Saturday, September 24, 2016

Yahoo Data Breach Not The Only Problem - Gives Easy Access to Stranger's Account

On September 23, 2016 Yahoo announced to the world that 500 million accounts had been hacked way back in 2014.

I was one of millions that received an email notice of data breach from Yahoo.  Always suspicious of such notices, I clicked nothing.  Instead I did a quick Google search to confirm the facts. And of course went directly to Yahoo's site and also looked for the lock icon in the address bar.

It had been years since I had done anything active on Yahoo and even more years since I had used their email or other services.

Still, seeing what info might have been compromised then deleting the account seemed logical.

But that was so long ago! I typed in my long standing email address--the one the notice had come to-- but it did not recognize it. Strange.  So, the other option they gave was to try my cell phone number, which I've had for many years.  Yahoo took it and said it would text me a code. It did, and I entered the code from the text and to gain access to my account.

Surprise!

The account name, gender, DOB, etc was someone I've never heard of before!

Fantastic.  Yahoo not only lets a "state-sponsored" hacker get our info, but then Yahoo itself passes out access to a stranger's account like candy at Halloween.  

Yahoo associated my long standing cell phone number with another person's Yahoo account and gave me total access.  This means there was no verification at the time that cell number was put in to Yahoo's system as a security measure.

I tried to find a real person online at Yahoo to message or talk to, but as you discover there is nothing anywhere.  Just support articles and the "community" to post an issue and let thousands of people weigh in casually.

I could just see that:  "Hey everyone, Yahoo just gave me full access to someone else's account using nothing more than my own cell phone number as the one and only security ID requirement.  Can anyone suggest what to do next?"

Thankfully it looked as if this person had wisely had quite using their Yahoo account long ago and had only their name, gender, and DOB as info.  What would I want someone to do if the situation were reversed?  Delete the account!  So I deleted the account since it was still linked to my own cell phone number.  Incredibly dangerous for me too!  Thank you Yahoo for creating such chaos!

Goodbye forever and good riddance. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Are Christmas Laser Lights Really a Danger for Airplanes? Maybe Not.

Forbes magazine says this year's craze are those laser Christmas light projectors.  But are these holiday displays really hazardous for pilots and airplanes?

One pilot does not think so and posts
"We have had a couple of local private pilots also report on these lasers, and one issue with them is that they are LOW intensity lasers, as opposed to the HIGH intensity ones that have been blinding the pilots. These will still be reported by some of the pilots, especially civilian, but are not as dangerous, and should not cause any major problems with commercial aircraft."
And another pilot reports,
It is not a problem at these distances. These use a 5mW laser with a divergence of roughly 8.13mrad or more would give you a spot size of a bit larger than 200ft. and a luminosity that would be lost among lights of even a small town....
These are not high powered lasers in these displays and while maybe annoying, equating them to the higher powered lasers with wattage that could cause damage is ridiculous These are little more than overpowered flashlights with cheap diodes, and reflected off mirrors. These are not going to harm anyone.
As for me, I first saw a Christmas laser light at a home show last summer.  So this November I decided to check them out.  After watching some review videos on YouTube, and scouring Amazon, I decided that Seattle based laserchristmaslights.com had the ideal solution.  Their website says they are used at Six Flags.  But these high quality laser projectors were sold out and I put myself on the waiting list.

Meanwhile I bought a couple of the inexpensive Star Showers at Bed Bath and Beyond.  They were just $39 each.  As the box said, in just 10 minutes I lit a 30 foot tall cypress tree at the top of my driveway with thousands of green and somewhat dim red dots.

The effect is amazing, if not all that bright.  From the street, about 100 feet away, I can barely tell the tree is lit.  But get within 30 feet of it and it looks great.  A guest asked if I had put thousands of tiny red and green lights all over it.  It is a very subtle look on the tree.  And the beams are way, way dimmer than any cat toy or other $4 1mW laser pointer.

Star Shower Power:  Searching online it seems the Star Shower uses a 20mW green laser and a 30mW red.  These are literally split into about a thousand small beams by a glass diffraction grating.  The resulting beams seem way under 1mW, in fact the brightest, at the center, are probably less than .1mW.  That stands to reason:  20mW / 1,000 = .02mW on average.  The 30mW red is significantly dimmer despite the higher powered laser.  The eye simply does not see that color as brightly as green.

Beam Spread is Very High:  I measured one of the brightest green beams from the Star Shower to be 1mm diameter at 1ft from the projector.  I was able to trace that same beam to a tree about 80 feet away in my back yard where it measured over 1.5 inches in diameter. That is quite a divergence in the laser beam!  And needless to say it was hardly "blinding" at that distance.  Certainly no brighter than a medium powered flash light at about the same distance. 
The approximately 1.6mRad divergence of a Star Shower laser beam means a beam that is 1 mm in diameter 1 foot out would be 20" in diameter at 1,000 feet and only 1/75,000 the light per square inch.

Using www.pseudonomen.com/lasers/calculators/diameterCalculator.html I was able to roughly calculate that the divergence of that beam was about 1.6 mRad.  That is very high.  A typical 1mW cat toy or low end laser pointer I am told is usually around 1.2 mRad.  The diffraction grating used to split the beam into a thousand tiny beams is probably causing the divergence to be so high. 

At 1.6 mRad divergence the beam would be approximately 3.8" diameter at 200 feet.  That's almost 100 times wider than at 1 foot and the brightness per sq mm would be reduced by about 3,000 times!

At 1000 feet that one beam would be nearly 20" wide, 488 times wider, and would be extremely dim, on the order of 1/75,000th of it's original power per sq mm.

At 13,000 feet that same feeble beam would have diverged to a whopping 249" or almost 21 feet in diameter!  That is 6340 times wider than at 1 foot and 13 million times dimmer per sq mm, since it is covering about 13 million times more area (31,563,000 sq mm vs. 2.46 sq mm at 1 foot)

Let's say that beam was a full 1mW (which it was not even close!) at 1 foot from the Star Shower.  Then at 13,000 feet it would be the equivalent of 1/13,000,000 mW in a given area.

This is just theory based on the spread at 80 feet.  But certainly it seems unlikely the Star Shower hit a jet liner 13,000 feet in the air at the FAA's "distraction" level.  Someone needs to do real testing.

With millions of Star Showers out there it stands to reason we would be hearing hundreds of reports, not a grand total of about 4 or 5 over two week's time if they were so powerful they could blind or distract a pilot at 13,000 ft.  Figure that there are over 3,000 intentional laser aviation events reported each year anyway.  It seems more likely a bad guy was intentionally hitting the Dallas bound aircraft with a laser pointer, but that when police searched the only laser they saw was a lowly holiday laser projector and they jumped to conclusions.  By that time the bad guy would have put the laser away so as not to be discovered.

Laser Christmas Lights, a Seattle company specializing in high quality holiday laser projectors, notes in its FAQ section that "the laser beams from our projectors diminish and become non existent after 850 feet."  Hmmmm.  I note that they have taken this off of their FAQ page this week.  One hopes they are testing their units and will report.

I have one of their units too now and it is far brighter and sharper than the Star Shower, and amazing.  It shines up on a bare tree and looks as if I spent days putting a thousand tiny red and green lights on it.  If those beams have totally diminished by 850 feet then there is almost no chance of causing distraction to pilots, unless they are buzzing my house!  We are well over 10 miles from an airport.

One YouTube reviewer measured this unit and the output of a single beam was so low that it did not show up on his laser power meter, being a small fraction of 1mW.   And, the Laser Christmas Lights are about 5 times brighter than the Start Shower.

In any case, it seems that it would be easy to make a safe holiday laser projector by adjusting the lenses to intentionally diverge the laser beam so that by 1,000 feet it truly did diminish well below the FAA's "distraction" standard.

Blisslights is another laser projector vendor.  Their site reads:
Some people are worried about our outdoor units and there interference with airplanes. When using our BlissLights in your back yard the laser can only travel about 100 to 200 feet into the sky before it dissipates due to the divergence of the laser. The average flight altitude is 18,000 feet, which can be almost 90 times the distance that our lights will travel. 
Irresponsible headlines such as "Christmas Decorations Nearly Bring Down Coast Guard Plane" (Nov. 11, Channel 2 News WFMY) confuse the issue.  The aircraft was never in danger and never reported as such.  Even the article makes this clear.  But that doesn't sell. 
 
Meanwhile, good luck finding a Star Shower.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Tony Campolo Still an "Evangelical" After Approving Gay Marriage?

Evangelist and author Tony Campolo now supports gay marriage, a reversal of his previous position where he cited clear biblical teaching as his authority.

But is he still evangelical?  Does that term apply any more?

In 1984 the Christian philosopher and apologist Francis Schaeffer wrote in The Great Evangelical Disaster,
"There is only one way to describe those who no longer hold to a full view of Scripture. Although many of these would like to retain the evangelical name for themselves, the only accurate way to describe this view is that of a form of neo-orthodox existential theology. The heart of neo-orthodox existential theology is that the Bible gives us a quarry out of which to have religious experience, but that the Bible contains mistakes when it touches that which is verifiable - namely history and science. But unhappily we must say that this concept now has come into some of that which is called evangelicalism."

Monday, October 27, 2014

John Coleman Founder of Weather Channel Exposes Global Warming Myth

John Coleman



Quote regarding the UN's IPCC:  "They voted that global warming was for real.  Well...you don't settle science by a vote."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

You Don't Need a Screen Protector with iPhone Glass



My iPhone 6 arrived the other day and on Monday a co-worker came in to ask how I liked it:  "Are you going to get a screen protector for it?"

I pulled a sharp pair of Fiskars scissors out of my desk draw and while she watched in horror I vigorously ran the point back and forth over the new screen about a dozen times.  Then I showed it to her:  not a scratch.  In fact, not even close.

So I have to laugh when people show me their new iPhones embedded behind cheap finger printed dull plastic or glass (probably window grade glass), or liquid goop--all of which DOES scratch like crazy.  It's like putting latex paint on a vault.  The one part of the iPhone that doesn't need protecting it the screen.  I guess all these folks see the scratches on their protectors after a few months and just assume the Gorilla glass will scratch easily.

And a screen protector does not protect against screen breaks at all.  A rubberized case can clearly help, both with some shock absorption and less accidental slipping.

Here is my personal history with iPhone screens:

I used an uncased iPhone 3G for three years, in pockets all the time, on vacations and what not and the glass was scratchless at the end, unlike the back of the case which had some minor scratches.  But folks, it's a phone not the Mona Lisa.

Then I got the iPhone 4 and after two years the glass front and back again were scratchless--but not the cheap lens cover Apple put on the camera in that model.  It scratched up after only a month and I had to replace it and got a bumper just to off set it from any surface it sat on, and it was a very slippery phone!

Then came the iPhone 5 I just replaced after two years.  Just a bumper case to keep the camera lens off of surfaces and make it a bit less slick and protect the back.  Under very close inspection with a magnifying glass, no scratches on the glass at all.  I don't put it in with my keys, but again, the scissors don't scratch it either.  And I have enjoyed a pristine view, better wide angle brightness and fewer finger prints than I would have with a protector.  The line is always, "you can barely tell I have a screen protector."  Really?

Yes, if you are the kind to immerse your phone occasionally a life proof case might be in order.  For me?  I just got the $6 a month total replacement plan, which includes theft or stupidity like stepping on it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Why Are Women Quacking When They Talk?

Young American women are rapidly adopting the annoying nasal quack that was once the sole domain of Valley Girls.  "Creaky Voice" is the actual term created by linguists. (You can't make this stuff up.) You can even find a Wikipedia link on creaky voice.

The quack is different from the low vocal fry or growl, especially heard on the ends of sentences, where not enough air is used and the talk drops to the throat to croak out the last few words.  Many young women do both.

Creaky, quacky voice is high pitched, almost baby-talk like and up in the nasal passages where it buzzes with an affected rattling quality.  It can sound unbearably harsh and grating.  It's almost impossible to watch an episode on HGTV without the female house hunter quacking abrasively.

And yet it is not a vocal problem, such as Joan Rivers raspy voice, which seems to be her natural speech. Creaky voice is an adopted style of speaking.  No one, and I mean no one talked like this in the years prior to the late 80's or early 90's unless they had a speech defect.  You will not find it in any movie or TV show.

One blogger noted that even on the film, Valley Girl no one talked like that.  In fact, he says the women all talked fairly normally.  He observes that the creaky voice, when low, sounds immature, but
"if the voice is raised for emphasis, the Creaky Voice's evil twin emerges:  A brassy, strident utterance like the blood curdling caterwaul of financial planner Suze Orman.  You want to cover your ears.  It's as if women have decided shouting equals persuasion.
Touche!  I was at a major league baseball game a couple years ago with a large group.  Two elementary teachers had been invited along and sat just behind us.  For the entire game they didn't just talk non-stop, they Creaked with such volume and intensity that four of five of us, including the couple that invited them, had to get up and watch the game from the entry ramp many rows behind them.  My ears were literally ringing.  It occurred to me they had affected this nasal quack as a built in mega phone to out shout an entire class of noisy kids.  It was like finger nails on a blackboard.

Pennyscribbler adds,

In “They’re, LIke, Way Ahead of the LInguistic Curve,” Douglas Quenqua in the New York Times discusses how linguistics trends start with young women and make their way through the culture. It mentions the overuse of the word “like,” “uptalking” or the “high-rising terminal,” which involves ending declarative sentences on a higher note as if asking a question, and what’s called “vocal fry,” or going into the raspy lower registers.
A similar article on, like, younger people quack talking  (invoking a nasal quality that makes one sound like a duck, see also: Kenley Collins) and stuff with the kind of delightful title “What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness” basically, you know, ran in the City Journal in winter 2011.



Michael Gungor, Augustine, and Literal Six Day Creation

Christian singer and songwriter, Michael Gungor, has stirred up a lot of buzz recently by coming out on his blog with a personal revelation  that he "no longer is able to believe" the traditional biblical creation account in Genesis or the global flood of Noah that rose to the highest mountain peaks.  At the same time he tries to have it both ways, by finding some "value" in the stories even if not true.  In other words, on the level of fables with a moral.
I have no more ability to believe, for example, that the first people on earth were a couple named Adam and Eve that lived 6,000 years ago. I have no ability to believe that there was a flood that covered all the highest mountains of the world only 4,000 years ago and that all of the animal species that exist today are here because they were carried on an ark and then somehow walked or flew all around the world from a mountain in the middle east after the water dried up. I have no more ability to believe these things than I do to believe in Santa Clause or to not believe in gravity. But I have a choice on what to do with these unbeliefs. I could either throw out those stories as lies, or I could try to find some value in them as stories. But this is what happens…
If you try to find some value in them as stories, there will be some people that say that you aren’t a Christian anymore because you don’t believe the Bible is true or “authoritative”. Even if you try to argue that you think there is a truth to the stories, just not in an historical sense; that doesn’t matter.
Gungor goes on to complain that evangelicals aren't appeased by his still finding "some value" in Genesis 1-9.

Not surprisingly, there have been scores of responses from the evangelical community, many expressing disappointment and affirming their own solid stance on literal six day creation.  And of course there have been a number of sympathetic, even apologetic articles such as that by Relevant Magazine.

What is troubling, however, is how easily those who want to defend Gungor quote people like St. Augustine, or borrow phrases such as, "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in everything else charity" and apply it to a theistic evolutionary viewpoint.  But tossing out the verity of the first nine chapters of the Bible is a big deal.  It is an essential because what we know about the nature of the One True God, and our place in the universe and eternity, is intrinsically bound up in His role as creator.
Of course, there is the mantra 'Oh, we we don't take it literally,' as if merely saying that phrase explains and justifies all.
Of course, there is the mantra 'of, we we don't take it literally' as if merely saying that phrase explains and justifies all. It's akin to saying, "Well, everyone has their opinion," as if there is no way to verify who is right--or as if its a matter of mere taste, as with pizza toppings.  Indeed, the "I don't take it literally" defense has become the great unexamined excuse to cut off debate and reason.  Let's just be friends.  That is usually said by the one who has the weak side of the issue.

But what does "literal" actually mean in these cases?  It simply means taking the author's intended meaning, as we do in normal human language.  That is, we should not look "under" the text as the ancients, and Augustine, did for hidden meanings or allegory.  For example, Augustine believed that Abraham's 318 men
--> (Gen. 14:14) who went to rescue Lot was intended to be hidden, symbol of the Crucifixion because to him the ancient Hebrew characters for 318 seemed to resemble three crosses. But there is no hint in Genesis to take 318 figuratively or spiritually. It is reading into a text a meaning that neither the human or Divine authors intended.  God wanted to communicate with human kind.  He was not playing riddles with them.  And in the few passages where there is an allegory or parable they are clearly labeled as such. There is an indication in the text such as Jesus saying, "What shall I compare the Kingdom of heaven to?" then giving a parable.

Against such spiritualized or allegorical treatment of the Scripture stands the more normal and natural interpretation of language, such as we do on a a daily basis in common life.  So if I said to my neighbor, "Hey, can you lend me a hand tomorrow putting up my fence?" he would not take my request quite literally because I used a common figure of speech.  He would understand that this is a request for assistance, not amputation.  But if I asked, "Can you lend me your truck tomorrow" he would understand that quite literally as a request to borrow his truck.

But so much of the "Wow, you take the Bible literally?" argument depends on readers never going to their Bibles and actually reading Genesis 1 and 2 when they hear the literal interpretation dismissed so casually.

As long as you stay in a blog, or article, or confines of a book, it all sounds very plausible.  But go to the Scripture and read it out of your own Bible and you get a very, very different sense.
As long as you stay in a blog, or article, or confines of a book, it all sounds very plausible.
For example, all of the non-literalists regarding creation say that a "day" should not be taken as a literal day.  But go to your Bible and just read Gen. 1:5,
God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
Context for day is abundantly clear:  morning and evening constitute one day, literally.  He is referring to a 24 hour cycle, not an epoch or era, or "seed of evolution," or some other scheme inserted on the text from without.  Otherwise, why ad "evening and morning" as it would only confuse people and lead them to false conclusions.

If I said to my neighbor, "Can you give me a hand tomorrow, take a saw and cut it off?" my neighbor would understand give me a hand quite differently.  In this case, he'd probably think I was joking, making fun of the figure of speech.  And it is very casual conversation.  I'm not trying to communicate vital information or all important truth he must know and live by.  But in Genesis, the author is communicating something very serious and of utmost importance to the nation of Israel.  And in such cases human beings choose carefully their words so as to be crystal clear and not mysterious or ambiguous. Just try being mysterious on your tax return, or use figures "non-literally."

Of course, that leads to the second attempt by the non-literalists to try to support a non-literal interpretation of what is on its face clearly intended to be historical:  form criticism.  That is, if something looks like it might be written in a particular literary form, poetry vs. history for example, then we can confine its "intended meaning" within the bounds of that type of literature.

So, the theory goes, if Genesis 1-11 appears to maybe be in the form of Hebrew poetry or "legend" then we are free to take everything as such so much figurative language, from start to finish.

Sometimes the example is given that in modern language and writing we can recognize a weather report vs. a greeting card.  And we would expect the weather report to try to be as factual and literal as possible, whereas the sentiment on the card could have many different subjective interpretations or nuances.  But this does not stand the test of common sense or the vast majority of examples.  If a greeting card says, "I am so glad you are my wife, you've made me a happy man," we can take it to the bank that it refers to the woman this man has married. Factual, despite the form and sentiment.  We have no justification to say, just because its a card, that "wife" means mistress or anything else we choose.

Go back to our Genesis 1:5 example (and I hope you looked up and read the whole passage yourself) it is clear to any unbiased reader that the author intended a literal 24 hour day.  And this pattern continues for he second day. After God creates the waters below from the sky and waters above it concludes in Genesis 1:8,
And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
And this phrase is repeated at the end of each of the six days of creation, to make it clear that literal, 24 hour days are intended.  Thus is the majesty of creation:  It seems totally impossible, except that God did it.  That is the point apparently; that the reader should be scratching his head and saying something along this lines of, "How in the world?"

To repeat "evening and morning" six times also shows that the author wanted to be crystal clear that he was indeed talking about literal days, and not allow room for figurative interpretation.  Otherwise, why do it?  That is a question none of the non-literalists can answer.

Why do it if all the time the author was thinking these were just non-literal "time periods" or some other such thing?  Why confuse everyone?  The ancients would have been totally comfortable with  something like, "and the first time period was 500 million years, and the second was 200 million years."  They were not cave men.  The ancient Greek myth of the flood has the surviving man and woman throwing rocks over their shoulder that each suddenly take on the form of a man or a woman respectively to repopulate the earth.  So any worry about "they wouldn't understand" is moot.  Who could understand rocks becoming people instantly?

And very telling is the fact that the geologically long time periods to allow creation (or evolution)  to happen is actually more appealing to man's ability to grasp things--so why not just state it that way in the first place if that were indeed the case?  Which is easier for our minds to grasp, "God did it in six literal days," or "It took God a really long time."  We are used to difficult things taking a lot of time, so the answer is obvious.

Finally, we hear the non-literalists saying that the author was simply trying to use overstatement to show how great God was.  But saying it was explicit "evening and morning" 24 hour days when it was actually millions of years is beyond any "overstatement."  It would be totally misleading.  If my boss asked me how many days a project took and I said, "Six" when it actually took all year I would be fired.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Evolution: A Theory in Crisis

THE PUZZLE OF PERFECTION:

"The intuitive feeling that pure chance could never have achieved the degree of complexity and ingenuity so ubiquitous in nature has been a continuing source of skepticism ever since the publication of the Origin of the Species; and throughout the past century there has always existed a significant minority of first-rate biologists who have never been able to bring themselves to accept the validity of Darwinian claims ....

Perhaps in no other area of modern biology is the challenge posed by the extreme complexity and ingenuity of biological adaptations more apparent than in the fascinating new molecular world of the cell

.... To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a thousand million times until it is twenty kilometers in diameter and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like London or New York. What we would then see would be an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design. On the surface of the cell we would see millions of openings, like the port holes of a vast space ship, opening and closing to allow a continual stream of materials to flow in and out. If we were to enter one of these openings we would find ourselves in a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity...

... Is it really credible that random processes could have constructed a reality, the smallest element of which--a functional protein or gene--is complex beyond our own creative capacities, a reality which is the very antithesis of chance, which excels in every sense anything produced by the intelligence of man?" 

---from Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Michael Denton, copyright 1986, Adler and Adler

Regarding Darwinism,

The challenge to his evolutionary framework was underlined by the fact that the only explanation Darwin was able to offer in Origin was his appeal to the 'extreme imperfection' of the fossil record.  But this was largely a circular argument because the only significant evidence he was able to provide for its 'extreme imperfection' was the very absence of the intermediates that he sought to explain.

The gaps were a particularly acute problem for Darwin as he was absolutely insistent that evolution by natural selection must be a very slow gradual process:
That natural selection generally acts with extreme slowness I fully admit...I do believe that natural selection will generally act very slowly, only at long intervals of time...Slow though the process of selection may be.  As natural selection acts solely by accumulating slight, successive, favourable variations, it can produce no great of sudden modifications; it can act only by short and slow steps.
 Such a slow gradual mechanism of evolution necessitated innumerable transitional forms and this was acknowledged freely by Darwin on many occasions in the Origin.

Denton, concludes, "The absence of intermediary forms essentially emptied all Darwin's macroevolutionary claims of any empirical basis."  (Denton, pp. 56-57)

The assumption back in Darwin's day was that we had not sufficiently examined and explored the fossil record, that transitional forms would be uncovered in abundance--one day.  But here we are in the 21st century, and are no closer to finding confirming fossil transitional forms that support gradualism.  What we see is stasis and saltations or jumps to very different forms that cannot be the result of gradual macro evolution.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Gay Marriage 1 + 1 = 2; Real Marriage 1 + 1 = 3

We heard it for decades:  "What we do in the privacy of our bedrooms is no one's business."

But the gay marriage lobby is now taking that private bedroom behavior and trotting it out in public to demand special privileges, namely that marriage be redefined, and never mind the biology or anyones religious or moral viewpoint or even their freedoms.

This is not about civil rights, but demanding something be redefined to fit their own preferences.

That it is redefinition and not actual civil rights can be seen in their own Equal sign logo.  They are advocating a change to the definition saying that homosexual marriage = heterosexual.  Really?  How scientific is that?

Let's do the math:

Homosexual marriage:  1 + 1 = 2

Traditional marriage:  1 + 1 = 3 (or more)

Not equal.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

High CRI Does Not Mean "Better" LED Light

CNET just did a video article on the newest Cree and GE high CRI bulbs in comparison to the incandescent.  We were told that a high CRI means it's a "better" light.

But that is not necessarily the case at all.  As a photographer who did commercial and industrial work in the old film days I can tell you that indeed daylight balanced film does want a high CRI and daylight color temp.  That is what it is optimized for.  You can purchase a true "daylight" fluorescent bulbs at 5600K with a 92 CRI designed for photography, and the results would be very good.

BUT it looks hideous in your house!  Way too cool.  Skin looks bluish.  Not at all like it's in direct sunlight.  In fact, it is the light a skylight produces when the sun is not shining directly into it, or the light of a north facing window with blue sky and no clouds.  In fact, it is called "north light" sometimes.  It's almost ghostly.

5600K is actually the color of sunlight at noon, on a cloudless blue sky day. And as they used to tell us in photography class, "only made dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun" as Rudyard Kipling put it.  Noon light an unflattering time to shoot subjects.  Wait for the sun to get lower and warmer.  Why?  Because all that blue from the water vapor in the sky hits your subject, making skin tones look too cool.  But wait until 4pm or later and the color temperature goes way down. And 30 minutes before sunset it's amazingly warm, and flattering.

And that brings us back to the CNET article.  The reporter said several times that the bulbs were "better" because they filtered out all that "yellow."  Really?  Better?  Only from the analytical viewpoint of a spectrometer.   If you were proofing colors for a magazine, great!  If you are on a date, not so much! 

We love the warm glow of a candle flame, or an incandescent spot that has been turned down low inside our homes. Go with warmth of the 2700K soft white for that look.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thiel CS 3.5 vs B&W 801 series 3

In 1992 I picked up used a pair of Thiel CS 3.5's used from a shop in Tampa.

The store had a new pair going for $3500 and these were on consignment for $1500.  After a quick in-store audition I brought them home and have enjoyed them ever since.  While at the time they were Jim Thiel's flagship product, needless to say time and progress marches on.

Fast forward 21 years.  I recently acquired a used pair of B&W 801 series 3's from a local dealer for $1800.  I had had a chance to hear a new pair back in the late 90's in a store and was very impressed.

The 801's were delivered to my home.  I hooked them up to my Pass Aleph 1.2 monoblocks with the Pass Aleph P preamp.  Lots of current and pure class A.   But, one of the speakers was missing nearly all the output from the mid/tweeter.  I called the seller and he said he would stop by the next day and check them out, and send them to a well respected shop in Tampa.  No worries.

So that night we put on some music with one-and-a-half working B&W 801 speakers.   The good one was pulled out well into the room and to the side, not the usual place. By chance, we were sitting with it pointing straight at us about 6 feet away.  And the other speaker had full woofer function and just a tiny bit of mid which gave a slight amount of sound stage, as well as the extra bass umph down deep.

Wow!   I had never heard my collection sound anything like this! Just insert all the positive audiophile review words here.  But most of all it sounded live and with a harmonic rightness and detail that was amazing.  It was just before Christmas, and even holiday music recorded in the early and mid-60's sounded like a live performance.  Brenda Lee was standing right in front of us, or maybe we were right in front of a PA loudspeaker in a live performance.  The drums that had just sounded like a distant after thought were now a small vintage kit sitting on stage to her left as she rocked around the Christmas tree. 

Song after song, genre after genre the same with a few exceptions.  Yes, the 801's pointed out a few recordings where there was no further magic to reveal.  Generally it was the highly over produced, compressed "loudness wars" ones.  But even a number of these pop tracks sounded great.  And poorly produced tracks showed their flaws in stark detail.  The most amazing tracks were any live recordings, both my own and others. 

We thought that if "1.5" speakers could do this, imagine what two fully working ones would do!  But it turned out not to be quite that simple.

The repair was just a few caps gone bad in the cross over.  So, I hooked up both fully functioning 801s and positioned them.   

But the result was not at all what I had expected!

I first put on a live recording of a choir that used a Blumlein pair of mics that I was very familiar with.  Awesome!  But, then I started trying a mix of studio recordings with vocalists panned dead center and way up front in the mix.  They had been sucked out of the mix!

Where did they go?   Carly Simon had left the room.  Instead of the gutsy vocal with a lot of presence, she was reduced to a tiny voice between two sidewalls of sound.  Like a big suck out the center point.

In about 3/4 of the recordings the singer had shrunk to a tiny presence. I don't mean recessed back into the sound stage, just shrunk, as if the mix engineer had decided to duck them way down.  If you've ever heard those "vocal eliminators" it was as if someone had processed out the singer, or any solo instrument that was dead center.

Not everything was like this. If the voice was very close mic'd and recorded dry then it snapped to the center and was full and very detail and pleasing.  Catherine Feeny's "Christmas Song" at the Cafe Hotel was a good example of this.  But nearly everyone else?  They were almost gone.

Subconsciously, I found myself wanting to sit in front of one or the other of the 801 directly. I've never felt that with any speakers, from the lowliest Radio Shack boxes to mega-buck monitors I've only heard at a store. 

After another half dozen songs with the same experience of center suck out, that's exactly what I did. I moved to the side.  Bang!  They were back.  Move to the center, they disappeared, buried in the mix.  It was late so I quit listening and called it a day.  Maybe I was just imagining it or tired.

But the next day when my wife listened she immediately said, "These don't sound as good.  It doesn't sound like the singer is....It all just sounds like it's in a straight, flat line from speaker to speaker." No depth of sound stage on studio tracks.

I was sunk.  She was right. That's exactly the conclusion I had been coming to.  Don't get me wrong.  On some tracks the 801's truly shown and were perfect!  And detail. Oh yes.  Always more detailed than the Thiels. And not at all harsh.  Yet the suck out of the center voice in vocals on many recordings made them almost unlistenable.  Fatiguing after a while.  Again, a simple move to the sides and the magic was back!

Was there some sort of phase issue, cancelling out what was panned dead center?  Again, I left it for the next day.

Day 6:  I had a vacation day, so after unclogging the drain and a few other chores I re-hooked up the Thiels and their stock external equalizer.  Immediately one thing was obvious. The Thiels totally, absolutely disappeared from the room.

With the 801's the speakers refused to disappear.  Something always called attention to the cabinets themselves and not the sound stage.  Maybe just a hint of ring or something that tended to smear anything panned 3/4 to the side all the way to the cabinets.   And the images would move with frequency, shifting to the sides with higher pitches or overtones.  With the Thiels the speakers always disappeared and the sound stage was like a physical, unshakeable source of the sounds instead.  In fact, even if I focused on the Thiels my brain refused to perceive any sound coming from them.

With the Thiels reinstalled, I had zero urge to sit to the side, in front of one of them, unlike the 801's. 

The Thiels had their limits:  I did notice that compared to the 801's the sound was a bit smeared. Not bad, just not as detailed or high def. in many cases.  Yet the slight smearing of detail did not affect the imaging.  Also,  they could not handle the same sound levels as the 801s without a lot of strain  Nor did they have the huge dynamic range and bass slam or authority.  And they did not portray the detail of the 801's, or have quite the sense of realism with instruments.

But the Thiels had coherence.  Voices and instruments stayed pad locked in place on a nice, with lots of air around each in a natural 3D sound stage.  Images seemed totally like real sound sources, not "stereo approximations fooling your brain."  Not the slightest shift or blurring of instrument locations.  Coherent source.  Yes, that's what "CS" stands for, but I'm not a marketing label rube. Coherent was a good word to describe it.  Perhaps the first order crossover is the key, or the sloped baffle?  Whatever.  The difference was not subtle.

More importantly, the instruments were in their proper place across the entire sound stage with the Thiels, whereas the 801's tended to put a everything in one of three places:  center, nearly all the way left, or nearly all the way right.  So a choir lined up across the entire stage in real life might sound as if three or four voices were center stage and everyone else had meandered to the left or right edges, leaving a big gap just left and right of center in many tracks. A horn might meander to the side as it went up the scale.

And yet on my lowly B&W DM220's in my studio that same horn stayed put.

On the 801's the quality of each instrument and voice (save for the center suck out phenomenon) was superior to the Thiels. Yet for all the greater realism and detail and even sonic rightness, William Tritt's piano on Rhapsody in Blue danced all over the sound stage on the 801's, the higher keys coming from well to the right and the mid and lower coming more from center stage.  But you could in no way picture a piano anywhere on stage. It was a piano blur, impossible to truly point to.

I listened to a couple dozen other tracks on the Thiels with similar observations.

Shifting forward a couple feet from my seat helped a bit, but didn't solve it.  How could different speakers present the soloist so differently?

So, were my tweeters on the 801's hooked up out of phase?  That's about how it sounded.   Did someone at some time do some work and hook the tweeter out of phase, or the midrange?

Later that day I lugged the 801's back and reconnected them.  This time there were about a foot closer together and about a 6" further back, only about 20" in front of the wall, but further from the sidewalls.  I ran some test tones and check out the tweeters.  But before I could do so I replayed the track mentioned above and, surprise, the singer was back!  The center suck out was completely gone. A small shift in positioning and they were a totally different set of speakers.

Test tones indicated that the mid driver in the left repaired unit was about 3bd louder than it's mate in the right. But all were functioning properly and in phase.   (It also indicated that the right mid driver on the Thiel was dead!  The first order cross over had totally masked it.  This will be the second repair/replacement of that driver.  It's amazing the Thiels still sound so good missing one mid-range!)

Second Chance for the 801's.  Inspired that the center was now right I listened to several tracks. I noticed that the 3D sound stage had also emerged.  Not quite Thiel level, but definitely there now.  And less attention to the speakers.  In fact, I now felt no urge at all to sit in front of the 801 cabinets.  So what locked in the sweet spot again? 

Later my wife said she too could hear the amazing re-entry of the center singers, but said that it all still sounded "muffled" to here vs. the Thiels.  The didn't mean treble, but probably imaging.  While improved, there is still the annoying tendency on some recordings to shift everything hard right or left.

Day 9:  With further listening to the 801's I believe that their very strength, which is precision and details, is also a potential weakness.  Assuming that details = accuracy then placement is even more crucial with the 801's.  While listening to a 500Hz test tone I noticed the nodes and anti-nodes in my listening room were much more pronounced with the 801's than the Thiels.  This means phase cancellations (suck outs) are very pronounced with tracks too if something arrives at your ear out of phase.  Apparently in their first positioning in my room this was the case.  Now they were back 6" closer to the back wall and a foot closer together and all was well.  Even the image shift to the sides were reduced to almost nil.  That means it was room boundary reflections that was the problem.  Apparently certain high frequencies were beaning off the side walls to my listening position, causing this shift.  Ironically the 801's better dispersion probably created this issue.  The Thiels are very, very forgiving of placement.  And the Thiel's off center dispersion is not nearly as uniform as the 801's, falling off dramatically in the treble.

A few tracks still have center suck out, but only when it was recorded that way.  Last night I put on Traffic's Glad and Freedom Rider.  The opening sax solos were sucked out almost entirely.  Oh no!  It's back.  But I kept listening and it was clear that in the opening solos two mics were used on the sax!  They were out of phase and the 801's caught it and faithfully portrayed the cancellation.  This was something the original sound engineer had never heard and my Thiels had never revealed!  Then the second solo came up, with the wah pedal, which obviously used just one mic, and BOOM Windwood was back.  The final sax solos were all the most wonderful portrayal of those tracks I've ever heard. The 801's disappeared.  On some other tracks with early 80's "voice doublers" or other out of phase recording gimmicks the vocal can be sucked out (Phil Keaggy's vocal on The Wall is a great example) but it's livable if you know it's a recording glitch and you're actually hearing what the recording/mixing engineer never heard simply because they did not have the accurate playback gear.

The 801's definitely want to be played at a goodly volume level.  

The feeling I get is maybe like someone first driving a Ferrari.  At first you don't even know what you have.  It seems a bit bumpy compared to your over spongy suspension in your family sedan. 

At first I lamented a few tracks that were revealed as frauds, or where the details picked apart the music and I ended up analyzing instead of listening.  But many other tracks have revealed layers of musical beauty not there before.  Most notable is the stereo version of the Beach Boys Good Vibrations.  I downloaded this for the occasion as it was the first track I had heard on a pair of 801's  at the stereo shop back in the late 90's.  I couldn't believe the bass slam, intricacy and detail on that old recording.  On my Thiels Good Vibrations sounds almost like fat mono.  No color, no life, way too laid back.  Then put on the 801's and it's like Dorothy stepping out of her house into Oz.  You can't believe it's the same track.

Not all tracks are that way.  The Thiels best the 801's on a few.  But now that I know the speakers are functioning as they should, have tamed the room and placement issues, there is no turning back.  My audio engineer son is getting a pair of Thiels for Christmas.  (Do I tell him the mid-range is blown?)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rubio Stay Thirsty My Friend XVI Photo

Marco Rubio has inadvertently coined the GOP Slogan with his drink of water during the response to the SOTU.

In response Rubio emailed the Shark Tank, "I don't always respond to the president, but when I do, I drink water.  Stay thirsty my friends!"

Here is the official 2016 spoof ad.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Fredrick Douglas on Gun Rights

Frederick Douglass, "the self educated runaway slave, turned abolitionist newspaper editor and orator," who said citizenship requires three boxes: "the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box."

See the article by Star Parker, Dec. 13, 2012 on the Cure site, "Blacks should embrace NRA gun proposal"
 


 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What Does "Incense owns a Deity nigh" mean?

This line from the Christmas carol, We Three Kings, often stumps modern listeners.

"Incense" (or frankincense) creates a fragrant smoke when burned and symbolizes our prayers rising to God.

The phrase, "a Deity nigh" refers to the Christ Child himself, who is "near" from the perspective of these three Kings who had traveled to worship him and offer Him gifts.  One can picture the manger scene with Joseph, Mary, the baby Jesus, and the wise men, or Magi as they were called.

To paraphrase the line, "Incense--representing our prayers--belongs to this child before us, who is God in the flesh.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What God Hath Not Joined: Church's Response to Gay Marriage

From Christianity Today blog...

What God Hath Not Joined


"Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" [Matthew 19:4-5]  So Jesus declares that in the first marriage and in every marriage since, it is God himself who joins particular members of the opposite sex together in a natural relation unlike any other. So Jesus declares that in the first marriage and in every marriage since, it is God himself who joins particular members of the opposite sex together in a natural relation unlike any other.

All societies have honored this special union that Christians, Jews, and Muslims rightly recognize to be a gift of the Creator. Even in an atheistic context like Russia during the Communist period, Muscovite couples were married with festal trappings at what passed for a sacred site, Lenin's tomb.

Our generation has introduced a tear in this universal fabric. Same-sex activists are clamoring for the state to grant homosexual couples marital status. These blows to the definition of marriage are landing not only in the North American civil sphere, but within churches. Theological arguments may not hold much sway in public debate, and there are certainly good social reasons for preserving the definition of marriage. But for the defense of marriage in both civil society and church, Christians must look to—and guard—the deep theological foundations of marriage.

This is an excellent article that goes on for several pages and is very well written and in depth.

Humphrey goes on to point out the many convoluted revisionists who try to explain away the clear prohibitions on all homoerotic behaviors.  For example, those that claim Paul was simply writing out to the limited culture of his day and that it's like he insistence that women wear head coverings.  But Humphrey points out:
[In] Paul's times, in fact, were "gay-positive" or at least "gay-tolerant." Paul and other New Testament writers take a decisive stand against behavior frequently condoned and sometimes idealized in the surrounding cultures. What was wrong then is wrong now.
****
Sometimes an appeal is made to contemporary opinions about same-sex relations: "Yes, Paul disapproved of such activity, but he had nothing whatsoever to say about homosexuality as we understand it today." The biblical writers, they claim, assumed that homoerotic behavior was an avoidable moral choice, but if Paul had had the benefit of our psychological studies, he would have taken a different position. If people are born gay, how can it be sinful?
In reality, it makes little difference whether nature or nurture inclines us toward any one sexual behavior. Paul was well aware of the compulsive nature of sin. He put forth the gospel as God's means of dealing with the sin that enslaves us, as well as with sins we deliberately choose.
A bold variation on the argument that Paul was scientifically limited is that he was theologically limited. So Eugene Rogers (Sexuality and the Christian Body, 1999) argues that God's grace is wider even than Paul himself suspected, embracing same-sex couples as well as Jew and Gentile.
Paul, Rogers claims, says that God himself acts "against nature" in "grafting" Gentiles into the olive tree, the people of God (Rom. 11). Similarly, Rogers argues, God can act "against nature" in approving same-sex relations. This, however, reads against the sense of both Romans 1 and 11. Romans 1 speaks about what is contrary to nature in the created order. Romans 11 offers a figure of speech to help the Roman Gentile Christians appreciate their inclusion by God.
Rogers strangely clinches his argument: Same-sex couples find in their union "a means of grace," so it must be holy. This appeal to experience that contradicts Scripture is the most common revisionist position today. We know better than Paul and other writers of Scripture, he says, because they just didn't understand the grace that characterizes the loving union of two men or two women. Wasn't Jesus always welcoming outcasts from Israel among his followers? Now God, Rogers says, is doing something similar but new in the church.
****
But what of Jesus' call to repentance? To a woman caught in another sexual sin, adultery, he says, "Go and sin no more." The revisionists remove homoerotic sin from the lists of sins in the New Testament and treat homoerotic relations as though they fit with Paul's list of Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female. They obscure the crucial distinction between characteristics over which one may have little or no control (such as same-sex desires), and actions for which one must answer to God. 
****
Is the attempt to bless homoerotic relations truly heretical? It is true that this is not an obvious theological attack on, say, the divinity of Christ or the necessity of the Atonement. But it is indirectly heretical because it upholds a corrupt imitation of marriage, which should properly be a living icon of Christ and the church—a theological picture that mediates God's glory and truth, directing us to the greater reality. Paul calls marriage a "great mystery" that speaks of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32). So, for example, husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Indeed, the relations of husband and wife, and of Christ and the church, illuminate each other.
Husband and wife, representing Christ and the church, can only be parodied in same-sex "marriage."
****
God himself enacted the first marriage covenant. A marriage, like the relation of Christ to the church, is not finally a human creation. (Hence the Orthodox insist that a marriage is effected by God himself, and Roman Catholics say the priest is only a witness.) In contrast, God does not join people of the same sex together but calls the behavior they seek to sanctify an abomination. To bless homoerotic relations underscores human willfulness.
Edith M. Humphrey is associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/september/11.36.html

Eight Bible Passages on Homosexuality

Because in this whole gay marriage and homosexuality debate very few ever bother to actually look at key Scriptures, GW has added them below:


1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (New Testament)
Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.
(Is stealing or idol worship a sin according to this passage?  Yes! Likewise everything else listed, including homosexuality.)

1 Timothy 1:9-11 (New Testament)
For the law was not intended for people who do what is right. It is for people who are lawless and rebellious, who are ungodly and sinful, who consider nothing sacred and defile what is holy, who kill their father or mother or commit other murders. 10 The law is for people who are sexually immoral, or who practice homosexuality, or are slave traders, liars, promise breakers, or who do anything else that contradicts the wholesome teaching 11 that comes from the glorious Good News entrusted to me by our blessed God.
 (Is lying or slave trading wrong?  Yes! So are the other things listed, like homosexuality.)

Romans 1:24-27 (New Testament)
24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.

Jude 1:7 (New Testament)
And don’t forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment (see Genesis 19:4-7, 12-13 where the sexual perversion is described as homosexuality).

Genesis 19:4-7; 12-13 (Prior to the Law)
But before they retired for the night, all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house. They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to spend the night with you? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!” So Lot stepped outside to talk to them, shutting the door behind him. “Please, my brothers,” he begged, “don’t do such a wicked thing....
12 Meanwhile, the angels questioned Lot. “Do you have any other relatives here in the city?” they asked. “Get them out of this place—your sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone else. 13 For we are about to destroy this city completely. The outcry against this place is so great it has reached the Lord, and he has sent us to destroy it.”
(Note that this was before the Law of Moses was given. It is a timeless principle. See Jude 1:7)

Leviticus 18:22 (In the Law)
22 “Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.

Leviticus 20:13 (In the Law)
13 “If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense.

Judges 19:22-23 (In the Writings)
22 While they were enjoying themselves, a crowd of troublemakers from the town surrounded the house. They began beating at the door and shouting to the old man, “Bring out the man who is staying with you so we can have sex with him.”
23 The old man stepped outside to talk to them. “No, my brothers, don’t do such an evil thing."
 
Here is a bonus passage from Jesus on the God's view of marriage:

Matthew 19:4-5  (Jesus in the Gospels)
"Have you not read that the One who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?"

 

The Future of Evangelical Response to Gay Marriage

Ed Stetzer's blog post from May 10, 2012 talks of the "future of evangelical response" to the gay marriage issue.

Of five principles evangelicals should consider, his last is this one:
At the end of the day, all evangelicals will still have to deal with an issue on which the evangelical view is perceived as narrow and bigoted.  Evangelicals will continue to be pressured to accept a worldview rooted in cultural acceptance rather than biblical revelation. While President Obama's thoughts on certain issues have evolved, biblical truth has not.
http://www.edstetzer.com/2012/05/president-obama-and-same-sex-m.html

Many evangelicals are regular viewers of the conservative Fox News Channel.  Yet consistently there gay marriage is also seen as no problem, and something positive.  Even stalwart culture warrior Bill O'Reily commented 12/13/12 that if gay marriages passes the Supreme Court and becomes the law of the land it won't have any significant effect on the culture, and he has said numerous times that he does not oppose it at all, despite his Catholic background.

Clearly, evangelicals will have to decide whether "biblical revelation" or cultural worldview will guide them.  And for the record, this issue is nothing at all like the real racial civil rights issue.  It was, in fact, Christians who lobbied for the end of slavery in America.  And the Bible contains not one verse that forbids interracial marriage.   The only teaching there was for ancient Jews to not marry the Canaanites, or other surrounding nations, who were fellow Semites, ethnically very similar but religiously a universe apart--and thus the prohibition).  But there is no racial ban on marriage.  Yet there are eight direct passages, both in Old and New Testaments,  that clearly condemn all homosexual practice and call it an "abomination."

Stetzer, head of research at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, also gives these points for evangelicals to consider:

The issue is not going away and you cannot ignore it or seek to downplay your views.

The culture sees this as a "justice" issue-- Christians discriminating on the basis of immutable characteristics.

Though it is easy to make the case in the church that homosexual practice (and marriage) is incompatible with scripture, it will be an exceedingly difficult case to make in today's culture.

Building bridges and showing grace and love is needed, lacking, and essential when dealing with people with different views and values.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

48 Frames Per Second NOT What Makes Hobbit Look Like Soap Opera Video

It's all you read this week:  Peter Jackson's decision to use "48 frames per second" rather than the cinema industry standard 24 is what has single-highhandedly made The Hobbit look like a daytime soap opera video, where you can tell everything is a movie set, and not a "real" world in which hobbits roam.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Faster frame rates have been around for decades. Yes, decades and no one has ever said they made film (I'm talking real film) look like soap opera.

Proof?  I just finished producing and watching a 60p HD video and it looks exactly the same as the 24 and 30 fps versions except that it lacks a bit of the jitter. But it does not look like a video game, or "float" against the background or look like Days of Our Lives.

The subject of my 60p video is walking back and forth on a stage, and he does not suddenly "pop" out from the background in the 60p version.

---UPDATE 9/27/14  With the new iPhone 6 and 60fps 1080p recording I again made some more test shots.  Playing them back in the Quicktime player on a 27" iMac i7 rig once again there is no soap opera effect nor the subject popping out.  Yes, motion is a bit smoother, but in one test shot, a person on a stage walking and gesturing, there seems to be only slight differences, and clearly no weird popping out from the background or unusual artifacts. Yet, I have seen this with some cameras where any part of a person moving, such as Joe Satriani's hands on the guitar neck, seem to have a strange "different" quality from the rest of him and the background that is not really moving much.  I have to think that it is attributable to some processing going on in that particular camera.  My iPhone 6 did high frame rate exactly as I remember the iMax film high speed:  not strange, just a bit smoother and still very film like overall.

It is digital motion smoothing, or other CGI processing and not high frame rates that is to blame.

You can go on RED's web site and see actual 60fps samples and compare and while the 60 is smoother, it still looks basically film like, with the moving subject well integrated into the background and not looking like a video game character, unlike the TV sets in Best Buy running in Demo Mode.

GoPro videos can be shot at 30, 60, or even 120p and none look like a soap opera or make a skateboarder popping off the background, or looking like a video game or look "too" realistic.  They all look very film like regardless of the rate.

In fact, this has always been my experience and so I was surprised to suddenly start hearing high frame rate blamed for the soap opera look we see on the latest crop of TV's in Walmart.  You know, that major motion picture you saw that looked great suddenly looks like a video game or actors in front of a cardboard set, even when the "set" was a real outdoor scene! Or it looks like it was shot on a cheap local news video camera from the 80's.

But I, like many of you, have seen the strange and annoying effect people are ranting about.

The mere use of 48 frames per second is not the culprit.  Why can you shoot and play & replay 60fps all day with a GoPro Hero and not get the same video-ish look where the foreground motion "pops" off of the background?

  Jackson has been mum about his digital post processing, but mark GW's words, we will find out that his HFS includes some nasty digital smoothing that makes it look like those crummy LCD TV's with dejudder, or as one recent CNET editor put it:
I noticed that artificial look at one point early in the film, when Bilbo gets astride his first pony, and the background moves behind him in a scroll, as if it were printed on a piece of paper unrolling to simulate his riding forward.
This separation of forground from background is a classic artifact of digital smoothing programs such as Twixtor.  High frame rate simply does not cause that type of artifact.

For decades a few filmmakers, using real film stock, have experimented with high frame rate films without getting the added "soap opera" or evening news effect.

Imax used to have one involving Space Shuttle scenes at 48fps.  I watched it, and while the 70mm film size and giant screen revealed more details, not once did it look at all like a video tape, or a newscast.  It had all the filmic qualities of standard movies--the smooth contrast range, and soft edges or "boundaries" between objects.  The 48fps had no effect on the reality aspect (let's call it "presence") except that the flicker was gone and motion probably was smoother--yet without calling attention to itself.  It was the absence of an artifact, like a cricket that suddenly stops chirping in the distance.  But it still looked filmy, not video-y. 

Today, you can download 60 frames per second digital video clips that have a very film like look too. I've downloaded and watched several specifically for that purpose.  They looked entirely film like despite the higher frame rate.

See this test clip on Vimeo.  Both 60fps and 30fps have the exact same film look.
http://vimeo.com/8005115

So why do some "faster" films look too real, soap opraish, or like a local news video?

Blame digital motion processing, not 48fps!

Simple:  digital processing or what is called "motion smoothing" which involves digital edge detection/sharpening that gets applied by some digital editors, or perhaps automatically by some digital cinema camera settings. 

You can see this even at 30 frames per second on commercials on your HDTV when it was applied with crappy "motion smoothing" effects during editing.  The edge sharpening that makes things look "too real" survives reduction to 30fps for broadcast.  Take for example those wretched Sandals commercials.  You see couples enjoying the beach then suddenly for a second the speed is increased.  In the past, the look would have stayed the same, just faster.  But not with crappy "motion smoothing" or "edge sharpening" filters kicked in:  suddenly it looks like HandyCam video dropped into a high end commercial.  But again, it's not the frame rate per se.  It's the digital motion smoothing processing.

And you can see it in Best Buy with spec-driven consumer HDTV's that boast frame interpolation and other digital post effects to get "the smoothest" motion known to man.  Those unaware of what actually causes foreground subjects to seem pasted on the background blame what the sale rep parrots to them:  faster frame rate.  Yep. You're just a bumpkin used to 1920's technology and 24fps.   After a while you'll just get used to it.

However, you can shoot at 60 fps with film (or with digital film on a RED or other camera) then play it back at 30fps for slow motion, or 60fps and it looks entirely film like, so long as it's not processed by goofy digital motion smoothing filters or frame interpolation.  See the Vimeo clip above.

I am going out on a limb, but I suspect Peter Jackson has not been entirely forthcoming about any digital processing either his particular cameras do in camera, or he is doing post--especially given the only HFR of the Hobbit you'll see is wedded with 3D.  But this is for certain: mere 48fps itself does not make things look like a soap opera or live football game.  But it's an easy phrase to say, "48fps is the problem" or "HFR did it!"  People, do a little research before you blog or report!  The 3D probably has far more to do with headaches.  People had the same problem with Avatar.

I am going out on a limb, but I suspect Peter Jackson
has not been entirely forthcoming
about any digital motion smoothing processing

What do digital smoothing filters do?  To one extent or another they all guess and make up new digital image data based on math.  Here's a description of how LCD HDTV does it:
Most LCD-TV vendors have introduced technologies that generate new frames of content based on interpolation of the source material. The programs use mathematical algorithms to analyze adjacent frames (or a group of adjacent frames) and figure out where moving objects might logically be in the fraction of a second that the source video doesn't contain.
I'm sure Jackson's pro software does a better job than the Vizio 55" TV with the "480Hz refresh" but it still does it!  And if you ever look at a "regular" Hollywood movie on one of those cruddy LCD's with the motion smoothing on at first you will swear you are looking at some stage crew's personal HandyCam footage of the shoot.  It's that bad. Everything looks fake.  Why?  Edge detection must be used and the software must literally draw new frames with any moving objects isolated and cloned in new positions.

So a "cow" walking through the scene is outlined, and cloned and "tweened" between the first real frame and the next real frame.  Yes, now the cow smoothly floats across the screen, but it has a distinct dark outline or seems somehow pasted on the background and not part of the scene. And edge detection's elimination of the graceful tonal curses between objects also seems to be great at pointing out any fakery in the background too: "Yo, check out this painted set on plywood!!"  That's why a live video shoot of a normally filmed sitcom (digital or real film makes no difference) makes it look like a stage play, unless they reset the cameras for a less punchy curve.

By the way, you can make an old school DV video camera take footage that looks like film simply by carefully controlling lighting and depth of field.  And I've seen amateurs with pro digital cinema gear make a live seminar accidentally look like a faded episode from a 70's sitcom by poor lighting and bad color grading.

Another proof that frame rate alone does not remove the film look:  take 24 fps and reduce it to 20 or 12 fps and ask:  does that look more film like?  No.  It simply looks a bit more choppy, but the look is unchanged.  And thousands of YouTube 30fps digital cinemas segments have been uploaded that look entirely film like despite being at "video" rate and shot on digital cameras.

No, a movie set that looks fake at 24pfs will look equally fake at 15 frames per second or even in a still shot.  And likewise, ramping up the frame rate to 30 or 48 or 60 won't suddenly reveal that a set is painted and not real wood office paneling. Higher resolution, strong lighting, different depth of field, boosting contrast,  or other color grading might.  But mere frame rate?  Not at all.

Picture an old flip book animation in your hands.  Let's say it was 5x7 color photos all taken with a Nikon F5 and 100 ISO color film.  Take the mine car scenes from Indiana Jones Temple of Doom, much of which was shot with an SLR one frame at a time.  You flip through at 24 photos a second and it looks like a real mine, not a miniature.  But now George Lucas takes your photo book, and inserts an extra photo between each page.  Whether you look at a single still or flip through at 24 or 48 photos per second the "look" will not change!  It will not magically go from looking like a real mine to a model as you pass 24 flips per second on your way to 48.
And because it was stop motion, motion blur was not a factor at any speed.  It did not make 24fps look realistic because there was none.

I'm not saying motion blur can't be a helpful thing to smooth over the motion of a rendered CGI object.  But it's presence or absence doesn't magically make something look real or filmy.  Stop motion proves that point.

Face it, some film critics and filmmakers
are as obsessed with smooth motion
as Michael Jackson was about shrinking his nose
through surgery, and with an analogous outcome.  

Perhaps Peter Jackson hasn't old us the whole story about his digital gear, or addition of digital motion filtering or edge detection/sharpening during the shoot or post.   But I'm guessing that what ever digital camera he used, or what editing software he dumped it to, automatically applies some sort of garbage motion filter, or else Peter Jackson simply hasn't been forthcoming about it. And notice that Jackson always calls his process "HFR 3D," not simply HFR.  What's baked in to that combo process he isn't telling us?  And there will be no release of The Hobbit with just HFR sans 3D for comparison (http://www.thehobbit.com/hfr3d/faq.html).

Yet all we read on Jackson's Facebook page is that it was "48fps" that accounts for everything.  And the press piles on with pitchforks and torches:  "Death to 48!"  (Uh, guys and gals, the dragon is lurking elsewhere, in the Lonely Mountain  of "HFR-3D")

More journalistic silliness abounds with the following blaming the mere fact that Jackson shot on, gasp, digital rather than real film.  Does anyone out there not know that there are plenty of major films, perhaps most these days, shot with digital cinema cameras? But we read things like this from Jason Gorbor on Twitchfilms (emphasis mine):
From the music to the costumes to the iconic New Zealand vistas, it's easy for any fan of the other films to immediately feel that they're returning back to middle earth, except for one major technical change - eschewing the celluloid used as the main capture format for the previous trilogy, Jackson has instead shot The Hobbit on digital video, in 3D, and using 48 frames per second ("high frame rate", or HFR, as opposed to the normal 24fps), and with a 270° shutter angle.

After a pretty notorious brief "sizzle reel" shown to exhibitors several months ago, many were worried about how the film looked. In the 10 minute segment, people responded well to the vistas, but found that closeups made the sets and actors seem too "video-y", almost giving the look of daytime television rather that the "film look" that's been developed for decades. Naturally, much of this footage hadn't been fully timed (or, "colour corrected") to make it look like a final product, but there was much consternation by some that the move to HFR was going to be disruptive and distracting.
Then there's the argument that 24fps has a lot of "smearing" and "motion blur" and that's what makes film look like film.  That doesn't even make sense.  Shutter speed versus object's motion alone determines blur whether you're shooting one still or 1000 frames per second high speed.

And that brings up another point:  what about all those ultra high speed shots we've seen of bullets piercing an apple, or of explosions on Mythbusters?  Even at 1000 or more frames per second, whether you play them back at 24, 30, 60, or 1000 fps they don't change their look.   In fact, they look rather film like at any speed!  It's no different that taking a 1/2000 second exposure with a Canon 5D III.  And have you ever looked at some 24fps frame by frame that were shot with a fast shutter, perhaps 1/250 or more, and thus has no blur? Yet looked like film.  Film look has nothing to do with blur, per se.  Blur is a mere attendant circumstance, on the side, not involved in the crime.

Check this out: 30fps vs 60fps.  The overall look is the same, film-like.  But 30 does not look more filmy than 60.




And forget "jitter."  Folks, jitter/judder doesn't mask a movie set's fakeness any more than scratches on the celluloid, or gate weave do.  They exist in a whole different realm of artifacts that have nothing to do with the video reality vs. film look factor.


Here is an even better example showing a split screen of 50fps vs. 25 fps.  Neither look like video!

I suggest you download the video file and play it back in QuickTime or another player to ensure you get the full 50fps.  Notice that while the 50fps is smoother, it does not look less filmy or like a documentary.

Face it, some film critics and filmmakers are as obsessed with smooth motion as Michael Jackson was about shrinking his nose through surgery, and with an analogous outcome. 

But don't blame frame rate!

Jackson uses a very unfortunate analogy to explain the "new" effect of his HFR 3D on the audience:
HFR 3D is “different” — it won’t feel like the movies you’re used to seeing, in much the same way as the first CDs didn’t sound like vinyl records. 
Oh wow!  Does anyone remember listening to the "first CD's" on the first CD players?  Ouch!  They sounded awful.  It wasn't about getting used to it.  They still sound wretched if you were to drag out that old Phillips 1984 CD player.   It wasn't "different"--it was defective!  Check out www.stereophile.com back issues for the nearly 30 years of history there.

Motion blur.  Here's another demon Jackson criticizes.  He implied that somehow 24fps always has tons of motion blur and that always obscures details.  But this is wrong for several obvious reasons.  First, many 24fps scenes have little or no motion!  And "detail" does not suddenly increase in a shot that goes from pan to static where the audience says, "Wow, suddenly it looks so real."  Secondly it all depends on your shutter speed or angle in cinema terms whether or how much motion blur you get.  Sure, if a cinematographer insists on shooting everything at 360 degrees (i..e., the full 1/24 of a second a frame is in the gate to be exposed) or, in Jackson's case, 270 degrees (3/4 of the max exposure time possible for a frame), then, yes, I supposed 48fps would make less blur.  But for action scenes most filmmakers choose a much faster, smaller shutter angle.  And even then, motion blur from the relatively slow shutter speeds of a cinema camera actually helps to smooth motion naturally, making it look less staccato.  And 270 degrees with 48fps is still only 1/64 exposure time, slow in the world we are used to with DSLR's.

Going back to Jackson's CD analogy, I suspect that he's digitally goosed the "HFR 3D" much like iTunes hadds "sound enhancement" by goofing with the phase of the audio signal to make the sound stage sound wider.  It's cosmetic surgery and has it's downside.  "Wow!  Dude! Check out the smoothness on that movie!"