Ancient Germania

As I have spent the last few weeks on my travels across Europe, I found this and thought it would be an appropriate map to share.

Ancient Germania - (Roman Knowledge)

Ancient Germania - (Roman Knowledge)

Fortunately, things are more modern now and I should be home in a few more weeks.

Gorgeous Beach Scene

I found this on Flickr and loved it. It is a stunning picture with great compositional elements and spot on focusing.

I love the colours and the overall feeling of sunset tranquillity it gives.

montserrat A

montserrat A

montserrat A,
originally uploaded by Manel ^ Urindar.

Stunning landscape and a good reason for browsing through Flickr pics.

While it can be argued that flickr has a mixed bag of images (in terms of quality), it is undeniable that there are some stunning captures there.

Early Religion

Religion...

Religion...

[hat tip: A commenter on Pharyngula]

Fantastic HDR

(0718) ÜÇH?SAR (Cappadocia) Turkey

(0718) ÜÇH?SAR (Cappadocia) Turkey,
originally uploaded by Joanot.


Cappadocia is an amazing area of Turkey, with stunning tufa formations that people have carved homes into for thousands of years.

Casual Cheetah

Casual Cheetah


Casual Cheetah,
originally uploaded by Wild Dogger.

Continuing my theme on Flickr Photographs, this is another excellent one from the Awesome Picture Award group.

Big cats always look good in photos, but I love the way this one shows the animal obviously interested in something offscreen. The focusing is fantastic – certainly not an easy task out in the field, especially given the similarity between tones which will make autofocus a nightmare.

An all round WELL DONE regarding this picture. I love it.

Gorgeous Photo Effect



,
originally uploaded by Vicky ta.

I love this effect on photographs. From what I can see it is cross processing mixed with a heavy vignette. If any one has a better insight into this technique, please let me know.

Pinhole Tutorial

Aside

For people interested in recreating the sometimes stunning effects of pinhole cameras, there is a tutorial on the Ogum blog looking at how this can be done in photoshop.

Photo Gallery

Aside

In addition to viewing my wonderful pictures on Flickr ( 🙂 ) you can now check them out on the Why Dont You Gallery. In addition to this, Heather is currently working hard to create a gallery / ordering system where you can buy prints or purchase digital rights to a wide selection of images. If all goes well the Ogum site should be up and running in time for Christmas. Feel free to purchase some huge prints to hang on your atheist walls 🙂 .

The Scientific Method

(hat tip: post by SurfinSeaOtter on FSTDT)

Boer War Effect

One of my favourite recent photos (has to be recent as my favourites change daily) is this one; taken at the Festival of History and then given an antique look in photoshop.

Boer War Photograph

It was, in all, a great weekend and I would strongly recommend any one in the UK around this time next year go along – even if you aren’t (yet) a history buff you’ll enjoy it.

Time to lighten the mood

I will applogise for the last few posts here being a bit morose and screaming about the doom and gloom of our crazy world. To try and make things better (and to shamelessly get more hits on my flickr stream 🙂 ) I want you to have a look at these four castle pictures and let me know which one you think is the best – comments on flickr would be preferred but here will do 🙂

Chirk Castle Tower Scrabo Tower Killyleagh Castle Clouds over Hillsborough Fort

Thanks for your patience and the normal miserable service will resume tomorrow.

Fame and Fortune

Status

Well, actually maybe neither fame or fortune, but I have just realised I am a “featured photographer” on Flickr now! (Check out the Strangford pages, you may have to scroll down a bit though…). I am sure this is of little interest to any one who is not in my immediate family, but I couldn’t resist 🙂 [edited to add Newtonabbey pages as well! Wow!]

Loyalty you just cant buy

What must be the corporate Holy Grail is having a customer base so loyal to your product that it doesn’t matter what you do to them, they will just suck it up, keep paying you and ask for more. Before the Internet, I am not sure I ever encountered any examples of this loyalty, I am not even sure it existed.

As with much of life, the Internet changed everything.

We, consumers, are often subjected to watchdog type programs saying we should stand up and complain about bad service more – and I agree. For too long people have sat in quiet anger while companies have taken advantage of them.

With this in mind, it is ironic how some internet “companies” (for want of a better word) have managed to develop an almost slavish fan base who will defend them from even the slightest criticism.

Take Flickr as an example. Today it is having some massive database problems. It has been playing up for at least the last three hours, maybe longer. This is not the first time it has happened, and every few weeks it has has a few little “hiccups.” For most people, on free accounts, this is just something you would expect to live with – you get what you pay for some might argue (not me but that is another rant).

However, for people who have paid US$25 per year for a pro account things are, I think, quite different. The amount of money paid is not the issue. The fact is Flickr have taken a payment for a service. If they are unable to provide that service then they should be held accountable in the same manner as if it was a US$25,000 a year account. For some people in the world, US$25 is a monstrous amount of money so there is no argument to say it is “cheap” so we should expect a poor service.

Now in the flickr help thread, there is quite a mixed bag of comments (and hundreds of them). Basically though, they fall into some clearly defined camps:

  1. People who are outraged and annoyed with flickr for failing to provide them with a service they have paid for.
  2. People who, for whatever reason, feel the need to defend flickr no matter what.

There are some people who appear “neutral” but they generally make comments that fall into the latter camp, such as:

Get a life [aimed at complaining comments]. And learn that in that life nothing is perfect. Suck it up and be patient. (link)

What a day for this to happen! The day after I signed up , but I must add to the chorus saying, ‘Thank you Kevin for letting us know what’s going on’, there are many many sites out there who would simply leave their users in the dark. (link)

No problem Sir. Thanks for informing us… fail in the system is very normal, because it is created and made by man… very human. Dont worry. Thank you… and take your time (link)

These are not neutral posts – the are basically people who are happy with bad service. I am all for having some tolerance over problems but tolerance is not the same as cheerful acceptance. “Take your time” was too annoying for words. The idea that flickr is great simply because other people wouldn’t tell anyone is nonsense as well.

On the side of the slavish Flickr Fans there is one commenter who really stood out- SF Lights. This person has made dozens of posts basically flaming anyone who complains about the service and then, when people make the inevitable threat to go elsewhere he points out there is no where else to go. Some examples:

Guide [a commenter], you can feel free to leave and go to a more mediocre photo sharing website. (link)

Seriously, learn your facts before posting ignorant crap here. (link)

Byebye Panos, Be sure to upload a video on whichever other great photosharing website you….oh wait, there aren’t any. (link)

He really does come across as annoying. One commenter (Panos) seems to think SF LIghts is flickr staff and I have to say I agree – It is weird to think of a paying customer making authoritative comments like this.

All in all, you have to read the thread to get a full feel for how much the flickr supporters are willing to bend over for this. The idea that their wonderful flickr could ever be at fault seems alien to them. The idea that you should be able to expect a service you have paid for to be fit for purpose seems alien to them.

Just to finish, I actually think this is a trivial fault – it takes about two minutes longer to upload pictures and sometimes you have to refresh a few times to get a page. However, imagine you were in a restaurant and had to order each item of food three of four times… Would you complain? Would you say it was the best restaurant ever?

Preach the Controversy…

The nonsense, and false controversy, created by Expelled just seems to never want to go away. In this respect the Discovery Institute really hit on to a winner with what could best be described as a poor first attempt by an art student film. Atheist and science blogs have been discussing the nonsense for what seems like eternity. I cant imagine how anyone could even begin to pay for this amount of publicity but there you go. Sadly, I actually feel that all this furore around the crap film is actually required.

Gorilla's EyesOnce upon a time I was optimistic about the human race. In this mindset I would have thought to myself “everyone seeing this film will realise it is total bullshit and ignore it.” I have, sadly, learned to think differently. When nonsense is placed into the public domain it can be either challenged or ignored. By challenging it the nonsense rises to the status of “controversy” and there is (in the public mind at least) the concept of a debate taking place. By ignoring it, the unthinking public begin to think it has merit and it slowly becomes an accepted “truth.” It really is a lose:lose situation for rational science. I can not think of a way to avoid the nonsense taking over the Earth, but at least, where I can, I will try to challenge it.

With this in mind, I came across a gorgeous picture of an American church on flickr. This is a very attractive picture so please, take a moment to visit and have a look – if you have a flickr account, please let the photographer know what you think of the picture (and he has a pretty good photostream).

It all went downhill, however, when I read the description of the picture.

Freedom of thought and expression are two of the most basic tenants of any free society.
Without those two things, you do not have a free society.

Well, I pretty much agree. They may well not be the most basic tenets of society but freedom of expression is very important. On a pedantic note, I cant see how (realistically) you can take away someone’s freedom of thought until mind-reading becomes commonplace.

We went to a must see movie this weekend. In Ben Stein’s (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”) new documentary movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed Ben shows how little academic freedom exists in our universities if you want to discuss unpopular topics like the origins of life. (links removed here but intact on the original)

Ouch. And he had got off to such a good start. Notice how this brings in the Creationist stand-by of creating the false associations with “academic freedom” and “unpopular topics”? Creationism / ID relies on trickery to convince the unthinking that it is a legitimate “alternative” and some secret cabal are trying to repress it. The “freedom” word is thrown around whenever someone tries to point out is not science to the extent that the average non-scientist actually thinks it is an oppressed viewpoint. Amazing really.

Much of the academic world thinks that the conversation should be closed because Darwinian Evolution has answered all of those questions… But, is that true????

Another creationist gem. This is a great question because it is massively false. No scientist, especially evolutionary biologists, think the conversation should be closed. That is the claim made by the creationists. However, this 180 degree spin goes a long way to masking that.

If you do not think that is true as a professor, get ready to loose you job. Yes, that politically incorrect thought has been banned in the university… I thought the university was a place of open discussion and thought???? Think again…

And here is the first falsehood. No professor who thinks the question about origins of species is not closed would lose their job. A professor who is so confused about their subject area as to think Creationism is an “alternative” to evolution should lose their job in the same manner that a physics professor who thinks the luminiferous ether exists, and propagates light, should lose their job. Imagine a woodwork teacher who thought you could cut would with butter, should he remain teaching? No. But not because “politically incorrect thought has been banned.”

Further on, as part of a short debate, the photographer comments:

You are exactly what the movie was talking about… you just to creationism the moment that intelligent design is brought up…
and you assume that all tenants of darwinian evolution are true..
and you think they are well defined….
Darwinian evolition is a mess… It is not science in the least…

More weirdness. Creationism is ID. No one assumes all the tenets of “Darwinian Evolution” are true, no one even assumes all the “tenets” of Evolution are true. That is not what science is about. The odd bit is the claim that Evolution is not science… I really struggle to get my head round the idea that people can honestly think Creationism Intelligent Design is “good science” compared to evolution. Where is the falsifiability? Where are the predictions?

After a while others join in the debate with things like this (from an otherwise reasonable person):

All that said, Wayne I completely agree that the way the discussion is silenced in academia is shameful. When scientist trot out the “earth is flat” idea they forget that at one time “scientiist” accepted that idea too. In other words, the commonly accepted “facts” might be wrong.

Argh. Do people honestly think that the academic world should engage in constant debate over all possible alternatives to a scientific theory? When did scientists EVER think the world was flat?

The last point I want to make before I remind everyone to go and look at the picture themselves is based on this:

We know from the second law of thermodynamics (entropy) www.entropylaw.com/ stuff always breaks down and degrades…. macro evoution requires more information to be added to produce more complex things…. second law of thermodynamics directly contratics that…. btw.. this is a law… meaning it always happen… not a theory like evolution…

Ouch. That good old standby the 2nd law. Obviously the Earth lives in isolation from the rest of the universe and no information (energy) can be added. Damn that Sun…

The best bit is the Law / Theory nonsense. Do people really not understand how the words work? Obviously not, because when challenged on the matter, our creationist photographer responded:

With all due respect, you are wrong about scientific law and theory.
You can read here science.kennesaw.edu/~rmatson/3380theory.html and a million other places…

Argh. Such madness, especially as the link doesn’t really support his claim but I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to try an educate him.

Please, take a moment to visit the Flickr photo page. It is a nice picture and the more sensible, reasonable and educational comments he get, the greater the chance he (or others) will learn something. If the nonsense is ignored, then the nonsense prospers.