Monday, November 07, 2005

5000 views on Flickr

I've recently reached 5000 views on Flickr - which is a nice little milestone to reach. I'm glad that some folks seem to like my shots, and while I know some photographers that can get 5000 view on a single pic, I'm proud of this minor accomplishment.

To commemorate, here's a few of my favourite pics that haven't gotten the views I would've liked.


Galway

London Eye

Westminster Station

Monday, October 24, 2005

Yet more signs that all might not be right with me...

Buying polarizing filters for my 72 and 77mm lenses and a 2GB CF card for my cameras vs. buying a new Apple video iPod for roughly the same cost?

Winner: Filters and 2GB card - because those are 'necessities' when the iPod is simply a nice to have. A polarizing filter would've made this shot I took a couple days ago much better, so I've learned my lesson.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Flowers becomes my new #1...


Flowers
Originally uploaded by markdemeny.

For some reason, despite all my best efforts - it seems my flower shots seem to rise to the top of the pile. Although my current views for new photos are much higher than they used to be, it seems that if I slip one in there while I'm shooting other things it tends to draw more views and more comments than a comparative shot. This is now the "Most Favourited" of all my pictures.

I think perhaps the Flickr thumbnail syndrome contributes to this - a really saturated, simple image will grab peoples attention, while a more subtle pic will not.


Not that I can complain - positive feedback is always nice and keeps me going. It's just something of a surprise, that's all.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Brain Teasers...

Slashdot had an article on math/logic problems. The first linked response was on a game called 'The Petals Around the Rose'. Since it involves the founder of my current client, I thought I'd post it here for your amusement.

I took me a few rolls to figure it out. Luckily the article doesn't have the solution listed, but you can check your guesses here.

I think my friends are quite sick of playing Trivial Pursuit and other games with me, and this is a game I'd never seen before (and quite a funny little one - you'll kick yourself when you figure out the answer) so I'm curious to see how my friends fare.

The Fujifilm FinePix S3Pro

Fuji S3

Just before leaving for Seattle, I purchased a new digital camera to compliment my Nikon D70. You may be asking, what could possibly justify spending double the price of the nearly perfect Nikon D70s? Granted the Nikon is quite the machine for the cost, it's fast, compact and easy to use. The Fuji is none of these. However in spite of these shortcomings, it's quickly becoming my favourite machine for shooting. I had some good advice regarding the S3 from Ryan Breznier who has an S2. The good and the bad points of the camera are pretty much exactly as he described they would be.

The S3 is built upon the Nikon F80 and it shows. Operations like setting the ISO are actually based upon the film camera dials and operations. There is no auto ISO, and operating the camera is very much like using a film camera, rather than a digital one.

The Good:

The dynamic range is fantastic. It actually works. Take a look at the following two shots; the first is the JPEG straight from the camera - as you can tell, the highlights are completely blown out. The second is the RAW file with the highlights pulled down. With other digital cameras, the only way to accomplish the photo would be through bracketing, which is time consuming and requires the use of a tripod. Having to process the Fuji RAW file is time-consuming, but no moreso than working with bracketed photos.

I love having a vertical grip. My large lenses are much easier for shooting in portrait mode with it. Not only that, the grips for both positions have fantastic ergonomics. Why Nikon intentionally made the D70 unable to use vertical grips is beyond me and one of my big complaints.

Colour options. The camera has multiple options for setting the saturation of colour and skin tone, this allows some amazing colour straight from the camera without any post-processing. 'Film Simulation 2' is fantastic - this shot of flowers taken on my first time out with the camera has quickly become one of my friends favourites.

It's very quick to swap between JPEG and RAW, a simple 2 button operation - whereas on the D70, you need to navigate through multiple menus. So even though the Fuji RAW format is a beast, both in terms of size and write speed, but luckily you can easily switch to the really great JPEG format with ease.

The Bad:

The RAW files are huge - 25Mb to be exact. This can eat through a 1GB card in short order.

It's SLLLLOOOOOOWWWWWW. RAW files take about 20 seconds to write to the card, during which you can't access the menus. A short image preview flashes on the screen, but disappears during the rest of the write. JPEGs are quicker to write - within a few seconds. If you really need to preview the image, shoot in JPEG to get the settings you want then switch to RAW.

The unexpectedly good:

Time-lapse photography (via USB and laptop) - using the Fuji Software (free, unlike Nikon Capture) I can control the camera via my computer for things like time-lapse photography.

Manual in-camera focus - I haven't used it, but unlike most digital SLRs I can actually use the LCD to manually focus the camera and even zoom in.

Nice huge LCD for viewing photos

No IR pass filter - so I can put an IR filter on the camera, for high-contrast black and white photos.

Focusing seems to be quicker and smoother than my D70. My 80-200 f/2.8 is very 'jumpy' when using my D70, but is smooth as silk on the S3.

Here's a list of all my pics taken using my Fuji FinePix S3Pro

Geotagging!

I've recently discovered the joys of Geotagging. Quite simply, it's adding latitude and longitude information to your photos, allowing all sorts of nifty tricks, like overlaying Flickr information with Google Map info (using both APIs).

This is the type of really neat 'Web 2.0'-type applications that open APIs allow.

View all my Geotagged photos.

I'll eventually start uploading at least one photo from each country I've visited, so I can have a visual representative view of all my travels.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

New toys


Nikon F80
Originally uploaded by markdemeny.

I traded my old Pentax MZ-M and lenses to pay for most of this F80. It's in near perfect condition and barely a mark on the film guides, so I'd doubt if more than a dozen rolls of film had passed through it.

You can also see the base of my Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8D AF lens which I purchased a few weeks ago as well.

I'm very happy with the progress I'm making taking photos and getting used to my camera inside and out. I'm now shooting RAW+Fine all the time - the jpegs go to Flickr, the RAW files to my backup drives.

This shot was in really poor light with a thin DOF, but think I did pretty well. I need to correct the WB, but I like the shot. I'm also getting much more used to the other useful functions like bracketing and exposure compensation and there are a few examples posted from yesterday.

I'm also pleased the F80 is nearly the same in function to the D70, so even sans manual I was able to figure most of it out. It will come in handy when shooting weddings for friends in that I won't have to swap lens as often with 2x the cameras.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Most interesting


Guided by Voices
Originally uploaded by markdemeny.

Flickr has added 'Most Interesting' using an algorithm of comments and most favourited.

This one is my #2 and #3 (I added it twice when I was a non-Pro user) so I think this would actually be my #1

Memories of GBV in New York...

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Renzo Piano, the greatest architect you've never heard of.

When you want a flashy, expensive and noteworthy building you turn to Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaus or Daniel Libeskind. Unfortunately, not every building can be a signature piece. When you want a conservative building executed well, you turn to Renzo Piano (Slate article).

While the other architectural wunderkinds have been rebuilding city skylines with bold statements in metal and glass, Piano has been quietly designing buildings in Europe and Asia. I was reminded of him while watching a documentary on Kansai airport in Osaka, Japan.

Piano is scheduled for what they'd call a breakout fairly soon. In the same way that Gehry exploded from architectural obscurity to the mainstream after the Bilbao Guggenhiem, I think Piano will similarly acsend after the London 'Shard of Glass' is built. It will soon be the tallest building in Europe, especially striking for a city not especially known for skyscrapers. Soon afterward, people may revisit his other works such as the New York Times building, Pompidou Centre and other works and discover a deep and varied portfolio worthy of some of the same recognition as the other household names.

Monday, July 25, 2005

My 'habit' is becoming a 'problem'

I bought a new lens for my D70. This is now my fourth lens and it cost more than my D70 body itself. I know I have a problem. I told myself I wouldn't buy any new equipment until I sold something... but the lens spoke to me in a high pitched begging voice "take me home... take me home..." and I couldn't say no to such a well-engineered piece of Japanese glass.

My new Nikon 80-200 f/2.8D will keeping me company on my latest trip.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Canada's Economic History

I meant to post this a few weeks ago, but lost track of it. Here's a little economic quiz for Canadians. Apparently only 1 in (some insanely high number of people) could get 20 out of 20. I got 16 out of 20. How well can you do?

Monday, June 27, 2005

What's it like having lunch at the Best Restaurant in the World?

There are few experiences where my skills as a writer are seriously put to the test, and this is one of those times. Even searching for a title to this post was difficult. I tried 'Visiting the Mozart of Food' , 'I will never be able to look at lesser foods again' and 'I am a lucky bastard and you all should hate me'. I think the last one is closest to the truth, but it makes for a horrible title.

My friend Russ worked with a chef now working at the Fat Duck. This is a Michelin 3-star restaurant with a two-month waiting list, and justifiably voted Best in the World in a recent survey. And I knew this all beforehand, so when Russ called me as a last-minute replacement to attend his birthday lunch, I naturally jumped at the chance.

I had managed to play second fiddle in a little plan which turned out to be one of the most excellent days of my life. I have been to a few Michelin starred restuarants many times, as well as many other unrecognized restaurants of similar calibre. With all the travel I do on expenses, I get to visit a wide range of restaurants all across the world, so I think my credentials as someone who can appreciate fine food are well-established.

So how does one quantify food - such a qualifiable experience? Certainly, quality of the raw ingredients and preparation is the foundation of quality, simple cooking. There are few things more pleasurable than simple food, done well with quality ingredients. Great food takes that base and adds preparation, service and accompanyments (sauces, deserts, wines, etc.) The Fat Duck was another level entirely. The menu is filled with such oddities as snail porridge, mango and douglas fir puree, and smoked bacon and egg ice cream. Each dish greets you with unexpected tastes, colours and interactions that are quite unlike anything I've ever had before. Some courses almost brought tears to my eyes and my delice of chocolate made me positively giddy with laughter.

There was no greater joy than to share my dishes with my friends and multiply our collective taste experiences. Scott had poached sea bass with generous helpings of lovely truffles. Russ had a fantastic leg of lamb, and most dishes came with some culinary foreshadowing to clense and prepare your palette for the next course.

The well-deserved moniker 'Best Restaurant in the World' is not simply an acknowledgement of the success and novelty of his methods, but also the fact that Heston Blumenthal actually knows what he's doing and the food is worthy of praise given to him.

I had:

Taittinger Champagne to start (as a complement for Russell's birthday from Sam)
====
NITRO-GREEN TEA AND LIME MOUSSE
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ORANGE AND BEETROOT JELLY
OYSTER, PASSION FRUIT JELLY, HORSERADISH CREAM, LAVENDER
POMMERY GRAIN MUSTARD ICE CREAM, RED CABBAGE GAZPACHO
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SNAIL PORRIDGE
Jabugo Ham, shaved fennel
Sanserre with our starters
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CARROT AND ORANGE TUILE,
BAVAROIS OF BASIL
BEETROOT JELLY
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CRAB BISCUIT
Roast foie gras, crystallised seaweed, rhubarb and oyster vinaigrette
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Shiraz with our mains
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SADDLE OF VENISON
Celeriac, marron glace, sauce poivrade
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D√ČLICE OF CHOCOLATE
Chocolate sorbet, cumin caramel
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Tokaji Desert Wine with our deserts
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MANGO AND DOUGLAS FIR PUREE
Bavarois of lychee and mango, blackcurrant sorbet, blackcurrant and green peppercorn jelly
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LEATHER, OAK AND TOBACCO CHOCOLATES
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Calvados as a digestif

Change of plans

Unfortunately, there are no pictures of 'The Writer' as promised. Although Sunday had wonderful weather, something came up and I'll have to write about that little event instead. Stay tuned, it'll be a long one.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Visting 'The Writer'


The Heath Writer
Originally uploaded by MykReeve.

This weekend I'll make my way up to Hampstead Heath with my camera to pay a visit to 'The Writer' a scupture (temporarily) installed near Parliament Hill.

As you can tell, it's a simple desk - made in ridiculously large proportions. Personally I think it's quite neat and all those straight lines will appeal to my sense of architecture.
You can also read The Guardian Article, view some nice photos or view the Flickr tag for it.

Semantic Web

I think the history of computing can be divided into a few distinct stages based upon how it fits into office/technical life and its relation to knowledge workers

1) Computers are used solely for calculation - as an executive you need to contact someone in your computing division who will take your requirements and make a set of punch cards to get your answer. Communication is done by the secratarial pool which will transribe your dictations and mail your letter.

2) In 1980, the personal PC brings an age of removing one intermediary - a user can start to do their own calculations (advent of Lotus 1-2-3 etc.) and may even type their own letters (Wordperfect), but mail and (eventually) fax still is the only easy way to send/receive information.

3) With the advent of email (the internet's killer app), communication is instant and coupled with the ability of a user to create their own documents, it effectively brings about the end of secrataries in the traditional sense. Only senior exectives have a PA now, whose role has expanded to include other tasks beyond data entry and communications management.

I think the next big wave will be 'agent' software. Currently many major websites expose their functionality via web services, however without a semantic understanding of these services, you need to 'hard-code' logic for each service you want to interact with. If one was to write an agent to say, find the cheapest price for a book - you would need to know first of all, which online stores sell books, but then you also need to know the data format for each, in order to properly query each service.

However, I think once content starts to become semantically tagged, things will start to become more obvious to agent software and the potential for a 'personal secratary in your PC' will become real. However there are many hurdles to overcome. Take the simple order "Ask Jay if he wants to go for a ride this weekend and find us a good route" contains many potential pitfalls for any automated system - it would have to infer many things from that sentence.

1) Jay is a shortform for Jason
2) I know many Jasons, so how it would have to know that the email was personal and not business related, eliminating some of the potential recipients
3) Of my friends Jason, it would need to know that only Jason Prini lives in the same city that I live in, and riding is likely a local activity.
4) And last, by riding - it would need to know by our personal interests that riding is bike riding, not say, horse riding.
5) Finding an appropriate route would require access to a map system with metadata information (indicated bike trails or safe roads).

Each of those tasks on it's own is a potential programming nightmare. Agent software would have to be able to draw upon many sources to obtain this understanding of the world, including sources like Wikipedia, Google Maps, my contacts, my past correspondence with Jason(s) and my habits and preferences in general (which can be devined from emails and blog postings)

This framework is gradually being built internally in disparate parts of the web - Amazon knows what books I like, Flickr knows some of my friends and what pictures I take and like (and where I was on certain dates). The key will be drawing this together in a unified framework.

A good place to start reading is the Wikipedia Article on the Semantic Web. And as always, Cringely has some good articles. Of course, once your computer can understand in every sense, you don't need a keyboard or even a monitor for most tasks. I think that computing is becoming interesting again.

;-)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Slugs facing extinction in HOV lanes

In the US, because the main roads are so crowded, they introducted High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to encourage carpooling. As a result, a social practice known as "slugging" formed where, in symbiosis, people wanting a ride would gather at specific destinations, and a single driver would pick them up, allowing them both to use the much faster HOV lanes. Apparently Virginia officials said that most of the 35,000 or so carpoolers who use the I-95 HOV lanes daily are "sluggers".

This practice could be greatly reduced as state governments are rushing to convert the HOV lanes into HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes. Basically it's a way to buy yourself out of the traffic that the rest of the cheap-ass proles have to sit in. Plastic has a discussion on the subject.

I think the US needs a major rethink regarding public transportation infrastructure. I prefer to take public transport - I don't own a car, and while travelling for work I examine other options before renting a car. And sadly, when visiting cities in Europe, I have *never* rented a car, and in the US I almost always have to do so.

My understanding is that public and alternative transportations make up an ever smaller percentage of the DOT budget - when transportation needs to be looked at as a whole. If there is a way to save $2 on highways by spending $1 on public transport then these options need to be examined.

I am very pleased to see Ottawa plan to move forward with the O-Train extensions to utilize existing rail lines (cheap!) and extend the existing infrastructure. Ottawa is a wonderful city for getting to and from downtown, but my commute to Kanata means being a "slug".

Monday, June 20, 2005

Seperated at birth?


Vatican Museum - Giuseppe Momo, 1932

New York Guggenheim - Frank Lloyd Wright, 1957
My friend Allan was kind enough to give a Flickr Pro account to me. I recently started the process of identifying my best shots for my new Flickr set and recalled that when I was in Rome, I noticed a stark similarity between the circular staircase in the Vatican museum and the New York Guggenheim.
There's no point beyond that really, aside from the joy of recognising great architecture in different places. But now that I've started, I recall a few other architectural coincidences I've come across, which I'll try to add in the future.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The entirety of Beethoven's works symphonies for free at the BBC

The entirety of Beethoven's works symphonies are available for free at the BBC as they celebrate 'The Beethoven Experience'. As they play each symphony, the works will be available for about two weeks. Currently the first through fifth are available.

While I personally enjoyed the BBC commentary bookending each track, you can use the Start Time and Stop Time options in iTunes (right-click on the track, select Get Info, click on the Options tab) to limit the play of the track to only the music for subsequent classical goodness.

(Found via BoingBoing - corrected via Jen)

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Oui to Democracy?

It's been an interesting week in Europe as both France and the Netherlands - founding members of the EU - both rejected the new EU constitution.

The interesting thing is that generally the vote was not seen as a rejection of the constitution, but as a rejection of certain EU practices and their governments themselves. However, despite these setbacks Brussels still plans to go ahead and ratify the constitution (all or in part) which I think is a mistake. Brussels can take this defeat and certainly learn from it. The 'No' vote is not a complete rejection of the EU, but a recognition that many aspects of the EU are starting to be rejected; namely burdensome bureaucracy and too-rapid expansion. If Brussels takes this vote and largely ignores it, it will shake the faith in the EU framework.

I personally feel that a 'Yes' vote is best for Europe overall. However, a 'No' vote is a victory for democracy and ironically the EU itself - it shows the system works and does listen to its citizens. Forcing ratification in spite of this will demonstrate the opposite and will seriously weaken faith in the EU framework.

It's been hard to find decent analysis of the subject, and as I find articles that articulate the issues faced I will add them, but here's a start:

The Independent: Hamish McRae in Amsterdam: Sun shines on Dutch but the economic shadows lengthen

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

More Freakonomics!

Well, not really. However, while reading this mornings issue of Slate, I came across another article by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, the authors of Freakonomics. Turns out, they have written a few articles for Slate before. As well, there is a full section on 'The Dismal Science' as they term Economics. I think the most interesting article is the analysis behind baby name popularity over time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

England, Ireland, France and the EU

I was in Ireland last week (photos) and happened to notice quite a few 'This project x% funded by the EU' signs which was interesting because I had been to quite a few EU countries over the last few years and not noticed similar signs throughout the country.

Of course, at the time of joining, Ireland was at the bottom end of the EU performers and quickly became the beneficiary of EU 'equalization' funds as well as taking advantage of being an English-speaking country in the now common market. As a result of the 'Celtic Tiger' economy, Ireland has the second-highest per capital income in the EU.

This trip comes at an interesting time as the UK and France are both likely set to ultimately reject the proposed EU constitution for exactly the opposite reasons. A slim majority of the French people think that the EU constitution will erode the increased protections that they currently enjoy. English bosses reject the EU constitution for exactly the opposite reason - they fear the increased worker protections will hamstring them.

A clear example is the French worry their 35-hour week will be increased and the English (particularly in the professional sectors) worry they may be forced to work less than a 48-hour week.

The reason I bring Ireland into this is because they are a clear benefactor of the EU, not simply because of the subsidies they have recieved, but because the common market meant the EU common market replaced the UK as their largest trading partner.

The question is whether the EU is meant to benefit citizens in all member countries equally - or are they meant to improve the lot of individual countries, incrementally.

Fundamentally, I feel that the EU structure does provide a mechanism for improving the second tier countries rapidly through access to complex shared legal and trade structures as well as taking advantage of EU funding to hopefully bootstrap their economies and political structures to those of the 'Western' EU nations.

However it is clear that although richer nations will benefit, they will only do so incrementally, not fundamentally. Will larger nations accept large changes to their culture for minor economic benefit, particularly if their poorer neighbours benefit greatly under the same framework?

The book Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century attempts to answer these questions. I read it before the recent French dissent over the constitution, so it will be interesting to see how the book holds up if the referendum fails. However, like Mark Leonard, I think the EU will eventually succeed as it is designed to continue to find comprimise, rather than fold in the face of failure. It's ability to do so will ultimately be the major success of the EU, and I think this continual adaptation itself will be the lasting achivement, not the success of the EU constitution.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Freakonomics!

I've started reading some articles and excerpts from Freakonomics, and I think this book will likely have the same appeal and influence as Malcolm Gladwell's works - the stories are anecodotal, quirky and adept at explaining the grey areas and paradoxes of ecomonics that don't fit into the standard 'the invisable hand rules all - obey the invisable hand' model of the world currently espoused by most. Also here's the Economist review and author's blog.

If you're interested in Economics, it's also worth reading an article in the latest Harpers; Let There be Markets.

Monday, May 16, 2005

More evidence of a 'Modernist Revival'?

Personally, I'm a two very distinct opinions about modernist design. While I love the minimalist nature of modernist design (and even own a Le Corbusier Chaise among other modernist trappings), there were many serious mistakes done by architects overuse of concrete, and London itself has plenty of examples of 'Brutalist' architecture.

Trellick Tower
Trellick Tower has quite the interesting and funny history via its architect as well.

However, the New York Times Magazine is featuring Modernist Architecture in all its glory that's well worth reading. I think it's a nice feature about the paradoxes to this utopian and perhaps somewhat naive period in history.

First post!

Well, I think the time has come to start Blogging in earnest again. I'm starting to come across more and more interesting stuff but haven't had the time to implement my much-delayed (but largely finished) website redesign, so here's a stop-gap measure.