Monthly Archive: January 2009

Awards from the POTUS not what they used to be…

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Blair awarded top medal by Bush

I was listening to the podcast from The Economist and they mentioned that Bush had awarded Blair and some others the highest medal available for civilians.  The interesting comment was that perhaps it was a bad thing to receive such an award from Bush, especially when it was because of the recipient’s support of the efforts in Iraq. 

Then again, Blair’s image has been pretty badly tarnished already.  Perhaps this doesn’t make as much of a difference.

How to write an episode of 24

Just follow these basic guidelines:

  1. Have Jack Bauer look serious and angry at least 3 times per episode
  2. Mention either or all of the following topics at least once:  Jack being kidnapped to China, Jack’s wife dying in season 1, Jack’s daughter not talking to him, or the actions of the various Presidents that have either helped or screwed Jack over in previous seasons.
  3. Present the President with a major, international political dilemma that evolves and changes over the course of the entire day, making it seem like no one would ever, ever want to be the POTUS
  4. Have a questionable character do something that seems nefarious and perhaps bad yet turns out to be benign and borne from genuine and morally sound concerns
  5. Take said character and make him an important member of catching “the bad guys.”
  6. Have at least one major conspiracy that runs throughout the show.  Have that be the basic premise of each episode
  7. Plant the seeds then milk the possibility of a second conspiracy that basically questions the reality of the main conspiracy (thereby turning the secondary conspiracy into the real one)
  8. Make Jack either a crusader against the primary conspiracy or a possible pawn in the secondary conspiracy
  9. If Jack hasn’t gotten all bad-ass and killed at least 5 people in 3 or more episodes, make him do that.  Make sure that he has only X bullets in his gun and kill at least 2X people.  
  10. At the end of the episode, don’t end on a cliffhanger (because when do we have a cliffhanger in life that occurs right at the top of the hour, anyway?  I mean, this is supposedly to be realistic!)
  11. Instead, make it so that an important issue needs just 5 more minutes to resolve, but end it there.  

That’s it.  Follow those rules and you will have a basic episode of 24…

I’ve been meme’ed

I noticed that I had a new incoming link (I don’t have many, usually), this time from Debbie Schinker.  It is one of those rare “do this and pass it along” things that is actually quite productive and interesting.  (secret admission:  I like reading those items when I get them, but I don’t pass them along.  I must be slowly destroying all of mankind’s karma…).  It is a meme where I am supposed to list 7 things that the “royal you” probably don’t know about me.  Sounds like fun.  Fortunately, I don’t have to plead the fifth on any of these. (more…)



Originally uploaded by kaiyen

This photo was taken while in on a hike…probably a few months ago. It’s a really nice park in that it’s only horse and foot traffic, but the downside is that all of those horses…well, the smell can get to you during a 2-3 hour hike.

There is also a ranch there, and this particular horse followed me all along the fencing for a good 1/4 mile while I walked by. I didn’t know whether to pet the horse or what, so I just talked to him. Yes, I walked along with a horse for 1/4 of a mile and had a nice long talk with him. I asked him why he was so interested in this random person walking along the fence, perhaps maybe he didn’t get many visitors, etc. Seemed like the polite thing to do.

Anyway…this image is from slide film – I like shooting film while hiking – and I just love how crisp it is, with the rich yet natural colors.

Drobo: my next step up in storage?

Having recently upgraded both my main photo editing machine and my storage server, I have begun thinking about taking my entire backup system a step further.  Bear in mind that I do run a photo business, so this is something in which I need to invest, and I should take my options seriously.  

Right now, I have a separate server, still in my home, that has a RAID 5 array of currently 3 1TB drives.  With RAID 5, I get 2TB of usable space, and 1 drive can fail without the entire array going down.  I can add another 1TB and have 3TB of usable space, but I have to copy the entire contents elsewhere, then add the drive, rebuild the array from scratch, and then copy everything back.  Not difficult, and certainly within my technical capabilities, but it has its downsides.  

Now, I am considering a new option:  the Drobo unit from Data Robotics.  Reviews of some of the earlier, USB versions of the box are available from endgadget and from a particular user.  Both are pretty good, and Drobo has since added a firewire 800 interface and an additional device that turns it essentially into a networked storage device, all on its own.  Otherwise, you have to attach it to a computer.

The reasons why I’m considering the Drobo are:

  • I can attach it as one big honkin’ drive to my main editing machine, and keep my entire catalog on there
  • It’s fast enough with FW 800
  • And yes, the fact that it can take drives of different capacities and dynamically rebuild to maximize capacity yet also be fault-tolerant is kind of the best of RAID 5 and JBOD (which just aggregates a bunch of discs into a giant since drive).

The reason I’m hesitant?  Cost.  $550 with a coupon is a lot when I still have to spend money on drives.

Now, I could just pull the drives out of my existing server but the fact is that one thing I don’t have is a good off-site storage option.  Lots of people just carry external drives with them to, say, work, but now that I’m at about 1.3TB I’m getting beyond the capacity of a single external drive.  Or at least really close to the biggest options available, or I gotta carry multiple drives.

Ideally, I’d like to put my current server off-site, and just connect to it remotely.  Then use the Drobo at home.  But who would let me put a file server on their network…?


truck by moonlight

truck by moonlight

Originally uploaded by kaiyen

This is from a workshop in Death Valley that I did in November. It was a workshop on, essentially, nighttime long-exposure photography. This was shot on color slide film, and is a 45 minute exposure. You can see the rather long star trails that result from such a long shot.

This scene is illuminated solely by moonlight. The truck was behind a building and I had a lot of time to walk around the truck with a flashlight to illuminate it further. Inside the cab, for instance, I lit it up quite a bit along with just generally painting the truck so that it would come out brighter and with a bit more luminosity.

A lot of people doing this type of photography like to use all kinds of colored lights to produce very different effects. Many are really creative and impressive. My personal taste is to keep the shot a bit more natural-looking and use not much other than a basic flashlight for extra light.

The long road for Obama’s Stimulus Plan

Obama Begins Selling Americans the Stimulus Plan – BusinessWeek

I don’t have a ton to add to this article, but I thought it was a worthwhile one to read. 

One idea that came up in my marketing and economics classes the other night was what if something clearly tangible and understandable – cash or something akin to vouchers- were put into the hands of consumers with an explicit requirement to use that money to buy “something” were put into play.  Every consumer understands the idea of something of actual cash value, and the idea that “spending helps the economy” is one which is sufficiently entrenched that the population will get it.*

I can see where Obama’s credit to businesses for creating jobs makes sense to businesses (not saying it will be effective – I’m saying that business owners will understand the point even if they ignore it).  But there is no stipulation that the businesses then use that money for something that will actually continue to stimulate the economy.

Actually, it’s kind of like the luxury tax in baseball.  I’m a big Yankees fan (and have been forever).  Every year, their payroll is so high that they pay millions of dollars to other, smaller market teams.  It’s supposed to balance the system (whether it does or does not is a different discussion altogether).  But at one point the Yankees asked the very reasonable question “are those other teams actually using that money to compete for the players which they supposedly can’t afford, or are they just pocketing it to help their bottom line?” 

* – I am not saying that the general population has trouble understanding basic economic principles.  But “spending money helps the economy” is a heckuva lot more logical than “decreasing interest rates decreases the cost of capital and therefore gives you more money to work with.”  They are essentially the same in effect, but very different in perception and impact.

climbing vines

climbing vines

Originally uploaded by kaiyen

I have a few new goals this year, photographically (other than just trying to have more fun with it). The first is to carry a camera with me everyday. This is not a “photo a day” project, because I won’t get something every day that I like. But I want to always have something with me. And I want to mix up the cameras, too. Film, digital, point-n-shoot, pro SLR, etc.

The other is to post something to my blog everyday from my photo collection. The photos make me reflect on why I took them, what I was thinking at the time, and other aspects, so it’s a good way to keep me going.

However, this poses a challenge – I don’t want my blog to become a photo-dominant one. So I’ll have to try and be actively posting other items as well. Which really isn’t a problem consider all the crazy news out there (just saw something on Obama’s pitch of his stimulus package that is worth a post, I think), but I will have to be dedicated.

Anyway…this is a pillar at the entrance to Santa Clara University. I have it geotagged so you can see exactly where. I shot this specifically to convert to black and white. The combination of colors were not so great and I realized that the lines and chaos of the vines and branches might work better in black and white tones than in color. I’m not saying that I’m a master at “seeing” in black and white, but I think that my initial education in that medium (film, specifically), has helped me to visualize in tones and I think it worked here.

Not a great photo, but it’s about how I was thinking when I took it.

Facebook/Plurk/Twitter/etc updates

So now Plurk has a plug-in that lets you send something to them (to “plurk” I guess) and have it update your FB status.  Twitter has had this for a while.  

I have been torn ever since I started seeing people use Twitter for FB updates, and am now even more so as I try to use plurk effectively.  I don’t have nearly as many people following me or whom I follow in plurk so it’s a bit more manageable right now that my Twitter “existence” and lets me work around in it a bit more.

The first time I used twitter extensively, it was at the ELI Annual conference, so most of the people whom I follow are professional peers.  Not that we don’t exchange random stuff via twitter now and then (Educause ’08 was fun), but for the most part the stuff I put up as my status on FB is not of the same vein as that which goes up on twitter. 

And now plurk can connect to FB, too.  Now, I have been having more fun on plurk because of the smaller number of followers and etc, but that is actually the cause of my dilemma.  I feel that one needs some separation between all these systems.  

I don’t know.  It’s a tough one with which to deal.


Debbie Schinker posted a comment in response to another post of mine that has me wanting to write a bit more…

I always take what the “experts” say with a grain of salt. Expert analysis lags real life – they wait for the numbers to “confirm” what the rest of the world – literally – already knew: we are in a bad recession. You and I and everyone else on the street knew this at least 6 months ago. The prices were going up, people were losing jobs, and belt tightening was necessary for nearly everyone. But the “experts” refused to use the word recession.

The National Bureau of Economic Research is one of the major organizations that help define when we are or are not in a recession.  While I agree 100% that just about any moderately educated person would have said “heck yeah we’re in a recession” months ago, there kind of has to be some official rules and/or body that defines rules to determine when the economy has hit such a point.  The common rule is “2 consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.”  Note that this not declining growth.  This is actual reduction in GDP, which is driven primarily by productivity.  Which means an actual decline in productivity for two consecutive quarters.

The NBER uses many more stats, though, and determined that we actually have been in a recession since around the beginning of 2008.  So forget about 2 consecutive quarters (I think we hit that only in Q3 last year, possibly Q4).  According to the NBER it’s been a whole year.  That’s pretty scary.

Another reason why defining recession is useful came up yesterday in my macroeconomics class.  How can we define “depression” if we don’t define “recession?”  Technically, there is no definition of when we are in a depression.  Which is kind of scary.  That we have some dry definition for recession feels comforting in that light.

The major issues to watch for are the unemployment rate, because GDP growth is based on productivity, and we can’t be productive as a society, on a macroeconomic level, if people aren’t working, and inflation/deflation.  If the dollar becomes weaker or prices drop and return on products goes down, then we have serious problems ahead.  The specific issues we’re seeing are in many ways responses – no credit because banks are scared about risk and their own futures is a reaction.  One that has massive side effects, sure, because in an economy that relies on people spending money whether they have it or not, when banks don’t lend to the population we have a problem.  But still a reaction.

Read on for more…