criticized Congress for frequently going back to the pre-war intelligence and White House decisions and statements. And Congress is at it again this week, as senior Senators on both sides now are saying the intelligence was exagerated beyond reality. The White House in effect took to the intelligence to the local gas station and blew it up like you do an innertube for a day of floating dow a river on a hot summer day.

No one can fault the CIA for doing their best, and while you can fault them for their interpretation, you can argue that they were pressured by Vice President Cheney's office into rewriting the conclusions to make the threats appear bigger than they really were. The WMD's were simply the ghost under your bed, nothing in the light of cold, clear day. The White House clearly manipulated all of the intelligence to be what they wanted than what it actually said.

So, why is this important? One word, Iran. We need to know the history behind Bush, Cheney and the White House's case for the war because they can and likely will make a similar veiled case for the attacks on Iran, if they even decide to report it to Congress, going ahead with the attacks implying it's part of the war authorization Congress passed, until the dust has settled on the bombed out ruins of Iran's nuclear facilities.

Bush has the plans on his desk. The military has gone through all the iterations and scenarios, and they've written a plan which is the one on his desk. Let's not be stupid or naive here. It's the way it's done at that level of government. The military continuously plays war games and knows all the situations, circumstances and consequences. And they have selected ones written up for the President if she/he choose to pre-emptively attack and invade another nation.

So the real question isn't if the plan is there, but what option Bush will take and when. He has 6 months to do this. Does he want to support Isreal attacking Iran's facilities with US Navy and Air Force intelligence and help during the attacks? Or does he want the US forces already there to do the job? And when, before or after the election?

Whatever the case, I'm betting he plans to bring John McCain up to speed so he can use it politically in his campaign. I doubt he'll bring Obama up to speed except after the attacks. That's how much Bush and especially Cheney hates the Democrats. And I'm betting Condi Rice will be on the stump before bullshiting everyone as she does about the threat but the military option isn't on the table.

So history is more important than ever these days. We need to know how Bush, Cheney and the White House lied about Iraq so we can see how they're lying about Iran. Because if we don't, the events will happen with the unanticipated results from shortsightedness of the White House, Bush and Cheney edging toward the exit door of their time, and we'll have to clean up another one of their really big, dumb messes with our lives and checkbook.

I for one don't want that. We're paying too dearly for Iraq with little to show, and I don't want to put the military there at risk when Iran decides to retaliate. It will be a costly, bloody war for real this time. And we'll be the bad guys in the eye's of the world. And George will think he's the hero.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

JMO - The Race is on

Ok, Barack Obama and John McCain are now the Democratic and Republican, respectively, candidates for President. The real show now starts with each party's convention being the party to energize the staff, supporters and hopefully the voters. And the real campaign hype will officially start with the positive and mostly negative ads about and towards each candidates, along with all the positive spin about their own candidate's words and records and the negative spin about the other candidate.

The real question to me, though, is, will we really learn anything new about them. And will we really learn who they will be as President, what kind of people they will appoint as their cabinet secretaries and directors, how they will govern the White House and the federal government, and how they will represent the US and interact with other nations and their respective leaders. Will we know this by November 4th?

Me thinks not, or at least for now based on past Presidential campaigns. The best example is both campaigns for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. Did anything that he said, in ads, or in the debates really tell you anything that has happened during his Presidency? What happened to the "compassionate conservative", the "uniter", and all the other stuff he sold himself? Did we really ever get any ideas if Al Gore or John Kerry would have been better Presidents than they were portrayed by their party and denigrated by the Republican party?

Do we really know John McCain? I watched his 2000 primary campaign and I was impressed with his record and his position on issues. He was a real maverick in the party. I really wanted him and Senator Bill Bradley to win their party's primary and be their party's Presidential campaign. I would have voted for Bradley in the end, but it would have made a damn fine political campaign and debates, and either way, the country would have been different and far better than what has happened under Bush.

Anyway, we have about two months to the conventions. The only thing I want to hear is the choice for Vice President and who they will consider for their cabinet. All the rest is more of the same campaign rhetoric we'll be hearing more for their candiate and more negative against the other candidate after the convention. All the party's PACs have a 3 month window to research and produce attack ads. Gee, what a warm and fuzzy feeling I get with that thought.

But it is our political system, bad as it is. And it is bad. Not the worst it's been in our history, but the worst for the money, influence and tone, tune and tenor. And I don't see Congress ever changing it. If Senators McCain and Feinstein can't get a better law, then we're all sinking into the abyss of political campaigns.

And hopefully, we'll actually get a good President. Hell, anyone can't be worse than George Bush.