I like strange murals.

portsmouth, nh

waltham, ma

November 5, 2014 November 5, 2014 observations by Scott No Comments

Either Amazon.com is monitoring my news reading habits, or it’s just succumbing to paranoia. Here is what it recommends I buy today:

bunny suits

October 17, 2014 October 17, 2014 observations by Scott No Comments

On the way to work yesterday, I was passed by a massive (and very new-looking) Cambridge Police armored vehicle.

Aside from obvious questions about whether it needs to exist at all, or whether it makes sense to drive it around in public so soon after the Ferguson situation, I have one suggestion for the city of Cambridge: change the paint job! The vehicle is painted dark green (forest camouflage?) and sports the same black-and-gray American flag insignias and understated lettering that special forces soldiers wear.

The whole thing looks extremely military–not police.

Why not paint the vehicle in bright, friendly police colors? It wouldn’t be any less effective at, say, driving into an armed hostage crisis. And it would send a strong message to the police that it’s not OK for neighborhood officers to play combat dress-up games.

September 27, 2014 September 27, 2014 observations by Scott No Comments

Last year, the Kennedy Space Center opened their new permanent exhibit featuring the Space Shuttle Atlantis. A colleague and I happened to be in town on business this week, so we made a hasty appearance.1

Space Shuttle Atlantis

I had been lucky to see an orbiter in person a couple of times before, including the dummy orbiter (Enterprise) once displayed at the Udvar-Hazy Center. None of those opportunities brought me as close as the new KSC exhibit, with its levels of catwalks just barely beyond touching distance.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

The most startling thing about seeing an orbiter up close is that you can see how handmade it is. It’s not at all like a modern jetliner, with its polished, painted surfaces, flush rivets, and machined perfection. Its surfaces are rough and its lines are ungainly. It has been discolored, in this case, by the effects of 126 million miles of space travel. With fasteners, stitching, and glue exposed everywhere, you can see how it was assembled. It looks like it could have been built in your backyard. Portions of the fuselage unprotected by tiles are covered with white fabric quilts. There is a fuzzy fabric gasket to seal the open cargo bay doors. You can even see the overspray from when “Atlantis” was painted on the side of the cockpit, as if someone casually did the task with a stencil and a can of Krylon.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

It’s still strange to see the Space Shuttle, an icon of scientific progress from my school days, in full retirement. At my last visit to the space center in 2011 (for the penultimate shuttle launch) the program’s end was lingering ominously over the complex–but now it’s here. Most visitors consume the optimistic NASA PR–that is is only the beginning of a new chapter. The truth is a little more harsh. The future is in the hands of private companies, but the romance is gone.

  1. Actually, we were hoping to catch a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch, which was scheduled perilously close to the time of my departing flight. Despite the miraculous clearing of the weather, the launch was scrubbed at the last minute due to a technical issue. 

June 22, 2014 June 22, 2014 observations by Scott No Comments

Mcmaster screenshot highlighted

There’s a lot more happening behind the scenes at McMaster-Carr than they let on. For example: this, in which I (signed in with my personal account) search for an item and get discreetly notified that my employer also bought some recently. How do they know where I work? I never configured such a thing. Their spartan and deceptively simple interface reveals no such options.

Granted, it wouldn’t be hard to figure out. But I don’t know of any other online shopping site that behaves this way. Pretty interesting.

May 13, 2014 May 20, 2014 observations by Scott 1 Comment

Average length of a Super Bowl broadcast: 215 minutes (3:35). [source]

Average duration of gameplay (time ball is in play) in an NFL game: 11 minutes. [source]

Footage of players “standing around” in an NFL broadcast: 67 minutes. [Ibid.]

I rest my case.

February 4, 2013 February 5, 2013 observations by Scott No Comments

Several folks were kind enough to send us digital copies of the photos they took at our wedding. It’s fun to experience the occasion through so many other points of view, and it helps fill in the gaps that we would have otherwise missed.

Note to anyone doing this in the future: consider asking all your guests to take a photo of one clock! After importing all the images into Lightroom, it became clear that nobody is particularly vigilant about setting the time and date on their cameras. Computing an accurate time offset for each photographer would be a helpful strategy for organizing everything on a single timeline.

Of course, as a film shooter, I’m lucky if I can remember the dates of my own photos with any accuracy.

November 27, 2012 November 27, 2012 observations by Scott No Comments

I realized today that my film scanner (a Nikon Coolscan 9000, for those of you who care) was discontinued a few months ago. It looks like Nikon is getting out of the scanning business. A quick check of eBay confirms that my machine is now worth roughly twice what I paid for it a few years ago. While many manufacturers have decided that the film business isn’t viable, it also refuses to die. Kodak made big waves in the last year with the surprise introduction of two new pro-grade color films for still photography. Apparently they’re doing quite well.

The resale value of digital cameras is not that different from automobiles. You pay a massive premium to be the first owner, after which it loses value rapidly. If you wait more than 10 or 15 years, you’ll probably have to pay someone to take it off your hands.

Film equipment is different. I bought my Leica used in 2006, and due to stable supply its resale prices have more or less tracked inflation. Assuming I sold it today (not happening!), that would amount to a free 5-year rental. Not bad. Owning well-loved but discontinued equipment like the Coolscan is starting to look like an investment.

April 24, 2011 April 24, 2011 observations by Scott No Comments