Saturday, November 04, 2006

Panoramic Paranoia

I've discovered the single most essential photographic tool that's ever been invented.
Autostitch: leave your fish-eye at home.
(And hooray for Canadian university students! Vancouver might be rainy and miserable, but they do have a ton of good programmers down there.)

Here are some samples of what I'm talking about:
This is the scenic part of Broad Street: The Bodelian Library, the Sheldonian Theatre, and a Science Museum for which I cannot remember a name.
This is the other end of Broad Street, facing the same direction. Plenty of shops, some of which have good ice cream and pens. That's Emily's head on the right, and some random Cyclopath on the left, and a bunch of other tourists. I think the spectre is Megan.
Here's the back of the Sheldonian, with most of the OSP standing around listening to The Julian's witty remarks.

These are very easy to make. Just take a whole bunch of pictures of whatever you want to see in glorious panorama, and make sure you have plenty of overlap. Then when you get home, put all of the pictures on your computer and tell Autostitch to open a group of them. The rest is like magic!
After it renders the image, Autostitch will open it in the default program. I use Irfanview,
mostly because it's free and just as powerful as most image-adjustment programs that cost big bucks.

There are a few problems with this method:
First, it seems that my camera's lense is already distorting images quite a bit. Buildings in Oxford might not all be plumb-straight, but some of these pictures make it look like a set from a Muppet movie. There are settings to play around with that make the distortion less noticeable, but there's a corresponding loss of image quality and it takes a lot of monkeying.
Second, in heat-of-the-moment shots like these, you can't tell people to stand in one spot while you take all these pictures. That's why you see those ghostly apparitions; Autostitch is doing its best to make the images match.

There are a few commercial programs that use this software, Autopano Pro looks like an easier way to play around with the settings, but it still doesn't do everything for you. It's a lot of money to buy it anyway, so I'll just settle for guessing the difference between theta and phi settings.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Someone Else Always Does it Better.

Here's someone else's 'blog with the whole Planets thing, if anyone's still interested. I don't have time to type in all of that text myself, but now it looks like I didn't have to!

Also, I've discovered a program that stitches together panorama photos. More pictures here soon!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

M~J's Pink Brick

M~J has at last found an early copy of her pink-brick poem; I'll publish the picture again as an incentive for her dilligence in getting me the finished poem so I can publish it...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

luna radar anul

Lady Luna, in light canoe,
By friths and shallows of fretted cloudland
Cruises monthly; with chrism of dews
And drench of dream, a drizzling glamour,
Enchants us--the cheat! changing sometime
A mind to madness, melancholy pale,
Bleached with gazing on her blank count'nance
Orb'd and ageless. In earth's bosom
The shower of her rays, sharp-feathered light
Reaching downward, ripens silver,
Forming and fashioning female brightness,
--Metal maidenlike. Her moist circle
Is nearest earth. (1-13)

The moon is, cosmography-wise, the first planet of the medieval solar system. She represents the boundary between Earth and the celestial spheres; Lewis remarks that we’ll not get much out of the metaphysical poets (like Donne) if we don’t know what they mean by “sub-“ and “trans-lunary.”

The moon is also associated with lunacy, madness, a wandering of the mind. I’m not 100% positive about all the connections between these ideas of the moon, but it’s not outside our purpose of exploring Lewis’ use of the lunar “atmosphere” to think of the lunatic as someone wandering between the various celestial planes and losing their way.

"Little Game" part three...

The Sun comes next in our parade of heavenly spheres. Sol is associated with Apollo, the god of wisdom and philosophy; alchemically the rays of sunlight produce gold in the earth. (Strangely enough, it was not Apollo who gave King Midas his golden touch; after Midas preferred Pan'’s music in a competition, Apollo gave him the ears of an Ass. The golden touch was a gift of Dionysus.)

The poem'’s solar section is short and sweet:

Far beyond [venus]
The heaven's highway hums and trembles,
Drums and dindles, to the driv'n thunder
Of SOL's chariot, whose sword of light
Hurts and humbles; beheld only
Of eagle's eye. When his arrow glances
Through mortal mind, mists are parted
And mild as morning the mellow wisdom
Breathes o'er the breast, broadening eastward
Clear and cloudless. In a clos'd garden
(Unbound her burden) his beams foster
Soul in secret, where the soil puts forth
Paradisal palm, and pure fountains
Turn and re-temper, touching coolly
The uncomely common to cordial gold;
Whose ore also, in earth's matrix,
Is print and pressure of his proud signet
On the wax of the world. He is the worshipp'd male,
The earth's husband, all-beholding,
Arch-chemic eye. (38-57)

There'’s a lot going on with the sun-imagery that we didn'’t get into with our seminar. I'll have to come back to this one and look at it further.

Really it i’s one of the most obvious of the planets, not that hard to “figure out once you'’ve read the right things. Specifically, this planet'’s connection is given away in the title of the corresponding book; the last few chapters are also very easy to connect when you think about what's happening. I'll give one further hint: Apollo is known in myth as a dragon-killer.

The time has come...

My time in Oxford has been over for almost a month now, but I've decided that I like blogging enough to continue thrusting my rambling banter upon the unsuspecting world. The title of this blog is adverse to its purpose, Therefore, I will remove the more recent postings from this site and continue my writing on a different site:

The 'blog you are reading will remain as a chronicle of my journeys in England.

I will try to finish expanding the record of my time in Oxford with the rest of the images from my trip and some more complete descriptions. I have quite a few collections of images I intended to stitch together for a more panoramic view of England; we shall see if my photoshop skills are up to snuff. I shall also finish the C.S. Lewis commentary, though I have my doubts about any continued interest. (Posterity is, as always, the most captive audience.)

Monday, July 31, 2006


I've taken the time to fill in some details/pictures of my first two days in London. More to come...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

not-so-bad news

[edit July 27] I've recovered some of the pictures! Yay!
Look to the past and ye shall see a vast, shimmering sea of memorial images; dive in and drink deeply of the water of rememberance!

Canterbury, and then home

After a looong wait at Heathrow, a 12-hour flight, a 12-hour sleep, and an uneventful day at work, I can safely say that I'm home at last.

Waiting for the bus into Canterbury I met a girl named Kathryn, who had just talked to another Canadian who had also just come from Oxford and was headed to the same hostel on the previous Bus. I sat and talked with her on the bus, and we bumped into Andrew (the other Canadian) at the grocery store beside the bus station. Kathryn helped us find the Hostel to drop off our luggage and then she took us around the town to see what's what.

I stayed at a hostel not too far from all the major sites, so the next morning I got a good long look at the Cathedral and St. Augustine's abbey before my bus back to London. The Cathedral is just so... Full of history, I suppose, but there's more to it than that. Highlights for me included the crypt and the chapels with original wall paining. The ornamentation set up around the site of Becket's martyrdom is a bit odd, but the approach is relatively historical. (Come look! See! A famous guy died here! He was stabbed with swords!)

What has caught me off guard most in England's cathedrals are the numerous military memorials in the most prominent places along the walls up and down each side. The English really give their fallen soldiers the places of highest honour. I suppose it's not an entirely different approach than we take here, only more visible. (There's also another thousand years of warfare to remember when you're in England, not just the last two centuries.)

St. Augustine's abbey was interesting, but I wouldn't pay $5 to get in again as it's not much more than some ruins. The free audio guide was a nice touch, though; quite thorough and narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi.

After my bus back into London I took in as much atmosphere as I could in the last day, mostly riding around on the bus to see the place from a different perspective. London is huge, busy, loud, colourful, and expensive.

After a night in Heathrow terminal 3 (reading and writing things down and listening to music, mostly) I checked in with Air Canada as soon as they opened. Customs and security took almost an hour, I think. Waiting in the departure lounge was interesting, because the whole place is designed to make you miss your flight: shops everywhere, coffee and clothing and souvenirs and liquor and DVDs that won't play in your North American player. Heathrow is such a busy airport that the gate wasn't assigned for my flight until 50 minutes before takeoff.

Finally, at 8:27AM I was on the plane and off the ground. The girl beside me looked almost as tired as I felt.
The in-flight movie was _Firewall_ (with Harrison Ford and Paul Bettany.) I should have slept instead of watching, it was a pointless movie about the family man (Ford) whose life and loved ones are put at risk while he's forced to do the things he's worked his entire life to prevent people from doing. The ending took only two or three minutes: The family manages to get away from the bad guy, good and bad guy kick and punch and throw each other, good guy finds a pickaxe and bad guy is dead. Good guy walks toward his waiting family while police cruiser rolls up; fade out, roll credits. I almost laughed out loud (except that I was tired and you can't laugh when the beat-up good guy is hobbling toward his family.)
The girl beside me was coming back from a programme in Barcelona where she studied Architecture. She agreed with my overwhelmingly positive assessment of studying overseas instead of traveling solo.

The connection at Toronto was a cruel joke. Land at 11:30, take off at 12:30, that's lots of time sitting around, right? Wrong. I had to transfer my own luggage, so the first stop is the carousel where you wait to grab your two bags at the same time as 100 other people who are connecting and in a terrible hurry. Oh well, you'll just grab a luggage trolley and... wait, you have to pay to use a luggage trolley? Oh well, that's why I have a backpack and a wheelie-suitcase.
Next stop is customs, where I have to wait twenty minutes and declare that I've brought back a half-jar of Nutella. That one-hour layover doesn't seem so long anymore.
After walking from one end of the terminal to the other I can finally drop off my checked luggage again. Then it's the security check again, because obviously I've had lots of opportunities by now to take the weapons out of my checked baggage and I've hidden them in my boots. After walking another ten minutes (where does all this terminal building come from? It must be bigger on the inside!) I arrive at the departure gate, where the flight has already started boarding.

The flight to Edmonton is only four hours. I sat beside a retired couple from Lacombe; the husband used to work for John Deere and visits lots of farm equipment dealerships, so He's actually been to Killam quite a few times. He also had the same .mp3 player that I do, which is how the conversation started. His wife is a bit of an A/V hobbyist, she does a bit of video editing on her computer so we chatted about the latest and greatest.

The in-flight movie was Ice Age: the Meltdown. I've already seen it, so I only tuned in to the parts with Skrat.

Home at last: we landed a few minutes early, I found Grandpa, and we were on our way. I did some laundry, carved and ate some of Grandma's fabulous roast (with potatoes and salad and pie with fresh raspberries and all kinds of other good things,) and I was sleeping by 7:30. I'm not really feeling the jet-lag today, but that might be because I hadn't really slept for 36-odd hours before last night. A twelve hour sleep after that should act like a full-system reset as well as anything I can think of.

Ah, home sweet home.

Slippers! How oft my poor abused feet have longed for thy sweet embrace!

Sunday, July 23, 2006


A rabbit came out to greet me on my walk toward the station, beginning my first official day in London.

The first item on the agenda was to spend as much time as possible looking around the British Museum at old metal things. On the way to the museum, however, I happened across a bookseller whose specialty is 18th/19th Century books; this was a bibliophiliac opportunity I could not pass up.

Unfortunately, the lady wouldn't let me take any pictures of the books. I tricked her, though, as I got this parting shot of some Dickens 1st editions through the front window. (I thumbed through Bleak House, which could have been mine for the measly sum of 600 Pounds Sterling...)

Fortunately, holding a few 1st editions was enough to satisfy my craving for bookpaste and I was not driven to purchase anything. My sojourn to the BM was quickly over, and I found my way the early European artifacts.

I don't know that my words can do these objects justice. The Sutton Hoo ship-burial findings are especially nice. I think my favorite item is that little axe in the picture above-a wonderful specimen of a francisca, whence the name frankish and eventually french. The other really nifty item is this helmet that was made into a pot.

After lunch... wait, I think I skipped lunch after that dreadful encounter with the BM gift shop...
I spent some time in the BM's research library for prehistoric Britain, they have wonderful libraries for each section of the museum. I was able to find a little bit more information about a torc I researched last year, and they gave me an e-mail address which will actually get me in contact with a real person.

The Wallace Collection is, alas, a camera-free zone. The website has some pictures of arms and armor, but photographs just can't do these things justice. Thankfully, the Wallace Collection has nothing in the way of A&A-related merchandise in their gift shop (other than a few plastic knights from Germany), or I would now be a penniless beggar playing a kazoo in the London underground stations.

The Globe was, of course, a must-see attraction. Sadly, there are no direct routes on the bus; you'll have to walk a few blocks no matter which way you get there. I had thought the bus I was on would take me directly to the Tate Modern, which is not far from the Globe, but the driver went nowhere near...
I got there eventually, and secured a £5 "standing" ticket. I then waited in line for an hour and a half.
The Globe has aphids.
After standing for a long time inside the foyer of the theatre and sitting on a picnic table near the actual door to the theatre (which is outside) for another forty minutes, I was finally inside Shakespeare's Globe. Waiting all that time was worth it, I got a pretty good spot up against the stage.

We saw The Comedy of Errors, which is a perfectly hilarious story of twinsseparatedd at birth who get confused for each other. This production went out of its way toemphasizee the physical comedy of the story, and used classic Three Stooges/Marx Bros. gags (including orchestrated sound effects offstage) in every scene. Once I got over the initial shock, the whole thing was very effective. The one sound effect I wasn't sure about was the crashing cymbal for the sound of a smashed pot; I think I wrote a journal entry dealing with the subject on my ride back out of the city. I'll see if I can find it.

The show ended after 9:30, so it was 11:30 when I finally made it back to camp. Walking through the forest takes less time than you would think when it's dark...

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