Pano play

Photography homework this week for the boy was to use a freeware manual panorama maker (Hugin) to manually make a panorama.

I like the approach of the photography teacher: they have lessons on hardware and software, then they get to go away and try what they have learned. But not everyone wants to (or can afford to) go down the route of paid-for editing software, and so they are learning how to use freeware like GIMP and… well… Hugin.
They also have critique sessions, where they can – as a group – praise others’ work and suggest ways to improve. It’s a great way to work and they’re a very positive, enthusiastic group.

Hugin is free, and it does what it says it will, but it is cumbersome and time-consuming. Simply as a comparison, we took the same photos, fed them into Lightroom and pressed the magic Panorama button.

Here’s the result:

You can have a look at the full 63MP version here.

This isn’t perfect, but given that it was a last minute dot com effort from a bridge near his school, with the light fading and after he had been hiking all day in a Scouting competition, I think it’s pretty good.

The Hugin version was not as good and took longer to make, but as I mentioned, it was free.

And while we’re on about photography, I found myself waiting outside a coffee shop this morning, waiting for it to open. Wandering into the park opposite, I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera along: the mist was subduing all of the colours aside from the bright yellows and oranges of the American Sweetgums. Fortunately, I had my phone, but this quite nice image could have been really nice.

Always have your camera with you.
That’s something else they should be teaching the kids.

Minor Manifestos (2)

Step forward The Green Party of South Africa – it’s your turn to have your manifesto scrutinised by the 6000 miles… election team.

I came into this one rather sceptical, I’ll be honest.
And, it turns out, I had every good reason for that approach.

Some key policies:

What are we doing about crime? Addressing the cause of it.
Changing the hearts and minds of Men by a massive media campaign.

Well now. Why didn’t anyone else think of putting up lots of posters, sending SMSs and having the odd TV ad spot, just basically asking Men not to do crimes? All this time, we’ve been suffering under the tyrannical jackboots of murder, rape, hijacking and robbery, when we could just have asked Men nicely not to do naughty things and it would all have been solved. That’ll work. Said no-one ever.

But that’s not all: the hearts and minds of Men will be easier to change because:

Not eating battery farmed meat will reduce the stress and aggression chemicals regularly eaten inside the meat from battery animals who have lived in fear and stress all their lives.

mmmkay.

And education? What about that?

Making it relevant, by televisions by the best teachers with field trips. Teaching pupils how to teach themselves.

This doesn’t even make sense. The words are all ok, but I think it kind of falls apart in the way that you’ve put them together. And getting kids to teach themselves? Isn’t that what teachers do?

And then could we have some misplaced business science, combined some with age-old, oft-debunked conspiracy theories, please?

TRANSPARENCY IN THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY. Cancer cures already exist, but are withheld from us because they don’t involve chemicals which can be sold at the huge profits the pharmaceutical industry is used to.
Animal research is huge business. It is often far more profitable to be looking for cures than to find them – particularly if the cures turn out to be relatively cheap or naturally available.

Seems legit. Also: aliens, right?

AN END TO BATTERY FARMING: Antibiotics are routinely fed to the animals to prevent them getting sick from living in such crowded conditions. This is creating a new era of super viruses and diseases in humans that are immune to all known antibiotics.

Now, I’m no fan of battery farming, and this starts well, but then goes way off track. I get the idea, sure, but the lack of any sort of accuracy in the second sentence does make me wonder if you actually know what the actual funk you’re going on about. Super viruses, really?

This would also greatly reduce heart attacks – over 50% are related to eating too much animal protein and fat.

I mean, we know this is likely correct, but have you run it past Prof Tim and his concubine?

At present it is possible that most of the food you buy in shops is POISONOUS to your health…

Sweet Jesus. It’s also “possible” that you’ll win the election, but let’s see how that pans out, shall we?

And then… then, these bizarre lines (from the 1990s?). How did this make it in?

To be able to utilise all of our ideas and co-operation when the computer flaw at the turn of the century throws our whole society into chaos, will help our survival . We are pretty certain that all over the world, the mainframes and their sensors scattered throughout the facilities are going to make water, petrol (and through that food), money, sewerage and airline and traffic control not available to us. We need to be ready with all our ideas and co-operation to get through that period as one Nation.

“The computer flaw at the turn of the century”? Is this… was this the Y2K bug that never actually happened?
And yet here they are 20 years on, using a debunked scaremongering theory to try and impose their bizarre thinking on us? There’s enough in those last three lines of their manifesto to keep any sane individual’s X out of the Green Party box.

However, if you want to get in touch with The Green Party of South Africa (NOTE: The website “greensouthafrica.co.za” and “Greens South Africa” on Facebook is not us.), then you can find their address on the website. And yes, it’s in Noordhoek – on the far side of the Lentil Curtain.

Don’t snog your pet – rocket surgery research

We’ve covered the dangers of antibiotic resistance on the the blog many times before.
We’ve covered the dangers of unhygienic pets on the blog many times before.
Now, some rocket surgeons at Glasgow Poly Caledonian University have put the two together with some groundbreaking research:

I hope you are all sitting down, because the advice in this article is pretty shocking stuff, and may make you immediately rethink how intimately you’ve been living your life with your household pet.
I’m talking about near-incredible recommendations like:

Avoid kissing pets on the mouth

Seriously, just avoid kissing pets full stop.

Don’t let them pets lick your mouth or nose

This is basically french-kissing pets. It’s also to be avoided full stop.
And the nose fetish thing? Eww. No.

Pet owners should wash hands after stroking animals, particularly before meals

WHO KNEW?!?!?
WHO?!?!? KNEW?!?!?

Make sure pets eat from their own bowls and don’t use household utensils

I’m going to be a bit sick now.
And this from a guy whose beagle can’t even use a knife and fork anyway.

At least they stopped short of suggesting that you also always use a condom.
(At least, I hope they did: I haven’t read the whole paper yet.)

It really seems like these things shouldn’t need to be said to humans. We’re literally the most intelligent species on earth, and that’s why we really shouldn’t need to be reminded or warned not to snog our canines who were literally chewing on some faeces they found on the pavement just five minutes ago.

It’s also why household pets shouldn’t be allowed into establishments serving or selling food. It’s not about me being mean to your French Bulldog, it’s just about basic common sense and decent hygiene. It’s about your poor choices putting other people’s health at risk.

Honestly, you people disgust me.

Normally, I’d put this sort of thing into the Darwin Awards category: removing oneself from the gene pool through one’s own stupidly reckless behaviour. But that doesn’t work here, because sadly, this might – might – not actually finish you off, but it will lead to the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which – as I mentioned above – might finish other people off.

Now, thanks to this “new” research from Dr Adele Dickson et al., we’re able to actually demonstrate that your disgusting behaviour is bad for the human race in general.

Thus, for the good health of humanity, please stop this sort of stuff immediately. Ugh.

Last Night’s Bolivian Football Round up

Things are certainly hotting up at the top of the high altitude Bolivian Primera Division. With just five games to play, any one of four clubs could still take the title (along with that lucrative Copa Libertadores spot).
Last night’s results were great news for the new top two, with leaders Bolivar and The Strongest both recording victories, while there were shock defeats for Blooming (who had two players, including ‘slightly blurry bad boy’ Katuary Leonardo Urapuca, sent off) and Nacional Potosi, who suffered their first defeat to local rivals Real Potosi since about this time last year.

Four goals for ‘the hitman’ William Ferreira meant that Always Ready leapfrogged Guabira into 8th place in an incredibly one-sided game which had been accurately billed as ‘The Battle For 8th Place”.

All of this means that the top four are now split by just 5 points:

Sport Boys Warnes will be hoping that they can get off the bottom this evening as they face a trip away to Corné Wilstermann.

Bolivar have the easiest run-in of the top four, but it’s The Strongest who will likely decide the title, as they still have to face Nacional Potosi, Blooming and Bolivar, before a last game of the season against Always Ready who are… and will always be… always ready.
The say that to be the best, you have to beat the best. Clearly, for Bolivar to be the best, they have to beat The Strongest.
Or at least get a draw.

It’s looking like a thrilling end to the season, and I cannot wait to see who eventually comes out on top. Watch this space.

Cape Vulture facts blog post

The older child is on a hike around the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve. I’ve never been there but the brochure looks nice. The younger child did an advancement programme with Cubs this morning and so we’ve been working on knots, bird feeders, water filters and conservation stuff all afternoon.

Part of the work was to learn about two endangered species, and she stayed local with African Penguins and Cape Vultures. I knew a bit about each, and was able to supply images to complement her fact sheets.

The Cape Vulture has additional issues with conservation because it’s really not cute or cuddly like a penguin or a nifler. Nor is it bold and iconic like a rhino. The guy above looks like some English thug whose beer you’ve just spilled in a dodgy pub in deepest urban Essex.

This will not end well for the pint, you or the vulture.

Cape vultures are critically endangered, mainly due to… well… humans.

Loss of habitat, electrocution on pylons or collision with cables and unintentional poisoning.

Add in a few wind farms and you might be forgiven for thinking that we’re actually trying to wipe these magnificent birds out. Crazy.

There are moments of good news. Vulpro is an organisation working to try and save the last of the Cape Vultures in South Africa. And they’re doing a reasonable job too, despite the difficult conditions.

Junior presents her findings on the penguins and vultures to her pack on Friday evening, hopefully setting the wheels in motion for some of the next generation to work to preserve our natural heritage.