Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Highlights - thinking aloud....

A little exercise, results shown below, have helped, I hope, solidify something that should have been blindingly obvious from the start. (This is in the nature of a soliloquy, so don't complain!)

On Washington Valley Road, in the vicinity of Gabriel's Fountain, we came across this church. In the pictures below, the sun is setting and is just below the top of the tower. Taken from the car window, so that should explain the artifact on the lower left. BTW, I don't think the streaks in the sky are lens flare, as I recall, the sky did look like that.

In this first, the exposure was governed by the bright sky, and this is how it came out of the camera.


It was possible by a simple manipulation of the luminance curve in Photoshop to render it thus:


A look at the histograms before and after is illuminating. The exposure has enough information retained to make a substantial improvement possible.

It is a matter of shrinking all the unused range of luminance.

Here's another shot, this time the exposure is governed by the foreground and the sky is blown out.

You'll have to take my word for it, but nothing I tried could restore any detail in the sky. The luminance histogram tells us why - the luminance information has been mostly lost.


The exposure should be such as to maximize the information captured, in this case the camera should expose the brightest area correctly.

(Tools used - Photoshop Elements 2.0 on MacOS X, and Photoshop 3.0.5 in MacOS 9 (Classic)).

Monday, May 28, 2007



Exposure: 0.008 sec (1/125)
Aperture: f/5
Focal Length: 105 mm
ISO Speed: 400

Blown Highlights

Next door to Gabriel's Fountain is Martinsville Florist, and though the florist was closed, their wares were on display.

This planter pictured below was in the shade. (I have a picture of the whole store front, showing exactly where it is, but my niece features in it, and my policy is not to post pictures of family members on public forums - chalk it up to something learned from experience.) You can see that the whites are badly overexposed (much worse than my roses below). From the EXIF info:

Aperture: f/4
Focal Length: 92 mm
Shutter speed: 1/80
ISO Speed: 400.

This was a f/4 lens, so it was wide open. Gives you an idea of the light.


I found this from photographer Thomas Pindelski on how to deal with this in bright sunlight. Presumably it will work in this situation as well.

First roses of 2007

These are among the first roses of 2007 in my garden. (I believe my garden has its own micro-climate. Other roses in the area have been blooming for a while.)

Not that I have a lot of roses. A Sunsprite (shown below), four red Knockout bushes. and climbing White Dawn and Don Juan trained on an arbor. The Don Juan actually flowered first, but the flower is 8 feet off the ground, and even standing on a chair, I couldn't get a good photograph. (Was too lazy to get out the step-ladder). All of them are with flower as of this morning.

You can see that the highlights are blown (something I'll return to.)

I'll also say it this once and never again - it sometimes seems faintly blasphemous to me to use the Canon 5D to record everyday life.



Sunday, May 27, 2007

An Old Classic

Mad About You. I was kindly reminded of that show today. :)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Why does anyone buy Time magazine?

I certainly don't. But people do, I guess, because I see it on the news-stands. But why? There are better sources for enjoyable fiction.

Times columnist Joe makes up a conversation out of thin air.

This is what Joe Klein says
...Yesterday I spoke with Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-Ca.) just back from Iraq, who voted for the bill--as did a majority of Democrats who are not running for President. "Look, I would love to have cast a vote against Bush on this. We need a new strategy and I hope we can force one in September," she told me. "But I flew into Baghdad on a troop transport with 150 kids, heading into the field. To vote against this bill was to vote against giving them the equipment, the armor they need. I couldn't do that."

Jane Harman (D-Ca.) actually cast her vote against the President on this, and issued this statement:
"Today’s vote must be seen as a referendum on this President’s refusal to listen to a majority of Americans and a majority of Congress, who want him to end the combat mission and implement the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations on training, counter-insurgency, and enhanced diplomatic and economic efforts in the region.

"I support our troops and I refuse to be manipulated. My ‘no’ vote on the Iraq Supplemental is a vote to move past the fractured politics on Iraq and restore some sanity and bipartisanship as Congress confronts the serious threats of the 21st century."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sri Ganesh!


Follow the bread-crumbs to see the EXIF data.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"We told you so"

Darksyde's priceless diary on dailykos.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Need to read

The riveting testimony of Peter Comey if you haven't watched it yet.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What a POTUS!

The NSA surveillance program was so bad that the senior members of the highly loyal Ashcroft Justice Department threatened to resign. And the President's men tried to bully a sick Ashcroft into approving of it. Here.

Watch this.

Here is Josh Marshall's commentary

There are so many parts of this late night hospital blitz story that it's a bit hard to know where to start. One thing that seems very clear -- even clearer than when I discussed it below -- is that the president sent Gonzales and Card over to the hospital to coax an okay out of the presumably heavily sedated Ashcroft. The first day's reportage really skirted around that issue. Maybe day two will be different. Another point though is to remember just who it is we're dealing with here.

This is John Ashcroft, not by many measures a staunch libertarian and a pretty committed Republican to boot. He was refusing to sign off on this. And according to Comey's testimony he was willing to resign over it, apparently along with most of the senior leadership of the Department of Justice. I think we need to know more about just what was being done with this program that would make Ashcroft put so much on the line.

Another point: if we assume that the president sent Gonzales and Card over to the hospital room (and I think that's the only reasonable interpretation of yesterday's testimony), there must have been a meeting before that call was placed, probably at the White House. Who was in the meeting? And who got the president to authorize this? Gonzales? I doubt it. I think we probably needing to be looking toward the Vice President's office playing a driving role in all this.

And read this.

I think it’s safe to assume that whatever they were fighting over, it was a matter of substance. When John Ashcroft is prepared to resign, and risk bringing down a Republican administration in the process, he’s not doing it for kicks. Similarly, when the President sends his aides to coerce a signature out of a desperately ill man, and only backs down when the senior leadership of a cabinet department threatens to depart en masse, he’s not just being stubborn.

It’s time that the Democrats in Congress blew the lid off of the NSA’s surveillance program. Whatever form it took for those years was blatantly illegal; so egregious that by 2004, not even the administration’s most partisan members could stomach it any longer.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Double Standards

So much for the Global War on Terror!

Luis Posada, a veteran anti-Castro militant and CIA operative under George Bush Sr, was told that he was free to go due to administrative errors in the case against him for entering the US illegally. Posada is wanted in Venezuela and Cuba for allegedly plotting to blow up a Cuban airliner in which 73 people died in 1976.


Here is another one:

Short story: Ann Coulter dodges voter fraud charges because her ex-boyfriend at the FBI had the investigation shut down. Meanwhile, democratic voter registration drive volunteers are only now getting out of jail as their cases get reviewed by an incredulous court...

Sunday, May 13, 2007


This set of three will give the reader a good view of what is wrong with the Main-Stream Media in the US.

CIP tells the tale of an altercation between Newsweek's Jonathan Alter and Radar Online's Jebediah Reed. As CIP writes,
This would be of minor note if it were not for the fact that Alter's tantrum exhibits a lot of the things wrong with the way that he and his colleagues engage in journalistic malpractice.

From there to Glenn Greenwald on the contempt that MSM figures have for bloggers.
There is much to learn from the contempt expressed by John Yoo, Joe Klein and Jon Alter towards blogs -- i.e., a collection of hundreds of thousands of politically engaged citizens who are dissatisfied with the prevailing political and media power centers and have created their own instruments for expressing and activating that dissatisfaction.

It is absolutely true that citizens are forced to rely upon large media organizations to collect information and report what the government is doing, and that is precisely why their profound failures are of such concern.

Greenwald points to Digby
who makes the case that the MSM are are bunch of Washington insiders who delude themselves that they represent the silent majority.

Of course political reporters should go out and interview Americans and write stories about what those Americans have to say about the issues of the day. But those interviews are not any more representative of what "the people" as a whole think than are the liberal blogs or Sally Quinn's fictitious "small town" or the fans at a NASCAR race. This is especially true when it's filtered through the phony bourgeois posturings of a bunch of highly paid reporters and insiders who have contrived a self-serving little passion play in which they are regular blue collar guys from Buffalo and corn fed farmers from the Midwest (Real Americans!) who just happen to summer on Nantucket and get invitations to white tie state dinners with the Queen of England. Pardon us fringe dwellers for being just a tad skeptical that these forays out into "America" are informing us about anything more the embarrassing neuroses of some very spoiled elites.

General confusion

Charley Reese is not impressed by General Petraeus.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Creationist fun

If you need a quick laugh, this creationist quote should provide it.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A hidden cost of the Iraq War

Context: Greensburg, Kansas, was obliterated by a tornado. 95% of the town of 1500 was destroyed.

"Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius has reminded us that President Bush’s disastrous misadventure in Iraq has purposely left states unprepared and unable to respond adequately to natural disasters that we should expect. "We’re missing about half of our trucks from the National Guard units," Sebelius said. "Clearly trucks to haul this debris away would be enormously helpful. We are missing flatbeds. We are missing Humvees, which are used to get people to safety and security and to haul equipment around. We are missing a number of our well-trained National Guard personnel. The equipment that we continue to harp on that has been sent overseas when our troops are deployed and not restored at the same level could be enormously helpful."

(from dailykos.com)

The Money Quote


"You know, if Bush would stop his self-indulgent stubbornness for half a day, he could see plain as day that he has an opportunity to retain American control of the World Bank by easing Wolfie out. If he tries to keep Wolfie in that spot, American control could end.

I really wonder whether his failure to distinguish between necessary toughness and catastrophically shoot-ourselves-(America)-in-our-foot pigheadedness results from biological anomaly. His inability to harvest experience, and so to think and form successful judgments, is just so inexplicable."

(from The Washington Note.)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Adulterated Chinese medicine kills 365 in Panama

Past posts here have dealt with the common Chinese business practice of mixing melamine with grain gluten to make the protein content seem higher. Call it finding a novel use for industrial waste.

We now hear that another common Chinese business practice is to use diethylene glycol (a poisonous sweet tasting substance that is used in car radiator anti-freeze) instead of more expensive regular sweeteners in children's medicines.

Meanwhile the Bush Administration is busy dismantling the Food & Drug Adminstration, which has the primary responsibility of preventing these atrocities from reaching the market.

Read about it in this Daily Kos article.

Race in America - an update

CBS.com has turned off all comments on its website on news stories about leading Democratic contender for the Presidential nomination, Barack Obama.

It is leaving comments on for all other Presidential candidates.

CBS is doing this because of a large volume of racist comments, a volume too large for CBS to moderate. At least, so says this Daily Kos story.

Obama has been given Secret Service protection. I do not know whether this is standard practice for a leading candidate for the nomination. I had thought only the party nominee was given this. Obama's chief rival, Hilary Clinton, gets Secret Service protection as a former first lady. I can only wonder if this is because of racist threats against Obama.

The Obama candidacy will likely bring out America's closet racism, and give lie to the constant Conservative assertion that racism is dead and over with and nothing we need worry our heads about, let alone attempt to remedy. And I can hope that coming out into the sunlight will make it wither away.

Friday, May 04, 2007

US Attorney Scandal

Yes, the US attorneys are political appointments - i.e., they are nominated by the President, and serve at his pleasure. But once appointed, they are supposed to be apolitical, like the high court justices, who are appointed by the President, but are supposed to independent thereafter.

Anyway, for any reader who doesn't get what the fuss is all about, this TPM post is a must-read. The practical consequences of what this administration did should become clear.

Tornado Watch

CIP photographs a tornado (somewhere in New Mexico).

Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ) - genius!

The Bush administration has been more than happy to arbitrarily take away our liberties, eviscerating even habeas corpus. But they still pay homage to the gun lobby.

If you are on a government list of terrorists or potential terrorists, for instance, you will find it very difficult to fly. But if you want to buy a gun, being on that list doesn't disqualify you.

Quoting from the link below:


Under the federal Brady Act, a licensed firearms dealer must request a background check through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) before an unlicensed individual may purchase a weapon. However, even if a NICS check reveals that the prospective purchaser is a known or suspected terrorist, nothing in current law prevents that person from purchasing a gun unless he or she meets one of the other disqualifying factors, including felony or domestic abuse convictions.

In January 2005, the GAO produced a report to Sens. Lautenberg and Biden (D-DE) that found that from February 3 to June 30, 2004, a total of 44 firearm purchase attempts were made by individuals designated as known or suspected terrorists by the federal government. In 35 cases, the FBI authorized the transactions to proceed because FBI field agents were unable to find any disqualifying information (such as felony convictions or illegal immigrant status) within the federally prescribed three business days. (emphasis added) "

Well, Senator Lautenberg has introduced a bill, titled "Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2007". that would close this loophole, and it puts into collision the Administration's desire for executive power and its genuflections to the gun lobby.

Read about it in this dailykos story.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Must-see bird photography!

(via Rajan Parrikar) : Romy Ocon's Philippine Wild Birds Gallery

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Scope of melamine contamination grows

Grain gluten from China is apparently routinely spiked with melamine to make it seem to contain more protein (nitrogen) than it actually does.

This, in the US, has contaminated pet food, hog feed, and now chicken feed. This dailykos.com story has the scoop:
FDA drops the other shoe: Millions ate contaminated chicken

So now many people have eaten melamine-laced chicken. It is still not clear if the contamination has hit food directly consumed by humans.

Mid-air bird wrestling

The other day I saw a small bird harassing a larger one, climbing above it and then diving down. Against the bright blue sky I could not identify the birds. Was wondering how one would photograph it. Well, Jody Melanson has posted an awesome photograph on fredmiranda.com.
I think you should be able to see it without registering.

They sold out the world for an F-16 sale

Via Rajan Parrikar, The Raw Story : "They sold out the world for an F-16 sale".

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

N+1 Syndrome

An Iraqi timeline, in Friedman Units