Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A new form of fascism?

Well, not that new, but a scary form nonetheless. I follow the blog Weighty Matters of Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, a family doctor and assistant professor at the University of Ottawa and a founder of Ottawa’s bariatric clinic. His latest article discusses a fellow Ontario pediatrician, Dr. Mickey Lerner of Toronto, who appeared with Dr. Freedhoff on a call-in show on CTV Newsnet regarding the role of government in obesity prevention policy.

Dr. Freedhoff has many articles on his blog that point out opportunities for government and industry to alleviate the inundation of extremely unhealthy foods that has created an easily-tracked epidemic of obesity across the world. Western society has taken the rap for it, but in fact all societies are feeling this pain.

There are many ways to address the problem, but the most promising way is to reduce the change over from healthy foods to junk foods that has been roaring along since the mid-20th century with companies selling sugary drinks and hamburgers and fries becoming ubiquitous world-wide and utterly dominant within the food lobby.

So back to the call in show … Dr. Lerner proposed – instead of taxation on foods that are known to be extremely unhealthy – taxation based upon BMI, or with more clarity — the taxation of the fat. This profoundly intolerant viewpoint is simply a form of fascism, often called “body fascism” for the extreme intolerance it represents. It is one thing to be disgusted by a person in your private thoughts, but it is quite another to publicly call for one small segment of society to pay higher taxes because you don’t like them. That is what leads to real fascism and is the antithesis of freedom and empowerment.

Dr. Freedhoff goes on to point out that this intolerance is masked as concern for the costs incurred by fat people later in life. He then points out the many examples of more hidden non-compliance with others’ views that also lead to higher societal costs later on … including non-compliance with anti-depressants, excess sugar eating leading to type II diabetes in a thin person, people who stop their antibiotics too early and require hospitalization, people who consume trans-fats and eventually require a heart bypass, and well, you get the idea.

Fascism is not a joke. Dr. Lerner’s position, however, is.

http://www.weightymatters.ca/2012/10/ontario-pediatrician-recommends.html

By the way, there were plenty of call-in supporters of the idea. These profoundly uneducated people are no surprise to those who have watched the dumbing down of society as “toys” like iPhones have replaced thinking and reading as the national pastime.

But there is no excuse for such profoundly uneducated views in an educated man.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Published in the Our Town section of the Ottawa Citizen

For those who believe that you absolutely must have the latest hardware to take images that people like or might publish, this week’s Ottawa Citizen news paper will once again put the lie to those thoughts …

The following will appear in the Our Town section of the Ottawa Citizen on Thursday, 1 November … it was shot with the Nikon D70s at 6 megapixels with a “vacation” lens, the 18-200VR.

image

As always, many thanks to Robbi Hay, the editor of the Our Town section. Her support of my photography is always so gratifying.

Grab a copy this Thursday to see the image in all its glory. And of course to know what is happening in our town this week and weekend!

Joss Whedon endorses Mitt Romney!!! Well … sort of …

You may remember Joss Whedon from some of the best science fiction and fantasy television to ever grace the small screen (and the big one) … I’m talking Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, Doll House … and so on.

Now here he is giving Mitt Romney the endorsement that he deserves … Smile

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The cameras were not the only casualties ..

The cameras took a beating when I tripped yesterday and smashed them to the ground, but I also smashed myself to the ground. I noticed a huge bruise forming today on my right hand, clearly indicating how the GF3 took such a massive beating … since it was attached to this hand …

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Again, a heavy crop of an extracted jpeg …

I had already noticed the places where my leg landed on the road and the curb respectively …

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Obviously a banner day … I can truly look my cameras in the lens and say that I share their pain :-)

A very minor inconvenience …

Some people have worse luck than I do, apparently …

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While this is clear evidence of a lack of patience with dick heads in governmental circles, parliament provides a very strong counter argument. Now I don’t know what to believe :-)

It’s always something …. a night in Frankfurt, Germany …

I got minimal sleep last night (what’s new?) but managed to handle that with aplomb this morning and was at Arlanda airport bright and early, ready to begin the long journey home.

Aside: This pedicure / spa thingy really amused me. I don’t know what it is like to have tiny fish clean your feet, but I wish I had time to find out :-)

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Well, the best laid plans and all …

The plane was fully boarded …

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The luggage was loaded ….

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And then the captain announced that there was a problem … and we waited and waited while he periodically gave up updates, which amounted to “nothing new to report” … it was obvious that they were working on the plane from the noises, and the presence of large vehicles doing inexplicable things …

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And much later the bad news came … the plane could not be fixed (it was a fire suppression system that was malfunctioning, so I was happy to leave this plane behind) … but with typical Scandinavian efficiency, there was another plane rolling up at the gate next door … wow …

Anyway … the passengers all had to deplane …

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The luggage had to be (re)moved …

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And then we waited again ….

I checked out our plane from the terminal … the blinds were down between window panes, so I was forced to shoot through as best I could … note the absence of winglets on the plane … an older and less efficient model …

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And I walk over to look at the new plane … an obviously newer model …

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Boarding once more …

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And finally take-off …

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I’m writing this in the air over Denmark or Germany and we have some flying time left for sure … boarding of the flight is 45 minutes away …

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I think I am pretty screwed :-)


Note that I am trying something new now … the GF3 with small power zoom is in my coat pocket at all times. So I am shooting whatever I see … little did I know that this morning’s little snap shot would amount to a (admittedly minor) story …

I must say that my rather crushed looking little GF3 has become a very trusted friend. It may have a 12Mp sensor, but I cannot give that sensor enough praise for shooting above its weight class … I would still like to add a used GX1 or G3 to the stable of bodies (for video coverage for example) … but I am happy to live with this one for a long time (and after smashing it to the ground, I am pretty sure I have no choice lol) …


And yes, I can confirm the screwedness of me :-)

It took asking three people and eventually finding the Lufthansa help desk to get this solved. There was a flight that could get me home at about 1:30am (7:30am by the time I was on) which means flying all day and all night and changing planes twice. That’s a bit of a joke.

So they offered me a free night in a hotel with free dinner and breakfast the next morning with free shuttle to and from hotel plus a direct flight to Ottawa the next day. Same flight in fact.

Hmmm … let me think …

DUH! Of course I’ll fricken take it :-)

The Ramada Inn West is actually a nice little hotel with all the amenities and a surprisingly good buffet. Good enough that I allowed myself to cheat in several areas (like two superb crusty buns covered in slivered nuts etc.) And of course I got a lovely huge bottle of diet coke (paid at the bar) and a free banana for the evening top off … :-)

20121027_194754 That last one was shot by my Galaxy sIII … great phone and a decent camera in a pinch.

One last point … HUGE KUDOS TO LUFTHANSA!!! They took it upon themselves to fix everyone’s problem and they coordinated with the hotel and SAS (the airline that actually messed up our trips) … so I cannot say enough about Lufthansa as an airline. And in fact I have always preferred their cabins and service. I believe that I will try to fly them as often as possible form now on …

Friday, October 26, 2012

Panasonic Micro 4/3 – indestructible so far …

Ok, things were not quite that serious … but I visited the Vasamuseet today (on foot, freezing my arse off) and when I left, I was looking at the buildings and a fence upon which the sun was creating a glow. Of course, I stepped off a curb without knowing it was there and took a major spill.

Unfortunately, both cameras were dangling from my wrists …

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The beautiful Olympus 45mm is beautiful no more, as you can see above. But it still works and there are no marks on the lens, kudos to Olympus for building a strong lens.

The G5 itself fared very well, ending up with a few “dings” on the bottom oe the body. Note, again I am posting images straight from an extraction from RAW. I am adding a bit of processing tonight … very crude processing in Windows Live Writer. The following is heavily cropped, so it does not look crisp and clear. But it looks ok for a shot from the old 12Mp sensor in the GF3 (using the smaller power zoom lens.)

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The G5 also appears to have bounced on its hot shoe. I really hope that this does not impair mounting of flashes on it, but I am prepared to use the needle nose pliers if necessary to make that work again.

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The GF3 was much less lucky, although it too continues ot function completely normally.

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The wrist strap was destroyed completely. Samyang lens escaped unscathed, which really surprised me. Of course, this is because the body took a fearsome blow …

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Bottom left corner … both the LCD and the body were crushed. Amazingly, the LCD still works. This has never in my experience been the case. Huge kudos to Panasonic for building a near indestructible camera!

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The whole bottom corner is crushed in. And not only does it still work, it works perfectly. You cannot see the damage on the LCD when it is lit up.


So go ahead and say it … “What were you thinking?”

My question right back is … “How could I have been thinking at all?”

The infamous Letkeman brain fart. A fitting way to end my Stockholm trip, yes?

Gulp … Windows 8, here I come …

image

Shaking in my boots … this is a paradigm shift that I am unsure whether I am ready for. But one must simply take one’s stones in hand and proceed without caution if one is to discover anything new and exciting …

Or fall flat on one’s face … that too is always an option :-)


Note that the line above says 32-bit … of course I ordered 64-bit, and I think it simply truncated the title. I would never in a million years run a 32-bit OS on a modern computer.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Where is Kim?

Yes, I have gone silent again. This time it is because I am in Stockholm and have been up to my eyeballs in work to prepare for a workshop that I delivered in Kista (pronounced sheesta) on Tuesday and for a presentation I gave today in Stockholm. I think I saw the sun come up something like 6 times in the last few weeks and I am run ragged.

But, I have also had some fun here … for example, I was in Gamla Stan (old town) the other night and managed to get myself thoroughly lost when trying to walk across the bridges to the island on which my hotel is situated. A couple of wrong turns and there I was walking up a very steep hill on a road covered entirely in cobble-stones … it branched off and seemed to go up forever. Beautiful place when one is not stuck in an unfamiliar neighbourhood at around midnight with deserted streets :-)

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Eventually, a gentleman came home and I walked back down to him and asked for directions, which he gave after telling me that I was really turned around. I was to climb some tall stairs and then go find a Subway and walk up the street next to it for a long way. Something like that. I found some stairs to climb …

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But after that I saw no Subway etc. Still, I eventually hit Gotgatan, which was the street I was seeking. And it took me where I wanted to go. A long walk in freezing temperatures, but quite satisfying.

We have had little sunlight, but i have still managed to get some good images, so all is not lost.

The autumn leaves are gorgeous here.

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The number of bicycles people commute with is pretty breathtaking. Paths are dedicated and you don’t want to walk there.

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I even cheated my diet with the most delicious apple strudel I have ever tasted. Probably that way because I have not had one in so long …

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More bicycles on my walk home last night.

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Anyway … lovely city, great food. And most people speak quite good English along with their Swedish.

Note: All images are jpegs extracted from RAW files with zero processing from the Panasonic G5.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Corporatism and Behaviorism … the death knell of western democracy …

This article should scare the crap out of you: http://www.alternet.org/why-are-americans-so-easy-manipulate-and-control

Here are some quotes:

Kohn also reports that at least 10 studies show rewards work best on simplistic and predictable tasks. How about more demanding ones? In research on preschoolers (working for toys), older children (working for grades) and adults (working for money), all avoided challenging tasks. The bigger the reward, the easier the task that is chosen; while without rewards, human beings are more likely to accept a challenge.

What is also scary about behaviorists is that their external controls can destroy intrinsic forces of our humanity that are necessary for a democratic society. Researcher Mark Lepper was able to diminish young children’s intrinsic joy of drawing with Magic Markers by awarding them personalized certificates for coloring with a Magic Marker. Even a single, one-time reward for doing something enjoyable can kill interest in it for weeks.

Behavior modification can also destroy our intrinsic desire for compassion, which is necessary for a democratic society. Kohn offers several studies showing “children whose parents believe in using rewards to motivate them are less cooperative and generous [children] than their peers.” Children of mothers who relied on tangible rewards were less likely than other children to care and share at home.

In other words, when you try to control people with a reward system, they perform more poorly at just about everything.

For those of us who have seen more and more regimentation in the corporate reward structures, this is all too familiar. And since our entire society is on its way to total control by corporation, we should all be crapping our drawers for what comes next (hint: total collapse of our society at some point as no one gives a toss any more.)

Have a nice day Smile

Friday, October 19, 2012

Panasonic G5 – Review Part 2 – Size Matters

The beauty, or lack thereof, of this camera was called into question in the comments to my last post. Iyt was suggested that I show the camera next to the X-S1, which of course I still have with me. The D7000 is of course at its new home in Quebec, and so is unavailable for comment.

Here is an image of my entire new system beside the X-S1 …


Fuji F200EXR  100iso  f/3.9  1/4 (tripod – Slick compact ii)

The term “compact” does not do justice to this system. It’s just plain tiny. To be fair, I put the 45-175 (90-350 EFL) power zoom lens on the G5 and it is still smaller by a lot. The power zoom does not extend for either focus or zoom and so is extremely pleasant to use under all circumstances. It helps that it is also quite sharp.

Here is the GF3 with the wonderful Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye mounted.

And the G5 with the Olympus 45mm 1.8 and 14-42 power zoom in the foreground. These are tiny lenses but pack a huge punch …

And finally, the X-S1 and G5 in travel mode. The X-S1 has the better range, but the G5 stomps it in literally every other category.

For travel purposes, I have an insert from the Lowepro CompuDayPack that works great at the bottom of many laptop cases. Here is my entire system packed away for travel with room to spare.

So not only is this system not ugly, it is in fact gorgeous in every possible way. The whole m4/3 line is pretty nice to look at and pretty wonderful in practical use. The new touch interfaces from Panasonic are excellent, but there are so many buttons on the Panasonic that you may never need to use the touch interface. Your loss of course.

So far, I do not miss the D7000 at all. Of course, it is harder to get some shots on low light, but so far I have found nothing impossible yet …


And speaking of size … I am going to try a new travel tripod for my upcoming trip to Stockholm. I have been looking for something that simply works. Nothing fancy at all but something small and light. I tried one of those “whip antenna” style tripods but it is far too flimsy to be useful, so I kept looking. And today I found the Slik Compact II, on clearance at Future Shop for 29 bucks.

Here is the new tripod shown second from the right. In order from left – Feisol 3471 and Markins M20L, a superb combination for equipment of any size; Velbon whatever, a really nice tripod that I have had for 20 years or more; the new Slik Compact II; and finally the whip antenna travel tripod that is just too flimsy for anything as big as my G5. It partially crumpled with the GF3 :-)

Edit: Thanks Piotr for catching my brain fart … Smile Here is the actual image …

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Panasonic G5 – Review Part 1 – The arrival …

Well, the arrival was about a week ago, and coincided with the sale and shipment of my D7000. In fact, in the last couple of weeks I have sold the body, the grip, and 5 or 6 lenses. It’s moving quickly and I have mostly replaced my system already.

Here is what I have so far:

  • Panasonic GF3 and 14-42 X Vario PZ Power OIS as a kit
  • Panasonic G5 as a body
  • Panasonic 45-175 X Vario PZ Power OIS
  • Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye
  • Olympus 45mm 1.8

This is a fairly complete kit with power zooms from 28mm EFL through 350mm. The fisheye gives me a 15mm viewpoint and does a wonderful job with sharp corners and no CA to speak of. And the 45mm is 90mm EFL at 1.8, which gives DOF equating f/3.6 on FF at 90mm. That’s some lovely subject isolation.

The G5 has been breathtaking for me. I love the interface, although I have had to learn a whole lot of tricks and buttons. But it feels a lot like the GF3 so I am not bothered about all that learning curve.

Image quality is superb … I use the electronic shutter, which is limited to 1600ISO, but I have strong OIS so there is little need to go faster. If you really need more speed, then the Olympus and mechanical shutter makes a lot of sense.

So let’s have a look at a few preliminary images …

I started by shooting my keyboard lamp. And I could see right away that I was going to love this zoom lens … look at the clarity and the nice blur and bokeh at 28mm EFL at f/5.6 … quite surprising …


Panasonic G5 + 14-42 X Vario pz  1600iso  f/5.6  1/50

Later that evening, Nick showed me the perfect steak that he had just cooked. Very impressive indeed …


Panasonic G5 + 14-42 X Vario pz 1600iso f/3.5 1/15

Well, that was just a quick introduction to my new main camera. Fantastic! I love carrying it and shooting it …

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mirrorless Cameras – A couple of good sites, and a T-Shirt giveaway …

For those new to mirrorless cameras, there are a coupe of sites that I know of where you can get pretty solid information on these systems.

Thom Hogan is a well-known professional photographer who has been writing about Nikon equipment for a long time. He has been moving into the mirrorless space and has launched a web site covering only that at Sans Mirror (http://sansmirror.com) ...

For US residents only, click the t-shirt image and enter the contest for a limited edition T-Shirt ... and for the rest of the planet, click the t-shirt image and read about mirrorless cameras ...


A second site that you should be aware of is Discover Mirrorless (I said wireless in the first version of this post – thanks Piotr) at http://www.discovermirrorless.com/ … this is one of Will Crockett’s sites, another and more famous of which is Shoot Smarter.

Will has a wide gamut of contributors that include some excellent professional photographers that are showing what can be done with mirrorless cameras, so this is a good place to do your research.

Of course, there is also the old standby at http://dpreview.com, where you can look at several forums covering m4/3, NEX and Nikon 1 cameras. Great stuff.

Friday, October 12, 2012

GF3 does Parliament Hill

I’ve had occasion to be downtown in the evenings several times this week with a friend (hi MG :-) and am trying to carry the fairly compact GF3 and its wonderful 14-42 X power OIS zoom lens with me as often as possible now. I also carry a really small travel tripod that expands out like an old car’s antenna and can (barely) hold this rig up quite high. At least 3 feet off the ground.

This allows me to set up night shots that would be otherwise impossible when just puttering around somewhere without carrying anything heavy. Of course, I think I need a more stable platform, but as you will see, these shots are tack sharp, so I really have nothing to complain about.

A few nights ago, the hill and Peace Tower were lit in a fairly standard yellow light. Nice, and it goes well with the Centennial Flame in the foreground.


GF3 + 14-42 X  @14mm (28mm EFL)  160iso  f/7.1  3.2s

I stopped down pretty far in order to maximize sharpness and to use longer shutter speeds. The risk of using a long shutter speed on a barely stable platform like this tiny tripod is counter balanced by the risk of shooting faster exposures that are potentially blurred by “shutter shock” … an issue with many mirrorless cameras because of their fairly clunky mechanical shutters. Kind of ironic that they managed to have problems like mirror slap without a mirror.

The image darkens considerably when you try to include a close up of the flame itself. Four young people are enjoying a visit to the flame. It was fairly warm this night, so I enjoyed standing there and shooting a lot of images.


GF3 + 14-42 X @14mm  160iso  f/7.1  1/2

Moving in closer, we’re getting some nice detail on the provincial coats of arms in the flame’s pool.


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I then turned my attention to the Ontario coat of arms. Very nice light by the flame. I shot it several times and decided to show you them all, since the changes every second with a large flame like this.


GF3 + 14-42 X @14mm 160iso f/7.1 1/3


GF3 + 14-42 X @14mm 160iso f/7.1 1/3


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Dropping the shutter now to get more definition in the flame for the next few shots.


GF3 + 14-42 X @14mm 160iso f/7.1 1/30


GF3 + 14-42 X @14mm 160iso f/7.1 1/30

If that series does not convince you to shoot several images of the same static scene, then I don’t know what will.

Next, I turn to face east and capture the huge scaffolding tent that presumably covers some fa├žade work in progress. Greta lighting on the building I think …


GF3 + 14-42 X @14mm 160iso f/7.1 1/6


So tonight I stopped in again and was really surprised to see that the color scheme has completely changed. I was hoping to shoot the wet pavement tonight, but this was a major bonus.

I noticed another photographer standing near the road, so I set up beside him to avoid blocking his line of sight. In fact, he finished his shooting and then invited me to take his spot, which I gladly did.


GF3 + 14-42 X @14mm 160iso f/11 2.5s

I really like this shot. The colors and sharpness are very pleasing. What a change from the very warm tones above!

It was windy, though, so I did not shoot too many images. Here, I am at the long end of the zoom and the camera is being buffeted by wind, as is the flame. So I choose to stand on the windward side of the camera to block the wind from wrecking the shot with blur and again the result works.


GF3 + 14-42 X @14mm 160iso f/11 2.5s

I only shot about 5 or 6 images before the biting cold sent me packing. I really liked seeing the building in cool colors. I hope they keep these around for a while.

So how did the Panasonic GF3 shoot at night? Very well I think. The darkest sections (sky) were tough to handle, but a noise reduction and the judicious use of sharpening allow the images to appear sharp, yet reasonably smooth.