Saturday, November 30, 2019

A truck tire?

I do love scale games.

In other news, if you made it down this far, I've got image of the month picked out. It will be a new one for you, unless you live pretty close to me.

And no, as you've probably figured out, it wasn't a truck tire. It was all the same dead tree in the Yukon river, on a gravel bar. The one below too.

 Deadwood of the Day

Friday, November 29, 2019

Not what you think it is

No, this isn't actually a panorama shot.

It's a cropped shot from my wide angle lens, 5693 x 2183 px, so 2.6x1, which is getting up into Cinemascope territory.

It isn't a created shot. I found those elements there and didn't move anything, although I should have. The thing driving the cropping, but not the composition, was another lens sitting in the lower right of the image. Sigh. I keep forgetting just how wide that lens is.

No, it isn't a functional grain elevator, but you already guessed that. It's well known in local photography circles, and there's lots of interesting stuff to see. But the problem for me is that the buildings themselves are so obvious that it's difficult to get an original shot of them. There are usually several other people around trying to do the same thing. Often they are complicating your composition, or you theirs.

I wandered around, did some photos of the other people, and stumbled upon this pile of junk. Quite literally. I'm glad I didn't fall down and impale myself. I liked the rusty metal and tried several compositions, then got the idea of shooting under the hoop.

Cameras are an amazing piece of technology. One of the many things it does is show you an image of what you have captured. This isn't quite as you might think. Here's another view of me exploring composition.

That steel hoop is less than a foot high, but I was thinking of the book Ringworld, and had the idea of the hoop up in the sky as an arch over the grain elevator. Or an metal rainbow. I was mainly focused on getting the camera almost right under the hoop, on the pile of rusty sharp metal bits without damage to me or the camera.

I knew the other lens was there, but I figured by the time I got into position it would drop out of the frame, or be low enough that I could crop it out. Plus, unless I wanted it rolling around in the long grass, there was nowhere else to put it, and no one around to hold it. Yeah, I know, some photoshop whiz could use the clone tool, or something, to get rid of it.

So there I was, working my way in. I looked at the camera version of the shot, and figured I had it. Oops. Not quite. Lots of times I wince at almost shots while editing on the big screen. The little camera screen doesn't quite show you everything the lens captures, so there is sometimes something intruding into the frame. Sometimes cropping works, sometimes not. Sometimes you think your subject is in focus, and it's ever so slightly not. The better a photographer you are, the more flaws you see in editing, but then you also avoid some flaws too.

So what's wrong with the first shot? There's some detail in the metal that got lost. It's slightly out of focus, and slightly too dark for the camera to pick up, but I couldn't tell that by looking at the camera. I need to get better at insurance shots. I should have moved the other lens, snuggled the camera into a slightly different position to make the composition better, and done a 3 shot HDR sequence. Maybe got rid of those two big stalks of shrub, or maybe not. Maybe I could have found a camera angle that would have corrected the distortion of the curve of the hoop so it looked circular in the shot. The call to go back to the bus happened about then, but I could have taken a few more minutes. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

What I actually started writing about was these ghost buildings. At one point someone decided it would be a good idea to build this. Lots of time and labour went into it. There are a few other abandoned buildings nearby, but there wasn't actually a town. I often wonder about abandoned buildings. Someone went to the time and trouble to build them and put stuff in them. They had dreams, I'm sure, of it being part of a better life for them or their children.

Then something happened, or didn't happen. Maybe the crops failed one year too many. Maybe someone got sick or died. Maybe they won the lottery and moved to Beverly Hills but wanted to start over completely and didn't take anything. Ok, maybe that last one is unlikely.

But at some point, whatever reason, the owner or resident walked away and never came back. I look at these abandoned buildings and can't help but wonder what the story is.

Deadwood of the Day

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

I thought of the remaining Yukon photos,

It seems hard to believe, but I'm coming up on 3 months since my Yukon trip and the great many photos that generated. As you might remember, I have a smart folder that keeps track of which photos I blog (if I'm consistent in tagging them) and after 3 months they roll off the bottom of it. That folder has 219 photos in it right now, and 93 of them are edited photos from the Yukon trip.

I hadn't thought there were so many left. A few will never be published. Some are of dead wood and of specialized interest in my readership. I don't know and don't have any quick and efficient way of finding out how many would be left if I didn't include them.

My first thought had been to dump them all on the blog in a big extravaganza. Except no way 93 photos are going to go in one blog. What to do? What do do?

A short detour later to calm down cats panicked by a cell phone emergency alert test, and making lunch.

OK, it's snowing out as I write this on Wednesday, varying between hard and steady. There's a lot of white out there. So you get some colour. These are all from within the last 3 months.

Deadwood of the Day
This is about as colourful as dead wood gets.

The digital age

This was my reading on the recent trip to Ontario. Excellent! This is about as up to the minute as a printed book can get, talking about events during the summer of 2019, as the book covers a wide variety of tech related topics. One of them is how computers and data and AI will impact humans. It turns out there is a historical precedent.

I thought I had a good grip on how the Great Depression started. Stock market stupidity. Economic fallout from the disastrous reparations terms imposed on Germany after WWI. What I hadn't thought about was the impact of the horse being replaced by the internal combustion engine for cars and farm equipment.

The economy revolved around horses in the early 1900's. They were used for transporting people, and providing power on farms. There was an entire chain of good and services based on the horse. We talk about buggy whip manufacturers, but that's almost trivial. When there's 1 horse for every 5 people, and a horse takes 10 times as many calories to support, there was more effort put to growing horse food than people food.

When the number of horses declined by 1/3 during the 1920's, there was a corresponding decrease I the amount of land used to grow their feed. That land was switched to crops for people, and prices fell as output increased. Farmer's income dropped, and they started going bankrupt. All the industries around horses went through a corresponding decline, buying and selling them, the related farm machinery, feed, carriages, everything. Then secondary industries started being affected. More people lost their jobs, faster (in the short term) than the automotive industries replaced them. The entire economy nearly came unglued.

Now we have a similar change sweeping through our world, computers, to use one word to describe a complicated industry. There's been lots of changes so far and nobody thinks we're done. The dot com boom bust in the early 2000's, and the global credit crises of 2008, and the crash of oil prices in 2015 or so show that our economy isn't particularly stable. It won't take too much rocking to swamp the boat, and that's before idiots like Trump and Kenney are put in charge.

The horse was a tool that mostly replaced human muscles. The computer is a tool that augments our brains. It can control tools that replace all but the most dextrous and skilled human hands. The changes will be more than we anticipate.

Up till now, computer controlled robots have replaced many industrial assembly line jobs. They had to be programmed to perform specific tasks, so of course there were programming jobs created. The skills already existed to create the actual robots. People that did jobs requiring thought and judgement were safe, or so we thought.

Turns out computers can learn to recognize patterns. Think about a human who is trained to interpret medical imagery. Some more experienced human shows them images of what a broken bone, or a cancerous mass of cells looks like via some imaging equipment, and they go on to interpret new images and give instruction to other medical professionals. Except now a computer can look at millions of images and the corresponding information in a very short time, and will be able to interpret new images faster and more accurately than a human.

Think of paralegals, looking up legal information to be used by lawyers. Except computers can read books now, and can provide the same information far quicker and far more accurately. I would not want to be a para-legal.

Think about your family doctor. The training they go through takes years, and some of what they learn is outdated the day they graduate. New conditions come along, new tests, new data. Nobody can keep up. We used to think that we needed doctors to listen to our story, do some tests, and they would give us a diagnosis. Now people are finding that asking Mrs Google about a specific ailment is a better starting point than asking their doctor. A Google search prepares the patient to make better use of the doctor's time, and depending on their expertise, it might lead the doctor to be doing their own Google or medical database searches right after the patient visit. How long before doctors are replaced by a computer managed by what we'd now call a technician?

This gets us into the the heart of the book, looking at the Artificial Intelligence world that is coming. Some of it is scary AF, or even scarier than that if you can imagine such a thing. This is our problem, we can't imagine, and we're the ones building the rules that our computers will follow. At least, until the computers start changing the rules by themselves. At that point we'd better have given our new overlords reason to treat us kindly. At best we're going to have an amazing world where computer AI  and us are partners. At worst, think about something smarter than Skynet and terminators that is mad at us.

Smith talks about this in a very engaging way. There is a hint of Microsoft hagiography about it that nuzzled my buttons, but it was worth it. The topics are relevant for today, and it's well written enough to engage the interest of most people. It doesn't seek to explain how facial recognition works, for example, but talks about the issues related to it, some of which are not intuitively obvious. And no, I won't be buying a phone that turns on via facial recognition software.

I don't know if the book is in the library. If so, put a hold on it. If you live nearby and want to borrow it, ask. The book is worth it.

Deadwood of the Day

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Winter decorations

If you aren't a crafting person, go on to whatever you were going to do next. These are for Linda and her sister. Normally Linda would look at them on screen, but she's not here. The cats are deeply unsatisfied with this arrangement, only one servant, and the stupidest one ever.

Winter decorations are tricky. Supplies come in when they do, and you've got to be Johnny on the spot to get yours, otherwise someone else will score. Then there's the weather. Hopefully it hasn't been too cold, or isn't too cold on the decorating days. She had a couple good days, and put in a lot of effort to make them look nice. I think she still had some finishing touches in mind.

Taken today, in the snow, trying to get the ones I had missed. I think Linda was still in progress on these before the great trip adventure.

Deadwood of the Day