Today I was looking over a few camera accessories that I might want to purchase before the end of the year, and was reminded of how good we videographers and photographers have it, technically speaking. It seems only yesterday that I was wrestling with the almost crippling limitations of tube cameras and tape recorders to try to get images that looked cinematic, decent, or even discernible… and today I take modern camera technology for granted.
In the last 20 years I’ve gone from terrified that I might permanently burn out the pickup tubes of a $30,000 BetaCam camera, to frustrated that a $9,000 HDV camera isn’t compatible with certain broadcast standards, to slightly peeved that I can’t get absolutely every feature I want in a $400 camera (and those numbers, by the way, are not adjusted for inflation).
And in reading through various reviews and blogs and forums today, I noticed that lots of folks are peeved that they can’t get the perfect camera yet; a magical camera that could combine the best features and patents from multiple companies. My perfect camera, for example, would be a small mirrorless body combining Canon’s autofocus technology and color science, Sony’s most sensitive image sensors, Olympus’s in-body stabilization, Panasonic’s wifi remote, and Blackmagic’s high-bitrate recording formats.
Some commenters have complained that this magical camera doesn’t exist because of too much competition in the in the market, not enough government regulation of features, and that darn old capitalism letting greedy camera makers keep the prices too high. This is an odd sentiment, since I can’t think of any product or field of technology that has benefited more from competition, lack of regulation, and free market economics than digital video cameras.
This fall, Heidi and I have been reading some books by James Herriot. His memoirs look at the life of a country veterinarian in northern England, during the 1930s and 40s. This is a fascinating but difficult time, before the discovery of antibiotics, and before British farming was really mechanized. However, what really stands out about his books is his tremendous attitude of joyfulness and thankfullness. Despite the incredibly hard work and often harsh weather, Herriot is overflowing with gratitude for the opportunities that he was given, the wonders that God has created, and the blessings that he received, great or small.
I have been convicted by how ungrateful I can be when my life is so much more comfortable than a country vet’s, and so much better than I deserve. For the next couple of weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, Heidi and I are trying to be more diligent about marking our blessings and thanking God for them. Because I don’t have James Herriot’s incredible grasp of the English language or storytelling ability, I’m going to rely on pictures to describe a day in my life.
This is who I get to see first, every day:
…and this is who I get to see second:
Those two pictures alone prove that I am indescribably, unfathomably, unbelievably blessed. But there’s more. So much more:
In case you hadn’t noticed, America had an election last week. I was looking forward to the hysterical rhetoric settling down after the final count came in, but it doesn’t look like that’s happening anytime soon. Anti-Trump protestors are burning cars, burning products made by pro-Trump companies, and burning up the airwaves blaming everyone they can think of for Hillary’s loss and the end of democracy.
But several commentators that I’ve been listening to on NPR place the blame for our new president-elect squarely on those actually responsible – the voters. The polite ones blame “white working-class voters,” and the less polite ones blame “white uneducated voters,” but they are talking about the same folks: lower-income blue-collar types who have traditionally voted Democrat and were assumed to be Democrat-for-life. Long-time Clinton crony James Carville seemed utterly despondent about the future of the DNC after this treachery, but other democratss are optimistic, since they believe that working-class people will soon be a thing of the past.
After all, they pointed out, we live in the app economy now! The future of America is in super-liberal Silicon Valley, and all future voters are in liberal colleges and universities this very minute, getting the degrees that their idiotic, republican-voting parents never got. Actually, this week those students are demanding a break from studying so they can bemoan the horror of a Trump presidency, but they’ll get back to getting those degrees soon. While everyone else is trying to divide the vote into old and young, hateful and inclusive, uneducated and enlightened, white and unwhite, I’d like to talk about this crazy idea of a future without working-class people.
There are a lot of magic numbers in journalism – numbers that get thrown around so often and are so well known that they simply must be true, even though there are never any citations of research or studies mentioned. One such magic number is “approximately 300 million,” which is apparently how many privately owned firearms are floating around the United States. This number kind of makes sense if you don’t really think about it. After all, there’s “approximately 300 million” Americans in the USA, some of whom own guns and some of whom do not. Seems like that would even out and make that a good estimate. However, I’ve been hearing about “approximately 300 million” guns since I was a kid, and I know that there have been an awful lot of firearms purchased since then. Let’s look at some hard data.
Of course, the United States does not have a central firearm registry database, so there is no hard data on exactly how many guns exist here. But, because NICS background checks are required for all non-private firearm sales (even gun show sales), we could have a pretty good idea of how many guns are being bought and sold… sort of. Not every background check equals a gun sale, because some folks can’t actually pass the background check. This is apparently only about 0.6% of would-be purchasers. On the other hand, one background check often means one person buying multiple firearms, so all we can say for sure is that a lot of background checks must mean a lot of gun sales.
And there have been an awful lot of background checks! From 1999 until 2008 they averaged around 10 million per year, and then began steadily climbing until the 23 million checks we had last year. NICS has run over 225 million background checks in total, and if merely a quarter of those purchases were two guns instead of one, then there have been “approximately 300 million” firearms bought by private citizens in the last 17 years alone!
Ever since Heidi and I made our gospel map, we’ve been really excited to see all the places that it has gone. We’ve shipped it all over the world, the video has been watched millions of times on various social media platforms, and now it’s going to be (briefly) on display in a museum! GISMO NYC is a forum for folks in the geographic information systems industry, and this weekend they have an event at the Queens Museum where our Gospel Map will be included, both in print and animated forms.
It looks like a really neat free event with some great speakers, so if you happen to be in New York this weekend, you can stop by to look in on new mapping techniques and various maps, including ours. And also check out the NYC bus tours after the event, their a lot of fun and you get to see everything that people love about NYC. If you aren’t able to make it, you can always get the print version of our map from The Western Conservatory, and watch the animated version here:
I really enjoy seeing how other designers are using maps to communicate information, or converting other types of data into maps, and I wish I were going to be there. Also, I just realized that we finished that project over two years ago. I’ve been mostly busy with product design and CNC projects lately, and I find that I am itching to make some new maps or build some new data visualizations. Anyone have any ideas?
When I’m sitting at my computer, I usually do Bible study using Blue Letter Bible or e-Sword, depending on whether or not I have internet, but when I’m anywhere else, with internet or not, I use AndBible on my phone. I was going to write up a blog post on all the things I like about it and how to use it, but then I thought it might be easier to demonstrate it in a video.
It’s definitely my kind of software; simple, functional, and it even has a dark color scheme. There are no user accounts, no sticker packs, and no way to put emoji in your favorite verses. Everything works, everything works offline, and it’s really obvious how everything works. If you have an Android device, make sure you check it out.
A couple of months ago, when we were at the Noah Conference, we also visited AIG’s new Ark Encounter. It’s an amazingly full-sized accurate replica of Noah’s Ark on the outside, and, thanks to Kentucky building codes, a slightly less accurate replica on the inside (I’m sure Noah’s family didn’t have clearly illuminated exit signs and a 198B.6401 certified sprinkler system), but the craftsmanship of the timber inside is worth the trip.
I visited the workshop in January of 2015, just before construction began, and while designers were feverishly working on exhibit plans, there was nothing built. To see a completed Ark only 18 months later was simply astounding, and everything inside, from the living quarters to the the animals to the dioramas of the pre-flood world, is fantastic. I was inspired to create a little flood-based art of my own, and I used the week after the conference to do a quick animation.
There are basically two kinds of people in the world: Those who go out of their way to keep their vehicles topped up with gasoline, and those who don’t. What I find strange is that a lot of those who don’t will actually scoff at those who do, laughing that anyone would subject themselves to such an absurd inconvenience.
It’s the same with our holster company; we regularly get criticism for suggesting that people carry firearms. Those people who do carry are called pessimistic, fearful, paranoid, and worse. I realize that guns are political hot-button issue, but I, personally, have also been sneered at for carrying pocket knives, flashlights, multi tools… basically anything more useful than a bottle opener.
When I was a volunteer firefighter, everyone was very happy to see that I had a trunkful of tools in my personal vehicle, but now that I’m just a regular person, my industrial fire extinguisher, commercial jack, and heavy-duty tow straps have apparently become jokes. Earlier this week Heidi overheard someone sniff at the idea of buying and storing extra food for emergencies. Where does this attitude come from? Generally speaking, anti-preppers criticize preppers for three reasons:
Heidi and I recently saw the new Jungle Book film. I may be a CNC Machinist by day, but I’m still an animator by night, and a Kipling fan, and an amateur Disney historian, so I was very eager to watch this retelling of the classic story, even if only to see the animation and other technical details. And what details!
First and foremost, the new movie is a visual masterpiece. The design, animation, lighting, and rendering are just plain incredible. It should be noted that almost everything in this movie that is not Mowgli is completely computer generated. All the backgrounds, nearly all of the plants, and every single animal. Ironically, while this film is one of Disney’s many “live-action” retellings of their animated classic films, this one actually has more animation in it than the original.
The animators at MPC and Weta Digital should be credited with two amazing feats: creating believable wild animals, and making those wild animals into believable emotive actors. The engineers also deserve credit, because after the animators created the skeletal animation, every animal got a soft-body muscle stimulation on top of the bones, a cloth-based skin simulation on top of the muscles, and finally a dynamic fur and hair simulation on top of the skin. Every bit of water the animals touch and every bit of foliage they brush against is also simulated. Everything in the film feels real.
A checksum is a small number that is generated from a larger number which allows you to quickly check whether or not the larger number has changed. It’s a very handy tool when transferring large files on a computer, since you can instantly check whether any bits of the file have been corrupted or altered without slowly and painstakingly comparing every bit. This concept is everywhere, probably even in your pocket.
If you look at the 16-digit number on a credit card, the last digit is actually a check digit: a number generated from the 15 other digits by a simple yet clever algorithm. When you type your credit card number into a website, that algorithm tests the credit card number against the check digit, instantly revealing any typos without needing to compare that number to the entire Visa database. ISBN, VIN, and bank routing numbers all contain check digits for the same reason – they provide a really quick way to spot errors.
I’ve often wished there was an easy way to apply this concept in other areas, like knowing that pages 27 and 159 of a book will always show if the whole thing is any good, or that track 6 of a CD will instantly define the rest of the entire album. While it is never as mathematically clear as it is with credit card numbers, we can judge books, music, and entire worldviews by looking at a sample of what they produce, or the most basic and foundational ideas behind them. In scripture, we see examples of this in recognizing a plant by its fruit, or in this passage from 1 John: