Monday, September 27, 2010

HDR Imaging is Stunning

A few weeks ago a San Francisco based studio called Soviet Montage Productions produced the world's first high dynamic range video, as seen above. For those of you who have never heard of HDR (i.e. most people), it basically refers to images that display greater light and dark values than traditionally possible through conventional methods. There are numerous ways to accomplish this but the simplest is to capture multiple images of identical content at different contrast levels and then merge them. If that sounds like gibberish then maybe the image below (c/o Wikipedia) will help to explain:

An HDR image (above) and its source images (below)

As you can see the products of HDR imaging are, in a word, stunning. For a better explanation of the technique(s) involved check out the fascinating Wikipedia article on the subject. Below you can see an example produced by photographer Andrew Rees. His video is a black-and-white HDR time-lapse of Cardiff, Wales, and as Gizmodo points out it looks very much like a sketch pad come to life. Simply breathtaking: 

I just wanted to share some of these incredible sights and the corresponding Wikipedia article. I'll leave you now with an amazing shot of New York City at night, one of the most impressive examples of HDR imaging I've seen thus far. I only became aware of this photographic technique a few weeks ago but it's quickly become fascinated by the potential it displays (ha). It's more vivid and lifelike than anything I've ever seen, and I'm very curious to see what intrepid artists (especially cinematographers) can do with it.

(Shamelessly stolen from Geekosystem and Gizmodo)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hilarious Video: Test Your Awareness

Check out this hilarious video. See the comments section for my thoughts, I don't want to spoil the punchline.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Trolls: Activists for the 21st Century?

Over the last week "trolls" from the 4chan boards have staged multiple highly-coordinated web attacks on the likes of the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the Tea Party. Official websites for both the MPAA and the RIAA were brought down by massive DDoS attacks, and was flooded with new users who spammed the photo section with images like this exceedingly NSFW photoshopped image of Sarah Palin.

The 4chan community is notorious for their online exploits, including inventing Lolcatshacking the 2009 TIME 100 list, and bringing down stock in Apple with premature rumours of Steve Jobs' demise. The website is founded on the ideas of freedom of expression and anonymity, and as a result its users' content and actions are often unidentified and shamelessly perverse. In a recent trend 4chan users have committed acts of social-justice minded vigilantism, including tracking down animal abusers. The latest attacks on the MPAA, RIAA, and Tea Party are motivated by each organizations actions against the public and general assholery.

The actions of the 4chan board are a modern form of mob justice, but increasingly they have become a form of organized and militant protest. Their attacks are hugely powerful, fueled by internet users from across the globe united in their hostility towards heartless corporations, political hate-mongers, and common standards of decency. Is this a new form of political activism for the 21st century? A site for unrestricted international outcry against any and all forms of douchery? Or is this just meaningless trolling, plain and simple? Is there a difference? Time will tell, but either way the 4chan boards have made a name for themselves by displaying what can be achieved via the internet, both for ill and for good.

For further reading check out The Atlantic for some great recommendations on trolls, hackers, nerds, etc. Weeks ten and eleven in particular are relevant to this post.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

From Around the Web - 9/19/10

There's nothing I particularly want to rant about today so I decided to save my energy and just post a few links. I felt that would be best for all our sakes. Also, it's
 International Talk Like A Pirate Day and I was extremely tempted to write this whole post in pirate-speak. I got one sentence in before I decided that was a terrible, horribly irritating thing to do. When I found myself looking up the word "avast" in the dictionary I decided to take my own advice and give up on the gag. I feel this will be best for all our sakes. Without further ado here's what's interesting elsewhere in cyberspace:

Retina Displays: One step-closer to a reality for consumers, still tragically ridiculous in appearance

Some interesting statements by one of the poor bastards facing charges from the RIAA for downloading music. Also a site for discussion of new media and copyright issues

Bill and Ted 3. Seriously, it might happen. Maybe the most exciting thing I've read this year.

A series of articles predicting twelve things that will be obsolete in ten years. Very futurist, very cool

Amusing videos: Tornado in Brooklyn + two idiots that give the double rainbow guy a run for his money. Also, even Cthulhu is getting in on the Old Spice phenomenon

Toronto, my home, I weep for you

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Homophobia, Blood Donation, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Earlier this week Madam Justice Catherine Aitkin of the Ontario Superior Court ruled in favour of Canadian Blood Services (CBS) in their suit again Torontonian Kyle Freeman.

In 2002 Freeman informed CBS via anonymous email that he was a gay man who had donated blood numerous times between 1990 and 2002. The organization traced Freeman's identity and sued him for lying on question 19 of the blood donor questionnaire, which asks, "Male donors: Have you had sex with a man, even one time, since 1977?" Freeman countersued, arguing that the question violates his right not to be discriminated based on his sexual orientation as guaranteed under section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Question 19 is meant to identify men who have sex with men (MSM), as many reports indicate an unusually high prevalence of HIV/AIDS among MSM. In Canada CBS indefinitely defers (read: permanently restricts) the donation of blood from men who have had sex with men, even once, since 1977. In his countersuit Freeman also sought to have the ban struck down.

The repercussions of this decision are extensive, as it both sets one bad precedent and maintains another. Aitkin's ruling states that the Charter does not apply to CBS because of its bureaucratic structure and the organization's distance/independence from government. Many fear that this will allow the government to ignore the Charter altogether by creating "independent" bodies to carry out governmental tasks. One Globe and Mail reader commented that the Eldridge case sets a seemingly relevant precedent with regards to the Charter most definitely applying to such organizations, though I don't see any evidence this was considered by Aitkin. It's pretty terrifying to imagine any government operating outside the Charter, but especially so given our current political climate. I would hope to see this ruling get overturned by the Supreme Court, though who knows if it'll get that high or go that way.

Also disturbing is the fact that MSM will continue to be openly discriminated against under this ruling. To my mind this is a significant and easily avoidable failure to promote equality and quash persistant homophobic stereotypes. Admittedly I don't know much/anything about the science behind all this, but it seems obvious that screenings should seek to identify the degree and safety of potential donors' sexual activity. For example, Italy and Spain screen for the level of safety involved in all sexual activity. Similarly Australia, Japan, and Sweden screen based on the number of partners one has had in the last year. These seem like relevant questions to ask in order to identify high risk donors, not questions as to the nature of the sex one is having.

AIDS is not a "gay disease" or some ludicrous punishment for "amoral" activities, it can be and is transmitted among heterosexuals who don't use caution and/or protection. If a man has only been having sex with one male partner for a significant period of time then how is he a high risk? He poses no more threat to the blood supply than any man who has only had sex with one woman for a significant period of time. To discriminate against MSM is archaic, ineffective, and prejudicial, and I am sorry to see it authorized in this fashion in Canada.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Max Rambles: Not Dead, But Different

I'm going to start this post by listing a few of the things I have done since August 5th:

1. Quit my job, thereby eliminating my primary source of funding and free time for blogging
2. Travel extensively for pleasure, including my first trip to New York City
3. Feel guilty about neglecting this blog
4. Ignore many, many emails
5. Pack up all of my worldly possessions and drive them 1,792 km (that's 1,113.5 miles for my American readers) to relocate to Halifax, Nova Scotia
6. Live through a hurricane
7. Begin law school

So yeah, it's been kind of a busy month. There were always things I wanted to blog about, and I felt like I should put up a post explaining my absence, but time just seemed to get away from me. It's really easy to keep up a regular posting schedule when you're getting paid to sit in front of a computer for nine hours a day, most of which you spend doing nothing. But when you suddenly find yourself with a lot free time and the simultaneous need to prepare for a significant life change, blogging fall kind of low on the priority list. Anyway, so that's where I've been. Now lets take a moment to discuss where I'm going.

I'm starting law school. That's kind of a daunting proposition, but I'm really looking forward to it. Despite the fact that everyone tells me how first year law is going to kick my ass, I think I'm going to be able to handle it. That said, I figure it will take up the vast majority of my time and mental energy. So where does that leave Max Rambles?

The short answer is I'm not sure. I want to say I'm going to keep posting, albeit less often than I used to, but I can't make any promises. I can say that I am going to try to post once a week at a minimum, even if that only amounts to a short post linking to something cool I saw on Geekosystem once every seven days. That much I should be able to manage.

So that sort of gives you all an idea of what I've been up to and what I'm hoping to do with this page in the coming months. For now I guess we'll just see where it goes and hope for the best. Who knows, maybe law school will turn out to be super easy and I'll start blogging like every day again. More realistically I'll probably end up doing my best to get one post up a week, and most of them will be short and to the point. Kind of contradicts my titular propensity to ramble, but hey, I'll do what I can.

Thank you all for reading thus far, and I hope you keep coming back. More than that I hope to post things that keep you coming back. I'm going to aim to post something new every week on, say, Sunday evening. Yeah, that seems like the most realistic proposition. Anything beyond that Sunday evening post (ha!) I'll consider a bonus, and I leave it to you to judge whether or not it actually is one.  Please do let me know.