31 October 2008

Seasonal, if not today's festival

There's this currant tree—anything over ten feet high is not a bush—to the right of the balcony, and I must be using pretty reasonable victuals in the feeders because it still has a great many berries. (Either that or the birds save them for later a-purpose. Have to see how they're doing in Februrary.)

It was rather a windy day when I took this one, and they were all both fluffed up and beaks-to-the-breeze about it. (There was a good deal of flying-backwards-by-hovering going on, too; works a treat if one wishes to travel down wind, apparently.) Which meant that the perch-twig was going up and down and forth and back with the wind, but a few of the pictures turned out anyway.

30 October 2008


Aoife gets very intent about birds. Sometimes there is chirping from the cat.

Feeding kinematics

He really doesn't like not being able to brace his tail on the suet feeder. I have no way to explain that having to fend off the squirrels if it wasn't free-hanging would be much less fun.

28 October 2008


Just finished this properly; Terry Pratchett's Nation.

I'm not sure how well he got the balance of arguing with the narrativium; "Does not happen" is an excellent summation, but making actual causality work in a story that also has narrative causality going on is tricky, and I can't tell if the unsatisfying feeling is that he didn't pull it off or that he did.

The thing that's really and truly driving me bug, though, is that the time line cannot be made to work.

An old man who is the nominal narrator is a four-greats grandchild of a character who is young during the main story, about 20. A book published in 1770 is old in the main action, or at least sadly out of date, and the trouserman culture both does and does not have something like the germ theory of disease. (Daphne's never heard of it, and if they had it, she would have. But they do have a specific concept of disinfectant.) Daphne's also met Charles Darwin as a fellow of the Royal Society, and there's a concept of a shipping line with a chairman.

So it has to be about 1840, at the earliest; it should actually be something like 1860 for Daphne's grandmother to think Charles Darwin is the Devil, but let him publish much earlier than he did and we can get it down to 1844 or so. (Since this is clearly not our history, entirely; the dead King isn't Prinny.)

Great-great-great-great-grandfather is 4 greats, grandfather, father, six generations. So about 150 years, which gets us to now with the narrator as one of the young people coming of age, maybe, not an old man. There's either a slipped great or two in the copy editing (my prefered theory) or the point of divergence is around 1760 and the Napoleonic Wars somehow didn't happen.

Female House Finch

Most of them are rather browner than this, but I thought this one was a particularly good case of shiny-feathers.

27 October 2008

Suet Contention

I really need a faster long lens, I does.

26 October 2008

Oak leaves in autumn

The normal, scaled version.
And what I hope is all the dots, and a clearer demonstration of what there is to like about the Pentax 35mm Ltd.

Autumnal Progression

Where it's going is red and orange. How it gets there is highly variable.

24 October 2008

Done with engines

It turns out the time frame over which I can emulate three people is about eighteen months.

That's a shot of my just-today former cube at AMD, reflected off the (ground floor) window at 06h30 in the morning Thursday.

I was there, counting the ATI and the AMD together, almost exactly four years of full time employment; it was three months longer if one counts the initial paternity leave replacement contract position. Job title went from "Technical Writer (contract)" to "Member of Technical Staff, Software Engineer"; responsibility went from an API document to an XML content management system. (Writer productivity up by a factor of 2.5; per-delivered-word localization costs down to about 40% of pre-CMS levels. I think I did a pretty good job of the CMS functional design.)

But, well; the CMS user support and systems administration, XSL programming, and content process evangelist jobs really should be different people, and AMD has been understandably frugal about hiring the last while. I figured it was better to wander off before I had a really comprehensive composure failure.

I may be getting better at regarding myself as non-fungible.

Anyone who wants either of those last two jobs done, though; let me know.

23 October 2008

Bright the hawk's flight in the empty sky

Straight up, or nearly, from the bus stop.
There were two, and they were having a fine time on the wind.
From the barring, I think one is a juvenile; if so, it might mean the pair I've been seeing around work for years bred successfully this year.

22 October 2008

Early to the party

This is ten days old, now; nothing like that much green anywhere, and a probable hard frost tonight.
But it made a nice constrast, and chain link fences surely need all the aesthetic help they can obtain.

21 October 2008

Little Brown Bird

In the specific case, a female House Sparrow, probably the archetype of the little brown bird. Something bad has happened to her left foot, which may be why she didn't depart with the rest of the chattering mob.

20 October 2008

Fallen Glory

They don't keep the extravagant tail feathers all year; the attitude, though, that's permanent.
I don't envy whomever has to colour-coded cable-tie the peacocks whatsoever.

19 October 2008

Wee Gray Bird

I thought this an Eastern Kingbird; the black hood, black eye, and white throat, and feeding behaviour—whooshing off the perch for what I presume were bugs, then returning—argued for this.

However, bill size and shape are wrong, tail shape is very wrong, and the tail lacks the white tail tip characteristic of the Eastern Kingbird.

So, having consulted with Mr. David Allen Sibley (The Sibley Guide to Birds) and Ms. Janice Hughes (The ROM Field Guide to Birds of Ontario), I think this is an Eastern Phoebe.

But would, of course, welcome other opinions.

18 October 2008

Sidelong regard

Full bright daylight, but it's amazing what it does to the white balance when the majority of the frame is full of swans.

17 October 2008

Our brother the bear

This is not the look of mannered contentment.

16 October 2008

It's ducks all the way down

Really bright sunlight does great things to the water.

15 October 2008

Low browsing

The moose is an adaptable ungulate.

14 October 2008

The splendid peace of autumn

It's not usually so good a case for light, nor so restful a creature, nor such a fortunate angle through the wire. (There was definitely some standing funny involved there.) So I'm rather pleased with this one.
Though I should probably mention that it's a rather wide image.

Shines where it stands

No idea what it is, but it sure is pretty.

13 October 2008

Small Blue Flower

It is this season, too; stubborn field flowers still blooming away until, perhaps, the frost kills them, or they set those few more seeds that lead to there being a few more of their kind in the mix of plants next year.
Don't have the least idea what this is; the flower is very small, perhaps an inch across, and the stalk was easily a meter tall, and had more flowers than this one, which was half way up one side.
One of the FA100 Macro pictures that make me ever so glad I went for the last FA over the DA100, modest price premium or not, and aluminium brick or not.

Another leaf

It's just that season, and I am trying not to run entirely mad with these, despite some of the truly lovely colour (and colour rendering) there is to be had.

Rather late to the party

My view is that purpose of government is to increase generally realizable access to choice in the future.

Unpacked a little, diversity is good because people will do a bunch of stuff, innovation happens, and choice increases. So a good government is acting not so much as to increase choice—very hard to do with the control mechanisms a government has—but to prevent reduction of choice.

That's mostly a control-of-commercial activity thing; a better government than those we have had would, for instance, have prevented food distribution coalescing into one or two companies for any given region, since it doesn't matter how many stores there are if they are all supplied from the same source; food choice is low, and will stay low.

And the impulse to remove choice is strong; that's the easiest way to guarantee profits, and if markets are formally recognized as requiring the ability to refuse on the part of potential buyers, most of the folks advocating for market solutions aren't actually in favour of your ability to not buy their stuff.

So I find myself looking at the current scope of political parties through this lens.

The Greens, well, Elizabeth May isn't solidly pro-choice; that's damning in any politician, and especially so in a leftist woman politician. The Green platform is still having failure-of-math and poverty-is-better (which is what pure-conservation energy management approaches equate to) problems, too. So not any Greens.

Steven Harper is on tape, talking to a reporter, admitting the he told minions to be delicate about bribing a dying man for his vote in Parliament in a confidence vote. His own hired audio expert says this is an unmodified section of the tape. That ought to be enough right there; making a Young Earth creationist Minister of Security, insisting on involvement in a colonial war with no victory conditions, prospect of success, or anything much other than being a massive money sink and casualty generator, inability to deal with climate change as an issue (the Alberta oil industry really doesn't want to know), his really troubling issues with women, or his opposition to the open conduct of government, those are in effect enough icing to crush the cake.

Dion's "change the basis of taxation" plan is something I've been advocating for the last fifteen-odd years; it's the only way to create commercial feedback to reduce pollution, because governments that are funding through charging for emissions have an excellent incentive to find more, and raise the prices generally. I don't know of anything really damning about him, and my local liberal MP is, from available reports, a pretty solid women's issues, children's issues, education, and infrastructure back bencher. Not what I would best like to see but certainly not bad stuff.

So I'll be voting Liberal; presuming, of course, that I can get back on the voter rolls and through the brand spanking new ID requiremens Mr. Harper was so pleased to gift us with.

12 October 2008

It isn't really image 10,000

It's image 9999 by the counter, but the image counter wasn't at 0 when I got the camera. The earliest surviving image I have is 227, from March 11, 2008. (There were a few from before that that succumbed to learning experiences.) Since I'm up to 0212 again, I'm pretty confident I have in fact taken 10,000 images with this K20D, and that seems like a large number. (Over 21 months, I took about 2,000 pictures with the A200; over a different 21 months, about 2,600 with the LX2.)

Still, as a "hey, cool, the image counter rolled over" event goes, it's not too bad.
Scaled whole image.
100% crop of the dragonfly with shadow.
It's not a bad advertisement for the Pentax 35mm Ltd. Macro lens, either. (1/250, F7.1, 35mm/52mm equiv.)

There are some better dragonflies than this one, or, rather, better pictures of this dragon fly than this one. I shall be trying to pick the best one and posting that sometime, too.

Fractional Reseve Banking and the Hole in the World

Fractional reserve banking is the idea that you can loan more money than you have, because the obligations of the people with the loans to repay you are just as good as money.

This is one of those powerful indirect civilization ideas; it is especially powerful because the value of the repaid loan is coming from the future, and combination of due caution on the part of bankers and the assumption of good value means this is a way to make it much, much easier to innovate. If you can convince a banker that your idea will let you repay the loan, you can get the capital to make your idea real. (This has lots of practical drawbacks, starting with the scant knowledge of fields not their own typical of bankers, but it's ever so much better than the situation where, no matter how good the idea, it was at best a serious political problem to get access to capital, and generally your good idea was going to die with you.)

It's not an accident that this idea got into practise in the Renaissance, or that everyone who has real trouble with the basic truth that money is fundamentally socialist, an agreed accounting system for value that isn't directly related to anything real has some serious issues with the whole idea.

But, anyway; "risk" in this sense is a measure of how likely the value from the future is to show up, and interest is a way to distribute that risk—since some of that value isn't going to make it—over everyone involved.

Because that value from the future takes awhile to show up, the obvious trick is to convince a banker to accept something as valuable when it isn't; you then get real money in return for fake, since the money you get is right now, and convertible into stuff, and the discovery of the non-value happens later, after you've had a chance to abscond with your gains.

These days, there aren't very many places to abscond to, and the rate of communication is really fast, so the traditional forms of parasitism on fractional reserve banking don't work.

What obviously has worked is to create financial instruments, concoct explanations for why they are less risky than common sense would indicate, and let everybody involved in treating those instruments as having less risk than they actually do in on the scam, so they have a chance to take real money out in return for the fake future value.

The problem now is three things:

  1. The people running this con were and are bankers
  2. No one knows how much of the value currently being counted is fake
  3. No one know what potential real value is supposed to be paid for by something fake
The whole thing runs on trust; the basis for trust has been taken out and shot. There isn't a monetary fix, or a policy fix, or even a political fix for this one.

It's going to take a ground-up rebuild for the basis of trust, which, as a devil-in-the-details task goes, doesn't strike me as highly tractable, even if all financial institutions are required to run entirely open, public books henceforward.

Doing that while the bits of value that are lies evaporate, dropping the stuff that depended on them, well.

The core fix is obvious—it's the usual choice between concentrating wealth and expanding access to choice—but the availability of bankers who are able to think in terms of expanding access to choice may be seriously limited, and the political solutions will only be as good as the advice they're getting. If there's no one saying "the view of the people who run the banking system that it's for concentrating wealth is part of the problem", there can't be a policy fix for the problem.

I don't think this is going to be a quick fix.

10 October 2008

Leaf as not

Why are changing leaves so blessed hard to photograph?

09 October 2008

Not completely like herbivore teeth

First time I can recall seeing the tapir standing. Presumably another pleasant side benefit of the cooler weather.

08 October 2008

Nap Time

Couple of shadows from the cage wire, but not too bad.

It's enough to make a fellow want a cage-clamp, that will get the lens objective as middle-positioned as possible in a given wire square.

07 October 2008


I have no idea why some of the leaves have gone so completely, and some not. But it's characteristic of the season, and sometimes it looks pretty.

06 October 2008


It's not summer any more.

05 October 2008

Little Miss Sad Whiskers

Usually "the cheetah" is sulking in a corner of the big grassy enclosure; I don't normally get pictures from any useful range.
Today I found out that the zoo has ten cheetahs, and a breeding program, but only puts single cheetahs on display; this one rejoices in the name of Pinky.
While the name could easily be enough, I think the sad whiskers effect is more recognizing that the obviously tasty young zebra is fundamentally inaccessible over there, past the ditch and the fence and the road and the people, who would doubtless freak out in all directions, the wretches.

04 October 2008

Minor Failures of Courtesy

I'm afraid my entrance mat does need vacuuming that badly.

Aoife does not normally react to shoes like this; I would be forced to conclude that she has formed a lamentably poor impression of the cats in the keeping of this particular guest, were in not for the immediately prior attempt to stuff her entire head in the shoe in question.

Perhaps she feels it pinched her ears maliciously?

In any case, in keeping with the universal law of cats, being photographed doing anything the last bit cute caused her to lose all interest in the activity and stalk off.

03 October 2008

Maple-Garlic-Orange Sauce

Originally posted this over at Making Light, but realized this was likely enough a good place for it, too.

Peel, section, seed, and subdivide the sections of two oranges; toss these in a sauce pan of moderate capacity, three or four halves of a litre. (Mostly so it's wide enough to take the strainer later.)
Peel and pulp into the pot between a dozen and a score cloves of garlic, depending on whether they be good plump cloves or no, or if you take any particularly delight in garlic.
Add to the pot a goodly dollop of brandy and enough water to almost cover the oranges. Cast enough powdered cinnamon on it to cover lightly half the surface.
Put the pot on heat at the high end of medium. Stir; squish any of the orange sections that look a bit large.
When the water steams, stir in an eighth litre or so of maple syrup; from this point, if you stop stirring, the maple syrup will tend to fall out and stick to the bottom of the pot, so don't do that.
Once the mixture boils, turn the heat down and simmer another five minutes, stirring all the while.
Remove from heat; pour into a blender. Rinse the pot, and put it back on the (off!) stovetop ring.
Blend the mixture on 20% speed (2 out of 5 on my blender) until it is entirely homogenized. (Any seeds you hear at this point mean stopping the blender and fishing them out again. Ingesting ground orange seed = bad!)
Place a wire strainer over the pot; pour the mixture into the strainer. Give it a minute or three to finish dripping, remove the strainer, and turn the heat back on just below medium.
Stir, and stir in a tablespoon of tapioca starch already blended with a tablespoon of cold water. After a minute, turn the heat up to just below high, and keep stirring until the sauce thickens.
Remove from heat and serve.
Good over flesh or fowl; excellent with egg rolls. Can be consumed directly with a spoon. Good for what ails you.
Emphatically in the "either the entire company shall, or the entire company shall not" category, so far as the scope and magnitude of the garlic goes.

02 October 2008

Gotta clean that window

Because that little bit of blur in there is not the doing of the lens. (At least I very much hope not! Must find a source for those little squeegee-swab things that's not fifty bucks for five, even so.)

This is a very loud bird, but I like it.

01 October 2008

Found a peanut

Probably one of this year's, given the general shininess and lack of mature ploofulation of the tail.