Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Wednesday 18 May 2011

I'm slowly coming around to the notion that no matter how perfect the composition, digital photographs almost always benefit from some post-processing. Back when I shot hand-rolled Tri-X from bulk and printed everything myself, I routinely changed papers and printing filters, dodged, burned, cropped, and distorted, in search of the perfect print. (I have a great before-and-after example that I will post when I receive the subject's permission.) Ansel Adams, recall, did most of his work in the darkroom.

Here's a 10-minute example of digital processing. Let's start with the raw photo; only the output size has changed:

The near-sunset direct light makes Leah look radiant. The expression—this was during our dad's speech—is purely her. And the reflections off the picture behind her don't distract me too much. Why would I change this shot?

Because I think it can look even better.

Continue reading and see the results on The Daily Parker.

Wednesday 18 May 2011 14:27:55 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Photography#
Tuesday 17 May 2011

Le Figaro is reporting that the French accident-investigation authority (BEA, the French equivalent of the NTSB) reviewed the flight data recorder from AF447 over the weekend. Airbus Industrie, the airplane's manufacturer, this morning reported to its customers that they do not anticipate a finding that the airplane was at fault, an elliptical way of saying it's pilot error. The BEA is livid that Le Figaro leaked the story:

“Sensationalist publication of non-validated information, whilst the analysis of the data from the flight recorders has only just started, is a violation of the respect due to the passengers and the crew members that died and disturbs the families of the victims, who have already suffered as a result of many hyped-up stories,” the BEA said in a statement responding to that story.

Le Figaro, though almost completely consumed for the last three days with Dominique Strauss-Kahn, still seems to have come to a reasonable conclusion based on leaked information from the BEA:

Selon les sources interrogées par Le Figaro, de nouveaux éléments sur la responsabilité d'Air France ou de son équipage seront communiquées par le BEA dans la journée de mardi. Le rapport définitif d'enquête du BEA devrait être rédigé durant plusieurs mois mais il est possible que le scénario du drame soit définitivement établi d'ici la fin de semaine. Contactée par Le Figaro, le porte-parole d'Air France s'est refusé à tout commentaire, «tant que le BEA n'aura pas mené à bien l'ensemble des vérifications nécessaires». De son côté, Airbus s'est également refusé à toute confirmation.

Translation: According to Le Figaro's sources, new information about Air France's responsibility or its crew's will be released by the BEA on Tuesday. The final report on the accident won't be released by the BEA for several months, but it is possible that the drama's scenario will be definitively established by the end of this week. Air France has declined to comment; for its part, Airbus has also refused to confirm the information.

The most widely-held hypothesis, advanced by PBS's Nova a couple of months ago, holds that the plane's computer lost airspeed information due to pitot tube icing, but the pilots failed to respond correctly to the problem.

Tuesday 17 May 2011 16:13:10 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#

Via Gulliver, an Economist post on the English-distortion field around airplanes:

In general, flying is filled with phrases you’ll never hear anywhere else. You must “deplane”, not just leave the airplane. In a theatre you’re asked to switch your mobile phone off; on an American airline you’re told to put all electronic devices "in the off position”, whatever that is. Carry-on suitcases with wheels apparently became "rollerboards" "roll-aboards" in the mouths of the airline staff at some point. Many of the instructions seem replete with extra verbiage: seats and tray tables in "the full upright and locked position". Flights that are not just full but completely full.

Pat Smith ("Ask the Pilot") complained about this a while ago, but I didn't find the column in four minutes so I'll leave the search up to my loyal readers.

Tuesday 17 May 2011 13:21:17 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#
Monday 16 May 2011

Officially and virtually, I've had this since December 30th. I do like having the hard copy though:

Monday 16 May 2011 09:10:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke#
Friday 13 May 2011

The temperature in Chicago dropped precipitously mid-morning:

Temperatures are dropping up to 14°C in less than an hour as a lake enhanced cold front sweeps across the Chicago area. The steepest temperature drops have been occurring along the lakefront and in the Loop where readings hovered in the mid-20s Celsius for a while this morning. Post-frontal temperatures downtown and along the lake are now around 10°C, with little or any recovery expected today as a stiff northeast wind prevails.

At Wrigley Field, the temperature dropped from 22°C degrees at 10:10AM to 14°C degrees at 10:17AM.

And now it's raining. The good news is, I brought an umbrella to work. The bad news is, I also brought a dog, and I'm wearing jeans and a polo shirt without a jacket. Brrr.

Friday 13 May 2011 14:28:40 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Girlyman played Evanston SPACE last night:

Coyote Grace is touring with Girlyman this year; I'll be looking for them again. Also, surprise musical guest The Shadowboxers, who graduated from college Wednesday, led the show with a 4-song set. Again, another band I need to follow.

I'll have more photos next week. Tomorrow I'm off to Duke for our graduation ceremony. The school awarded our degrees in January (retroactive to December 30th), but I still want to walk—and see my classmates. Only, with work, a 7am flight to RDU, and everything going on this weekend, I don't expect to have time to organize last night's photos for a few days.

I will say this: even with the 7D's amazing low-light abilities, shooting a concert is hard. I experimented with a dozen or so combinations of ISO, aperture, and shutter, and I quickly put away my 18-55mm zoom in favor of a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. The shot above was ISO-3200, 1/125 at f/1.8. I tried slower shutters with tighter apertures but the band were so energetic that led to lots of subject movement. Lower ISOs gave me less grainy photos, but again, required slower shutter speeds, so they weren't quite up to my standards. And black & white, which ordinarily covers many sins in variable-light environments, didn't look right, because the lighting makes up part of a live performance's appeal.

I also shot about 18 minutes of video (which looks OK, actually), making my total haul for the evening a whopping 12 GB. I don't think I can post any video, though. (Pesky copyright laws.) If I find out from the band it's all right to do so, I'll put some up.

Friday 13 May 2011 08:47:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | Kitchen Sink#
Thursday 12 May 2011

In computers, as in any technical or artistic field, sometimes words have different meanings than they do in ordinary English. Take "or," for example. When a computer sees "or," it understands that if either condition is true, then the entire thing is true. The logic chart looks like this, with the conditions along the edge and the result in the middle:

 TrueFalse
TrueTrueTrue
FalseTrueFalse

So, if condition 1 is true, then the statement is true, regardless of condition 2, and vice-versa. Only when conditions 1 and 2 are both false is the result false.

In standard spoken English, the word "or" doesn't work that way. Instead, it functions as an "exclusive or" (XOR), wherein one and only one condition must be true (and the other false) for the entire thing to be true. That grid looks like this:

 TrueFalse
TrueFalseTrue
FalseTrueFalse

So if condition 1 is true and condition 2 is false (or vice-versa), then the result is true; but if both 1 and 2 are the same, the result is false.

Leave it to master logician and brilliant philosopher Newt Gingrich to use a logical "or" in conversation today when he said, "either I really believe the things I've said my whole life, or I'd be a fraud." See? To a computer, he can be both!

Actually, he can be both to a person, too, but that's another problem.

Thursday 12 May 2011 13:06:26 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Wednesday 11 May 2011

Rod Blagojevich, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties:

The prelude to this curse is also quite interesting because Blagojevich is on a conference call talking to his advisors and he quickly seems to come unhinged. He starts the conversation by saying he’s been politically successful, but Obama’s rise to the White House makes it difficult for him to run for president. He tries to keep his cool, but then he makes clear to his advisors what he wants: money. Then an advisor asks one question and he loses it.

(Go to the WBEZ City Room for a link to the uncensored tape.)

Some of the former governor's money woes might—might—have come from spending $400,000 on clothes in the six years before his impeachment. Just maybe.

Pat Quinn will never give us this kind of entertainment, running the state competently as he does. I mean, this is f****n' Illinois. And we had this thing, and it was f****n' golden. But then it got tossed out of office, and all we have now is the retrial.

Wednesday 11 May 2011 13:10:51 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#

Earlier I mentioned today would be the warmest since October 11th. True; but it turned out warmer than any since August 29th. Today the official temperature at O'Hare hit a record 32°C, warmer than Miami, Cancún, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.

The cool lake waters and warm inland temperatures generated a strong lake breeze that kept us almost 14°C cooler downtown.

Tomorrow may be warmer...

Tuesday 10 May 2011 20:28:33 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 10 May 2011

Sunday the temperature in Chicago couldn't crest 16°C, a temperature more typical of March than of May. Today it's already 26°C and rising—the warmest Chicago has seen since October 11th. Tomorrow will be even warmer, possibly passing 31°C. But don't worry; this is Chicago, so March will return this weekend:

Computer models are advertising a sharp pull back in temperatures by this weekend. A pool of unseasonably cool air is to settle over the Midwest, spinning up a blustery storm system over Illinois which is to remain essentially stalled in place over the coming weekend. It's a scenario which could generate gusty easterly winds in Chicago and temperatures which fall back to the low 10s Saturday and Sunday. That the system is to be part of a blocking pattern is the reason it's to be such a slow-mover. Model rainfall estimates put potential weekend rainfall of up to an inch down here.

NOAA also released new data this past week confirming what we in Chicago have suspected for a while: our autumns are getting sunnier while our springs and summers are getting gloomier. Winters, however, remain unchanged in their character building cold.

Tuesday 10 May 2011 11:44:13 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 9 May 2011

The costumed head of a Tea Party organization this morning clarified the movement's small-government ethos:

[Tea Party Founding Fathers chairman William] Temple said that "if the House Armed Services Committee and the Pentagon slow down on injecting open homosexuality and females into forward combat roles," tea partiers might be able to put up with their new Republican House voting to ensure American government services paid for with more borrowed cash.

Temple's line of reasoning:

When the Pentagon's own studies show that military effeminization may have an extremely costly impact on recruiting and retention, when Islamists have shown their willingness to sexually brutalize American female reporters, why would John Boehner's House Republicans be caving to political correctness? Why would House Republicans who know better be fostering inappropriate attractions in the intimacy of tents, bunks, barracks, platoons, subs, tanks, convoys, cockpits, latrines, showers, toilets and locker rooms when we are fighting wars in three Muslim nations?

This is, of course, the kind of reasoned argument one would expect from a man standing in front of video cameras wearing a tricorn hat.

Monday 9 May 2011 12:31:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
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French newspaper suggests pilot error in Air France 447 crash
Put your English skills in the "on" position
Late delivery from Durham
Holy cold front, Batman!
Great music in Evanston
The meaning of "or"
The only governor we had, unbleeped
Even warmer than that
Warmest day in seven months
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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