Sep 272006

I’m not sure if reading about other’s travels is a cure for itchy feet, or the cause. Either way, here are four:

One of my favorite travelers: Michael Palin tags along with a photographer friend across China

The idea of the unexplored and hidden under a huge city has always been a draw. Add in things like an underground cinema, and it is little wonder why National Geographic Adventure did an article on exploring the labyrinth and catacombs under Paris.

Mr. No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain eats his way through the food stalls of Singapore

And to round things out, we have a tale of things going bad: Worldrider’s broken leg in Bolivia

Sep 152006

It has only been relatively recently that I’ve taken a serious interest in photography. That interest have almost exclusively been through (relatively budget) digital SLRs, so I’ve never had the chance to use a rangefinder. At $4k entry price, I don’t think any of that is going to change, but the new Leica M8 (first digital rangefinder) still looks amazing.

Sep 152006

The NYTimes has a good article about California’s push to produce 25% carbon dioxide by 2020. They are attacking the problem several different ways:

– No longer buying dirty electricity – all those coal plants out of state are no longer a way to get around California’s regulations.
– Continuing pollution regulations for transport
– Continuing efficiency regulations for electronics, including taking aim at vampire power draw – electronics’ standby mode that draws power when not in full use.
– Industry specific caps and targets for pollution, by way of a cap-and-trade system.
– Promoting green power options for new homes and conversions (Million Solar Roofs Bill)

There will inevitably be challenges, and things could change dramatically depending on what the supreme court says about CO2. The article raises the point that California is already pretty efficient, so why focus more on it? The simple answer is that CA is a huge market, and by promoting change there you directly influence what gets produced elsewhere. Many things are cleaner and more efficienct because of the California market. This has been happening for 40 years already, here is hoping for another 40.

As things stand, the future does not look good. The frozen bogs of Siberia are melting, and the thaw could have devastating consequences for the planet, scientists have discovered:

They have found that Arctic permafrost, which is starting to melt due to global warming, is releasing five times more methane gas than their calculations had predicted. That level of emission is alarming because methane itself is a greenhouse gas. Increased amounts will therefore accelerate warming, cause more melting of Siberian bogs and Arctic wasteland, and so release even more.

Of course, if we don’t change things, scenarios are pretty shocking. But no one knows exactly what will happen. You can help change that by running Climate Prediction using “spare” cpu cycles. This is interesting in a way, since you are contributing to global warming by leaving a modern computer running models, rather than sleeping or idle (roughly 25 extra watts in my case). But the idea is the research will be worth the carbon production. We shall see…

Sep 142006

I’ve finally got around to fixing the caption structure on most of my gallery, and cleaning up a lot of the albums. With the help of the Map Module, I’ve also tagged a lot of them with GPS data. The module lets you use a Google Map to add the locations, but a lot of locations required me to fire up Google Earth to get a decent map reading and GPS coordinates. Google Maps still has a long way to go with regards to the data available online for other countries.

You can see the map module in action with my gallery here: Gallery Photo Map

I like the module a lot, they have done a great job with it. I’ve added routes for our Peru and Cambodia/Vietnam trips, but need to spend some more time with the rest of the options. It can export to Google Earth, but I’m not sure that it is worth enabling yet – perhaps when individual photos are tagged instead. I also need to implement the magnification parts at some point. Places with multiple albums (New York, for example) only show the top one unless you zoom in a lot. Ideally those sorts of locations would have a magnifying glass there to show you can zoom in to see them all.

It was simple to add the GPS data to albums, but the module can also automatically populate GPS coordinates from EXIF headers. As devices get smaller, GPS will eventually be added to cameras (or you can do it now if you are high end). But for most of us, we will be adding the GPS data after the fact. There seems to be a number of ways to add GPS to JPEG EXIF information, but few deal with RAW files. I believe Picasa supports the raw files, and lets you tag GPS info, but somehow doubt it will update the XMP sidecar files that Adobe Bridge uses. Perhaps I need to convert them all to DNG? It looks like these guys seem to support DNG Geotagging, but I can’t find any info for XMP. I’ll have to give the latest version of Picasa a try anyway. (Update: I tried the latest version of Picasa, it didn’t seem to geotag RAW+XMP or DNG.)

Even if you get the GPS data into your RAW files, there seems to be bugs where the GPS data is not carried over to your jpegs anyway. Fix your stuff, Adobe! They really should be adding in robust support of GPS data in Bridge and Lightroom.

Speaking of lightroom, I’ve been playing around with it for a little while now. It has the potential to replace my existing workflow (Adobe Bridge and Camera RAW), but isn’t quite implemented correctly. First off, I’m a bit uncomfortable that most of the changes are stored in their database, not in actual files. This locks you into the product, and makes things like using multiple machines a pain in the ass. To their credit, they did add an update to allow the writing of sidecar files. But the files it writes aren’t compatible with the existing Adobe Camera Raw files. Uhg! They seem to support web exports, but I hope they create an export that will work with Gallery, like Picasa. That said, after some fixes and features, I could see it becoming my only workflow.

Sep 112006

One of the things I love about California is that you can grow pretty much anything here. I don’t own a patch of dirt, but I’ve got a patio with potted fig, mandarin, lemon, and avocado trees. The yield isn’t spectacular, but I still love it. In fact, if I had my way, we wouldn’t plant anything but fruit bearing trees in our public spaces. Why do we bother planting and watering park trees that don’t produce anything? Fruit for the people!

Village Harvest is a group doing some great things. They get neighbors and community organizations to provide food for the hungry by harvesting extra fruit. The California Report did a great story on them:

A Backyard Bounty – California is celebrated for its bountiful produce. Residents love the fresh fruit the growing climate provides. But there is another side to it for some homeowners, like rotting plums on the driveway and smashed oranges on the lawn. How do you keep up with the bounty? In the Santa Clara Valley, homeowners can fall back on some unique help.

Fallen Fruit has a more guerrilla approach, but I still love the idea:

“Public Fruit” is the concept behind the Fallen Fruit, an activist art project which started as a mapping of all the public fruit in our neighborhood. We ask all of you to contribute your maps so they expand to cover the United States and then the world. We encourage everyone to harvest, plant and sample public fruit, which is what we call all fruit on or overhanging public spaces such as sidewalks, streets or parking lots.

We believe fruit is a resource that should be commonly shared, like shells from the beach or mushrooms from the forest. Fallen Fruit has moved from mapping to planning fruit parks in under-utilized areas. Our goal is to get people thinking about the life and vitality of our neighborhoods and to consider how we can change the dynamic of our cities and common values.

Sep 092006

(All photos for this post can be found here: 2006.09.01 Barona Powwow)
Barona Powwow Barona Powwow Barona Powwow

A few weeks ago Anna and I started hearing some ads on KPBS for the Barona Powwow. The event is free (including free camping), so I’m still a bit puzzled why they would pay for airtime. Excess casino cash maybe? In any case, Anna and I took them up on the offer and attended the opening Friday, September 3rd. I hadn’t been to a powwow since I was a kid, so I was long overdue for a visit.

The Barona Powwow took place on a a ball field about a mile past the huge casino. It was an intimate affair, with only a few hundred people attending. In fact, I’d guess over half of the crowd were participants as well. The standard south-west vendors were there, plenty of gut-bomb fry-bread treats, blankets, and assorted tchotchkes. A powwow is a meeting of tribes, and this was no different. The biggest group seemed to be from Oaklahoma (for good reason) but there were a fair number from the south-west and Califonia.

The powwow started with drumming and singing, then lead into a few Gourd Dances. After that there was a memorial walk for the exiting princess’ grandmother, with many of the other participants joining in for support. It was then time for the powwow grand entry. The grand entry is always fun. All the tribes and dancers follow the eagle staff, flags, elected royalty around the center. Each dancer type is grouped up, so you get to see the participant’s costumes and dancing style for that type. After that it was on to welcoming, crowning the new royalty, and inter-tribal and exhibition dancing. It was worth the drive, the Barona tribe put on a great event.

It was also an interesting event to attend as a Canadian. While parts are the same, the art, dances, and even the look of the people is quite different compared to the northern tribes. I’ve been meaning to write about my native experiences in Canada, perhaps the Barona Powwow experience will give me a starting point.