On sunrises

OK. Let’s talk about #RBOSS.
Fair warning: this could be a long one.

Names below have been redacted because this isn’t meant to be a personal thing, ok? 

I’m a member of several Facebook groups connected with and concerning the Isle of Man. I do this because I enjoy keeping up to date with the news from over there and because I will never get tired of looking at pictures of what is a very beautiful place. Some of the news and photos are lovely, some are less good, but they all go some way to portraying the uniqueness of Manx island life.

Well, mostly.

See, there are one or two people on the groups that evidently don’t feel their photography is good enough, or that their subject is simply not beautiful enough to share. Much of the time, I’d disagree: as with Cape Town (and as I have stated many times on this blog), everything you need to make a beautiful image is right there in front of your lens – you’re already a long way up that scale. The skill then comes in making something beautiful into something exceptional, but there are only a few photographers that can do that. Don’t knock yourself because you can’t do it, just as you shouldn’t knock yourself for not being able to do a sub-10 second 100m.

Continuing with my crap analogy, if you want to go 100m in 10 seconds (or less), you can: just cheat. Get on a bike or jump in a car. Of course, such devious methods are going to be easily spotted by athletics fans and fellow athletes, so you won’t get away with it, but still – technically – you did 100m in 9.5 seconds. Well done, you.

You can cheat at the photos too. Software that can remove people and distractions from your images, bring out the highlights on that dark wall against the bright sky or simply add a bit of “pop” to your photo, is readily available and look, there’s nothing wrong with using it to make what your camera saw look a bit more like what you saw.

Or what you wish you’d seen.

In addition, technically there are no rules here. What you like might not be what I like and vice versa. I hate over-edited photos; you might love them. But please, just be honest and tell the world that you’ve had a bit of a fiddle with Snapseed or Lightroom. Own your edits. You wouldn’t expect to get away with riding a 1000cc Honda CBR down the Olympic sprint track and still take away the gold medal.
Don’t take us for fools.

See, the thing is that I have contacts on the Isle of Man – specifically on the bit that you’re taking sunrise photos – and we can see that your photos have been embellished. A lot. We’ve taken to calling it the Ramsey Bay Over Saturation Society: #RBOSS

Here’s a photo from last Thursday’s sunrise there:

And here’s what you did with it:

Wow. #RBOSS much?

Both posted on Facebook, the top one got 19 likes, and the #RBOSS one 613.

But as I say, some people like edited photos more. And that bottom one clearly is edited, isn’t it?

Isn’t it?


So what’s going on then?

How strange that you’ve never seen colours like this before. It must be the UV filter our protagonist is using. So, what do UV filters do to bright, colourful images like sunrises and sunsets, then?

The extra flat piece of glass–which is often not coated–will cut the saturation (richness of colors) and contrast of your sunset photos.


One swallow doth not an over-saturated summer make though, so let’s see some more, shall we?

634 Likes. #RBOSS hitting the big time, baby.

“As shot”?


Mate, there were bits of Hiroshima just after the bomb went off that were less blown up than this.

One more, “for the lolz”?

#RBOSS on tour (just up the road a bit, anyway).
Glorious. And horribly over-saturated. But wait:

Can we just have a look around the outline of the cottage here? That telltale white fuzzy glow that comes when you… er… add a filter to your photos. Here’s one of some planes flying over our back garden that I hectically #RBOSSed just now to demonstrate:

Look at that subtle white fuzzy glow around the back plane, especially.
Recognise it?

So what is that weird smell of burning underwear?


I have questions. Here they are in no particular order.

Why would you #RBOSS your images?
To be fair, this question raises more questions than answers.
Do you, as I suggested above, not think that what you caught with your camera is spectacular enough? If not, why not? And why does it matter? Is this all about the instant gratification and self validation of getting Facebook Likes? It does seem that way.
That very first (unadulterated) image in this post is pretty, but it’s not going to get (and indeed it didn’t get) 600+ positive reactions. I’m fairly sure that the guy who took it isn’t very bothered about that. Mr #RBOSS though – well, evidently he couldn’t bear to post something so horribly pale peach, so washed-out, so drab, so ACTUALLY REAL.

And now if you’re going to do it, why lie about it?
I’m no world expert in the field of photography, but it’s clear to me (and lots of other people) that these images (and many, many more like them) have been altered. And yet, repeatedly, when asked directly, he denies it.

There’s a word for that behaviour.

The fact is that many people on that group are decent, honest individuals who are quite happy to believe that what is on those images is an accurate representation of what was going on in the sky that morning (or evening). And why would they not? After all, the guy who took the photo, the one who stood and gazed in wonder at the STUNNING ORANGE mildly pink sky has just said that that’s what came out of the camera.
I think it’s sad that they are being deceived this way. And it’s wholly unnecessary.

Other than those last two sentences, there’s no real conclusion to this post. I think I speak for many individuals when I say that it just needed putting out there. What people choose to do about it (spoiler: probably nothing) is up to them. It would be nice if it stopped, but it would be nice if people were just better generally and that’s not going to happen either. In the meantime, repeatedly taking the piss seems to probably be the best way to deal with it.


Oh, and for the record:

Reproduction [of screenshots of public websites] for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research is not copyright infringement.

So we good? We good. Thought so.

Have a special day.


The Radioactive Boy Scout revisited

Soon after I published the tale of the Radioactive Boy Scout, I got an email from a learned friend suggesting that I might actually be reporting a non-scientist’s interpretation. One of the lines therein was:

 I think you might be reporting a non-scientist’s interpretation


I didn’t argue, because actually, that might well have been the case. But then a lot of my readers are non-scientists, so maybe that was ok.
Yes, it was a story about science, but it was also a story about the human spirit, perseverance, adventure, and the triumph of 1990s American high school education. A tale of a Boy Scout gone rogue (or not, depending on your viewpoint of exactly what Boy Scouts are supposed to be like).

And so I went out and I found a piece that included a bit more science, but also a lot more of the human side of things. A more detailed account of the whole story, containing paragraphs like (but not limited to):

David still had to isolate the thorium-232 from the ash. Fortunately, he remembered reading in one of his dad’s chemistry books that lithium is prone to binding with oxygen—meaning, in this context, that it would rob thorium dioxide of its oxygen content and leave a cleaner form of thorium. David purchased $1,000 worth of lithium batteries and extracted the element by cutting the batteries in half with a pair of wire cutters. He placed the lithium and thorium dioxide together in a ball of aluminum foil and heated the ball with a Bunsen burner. Eureka! David’s method purified thorium to at least 9,000 times the level found in nature and 170 times the level that requires NRC licensing.

It’s a much better account of things from start to finish, and while it does corroborate much of that first version; the extra words allowing for more concise descriptions throughout.
As I mentioned, there’s clearly more science in there too. Which is great.

Long story short then, should make everyone much happier.
Especially the scientists.

French railway workers strike: an update

‘Update’, ‘alternative opinion’, ‘unfeeling porcine capitalist viewpoint’… whatever.

You choose.

I wrote the other day about the public sector strikes that are sweeping France at the moment and how it might affect our upcoming trip there. In doing so, I wasn’t (intentionally) belittling or trivialising the issues at hand. I recognise that the striking individuals feel that they have grievances and they’re exercising their legal right to strike. That’s why I touched on the reasons why they are striking instead of just being irritated that they might mess up (a bit of) our holiday.

It’s good to be informed.

At the same time, I’m pretty much powerless to assist them in their crusade, so I am actually irritated that they might mess up (a bit of) our holiday. Fair play to me too then.

And then, I received an email with a link to this article on the strike:

Now, for the record, je ne sais pas what the general political standpoint or reputation of news site thelocal.fr is, although their coverage of Asian Giant Hammerhead Worms invading French gardens is quite superb.

That’s for another time though, ok?

Anyway, the first thing I noticed when I logged on was this headline:

Oh. Great.

Anyway, thelocal.fr seems to feel that the French railway workers – les cheminots – actually have a pretty good working life:

President Emmanuel Macron’s government unveiled plans to push through reforms of France’s mammoth rail system.
But the plans have not gone down well with rail unions who are threatening all-out war against the government, or in other words major strikes.

What has really angered them is the announcement that new recruits will no longer benefit from a special employment status of rail workers, which is fabled for the perks it offers.

What follows is a list of those perks, which include (but are not limited to) early retirement, guaranteed employment (no retrenchments), automatic career advancement, free rail tickets for family members, excellent pension benefits, above average wages, plenty of annual leave and subsidised housing.

Yes, it does seem very good. It seems very nice.
It does seem like they enjoy some sort of special status.

There are a number of thoughts that stem from this, none of which I’ve suitably ruminated over and I’m about to disappear back into the lab, so I’m just listing them here.

Firstly: why should the cheminots enjoy such special employment status? There are a lot of other jobs out there that are arguably more important (TB scientist, for example), more worthy (er… TB scientist again) and demand better qualifications to enter (cough… TB scientist) (not that sort of cough, I hasten to add) than working on the railways, but which have far less favourable working conditions.

Secondly: but then, shouldn’t we (humankind in general) be working towards having these sort of special conditions as standard for workers, rather than constantly dragging standards down to the lowest possible levels? I recognise that this is a pipe dream, but still, it’s surely not a bad way to start any process like this.

Thirdly: of course, on the flip side of this is that if there are going to have to be cuts across the public sector, then surely you cut from the ones that have the most, first. That does seem to be the cheminots.

And fourthly: the unions represent the interests of their members. If they simply stood back and allowed these cuts to pass with no objection, then they wouldn’t be doing their jobs. You can argue the validity of their claims and efficacy of their methods, but as unions, protesting against this kind of thing is basically what they’re there for.

And finally: I would just be much happier if this was all sorted before we go over there. (Spoiler: it’s not going to be)

The compliments keep on coming…

Incoming comment from “kevin”. It actually incame a few weeks ago, but I’ve been otherwise engaged.

It’s on this post from last October, in which I detailed the latest work on the iconic sculpture at the Southernmost Point of Africa. The sculpture is now finished, by the way, and it looks great.

Indeed, with lines like:

A few teaser progress images were released this week, and I think it looks fantastic.


It’s very bold, very strong, very… Iconic.
A really cool and important addition to the area.

I thought that I’d been pretty positive about a piece of industrial-scale artwork that was still a couple of months away from being completed.

Not according to “kevin” though, who hit back just four months later with this stinging retort to my thoughts:

Insulting article for such an amazing icon of space and geography.

Before going all ad hominem and telling the world everything about me:

The author is obviously an under educated liberal art fart who knows nothing of geography, space, time, or history.

Broad strokes there, kev. That’s assuming quite a gap in my general knowledge from a few complimentary words about a building site, mate.

Let’s break it all down, shall we?

Do I consider myself “under educated”? Well, I’m of the opinion that one can (and should) always improve one’s knowledge, wherever possible. But I’ve learned a lot in my time – both formally and informally. I’ve got plenty of qualifications from various educational establishments, and I also know not to pee into the wind. And I think that’s both sectors pretty much covered. I therefore refute his poorly hyphenated claim.

Am I liberal? Well, I actually wasn’t sure and so I did a quiz online: it turns out that I am “53% liberal”. Which apparently makes me pretty balanced in my political outlook and therefore very capable of annoying everyone, but not really “a liberal” in the same way that I’m not really “a conservative”, either.

Like the English cricket team often finds itself, kevin is 0/3 at the moment, so might he redeem himself with his next assertion? Could I be I an “art fart”?
I had to go to Urban Dictionary dot com to find out what kevin meant by this one:

Absolutely none of this very specific definition accurately describes me. I have no idea what he was thinking.

And as for my knowing “nothing of geography, space, time, or history”, I mean, where do I even begin? How can you not have knowledge of time? Does kevin mean I’m often late for things? I’m not. I’m very punctual. But anyway, how would he know? Or is he perhaps suggesting that I don’t know how long a minute is? It’s 60 seconds, kevin. It’s not rocket surgery, dude.
I don’t fully understand what it is that he’s trying to say here.
Also, I’m not sure what this has to do with liking or not liking a half-finished sculpture.

Next up, I’m actually quite into my geography. I know it’s only really bordering on science, but I like to know about the world around me. My dad was/is a geographer, and so I think I’ve picked up a lot of his knowledge over the years (yes, I know what a year is, thank you). Also, I’m not sure what this has to do with liking or not liking a half-finished sculpture.

History. Right, I’m not sure what this has to do with liking or not liking a half-finished sculpture, but fair enough: I’m not a huge fan of history. You’ve got me banged to rights and no mistake, guv. Although, of course,  not being a fan is rather different from having knowledge about it. I mean, I can tell you when the Magna Carta was signed and by whom, and I know the date of the Battle of Blood River. Does one need to have a good working knowledge of history to look at a building site and try to gauge whether what is being built will be “a good thing” once it’s completed? I don’t think it helps much, no,

Space. I love space. It’s actually one of the reasons that I love going to to Cape Agulhas. Cape Town is so very crowded. It’s nice to have more three-dimensional extent in which objects and events have relative position and direction around you. But I’m really not sure what this has to do with liking or not liking a half-finished sculpture, because it’s sometime nice to share a piece of artwork with other people.

Or maybe he means specifically the stars and planets and astronomy and that? In which case I really have no idea what this has to do with liking or not liking a half-finished sculpture.

Mmm. Bit harsh. Bit nasty. Wholly incorrect.

For someone who said my use of the word “Iconic” was “insulting”, pretty ironic capitalisation of “ICON” there, kev,

I think what I’m taking away from this comment is that kevin is a bit of an arse I need to be clearer in my appreciation when documenting things on the blog. More unrestrained, more gushing, more obvious; because clearly using adjectives like “bold”, “strong”, “iconic”, “fantastic” and “important” just aren’t making my feelings transparent enough when it comes to artwork that is ±9 weeks away from being finished.

Of course, maybe it’s not just clarity around my positivity that’s lacking, and I’d like to address that immediately by telling kevin right here, right now, that I think his comment was utter crap and a complete waste of time, effort, electricity and pixels. It was attempted punditry at its absolute worst: a seemingly deliberate misreading of my documented thoughts followed a tacky attempt at a personal insult, thinly veiled in presumptive bullshit, pretentiousness and unnecessary idolisation of a hundred square metres of concrete.
He should be ashamed to put his name and email address (available upon demand) to those 107 words.

I like this sculpture a lot. Really, I do. As I wrote back on October 8th 2017, I even thought the building site looked great.

kevin though? kevin can voetsek.

And so to 2017

Everyone does these “here’s what I’m going to do next year” posts and it’s a bandwagon I’m more than happy to jump upon.

But first, as 2016 draws to a close, I’d like to say thank you to those readers who have stuck with this blog through thin and thinner this year. You loyal, gullible fools, you. Also thanks to The Guru, without whose invaluable assistance, this blog a) would not look as good as it does, and b) would not actually look like anything at all. And then also to Mrs 6000, who pretends to read this crap every day just to keep me happy. Although in all fairness, I doubt that she’ll have actually got far enough down the post to have seen this.

So, what plans for 2017?

Well, more photography is a good bet. This holiday season has been disappointing in that regard, so I’ve got a bit of catching up to do.

And more health stuff: I got lazy in the second half of this year, and that’s something you can’t afford to do at my *ahem* ‘advanced’ age. It’s apparently also harder to come back from, so I’ve got my work cut out. Rest assured that you’re not going to be seeing exercise programmes and healthy eating recipes on here though. Unless I find a really nice salad that you simply CANNOT miss out on or something. I think we can agree that that would warrant a blog post or two.

Next up: better communication with friends and family that don’t read 6000 miles… Because not everyone does Internet, and a letter costs nothing.  Well… almost nothing. (Actually, how much is a letter these days?) Again, readers on here will not be troubled by this, I thought I’d just tell you that it will be happening.

And then the drone thing. It’s ordered, it’s paid for, it’s due any day now. And I think it might be mentioned once or twice on here over the next twelve months.

2016 has been fun, and personally speaking, much better than both 2015 and 2014. Thus, 2017 surely promises even more (n=1). Come join me for the ride.

Happy New Year.