Alkahest my heroes have always died at the end

June 29, 2007

Possum husbandry…

Filed under: Photography,Wildlife Rehab — cec @ 8:32 pm

K is taking care of some baby possums for the next week.  They are about 16 grams (1/2 oz) each.  Obligatory pictures included…

dsc_1891.JPG   dsc_1892.JPG   dsc_1893.JPG

dsc_1894.JPG    dsc_1895.JPG

minor updates

Filed under: Uncategorized — cec @ 12:56 pm

Just a couple of minor updates:

  1. my keyboard came in yesterday and it’s everything that I hoped it would be.   I feel sorry for the folk in my office suite.  It is a bit loud
  2. I cropped some of the photos using the original sized images, so all that’s left are captions and fixing the lens smudge

June 26, 2007

Vacation pictures v0.2

Filed under: Personal,Photography — cec @ 10:04 pm

Okay, I’ve made some updates to my Yellowstone pictures


  • I’ve added my favorites (which had been stuck in another directory and didn’t get in the first release)
  • I’ve cleaned up the brightness on the first 8 shots (the camera had set itself to an exposure compensation of -0.7 for some reason)
  • I’ve fixed the gallery problem that etselec noted

To do:

  • Fix the stupid lens smudge in some of the wide angle shots near the end of the trip
  • Add some minimal captions
  • Go back to the original, larger shots and crop out tight images on some of the birds (like the sandhill cranes with their chicks and the peregrine falcons)

June 25, 2007

Fun with aphorisms

Filed under: University Life — cec @ 9:22 pm

I was in a longish meeting today when it occurred to me that it is a military truism that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.”  Moreover, as Walt Kelly’s Pogo noted, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”  This suggests that no plan survives first contact with its creators.

Most of my meetings bear this out.

Yellowstone pictures

Filed under: Personal,Photography — cec @ 11:53 am

When we came back from Yellowstone this year, I had about 1,800 pictures to go through.  I’ve finally selected the best 200 or so.  Some of them need a bit of cleanup in terms of brightness and in a few cases, getting rid of a mark that was on the back of a lens which shows up when the camera is stopped down.  Using the open source principle of release early and often, I’ve put these images online in their current form.  I’ve also got a few more that I put in my “best” category that I haven’t done yet, but will tonight.


June 24, 2007


Filed under: Photography — cec @ 10:23 pm

Last year, I mentioned High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, where you combine multiple pictures taken at different exposures to create a single picture where all of image is properly exposed. I didn’t do much with it at the time because, a) it’s not really possible when you shoot slide film, and b) there didn’t seem to be a good hdr program for linux.

a) was resolved when I went digital in November

as to b), I just wasn’t paying attention. I was looking for something in the Gimp or a Gimp plugin. I should have looked for PFSTools, PFSTmo and Qtpfsgui. PFSTools is a command line tool for creating and manipulating HDR images in their high bit count format. PFSTmo is a package of command line tone-mapping algorithms that will take the HDR images and map them back to 8 bit per channel images. Finally, Qtpfsgui is a GUI front end for all of this.

I’ve only just started playing with the tools, but take a look at the following 3 images, each with a different exposure (exposure compensation of -2, 0 and 2 EV):

orig-1.jpg orig-2.jpg orig-3.jpg

From these images, I created an HDR image which was then tonemapped using different algorithms to produce the following images (going from most to least realistic):

house-hdr2.jpg house-hdr3.jpg house-hdr1.jpg

Personally, I like the middle one, although I do wonder why the trees directly behind the house look odd in all of the images. <shrug>  I’ll keep playing around and see I can get a better sense of the options.

It’s official…

Filed under: Personal,Technical — cec @ 9:27 pm

K thinks I’m a freak. In her defense, I’m not certain that she would have ordered a $70 keyboard, so she may be right.  In my defense, I bought my first IBM-clone in 1990 and have kept the keyboard I chose since then. The company I bought it from, Formosa Computing (for those of you in NC, think Intrex), assembled parts and sold white-box computers. The keyboard that they originally gave me was awful. I didn’t like the mushy keys, so I went back, tried a dozen different keyboards and finally exchanged it for something with a bit more tactile response. With every new computer I bought, I used this keyboard. At one point, it had an AT to PS/2 to USB adapter in order to get it working.

Unfortunately, it finally died a couple of months ago. I bought a replacement, ergonomic, wireless keyboard that I promptly hated. I did try, I gave it a chance, but I kept mistyping. Tonight, I finally broke down and bought a new keyboard from Unicomp, the people that own the license to the original IBM buckling spring keyboard patent used on the Model M keyboards.

Does all of this make me a freak? Probably, but it could be worse. I could be as obsessive as these guys.

June 18, 2007

Amish Technology

Filed under: Personal — cec @ 9:09 am

As a member of the IEEE, I participate (loosely) in a a couple of societies: IEEE’s Computer Society and the Society on the Social Implications of Technology (SSIT).  I was reading SSIT’s magazine this weekend and ran across an article on Amish technology (no jokes please).  The article was particularly interesting to me because my grandmother’s mother was a Mennonite and her father was Amish.

While reading the article, I ran into a sentence that caught my eye.  The article noted that Issac Glick in Lancaster County Pennsylvania was the first Amish to use electricity in 1910.  He hooked a generator up to an electric light.  Shortly after that, all of the Amish communities banned the use of electricity except in certain controlled circumstances.  What caught my eye was the name and the place.  My great grandfather was named Glick – in fact, both my father and I have the “Glick nose” (what can I say, it’s somewhat unique 🙂 ).

When I called my parents last night, I spent some time talking to my mother about the Glicks.  It seems that the family legend is that my great grandmother (Minnie Mae Miller) left the Mennonite community to marry my great grandfather who had been expelled from an Amish community in… Lancaster Pennsylvania.  Now I’m wondering if and how I’m related to Issac Glick?

Apparently, there’s a biography about my great grandmother that was published a few years ago.  I need to track down a copy and see if there’s a mention of her in-laws.

June 17, 2007

A mental sigh of relief

Filed under: Personal,Technical — cec @ 9:40 pm

Working in IT, one of the things that is often on my mind is backing up my data. It’s often on my mind, but I seldom do anything about it. A few years ago, K and I bought an external USB drive to which we occasionally sync our desktop. That made me a bit more comfortable, we’re now covered if the drive crashes. Of course, I then started worrying about a fire in the house. Since my external drive is sitting on top of the computer itself, anything that destroys the one will likely destroy the other.

At work, I was recently on the “storage advisory team.” Sounds more grandiose than it was – we were basically a bunch of folks on a death march project to make recommendations for things dealing with data storage. One of the projects we were tasked with was data backup and recovery. None of the outsourced solutions we looked at were going to support linux, but the project did increase my backup anxiety.

Last week, I finally did something about it. I signed up for Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) and downloaded a copy of s3sync. I took the USB drive up to the office (for the fast networking) and backed everything up to S3. This weekend, I tested the backup service by backing up the home computer – essentially, anything that had changed since last weekend. Overall, it went well. The original upload took maybe 8 hours for 17GB. The updates took about 1 hour, but that is in part because of all the deletion requests needed (I cleaned up quite a bit) and my slow desktop hard drive.

This isn’t something I would have recommended on the storage team, but it’s effective and cheap. Rather than being ~$20/month for 17GB, it cost ~$2.60 to upload the data and will cost ~$2.50/month to store it. Plus, I think I can stop worrying about backups 🙂

June 11, 2007

That’s too cool

Filed under: Technical — cec @ 7:46 pm

Okay, thanks to Jag, I’ve seen the coolest thing ever. The steampunk keyboard + monitor:


Now all I need is a few dozen hours of free time to build my own.

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