June 30, 2007
Iced In The Desert
I didn't have high hopes when the Ice Garden opened in Cathedral City. They were, after all, hoping to introduce hockey to the desert. But now they are looking for a new, much larger location with two regulation size ice rinks, plus a roller skating rink, plus an Olympic size pool! If the pool will be indoors and air-conditioned, that might be the best place ever!
iPhone, Naked & Splayed
Who wants to look at lines of fools waiting to buy an iPhone. What you want to see are these photos of an iPhone taken apart and examined.
UPDATE: Or, you may wish to see this brief video of an iPhone owner popping open the box as soon as he gets outside the store, holding that box a good five feet above the concrete sidewalk. Documented hilarity ensues.
At The Other End Of The UFO-Sighting Scale
CVMVCD Movin' On Up
The Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District is really responding to the taxpaying public's concern about its sloppy budget process. First, it sues Desert Hot Springs for appointing the trustee who brought the budget into the limelight, and now it's hired a PR firm! The logical third step in this process of responding to the public is for Don Gomsi to declare himself Caesar. Then we'd all be happy.
The PR firm move is really interesting because the PR firm seems to be refusing to answer questions. They refer any questions to Don Gomsi, the General Director (soon to be Caesar), who hasn't responded to any requests for information from the Desert Sun since that very entertaining board meeting a few weeks ago. Even the District's public information officer refuses to answer questions.
The decision to hire a PR agency did not come before the board of trustees, and you can bet it wasn't in last year's budget, so one wonders how this new expense is being charged off. However much they're paying, it already seems to be a waste, since only additional bad PR has been generated.
UPDATE: Here's an opinion from the Desert Sun:
Vector control agency not transparent
It's getting good at the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District. Earlier in the week, board president John Fuschetti called a meeting of the executive committee of the board of trustees to discuss who knows what. Fuschetti isn't telling, nor is he looping in some members of the district's trustees.
When questioned about the meeting by Desert Sun reporter Keith Matheny, Fuschetti said that as president of the board, he has the authority to form committees and appoint members to those committees as he sees fit. And no, he doesn't need to answer any more questions about this, including which trustees sit on the executive committee of his.
Great. So much for transparency by this particular public agency.
I think it's safe to assume that when we see Fuschetti's lips move, it's Lisa Copeland's words we hear.
This past weekend was something called Blatino Oasis at the Helios Resort in Palm Springs. And I was away whitewater rafting with a bunch of white men. Fortunately, Flickr friends were there. You won't see many photos here if you are not a Flickr friend of PinkMafiaRadio, and any you do see are NSFW.
An article at Drum Corp International about my little brother Johnny who is their photographer. No, I don't know what that is on his head. Link includes a photo gallery and an interview [MP3].
For those with further interest, DCI World Championship Finals begin August 7 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
June 29, 2007
Great Amtrak Service
Roosevelt Sims was traveling by Amtrak to Los Angeles when train personnel misinterpreted his diabetic shock as drunkenness. Therefore, they did the only reasonable thing: they dropped him off after dark in a national forest five miles away from Williams, Arizona, at an elevation of 8,000 feet where there is no station, no water and no paved road. Now, the former passenger is missing.
New Twist At Salton Sea
The Desert Sun says pupfish have shown up at the Salton Sea "unexpectantly," which means, I think, that they are not pregnant. Fortunately for the California state budget, the pupfish are not actually in the sea itself, but are in test ponds at the south end of the sea and do not have access to the whole sea. The pupfish is endangered, and if somehow the Salton Sea turned out to be a wonderful environment for the fish, we might be obligated to preserve the sea as is.
Yesterday I got an email from PhotoAcute saying that their software was now available for Mac, so I downloaded their evaluation version to check it out. The idea is that you take multiple photos of the same scene, no tripod required, and then use PhotoAcute to combine the multiple images to reduce noise and correct for shakiness and chromatic aberrations, as well as producing higher dynamic range images and a higher resolution. What it would boil down to for me is the ability to crank my camera's sensitivity up to ISO 400 and take photos in dim light, then using PhotoAcute to correct for all the problems that crop up.
You can see four other tests shot at dusk in Desert Hot Springs here. It does what it says it does.
The drawbacks are:
It's slow. Combining just three images (you can do more) takes about half an hour on my Mac. It does not, however, noticeably slow down other processes, so I can keep working while it churns in the background.
The user interface is a little confusing and has spelling errors, which led me to think this was a beta version. But no, this is version 2.50.2.
It does not support all cameras and, in fact, supports NONE of mine. They don't say, but I would guess that their different profiles for different cameras allow the software to correct for known errors on those cameras. My sample photos were shot on a Nikon 8400, and I selected the profile for a Nikon 8800 which has, I think, the same internals as the 8400, but the 8400 has a wider angle lens.
Registration (to get rid of that ugly imprint you see in my results) is $49 for ONE camera/lens model. It's $119 to get a license to use all their profiles. Here's the list of cameras and lenses they support.
They've also got a $19 version for cellphone cameras, which could benefit a LOT from this technology.
June 28, 2007
I guess this Clay Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, is something built after I left Boston. I'm sure I'd remember seeing such a striking complex. Using a 25-inch telescope at the Clay Center, astronomers caught an amazingly clear photo of the International Space Station with Atlantis docking. They used "the simplest 'adaptive optics' (bendable mirrors, which correct for how the atmosphere warps the light)." Oh, yeah, the simplest - like the ones I've got in my binoculars from Sears.
Another Google Map Enhancement
Now when you get directions from Google Maps and don't like the route, you can just grab the blue line and drag it to where you want it. Here check it out with this example of the route from Chicago to Kansas City. As usual, they route you through Des Moines, but if you prefer St. Louis just grab the blue line at Des Moines and drag it to St. Louis. I'll just wait while you test it out.
You do need to be fairly precise when you drop it, as Google respects your choice like an embittered travel agent. In one test I made Google had me driving past my exit to the next one, making a U-turn and coming back because I dropped my route out there.
Can You Identify This Flower?
These are growing in Desert Hot Springs and may hail from New Zealand.
Jeeps To The Mud Caves
Last week Andy led a Jeep trip to the mud caves in Anza-Borrego. Mud caves are formed when water pools on top of a big hill of soil, dust and sand. Over time water will seep down and erode its way out of the side of the hill. When it gets big enough for people to notice, then it's a mud cave. Eventually the roof of a mud cave may collapse, leaving a passageway that looks more like a slot canyon. You can see all my photos here.
Here are a few sample photos:
Weird Sightings Explained?
Now, we have this interesting report which purports to shed some light on the subject. The author claims to have worked in a military project in the 1980s attempting to reverse engineer technology recovered from crashed extra-terrestrial craft. Now, before you go off on me, I only include this here because, unlike so much other extra-terrestrial bullshit out there, this guy can actually write. And if he's paranoid delusional, then he's got that well under control. He includes a few scanned photos of technology he worked with, along with photocopies of pages from a manual they had. The manual looks remarkably like a real manual. Sure, it could all be faked, but these are pretty good fakes, and entertaining reading. The guy rambles just a bit (he's an engineer, not a commercial writer), but stick with him. A sample of his writing:
Inside, we had everything we needed. State of the art hardware and a staff of over 200 computer scientists, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, physicists and mathematicians. Most of us were civilians, as I’ve said, but some were military, and a few of them had been working on this technology already. Of course, you were never far from the barrel of a machine gun, even inside the labs themselves (something many of us never got used to), and bi-weekly tours were made by military brass to ensure that not a single detail was out of line. Most of us underwent extensive searches on our way into and out of the building. There it was, probably the biggest secret in the world, in a bunch of parts spread out on laboratory tables in the middle of Palo Alto so you can imagine their concern.
One downside to CARET was that it wasn't as well-connected as other operations undoubtedly were. I never got to see any actual extra-terrestrials (not even photos), and in fact never even saw one of their compete vehicles. 99% of what I saw was related to the work at hand, all of which was conducted within a very narrow context on individual artifacts only. The remaining 1% came from people I met through the program, many of which working more closely with "the good stuff" or had in the past.
In fact, what was especially amusing about the whole affair was the way that our military management almost tried to act as if the technology we were essentially reverse engineering wasn't extra-terrestrial at all. Aside from the word "extra-terrestrial" itself, we rarely heard any other terms like "alien" or "UFO" or "outer space" or anything. Those aspects were only mentioned briefly when absolutely necessary to explain something. In many cases it was necessary to differentiate between the different races and their respective technology, and they didn't even use the word "races". They were referred to simply as different "sources".
A long discussion on this whole subject, from the first photos through this guy's story can be found here at UFOCaseBook.
June 27, 2007
Death vs. Kansas City
Mystery Group Holds Secret Meeting
A so-called "executive committee" of the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District held a meeting yesterday at the offices of the District's attorney, Lisa Copeland. The subject of the meeting and the membership of the executive committee are unknown. Karl Baker, trustee, has never heard of the committee. Another trustee, Gary Howell, says he thinks he's heard it mentioned but knows nothing else.
UPDATE: Well, it seems the secret meeting was to give final approval to the decision to sue the city of Desert Hot Springs for appointing Karl Baker who "asks too many questions."
New In Town
trav.is has just moved to Palm Springs and considers California expensive. Looks like a libertarian.
June 26, 2007
House Democratic Caucus chairman, Congressman Rahm Emanuel, will, this week, propose an amendment to an appropriations bill to defund the Vice President's office except for his legislative duties as President of the Senate.
Meanwhile, here Sally Quinn suggests that Cheney should be replaced by Fred Thompson. She seems to forget, though, that the replacement has to be approved by Congress and that it will probably have to be like the Nelson Rockefeller deal, where the new Vice President renounces any intention to run for President.
UPDATE: Cheney backs down, admits he is part of the Executive Branch.
Children, Avert Your Eyes!
Staff at East Side High School in Newark, New Jersey, used markers to obliterate this photo from every single copy of their yearbook before it was distributed to the schoolchildren whose eyes, minds and very souls would be reduced to lifeless slag in an instant if they caught sight of this horrid, horrid scene. Better they should watch the evening news.
UPDATE: The school superintendent who made the decision to redact the photo has apologized. Jackson, in the foreground, is a student at East Side High School and paid $150 to have the photo inserted in the yearbook. The school will give an undamaged copy of the yearbook to any student who requests one.