Thursday, 30 July 2009

Fly A Balloon

The link below leads to a very clever little movie. Superbly performed, but it also cleverly manipulates your browser window. So once you click it, please do not adjust the size of your browser window else you will miss out on this. Enjoy!


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Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Galactic Centre

This is rather stunning. Time lapse video of the night sky as it passes over the 2009 Texas Star Party in Fort Davis, Texas. The galactic core of the Milky Way is brightly displayed.

As the video says...

9.20pm to 6.43am, April 21st-22nd 2009. Canon EOS 5D (modified) and EF 15mm fisheye lens at f/2.8. Camera on tripod facing East South East. 20 second exposure each minute per frame, 15 frames per second.

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party from William Castleman on Vimeo.


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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Movie Spoofs

It has become a bit of a tradition that the MTV Movie Awards feature some kind of movie spoof. A popular movie of the time is chosen and famous faces (quite often including the hosts of the awards) appear to make some irreverent fun.

I have picked some of my favourites to share with you below. Please note that there is a language and/or sexual reference warning on these.

The Matrix


Lord of the Rings


Star Wars


Spider Man


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Saturday, 25 July 2009

Hold Music

I'm a little busy at the moment, but rather than leave you with nothing, I thought a little hold music might be good. Here are three songs that I have always loved but sort of forgotten about until I was recently reminded of them. I hope you enjoy...

Normal service will be resumed shortly.




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Friday, 24 July 2009

Keavy Dolittle

Newer readers of e-clecticism might want to look here for all my posts on the Greshlets if you're not sure what I'm talking about.

Today would have been the tenth birthday of Keavy Gresham. Keavy was a great lover of all animals, large and small. She seemed to be able to almost communicate with them and they were certainly drawn to her. She earned herself the nickname of Doctor Dolittle, so this year my wife and I thought it might be a nice to commemorate and celebrate Keavy's life and birthday by doing something with regard to animals. A mutual friend of ours and the Gresham's runs a bird sanctuary in Lancashire called The Three Owls. This seemed the perfect choice for us as they have a bird adoption programme.


There are many types of bird that need funding to provide food and care. We chose a Robin as it just seemed to fit. I like to think that Keavy would approve of our choice, especially as we have decided to name the bird after her. :-)

Happy birthday sweetheart. Is túisce a éagann an óige mar aon leis an mhaith!
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Thursday, 23 July 2009

HDRI Tutorial

This post will be a little longer than my usual offerings, but it is hopefully something that you'll find interesting. Please understand that the example I use in this tutorial was my first attempt and I realise in hindsight it was rubbish. However it serves a purpose to pass on the technique. Take a look at my gallery for some better examples. As always click any of the images below to enlarge them.

I want to talk to you about a photographic technique that has become very popular recently but with which I have only just become familiar. HDR (sometimes referred to as HDRI) is High Dynamic Range photography. To explain...A camera (even the top of the range dSLR's) cannot capture as much dynamic range as the human eye. A longer exposure or wider aperture may brighten the shadows in a shot but leave a blue sky looking white or a light source over exposed. Conversely a shorter exposure or narrower aperture may give the bright areas of a picture the correct look but leave shadowed areas too dark. To correct this problem, and to sometimes even exaggerate it, we take multiple shots of the same scene but adjust the shutter speed or the F-Stop in both directions, and then merge them to create a composite image to give an HDRI.

Take the pictures below as an example. The first is a normal metered shot of a scene near my house. The second I took with a shorter exposure (-2EV) and the third, a longer exposure (+2EV). You can use more images such as five or seven but I want to keep it simple for this tutorial. Now you might of course change the aperture instead of the shutter speed, but depending on your subject matter you could get a different depth of field from shot to shot which would spoil the end result.




Some tips on taking the images.
  • Although we can produce the HDR effect with JPEG's, it is better to record your images using the RAW format if your camera supports it. This is because much more data is recorded and you will get a much better result.
  • Just like in long exposure photography, choose a static subject matter or expect motion blur.
  • A tripod and remote trigger, although not essential, are very much desirable to ensure the scene is captured identically each time.
  • If your camera has a changeable ISO setting (most do), set it as low as possible to avoid noise.
  • Most modern cameras allow automatic exposure bracketing. If you have it, use this feature as it makes your life much easier.
Once you have transferred your images from your camera to your computer, you are going to need some software to merge them. I am going to use Adobe Photoshop CS4 (any version from CS2 onwards will work) but there are many other applications that would be suitable such as Photomatix etc.

The first thing to do is to open Photoshop, go to File -> Automate -> Merge to HDR and select your three images. Make sure that unless you really need it, that the “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images” option is unchecked and click OK.


Depending on the specification of your machine you will now need to wait a while for Photoshop to use a very complicated mathematical algorithm (that I don't even pretend to understand myself) to produce your 32bit HDR image. Now don't panic if the result doesn't look great. The trouble is is that your monitor is just not able to display a true 32bit HDR image correctly. You could buy a HDR monitor but at the time of writing this, they are around £25,000. Instead, we will now “tone map” and "downsample" it into an 8-bit image that selectively uses parts from each exposure to accurately represent the scene. You might want to save the current file first however in case you need to start over.

Go to Image -> Mode -> 8bits/Channel. You will be presented with a dialog box. Select Local Adaptation from the method drop down options and adjust the tone curve until you are happy with the contrast. If you are unfamiliar with histograms and curves you might want to view this video which will give you the basics, but you can just experiment until you are happy.


Once you have everything to your liking, you can save your file as a JPEG.

For a "before and after" comparison of my modest example, take a look here and here. For some great examples of HDRI with some brilliant use of exaggeration, take a look here.

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Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Disk Drop

Six hard disk drives with cases opened showing...Image via Wikipedia

I was hoping to have an extensive post ready for you this morning, but I have been so busy I haven't managed to finish it yet. Sorry. I'll try and have it ready for you tomorrow.

In the meantime, check this out. It made me chuckle.

Fun with an old hard drive. Took the platters out of many hard drives and put them into one drive. Spin it up to speed and give it a nudge, then watch the fun.


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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Double Trouble

Having tried to teach myself guitar, I appreciate that it is a skill that takes a lot of dedication to master. For that reason the talent of Zack Kim is doublely amazing as he seems to like to play two guitars at once! Below is his rendition of the theme from The Simpsons by Danny Elfman. I urge you to check out his other work as it is simply stunning. He has his own blog here.


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Sunday, 19 July 2009

Big Buddha

I was reading the Google Sightseeing blog today and came across an interesting post. Their posts are always pointing out interesting things to see in the Google Earth software, but this particular entry really caught my attention. It was concerning the largest statue in the world. The Spring Temple Buddha in Henan, China.

I'd never heard of it before but...

The statue, including the lotus throne, is 128m tall. Its original 25m tall pedestal gave the structure a total height of 153m. However, recent information shows that the hill it was built on has been constructed into an additional pedestal. The total height is now believed to be 208m.

OK so the figures don't really put it into context, but perhaps the picture below (click to enlarge) will.


I have always wanted to visit China and now this statue has made the top of my locations list. Just take a look at this picture of one of the toes that you can see on Panoramio.


You can see the full article, which gives the second and third place statues as well, by clicking here.



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Saturday, 18 July 2009

Delhi 2 Dublin

I have heard many so called fusions of musical styles, some better than others. But this one really caught my attention. A mixture of Bhangra, Céilidh and dance styles that seem to fit together really well. From Vancouver, they call themselves Delhi 2 Dublin and I really do hope they play over here at some point. You can find out more about them by visiting their website here.



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Friday, 17 July 2009

Fly Me To The Moon

This month sees the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission that provided mankind with it's first lunar landing. To celebrate this momentous occasion the Boston Globe's website has published some superb photographs, some of which appear to be very rare.

The entire trip lasted only 8 days, the time spent on the surface was less than one day, the entire time spent walking on the moon, a mere 2 1/2 hours - but they were surely historic hours. Scientific experiments were deployed (at least one still in use today), samples were collected, and photographs were taken to document the entire journey. Collected here are 40 images from that journey four decades ago, when, in the words of astronaut Buzz Aldrin: "In this one moment, the world came together in peace for all mankind".

I have linked to a few here (as always, click to enlarge) but I really recommend you take a look at their full article Remembering Apollo 11.





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Thursday, 16 July 2009

Music From A Tree

Most people would look at a tree in their garden and perhaps take it for granted, or maybe they might appreciate it's beauty. I can only assume that not many of us would look at it and think...I can make music with that. Well a gentleman by the name of Diego Stocco has bucked the trend. I think there is a fine line between eccentricity and genius. :-) In his words...

In the garden of my house there's a tree with lots of randomly grown twigs. It looks odd and nice at the same time. One day I asked myself if I could create a piece of music with it.

To tune the tree I picked a fundamental note and tuned the twigs by trimming them with a pencil sharpener. I used two Røde NT6 and a NTG-2 as microphones, combined with a customized stethoscope.

I recorded the tracks live on a Pro Tools LE system. I didn't use any synthesizer or sampler to create or modify the sounds. All the sounds come from playing the tree, by bowing the twigs, shaking the leaves, playing rhythms on the cortex and so on.

Watch the video below and also have a look here for photographs and more information.

Diego Stocco - Music From A Tree from Diego Stocco on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Catch Me If You Can

Do you remember the film Catch Me If You Can starring Leonardo DiCaprio? If so, you may well remember that it was based on the true life story of Frank Abagnale. The film is very good, but to actually hear about Frank's escapades from the horse's mouth so to speak is much more impressive.

The two videos below are quite long but please give them a chance as they are truly amazing. Not just for the exploits and how much this man got away with, but for the last few minutes where you realise a humble guy he is that was kind of left from the movie.




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Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Top Banana

bananasImage by saikofish via Flickr

From the e-clecticism short but useful information department comes "How to open a banana like a monkey". I defy you to not to watch this and then go and try it immediately. I did, and it works. :-)

Like the maker of the film, I never realised this was possible but I'll be sure to use this method from now on.

Don't say we don't educate you here.



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Monday, 13 July 2009

Don't Look Down

I did it! My abseil for the Children Today Charitable Trust. I'd posted about it before, you must remember? Let me tell you about it. As always, click a picture to see a larger version.


We arrived yesterday in time for the 11am registration where upon we were split into groups of six. The balcony at the top of the tower is not big enough to hold more. I was in the first group. Apart from the height (it's way taller at the top than it is at the bottom) the first thing that occurred to me was the wind. I hadn't considered wind, but luckily it made no real difference in the end. Two people went ahead of me and then it was my turn. After being clipped on to the rope and some brief instruction, the first obstacle to overcome was a chest high wall which I had to climb over to perch on a small platform. A quick pause for a photograph, then it's off we go.



Once I got into a rhythm and relaxed a little it was fairly good. I had to negotiate a chain about a third of the way down but even that didn't phase me. Who'd have thought it.


Having said that, I was glad when my feet reached the ground but it was accompanied by a huge sense of self achievement. The best part is of course that I've nearly reached my target sponsorship of £500. If you'd like to sponsor me you, you still can. Just visit my fund raising page.


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Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Good Old Days

This is very cool. The video below is a live demonstration of a 1964 acoustic coupler in action. K.C. aka Phreakmonkey was given this Livermore Data Systems model A modem by a friend.

This modem was given to me ~1989 by the widow of a retired (IBM?) engineer. Computerhistory.org has a Model B dated 1965, and I've seen a ~1967 Model C written up in a magazine. (Interestingly, incorrectly identified as being only 110 baud.)

Even better than seeing it in a museum, I decide to hook the trusty Model A up and make it talk to something. After some trial and error, I manage to get it to talk to a terminal server at work and use it to connect to a linux box. It's ALIVE! So, 45 years after it's creation, this antique modem gets to send data to and from the modern Internet.

Although I don't recall this model, I do remember using BBS at 300 baud and later running my own at a then staggering 56k. Oh how times have changed.

See Phreakmonkey's blog that includes a follow-up post with some nice pictures.


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Saturday, 11 July 2009

Welcome Home QRH

Yesterday saw a parade through Worcester streets of the Queen's Royal Hussars to welcome them home. It made me feel very proud to see that so many had turned out to cheer and wave to one of Worcestershire's local regiments following gruelling six month tours of both Afghanistan and Iraq. The parade started at noon from the Territorial Army centre in Silver Street, then made it's way along City Walls Road, College Street and the Lychgate roundabout, into High Street (passing the Mayor and local dignitaries) and finally turned into Broad Street.

Luckily I had remembered to bring my camera and managed to get a couple of pictures. Well done boys and girls, welcome home you've done us proud.





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Friday, 10 July 2009

Dan & naD

This may not be the funniest sketch on Youtube but it has to be one of the cleverest. I have absolutely no idea how it was achieved, but this sketch is a palindrome. You could watch it backwards and it would be identical.

The thought that must go into a project like this to get the timing right etc is mind boggling. I hope you enjoy it.


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Thursday, 9 July 2009

Some Minor Changes

Just so you know I have spent a few hours making some little changes and improvements to the blog. I won't bore you with everything but a quick round up should include...
  • All feed subscribers should now have the ability to share my posts with the likes of StumbleUpon, Digg etc more easily by links at the bottom of each post.*
  • Email subscribers should now see a more branded and personalised email.
  • My friends on Facebook should now have the ability to read my posts in their news feed and to follow e-clecticism without having to leave Facebook. This is all thanks to the NetworkedBlogs application which will hopefully allow you to share my posts with other Facebook users more easily.
These are all ways that I hope to increase the readership of the blog, lets hope it works.

*This has always been possible from the main site but not from the feed. See here and here for more information.

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The PEN Story

Another great find from René. The Olympus PEN is fifty years old apparently. To celebrate the fact, Olympus have created a charming stop-motion animation that reminds me a lot of the Her Morning Elegance video I posted a while back.

This is the PEN Story in stop motion. We shot 60.000 pictures, developed 9.600 prints and shot over 1.800 pictures again. No post production! Thanks to all the stop motion artists who inspired us. We hope you enjoy :-)

By the way, I love the song so if anyone knows anything about it, please leave a comment. Thanks.




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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Final Plea

It is now less than a week to go until I attempt my abseil for the Children Today Charitable Trust. If you don't know what I'm on about, have a look here.

Can I please ask that you either use the widget to the right or click here to visit my fund raising page and sponsor even the smallest of amounts.

Thank you very much.
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First-Person Shooter Disease

I was never really a huge fan of computer games until recently. I think my very short attention span was what always put me off. With perhaps the exception of the early LAN versions of Quake, I'd play them for a short while but would quickly lose interest. But since getting a Playstation 3, along with the Call Of Duty series of games, I am a confirmed addict. Even now though it is really only the online multiplayer options that hold my attention. There is something about playing against other people that satifies much more than against any machine. Well for now anyway, obviously technology is improving all the time.

I'm telling you this so that you can appreciate that I realise just how serious First-Person Shooter Disease (Duke Nukem's Disease) actually is. I cannot begin to imagine how much it must devistate the lives of the sufferers and their families. Please watch the video below and give generously.*


*For the gullible, this is of course a joke.

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Tuesday, 7 July 2009

A Day At The Cricket

As I promised recently, I'd like to tell you about the thoroughly pleasant day I spent at New Road last week. The match was a warm up to the Ashes and featured England Lions verses Australia. Not being too flushed for cash at the moment I'd chosen to attend only the second day of the four day test. This turned out to be fantastic timing for a number of reasons. Firstly, the weather was stunning. Not a cloud in the sky most of the day and a top temperature of 31°C according to the thermometer atop the new Graham Hick pavilion.

Another reason was the fact that Australia only had two batsmen left after close of play on the first day. Once they had been dispatch fairly promptly I had nearly a full day to watch England in action.


As you can see I also remembered to take my camera to attempt my first try at Sports photography. Unfortunately a hangover gave me a rather unsteady hand so I didn't get as many good shots as I'd have liked but I was pleased with most of them. It's great because Worcester is not a huge ground and so with the help of my trusty zoom lens I was able to get some fairly good close-ups.


A highlight for me though has to be spotting Nasser Hussein exiting the Sky Sports commentary box and walking right past me. This time I managed to quickly train my camera on him for the shot below. I wasn't as lucky with Michael Atherton sadly as he moved much quicker than I did.


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Sunday, 5 July 2009

Julia Dales

Julia Dales is a seventeen year old Canadian girl who has just won a beatboxing contest. I'm not excactly sure why but her wildcard entry (below) was recorded in the back of a car. See more of her strange but very compelling talent on her Youtube channel.


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Christian Logic

:Image:Religious syms.png bitmap traced (and h...Image via Wikipedia

Unlike some atheists I have nothing against people who hold religious beliefs. Each to their own. What I don't like is those people trying to convert me or having other's views forced upon me. Nobody that knows me has ever felt the need but sometimes strangers just can't resist.

What I need to do is memorise the following statement that I recently read. When a Christian told an atheist, with whom he was in conversation with, that atheism made no sense, the reply was...

you believe that a cosmic zombie (who was his own father), born from a 'virgin', can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in all humans because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree and thereby pissing off an invisible wizard who lives in the sky (who couldn't find the only 2 humans on Earth)? Yeah....makes perfect sense.

There is absolutely nothing I can add.

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