Time lapse #2

This one had a couple of adjustments.
  1. To get maximum depth of focus: set the aperture to be as small as possible (f/22) and let the shutter speed be automatically determined. By the last few frames, the exposure time is up to 3-4 secs. 
  2. To compensate for the lack of trains: added a hurricane!


Time lapse

Here's a little experiment I did this weekend. My first ever time-lapse video:

It consists of:
  • one photo every 5 minutes, 
  • 101 images which become
  • a movie of 10 frames per second, 
  • for a speedup of 3000 x real life.  
  1. Plug camera into laptop via USB. 
  2. To remotely control camera: a program called EOS Utility which comes included with most Canon DSLRs. I'd never even looked at those discs that came with the camera, which is more than 3 years old.  Good thing I never threw them away! 
  3. To make the HD movie out of the JPEG images: Movie Maker tool in Picasa.
IMG_4427I'd assumed it was all going to be much more complicated but as soon as I started looking into it, it became obvious that everything I needed was already right here at my fingertips.  This reminds me of a previous little weekend project -- 100% wireless...   There ought to be a word for this, when things turn out delightfully easier than expected. The opposite of a bug. Let's call it a butterfly.


Defending America?

Here are three facts every American should know:
  1. Americans pay $1 Trillion a year for War and ‘Security’.   In fact, that understates it a bit, for 2012 the US is spending over a trillion dollars on national security. 
  2. The US spends more than the next 10 biggest military spending countries... combined! Taking #2 China and #3 Russia together, the US still spends 3 times more. 
  3. Military spending doubled in the last decade. The US spends more today than it ever did during the "arms race" of the cold war against the Soviet Union, and that's adjusted for inflation.  More than at the peak of the cold war!
Now regardless of your opinion, if you live in the US, simply test a few friends on any one of these facts. I bet most of them are not even close. In the mainstream debate on military spending, reducing it is considered the crazy thing!  The above facts rarely get mentioned, neither by the politicians nor the reporters. 

Defending America? From what or whom? Military-industrial complex anyone? If you're feeling courageous, here's a fascinating piece entitled Stormtroopin' USA


Five books: Non-fiction

A few months ago, the New York Times had an article on the greatest non-fiction books. They asked 33 people to list their top 5.  (To my dismay, Kapuscinski's "The Emperor", one of the worst books of all time in my opinion, came out tied for the best of the best. That book is so bad that, when I tried reading it, I couldn't help but physically throw it away in disgust. My hatred for that book deserves a whole blog post of it's own. But this is not that post.)  Inspired by that article, I thought I'd try to remember my some of my favorite non-fiction books of all time. It wouldn't be fair to call it a "top 5", since I am not being that thorough.  If I sat down to do this ten times, I'd probably end up with ten slightly different lists.

Rather here are 5 non-fiction books I really enjoyed, that had a deep influence on my world view, and that just happen to bubble to the surface at the moment:

  • Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter. Absolutely brilliant exploration of logic.  Recursion is just so... fundamental. The human mind must be an instrument of God. Made me love J.S. Bach (and "Alice in Wonderland").  And a proof of Gödel's incompleteness theorem. 
  • Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond. Very ambitious, basically the history of civilization organized around a few very compelling ideas. Geography is very very important. Innovation diffuses latitudinally.
  • Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by T. E. Lawrence. Supremely elegant writing. Story of the middle east during the first world war. Essential reading if you want to understand a lot of international politics today.
  • Life is long if you know how to use it, by Seneca. Beautifully concise stoic philosophy. Don't sweat status. 
  • An Autobiography, or The Story of My Experiments with Truth, by M. K. Gandhi. The great man's early life and journey to satyagraha, truth through non-violence.
Hmm, clearly 5 is not enough. Here are a few more that would be included in different iterations of the "top 5".
  • The Discoverers, by Daniel Boorstin. A masterful, sweeping history of science. Extremely educational.
  • An anthropologist on Mars, by Oliver Sacks. The human brain is really really interesting.  It's easy to not realize how amazing our vision, memory, etc. are ....  until something goes wrong.
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, by Malcolm X and Alex Haley. Powerful life story. I learned a lot about the USA in this one.
Oh what the hell, let's make it an even 10:
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig.  Not the best writer of the bunch, but this book had a profound influence on me. Key word: Quality. What is good? What is not good? Also, I'm not sure if I learned it in this book, but I believe that you should never get upset by something that was predictable.
  • Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, by Ron Chernow. Very thorough biography of a fascinating man in a fascinating time. Very relevant today. If you are thinking of pursuing an MBA, don't. Instead, read books like this one.