The end of the megapixel race

For the past couple of years, I’ve been saying that the “megapixel race” between camera makers to push out cameras with ever more megapixels is silly and counter-productive. Although megapixels are important, they’re only a small part of what makes a digital camera good (or bad).

It seems that I was right. Akira Watanabe, manager of Olympus Imaging’s SLR planning department, has officially declared 12 megapixels to be “enough for covering most applications most customers need”. And Ars Technica agrees:

Throwing more megapixels at the digital imaging problem is akin to bumping up the processor speed on a motherboard with a slow bus and small amounts of RAM, or adding a turbo to a small engine on a car with lousy brakes and wobbly suspension.

It’s about time you guys listen to me! 😉

via The end of the camera megapixel race – Ars Technica.

Dan Rooney: Ireland ambassador?

There were rumors about this a few weeks ago, and now the rumor mill is at it again:

According to a report out of Ireland, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney will be named the U.S. ambassador to Ireland.

A report in the Tribune-News indicates Rooney, 76, will succeed Thomas C Foley, who recently returned home to the US. Rooney is a co-founder of the Ireland Fund charity with Sir Anthony O’Reilly. The account also indicated Rooney helped bring peace to Northern Ireland.

That would be so awesome for Mr. Rooney! You go, Dan!

via Steelers Rooney to be named ambassador to Ireland? – Sports Rumors – NFL – Yahoo! Sports.

The Mystery of The Bloop

During the Cold War, the US Navy created a vast network of underwater microphones (called hydrophones) to keep tabs on Soviet submarines. Called SOSUS (for SOund SUrveillance System), the hydrophones were first installed in the “GIUK gap” – the stretch of ocean between Greenland, Iceland, and the United Kingdom, an area where Soviet subs were known to operate. By the 1960s, the Navy had expanded SOSUS to include most of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as many parts of the Pacific. In 1961, the system tracked the USS George Washington during her entire run between the United States and the United Kingdom. By early 1962, the system was capable of tracking the Soviet’s diesel submarines. And later that year, a SOSUS tracking station in the Bahamas played an important role in the Cuban Missile Crisis by keeping the Navy informed about Soviet submarine maneuvers around the Caribbean.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, the Navy suddenly had little use for the system. Additionally, better technology had led to the development of smaller, easier to use hydrophones that could be easily deployed in a theatre of war as necessary. Many listening stations were abandoned, and several others were condensed. Although the Navy still listens to the hydrophones, most of the day-to-day operation of SOSUS has been turned over to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who use it to listen for underwater earthquakes and volcanic activity, for monitoring whale migration patterns, and other scientific interests.

And, during the summer of 1997, those scientists suddenly became very interested. That’s because SOSUS recorded a sound that remains a mystery to this day. Something off the southwest coast of South America, at approximately 50° S 100° W, made a sound… a sound that defies explanation.

The BloopThe sound is of a very low frequency, in the range that some animals use to communicate. But here’s the thing – the sound was picked up at two different hydrophones stationed some 3000 miles (5000km) apart! This automatically rules out almost any man-made source of the noise, as a sinking ship breaking up on the ocean floor or a shifting undersea cable can’t possibly make a noise that loud. It’s possible for whale calls to travel that far through certain “thermal layers” in the ocean, but those conditions didn’t apply in this case. In short, many scientists are convinced that the only possible source of the sound is an as-yet unidentified animal. The only thing is, that animal would have to be “several times” the size of a blue whale to make a sound that loud. And an animal just three times the size of a blue whale would be truly enormous – around 300 feet long and 570 tons in weight!

Is such an animal out there? For now, we simply just don’t know.

Listen to “The Bloop” (sped up 16 times to make it audible):


Read more about The Bloop at this NOAA page, this page at, or this page at Wikipedia.

Two Tribes

First there was radio. Then there was television. Lastly, there was the Internet. All three of these technologies have chipped away at the prominence of newspapers over the years. Where a big city might have once had seven or eight daily newspapers, most places are down to one or two, and even those are struggling. Radio and TV can get critical news out to people much faster than newspapers can, and the Internet has not only made much of the newspapers’ content available for free, sites like eBay and Craigslist have gutted newspapers’ once hugely profitable classified ad sections.

At times, it seems like the only thing newspapers are good for these days are the comic strips. But even these are available online, and the low cost of online publishing means that there are more strips published now than ever before. So it might seem hard to believe, but there was once a time when the few cartoonists printed nationally were held in high regard. Everyone read the newspaper every day – in many cases, people read more than one. And comic strips were not just amusing content, they were a commentary on the times. Just as people of today tune in to The Daily Show for “zeitgeist humor”, people in the early 20th century turned to comic strips.

That’s what makes the feud between Ham Fisher and Al Capp – creators of two of the most popular comic strips in American history – so remarkable. It was, in a very real sense, like two tribes going to war.

*    *    *

Ham Fisher was, by all accounts, a highly motivated individual. By the age of 20, Fisher had already been a soldier, held public office, and was an editor for a small-town newspaper in Pennsylvania. But Fisher’s first love was comic strips. He created several of his own strips during his teenage years, most of which are lost to history. But one of Fisher’s characters – a simple but virtuous boxer named Joe Palooka, based on a drinking buddy in his hometown of Wilkes-Barre – seemed to hold some promise. Unfortunately, none of the newspapers Fisher contacted were interested in the strip.

Continue reading “Two Tribes”

Inis Beag

Inis Beag (Gaelic: “Little Island”) is a the name of an island studied by the cultural anthropologist John Cowan Messenger where there is an isolated small Gaelic-speaking Irish Catholic community on one of the Aran Islands off the coast of Connemara in Ireland in his study “Sex and Repression in an Irish Folk Community.” During the period of Messenger’s study between 1958 and 1966, Inis Beag supported a population of around 350, mostly living by subsistence farming and fishing.

Messenger’s study of this island community has often been cited by anthropologists and sexologists as an example of extreme sexual repression, with sexual intercourse being treated by both sexes as a necessary evil which must be endured for the sake of reproduction, and phenomena such as menstruation and the menopause being regarded with fear and disgust.

Breast-feeding was avoided. Kissing, caressing and any affection was seen as too sexual and was prohibited. Nudity was extremely private. For a married couple, intercourse was conducted fully clothed except for genitals. Sex was also in the dark and practiced only in missionary position. Any variation of sex was seen as deviant and sinful. Although pre-maritial sex was almost non-existent, the Ines Beag didn’t have any formal sex education. Bathing was also ‘unknown’ and the average age at marriage was 36 for men and 25 for women. A man was considered a ‘boy’ until the age of 40. Dogs were whipped for licking their genitals.

The atmosphere, according to the researchers, led to high levels of masturbation, drinking and alcohol-fuelled fights.

via Inis Beag – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

T.O. released from Cowboys

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has spent most of the offseason providing vague hints that wide receiver Terrell Owens would return for the 2009 season. It now appears he’s decided to go in a different direction.

According to a report from ESPN’s Michael Smith late Wednesday evening, the Cowboys have released T.O. In recent interviews, Jones had stressed that wide receiver Roy Williams needed to be the focal point of the offense next season. The Cowboys sent their first- and third-round picks in this April’s draft to the Lions for Williams — and now they’ve placed even more pressure on him to perform.

Ever since the Cowboys’ season-ending 44-6 loss to the Eagles, Jones has maintained that chemistry in the locker room is overrated. He loathes admitting mistakes and that’s why many of us thought he would press on with T.O.

via Report: T.O. released from Cowboys – NFC East – ESPN.


Some people keep their Windows desktops free of any icons. Others cram as many icons as they possibly can on their desktops. Most people, however, fall somewhere in between: more than a handful of desktop icons, but less than a screenful. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could somehow organize all those icons by project or type?

Well, now you can – thanks to the Windows UI tweakers over at Stardock! They’ve just released a new program called “Fences“. Fences allows you to create one (or more) containers for desktop icons (called “fences”). After you create the containers, you can drag whatever icons you’d like into each container; you can then move and\or resize each container as you see fit.

So, for example, you could have a fence called “My Computer” that holds all your default icons (My Computer, My Documents, Recycle Bin), another fence called “Downloads”, another fence called “Political Science Term Paper” and another called “Jones Realty IT Upgrade Project”. You can then drag related icons onto each fence, which will keep them nice and organized. What’s even better is that you can double-click your desktop to make the fences (and their icons) disappear or reappear (you can also exclude certain fences from this behavior, so that your “My Computer” fence is always displayed).

Here’s my desktop at the moment:

(click to enlarge)
(click to enlarge)

Fences is free for personal use and runs on 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. For more information, click here.

McGruff assaulted

WASHINGTON – McGruff the crime dog has been roughed up. D.C. police said the mascot, who urges children to “take a bite out of crime,” became a victim Saturday when a bus driver punched him in the face as he handed fliers to children. Police said the 38-year-old Metro bus driver, climbed off the bus, adjusted both sideview mirrors and then swung at Officer Tyrone Hardy, who was dressed as McGruff.

Police said McGruff staggered, children screamed and the bus driver drove off. Officers quickly pulled him over and charged him with assault.

Metro spokeswoman Candace Smith said the bus driver told a supervisor he was trying “to be funny.”

Smith said the driver will undergo drug and alcohol testing. His future with the agency was under review.

via Cops: Driver adjusts mirrors and roughs up McGruff.

It’s the little things…

You know those “little things” that make you mad? I’m not talking about the truly important stuff, like politics or religion or anything like that… No, I mean the little things – like the old lady in front of you at the checkout counter at the grocery store who doesn’t even bother to start writing her check until the cashier comes up with a total… or the guy in front of you in line at McDonald’s that stares at the menu for 9 minutes trying to figure out what he wants… like he’s never been in a McDonald’s before.

Here are a few of the “little things” that have been bugging me lately:

“Reuben” sandwiches: Last week I was searching the ‘Net for a local restaurant’s menu. I accidentally stumbled across the menu for a similarly-named restaurant also in the Charlotte area. This place claimed to sell the “the world’s best Reuben sandwich”… only their version came with corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut… and Thousand Island dressing! I hate to nitpick, but a Reuben sandwich is corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. Although Russian and Thousand Island both start as a mixture of mayo and ketchup, Thousand Island has sweet pickle relish added, while Russian has horseradish. They don’t taste the same at all. Any jackass selling a “Reuben sandwich” with Thousand Island dressing should be taken out and beaten with a garden hose until they promise to never, ever, ever do it again.

Spelling (Part 1): I’m hardly a spelling bee champion, and even I have problems with the whole “ensure vs. insure” thing. But come on, people! Firefox comes with a built-in spell-checker, and several are available for Internet Explorer. There’s no reason whatsoever for you folks to post about your busy “calenders”, your love of “independant” films, your “collectable” plates, your unused sporting “equiptment”, the Windows NT “kernal”, or even your own “ignorence”. My favorite, however, is “Tobasco sauce”. WTF?!?

Spelling (Part 2): While I’m on the subject, what’s up with people using the words “bumber” or “draw”, as in “my favorite ride at the amusement park is the bumber cars” and “if it’s not on my desk, look in the draw underneath”. I’ve seen people use “bumber” (meaning “bumper”) and draw (meaning “drawer”) repeatedly throughout multi-paragraph web posts, so it’s not a one-time typo. Is there some part of the US where “bumber” and “draw” are considered acceptable?

Step and Half: This one’s easy, yet it seems to continually stump some people. If one of your parents dies, and your surviving parent remarries, any children the surviving parent and new spouse might have would be your half siblings, while any children the new spouse might bring to the marriage are your step siblings. Thus, if your father dies and your mother remarries, any children they might have together would be your half brothers or half sisters. If her new husband already had a child (let’s say his wife died in an accident), that would be your step brother or step sister. Really, it’s not that difficult, folks. Perhaps this will help: your half brother would have half of your genes (since they have the same mother or father). If they don’t have your genes, then they’re your step brother or sister.