Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Photography: Visitor

I just got another great bike run in (a 62km tour of Etobicoke), but I'm not going to bother putting a map of that together (at least, not just yet). Instead, here are some photos of a visitor to our front yard.

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies pass through southern Ontario every year. Point Pelee, the southernmost tip of mainland Ontario (only Pelee Island is further south in Canada) is famous for the migrating Monarchs, who cross Lake Erie from Sandusky, to Pelee Island, then to Point Pelee and on up.

Monarch Butterfly

This one got quite comfy in our front yard, hanging out on the cedars and letting me get quite close with the camera.

Monarch Butterfly

It even took some time to pose for me, showing off its famous bright orange wings.

Monarch Butterfly

There are Monarchs all over Toronto these days. I saw a dozen of them on the lakeshore leg of my bike run. Too bad they're so hard to photograph on the wing. Read more!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Stuff: Best Week in Ages

This has been the best week in ages.

Monday: I got to take a friend out cycling. I love biking around Toronto, but unfortunately Lori's not an experienced enough cyclist to keep up with me, so most of the time I ride solo. Monday, though, I managed to drag a friend across 23 km of Toronto trails.

Wednesday: More cycling. I completed my first ever century: a 100 km tour of Toronto (105km to be exact).

I didn't take any photos, but there were times I wished I had had the camera. Among the sights:

  • A feral cat eating by the side of the path
  • A woodchuck doing likewise, down a way from the cat
  • A man hand-feeding a red-headed woodpecker
  • Two girls hand-feeding a squirrel

I didn't consider 'til now how all of these involved animals eating...

Thursday: In spite of being a little (well, very) stiff after my big tour, I accepted a job at Algorithmics! I am no longer unemployed!

I start on September 5th at one of the Top 100 Employers in Canada.

What's the word? Oh, right: Woot! Read more!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Photography: Crowning Apollo

Most of the photographs I take are spur-of-the-moment things, but sometimes an idea comes to me that actually requires some planning ahead of time.

One day, when walking across University Ave in Toronto, I noticed that the tip of the shadow of the Airman's Memorial (better known as "Gumby Goes to Heaven") was just reaching the end of the boulevard that divides the street. When meant that if I were to stand just short of that, I could get this funky backlit shot:

Gumby Goes To Heaven

Further down University is another memorial, the South African War Memorial. Looking at it one day as I passed on my way to work, it struck me that if I did a shot like my backlit Gumby shot, I could have Nike (the victory figure at the top) crowning the Sun. So I set out to plan this one. Obviously, I'd have to be there at just the right time -- when University Ave pointed right at the Sun. I brought my camera to work and headed over at lunch.

Unfortunately, I discovered that it won't work at this time of year. The Sun's too high in the sky at lunch, so I have to stand almost right under the status, and everything's too foreshortened to get the effect. I'd have to wait to December to get that shot.

That didn't mean I couldn't get something, though. I brought the camera to work again and tried some shots on my way in. Because the Sun's in the east, I had to stand on the west side of University, behind Campbell House. That didn't quite work, because the shadow fell behind a fence, so the closest I could get to lining things up was this:

Crowning Apollo

Not what I was after, but I like the effect. I especially like the reddish halo showing in the clouds, the result of the sunlight refracted in the water vapour. That didn't show up until I touched up the colour levels.

Since I couldn't line things up in a morning shoot, the only option was an evening one. Most of the time, though, I left work too early to get anything -- the Sun would be too close to (or even behind) the buildings south-west of the memorial. One day, though, I happened to not only be leaving late, but I had the camera along (and the tripod, even!), and I found that the tip of the shadow was just reaching the sidewalk on the east side of University.

It was tricky to shoot, though. With no cloud or haze, the sun was too bright to look at through the viewfinder. I had to set up the shot low, with the sun out of frame, then angle the camera up and hope I got things lined up right. The first few shots were 'way off:

Crowning Apollo

The block in the lower right is one corner of the famous Canada Life Building, known for the weather beacon on top of its tower.

Fortunately, with digital, I could tell immediately if I missed, so it didn't take too long, and eventually I got the effect I wanted:

Crowning Apollo

(BTW, there's some subtle detail that tends to get lost in these reduced images -- it's worth following the link and seeing the image in "Large" size)

I'll still be going back in December to try out my original idea, though! Read more!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Photography: Trilliums

In addition to GPS-based geocaching, we do letterboxing, a much older version of the same sort of game. Back in May we found a series of letterboxes called the Narnia series (each box had a stamp based on the four Pevensie children and a clue leading to a final, fifth box), with all of the boxes hidden in provincial conservation areas north of Toronto. On stop was the Triffin Conservation Area, which had more trilliums than I'd ever seen at one time before.



I'm used to seeing trilliums in patches that are maybe five meters across, but here, they stretched as far as you could see. Mostly the traditional white ones:


Though a few of those were a little more dramatic than the average:


There were also a lot of the rarer pink trilliums:

Pink Trillium

And the occasional, very dramatic, red ones:

Red Trillium

It was a couple of shots of these that I used for the stereo trilliums image in the last post. Read more!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Photography: Stereography

On one of our geocaching trips (of which I'll be posting more photos shortly), we took lots of plant photos. By chance, there were two plants that we ended up photographing from almost, but not quite, identical positions -- just off enough that they could be used to make stereographic pairs.

To get the 3D effect, scroll this page until the image is at a comfortable eye level, fix your attention on the white bar in the middle, and then relax your eyes and let the left and right images drift apart until you can see three copies of the image. The middle copy will consist of the two halves overlapping, giving a 3D effect.

Stereo Trilliums
Stereo Ferns
Read more!

Photography: More Stuff

More photography catching-up...

Grange Park

While I worked at Points, my office looked out over Grange Park. So, naturally, I ended up taking a lot of photos there. The old tower of St. George the Martyr Anglican Church was a favourite.


Here's the view from my office. The tower of St. George the Martyr is nicely ivy-covered, which makes for great colours -- green in the spring, red in the fall, and all nicely dead and cemetery-ish in the winter. You can also see University College about 1300m away in the back.


The wildlife likes the place too, though their easier to see in the larger version of the photo.


While photographing the tower I noticed this behind it. Several hundred people heading off somewhere, barely showing up in my viewfinder.

Going Somewhere?

Random Stuff

For Christmas I got Lori a ring flash, so we spent a lot of the family get-together photographing random things around the house.

Stained Glass Lamp
It's a Fisher Price World

Another "happen to have the camera while walking home late at night" shot. The hosta happened to be in the beam of a spotlight in front of the Grand Hotel on Jarvis St.

Hosta At Night

A commenter on Flickr had trouble recognizing this one. Doesn't everyone have a leather elephant?


"Fluffernutter" is our nickname for him. Because he's fluffy, and nuts.


Geocaching in Paris

The Paris & Brantford area is really good for geocaching -- lots of caches and lots of river trails to hike. We were out there in May and did a couple of caches.

The Wheeler Needle Works -- and old church -- would be much better to photograph if it weren't cramped up between other buildings and didn't have this annoying power cable running right across the front. The only way I could get the whole facade in was to make a mosaic (using Autostitch).

Wheeler Needle Works
Wheeler Needle Works

On the path we met this moth. He cooperated for a bit.


That's as far as I've gotten caught up in my uploads. More to come over the next few days. Feel free to leave comments, eh? Either here or on Flickr. Read more!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Photography: Lots O' Stuff

The job hunt progresses apace. One offer turned down, one good prospect that didn't go anywhere, and two good prospects in the works. Plus the adult web-cam network company that needs someone to do 90% of their tech work.

But in the meantime, I'm getting photos shopped and uploaded, so here're the latest. I'm only putting up one or two from each batch -- follow the links to see the full photostream.


Ducklings at Ashbridges Bay. You know, I'm not really that keen on birds, but I end up taking quite a few photos of them. Elephants are the same way.


High Park

There's an awful lot of High Park between the paths and roads that everyone takes. Whenever I'm there, I try to follow a trail I'd never walked on before. The path on the left runs down from Colborne Lodge to the pond. The tree on the right was on another path running back up from the pond to the main road.

Bench E

Bluffer's Park

We went to Bluffer's Park for a walk one evening. Unfortuantely, Lori ended up on a work-related crisis Blackberry call through about 90% of the walk.

Why's it called Bluffer's Park? Mainly because of the bluffs.

Bluffs Dead End

If you look closely, there's a sign at the top of the right-hand photo. I believe it says something like "Dead End" or "No Thru Traffic". The photo on the right is a bit of a trick: the original exposure wasn't great since the bluff itself was in shadow. The image is a composite of two versions of the same shot, one with the exposure corrected for the sky, the other corrected for the bluffs themselves.

The water was pretty calm, so we took some reflection shots.


And some more of those bird shots I mentioned...

Gull Gull

Not My Dog

I took these photos almost a year ago, but I only got them uploaded this past week. Not My Dog is a restaurant and bar at 1510 Queen St. West run by some of my brother's friends. My brother designed the signage and lamps in the place.

Not My Dog Not My Dog

For some reason I uploaded the lamps separately from the restaurant photos, so they aren't adjacent in the photostream.


Toronto At Night

I don't do a lot of shooting at night, but sometimes I end up out with the camera.

Old City Hall is always fun to shoot, especially with that nice shiny mirror behind it.

Old City Hall

Sometimes unrelated things just end up next to each other and it looks right.


This is all done now -- the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, as it was last Christmas.

Under Construction

There's more that I've uploaded, but I'll get to that tomorrow. Read more!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Stuff: Unemployed

I suddenly find myself out of a job, now that my employer has trimmed its workforce by 25%. While that theoretically leaves more time to post, more likely it will just make me less inclined to -- not that I'm posting all that faithfully now. So don't expect much here for the next while... Read more!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Photos: Another Hawk

A while ago I posted photos of a hawk that lives on our block. We've seen him several times since then, sometimes quite close (he flew past our faces as we left for work one day, about 20m away). But I didn't mention at the time (because I didn't know) that there's a hawk living where I work, as well.

Grange Park HawkI work in a building on John Street with a view over Grange Park and OCAD. We discovered recently that a hawk has taken up residence in the park, scaring the pigeons and perching on a green drainspout on the side of the old St. George Church tower.

Grange Park HawkIt's easy to tell when the hawk's out -- all the park pigeons start flapping around in a panicked group, circling and circling from building to building. The hawk usually parks himself on his favourite downspout, but can occasionally be seen soaring back and forth. One time we spotted him taking off from his tower and turning back, aimed straight for the wall. He seemed to crash into it and fall, but a moment later he righted himself and sailed off to a tree with something in his claws -- a squirrel, as near as we could tell.

Grange Park HawkLast Friday I spotted the usual pigeon panic, but this time I had my camera with me, and shot off dozens of photos of him on his perch -- he wouldn't oblige me by flying around, though. Unfortunately, the windows in the office are covered in a thin film to keep out excessive sunlight, which ruined the sharpness of the photos. I had to go outside to ground level to get these photos. He stuck around for quite a while, mostly ignoring me, though a couple of times he looked me over.

Grange Park Hawk Read more!

Books (Science): Voodoo Science

Voodoo science is bad science for fun and profit -- mostly profit. Bob Park's Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud is one of the best books on the subject, a great introduction to various kinds of bad science and, more importantly, the harm bad science does.

Voodoo science includes traditional pseudoscience like ESP or UFOs, but Park spends relatively little time on those subjects. These are the most blatant examples of bad science that you'll see, but not the most insidious. Park is more interested in other kinds of voodoo science -- junk science twisted to suit ideological ends, incompetent science used to prop up pet theories or sell shares in inventions, and so on.

One of the most interesting chapters in Voodoo Science is the one on the EMF scare of the 90s. In 1989 the New Yorker ran a series of articles by Paul Brodeur about how high-tension lines cause cancer. The entire premise of Brodeur's articles (and later book, Currents Of Death) was a basic piece of biased observation and mixing correlation with causation. Study after study showed that there was no connection, and Brodeur dismissed every negative study as part of a conspiracy to cover up the truth. Park reports an estimate that dealing with the fallout of Brodeur's book cost the US about twenty-five billion dollars, and nothing ever came of it. However, the mythology that Brodeur created around EMF still persists, almost 20 years later, with some new variations (the cell phone/brain cancer scare being very similar).

Another favourite target of Park's are the free-energy inventors, such as Joe Newman. Twenty years ago, Newman created an "Energy Machine" based on a basic misunderstanding of how motors and generators work, and sold "shares" in his company, which he claimed would revolutionize the energy business "very soon".

(Note another great example of how voodoo science infiltrates public consciousness: the Wiki page that "Joe Newman" links to above says that "a perpetual motion machine is regarded as (probably) physically impossible within mainstream physics". The "probably" is completely spurious: any competent physicist regards violations of conservation of energy as impossible.)

Again, even though Newman is old news, the example is relevant. Another free-energy inventor was Yull Brown, who claimed that "Brown's Gas" was the fuel of the future. It turns out that "Brown's Gas" was just electrolyzed water (water split into hydrogen and oxygen) that was then recombined to produce power. There's nothing special about this, except that Brown claimed that it was free energy: he never mentioned (maybe didn't realize) that it takes more energy to electrolyze the water than you get by burning the hydrogen.

Just this year, various news sources (especially Fox) have been running stories about "HHO Gas", a new miracle fuel. But a quick skim of the articles shows that it's just "Brown's Gas" come back to haunt us.

If you have any interest in pathological science, but don't want to read yet another debunking of Uri Geller (who's still out there, making money by scamming gullible people), Voodoo Science is a good place to start. Also check out Park's What's New column, and his interview in the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast. Read more!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Photos: Swallows

SwallowPhotographing swallows isn't easy. You rarely see them sitting still -- they're usually zipping around eating bugs. But on a recent walk, Lori (my wife) and I came across a very cooperative fellow who let us get within a couple of meters of him.

Hey!We were walking around Hydro Marsh in Pickering, near the nuclear power plant, when we came across him sitting on a fence rail. He was rather talkative, and would occasionally dart off to fly around a bit, but always came back to the rail to pose.

Lift Off!Lori caught this great shot of him taking off. After this, he didn't bother coming back, but flew off over the marsh, where we caught a glimpse of a blue heron leaving.

Lift Off! (Crop)If you look closely at the take-off shot, you can see that his feathers are a little damp.

Afterwards, wandering through the park north of the power plant, Lori caught these photos of other swallows flying over the grass.


Read more!