May 24 2014

Virginia county board says no followers of ‘pre-Christian deities’ allowed to deliver prayers

Virginia county board says no followers of ‘pre-Christian deities’ allowed to deliver prayers (via Raw Story )

County officials in Virginia have apparently violated the constitution by designating which religious leaders can deliver prayers before public meetings, according to the state’s American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU sent a letter Thursday to the…

Continue reading “Virginia county board says no followers of ‘pre-Christian deities’ allowed to deliver prayers” »

Nov 23 2013

Keystone B-1 16mm Movie Camera

Vintage Cameras

Over the past year or so, I’ve been putting together a collection of vintage cameras. I don’t view them as any kind of “investment.” I enjoy cleaning them up and making minor repairs when they need them. They look neat, too.

A few of them aren’t really fit to be used any more, but most of them are fully functional. Finding film for them is often a different story, though. One of these days I’ll actually use one of them to take some shots.

Keystone B-1

Keystone B-1 16mm Movie Camera I received a package on Monday, 18 November 2013, that contained a Keystone B-1 16mm movie camera. I had purchased the camera on eBay on the Friday before. The shipping cost was $8.85, while the camera itself only cost 99¢. Yes, vintage cameras are often available at extremely low prices. Continue reading “Keystone B-1 16mm Movie Camera” »

Nov 21 2013

Doing and Being

I’ve not blogged in quite a long while. It’s not due to any lack of things I want to write about, certainly. Every day brings something that catches my attention enough that I want to express my thoughts about it. I even start writing posts once in a while, but the drafts never seem to get to a publishable point.

I suppose I really need to make it a habit to write more. Most of my blog posts consist of my opinions on a variety of subjects, which is fine, but I should take more time to let the world see what I’m doing, not just to know what I’m thinking. Who I am is more than just what’s going on in my head.

I don’t “work” at a job right now, but there are always things with which I occupy my time. I should take the time to share some of those things. What good is it to create if we don’t share our creations?

Apr 24 2013

The Tide Has Turned

It was refreshing to read this article at the Rhode Island Public Radio web site this evening: Algiere, Bates join RI Senate GOP bloc in backing bill favored by same-sex marriage supporters. This marks the first time that a partisan state legislative caucus has expressed unanimous backing for a bill in support of same-sex marriage.

Marriage equality is right, and it is just. Denying the ability of two consenting adults to marry has no rational basis. There are religious arguments against it, but as religious rule has no binding on laws within our country, those apply solely to those members of religious groups who choose to follow them.

Here is a portion of the statement released by the GOP caucus on the morning of 23 April 2013:

Our Senate Republican Caucus is deeply committed to the values of freedom, liberty and limited government. In accordance with those values, we believe that freedom means freedom for everyone, and that every citizen of Rhode Island deserves the freedom to marry the person they love.

We support Senate Bill 38 because it rightfully extends the civil aspects of marriage to all Rhode Islanders while protecting the freedom of religion our state was founded upon. Gay and lesbian couples deserve to be treated equally under the law, and at the same time churches, synagogues and mosques in our state must be free to exercise their faith and their sacraments as they see fit. This bill strikes the right balance and should be passed by the Senate.

The mention of religious institutions being able to “exercise their faith and their sacraments as they see fit” should allay some of the irrational fears expressed by some of those who oppose same-sex marriage. Some people, though, will never be convinced by facts.

Many people seem to be convinced that our country should be governed by laws based on their particular interpretation of their holy book. They state (without any justification) that the United States is a “Christian nation.” To them, anything they see as “sin” should be against the law. They are wrong, and they will be on the wrong side of history when the next century’s textbooks are written.

Feb 12 2013

Misinformation Works; Dangerously So

Yes; misinformation works. Places like Fox News excel at it. Nutjobs like Pam Geller and her ilk have been very successful at promoting fear of anything associated with Islam. They achieve this by simply lying, and playing into the xenophobia already present in many members of the far-right-wing.

I follow someone on Twitter named Joe Cienkowski. I’ve given Joe a lot of grief over his lack of understanding when it comes to basic concepts of science, etc., in the past. I still like the guy, though. I really do think that Joe means well. Unfortunately, his gullibility for anything that hypes his existing fears and religious beliefs makes him horribly misinformed about reality.

When misinformation becomes the basis of some people’s mind-set, it can be very dangerous. If you don’t think that’s a problem, perhaps you should check out the Randolph Linn case.

An Indiana man who pleaded guilty yesterday to setting an Ohio mosque on fire told a judge he was motivated by media accounts – specifically those on Fox News – suggesting Muslims were threatening Americans and were in control of parts of the federal government. —Morlin, Bill. “Mosque Arsonist: Fox News Made Me Do It!” Salon. Salon Media Group, Inc., 22 Dec. 2012. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. <>.

That’s why it bothers me when I see things like this posted on Twitter:

If John Brennan converted to Islam, it would pay a conflict of interest for him to be CIA director. He won't even say 'war on terror'.

If John Brennan converted to Islam, it would pay [sic] a conflict of interest for him to be CIA director. He won’t even say ‘war on terror’.

Continue reading “Misinformation Works; Dangerously So” »

Feb 10 2013

A Mad Rush

It’s not the rush you’d expect. This one happens to be Erik Rush, and I refer to him as mad not because he’s angry, but because he seems to be rather mentally unhinged.

The Russians Are Coming! movie poster

My story begins with a blog post by Ed Brayton. Ed’s post is “Rush: The Commies are Coming, Led by Obama!” The post was referencing one of Erik Rush’s recent columns; Resurrecting Communism’s Glory Days. You’ll notice that the article is posted on the Canada Free Press web site. The “subtitle” for that site is “…Because without America there is no Free World.” That should give you a hint as to their usual type of content.

Yes, Erik Rush is convinced that we need to be afraid of the Red Menace that is communism. I had to look at my calendar to be sure that the year wasn’t 1958, and that the date wasn’t April 1st.

Continue reading “A Mad Rush” »

Oct 03 2012

Search Engine Bot Verification Woes — Repost

Another article from the 2008 version of my web site continues to receive inbound traffic. I repost the article here in hopes that someone might still find it useful. Again, the information is at least four years old.

The Original Article

Along with many of you, I have read several articles about "proxy hacking" and other issues related to the need to verify the source of user agents purporting to be a known search engine spider. For those of you unfamiliar with such problems, "proxy hacking" involves routing a bot through a proxy server in order to get to your site. Page ranking associated with your site could then be transferred to the URL of the proxy server. Other issues involve browsers or bots masquerading as a known search engine spider for any purpose.

After reading some of these articles, I decided to do something to protect my site. What is there to fear? Proxy hacking can be a legitimate concern. As for the matter of simple masquerading; if you enter my establishment while flashing a fake I.D., it makes me think you’re up to something. Continue reading “Search Engine Bot Verification Woes — Repost” »

Oct 03 2012

Get rid of those YouTube EMBED tags — Repost

This article originally appeared on my web site in October of 2008, before I had it set up as a blog. I keep seeing links to the original page pop up now and then, so I’m going to republish it here and redirect the original link structure to this posting. Keep in mind that this information is four years old now, and your mileage will definitely vary.

The Original Post

Unfortunately, there is not a good way to explain this problem without having this page generate an error in the W3C HTML validator. If you are a web standards advocate, as I am, you realize the distaste of purposefully creating a page that does not validate. Though this page is not valid XHTML, I present an evidence-based, cross-browser compatible method for embedding YouTube videos in this article.

Danger! Non-valid XHTML ahead! Continue reading “Get rid of those YouTube EMBED tags — Repost” »

Sep 12 2012

More Lightning with CHDK

I recently downloaded a slightly different motion detection script for my camera that seems to do a great job catching lightning flashes. I had been hoping for some good lightning opportunities on several occasions, but the storms disappointed me. The morning of September 7th turned out to be just what I needed to check out the newer script.

Daytime Lightning

Photographing lightning in the daytime requires rather different settings than nighttime shots. At night, I can set the camera to leave the shutter open for two or three seconds after the beginning of a flash is detected. If I did that in the daylight, each shot would be hopelessly over-exposed, leaving me with nothing but a blank, white frame.

When photographing lightning in daylight with higher-quality cameras, photographers often use a neutral density filter. This allows for longer exposure times without overexposing the image. I’m not using a high-end camera. I use a Canon A590 IS: A “point & shoot” camera that debuted in January 2008.

The only thing special about this camera is that I’m using a “modified” operating system on it. CHDK allows my camera to do things that the original software will not allow. High-speed motion detection is one of those things, and that’s how I’m able to catch these lightning flashes.

For this sequence of shots I set the camera to aperture-priority mode. This allowed me to set the aperture to it’s smallest opening, f8.0, while the camera chose the optimal shutter speed. The “film speed” was set to ISO 80. The LCD view on the camera revealed enough contrast at that setting for the motion detection to work properly. I set the camera to manual focus (at infinity) so that it wouldn’t spend time trying to focus. For lightning, fast response time is the key.

The camera was positioned on a tripod and pointed to the northeast through my kitchen window. After adjusting the camera settings and loading the script, I simply pressed the shutter button and walked away. The thunderstorm lasted for about two hours. Having an AC adapter hooked up keeps me from having to change batteries while it’s running.

The eight decent shots that I got during that storm vary in exposure times from 1/8th of a second to 1/20th of a second. I’ve adjusted the contrast of the resulting photos to highlight the arcs of lightning against the clouds. These images show the stepped leader formation, which precedes the larger lightning flashes that arc between clouds or from cloud to ground.

2012-09-07 morning lightning 0585

2012-09-07 morning lightning 0589

2012-09-07 morning lightning 0590

2012-09-07 morning lightning 0591

2012-09-07 morning lightning 0594

2012-09-07 morning lightning 0595

20112-09-07 morning lightning 0596

2012-09-07 morning lightning 0597

We’re past the prime thunderstorm season here in central Illinois, but there’s always a slight chance we’ll have one any month of the year. I’ll be keeping my eye on the weather services so I can prepare for more lightning photos, day or night.

Sep 11 2012

In Which I’m Not Convinced to Follow Islam, Part 1

By way of a conversation on Twitter, I was introduced to a gentleman, Tariq, who proposes that The Quran is a miracle in itself which is “proven” by scientific evidence. Those who use logic and reason, he infers, have little choice but to accept these facts and to follow Islam.

Tariq was kind enough to send me a brief document explaining some of the details behind his reasoning. I’d like to spend some time here on my blog going through some of that document, and explaining my reactions to it. Block quotations below which are outlined in green indicate sections of Tariq’s document.

Allow me to preface this with the following: Tariq’s strategy doesn’t work the way it’s intended. Sure; it might convince some people who really don’t understand the scientific concepts he’s trying to use, but when examined in detail, it fails. This tactic has been attempted time and again by theologians of various flavors for many centuries. It doesn’t work because it isn’t based on reason. It isn’t logical. If it were, then Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman and many others certainly would have become followers of Islam (or whichever religion happened to be making the claim). The fact that theologians tout the logic and veracity of their religions and scientists do not, might be indicative of the failure of such tactics in the first place.

Is There A God?

The document starts off with a rather direct question:

Is There A God?

My own answer to this question is, as usual, “Probably not.” Tariq’s document takes us to the beginning of our own Universe to get his answer. Continue reading “In Which I’m Not Convinced to Follow Islam, Part 1” »

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