gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Archive for March 2012

Golf course hazards

March 24, 2012 @ 19:51 By: gordon Category: Out and about, Photography, Travelling

There are many type of hazards that can be found on golf courses. Ponds, ditches, sand traps and rocks are some that spring to mind.

While playing a round of golf at Palm Beach Gardens Golf Course this afternoon, I encountered a moving hazard on one of the holes:


It was a bit more than 2 feet long and started gently hissing when I crouched down to take its picture.

On the next hole there was another one that was 8 feet long lumbering along towards one of the ponds.

Everyone on that hole was letting it play through.

Watermarks versus metadata

March 19, 2012 @ 08:45 By: gordon Category: Meta, Photography

One of the topics of conversation on #blogchat on Twitter Sunday evening had to do with watermarking images on your blog. Watermarks are usually used on stock photos to prevent their usage without paying the licensing fees. But on personal blogs, like this one, watermarks probably aren’t necessary because they aren’t stock photo services.

The general feeling seemed to be that non-intrusive watermarks, like the one in this picture of snowflakes I posted in one of my entries about capturing snowflakes, are ok. Personally, I tend to watermark photos that I’m particularly proud of so that if they do appear out of context then people will know who created them. I often use a feature in Microsoft’s Windows Live Writer to do this when I’m writing a blog entry. There are also plugins for most of the major blogging platforms (I use a self-hosted WordPress system for my blog) that allow you to watermark your images if you don’t use an authoring tool like Live Writer.

If you are trying to assert your intellectual property rights, watermarking is one approach. Of course, if your watermark is on an edge of the photo, a content thief could easily crop it without seriously impacting the overall image. Stock photo services, commercial photographers and the like fight content thieves by watermarking images in the centre of the image or on the focal point of the image, so that the image can’t be used without it being apparent that it hasn’t been licensed.

However, these more intrusive watermarks are usually overkill for images on personal blogs and can turn off potential readers. Take a look at the picture of the fireworks mortars on the left for an example of a bad watermark. (I would never watermark an image like this in real life!)

side-by-side-watermarksIf you are a professional photographer, however, you can probably get away with something like it, or a logo watermark like the one on the right, because photos are your livelihood, particularly if you’re offering the photo for sale. If I was producing an online catalogue of photos I took at the setup of the grand finale of the fireworks festival I volunteered at last summer I might consider a watermark like this because it makes the photo harder to use, tells people who took it, but isn’t so intrusive that people will be distracted by it when looking through the catalogue.

But watermarking isn’t the only option available if you want to put your “brand” on your photos. Embedding metadata in your image file allows you to include copyright and other information without changing the image itself.

imageMost digital cameras add information about exposure, lens settings and other technical specs to each photo when you push the trigger. In Windows, you can view these and edit them by right-clicking on the file in Windows Explorer, selecting properties and selecting the Details tab.

You can even edit these fields by clicking on them, making the desired changes and then clicking the Apply button. If you want to make the same change to many files, such as setting the Copyright field, you can do it by selecting multiple files in Explorer and making the desired changes and clicking Apply. Be warned, however, that once you click apply there’s no undo, so be careful and check your work.

If you use something like Adobe Lightroom to manage your photos, you can automate the process of applying copyright (and other) metadata when you import the photos from your camera. Exactly how you do this is beyond the scope of this blog entry, but if you’re using Lightroom chances are that you’re already familiar with how to do it.

If someone does copy the photo from your blog, they probably won’t think to strip the metadata from it before they use it, so if you find the photo being used somewhere else without your permission you might be able to prove it’s yours with the help of this information. But I don’t think you can 100% rely on this because it’s likely there are tools out there used by image thieves that strip metadata to hide a photo’s origin.

So, in summary, watermarking your photos can be done in both discrete and intrusive ways, but regardless some readers may be turned off the presence of a watermark. Metadata, on the other hand, allows you to embed a copyright message in your photo, but requires more effort because you usually do it outside of the blog entry creation process.

Ultimately, if you don’t want someone to copy images from your blog you probably shouldn’t post them in the first place.

Dark Matter #3: A review

March 19, 2012 @ 02:26 By: gordon Category: Comic books, Reviews

Dark Matter #3 coverI picked up Dark Matter #3 by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Scullie this past Wednesday from Silver Snail along with a couple of other titles. The third in a series of four, this is the issue where our amnesiac crew comes to grips with their rather checkered pasts, which they have discovered in the ship’s computer. At the same time, they have to contend with threats from another ship that showed up at the end of Dark Matter #2 while some of them are on a planet delivering weapons to some settlers. (Of course, there’s a bit more than just a delivery run, but you’re going to have to read the issue to find out what I’m not telling you!)

Discussions between the two ships ensue with ultimatums being issued. The result is that the crew on the ship have to leave immediately, leaving their crewmates on the surface behind.

Duh Duh DUH!

I’m still enjoying the progression of the story. It continues to have the feeling of elements of Joss Whedon’s Firefly combined with the uncertainty of Stargate Universe along with elements from other sci-fi stories I’ve read over the years. The writing is tight and the artwork is dark and gritty, which is perfect for the story.

I’m a bit sad that there’s only one more issue to come in the series because it’s a great medium for a story like this. Joseph Mallozzi has said in various entries on his blog that there’s serious interest in a Dark Matter television series, which would be great and I would like to see come to fruition. However, though I’m by no means an expert on the industry, I suspect that a comic book series would be much less subject to arbitrary cancellation unlike a television series. (For proof of this one needs look no further than Stargate Universe, which was effectively scuttled by Space, or Firefly, which was cancelled by Fox. Neither series was really given a fair chance and both were top-notch television.)

There’s probably nothing precluding having both a television series and a comic book series in parallel, so hopefully this is something the Joe will entertain. I don’t believe he’s really said anything about this one way or the other on his blog. (Care to comment, Joe? Winking smile )

So, it you haven’t picked up Dark Matter #3, what are you waiting for? And if you haven’t read any of them, then get in touch with your local comic book shop and order them today!

Read my review of Dark Matter #2 here.
Read my review of Dark Matter #1 here.

The Ides of March

March 15, 2012 @ 14:10 By: gordon Category: General

In March, July, October, May
The Ides fall on the fifteenth day
The Nones the seventh; all besides
Have two days less for Nones and Ides.

That’s a handy poem to help you remember when the Ides fall, that I first mentioned in my 2008 entry about the Ides of March.

As you may know, the Ides of March was the day on which Julius Caesar was assassinated by his enemies in the Pompeii Theatre in 44 BC. Included in the group of assassins was his friend, Brutus Albinus, which led Shakespeare to has Caesar utter the words “Et tu, Brute?” as he lay dying. Other possibly more reliable reports have him saying either “καὶ σύ, τέκνον?” (Greek for “You too, child?”) or nothing at all.

In any event, Julius Caesar’s death had been foretold by an Etruscan haruspex (a soothsayer or astrologer) named Titus Vestricius Spurinna who predicted at the beginning of March that some danger would befall him no later than the Ides of March. The morning of the 15th, Caesar bumped into Titus Spurinna and said “The Ides of March are come”, to which Spurinna replied “Yes, they are come, but they are not past.”

As it turned out, the haruspex had the last laugh.

An open letter to comment spammers

March 12, 2012 @ 12:59 By: gordon Category: General

Though I have fairly robust measures in place to deal with comment spam, I still see a few comments a day that make it into the spam review queue, including some that show the raw synonym blocks they use to try to get around the filters. I rarely read them, but a few of late have caught my attention, so I thought I would respond in a similar style.

Dear {Comment Spammer|Asshat|Scum},

Wow, {you are|you’re} {very|extremely|incredibly} {persistent|dedicated|amusing} in your {attempts|quest} to post {comments|ads|spam} to my blog. {Undeniably|Unquestionably|Definitely} you have {few|no} other {skills|talents|things to do} in your {pathetic|sad|dreary} life. The {simplest|easiest|smartest} thing you {could|should} do is get a {real|legitimate} job and stop {polluting|messing up} the {Internet|web|’net} with your {crap|spam}.

{Alternatively|Instead} you {could|should} simply {drop dead|FOAD} and make {everyone|the world|the Internet} a {happier|shinier|better|much improved} place.

{Sincerely|Regards|Best wishes|Hugs and kisses},


Warning: Impending sleep deprivation and increased accident rates

March 10, 2012 @ 13:05 By: gordon Category: Astronomy, Current affairs, General

Yup, it’s that time of year again. The time when we adjust our clocks forward by an hour. Unless, of course, you live in one of the more enlightened parts of the country like Saskatchewan, in which case carry on with whatever you were doing.

I, however, don’t live in Saskatchewan (or certain parts of Alberta, British Columbia, northwestern Ontario or Quebec), so come Sunday morning at 2am I’m going to set my clocks forward. (Actually, I’ll probably do it a little earlier because I hope to be asleep at 2am.) Fortunately, with the exception of my alarm clock, microwave and the little clock in my car, the various things that tell time in my life automatically adjust themselves when the clocks change.

Unfortunately, people don’t cope with time change quite so readily. This means that in the days immediately following the time change, there will be more accidents as a result of people being tired because their bodies haven’t adapted to the new schedule.

And given that the clocks are changed ostensibly to save energy, people are going to be disappointed because there’s never been any reliable proof that it has saved energy. Mostly, it just results in people shifting when they use the energy they’re using.

If you want to learn more about the history of daylight saving time, check out David Prerau’s book Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time (hardcover: 1560256559; softcover: 1560257962). It’s actually more interesting than it sounds. (But don’t tell Ken because he doesn’t want to hear about it!)

If you’re a *NIX system administrator you probably updated your systems a couple of years ago, but in case you haven’t you probably should take a look at this. The zdump command should give you something like this:

[gordon@seedling gordon]$ /usr/sbin/zdump -v /etc/localtime |grep 2012

/etc/localtime  Sun Mar 11 06:59:59 2012 UTC = Sun Mar 11 01:59:59 2012 EST isdst=0 gmtoff=-18000

/etc/localtime  Sun Mar 11 07:00:00 2012 UTC = Sun Mar 11 03:00:00 2012 EDT isdst=1 gmtoff=-14400

/etc/localtime  Sun Nov  4 05:59:59 2012 UTC = Sun Nov  4 01:59:59 2012 EDT isdst=1 gmtoff=-14400

/etc/localtime  Sun Nov  4 06:00:00 2012 UTC = Sun Nov  4 01:00:00 2012 EST isdst=0 gmtoff=-18000

Graphing the arrival of the warm front

March 08, 2012 @ 13:09 By: gordon Category: Weather

So, Spring arrived yesterday, at least temporarily. The warm front I wrote about a couple of days ago passed through Ottawa around 9am Wednesday morning, as can be seen from this graph:

The blue line represents the wind direction. Leading up to 9am on March 7th, it was coming from between NE (45°) and E (90°). Between 9am and 10am, you can see the direction changed to come from roughly SSE (160°), which is basically when the front passed through.