John’s Recon

January 24, 2010

It’s Either Black or White

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 1:12 pm

I started a graphics art class this last week, 2-D Design. Yes, this lifetime engineer is taking art. The point is to take more interesting pictures by understanding how people perceive and process images. Our first project is a screen printing of a two tone image. By two tones I mean full black and full white or full background color and full single ink color. We are going to take pictures this next Thursday to work on (or you can do your own artwork if you have some). Oh Boy this is where I can shine … Uh Oh, I will be in 4 feet of snow in Flagstaff Arizona for this. I’m missing the only photographic part of the class. So with no instructor to guide my eye … I will be on my own for source material. No problem from what I am hearing from the in-laws … they have white up to their ears … might be a problem to find some black though. I guess the Grand Canyon is out for a side trip … probably full of snow anyway.

Just black and white with nothing in between is significantly less information to convey in a picture … kind of like having to answer just yes or no in the courtroom. I decided to take all day Saturday and train my eye for seeing a shot with so little information. I used the “Threshold” capability in Photoshop on the pictures I took since I retired last February … a year’s worth, almost. I put them in a separate set here. As you can see, you can get shades if you use black and white dots … I don’t think we get to use much of these. So what did I learn from this? What did I train my eye to see? What am I going to look for?

With so little information you are relying on the brain to make the image … strong lines and recognizable structures work. Leading lines work but scenery as a whole doesn’t since most of it is shading and doesn’t synchronize with the same threshold (just confusing). I had pictures where you are standing on a cliff or looking down a path deep into a forest and these didn’t work at all. In fact, you can not perceive depth unless you have something in the picture with very strong leading lines to make it so. Sky for the most part just doesn’t cut it both because it is different light shades and clouds really screw up. Huge contrasts across the subject will work but only if it isn’t blotchy and only if it is helping to outline something. Nothing else in the photo will coincidentally be at the same light value as your subject so will get lobotomized and detract from the image … thus simple images without a lot of other stuff to worry about messing up is probably best. Glint, blacks and detail in shade which are usually problems are not a problem since they disappear into either black or white.

Generally … something simple with lots of light variation or contrasts especially along edges that define shapes. Try some of this thresholding on your pictures, you will like it. If you like one of my pictures you can go to it directly to it at my flickr site to see the original. Here is the link to just this folder/set, Art Thresholded 2 Tone. You can click one of the thumbnails and enter into the picture …you will also see that it belongs to the original set it came from so you can drill down to see that picture too. OR just remember the number and search for it directly.

I’m ready to do some shooting … now for a warm coat.

January 18, 2010

The Vietnam Memorial

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 7:35 pm

Last July we vacationed in Washington DC. We had quite a fun time visiting Memorials and Museums and just looking at the wonderful architecture. We were there when Senator Kennedy had just died so the flags were all at half mast. I have many pictures of both the museums and the memorials and these can be seen in this folder.

Because I was drafted into and was part of the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Memorial is a little more special to me. I have seen it before by myself which was the recommended way (by some of my vet friends) to see it for the first time. They were right … as jaded as one has become over the years … they will still be overcome by emotion especially if there are a lot of other emotional people there. This time I went with my wife and held it together even though she was strongly moved.

You see there are a lot of grand memorials in DC but the Vietnam Memorial provides simply a stronger connection to those individuals that have lost their lives. I decided that I would take pictures this time and attempt to pay the memorial tribute in some little way. It is somewhat misunderstood since it doesn’t have grand sculptures … but if you see it you will feel it.

When you approach the memorial you really don’t see it since most of it is below ground level. We were fortunate since it had rained and was drizzling so there were few people. It starts at ground level and then goes down. The deepest part is where the wall is tallest and is the center of the war that went from 1959 – 1975. Soldier’s names are engraved into the black granite in the order of their death. So the soldier on the farthest to the left died first … this is where you can start. There are 5 names to a line and 137 lines to a panel at the deepest part. I have dark-lighted the wall in some of the pictures for the time period that I was there which was just under a year. If you click on a picture you will get a larger version.

This picture is looking at the center of the war (and wall) while approaching the entrance.
7281 Vietnam Memorial, Washington, DC
As you walk into the memorial the names on the panel get higher and higher. This picture was taken on the way out … near the end of the war.
7280 Vietnam Memorial, Washington, DC
In the center section, the panels are about 12 feet tall … about 140 lines tall.
7279 Vietnam Memorial, Washington, DC
When you are close to the wall, the names rise above you. If you start reading them it can crush your heart to know every one of them was a 19 – 22 year old kid that had a bright future ahead of him.
7278 Vietnam Memorial, Washington, DC
The dark-lighted part are the names of the soldiers who died while I was there from Dec 28, 1970 to Nov 21, 1971.
7277 Vietnam Memorial, Washington, DC
It it weren’t raining and before 9am, the reflection would show dozens of people with tears in their eyes.
7274 Vietnam Memorial, Washington, DC
Because we learned not to remember anything but the first names of soldiers we fought with, I do not know the last names of fallen friends. So instead, I thought I would give you the name of the first soldier who died on Dec 28, 1970, the day I got there. Robert Arnall died in Thua Thien, South Vietnam by small arms fire. His body was recovered. He was drafted in the army and was a Corporal with the 101st Airborne. His name is on the 5th panel going west – line 12.
7274 Robert D Arnall, Vietnam Memorial, Washington, DC
No one died the day I left, Nov 21, 1971 which was my birthday. Ronnie Sharpe was the last soldier to die on Nov 20, 1971. He died in Binh Duong, South Vietnam by small arms fire. His body was recovered. He was regular army and was a Private First Class with the 1st Cavalry. His name is on the 2nd panel going west – line 71.
7274 Ronnie Sharpe, Vietnam Memorial, Washington, DC
There is hardly any difference between Vietnam and our current guerrilla war tactically. It still wastes away soldiers with little changing results. However, there is a big difference from the American people …  when I returned to the US through the Oakland, California compound, I was spat at by a young lady in the anti-war movement because I went when my country drafted me. All returning soldiers that I knew grew out their hair and hid the fact that they ever went for several years. The country has learned a lot about war since then even if our politicians haven’t.

Addendum: I thought the memorial for the women of Vietnam was very well done … it is located very near the Vietnam Memorial. Unfortunately the lighting and drizzle made for awful conditions to take photographs. So please excuse the color.
7282 Vietnam Women's Memorial, Washington, DC
7283 Vietnam Women's Memorial, Washington, DC

January 12, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 5:56 pm

My son and I were talking about how a graphics design class could help in composing a photograph … as opposed to photography classes that concentrate on the camera, lens, shutter speed, aperture, depth of field and all the technical that has more to do with accurate recording than composing a picture. He said I should take a 2-D Design class and I know just the teacher at Collin Community College. After an email discussion with the teacher before Christmas, he is OK with me auditing the class … I might have a conflict later this Spring.

For most of the people who read my ramblings, it has been a long time since they went to a real registration as a new freshman. I want to assure you that even with improvements in information science there has not been much progress in this area and it is just as much fun as when you did it back then.

I get there at 3 in the afternoon to see there is a long line similar to Disneyland. I ask if I am in the right line (I’m smarter more experienced than I was in 1968). OK, I am in the right line … many have forms … of course, application forms … hold my spot. Lucky I brought a pen … what the heck is this nonsense on property ownership and financing and all this other stuff. I will leave that blank because it really doesn’t apply for us audit types and I have an email from the teacher. About an hour and a half and we are rounding the corner and into the doorway … oooo, I have to do another serpentine walk. Very close to two hours have passed and it is my turn. NEXT! I hurry to the counter and start explaining that I want to audit a course and I have the teacher’s permission. APPLICATION! I give it to her. She thumbs through the pages and looks up at me and says you haven’t filled all the blanks. I say since I am going to audit I didn’t think you needed that detail. “There can be no blanks!”, she said but her eyes hinted at how stupid I had been and that I didn’t belong in college if I couldn’t fill out 10 pages of banking and property information. NEXT! That was my cue to go home and pout. My wife bailed me out when she got home and filled the entire thing out.

Next day I go in around 10 am. Ah Ha. They are sleeping in and I have only 40 minute wait. NEXT! A much nicer lady this time or at least not as worn out yet … she thumbed through the application and said do you have your transcripts in. I told her I planned to audit since this was a recreational activity. “I can’t let you in a credit class without being admitted as a credit student. A credit student needs transcripts.”, she says. “It was over 30 years ago since I got my degree”, I said. She gave me a delay waiver until February but you better have them by then. She also told me about a student clearing house that makes getting transcripts easy. She gave me an account name and tells me I can see my status online in a few hours. She also tells me that I cannot register today because only credit students can register. I will have to wait until the first day of the particular class to register since auditors are second class citizens (she didn’t say the last part). Excellent that is not so bad.

A few days later I see that the transcripts have arrived and I’m in … awkward website to find anything of value. After the first of the year I check back to find out if there are any books, etc I need to get … ID? After a lot of digging I see there is a hold barring me from registration … I look further and it suggests that I have omitted 2 school transcripts that I attended 40 years ago. How in the world do they know about these? Not only that but it says I have another administrative hold that suggests that I did this fraudulently. Wow! I better go back.

I get there and only 5 minutes wait this time. ALL TRANSCRIPTS regardless of whether they contributed to my degree or not. What about Continuing Ed schools … no … what a relief since I think TI has sent me to around ten of these in my career. February waiver please. Oh, I wasn’t being dishonest … I really didn’t think these counted since they were before I was drafted and didn’t count toward my degree. All cleared up. Books? You have to go to the book store to find out what you need for class. Can I buy it? No! You need a student ID. Where can I get a student ID? At the student union. Can’t get a student ID unless you are a registered student. Can’t register yet if you audit.

With advancements in information technology, I see these older schools aren’t with the clearing house but do have websites that can have request forms printed, signed and mailed to the registrars office. Done … but no status as to whether it happened. At least for now, all holds are cleared, all systems go for registration … wait a minute … isn’t that where we started?

Addendum: Teacher emailed and said both classes full BUT he can add one additional per class. Show up for class and remind him to fill out the paperwork so that I can register … and get an ID  … and get a book.  Sounds like I’m in. I will miss classes 4 & 5 because I will be in Flagstaff Az but that still gives me 3 classes to start. Could be fun … what more could go awry.

January 11, 2010

The Name Game

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 4:01 pm

No not the fee-fi-monana song that hit number 3 in 1964. In the 30 years that I worked as an engineer, I came to realize how very important a name can be. Technical types don’t really care about names of things when the specifications define it … you can call it what you want … but the rest of the world does. The name of your project, activity, company, or whatever, is the one-second introduction that happens before you ever get to the elevator speech. The name precedes your arrival to explain to the unfamiliar what the task is about.

For example, lets say that Bob was driving along in the mountains around a turn and there were rocks on the road. He swerved to miss them and hit the guard rail which saved him from going over the edge of a ravine but damaged the rail. Now there is a big job to fix/repair the mess. Well you realize that if you named the job “Clean Up Bob’s Mess”, there is going to be a lot of non-productive questions to the job at hand. Who’s Bob? Why did he hit the rail? Shouldn’t Bob clean it up … he did it? Shouldn’t Bob be sent to driving school? Should we make guard rails stronger? There will be a bunch of finger-pointing and not a lot of constructive thinking. If you named too specifically then you exclude thinking. “Guard Rail Repair, Hwy 6, marker 143” is a good name and will definitely help to focus task new comers but it doesn’t have foresight to accommodate warning sign installation. So not comprehending these guys in the overall task description will tend to make them under-funded and under appreciated and use lesser talent to draw the sign. Something like “Mountain Crap Ahead”

Mountain Crap Ahead

So getting the name right is important because it can help deflect negativity and can help build support. The last thing you want is politicians explaining your project before you can explain it yourself.

The big point I am getting at is … why keep the name Global Warming? It suggests a part of the problem and nothing toward what needs to be done in some unifying project to confront it. In fact this name even got scientists pointing fingers instead of throwing facts. Who is to blame? Who continues to help the warming trend? Maybe Mother Nature did it or is doing it? If we have Global Warming then why is it so cold in North America? All of these questions and remarks and accusations do nothing to help in the solution.

The project should be named something like “Dealing with Global Climate Shift” or something cute with a good acronym for the layman to use. The earth is a closed system. If you heat one spot then another spot has to cool to keep equilibrium. So a desert might go to a wet area and a farm rich area might end up like Australia Outback. If you trap some heat in the system then there will be re-balancing all over. You know how much energy it takes to heat your pool 2 degrees F? Just think how much energy there is to heat the world’s oceans 2 degrees F. If you dump a few million gallons of fresh water a month into the ocean then it will change its salinity at that spot which in turn will divert a stream like the Gulf Stream that heats NY and London. Deflect the Gulf Stream southward and you get an Ice Age coming out of the north in no time flat. The Greenland Ice Field is melting just that fast. These are not points to argue … they are just facts … most actually agree to the “If … Then” statements. They may disagree that it is stoppable or that the time lines are too fast/slow or exactly where what would happen BUT in principle they agree. This is what you leverage … you don’t spend too much time on the cause … you spend time on the computer model feeding it with fact from all over the world. You don’t wrestle in a life boat or row the oars in two different directions … the world is our life boat.

What we should be doing is working on solutions to dump this energy … that is if we want to maintain our current lifestyle … maybe buying land in Mexico is a better idea. We should be looking at solutions and if the problem is too big then we should be looking at damage control on a global scale. But first you have to change the name so that it is a project everybody can get behind … one that can’t be used to point fingers or mis-communicate intentions.

January 7, 2010

PARO, the baby seal

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 2:56 pm

It is the new year. I got some time on my hands since I finished up both the Christmas Set and the Colorado Set of pictures (still have Washington DC to go). I read this gem about PARO, the baby seal …. robot.  The Japanese designed PARO to be a friend to old people who need love and affection. AND it is darn good at it for a version 1.0 from what I read. If this goes well … think of the spinoffs. For my warped mind, you could even do the opposite … create a robo pet like a little lion friend, that is mean as Hell.
7158 Stuffed Lion, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC

Then you put them in the prisoner’s cell to hurry the lifer-process along … got to make room for the new-bees.

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