Categories
photos ranting

My Best Mobile Photos — 2011

I spent most of 2011 with an Apple iPhone 3GS [wikipedia.org] which I got in 2009 [confusion.cc] and used for all of 2010 [confusion.cc].

Most of my interesting snapshots for 2011 are from in and around Suntec City [sunteccity.com.sg]. I started working at an office in Suntec in 2010 and have been there ever since… though I mostly work from home since the COVID-19 lock-down and at this point I don’t have any plans to go back to the office day-in and day-out. Once in a while to meet people is enough.

My oldest daughter started day care in Suntec in 2011. I would pick her up at 6 each day and we would wait for my wife to pick us both up. next to large koi pond at Suntec. The first photos I chose for 2011 is from one afternoon while we waited. Next to the koi pond there was a restaurant with a red neon sign and on this particular day it was quite dark at 6, cloudy but not yet storming. At 6PM the outdoor lights in Singapore are not on (most are on automatic timers from about 7PM to 7AM, being very close to the equator the day is almost exactly 12 hours long, shifting less than 15 minutes (see here [weatherspark.com]). The dark clouds and lack of streetlights allowed the neon red to turn the pond into pool of glowing red blood:

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Neon light reflected off water

I always wanted to get that shot with my DSLR but the few times I went back there was too much sunlight or white lights from the streetlights. I never got lucky and the koi pond is long gone now, a victim of renovation.

A few months after my daughter started daycare we had to change centers as the one in Suntec close. They arranged an offer to transfer all the students who wanted to another center in Millenia Walk [milleniawalk.com] just next door. So for the next few years I walked over the Millenia most days. Millenia has a bunch of sculptures around it and one in particular I had to pass by every day. It’s a tall spiral of stacked square marble by Philip Johnson [wikipedia.org] and it’s positioned in such a way that it catches the late sun during the golden hour. I took many photos of it over the years that my daughters were in day care in Millenia Walk. This is one of the best:

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Sculpture by Philip Johnson at Millenia Walk.

Given the time of day, 6PM and it being a weekday (Wednesday the internet tells me) the next photo was probably also taken when I was walking over to Millenia:

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Just a bit of blue sky

Then, in October, the iPhone 4S [wikipedia.org] was released. And a serious jump in camera quality, from 3 megapixel to 8 megapixel. 8 megapixels is a respectable digital camera, you can actually print photos at this resolution out as standard size photos and they look good. All assuming you had good light, but at this point the iPhone entered an era where it was as good as a mass market point-and-shoot. And since other phones had even better cameras by now this was really the end of the dedicated point-and-shoot as a viable product. You can still get them ten years on but now there are only a few models to choose from. Back in 2010, 2011 there were dozens and they were quite popular. Yet another gadget the smartphone subsumed.

I only have one photo from 2011 taken with the 4S to share. Taken at work during a conference call. A long time hobby of mine, during long conference calls, was to play with Buckyballs! (Note that the original (?) Buckyballs no longer exist due to a long running issue around safety in the US and a lawsuit back in 2012, but I’ll always call them Buckyballs. There are a number of companies still selling Neodymium Magnetic Toys [wikipedia.org], check out Zen Magnets [zenmagnets.com], you can see some of the amazing things people build in their gallery). Here’s a shot looking down a tube of Buckyballs:

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Buckyballs!

Before we end 2011, I’ve got one more. I don’t do a lot of overt manipulation of most of my photos. I adjust the white balance, play with the exposure and curves, add a vignette, etc. but I don’t “photoshop” them for the most part. However, I do play around with more drastic editing some times, and on my phone I have an app called Camera+ [camera.plus] (they are on Camera+2 now, but this photo was edited with the original). Here is one photo that I messed with in Camera+ as it was not a good photo, but I was able to get something cool out if it after adding a bunch of filters and such:

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Moody.

This was taken at the old Suntec Convention Center, the enterance off of Beach Road, before the MRT station was built and before the Suntec renovations in 2012-2014. There was some sort of power outage that day creating dramatic shadows as people came into the Convention Center on a sunny day.

Categories
quotes ranting

Studying the math

Anything that is not replenished by nature as fast as we’re using it cannot be part of a successful future.

Prof. Tom Murphy, in Ultimate Success from his Do the Math [ucsd.edu] blog

That’s the sad truth, we are depleting things faster than the earth can replenish them. And whether you acknowledge humans as the primary driver of climate change or not, you should understand that humanity is using things faster then they can be replenished and that’s going to be a problem at some point. If you use the sugar or milk faster then you can get to the shop to replace it you have to do without… how do you do without energy when we run out of coal and oil and gas?

I’ve been reading UCSD Professor Tom Murphy’s Do The Math [ucsd.edu] blog since close to the beginning, back in 2011 I think (at least that’s when I quoted him the first time [confusion.cc]). It dropped off the radar for a while, no posts for a couple of years but in the past few weeks it’s come back. And for a good reason, Prof. Murphy has turned the central premise of the blog into a proper textbook, that you can read online or download for free at eScholarship [escholarship.org] or purchase an actual physical copy at Lulu [lulu.com].

The blog is an amazing way to get into some of the hard science behind the debt we, humanity, have and continue to build up to fund our planet destroying growth. But let me let the blog speak for itself:

[Do the Math] takes an astrophysicist’s-eye view of societal issues relating to energy production, climate change, and economic growth. The approach is often playfully quantitative, with the aim of arriving at a fresh perspective on our world. Posts stress estimation over exactness, because in many cases a reasonably complete picture can be developed without lots of decimal places. Estimations of this type can be used to bring clarity to complex issues, or to evaluate the potential of proposed energy solutions. Hopefully, readers will gain the courage and techniques to start making valuable estimations of their own. The blog begins with a two-part assessment of the implications of continued growth, then settles down to tackle a variety of cute questions relating to energy storage, biofuels, home energy, transport, climate change, etc.

Prof. Tom Murphy, in About this Blog from his Do the Math [ucsd.edu] blog

I ordered the book from Lulu and it just arrived the other day. Now to find the willpower to read an honest to goodness textbook for the first time in years. I think more people should have a decent understanding of the basic mathematics and scientific concepts behind these issues, so it’s time to put my money where my mouth is (actually I need to put my time where my mouth is and read…) Most normal people are not going to read the full textbook, but I encourage you to go and read some or all of the blog. Start here with the Guide to Posts [ucsd.edu], you can read by subject, focus on Growth and Sustainability or Alternative Energy or the very important why change is Easier Said than Done.

Whatever order you want to read the blog or the textbook in, please do it. More people should understand the basics of the trap we built for ourselves and what we need to be do to get out of it.

Categories
photos ranting

My Best Mobile Photos — 2010

A new decade. But, ehm, same iPhone 3GS I ended 2009 [confusion.cc] with. The 3GS actually took some decent photos in 2010. Decent enough that I have actually uploaded some of them to my Flickr [flickr.com]. So here we go, my best mobile photos of 2010.

First up, two related photos. I have a enduring fascination for taking photos straight up at interesting ceilings. Too often people don’t look up unless they are told to. So maybe it’s the unexpected perspective or the fact that I don’t see many photos of ceilings but I have taken a lot over the years. Here are two from Singapore, old and modern.

The old, is the dome of the National Museum of Singapore [nationalmuseum.sg], with it’s blue and white stained glass windows:

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Dome of the National Museum of Singapore.

The modern, is the glass cone ceiling of Wheelock Place on Orchard Road:

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Wheelock Place. Off center.

Enough architecture, now for some nature. Colorful, if dying, nature in the form of a fern leaf someone on a sidewalk in Singapore. Mostly leaves come in two colors in Singapore – Green or Brown, for a few week a year, if we have a good dry season, you can see yellow leaves but for most of the year it’s just Green or Brown. The fern leaf is unusually colorful.

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Death of a fern.

Next up, more nature, but not from Singapore, this sunset was taken in Woburn, Massachusetts in the US. On a trip for a job, I was walking back to my hotel from dinner. You don’t get many dramatic sunsets in Singapore, we don’t get the low angle that the more northerly or southerly latitudes do, so I noticed that sunset every day in Woburn.

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Almost the Windows XP hill.

And I’ll leave it at that. Next stop 2011.

Categories
photos ranting

My Best Mobile Photos — 2009

We started the iPhone era in 2008, camera quality went backwards, as discussed [confusion.cc] last time. I spent most of 2009 with the iPhone 3G so the photos are not great. Also, and most importantly, the vast majority of my mobile phone photos —and a lot of videos— are of my daughter, born in mid-2008. I gave up on the Sony camcorder I purchased to take lots of videos of her because it was too damn much work to edit them into something that I could watch on the TV or phone. The videos on the iPhone were small but they got used a lot more.

So, anyway, what photos do I have that are not of my wife or daughter or other people I know? Not much. Out of the 425 photos in my archive from 2009, fully 80% of of people. Not leaving much to choose my “best photos” from, but here you go.

First up, two shots, for side-by-side comparison of the weather on two days from my desk, ignore the reflection of the office lights:

Rainy day from the office
Sunny day from the office

Next a random shot of tree leaves… looking up against a cloudy sky for a silhouette effect. I like the trees in Singapore that grow up and spread a single layer of leaves over a vast area, like what we called “Rain Trees” in videos of the African Savanna. I’m guessing it’s not the same tree but same shape when you see them from afar. The single layer of leaves means you get to see this intricate pattern against the sky. This is not the best example, not is the photo high quality, even for the iPhone 3G camera as it was taken handheld so thing are a bit blurry. You could get better photos by setting the phone on a stable surface, but c’est la vie.

Canopy silhouette

Here is a better example of what the iPhone 3G’s camera could do. I guess the light was better, as it’s a lot less blurry this time. The subject is… interesting. I assume I took it to show someone and have a laugh. For those not familiar, it is common in Southeast Asia to get take away drinks, hot and cold, in plastic bags with little plastic straps to hold on or hang on things. You see people carry them whenever you are near a food court of local coffee shop, you see them hanging from nobs and levers on trucks and taxis. And, once in a while, you see them left hanging from random fence posts or tree branches. They look like tree has a colostomy bags to me:

Arboreal colostomy bag

OK, one more. This is the only one taken on the better camera of the iPhone 3GS [wikipedia.org] I got when it was released in Singapore in late 2009. A bit Big Brother this cluster of cameras in Raffles place:

What you looking at?
Categories
quotes ranting

Know your history, but don’t be a slave to it

History isn’t some static set of facts. … We are connected to history today.

Nick Sheedy, quoted in She sued her enslaver for reparations and won. Her descendants never knew, [washingtonpost.com] from The Washington Post

This is from an interesting article in the Washington Post about the rediscovery of one families matriarch, Henrietta Woods, and her legal battle for reparations from the people who kidnapped her and sold her back into slavery. Spoiler: she won. It reminded me of one of the plot lines in Lovecraft Country [confusion.cc] about the family matriarch who kept a record book of the debt she was owed by her former slave masters, with interest. I wonder if the author was familiar with this story.

It will be interesting to see how the current discussions about reparations [forbes.com] go in the US. This article seems to be making an argument, without blatantly stating it, that the long term success and attitude of Henrietta Woods descendants owes something to the reparations she won, not only the cash but to the fact of the reparations.

For myself, I’m not sure where I stand. I’m not outright opposed to reparations, I can see an argument that the descendants of enslaved peoples still suffer from the effects of slavery. I would like to see more debate and understand what sort of format reparations would take. How will it work? Direct payments (the Forbes article reference a poll sighting only 20% of American support direct payments)? Or targeted programs? The Forbes article also says most serious models … have been focused on reparative community-based programs. It’s a hard question. I know there are proposals out there, have been for a long time, but until there is a proper public debate it’s hard to tell what we are actually talking about. And given the mixed success of programs designed to address racial inequality, like Affirmative Action, how will a more focuses program succeed?

On the other hand, I can see how holding the entire current generation of America accountable for the sins of the fathers, through payments using tax money, will be… controversial, to say the least. Even an official apology, without reparations, would be fuel on the fire for way too many people. People who have been more and more vocal about their racism in the past few years. I hope that the more visible and vocal racism in the US over the past decade or so has been the result of a changing of attitudes in the majority of Americans, becoming less racist and less accepting of racism, pressuring an increasingly small minority of racists into a corner and causing them to lash out… but I’m not sure I have that much faith in America, or the world, these days.

As for sins of the my own fathers, as far as I know there is no history of slave owning in my family. Everyone in my mothers known family tree immigrated to the Midwest in the second half of the 1800’s well after the Missouri Compromise, so slave owning was never a real possibility. So nothing there. On my dad’s side there is nothing in the known tree, but there is a person, so far unlinked, with the last name Beggerly in an Alabama “Slave Census” in 1855 [dollsgen.com] who owned 5 people… there is another record from Tennessee in the 1846 census [tngenweb.org] listing two Beggerly’s, also unlinked, one of which is taxed for two slaves… my fathers family tree is much less well known than my mothers, they lived in various places around the South in the 1800’s and the name is not very common, so it’s very possible there is a link to one or both of these slave owners. So I can’t confirm my family is innocent. And of course that is only talking about Pre-Civil War slavery, not considering Jim Crow.

Reading the article triggered a vague memory about public apologies for slavery. I did some searching and it seems the House of Representatives did pass a bill apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow [npr.org] in 2008. I was not living in the US but I don’t recall much of a public backlash at that time (though maybe it galvanised the hate that lead to Nazis in my hometown [confusion.cc] and the rise (or at least, much more visible,) white supremacy movement that is trying to normalise its views once again, and having an uncomfortable about of apparent success. The apology came with conditions that it could not be used as a basis for reparations.

So we have no official apology and the legacy of slavery lives on… not that an apology would change it, people are as racist as ever. Would paying reparations move us forward? Who knows, but let’s have some proper debate. We have been failing to live up to our founding creed, that all men are created equal for our entire history, it’s time to take another step towards it.

While looking for news articles on the 2008 House apology I can across an opinion piece in the New York Times from 2015 [nytimes.com], saying Obama should apologise officially (it didn’t go over well, it’s a touchy subject and apologies and reparations have a lot of symbolism). Anyway, about halfway down is this line:

[Obama] could also elevate the current discussion on race, which swirled earlier this week around the serial liar Rachel Dolezal, and the race-baiting billionaire vanity blimp of Donald Trump.

Timothy Egan, in Apologize for Slavery [nytimes.com], published by The New York Times. Emphasis mine.

In hindsight, yea, that was a bit of foreshadowing, dark foreshadowing.

Categories
photos ranting

My Best Mobile Photos — 2008

Time marches on…And technology gets better. While the iPhone was released in the US in 2007 the rest of us had to wait for the 3G or even 3Gs (unless you got a very overpriced parallel import) so I entered 2008 as I ended 2007 with my Sony Ericsson, the Z610i [wikipedia.org]. But, it did not last long, in the first month of 2008 I got a Nokia N95 [wikipedia.0rg] (actually the N95-2 or N95 8GB version, the black one).

I got the N95 via work, a test phone we no longer needed, one of the perks of working in the mobile content business. It was very cool phone, one of my favorite of the pre-iPhone era. The first Nokia I liked after the iconic 3310 [wikipedia.org] or my original 1997 252N [nokiamuseum.info]. The N95 did suffer from some “Symbian bloat” and the “why do they move every function around on every new phone” issue that Nokia had with Symbian. In short Nokia had a habit of re-arranging everything on the Symbian 60 UI every new phone just to confuse loyal Nokia users and over the years the Symbian 60 got more and more bloated. Coming from the Sony Ericsson world where the same OS had slowly evolved from the T616, through the Z800i to the Z610i it was a shock. The best thing about the N95 though was the camera. And that’s what we are here to rant about.

The rear camera on the N95 was 5 megapixels. That’s half the megapixels on the Canon 40D [wikipeida.org] that came out the same year, that I took lots of photos with.

But anyway… on with the photos from the N95. The vast majority of the photos are snapshots of my oldest daughter, born in July 2008. Including a lot taken in the minutes and hours after she was born. But we are not sharing photos of people so…

First up, a night shot! From a trip to Kuala Lumpur for work, the Patronas Towers all lit up. Edited in light room as the raw photo had a lot of noise and tried to up the dark sky so much it was like snow from an old TV.

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Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur

Next up to shots of flowers on the grounds of Parkview Square [wikipedia.org] in Singapore, where I worked at the time:

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Flowers at Parkview Square
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More flowers at Parkview Square

There is also this shot of rainwater on the marble outside of Parkview Square:

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Rain rain go away…

And then there is this awesome shot of Parkview Square, also known as “the Batman building” or “the Gotham building”:

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Parkview Square, it’s never that sunny in Gotham

In August 2008, I got a JesusPhone [confusion.cc] via work again. I had to pay for it, but work was able to get a few iPhones a couple of days after it launched officially in Singapore through their corporate plan. The truth though is the iPhone camera was a step down from the Nokia N95. I would be a few years before the iPhone camera was up-to-date with other mobiles. So, I don’t have any photos from the iPhone in 2008 I would consider as part of my “best” mobile photos of the year given that I spend the first 8 months using the much better N95…

Categories
photos ranting

My Best Mobile Photos — 2007

I started 2007 with the same Sony Ericsson Z800i [wikipedia.org], that I got back in June of 2005. But it died in late February or early March of 2007 (my last Z800i photos is dated February 25th, but the first with the next handset is from March 11th). I replaced the Z800i with a another Sony Ericsson, the Z610i [wikipedia.org], a more curvy, more shiny flip phone. The camera got a bit better, taking photos at 1600×1200 pixels versus the Z800i’s 1280×1024.

2007 was a bit of a barren years as far as mobile photos goes. In total I have a couple of dozen photos and most of those are of coworkers or family, so I’m not sharing them. I did pick out three from what little remains after excluding portraits.

First up is this looking up shot taken, I think, at Ministry of Sound during it’s short life in Singapore. It seems I have had a fascination with taking “looking up at lamps” [confusion.cc] shots for a long time.

Not sure you can call this a lamp, it’s just hanging fibre optic threads.

And another abstract shot, no doubt also from clubbing… Never point a laser at your camera processor. At least that’s what they say. You can get some spiffy photos out of it if you do:

Possibly also taken at Ministry of Sound.

Finally something different, a non-abstract shot taken in Moscow, on a work trip:

Beeline

I was working on a project with the Russian mobile operator, Beeline and on the way to their office the first morning after I arrived I passed this sign, which I believe is pointing to their office building I was working it, just down the road. Fun fact: I got deported from Russia [confusion.cc] on that trip…

Well, that’s it for 2007.

Categories
quotes

Social Doomsday

The social web is doing exactly what is was built for. Facebook does not exist to seek truth and report it, or to improve civil health, or to hold powerful people to account, or to represent the interest of its users, though these phenomena may be occasional by-products of its existence.

Adrienne LaFrance, in Facebook is a Doomsday Machine” [theatlantic.com], published in The Atlantic

The article as a whole goes a bit overboard into hysteria, to me, at least that’s what I thought when I was reading it. Then again, it was published in December, before the final death throws of the Trump administration. The social media driven buildup to January 6th and the knee jerk overreaction by the tech industry to their own role in the violence kind of prove the authors point…

Categories
photos ranting

My Best Mobile Photos — 2006

Continuing on my journey reviewing all my mobile phone photos over the years we come to 2006. (you can see 2004 here [confusion.cc], and 2005 here [confusion.cc]).

2006 was a big year for me, I got married at the end of the year, I changed jobs here in Singapore (which was big as it meant no automatic repatriation, any going back to the US would be on my own dime and, um, I’m still here). But for mobile phones it was a dull year, at least for me. I got the Sony Ericsson Z800i [wikipedia.org] in 2005 and kept it all of 2006. And somehow I don’t have a lot of photos from my phone for 2006. But anyway… here are three photos from what I have that I will call “My Best Mobile Photos of 2006”:

First is a shot taken, I think, from a car. Judging by what I think are reflections (about halfway up the left side) and the fact that it’s shot up at a strange angle catching the stoplight and street lamp pole.

Cloudy Singapore skies.

Next is a another sky shot. This time a rainbow. Probably also taken from a car.

There is as much color noise in this photo as there is color in the rainbow

And lastly, a shot of a good night out with the team from the office.

Ah, mothers milk.
Categories
ranting

Another Former British Colony’s Fragile Democracy

The idea of American exceptionalism has eaten itself, cannibalised by the very people who most believe in the idea. A rich, autocratic president disrespecting an election result and whipping up his supporters to use violence and intimidation to cling to power is, for too much of the world, the norm.