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