Friday, December 30, 2005

Flickr and Blogger

As Pete has pointed out (and thank you for the plug!) the sub-weblog on railroads is "contextualizing" the Flickr set on railroads. I am finding this quite easy to do and most sasitfying. The combination works like this, should you be interested in emulating it:

First the photos are uploaded to Flickr, complete with title, tags and description. If necessary I change the date the photo was taken as well (Flickr assumes that all scanned images without EXIF data are taken on the day the file is uploaded). Next, when I feel like writing up a particular segment, I access Blogger and write away. The images on the weblog are linked. That is, Blogger merely has a link to a particular image size on Flickr. These links are automatically generated by Flickr so they can be copied and pasted into blogger.

The final piece is to place a link in the Flickr description that points the surfer to the weblog. This introduces the casual surfer to the additional details on the weblog and thereby also opens up the rest of the weblog. Here is an example.

Finally, because Blogger is owned by Google, it has a really good search engine that can be used to search just one weblog. So there is another way to easily find an entry. Which will be necessary after a while!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Railroad Weblog

A new weblog started today as a back up to my Flickr photo project. Check it out here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Railroad Photos

As part of my scanning project I have created a set of railroad photos and have also added them to the Railroad group at Flickr. There are lots more to come (current tally is 60) and they range from a period of over 15 years as well as from all over the world (though mostly UK and US). I am doing this partly because I simply want to share them but also because I know there are a lot of modellers out there who need photos of their prototypes. The two streams can be accessed as focalplane's railroad set and the flickr railroad group.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Major Scanning Project

I've started to scan prints of photos taken during the last 20 years or so. See them as they get uploaded to Focalplane's Flickr. I'm using the HP 4670 scanner and the throughput is quite fast.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Which stands for Automaic Number Plate Reader. I received notice of this from a friend in Texas (where such things are considered an invasion of privacy). This article in the Independent tells the story that soon every automobile journey will be recorded by CCTV and stored for 2 years. 1984 may have come and gone but the "Big Brother is Watching You" syndrome is alive and well in the UK.

The police, of course, stress the positive aspects of CCTV work. Why shouldn't they? Sitting in a warm, cosy, dark room watching CCTVs do their "beat" work for them is much better than actually getting out into society and being seen by the people who they serve. Which was true when "Dixon of Dock Green" ruled the TV ratings (that would be during the late 1950s) but it seems that today we fight crime from behind a computer console. It may work but do we really feel the safer for it?

The alternative argument, offered by civil libertarians, is that this entire operation is an invasion of privacy even if we admit that we are doing nothing wrong. Personally I don't see why the government needs to know what I am doing 24/7 even if I am 100% honest. But if they were to be able to reclaim a stolen automobile for me I might be prepared to change my mind. If. . .

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Playing the Stock Market

This is not something I do. I invest in stocks for my retirement, a totally different and quite conservative activity. Just recently, though, I've been following a stock market bulletin board (BB) and have become intrigued by the thoughts that run through the minds and spill out onto the bulletin board pages of investors who are playing the market.

The first thought I had was, of course, that for every gainer there is a loser. All these guys (and I would guess they are mostly masculine) seem to be convinced that they can only win, never lose. Their strategies are "water tight". Hmm.

The second is that they are generally buying into small companies that have all the appearances of being not much more than a shell for the insiders to make money. This might be a little unkind but what is interesting is that a typical BB conversation may well include comments about insider trading and how the outsider can second guess the insiders. Much credence is given to press releases and how the wording can be interpreted. Here I am often surprised by the poster's complete lack of knowledge of the industry that he is commenting on. This implies that many of these investors could be potential mullets, ending up on the wrong wide of the balance sheet at the expenses of the insiders they hope to emulate.

I would guess that the size of a stock's bulletin board thread is inversely proportional to the quality of the company. Which could mean that the best stocks to invest in are those that engender very little interest on the bulletin boards.

However, reading tea leaves might be more rewarding.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A day trip to Paris

A quick business trip found me flying to Paris this morning from Birmingham, taking a cab to the 2nd Arrondissement, and looking up an office address that turned out to be next to some sordid sex shops, fabric wholesalers and interesting looking cafes. The meeting went well and at 6 p.m. I asked about getting a taxi back to the airport. "Better not take a cab outside, they are for the taxi girls!". So I walked up to the main street nearby and soon hailed a legitimate cab to the airport.

The Paris I was in was certainly interesting, a bit like London's Soho. Even more so were the streets the taxi took to get onto the autoroute to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Paris is a truly multicultural city. In fact, it was hard to see a "Parisian" on the sidewalks as we drove through kilometers of African-dominated neighborhoods. My Parisian cab driver seemed none too impressed, switching on his radio and tuning in to the local news at high volume.

A long day but an interesting one!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Max out the RAM!

After owning a 15" Apple PowerBook for over a year I decided that the installed 512 MB RAM was holding back the machine's capabilities when using memory instensive applications, like Illustrator. In particular, HP plotter drivers seemed to be capable of closing down all other apps while creating temporary plot files.

So I began researching the cost of RAM over a month ago. This week I was finally able to secure 2 GB of RAM, the maximum that can be inserted into the PowerBook's two dedicated slots. The price for this RAM varied enormously from brand to brand, from country to country. But Canada and Crucial won the day (at half the price of UK Apple!) and the memory is installed and the computer runs a lot faster and a lot cooler!

On this experience I would have to say that before considering a computer upgrade, first consider adding more RAM.

Also, for Mac users, consider downloading the free Menumeters application. It will help you to understand what is going on with the CPU, hard drive, network etc. in real time. Invaluable.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Back in Calgary

After a hectic few days in London I flew back to Calgary on Sunday for a week. As the plane took off from the Heathrow the pilot pointed out the huge black smoke pall rising from the fuel storage depot that exploded earlier in the morning. We were strapped in at the time but I don't have a camera on this trip anyway, so no photos.

The weather in London was about 10 degrees cooler than in Calgary. Of course that could change in a hurry!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Brindley Place before Dawn

Pick of the crop of photos taken on Tuesday morning.

Brindley Place before Dawn

To see other photos in the Birmingham Group, go here. Of note is the one that even Pablo Picasso might have enjoyed (the reference is an afterthought prompted by amortize).

The Fact of Evolution

I am often stumped at trying to convince lay persons of the simplicity of evolution. This has become all the more important now that Intelligent Design (ID) has become so popular. So I was delighted to find this article by Richard Dawkins.

Not only does Dawkins provide simple explanations for Darwin's "Origin of Species" he also explains why it is difficult for people to accept something that is inherently so simple. He opines that it is time we stopped referring to the "theory" of evolution as a theory. As far as Dawkins is concerned, the theory became fact a long time ago. One of the most difficult challenges facing scientists today is the retort "yes, but it's only a theory, you can't prove it!" Almost anything that takes eons of time to work (evolution, plate tectonics to name two) is all too easy to dismiss by those who have no concept of geologic time.

If you or anyone you know is facing the problem of having ID thrust into "young skulls full of mush", give them this link. Our species' survival depends on it!