Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Destruction is easier

I'm not sure where this is going to end up, so I'm going to write it and find out.

It's easy to be appalled at the world as you get older. Consider Socrates, “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” Just to remind you, he died a little over 2,400 years ago. So this isn't new.

People have been saying the world is going to hell in a hand cart since language was invented. Except it's not true. Not even close. Go find the oldest person you know. In my case that's a grandmother closing in on 100. Maybe it's your great aunt or uncle. Or someone in your knitting circle. Whatever.

Ask that really old person what it was like as a child. Bypass the reminisce of a simpler time and ask how they got around. Ask if they remember people talking about their friends and relatives that died during the Spanish Flu. (That was a THING 100 years ago in a few months, tens of millions died.) Ask about their reaction to electric lights, the automobile, penicillin, air travel (Zeppelin if they're old enough, DC-3 otherwise), indoor plumbing, or anything else that comes into your mind. Think about how you'd cope with that world.

Those are all things that smart people discovered, or invented, or made affordable. Usually over the protests of the people around them. The automobile has turned out to be a mixed blessing, I'll grant you that. Penicillin and other vaccines? No brainer good stuff, and in case you were wondering, not vaccinating your children is child abuse, unless an actual medical doctor tells you it shouldn't be done. Those homeopathy quacks and the like have nothing to say in the matter.

Electric lights, indoor plumbing, and other so-called conveniences of life are all good things, though it's fair to say we could be smarter about how some of them are used. Advances in science and learning how to live with each other in a democratic society have created the safest and most comfortable place to live that humans have ever had.

Yes, there are some blots on the copy book, as one saying goes. Canadian treatment of Natives. American treatment of essentially anyone that isn't a well off white man. German treatment of Jews and other minorities before and during WWII. Russian treatment of Ukrainians. This is hardly a complete list, forgive me if I haven't mentioned one that's important to you.

Previous societies have gone to war or endured civil strife over a great many issues, some of which seem important now, some of which are barely mentioned in history books. Since 1900 alone, millions of people volunteered to fight in some of the most horrific wars we've known. They had many reasons but lots of them include "just doing my duty", or "it's the right thing." Or one grunt saying laconically, "three square meals a day if I don't get killed."

We live in a peaceful safe place, but that doesn't mean the strife is over. When your founding documents start off saying "All men are created equal..." and when the Charter that has become the heart of our legal code says "
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

(d) freedom of association.",

the people that don't have those things want in. Of course they do. You would too. Why wouldn't they? They want the same as what everyone else has, something that the documents say is theirs by birth, yet the gravy train has left them behind.

Except there is a faction of society that says, "Fuck you Jack, I've got mine." These are the people that set dogs on peaceful marchers for civil rights. These are the people who set the full weight of various para-military forces against people protesting pipeline construction. These are the people that turn a blind eye to acts of violence by white people. These are the people that gerrymander political boundaries to restrict voting effectiveness. These are the people that use the power of the state to control what can be said in public (think of Harper muzzling scientists), control who can be out in public, and restrict access to the levers of power to 'one of us.'

We have a free and open society that generally lets people say what they like in public, except there are limits. The classic one is that you can't shout 'fire' in a crowded theatre. In Canada you can't disseminate hatred, though that's a bit of a squishy line, and some people like to push the boundaries.

Civil rights was a test of 60's USA society. Now they have an idiot president stoking the flames of hatred by pandering to Nazi's. The Nazi regime was one of the most murderous and evil regimes in history, and it baffles me why anyone would willingly identify with it. Yet they do, marching with their tiki torches, doing the KKK salute, spouting Nazi slogans of hatred, trying to intimidate everyone else into letting them have their way. This mainly involves them being on top of whatever heap is important to them, and everyone else kowtowing or getting shot.

Donald Trump and his Nazi base are going to be the great test of our time in the USA. Are they going to come through and become a stronger society? Or is this going to break them, and they'll become another failed nation state? I certainly hope for the first of these.

Which brings me to Canada. We aren't immune. We have the same right wing idiots and their dog whistle politics, just not quite as blatant. I'd have hoped it would get better with Harper gone, but some of his toadies are still around, peeing the the water.

We have Jason Kenney trying to build a new (extremely) Conservative party on the ruins of the old ones. He's been using classic Harper tactics of division and abuse to get his way. Anyone from the progressive wing of the party is long gone, and it doesn't matter if they were pushed or jumped. It's funny, they have the same slogan (Unite the Right) as the Nazis marching in Charlottesville. I'm pretty sure Kenney has some of the same ideas, he just hasn't said so out loud yet.

One of his fellow travellers is Derek Fildebrandt. He didn't see anything wrong with claiming for an apartment paid for by the taxpayers (so far so good), and renting it out on AirBnB. Or claiming a per diem (again, so far so good) and claiming the individual meals. If I tried that when I was on an expense account the company would quite rightly have called it theft. So it is, and so it should be treated. He's resigned from the party (whatever it calls itself now), but he's still sucking on the public tit, to use his own language. He should be in court for theft, as well as the current hit and run charge.

We can't be complacent here. We have to watch our politicians like a hawk looking for lunch. All of them, and the wannabe's too. We have to call them on their dog whistling, call them on their efforts to graft more money (think of the committee that never met and billed for doing so), and call them on the stupid hateful things they say. Push back on their supports, even if it's your brother-in-law. Ask them if they agree with Kenney that a 15 year old should be held responsible for a murder he didn't commit, yet are too young to decide if they want to belong to a GSA. Ask them if they really trust a guy that won't say what his election platform is.

A lot of people have done a lot of work building up this country to what it is now. The work is ongoing, finding a way to involve everyone here, disaffected citizens, First Nations, recent immigrants and refugees, along with everyone else. It's hard building things. Deciding what, exactly to build, and where to put it, to say nothing of how to pay for it. I respect people that bring passion to these discussions, working for a greater good, even if they don't have all the facts.

I have no respect for people that want to tear down what's been built. Letting the poor fall into the cracks and paving them over is a common conservative tactic, all in the name of saving money, and those people were moral failures anyways. Rolling back equality laws. Restricting basic freedoms. These things are easy to do, if you have the required mindset. Trump has been a brilliant example. The only thing he seems to know what to do is undo what Obama had done.

I come back to that Australian General again. "The standard you walk past is the standard you accept." If you want better politicians, you have to demand they be better, and encourage better people to run for office. Yes it's hard. Yes you feel you have to keep up with Game of Thrones and your social media. Your job is really tough and leaves you knackered. Suck it up. Remember what that really old person said about life back in the day.

Our test is coming.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Leap

A couple days ago I blogged about my current book. It's easily the most thought provoking book I've read this year. In case you missed it, The Leap, How to survive and thrive in the sustainable economy, by Chris Turner.

He makes (and remakes) the point that our current economy is based on some faulty assumptions, those faults are coming back to bite us big time. Our economy is built around oil as a compact supply of energy. Did you know that one barrel of oil contains about 6 gigajoules of energy? The formal definition of joule doesn't mean much to me, but a real life example is lifting a medium sized tomato of 100 g vertically up from the surface of the earth 1 m.

Now if you put an average man on a treadmill and hooked it up to a generator, he could light up a 100 watt bulb as long as he kept going. To generate the amount of energy in a barrel of oil, he'd have to run for about 8.6 years, running a regular work week, week in and week out. (Think of what awesome condition he'd be in at the end, if he survived!)

That's a lot of energy in a small package, and our economy is addicted to it. It's costing more and more energy to get each barrel of oil, and we're going through increasingly more improbable hoops to do it. Like the Northern Gateway pipeline. Extract the oily sand buried deep underground in Northern Canada, transform it into a substance that will flow through a pipeline, run that pipeline over several mountain ranges through pristine ecosystems to a port at the end of a small twisty turny inlet battered by some of the most ferocious storms on the planet, then send those ships across the ocean if they make it in and out of the inlet. What could possibly go wrong? Fortunately it seems to be dead.

Or drilling for oil deep below the ocean floor. BP Horizon, anyone?

It's only in an insane world that these sound like a good idea.

I'm not saying, and he's not saying we need to stop extracting oil. It's an incredibly useful substance in making the many materials in the world around us. It's so incredibly useful that we've got to stop burning it for energy. There are other, cleaner sources, and we can be smarter about how much energy it takes to live.

He goes through a number of examples of how solar and wind power are more and more widely used in spite of the opposition to them by established industries that love their corporate welfare. It's getting cheaper to manufacture solar panels, and it's getting easier to hook them up to the electric grid. Wind turbines are getting more efficient.

I grew up in a world where gas was cheap. I was a grownup driving my own car when milage started to be a concern. Going for a Sunday drive was something to do for fun. Nobody cared about the emissions coming out of the tail pipe. It was only later people started wondering about smog.

My grandparents were born in a world without widespread electricity, and the corporations creating the electrical industries wanted people to use as much power as possible, so they could build more generating capacity. Now we're stuck with these old coal fired plants that are poisoning us.

As a quick side note, it's been a long hot summer here. We've been working on the lawn and garden more, and have been watering it more regularly. The water bill is to hand here. Potable water costs us $1.7474 / m3. That's 1000 of those handy little one litre bottles you can buy at events for $2. Of course what flows in must flow out, so there is an additional sewer charge of $1.3956 / m3. Plus some monthly basic fees for water and sewer that don't change on consumption. So all up last month, we paid $4.70 / m3 of water, or about one half of a cent per litre.

Now we are getting into a world where oil is getting more expensive, which means gasoline and electricity generated from natural gas are getting more expensive. The supply of fresh water is limited, and the cost to desalinate is prohibitive.

Or is it?

Turner talks about making a leap to a world where we make different assumptions. The leap is hard, no doubt about it. He points to several examples, the Erie Canal, the packet ships that sailed on a schedule full or not full, the German feed-in tariff, that produced synergistic results that were far beyond the scope of the project proposers. Each idea was confidently predicted to not just fail, but ruin anyone involved. The Erie Canal lowered transportation costs by 95%. Why wouldn't that have an impact on the economy?

One of the new assumptions is that there are better ways to generate energy than by burning fossil fuels. We can be smarter about how we use energy. Nay-sayers say that renewable sources won't work because the sun doesn't shine at night and the wind doesn't always blow. This is true, and why there are are batteries, and other ways of storing energy, and teaching people to be smarter about when and how they use energy.

One of the examples is how places like India are bypassing the 20th century. They are going straight from no electricity and no phones, to a world with locally generated solar power and cell phones. Look Ma, no wires!

It's a more human scale, and that's his final point. Many of these changes lead towards a world that is smaller and more local in scale. Where one walks to local shops and services, and chats to neighbours along the way. Where a bike is an efficient way of getting around because you don't need to be afraid of cars. Where removing cars from a street, or slowing them down, brings a street back to life. Many store owners are locked into the world where they need to provide parking, and fear change. Again and again, going to a more local scale brings more people into the shop.

Even if you're deep in the current world, and get nervous at the thought of doing without your car, this is an interesting read. There are alternatives, and they can lead to a better world for everyone, not just the rich that are comfortable in this world. If we're smart, we can make a leap that's good for everyone.

I'm getting behind on flower shots. Since the post above talks of solar, I thought I'd include some photos of flowers backlit or side lit by the sun.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Macro Monday 2 - experiment, reward

I actually did this last Thursday in some free time, since I was expecting a busy weekend and Monday. You can't be in a rush for macro photos. The experiment was to see how much field of view the lens has at various magnifications. The easy way is to photograph a ruler. I suppose I should have done it horizontally, but it's tougher for me to adjust the vertical height of the tripod to keep the marks in focus. Easier to mount the ruler vertically, and tweak the rails as required so the mm marks are in focus. There's a reason they build 4 way macro rails.

All photos are 6000 by 4000 px out of the camera. The only Lightroom adjustments are to the lighting, there is no cropping or sharpening. The ruler is ever so slightly not vertical. At first the width of the ruler marks don't really matter, but as the magnification goes up, the width matters more an more. My counts are slightly rounded sometimes.

I set up the tripod and mounted the camera and 100 mm lens on the slider rails. I wanted to get as close as I could. We see almost 15 mm vertically, 22.5 horizontally. I should have measured how far the face of the lens was from ruler, but I didn't. Sigh. The specs page says the minimum focus distance is 30.5 cm, and I think that's measured to the sensor, and the lens is 12.3 cm long.

12 mm extension tube, a hair over 12 mm vertically, 18 horizontally.

20 mm extension tube, about 11.5 mm vertically, so not much difference.

36 mm extension tube about 9.5 mm vertically, about 14.25 horizontally. This one is ever so subtly not focused. I thought I'd nailed it, but I'm using live view, which is a small screen on the camera. If the shot is important, I'd do three shots, bracketing what you think is in focus with one slightly forward and slightly back.

68 mm extension tube (all three of them together, and I didn't bother with the various combinations) about 7.5 mm vertically, about 11.25 horizontally. This is a little under 2x mag.

The above shots are lit from a desk lamp from the side. The following shots are with the macro lens, using only the flash for lighting. It helped to have the desk lamp throwing some light while finding the focus, then turning it off for the shot.

1x, 13.25 mm x 19.9 mm. Compare to the first shot above, you can see the 100 mm lens by itself has a slightly larger field of view, and thus isn't quite 1x. Then again, the macro lens is a twist ring, and it's possible I was slightly over or under the exact 1x mark.

2x, about 7 mm x 10.5 mm, and thus roughly what I was getting with all the extension tubes together.

3x a hair under 5 mm x 7.5mm.

4x, about 4 mm x 6mm, maybe a little less. At this point I'm running the lights up against the desk drawers that I've got the ruler taped to, so it might not have been quite 4x.

5x, a hair under 3 mm x 4.5 mm. Tweaked the lighting slightly to get as far as the lens would turn.

Here's your reward, a macro photo of some fine hairs on the lamb's ears, or whatever they're called. Why this? Mainly because it's right beside the garden retaining wall so I could put the slider rails on it and be steady.

Here's the normal view of that leaf. It's about 2 cm across where I was shooting.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

924 photos

Today I was out shooting the Lake Chaparral event, kids of steel and swim. It was fun, and it's always nice to see people out being active. 924 photos later I headed home.

So what happens to them? It should be clear that I don't go through and edit each by hand. Here's what happens.

Chip into computer, load files into Lightroom. (Shower.)
Look at each photo to see if there is a reason to reject it, such as wildly over or under exposed, out of focus, or just "unfortunate". (BBQ steak dinner, eat.)
Only 10 were rejected, so I'm really pleased.
I publish all the photos, so-so or not. I've learned that people might like something that I don't.
Select all photos, make sure auto-synch is on, click the auto button. This goes through all the photos and tweaks exposure, contrast, and balance between whites and blacks according to an algorithm. It's not perfect but for shots like this it's usually pretty good. (Wash dishes.)
Check to make sure Lightroom has finished these edits, and scroll through in grid view to see if there are any that are really obviously not right.
Make sure the watermark and export process does what I think it will, export all photos to a folder in jpeg format. This downsizes them and applies a pair of watermarks. (Start preparing for tomorrow's shoot.)
Start writing the text for the gallery page people will see.
Next is Google Photos. I'm still getting the hang of this. Upload the kids of steel photos, create an album for them, move photos to the album. Yes, this workflow is counter intuitive.
Do the same with the swim photos.
Get a share link from Google Photos and embed those in the gallery page. Final checks. Publish.
Social media activities to share the links. So far not many hits on that gallery page, but it only got published just before supper time. Here's the link if you want to see them.

Much the same will happen tomorrow with the adult triathlon. No idea how many photos I'll take.

After processing that many photos today, I'm done. Here's one from last week that I don't think I've published.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The fascinating current read

Change is interesting. It doesn't matter if you are driving a change, are being driven to change, are affected by change or not, it doesn't matter. It's just interesting watching things change.

Most people don't understand how slowly the world changed up till about the Italian Renaissance, with the changes gathering speed till roughly the Victorian age, when it just exploded, and it's still going on.

Imagine trying to explain our world (an iPhone, for example) to your grandfather's grandfather. My father's father was born 1903, his father's father would be born about 1830 or so. Railroads and steam ships were new things rapidly expanding. Electricity was known of, but it wasn't a useful thing yet. Think about that for a while.

The collective impact is still right up in our faces every day. How often do you hear someone say, "stop the world, I want to get off for a while," and how often have you thought that? When was the last time you used a pay phone, or even saw one? Bought a paper newspaper? Opened a paper encyclopedia, or even a paper book? Driven a car with bias ply tires? Listened to a wax record played by a record player? (Though I understand these are coming back.) Looked at a paper map? I could go on.

Here's my current read.

I'm only a few chapters in, and I'm fascinated. He has clearly explained how much of what we are seeing in today's world is the thrashing of dying industries. The world we've built for ourselves is no longer working for most of us. Even the super-wealthy can't eat their money if the economy collapses because we've made our world unfit for habitation by anything except rats and cockroaches. (No, that's not a metaphor for lawyers and investment bankers.)

He is saying we need to make a fundamental leap to a new way of thinking about our economy, and points out what's involved. He uses the Erie Canal as an example. It was widely regarded as a folly before construction, but was making money before it was even complete. It made Chicago and New York the cities they are by reducing transportation costs by an enormous amount.

Now look at what people are saying about building infrastructure to capture energy from the wind and from solar power. Then look at who employs them, and what industries they come from. Remember what I said about the thrashing of dying industries?

Photovoltaic panels and batteries are getting cheaper practically by the day. One of my buddies has a solar panel on their roof. I haven't discussed the economics of it with them, but some days they sell power back to the utility. Think about how much less fossil fuel we'd have to burn to generate electricity if every home had a solar panel on the roof, and a modern battery to store excess power, and a smart meter to decide when to sell power to the utility, and when to shift household electrical load for maximum efficiency.

It's happening now, and we're only getting started on the growth curve.

I'm not sure what else the book is saying, but can't wait to read more. In fact, here's a quick photo to hold you over. I want to read more, then up early over the weekend to be the event photographer for the Chaparral events, a kids of steel, a swim race, a stand up paddle board race, and 3 different triathlon distances. If you're there, and I know at least one of my readers will be, take a moment and say hi.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dahlias, a lily, and something else

The dahlias have been coming on strong lately. The last few photos of them have mainly featured bees but they are really pretty in their own right. I love the red and yellow combination, so cheerful.

Would you believe me if I told you it's been so hot here this dahlia is sweating hard trying to stay cool? Or working up a sweat building it's fitness for the bees?

Another plant I can't remember the name of. It's leaves are a dull drab reddish, but get the sun on them and they light up a brilliant deep red.

I was having fun with this yellow lily. You'll see more of them, and their companion plants. I'm saving up a special blog for them. Be careful if you're trying this one. Yes, I'm shooting directly into the sun. I wanted to see if the light would wash out the yellow, or highlight it. You tell me which it did.

I've had a couple good swims lately, so I think my shoulders are getting back into the groove. My last run was Sunday, feeling good, but since then my right quad has been really tight, leading to a funny pulling feeling in my knee. I think I could run if I had to, but I don't think it would be good. Even water running I could feel my quads and hams complaining.

For you macro enthusiasts I've got the next macro Monday in the can. I've got some stuff to do Friday, then I'll be doing photos on the weekend for the Chaparral triathlon events. Plus followup stuff. Trying to do macro shots in a hurry is a guaranteed way of ending up frustrated. Lets see what happens for blogging the next three days.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Non-macro insect round up

These cosy up to the macro line in some cases, but I don't think cross over it. For the purposes of my blog going forward, if something is shot with the 100 mm lens by itself, it's not going to be considered a macro shot. If an extension tube is between the lens and camera, I'll call it a macro shot. And of course, it's a macro shot if it's the awesome 1-5x macro lens.

Sometimes a shot is so good I'll want to put it on the blog right away. Sometimes shots are pretty good, but what with one thing or another don't get added to the blog. In some cases I've got a series planned and I get a little distracted. (As a hint, stay tuned for the black lily.)

Or I'll have some good ones that go together, but I don't want to include others since they don't fit, though there isn't anything wrong with the shots. That's what this is, a round up of the various insect (mostly bees because there's so many of them) shots over the last little while that haven't made it into my blog. Since I don't have a system for looking at my folder of images and knowing for sure what's been used, I may repeat myself. How you suffer.

Sometimes when I'm out shooting flowers, I get lucky with insects. I think this first one is a fly. We were looking at that huge dent in the left eye, wondering if that's natural or otherwise.

I got this one a few days ago. The bees love the dahlias.

This moth was having a snooze, I think. I got some shots, then as I was moving to get in closer my shadow went across it, and it was gone. Note to self.

This bee didn't mind me clicking away.

Posing the good side.

I wonder sometimes what the bees think of us, if they even notice us as all. Here I am, plainly in view, but that doesn't get in the way of work.

Liftoff! Just as I clicked the shutter. I call a mostly in focus shot of a flying insect a success. Maybe one day I'll look back at this and sneer, but if that's the case, I'll be called the bee whisperer.

This was during one of the Fish Creek walks.

I alluded to these two shots a while ago. This little bee floating over the huge white poppy sort of reminded me of a little spaceship cruising around looking for a landing spot.

Another flying bee. A slightly distant shot but I liked the composition, and the bee is slightly out of focus so I didn't want to crop in.

Shortly after these two shots another bee joined in, and they made a spectacle of themselves. That shot shows up in this post, and I'm sorry, but you'll have to deal with a couple shots of Curtis first.


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