Saturday, November 28, 2020

Genetically speaking, who are you?

Hello? Anyone home? Or are you all out shopping in the great worship of a ritual orgy of consumerism? No, my readers are better than that. Aren't they? Aren't you? No, I haven't bought anything for Black Friday sales. I confess to being a bit tempted by the new Macbook Air laptops with the fast new chip, but the old one works perfectly well for what I use it for. Pity the battery was dying, but $177 fixed that, and puts off spending more than $1000 for perhaps another 7 years. 

I must admit to being pleased by the entire Apple store visit. I had a late afternoon appointment. One of their people directs you to stand in the right line. There are several lines for various kinds of visits. A few minutes later someone comes and gets you, and you have their undivided attention. A few minutes of diagnostics and checking for parts, and we were away to the races. I was told 3 to 5 days, which struck me as reasonable, and it turns out it was ready the next morning. They even cleaned it, (and it was filthy), which I'm not surprised by, but I'm pleased it happened.

Next computer related purchase is likely to be when they roll out the speedy new chip to the iMac line. I'll replace my Lightroom computer (which was bought November 2016) and use it as the email and Linda's browsing computer, and the 2008 vintage iMac will be retired. Or maybe I'll use it to display photos like I'd planned for the Cube but haven't been able to make that work the way I want, not like I've had the time to play with it.

A Brief History of Everyone who ever Lived, by Adam Rutherford.

I only finished this last night, too late to start writing the blog so you could read it fresh first thing in the morning. Turns out it was one of those nights where I was thinking too much to go to sleep, but not focussed enough to actually write anything in my head, and not awake enough to actually get up and read or write while communing with Celina.

My work day had finished on a high note, so I was surfing on that a little. I'd done a deep dive into the data, trying to figure out why work order counts didn't add up. I'd known that a work order could be attached to an asset (which belongs to a location) as well as directly to a location. This makes sense, as it's entirely possible for work to be done on a location as a whole, or to a particular asset. Filling in both fields is a bit weird from a database integrity perspective, but there's lots weird about this data.

I was working on a particular area (say it's locnum 1, and it has 3 children, locnum 2, 3, and 4) and I wanted all the assets at those areas, and all the work orders regardless of it belonging to one of those locations, or one of the assets at those locations. This is a straightforward query, albeit one where you need to be careful about your joins and query terms.

Except my totals weren't aligned. After a bunch of digging and querying I found an example of a work order on a particular asset in the area that I was concerned about, AND with a location of an entirely different area. I found wonum 1234 had assetnum 2345 (so far so good) but the work order locnum was 5 while the related assetnum location was 2. Oops. Check joins by doing queries to just one table and looking at specific results. Yup. More pre-migration data scrubbing.

Which, I probably don't need to remind you, is a good thing. I get paid by the hour to find such problems, figure out how to fix them, and in this particular transitional database, actually do the updates to fix them. It's gonna be fun even if I am swearing at Excel along the way. (Yes, I see most of you out there rolling your eyes.) At this point I don't know if this is explained by some edge case I haven't run into yet, or if someone goofed when doing the data entry.

This is all oil and gas data in a complicated database to keep track of work done to assets, and lots of other stuff too. Lots of times I think of data in chains. One location has 3 children location, which together have several hundred assets of various kinds, (some of which I care about a lot more than others), and several thousand work orders, and all sorts of associated data that is all related to each other in very specific ways. Break or corrupt the relationship chain somewhere, and some of the data goes astray.

In our own infinitely more complicated way, we ourselves are chains of data. The same basic building blocks, but at a genetic level we are a unique chain of data. Not just here and now, but unique within all the humans who have ever lived, or ever will live. 

All of us, unique. Think about that. Even identical twins have some subtle differences. At first when scientists were unravelling the genetic code, they thought it would be simple. This gene controls this, that other gene together with another one controls that. Except that nothing involving people is simple. The more they look, the more complicated it gets. 

The book points at the complexity and gives some examples, but you don't need to be a genetic scientist to understand it. I found it quite readable, and even humorous in some places. There is a faint flavour of Godel, Escher, and Bach, in that the writing itself is sometimes an example of the topic he's discussing. 

Along the way he addresses some of the misunderstandings (being polite) about genetics and the implications of the research discoveries. They make some people more than a bit uncomfortable. Fact based discussion of who our ancestors are, where and when they came from, and what 'race' means, upset a lot of what some people tell themselves to feel good about themselves and their perceived place in the world. 

All in all, excellent reading. I got it out of the library, but had it seen it in the book store I might well have bought it.

This last week disappeared in a blur, and I'm not entirely sure why. I don't feel particularly rushed about anything. I usually get up, have coffee, a work meeting and deal with any urgent requests or anything that needs doing while I'm thinking about it, shower and breakfast and clean up after, do some work, go for a walk and eat lunch, usually some more work, and suddenly it's wine o'clock. Read or browse the web, and bedtime. Zoom. No time to blog, and not even much time to get out for photo walks, though I'm looking forward to more photo studio work this weekend. Or once Linda is finished the holiday decorations she's working on, get photos of them.

Here's Fish Creek from a couple weeks ago. Not the most successful shot in the world. I should have taken two steps forward and composed out that branch in the upper left. Shooting into the sun is always tricky but I liked the play of light on water and the clouds.

It looks like with Alberta getting hit with many more COVID cases I will be out and about perhaps less than what I have been over the summer. My community association is struggling with planned events, both our and tenant's. A recent one was an AA meeting. Turns out that as a self-help group it's not restricted as such, but the new restrictions on indoor social events seem to affect it, as do the attendance limits. In the end they cancelled out of concern for their attendees, and as I gather, it was more a social meeting than a formal self help meeting.

Let's just say these government guidelines aren't what you'd call clear, and there's all sorts of idiots trying to find or create loopholes. It seems like Kenney is pandering to his base in a lot of this, rather than going by what the data says. Deaths, ICU bed occupancy, and cases overall are up, up, up. I hope we all get through it.

Of the Day


Monday, November 23, 2020

Macro Monday 43, Icky?

I'd been meaning to take macro photos of a particular object for a while, and only got around to it last night while working on a paperweight. As always, it took a bit of doing to get the light and orientation right, to say nothing of focus. That's the challenge. The fun part is seeing what the world looks like up close. As a reminder, the area you see on screen is about 3 x 4 mm in real life.

But first, a serene blue image to start you off.

And now the feature images. Are you ready?

A couple more of the same thing.

A couple more macro from the same area of the hurricane paperweight.

Of the Day

That clump of faded rose blooms are still hanging in there. At the rate they're going, I'll get all kinds of frosty and snowy photos of them all winter.

Non macro, but reflective shot of the hurricane paperweight, showing what happens when you don't control the light.

Friday, November 20, 2020

A new favourite

 If you've been following along you'll know I figured out a better way of taking photos of my paperweights. This is the fun thing about photography, you're never really sure of what you're going to get on screen until you get there. No matter how much care you take setting up the shot just so, sometimes it doesn't quite work out. 

Without going into too much detail, the fundamental problem is that our brains see the world differently than a camera does. That's why some scenes look flat, or a pretty model isn't photogenic, or what is bland to our eyes is wow to a camera.

To the eye in normal light, this paperweight is dark and dull. The detail is all but invisible. And yet, light it correctly and you get wow. More of the the shots from this session will show up in the of the day feature, and maybe I'll talk about why spherical is hard.

While I was at it, I put that paperweight under the macro lens. I thought there would be lots to look at, and I ended up disappointed. This is one of the cases where things didn't work out, not even for one of the abstract colour images I've sometimes posted. Oh well. None the less, I enjoyed sitting in a dark room, gradually rotating the paperweight, looking at it with the camera and my eyes.

Sometimes the camera and software tell you interesting things about an image. This one, for example. Most people look and think, ho-hum. No blossom. No pretty model. No bright colours. A photographer paying attention will note the aspect ratio is subtly different, and there's a relationship between that ratio the curve of the rose bush and the arc of snow. And that the start of that curve is a leaf with snow on it in the lower left corner. Da Vinci and the ancient Greeks would approve. I smiled during the entire editing process.

Of the Day

Celina, getting the attention she feels she deserves.

Paperweight (a different one)
I'm going to have to work on this one more. While I was making it, my instructor looked, and asked if worked in a hurricane, it was so big, and squat. And dark dark blue. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

21 for 21

This book came along at a good time. I've been thinking a lot lately, about all sorts of stuff. Sometimes it's difficult, I start down one path, then all of a sudden I'm on on a different path. Even at night, drifting off to sleep I might be working on one of my novels, or writing a blog, or thinking about a work data thing, then I'll roll over and forget what I was thinking about and start something else.

Sometimes it's big picture thoughts, wondering how 70million people could be so deluded as to think that Trump has done a good enough job to be given another 4 years at it, and think, contrary to all evidence, that he won the election.

Sometimes it's small picture thoughts, wondering if I should select some images and actually publish a book of them. Back in the day, editing and printing your own book was called the vanity press, and the strong assumption was that you couldn't get it accepted by a real editor that published real books. That world has sure changed, and not necessarily for the better in all respects.

We are awash in information. We are drowning in it. For all intents and purposes as far as any individual is concerned, there is an infinite number of books published EVERY YEAR and many of them are crap.  There are an infinite number of videos posted on YouTube. There are an infinite number of photographs published. I say infinite because while we can know the number of those things, there are far more than can be consumed by any individual. 

It's become clear that our education system has completely failed to cope with this deluge. Not all that long ago, facts were relatively limited. They lived in an encyclopedia and the brains of adults. They didn't change much, facts or adults. What was true last year was still going to be true next year.

Which mostly isn't true any more. The work I do, when I do it, didn't exist a few decades ago. The concept of a computer database barely existed when I was a child, and until recently the tools were primitive. Don't get me started on the reversion of Excel from mostly useful to $#@!. 

Now, everything is in a database. Nearly everything we see in daily life, and much that we don't see, has numbers attached to it, and those numbers identify it to a database, and information is stored about it. A simple example. Look at any bridge in Calgary. There is a number on it somewhere, and information about that bridge lives in a database. I don't even know what all information is stored, but there could be a lot. The light posts on the bridge have a number, and they might or might not be related to the bridge, but they certainly are related to an electrical circuit, which is related to a transformer. Probably several transformers, and all kinds of other electrical stuff I know nothing of. Then there is all the work that gets done to all that stuff to make sure it's properly maintained and safe for the people around it. Databases keep track of the skills and qualifications of the people doing the maintenance, and the scheduling of the maintenance work, and the materials required. I could go on. 

You can buy little RFID chips to attach to every possession in your house so you can find them when wanted. I might yet need to take advantage of this technology. Almost every human already has a myriad of numbers attached to them, and I can see a time when an ID chip will be embedded in our bodies. We do it for pets and there's barely a difference between keeping that chip in your pocket and having it embedded. What next? The pace of change is only increasing. Some days I can delude myself into thinking I'm keeping up, but mostly I know better.

I've been horrified by the concept of cloud computing ever since I heard of the idea. Put your data on someone else's computer? Why? I liked the idea of the internet, but I completely failed to anticipate what's happening with software and computers. It's getting to the point that computers essentially won't function if they are not hooked up to the internet. We rarely buy programs or apps any more. We lease them. They periodically need to talk to the mother-ship to be assured we're still allowed to operate the software. They get bitchy about not being updated. There is no longer any one person that knows all of what any particular program might be able to do if tickled just right. They change too fast and nobody can keep up.

I think of the the old photography model. A camera was a box to control the amount of light that fell onto a piece of film. It was entirely manual, in that there were no batteries. You could put any kind of film into it that would fit, and there were different kinds of film for different kinds of photos. You could take the exposed film to any lab to be developed, and there were any number of them, or you could develop it yourself. There was an entire sub-culture about the subtleties involved. You could get prints or slides done for a modest cost. Images were sometimes printed, framed, and hung for display, or published in books. There were no computers involved. None. Some say the images were better then, but that's because of the skills of the people involved, not necessarily the process.

In an historical eye-blink of time, that changed completely. My camera is a brick if the battery dies, which is why I always carry a spare, sometimes two spares if I'm doing a big event, or have a long day shooting. The images are stored on an SD card, which is a small chunk of plastic and metal without a computer to read it. The computer itself needs special software to read the card and edit the images. More software to store these images or send them somewhere for display. Leased software. Cloud based hard drives that I don't control. The software by which I produce this blog can go away at any time, and those 3500 some blogs go poof. Well, except they don't, I periodically get a back up of them. Which reminds me...

Many of the things I touched on are discussed in this book. It's accessible, almost chatty. My only real objection to it is that it's mostly pretty superficial. You could take any one of those 21 topics, and expand it into a book. If you think of each chapter as a longish blog post, you've got the right idea. 

The message in many of the chapters is that we are being lied to, all our lives. To simplify the world, we are told stories to make us believe our nation is better than other nations, that our religion makes us special, that our economic system is better than the others. While you might escape one of the stories, you are unlikely to escape them all. The stories benefit the people at the top of the pyramid. Mind you, if you're of the mindset that buys into one of those stories, you're going to be angered when it's your ox being gored.

What really hit home for me was when he was talking about Brave New World. Which made me think about the recent Battlestar Galactica show. I don't want my data in the cloud. I don't want my software updating itself without my knowing it. I barely trust the process where a photo taken with my phone shows up on one of my other computers, or mostly does although not when I'm in a rush, and it makes me wonder where else it shows up.

I like the process of taking photos with a real camera, (keep in mind some say those old film cameras are the 'real cameras') putting the chip in the computer, deciding what to edit, how exactly to edit, and how to export. Not a fan of what is called computational photography. (If you don't know, you probably don't want to know, although if you have a newish phone, you're already using it.) You may be amused to know that I've thought about getting a film camera, except the impracticality of developing film these days, and if you want to share that photo, you need a computer to scan it. 

You can't go home again. There was a time when priests and their appointees (Kings) were in charge and you did what they said or you were tortured to death. Then we started understanding how the natural world really worked, and even ordinary people could understand it when properly explained. People could make their own tools, and fix their own machines. Typically rich old white men were still in charge, but it was possible to escape their grip. Now, not so much. Except even that group is losing their grip. They still get many more toys than most of us, but they are manipulated by Google or Amazon just as much as the rest of us.

They've bought into the story that places them nominally in charge, and they will, and are, fighting tooth and nail to keep it that way. As you've heard me say before, the world is more complicated than a tweet, and anyone that thinks otherwise is dangerous.

I wouldn't say buy it, but it was well worth getting out of the library.

Of the Day

Paperweight, but first, serendipity flower from Feb 2017.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

So that was a foggy Tuesday morning

That didn't turn out quite like expected. I was up really early and looked out to see very light snow and the beginning of accumulation, like a heavy frost. How early? Really early. You don't want to know. Celina showed up from somewhere and kept me company while I read a bit. (21 thoughts for the 21st century, stay tuned for more later) 

It was snowing much harder, or so I thought. Snoozed for a bit. Still snowing when I got up, but essentially no more accumulation, yet I'd swear it was snowing fairly hard. Later in the morning it was still doing the same thing, with no change to the ground. It wasn't cold at all, and I thought mist between the trees and a bridge might work out well. Somehow, I haven't had much luck with mist in the trees in Fish Creek.

Along the way I was thinking about blogging, and the related software, and the whole process. Don't panic, but I think there's going to be some changes.

Bridge two is my favourite, any weather.

Nope, didn't get my feet wet, though someone else did.

I've had several goes of this shot in various light, and if I ever get it right, I think it's a print.

Just so the fans of my black and white don't think I've abandoned them.

This scene isn't quite the same without the fence beside the path.

Of the Day

To finish you off with some colour.
One person looking at this thought it was lewd.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Macro Monday 42, more glass

So this was quite striking and unexpected. This is glass, not another attempt at hair. 

While you'd think it would be easy to line up the paperweights and do both the regular and macro shots together, it doesn't work that way. There's somewhat different techniques, to say nothing of changing the camera setup. Better leave one lens on and work through the paperweights looking for interesting shots.  Lighting them this way produces quite different results, some of which are what I was hoping for, others not so much.

These are only just barely macro shots, but they're best examples yet of the lighting I was going after. This paperweight looks quite ordinary in normal lighting.

Of the Day

The attempts at actual macro shots of this paperweight were boring. When you dive in there isn't enough green to make it interesting.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

A first in Griffith Woods

From the perspective of a morning spent on a nice walk and coffee with a friend, the morning was a total success. Neither of us had been to Griffith Woods and were happy to explore. We didn't get lost, and we didn't get our feet wet. We had a great chat over many different topics. Life is good.

I brought the camera along but I'm not terribly happy with the results. The best photo of the trip was after the walk.

I was curious to see how the red of the coffee cup would show up against the red of Sean's shirt. There are some subtle differences I'd make were this to be an actual posed shot, but I didn't want to delay his coffee.

Here's the rest of the shots, such as they are. I'd go back again and hope for better light, though with no wind the reflections were lovely.

The parking lot was almost empty when we got there, and 5K and a couple hours later when we finished it was almost full. I can see why. 

Of the Day


Friday, November 13, 2020

Flowery Friday 22, last of the season

And here we are, the end of another season of Linda's garden. We had flowers up to Oct 10, which is pretty amazing.

I got asked which were my favourite flowers to shoot, and I was stumped. All of them, at the time, because if they weren't, I'd be shooting something else. But the white peony and the dahlias are so photogenic it's hard not to love them. The hens and chicks are always fun. And the tulips! Get them in the right light, with a bit of water on them, they look like molten glass. And then there are the lilies, always stunning. Do you get why I was stumped?


Of the Day


Paperweight. Macro. Abstract. Artsy?