Thursday, 20 November 2008

economic fallout

I'm no Economist but,

it seems that consumer confidence (aka willingness to spend more than you earn) is down in the wake of the financial crisis. It seems also that this is in turn hurting the economy (the lack of spending that is).

So, what would have happened if all the people advocating "sustainable development" (people like me) had been listened to? I mean if people did things like:
  • rode their bicycle to work instead of using the car for 4km
  • their kids rode their bicycles to school (instead of being dropped off in v8 and v6 fuel using cars non-town cars like Commodores, Falcons, Pajeros, Range Rovers ...)
  • people didn't buy the latest in fad fashions for no reason
  • we bought products which were built to last (like my grandmothers singer sewing machine) rather than buying another GMC power drill for $15 because the last one burnt out too
  • we made our cars truly repairable (rather than $50,000 items which depreciate to $3000 items in a few years and we then don't see the logic in replacing a spare part for $700 {which in all honesty is probably worth $15} so we ditch the car)
  • we followed our grand parents advices and didn't get into debt, invested our savings and bought wisely
I'm guessing that the "recovery" would probably take even longer.

Well if you did like the above you'll be in a good position to take advantage of the current crisis and pick up some bargains in stock market "fire sales" of quality but presently undervalued stocks (banks come to mind).

I think that if we had all followed this way then most of the "economic" growth which has bubbled and burst would not have happened, and that we'd be moving along comfortably but with out making anywhere near as much mess as we presently are.

So perhaps we'd have avoided this boom / bust cycle in the first place?

Sure, we might not have all the fancy stuff we have now, but just how crucial are your latest Telemark skis and Garmont boots to your happiness anyway? I'm still using 6 year old computing to write this essay and (since its not running the latest hottest bloat ware) its working fine thank you very much. {faster in fact than my friends newest thing with Vista holding it back}. I still use a film camera as well as a compact digital camera (which cost nearly $1000 when it was new in 2001).

Why? Well because I already had a 35mm camera (which still makes quite good images thank you very much) and I bought the compact to make my "snapshots" an easier thing and because I often email or need to send images quickly. In all honesty my 2001 5MPixel Coolpix camera is still way overkill for email and WWW needs and ultimately needs to be rescaled (like who wants to see just the corner of the image?). If I take "nice shots" which I want to print (like below) I'll still use film.


Perhaps the $1000 seems high but perhaps that's its real value when its not being "supported" by a rapid-turn-over consumer pays for on-the-fly research with subscribing to a new model every year one? Besides, how much would it cost (even now with DSLR cameras being dirt cheap compared to their real prices) to move my film outfit to comparable digital? Many more thousands.

but as has been said many times ... if history repeats itself so often what does this say about humanity's ability to learn? We're pretty stupid if you ask me.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

tone mapping for the lazy photographer

I don't mind the look of HDRI, but then it is often a look not something which seems natural (although that depends on the artist). HDRI properly needs at least 2 spaced exposures of the same scene. This can be a problem, as it requires a tripod to best ensure that the camera doesn't move between shots and even then the subject can move between shots (like clouds) introducing annoying artifacts.

But those issues aside tone mapping tools which come with products like photomatix are very handy tools for the lazy Photoshop photographer, expecially because you only need one exposure. Think of it as a quick version of the sort of "dodge and burn" that a professional dark room worker would have done for your negative in the past.

So for example on a trip to India I (fortunatly) took most the images using RAW capture on my camera, I did this thinking that RAW is my negative and as processing software improves I'll be able to benefit from these advances and process my images better (than if I'd only kept JPG). Take this image:

A quick run through tone mapping improves the look well beyond what I could do without some hours of fiddling in a photo editor like Photoshop. At first glance it seems like its just been brightened, but it goes beyond that ... the clouds are no brighter and look at the shadow details in the area under the trees to the right, and the colours it can pull out in the crowd up on the left near the Taj itself.

Its stunning isn't it! So, if you didn't already have enough reasons to set your camera on RAW, then here's just one more :-)

I'll put another example below just to leave you with the idea. But try it, it'll help you pull more out of some of your RAW images with less effort.

Friday, 14 November 2008


I often struggle with this concept. I find myself feeling that on the one hand that its wrong, while on the other can see clearly there are differences in races and cultures making it obvious to me that things are not the same. I don't think I'm racist, but perhaps others may?

So do we deny the existence of the differences? I think that would be wrong and false.

I've recently re-found in my older readings list an interesting quote which I think sheds light onto this subject.

The author said that it is easy to define racism. Racism 'involves treating race as a distinguishing factor when it is irrelevant, or failing to take account of it when it is truly relevant.'

This sums it up nicely, and at the same time exposes the flaw (I'll get to that).

I see that discrimination is a human trait; when you are in the supermarket picking a product out do you grab randomly or do you have a favourite brand which you feel to be better? If you do, then your discriminating between the products. There is nothing wrong with this.

The change to the (perceived) negative comes when you pick based on what is irrelevant rather than the relevant. For example are you choosing the item because of the pretty package or due to known utility or quality?

Now its starting to submerge into murky water, as we've now introduced differing values. Who is to say that my values are more relevant than yours? Probably you don't think so.

I believe that this is what explains why some people in our society remain racist while others are not; the differing value judgment as to what is relevant and what it not.

Ultimately I don't think I'm going to solve this issue in 200 words or so, but perhaps I might get more people (including me) to think about "is this trait relevant to the issue"


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The Rachel Hunter Principle

Super models are seldom the source of quotation for wisdom, but I think there is something useful in the quote of "It won't happen overnight, but it will happen" which is often attributed to Rachel.

Soon after the the first time I heard this (due to the pervasiveness of the ad), I started calling this the Rachel Hunter Principle. People (back then) were aware of the advertisement and immediately understood the nuances of the "principle".

So remember ... if it seems like a struggle and its not coming together as you'd wish keep in mind that good things take time and work to achieve.

It won't happen over night, but it will happen