Thursday, April 29, 2010

A 13th century proverb

This is a proverb I came across when I was a child. With the amazing power of Google search, I managed to retrieve this with just a click of the mouse:

He who knows not and knows not he knows not: he is a fool-shun him.

He who knows not and knows he knows not: he is simple-teach him.
He who knows and knows not he knows: he is asleep-wake him.
He who knows and knows he knows: he is wise-follow him

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

State paid to discredit transport criticism

The above was the title in an article in yesterday's The Age newspaper. Accountant Paul Zabakly billed the Victorian government (i.e. the taxpayer) $5,500 for 4 days work to discredit Dr.Paul Mees, an academic who is an expert in public transportation. Dr.Mees says he doesn't know whether to be flattered - despite employing over 1100 staff, the Transport Department needed to pay someone to respond to him, or to be disappointed - that it took them only 4 days.

Apparently accountant Paul Zabakly has been paid $2.6mil over 8 years to assess finances on the privatized train and tram systems. It is possible that over the years he has gathered enough information to be an expert himself. On the otherhand, Dr.Mees left his job at Melbourne U when the university threatened him with demotion following a complaint from the Transport Department for his criticism of the privatized transport systems. It is possible that Dr. Mees has a bone to pick, although I don't believe in this stretch of the imagination. But my point is this: I think it is inappropriate for the state government to quietly pay someone to heap criticisms on another person. As Dr.Mees pointed out, doesn't the government have all the data to refute his claims? What was the grand idea of paying someone else to do so? Is it because the outsider can say anything true or untrue and not be held accountable?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Overseas home buyers

Of late, house prices have skyrocketed, caused in part by foreign buyers. It is reported that 30-40% of property are sold to cashed-up Chinese buyers who are non residents in this country. They are able to do so when Kevin Rudd relaxed the rules after the global financial crisis of Q4 2008. Since then they have relentlessly snatched up properties here. Even when guidelines are breached, nobody is stopping them - until now. Today, Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry announced the scrapping of those rules and at the same time tightened the enforcement. It is the same Senator Sherry who only three weeks ago denied that foreign investors were a factor in the Australian real estate market.

Politicians need to be educated. Too many of them are making unsound policies based on misconstrued beliefs. Senator Sherry believes that international investments will boost the number of houses available for people to rent. This is a fallacy. There is no significant increase in the number of homes built, so how can foreign buyers boost the number of rental houses? Foreign investment is good only if there is a need to bring in the capital. In this case, the problem is not capital; it is escalating land prices. This is caused by a huge demand; further fueled by the Chinese buying spree. I am only surprised it has taken Senator Sherry so long to see that.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Notes to myself: best travel compact cameras

Here are the top end of the range for compact travel cameras. This class of cameras is characterized by a long zoom housed in a compact body, while maintaining good image quality. Naturally this comes with a big price tag. The success of this particular breed must be attributed to Panasonic's TZ ("travel zoom") range. Following Panasonic's success, the other manufacturers have followed suit with their own travel compacts. Here are the latest models worth comparing (prices quoted by Ted's Camera. All models released in Jan-Feb 2010):

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 (DMC-TZ10), AUD$700, 12x zoom
Sony Cybershot DSC HX5, AUD$600, 10x
Nikon S8000, AUD$500, 10x
Canon SX210IS, AUD$550, 14x

I have yet to see professional reviews of the image quality of each camera. Based solely on published specs, my choice is in the sequence presented above, highest being the Panasonic Zs7. This camera has the best range of max lens aperture among the lot. Sony HX5 has the best video. Nikon has the best LCD screen. All things considered, I believe the ZS7 will give me the best satisfaction as a travel compact, while the Hx5 comes in as a very close second. The Lumix has brighter lens, longer flash, 460k LCD (Sony's is 230k). It has aperture priority and shutter priority. On the otherhand, Sony's full HD video is very alluring. The 10fps burst speed coupled with 60fps HD video makes it a good choice for action photography. While no aperture and shutter priority, it has manual focus which the Lumix doesn't.

Both Zs7 and HX5 have GPS, while the other two models don't. Likewise for 25mm wide angle.

My only gripe? None of them shoot RAW.
How about Canon G11 and the likes of it? Bah... same small sensor size. Might as well go for the above.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Notes to myself: lens hood & tell a story

I learned when and when not to use the lens hood. Yes, I already knew you need a lens hood when shooting in the afternoon sun to cut out lens flare, blah, blah, blah... Tonight I learned that it is not good to use a lens hood when shooting indoors with flash. It could block the built-in flash and it does not do anything to improve the image. Used outdoor on a bright day, however, a lens hood helps to cut out extraneous light which can reduce the contrast and sharpness of the image. With this insight, I am going to be more inclined to using the lens hood (outdoors) from now on.

The other useful lesson I learned tonight is something I think I have been sorely lacking. I think I have been fairly successful in taking pictures like portraits, flowers, and scenery. In looking through my Picasa gallery, I find that I have not attempted to take pictures that tell a story. My pictures "display" something (e.g. scenery or portraiture), but they don't "tell a story". Examples of telling a story are: humour (e.g. a pet and its owner dressed alike), mood (e.g. foggy scene), setting the scene (e.g. a market scene), symbolism (e.g. a priest with a rosary), and theme (e.g. flower pot on window sill, reflections, etc). This lesson is the impetus I need when I am low on inspiration.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Identity fraud right under your nose

Have you ever received messages from Facebook, Yahoo, or any other social networking services that says: "xxx would like to connect with you on Yahoo!7 so you can easily share each other's Updates", or "xxx became a fan of Photographer on Facebook and suggested you become a fan too"?

Government regulatory agencies should scrutinize the deeds of these organizations because what they are doing amounts to identity fraud. They want you to believe that a good friend of yours is interested to "connect" with you. By such means (akin to a pyramid scheme), they can expand their user base exponentially. That is how Facebook has achieved phenomenal success in a short time. Many people are likely to believe that the message is genuinely sent by someone they know. Imagine how compelling it is when the message is purportedly sent by someone close to you, or by the hottest girl in school, or by someone you secretly admire. Surely what Facebook and others are similarly doing is nothing short of identity fraud. Why aren't they stopped?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Same action, different meanings

You (a young man) get on a crowded bus with your father, who is quite able bodied himself. Spotting a vacant seat, you offer it to your father. That is honouring your father.

On another day, you get on the bus by yourself. You see a vacant seat, and you see an elderly person right behind you. You offer the seat to this person. That is showing kindness.

You give up your seat to a disabled person; that's showing compassion.

You offer your seat to a young lady; that's showing politeness.

You offer your seat to your wife; that's showing love.

Same action; different meanings.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Do you ever watch what you videotape?

To put it succinctly, almost no one as far as I know, ever watches the home video he has recorded. I don't, much as I think I want to. The reason is that it is just utterly boring. Perhaps home videos are meant for parents and grandparents to appreciate, or for you to look back many years from now on. It is hardly entertaining to watch.

Things have changed. With the introduction of tapeless videocam, it has become much easier to record and compile short clips that may be more tenable to watch. With that in mind, I got to work on short video clips to show that it is feasible to produce a "watchable" video show. Using the Proshow software, I made a slideshow using a combination of short clips and still pictures. As a result, I managed to produce a 15 min video slideshow that is almost as good to watch as a still-pictures only slideshow. Since I can't upload the entire show, I have uploaded sections of it to my Facebook site.

Show 1:!/video/video.php?v=113554852002332

Show 2:!/video/video.php?v=113454362012381

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Brumby vs Upper House of Parliament

Under the Australian system of democracy, the "Executive" branch is elected by the people and this is where John Brumby falls under. Whatever bill it wants to enact has to go through the "Legislative" branch (the Upper House of Parliament), after which the bill becomes law. John Brumby is up in arms against the Parliament's Upper House for investigating into the Windsor redevelopment scandal. He is threatening to take the Parliament to court if it tries to arrest and punish members of his staff for refusing to give evidence. Brumby's argument is that it is a 100-year old tradition that ministers, but not their staff, are answerable to Parliament. Opposition leader Ted Ballieu thinks Brumby has something to hide.

A brief note about the Windsor scandal. Mr. Madden is Brumby's Planning Minister. Madden's former Press Secretary Peta Duke outlined a strategy to run a fake public consultation over the controversial Windsor redevelopment. This plan was accidentally made public in February. Duke wrote that (and wouldn't Madden be the recipient of this suggestion?) the "strategy at this stage" was to elicit adverse public reaction to the proposed project and then reject it, to show that "we have listened to community views". Mr. Madden last month approved the redevelopment, including a new 26-storey glass tower behind the 1880's hotel. Mr. Madden is also responsible for rushing many high rise projects throughout Melbourne, bypassing the normal municipal council review process. It was Brumby who overturned the local council's approval process for major and significant development projects on the basis that this will speed up economic recovery. What happened to age-old tradition? The reason we don't have major traffic congestion in the suburbs is because there's control over housing density. Not anymore, if Brumby continues to have his way.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Shooting people

Here are a few of my favourite "people" shots taken during the Easter break. In the first picture, the weather was simply gorgeous on that day. We stopped at a cafe in Winchelsea and had tea outdoor.

In the picture with the lighthouse, I thought the swirling cloud makes an interesting backdrop, while the cameraman in front adds drama.

In the last picture, I must confess that I couldn't resist using the gradient tool in Adobe Lightroom to make the picture more artsy.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Bloggie shot

These houses line the bank of the Moyne River in Port Fairy, where a group of us went for the Easter weekend. Doubleclick on the picture to see the enlarged image. I like to imagine that this scene is in Europe. This picture was taken with my Bloggie camera, with very little post processing. I came out to take a walk when everyone was still sleeping. I was well rewarded with some pretty good shots that morning.