Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thanks for Scaring Me

A month ago I was in El Paso with family, and there was a sandstorm. Not much of a one as sandstorms go, but it was the first one our children had ever seen. Brown sky, low visibility, bit of thunder. I went out to close the windows on our Bad Robot, brought down some tipsy-looking flower pots from on top of a low wall, and went into the house and had an idea. I took #2 out into the enclosed front porch to see the sandstorm up close.

He has a hangup about bad weather. He was scared for the first half-minute or so we were out there. His mommy sensed terror and tried to recall the child inside during my lecture explaining what was happening outside. I think she was scared of the storm also, and it didn't help that she said in front of the boy that they were not allowed onto the porch when there was lightning/thunder (when she was a child). I finally managed through sheer obduracy to shoo her back inside and keep #2 out on the porch with me. He was as freaky as ever about the dusty wind and thunder, but I kept explaining to him what was going on, and ended up telling him that, after the sand there would likely be at least a light rain and then everything would be covered in mud.

#2 went in. #1 came out and was almost entirely uninterested and unperturbed. She likely just wanted to see what all the fuss had been about with Mommy. She went back in, and after a moment or two I went back in. I went in to the room where #2 was watching a movie and right out of left field he thanked me for explaining to him what was going on. He said he felt much more relaxed. I about did a back flip and told him to go tell his mother what he'd just told me. He did, as my mind tried to recover from the shock of such immediate and obvious results.

Later, we had a sprinkling of rain, just enough to cover everything in muddy water spots.

Hatred and Fear have the same mother: Ignorance.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

So, What About It, VFD?

Next February, if the Republicrats don't take the Senate and maintain the House (with decisive majorities in both) there will either be another Deem-and-Pass shenanigans sessions to un-pass Obamacare, or sometime between now and the end of 2015 somebody will die in the fight over who gets to say if individuals must buy insurance. In a gunfight. Perhaps with some of those 16,000 new IRS agents and their new sawn-off shotguns.

You can't force some people to buy bygod-ANYTHING. If you try to force them to do what they don't want to do, they will use their own force right back. Why do you think small arms have been selling better and better every year when the rest of the economy is in a Depression?

I don't want a bloody war in my United States. The way things are going, however, one can almost hear the whine of attack helicopter engines spinning up . . . to go kill some "loud people" who just refuse to pay their penalty taxes.


Borepatch, a bit surprisingly, is giddy as a schoolgirl over how bad this decision is for the Democrats. We'll see.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

One Final, Really Final This Time, Final Traipse. Maybe.

A year and a half ago, the city (my The City) started clearing a local woods as old as the neighborhood. Trouble is, it is actually a clogged and overgrown drainage culvert. The residents raised a stink and the city stopped clearing the ditch. They promised to study the drainage and see if mature trees needed to be removed. My prediction at the time was: all those trees are going.

Well, the other day I drove by on my way home and I noticed a small change. Click the picture to see it full size and look closely . . . they all have orange X's on them.


I had mostly forgotten, but the woods in this scene (and in the link, above) are weeds. The soil is washed down from the houses on either side. These weed trees are growing in what used to be people's back lawn dirt. It SHOULD look like this:


Well today it looks like this:


There is a trail back in there calling my name. I want to walk it again before they slice the trees all out. We'll see. Maybe this time I'll stop long enough to get all the pictures in focus!

Next year it will probably be barren and in a few years it will likely be covered in a grass carpet like all the other culverts around here.

For now, they have left the stuff growing in the dirt near the edges of the concrete, including this:


I'm a Taker.

Are we a givers or takers community? Are we makers or consumers? -Alexandre Prokoudine

The GIMP development team broke my workflow and I ended up coming to an important conclusion: I am a taker. If it's free, I'll take TWO thanks. There is a very long thread full of much bellyaching, with a title that summarizes the content nicely: HATE the new save vs. export behavior. I too hate the change, for the sake of my own immediate convenience. But I appreciate the reasoning behind it. I will adjust my workflow until somebody makes a "we don't care about .xcf" plugin and then go right back to Save As > .jpg like I used to do.

Why? Because GIMP does most of what I want, mostly how I want, and it doesn't cost an arm, a leg, or even a toenail shaving. GIMP is FREE. As they say: WHADDYA WANT FOR FREE!? Pay for Photoshop or get used to the way the GIMP developers want you to work with their product.


If you have no idea what I am going on about, consider yourself fortunate. Seriously.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Different Stroke for Different Folks

Don't start caring about your photographs. Be happy with the pictures your telephone makes.


LensRentals has some highly informative articles. One of them was a guest post, which led me to Gray Photography. Gray Photography has some good shots and some good tips, so I started reading their articles also. I found some nice stuff like this long writeup explaining exactly how they were able to get a dramatic late-evening shot with zowie lighting during the afternoon, using flashes and camera settings.

Then I came found 7 Steps for Getting Great Camera Flare. Here is where we parted ways. Excuse me while I stomp on someone else's heart for a moment.

This, to me, is a bad picture. To my mind, a photograph is about the subject. The point of a picture is not to draw attention to the optical failings of your lens*. To me, this picture needs to be taken again without pointing the camera straight into the sun. Yes it captures a moment. Maybe it even looks like you were there. But a picture dominated by flare is a picture that sucks. People who don't know how to use a camera do this sort of thing and throw that picture away when they go pick up the prints. I might crop the bottom and try to process the flare out of the top, to at least salvage a bad shot and show the facial expressions without an orange glow all over the people. This sort of tomfoolery grates on me, like handycam-vibration intentionally induced in a movie camera to make it seem as if you were there during an earthquake or something.

Click through to this page and see what you think. I think the lady is crazy for thinking this sort of thing is great. She thinks it's great. Hence the title of this post.

image: Gray Photograpy

*unless you are Ken Rockwell discussing the optical failings of a lens

Saturday, June 23, 2012

One of These Days, Alice!

I have mostly gotten used to using the GIMP instead of Photoshop at home (workflow at work is blazing fast in my paid/licensed copy of photoshop on the workstation at work). I have almost figured out how to do all the things in GIMP that are second nature to me in Photoshop but GIMP does them differently. Mostly I can figure out a reason for the differences in GIMP. But not this one.

This was about to drive me straight up a wall. I wanted to make a composite image from three images, and leave all three images movable/editable separate from each other until I was happy with the overall result. But when I put the third image in the canvas the second would anchor itself. In Photoshop it makes a new layer automatically, and you anchor (merge) the layers when you're damn well ready. GIMP defaults to anchoring the previous images when you paste in a new one. Never mind that you have to copy/paste in GIMP but in Photoshop you can drag/drop from one image to another, we can deal with that. But automatically un-making layers sucks BALLS compared to automatically making a new layer. I dug and dug online and finally found somebody else's unrelated question answered in a way that answered my question. You have to paste the new image in, then make a new layer. The pasted image will be anchored to the new layer. This is a counterintuitive "feature" which has been implemented the right way in Photoshop for ever.

WTF, GIMP team? This is one more reason you still lag behind Adobe. That, plus the offensive name.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Transparency For Thee, but None For ME!

The morning that Attorney General Eric Holder was to testify (yesterday) before Congress, and was extremely likely to face a Contempt of Congress citation for failing to cooperate, the Department of Justice (which Holder leads) called the White House and was told they could claim Executive Privilege to prevent further disclosures in the Fast & Furious gunwalking cover-up investigation.

On Sipsey Street Irregulars, there is a report that one of the President's MOST influential advisors, who is in on literally everything important and who has the President's ear, is on paper as part of the scandal. Denis McDonough (remember that name, folks) is now outed as one of the people who heard the complaints coming in up the chain of command, that we were letting guns walk - and then the guns were still ordered to be allowed to continue walking. If this McDonough guy knew, it is very likely it was mentioned to the President face-to-face. If this guy knows the President knew, that is also possibly on paper somewhere. They don't just shred the e-mails like they used to. Somewhere, in a file or a hard drive, is a very interesting communication. But we don't get to see it (yet?).

We now have the Chief Executive claiming Executive Privilege to prevent disclosure by the Department of Justice of documents related to Operation Fast and Furious. His personal advisor is in on the Operation. We are officially ONE degree of separation from blaming the President himself for this illicit program. Conspiracy theorists may now be excused for going on and on about how the international-act-of-war-gun-smuggling-program-for-political-advantage-gone-wrong-because-it-was-found-out was truly known to Obama, if not directly his idea.

But don't be surprised.

I heard several people call in to Boortz's show today and say it (the F&F scandal) is just a conspiracy by the Republicans. A distraction.

Hold on there.

If it is a Republican invention, your boy just made a stupid move. This is the FIRST time in his entire Presidency that President Obama has invoked Executive Privilege as a reason not to have documents disclosed. But wait. Executive privilege is to protect disclosure of WHITE HOUSE communications. It is just not the way things are done, to have lower members of the Executive branch protected by Executive Privilege claims. What this privilege claim is telling the world is:
"I don't want you to know what I knew, when I knew it, and/or what I said, did, or didn't do about it. Piss off; you Republicans are not going to nail this one on me." -Barack Obama (paraphrased)
But you know what? This Privilege claim puts us only that single degree from Obama being in deep on Operation Fast and Furious. The last degree, if it can be closed, means that the President of the United States was responsible* for the illegal (by national laws on both sides and international treaty) smuggling of guns into Mexico, where hundreds or thousands of Mexican nationals were murdered. Furthermore, the drug wars were perpetuated by the use of these guns. And allowing these horrors to take place . . . was the whole reason for Operation Fast & Furious.

This is an act of war. On our nearest neighbor and one of our main trading partners. And he did it for domestic political purposes. The idea was that you would be outraged by the Mexican gun violence and demand tighter regulation of American civilian-owned guns. But then the gun smuggling (by the USA government) was found out - and then the reason for it was found out. And now we have a cover-up in progress.

THAT, friends, is why Obama doesn't want you to close that last degree of separation. This if nothing else would be an impeachable offense, if not a cause for open warfare between our nations.



(*everything his government does is ultimately his responsibility)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Test Equipment Porn: Hitachi V-509 Oscilloscope

This scope sat unloved and unused on a shelf at my old job for many years until they gave it to me. It sat on my shelf, then I gave it to my dad and it sat on his shelf. Then I took it back and it's been basically unused for the last decade. Click on any image to see it much larger!

Specifications (from the manual)
  • Bandwidth: DC to "at least" 50MHz
  • Deflection: 5mV to 5V/div in 10 steps
  • Extended deflection: x5 MAG to 1mV/div, UNCAL to at least 12.5V/div
  • Time Base A: 0.1us/div to 0.2s/div in 20 steps plus uncal to 0.5sec/div and x10MAG to 10ns/div
  • Time Base B: 0.1us/div to 2ms/div in 14 steps, x10MAG to 2ns/div
  • Display: Ch1, Ch2 (normal or inverted), Alternate, Chopped, Added
  • Trigger modes: Automatic, Normal, TV (H or V), Single sweep
  • Adjustable holdoff
  • Max. input: 250V (DC + AC peak); 500Vp-p AC @ 1kHz or less
  • Delay line permits viewing of leading edges
  • Display: 3.5" CRT with internal 8x10 graticule, P31 phosphor
  • Power: 90-130/180-260V 50/60/400Hz AC or 11-14V DC (adapter/battery not included)
  • Manual has full schematics!
  • Approx. weight/dims: 215x110x330mm, 5kg
  • With TV sync, delaye sweep, and autofocus

The screen is just over 3" with a bright blue trace. It has automatic focus. All the regular controls are on the front.

Plus a few on the side. Note the holes where the handle used to be mounted.

The rear, with the power cord removed

At 50Mhz I was able to get both channels to give exactly the same display with the same input signal. Here they are overlaid.

One channel inverted

Doing a good job displaying a pretty low-amplitude signal

With the cover on it's about 17" long

Rear quarter

No excessive wear here, either

The manual has instructions for operation, specifications AND schematics.

Model number:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Give One Example of Passive Aggressive Behavior

Your bum-ass grown "man" son who only has a job because he works with your husband, lives with you. You resent it deep down on the inside, but you would never say so or even admit it to your self. You are "happy to be helping him out" as far as anybody knows, including you.


Your daughter has a little girl, and she sometimes comes and visits. You like your visiting grandbaby to be happy, right? She wants a pet, but your daughter's apartment won't allow it. So you got a hamster in a little pink wire cage. It has a wheel for the hamster to exercise in there. A loudass squeakin-ass mothereffing LOUD squeaky wheel. That the hamster runs on for HOURS every night sounding like the end of the world.

The cage has to go somewhere, right? Well, your son's room is next door to somewhere. The door to his room is about as soundproof as a sheet of paper, but he probably won't mind a little squeaking now and again. So probably it will be no problem at all, if you don't cover the cage so the little darling hamster will sleep all night in the dark.

Passive aggressive behavior example number two:

Your son won't cover the cage, either.

Happy Juneteenth From Your Local Racist

First thing this morning at work, I put "HAPPY JUNETEENTH" on the bulletin board by the time clock at work. Later I went and fancied it up with a couple of different colors.

Later yet, the most worry-wart-ish of the guys who works with me said it was a good thing I didn't put that on the board at a bigger company. Somebody might get offended. I asked him if he had a problem with Juneteenth and the reasoning was more along the lines of no, I am too light-skinded to be celebrating the day.

You know what? This is NOT a holiday for "those people," unless you mean "those people who also have a human genotype encoded in their DNA." Juneteenth should appeal to all men everywhere who love liberty and justice. Brown or not . . .

Happy Juneteenth!

For Sale: Canon FD 135mm f/2.5 Telephoto Camera Lens

If you got here from eBay, please be sure to go back and place your bid when you have finished checking out all the pictures!

This is a fast 135mm prime lens for vintage Canon SLR and modern DSLR (with adapters!) cameras. It WILL NOT mount on your new Canon digital camera.

Blogger does bad things with large images in this format. Click any image to see it WAY bigger.


This lens is in pretty good cosmetic condition, considering it was made in the mid-1970s. This lens has a built-in retractable shade, which is threaded to accept a hood. Note that clicking the following picture takes you to an image 1,200 pixels wide so it may actually be wider than your screen at full size.

The date code is Q=1976. In case you missed it, this is an FD mount lens. Anything but an old Canon FILM SLR will need an adapter to even mount on the camera. Note the near-total lack of mechanical wear on the mount.

The front glass looks perfect to me. Note that the hood retracts to sit flush with the filter thread ring. Very neat.

The text on the front says CANON LENS FD 135mm 1:2.5 S.C. CANON LENS MADE IN JAPAN.

Yes, you do see a couple of minor dust motes inside. These are guaranteed NOT to affect your pictures at all. They are near the front of the lens. If you are worried about this very minor amount of dust, you need to read this and set your mind at ease.

Now it is time to go to eBay and place your bid for this lens.

Camera Porn: Vintage Canon F-1 35mm SLR Camera

This is the old style F1, with a metal (brass) body. The date code says it was made in 1975. It appears to be in good working order. Blogger does bad things with large images. Click any image to see it WAY bigger.


The winder winds and the shutter fires. The mirror flips and then flops back down. The shutter opens and shuts, faster or slower according to the setting of the dial on top. The film door shuts securely and pops open when the button is pressed and the release pulled up. There is no sqeaking involved, only regular camera noises.

This body is in Good cosmetic condition, considering its age. There is slight brassing at the corners, especially near the right/top side by the frequently-used controls


There is a little smutz in the deeply textured plastic over the back


It looks like somebody used to have a strip of tape over this hole.


There are two spots which are worth mentioning. They will not affect function in the least, and really only show up if you are looking for them. There is a very small ding on the top/right corner of the metal prism box, and a shallow dent on the left/top corner.



The viewfinder/prism assembly is included with this body. The prism is quite clean

There is a little bit of dust in the finder, nothing to worry over.

The foam that sometimes degrades and falls out, is at least in one piece in this spot. I dont' want to touch it because I don't know how old it is or how resilient, but it LOOKS good - to me, anyway.

There are no obvious scratches even on the bottom of the mirror

The focusing screen works miles better than anything on my modern DSLR. Why can't we all have these anymore?

The date code is p=1975

The insides are pretty clean.

The back has minor wear but is still quite smooth

The shutter, importantly, is smooth also. No wrinkles and barely any wear marks.

The bottom is the absolute worst part of this body and it's not all that bad.

I almost want to take a photography class to have an excuse to keep this.

Monday, June 18, 2012

It's Official

In the circular for Academy Sports & Outdoors, they have an ad for a bb/pellet gun for $80 that is a dead-ringer for an M4 rifle. At this point I think even the most stalwart anti-black rifle gunny has to admit that the M16/M4/AR-15 is part of the American culture.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

I Found You!

O hai! No, you didn't die, I left. The only computer near for the last couple of weeks which was able to get online was from 2003, not working, and they don't have Internet service there anyway. Getting off the Internet and being force not to do anything productive for a couple of weeks at a stretch is a highly recommended activity. If you haven't done it, you are cheating yourself.

Bonus points if it ends on a "donut" spare tire for the second half of the return trip, from the middle of nowhere to your destination!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Cheerful Thoughts

If President Obama fails to be re-elected, he will be leaving the office of the Chief Executive in the country. Whom do you think he may decide to pardon, come this January?

My company's sales have been weak. Like, we haven't had numbers this bad since the first dip of the Great Recession. Today we heard "new jobs created" numbers that missed expectation by a number greater than the number of jobs created.

The possibility of a chaotic Greek exit from the Euro Zone was actually covered on the evening radio news. Spain may actually beat them out the door.

So, good news prospects are busting out all over!


Oh, wait . . .