A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for November 2009

[BRIEF NOTE] You know my Flickr account is “rfmcdpei,” right?

What the subject line says.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 29, 2009 at 12:04 am

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[FORUM] Can anyone suggest some good Facebook or Livejournal photo forums?

I clearly need to master–well, acquire–knowledge of the techniques, and picking up best practice online is as good a way as any to do that so long as it’s not the only way.


Written by Randy McDonald

November 28, 2009 at 11:43 pm

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[FORUM] What new art would you like to pick up?

People who read this blog have probably noticed that I like writing, and research, quite a bit. It’s my raison d’être, I suppose, the thing that took me through my educational career, the structure that helped carry me and guide me when I needed to be carried and guided. The art of written language is fun: why not indulge in it?

There are other arts. At intervals when the long long grayness let up, I’d a passing interest in other arts. From Grades 4 to 6, I played music, violin for three and then recorder for one year. I took part in UPEI’s debating society for several years. I own an untouched calligraphy set. Most recently, a few years ago I bought a sketch book and some pencil crayons with the intent of doing something. Why not do something? bitterlawngnome asked me almost five years ago? Why not indeed.

Photography has become my new art. It operates as a sort of art therapy for me, helping me frame and phrase the things I see around me, giving me another way to communicate my environment in its various glories. It’s an enjoyable art, something that’s respected despite its ongoing assimilation into the realm of digital imagery. I don’t think I’ll ever become more than a talented amateur, but who knows?

That’s my experience. All of my readers have their own passions re: the arts, I’m sure. What new arts would you like to pick up? I’ve been thinking myself of opening up that calligraphy set, and not only because I’d like to improve upon the handwriting that deteriorated so very badly once I began my university career.


Written by Randy McDonald

November 28, 2009 at 2:38 pm

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[PHOTO] Same Royal Ontario Museum lion, different takes

Two stone lions, originally from a 17th century Beijing palace, guard the Royal Ontario Museum‘s rotunda facing Queen’s Park.

I took two photos of the southerly lion, using different settings for each. The first photo shows what the lion looks like in the 11:30 light, but the second looks more vibrant. Which do you prefer? and why?

One take on a ROM lion …
Originally uploaded by

… and another take on the same ROM lion
Originally uploaded by

Written by Randy McDonald

November 28, 2009 at 12:12 pm

[BLOG-LIKE POSTING] On how much one should share

One nice thing about LinkedIn is that I was able to run into London-based blogger Mark Dandridge, and yes, his blog is now on my blogroll. This Monday, he made a post referring in part to the volume of one’s cultural product output, prompted by the discovery of an old digital photo memory card, that made me think.

Finding the memory card got me thinking about some old undeveloped film catridges I have that date back at least 6 years. I keep meaning to get them developed. They may have faded to grey by now. It’ll be interesting to find out one of these days what I had photographed back then. I’m sure when I see the developed pictures it will be easier for me to work out how long the film catridges have been hanging around in a cupboard. The old days of taking photographs was a very different experience to the non-stop, click-fest that you often see these days. It would be interesting to take an old SLR out along with a digital camera and take a maximum of 24 or 36 pictures with each. Of course, with the SLR camera it would be functioning in the way it has always done but things would be very different for the digital camera.

The forgotten memory card, upon which I found the flower picture, is the smallest memory card I have. That’s probably why I had forgotten all about it. It wasn’t lost, just overlooked. It’s 256MB which is still capable of holding around 69 pictures on the finest quality. Somehow the digital revolution has made less seem, well, even less, than it really should. I think 69 pictures is quite a lot. Just one look at a Facebook picture upload of a drunken night out, a wedding, a new born baby and you can often see way more than 69 pictures, where quite often, just 9 would be ample. I must start that ’36 Exposures Only’ Facebook Group. It may already exist. I’m off to check.

I like selectivity. Take my photos. This evening I uploaded a couple dozen photos to my Flickr account. These photos are survivors, having first made it past prescreening on my camera, then being checked out for more flaws after they were copied to my laptop, then the photos deemed worthy of uploading to Flickr were checked out one last time in the source directory where I’d shrink them to a workable size before submitting them to the view of the public. Less than one in five of the photos that I take make it to Flickr, probably less, while the number of blog posts I make are likewise only a fraction of what I might think at first I’d like to make. A couple of people have talked to me about how digital photography has changed photography from an art into a mere technique, just another form of electronic gadgetry that annihilates tradition and produces excessive volume, noise even. There’s something to be said for that.

I also like abundance. Take this blog, which can easily feature a half-dozen posts a day, brief though they might be. Take the photo posts, which frequently include multiple photos. There’s a lot out there in the world that deserves to be shared, and if the effort is conceivably worth it why not? I might not share everything, but what I do share I like very significantly indeed. I’m a person very much into preserving things, details, especially insofar as they concern the past and inform my present and future. I’m pretty sure that, somewhere, I still have the disposable cameras which record part of my August 2003 trip to Montréal en route to Queen’s University in Kingston. I would so like to have these cameras survive and produce usable images, and not only so I could share them with you. Everything counts in small amounts.

How should I combine my desires for selectivity and abundance? I’m inclined to think that the way I handle things is the only way that I can tolerate doing things. I share with you the things important to me, this importance deriving from whatever reasons, and the idea of ratcheting down–or up–the number of items I care about leaves me uncomfortable, leaves me thinking of depression or else mania. It’s tricky.

In the meantime, that 36 Exposures Only group on Facebook sounds like fun. Does it exist yet, I wonder?

Written by Randy McDonald

November 27, 2009 at 11:58 pm

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[LINK] “Second arson attack at Sri Lankan Buddhist temple”

There has been a second attack on a Sinhalese Buddhist temple in Toronto, a half-year after the first one in the immediate aftermath of the Tamil Tigers’ defeat.

An early morning fire that damaged a Buddhist temple used by Toronto’s Sri Lankan community for the second time in six months has been classified as an arson.

Toronto police have increased patrols in the area and are consulting with the hate crimes unit after flames engulfed part of the building at around 2 a.m. on Friday.

There were no injuries.

While police have not yet made any arrests, investigators are almost certainly examining whether the attack was connected to the Tamil nationalist conflict in Sri Lanka.

The Tamil Tigers rebels fought a three-decade civil war for independence for Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamil minority until May, when government forces wiped out the guerrillas.

Despite the end of the fighting, some expatriate Tamils have continued to agitate for independence. In Toronto on Wednesday, a Tamil activist gave a fiery speech that urged violence against the Sinhalese Buddhists who make up the majority in Sri Lanka. Following his talk, he was arrested and threatened with deportation unless he left Canada on his own.

The temple attack occurred on Tamil “heroes’ day,” the birthday of the deceased leader of the Tamil Tigers, when Tamil nationalists commemorate fallen rebels.

The Maha Vihara Temple was founded in 1978 by Sri Lankans, who practice the Theravada tradition of Buddhism. The same temple was torched in May but no arrests were made.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 27, 2009 at 8:29 pm

[LINK] “Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus form customs union”

Interesting news, although I’d be surprised if it was any more meaningful than the Union State that has supposedly united Russia and Belarus.

Russia signed a deal Friday to form a customs union with former Soviet neighbours Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev invited other ex-Soviet nations to join the union, hailing it as a “new stage in our co-operation.”

The union will come into force on Jan. 1, with the three countries using the same foreign trade tariffs and rules with one another, though it will likely take another six months for all tariffs to be synchronized, officials said.

Russia and Belarus already have an accord calling for close political, economic and military ties. The creation of the customs underscores Moscow’s determination to shore up its influence among neighbours.

Analysts said, however, that the new deal could further stall Russia’s 16-year-old effort to join the World Trade Organization, even though Moscow has backed off from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s announcement in June that Russia would scrap individual membership talks and insist on joining together with Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Russia is the largest economy outside the 153-member WTO.

Its prospects for membership are a “big mystery to everyone,” said Yevgeny Gavrilenkov, chief economist at Moscow-based Troika Dialog investment bank. He said the new customs union means Russia’s WTO entry talks “are likely to get dragged out again.”

Friday’s deal follows numerous attempts to forge closer economic ties among ex-Soviet nations that have been stymied by deep economic differences and fears of Moscow’s domination.

President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus called it a “big, historic step,” and Mr. Medvedev called it “a very important event.”

Mr. Gavrilenko said it would change little in practice.

“I don’t see any fundamental changes coming from this agreement,” he said. The deal “must streamline trade between the three countries somehow, but borders between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan are pretty transparent already.”

Written by Randy McDonald

November 27, 2009 at 7:10 pm

[LINK] “Archeology of the Space Age”

Thanks to Patrick Banks for linking to this interesting article.

In the previous century, our ancestors went to the moon.

They left Earth in antique capsules perched on top of a million pounds of explosives – the largest rockets ever built.

They navigated with wristwatches, slide-rules, and primitive computers with less processing power than a basic cellphone.

And they took pictures. America’s first unmanned satellites carried chemical darkrooms on board, where film was developed, translated into radio waves, and beamed back to Earth. On the ground, the satellites’ analog photographic data was stored on magnetic tapes.

And then we forgot about them.

The original data for our earliest pictures of the moon, like the one at left, were very nearly lost – the tapes were filed away, and the machines necessary to translate them into images again were discarded as government surplus.

But a few years ago, a team of technological archaeologists, working in an abandoned McDonald’s restaurant, recovered the tapes and painstakingly re-constructed the antique equipment required to translate their data into images.

The Apollo-era tape-readers themselves had been saved by a former NASA planetary phtographer, Nancy Evans, who stored several of the wardrobe-sized machines in her garage for decades in the hope that someone, someday, would want to recover the photos.

It’s a pretty remarkable project – as though the complete journals of Sir Walter Raleigh had been found written in an obscure Elizabethan code, and the only way to translate the treasure were by refurbishing a heavy cabinet full of derelict gears and pulleys that someone had found in a cobwebbed dungeon of the Tower of London.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 27, 2009 at 5:59 pm

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[LINK] “Walk and Discover Taylor Creek’s Path to the Don”

Finally, from 2007, here’s Davd J. Widmann’s Torontoist post on the joys of the Taylor Creek area, complete with links and walking suggestions. Enjoy it for yourselves!

Written by Randy McDonald

November 27, 2009 at 1:20 pm

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[PHOTO] O’Connor over Taylor Creek

The majesty of the concrete arches of the O’Connor Drive bridge over Taylor Creek makes me appreciate Le Corbusier for the first time.

See the relevant Boldts page for another take.

O’Connor over Taylor Creek (1)
Originally uploaded by

This is the underside of the south of the bridge.

O’Connor over Taylor Creek (2)
Originally uploaded by

This is the underside of the north of the O’Connor bridge.

O’Connor over Taylor Creek (3)
Originally uploaded by

Here’s a look at the south side of the bridge from the east, with Jerry on the path.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 27, 2009 at 1:13 pm