Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wootton Wawen

I don't know how many times I have driven through this lovely village (bespoiled by the main road but surviving nonetheless). The other day I decided to stop and look inside the church of St. Peters, advertised as the "oldest church in Warwickshire". I should have done so long ago!

St. Peter's, Wootton Wawen

The history of Wootton Wawen mimics many similar sized villages, with its manor house (now a hall), mill and millstream, black and white half-timbered houses, important roads and a canal.

The church is an interesting structure with the original Saxon stone chancery preserved inside the later Norman walls and tower. So that, in the heart of the church you can see the difference between the seim-circular Saxon arch and the much stronger and splendid pointed Norman arch:

St. Peter's, Wootton Wawen

While I was inside the church the wind outside was blowing quite strongly and the roof rafters were creaking rather alarmingly, though I am sure the building must be safe. An inspection on the outside shows that there has indeed been a lot of movement of the structure and several areas have needed significant buttressing. It looks as though many enlargements have taken place through timne, not always with a prudent thought as to how much the existing foundations might be calable of bearing.

I spent some time taking HDR shots of the rafters and while doing this I remembered that, probably 40 or 50 years ago, thieves stole all the lead sheeting off the roof one night.

Church Rafters

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Is patriotism misguided?

This afternoon I have some time on my hands, the first in quite a while during a weekday, and I have been catching up on e-mails and so on. Friends in Houston and Atlanta have been sending me political PoVs for some time but the latest transcends all others. While I won't be discussing it here, the link is worth following (Clinton vs the Neo-Cons and Fox news). So please come back after you've viewed the "show".

What this exchange got me thinking about was my subject line: is patriotism misguided?

When America goes to war, even an unjust, silly, stupid, war, its citizens tend to fall in behind the leadership and give huge support even though they may not agree with or understand the political issues. I guess this stems from the fact that the Federal Government is supposed to have very limited powers (Ha!) and one of them is to secure the borders against foreign aggression. Also, the government is so often aided and abetted by a media that fails to fully inform and educate the electorate.

So, warmongers and hawks have worked out that a war against a foreign aggressor is probably going to get that partiotic support. Which is almost certainly why they set out to do what they do. The entire operation is masked by statements like "we must support our troops", "it would be unpatriot not to support our boys in the war effort" and so on. Yellow ribbons are sold and bought by the mile. The flag, as always a powerful symbol of nation building, is brought into play and with hand on heart the politicians lead the soldiers into war. Except they (the politicians) stay behind to keep the fires of partiotism stoked while young soldiers die on foreign soil.

So where does all this patriotism get us? Well, the first stage has already arrived - disillusionment. The government's popularity is down the toilet, it's single minded attitude toward the war on terror has meant neglect to the economy, a weakened dollar and a lowering of the political standing of the nation on the world's stage.

I don't necessarily subscribe to my friends' belief that Bush is stupid (he has significant paper qualifications to suggest otherwise) but I do think that the Neo-Cons he is guided by are following a twisted and cynical agenda that cannot possibly achieve its objectives. And while we pile up a wall of hatred in the world of Islam, we are also degrading that sense of patriotism at home that should be such a positive influence.

In short, patriotism should not be invoked by politicians to support their misguided agendas. We shouldn't let them get away with it.

Hell Phones

This article on wired.com struck a consonant chord with my own feelings about cell phones (a.k.a. mobiles). I concur with just about everything the writer has to say about hell phones but I would add one more comment. The user interface on the average hell phone is nearly impossible to learn (and retain as an infrequent user), being unnecessarily complex, crammed with too many unwanted features, and designed for someone who is probably 40 years younger than I am!

Perhaps the AARP should campaign for cell phone designs that older people can understand and use! That would be heaven sent!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Flickr.com vs. photo.net

Several years ago I was an active member of the photo.net community. This was when Philip Greenspun was still involved (in fact I think he subsidised the entire operation during its inception). Primarily an American thing, photo.net was often more equipment oriented than creativity oriented. Long debates about whether the X lens was better than the Y lens would often end with insults being hurled until someone would write "Why don't you all get outside and take a few photographs with those damned lenses?" A day later the same people would start arguing the inevitable Nikon vs Canon debate. And so on.

A year ago I was introduced to flickr.com and signed up as a "Pro". My reasons were two fold. Pete recommended it and I saw it as a useful off-site back up repository. A year later I see it all quite differently. Flickr does have the equipment freaks but mostly it is all about creativity and sharing of that creativity. Even more interesting is the fact that the community even gets away from computer screens and has flickrmeets. I've only been on one such event but it was fun and rewarding. Watching others' techniques is always fascinating and there's a lot to learn from how others use their equipment to be creative. Flickr is also a true "web" of activity and I have contacts from all over the place with all types of interest. Some of these have a real sense of humor so the repartee that exists in some comments threads can be amusing (or trite, depending on the PoV).

So, I now rarely visit photo.net but have become a frequent Flickr contributor. And Flickr has become an integral part of focalplane.com, providing an ever changing front page. It may now be owned by Yahoo! but that doesn't seem to have influenced its somewhat goofy interface at all. Go Flickr!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Downloading and Viewing an iTunes movie

Now that iTunes have full feature movies available to buy (or is it license?) and view, I thought I would try it out. Not that there is much of a selection at the moment but if you like Disney movies. . . .

I selected the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Downloading was an interesting experience. Late evening Europe time is late afternoon in the US so the system seemed to be running very slowly and even timed out several times. So at midnight GMT I paused the download and restarted it at 7 a.m. this morning. With most people fast asleep across the Atlantic the feed was much more rapid. In fact I would guess it was faster than the movie's run time. Which is an interesting point. Broadband may be capable of supplying a movie feed in real time but not if the system is overloaded.

The quality of the movie is excellent on my computer screen (I watched the movie in full screen letterbox mode. The movie comes as it is, no additional tracks, no trailers for other movies, etc. Which I appreciate. There are chapters just like on a DVD (this is a new feature of QuickTime 7.1 I think. And the on screen controls are easy to operate with a mouse.

I am going to have to try it on a larger screen or projector system because this would be the real test.

As to the movie. It cost $9.99 plus sales tax which is cheaper than buying it at this time on Amazon.com. for $13.99. I do have to burn a back DVD so that will be a small extra price to pay. And I am not sure if I can then play this DVD file on another computer. This will need some research to see if there is a way round the DRM. I am not trying to do anything illegal here, by the way, but I do want to know if I can easily play the movie on another computer for my benefit when somewhere other than at home.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The true Freedom Fries

After the start of the second Gulf War, many Americans refused to call French Fries by any other name than Freedom Fries, in response to the French Government's stance against the invasion of Iraq.

These days we are starting to find out the truth about exactly what Freedom can mean in Iraq. Not that it was any better before the invasion, but the problem is that the US, having espoused the concept of freedom for so long, is holding thousands (in this article 14,000) of Iraqis and others for long periods of time without trial. Many are finally sent home after months of detention but with no apology and no compensation.

This is no way to win the war on terror. But it's a damn good way to fan the flames.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Brazilian Girls

They have a new album out and I downloaded it from iTunes today. Different from their debut album which is good in that so often a new band seems to get stuck in the rut of its early success. Some of the tracks are X rated (just like the first album) but if you're grown up there's nothing to shock. I am told that this New York band are terrific live and the four videos available on iTunes certainly suggest that it's true about what is said.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Grey is the new Flickr

Just click here to get the new Flickr. You also need to see the thread here to get the complete picture!

Whatever Happened to MTV?

Yes, I know, it's still around. But whatever happened to those early years of Dire Straits and Bruce Springtseen, the Cars, Peter Gabriel and everything else originating in the 1980s? The reason I ask is that I recently downloaded some Bruce Springsteen vidoes from iTune and got a huge notalgia rush! "Born to Run", "Glory Days", "Tunnel of Love". Yes, they were the glory days of MTV. At least, that's my opinion!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Apple Financial Podcast

This idea could catch on! As a small shareholder in Apple Corporation I welcome the idea that I can listen to an entire financial quarterly review on iTunes. The alternative is to follow one of many analysts and their many "takes" on the subject. Always better to go to the source! And this is a way in which the source comes to you. May other companies follow suit (Microsoft, any chance?)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Needville cockfight killing

This all sounds quite surreal. I used to visit Needville back in the 1980s and to be honest, it is a stop on the way to somewhere else. It is also signposted off Highway US 59 at Richmond. That was, until today, it's main claim to fame. But as this article will attest, Needville is now newsworthy, following the shooting at a cockfight. Cockfight? Yes, a cockfight. Who'd a thought it.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Geotagging Flickr with Google

A relatively new twist on Flickr is the ability to easily geotag the location of a photograph using Google Maps. This in itself is useful and fun but there is also the intrigue that two companies, Google and Yahoo, who compete in so many areas, can be united by a simple application created by a smart individual.

To add this Javascript plug-in to Flickr, simply go here and follow the instructions. At the same time you will get (if you want) all the background and explanation as to what is going on. You will also get to know the clever individual aemkei who did all this.

So far I have geotagged four of the five photos in the Arts & Crafts set. More will come but it's going take a long time to catch up the backlog, particularly as I am very busy just now.