Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Technology and Cluelessness

I read the article in the New York Times about the new Lytro camera which will be on the market later this year or next. The camera eliminates focusing and simply becomes a true point and shoot camera. But what does it say about the photographer?

With all the innovations now standard in modern cameras from even cellphones ones to point & shoot to the consumer and professional rangefinder and DSLR's, you can simply do very similar things and with the tools in the newer image editor (note I make a distinction between photo and image), you can be the world's worst photographer and produce some of the world's best images.

Really? Well no, but the cameras eliminate all the thinking when you're standing there capturing the image (or taking the photo if it's film). This doesn't mean you can't plug your brain in, you can to the extent you want. It means you don't have to plug your brain in except to know where the shutter release is located.

The photo editors will correct for anything, and even create images by merging images, adding parts of other images or from nothing but your imagination. And shooting raw format, you can simply do more with all the exposure controls with exposure settings, light, color balance, etc. to export images for production to other media.

Those factors along with the development of autofocus, program mode (full exposure control), and automatic white balance (correcting for light source) and auto-flash controls since the 1980's, makes photography easy for everyone with little or no understanding of photography or even about cameras. Just turn it on and shoot, you, or rather the image editor, can fix it later.

And this new technology even adds to the path away from being a photographer to just taking photographs. Forget learning, just point and push the button. Don't worry, all the automatic tools in the camera and all the autocorrection tools in the photo editor will make you look like a professional.

Yeah, I'm being a curmudgeon. I was also new to photography, and yes, I used the latest technology (a Minolta SRT-101 camera) to avoid learning some of the "basic" skills all photographers were supposed to know. I still haven't learned it beyond the basics to shoot 4x5 film, and I still use technolgoy (light meter) to help there.

So I'm being more a traditionalist because there is one thing I do stick with in my photography, getting the best shot you can while you're standing there, whether it's in the field or in the studio. I always try to capture what I see and want, it reduces the post-production work in the photo editor from my own stupidity.

Yes, it's more work then and there, but it's also far less work sitting in front of the computer, and it affords me more time to tinker with the image for fun than for work to correct mistakes. I once spent a week to get one studio shot (shown here) to get the 4x5 film capture exactly what I wanted. It took nearly 200 digital (jpeg) images to get the one 4x5 slide which is what you see there, nothing different.

I won't argue the technology is good and worthwhile, I use it, just not to the extreme as possible, but I still rely on it when I don't have the time to think beyond the immediate needs or issues with a photograph or image. I'm just remarking that with each step something is being lost, and has been getting lost since the introduction of internal light meters in cameras.

Long would be the day a photographer had to use their knowledge and experience to guess the exposure, simply see, judge, adjust and shoot. It's all my Minolta SRT-101 had with its needle-matching system. Nothing else but that one technological advancement. And now my Canon 5D will do damn near anything with the right setting, which I've used automatic or program on occasion.

I'm only waxing nostalgia for nothing really. Only now you don't even have to think beyond looking and pushing. All the "photography" can be done in the camera or the photo editor, and even that is automatic now. And you can pretend you're smarter than you really are, or at least your images will appear like you do.

And this is where you see the difference. Just ask to the see the original photo (film) or image (digital). I won't argue that request would be met with disdain in the pre-SLR days when you took and develped the negative to produce the best print (eg. Ansel Adams). Those days went away long ago and you can always argue to see the original (positive) transparency (slide) with film as you can fudge the exposure there very far.

Which is what I shoot, only rarely B&W negative film. And all digital is transparency. So, in a way you can say, "Show me the original." I can, like the 4x5 slide mentioned above along with the one digital image I used for the exposure and flash settings. So yes, call me what you want, I'll keep doing what I'm doing and enjoying the personal challenge than leaving it to technology beyond the minimum, and certainly not without plugging in my brain.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Pledge

The current Pledge of Allegiance is as follows.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

This version was established in 1954 after the cold war fear of communism. Before that, the words "under God" was not in the pledge, ever. Yes, it wasn't there.

But with the new right wing, activist Supreme Court and the Republicans with the extremist Tea Party in Congress, the new Pledge of Allegiance is now as follows.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the corporate republic for which is stands, one corporate nation under a Christian God, indivisible, with restricted liberty for the people and justice only for the corporations and wealthy. May God have mercy on the rest of us.

Or so it seems with the Citizens United and the recent Wal-Mart decisions among others by the John Robert's activist, conservative Supreme Court and Congress reducing our rights, protections, liberties and justice for the sake of an imaginary war on terrorism, runaway corporate wealth, ever increasing lower taxes for the richest 1%, and war on the social entitlements and federal government.

So folks, when you stand and pledge allegiance to the flag and this country, make it for the people, of the people and by the people.

Friday, June 10, 2011

It's Official

I've been putting off getting a Washington State business license for several years now, but now it's official, I'm doing business as WSR Photography, a sole proprietorship (not a LLC which requires additional legal agreements to limit liability). Since I only do work for friends, some professionals and other folks on occasion, there won't be much, if any, income, as I tend to work for free if it's not too much or too many prints and I give card sets away.

I still have some more steps to go through, like registering the business with the county, but I can still work as the business while sorting out all the remaining steps. I will have to file routine financial and tax forms with the state, but that's ok considering the advantages of being business. Like I'm going to get rich. Yeah right.

And since all I do are photo cards set (boxes of 10 cards), occasional photo/image processing for friends and the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide, it won't involve a lot of time or trouble to report it to the state. But at least it's a start.

Monday, June 6, 2011

If only we had time

That's what the Secretary of Defense Gates said over the weekend about Afghanistan, "If we had more time, we could...", and he went on to talk about the goals which could, stress could than can, be accomplished. But all those goals are contingent upon too many other factors we have no control over in addition to expanding the war into Pakistan creating a new enemy.

The DOD (under)estimates the cost of the war in Afghanistan at $2B per week. Under meaning that's only direct operational costs, but not all the indirect costs for replacing all the miltary hardware damaged or destroyed there, the cost of all the veterans especially those with injuries and disabilities from the war, the cost of the CIA's operations, and all the contractors working there.

In short, it's far more than that figure and like the cost they reported in Iraq all these years, far short of the total cost we'll pay in the future (remember it's on the government's, er. taxpayers', credit card, the national longterm debt. Yeah, our kids will pay for this war one way or another.

But the point here is all the drawdown of troops are talking about are the 30,000 surge troops which deployed last year. And that's Secretary Gate's point. If only we had time at full troop strength with the sugre troops to secure the nation. Secure? We've had 10 years to fight the Taliban who's numbers are measured in the few thousands against our tens of thousands of troops?

If only we had time, as he said. And yet the generals have said we can't win this war there with the military, it's a poltical war too. The experts say it's not a political war as the Afghan government has had all the time, and lots of our money, to succeed and they've only succeeded in being one of the most corrupt governments today. And we're paying their bils.

As someone noted we're expected to pay $8B per year to train the Afghan army and national police in a country with less than $2B in annual income for the whole country, minus the drug trade of course which is paying the government and the Taliban. And that doesn't include the logistics and supplies for the Aghan army and national police.

After nearly tens years of this war and the last five years of hearing, "If we had more time...", time is up. Ding. The American people don't see an end to this war. They only see an big hole where all the money went with nothing to show except dead and inuried soldiers and so much political rhetoric you need chest waders to get through.

All the time in the world won't fix Afghanistan, or at least we and NATO can't. The Soviets tried and failed, and we'll try and fail. Only they can say to themselves for themselves, "If we had more time...", something we can't and shouldn't give them. Time is up. The little dinger long ran out of sound being pounded by the American people.

Afghanistan is exactly like Vietnam where there is no end, none in sight and none on the far horizon. We know, however, President Obama will not withdraw the troops except a few thousand for show, during his terms, assuming he's re-elected to 2016. He's committed to winning a war we can't win. It's LBJ's Vietnam and Bush's Iraq when they promised victory and never delivered.

We saw it, they didn't. We saw the reality, they only say the political issues about selling fear of the enemy, communism then and terrorism now. It's never been about either, as it's never been about terrorism in Afghanistan. We long pummelled Al Qaeda and we've hurt the Taliban, not completely but enough they're far less effective. And we see the reality there is no victory in Afganistan

Something President Obama won't deliver either. It will be a stalemate for years to come, our and NATO's, provided they don't leave earlier than expected, huge presence there, the Afghanistan's corrupt government with drug lords and Taliban as members, and the Taliban in Pakistan. And all the hopes Pakistan doesn't change to the worse or their people really begin to hate us more than they already do.

The rhetoric about, "It's for all those who have fought there.", doesn't ring true. It didn't in Vietnam and the war ended with a truce leaving all the soldiers wondering why we were there in the first place. In Afghanistan we had a goal, a real one, which Bush and Cheney exploited into another war with no real goal or purpose, only political rhetoric.

And now to say it's about our comrades isn't what this is about. It's not about our pride or our patriotism. It's not about admonishing the sins of Vietnam. It's not about us. It's about them and reality. We have to see that and make decisions for that, not our imaginary goals and purposes which have no end, just our idea, "If we had time..."

It's time the President, the Secretary of Defense and other in the military see it's time for a reality check, not one hoping and saying, "If we had time...", but one being pragmatic and saying, "You know, it's time we...", and give the American people a real timetable to leave, completely leave to say no more troops, no more money, no more of anything, you're on your own to sink or swim.

It's their nation, only they can build it, and must they should without us. The sooner the better for us.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

User Beware

Ok, that's the old adage and common sense, and applies to a lot of things, so what, prey tell, am I referring to here? Well, software for one. As I have noted on another blog I replaced my 2006 Mac G5 PPC, bought 3 months before Apple changed to the Intel chips to power their Mac desktop computers.

Yeah, bad timing, as I learned in 2009 when Apple announced that future versions of their OS-X would only be for Intel chip platforms, and then Adobe announced Creative Suite 5 would be for Intel chips with Snow Leopard (OS-X 10.6). In the summer of 2010 Apple released the last security update for the PPC's.

So, in December of last year I bought a new Mac Pro which should last another 5 years and recycled the PPC to the authorized Apple recycler in California for either some worthy customer or to be parted out. Hopefully the former since it was in excellent shape, only missing the HD's which I removed and now use as external HD's with the new Mac.

So six months later I have the new Mac where it will be minus the normal software updates or upgrades. And to monitor things I bought several software packages to keep track of the Mac and do various system level checks. They're all slightly different and have different tools and features, but one thing they all do which is necessary but irritating, and the point here.

Some applications install system or user level daemons not controllable by the user once installed, except to uninstall the software. This is necessary for monitoring programs, such as TechTool and Checkup, and for backup programs, such as Intego Backup Manager. When you restart the Mac or login (I never log out as I'm the only user), the bootup or login launches the daemons for these apps.

Ok, fine if you want to them to run, but they're only useful when you need them and not 24/7. But the key is you can't remove them unless of course you know OS-X at unix level, which I do but not that well. And you have to have root access, which anyone knows is dangerous. One wrong keystroke or return key and as Michael Waltrip said, "Something in the motor which makes it go broke."

My complaint? Well, one I can't control them, but more so, two, they're resource hogs, either with memory (one takes 400 MBytes of memory) and the other runs nearly continuously. My Mac can take it for both memory and cpu, so it's not serious, but just irritating that you have no control.

But then you don't anymore with Mac's. The software is running checks for a lot of things and almost all now need or use the Internet to send or get information, like updates, eg. Apple's App store and Adobe's updater. Most of the rest wait until you use them and they check the application's Website for updates or information or your registration on their Website.

In addition, these daemons aren't found in the login apps in the system preferences under accounts and login items, or found in the preferences panel or startup items folders. They're installed at unix level in some plist or other file which is read when you restart or login the Mac. And doing anything risks breaking them.

The advantage is that all of this is keeping your Mac informed and working when you're not paying attention or even concerned. Do I like the apps? Yes. So my rant isn't really an important one or even a big one, just an after thought when the applications is installed to realize you're stuck unless you uninstall it.

Such is life these days sitting in front of a computer.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Any guesses?

Well, as I've written on my life blog I've had digestive issues for several years now which was believed to be with all the symptoms very similar to Pseudomembranous Colitis, and specifically since last October when the whole system went south and never has returned to any sense of normal.

And all the GI specialists have said after the tests found everything "normal", not colitis of any form, was that, "It's IBS, age and diet. Get used to it." I suggested it was another abnormal normal bacteria, a lesser known one of the thousands in the gut. Like normal can't be abnormal, which is what Pseudomembranous Colitis is, except it's the only one known with an antibiotic to treat it, but not cure it.

Well, to show them I have photos now. So that's the Le Quiz de Jour, any ideas of what these are? Hints? Well, one, they're not food and stuff, and two, they're not supposed to be there. And so on to the images.

This is a host, or so it appears. The nodules extend out from the body of the host on tenticles which develop into the ones below.

And this is what they are fully developed.

All I can figure is they're a mass of something, bacteria or what I don't know, so the lines are open for comments or suggestions, including the obvious, "Yuck!"