Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Terror Threat Levels...

Reader Doug S. sends this along.  It claims to be written by John Cleese, but I have not been able to confirm that.  Not that it really matters!

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Libya and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards." They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France 's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."

The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose."

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels .

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be alright, Mate." Two more escalation levels remain: "Crikey! I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!" and "The barbie is canceled." So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.


Ordinarily I wouldn't think of a wide-angle lens as being appropriate for taking photos of hummingbirds – instead, my instinct would be to go for the telephoto.  But the combination of a couple of things changes the equation.  First, a multi-megapixel sensor (12mp, in this case) means that your subject can be a relatively small part of the photo and still be at an acceptable resolution.  Second, when the hummingbirds just don't care that you're 4 inches away, the wide angle lens suddenly is much less of a problem.

There's another slightly subtle benefit of a wide angle lens.  It's very obvious if you have two photos of the same subject side-by-side, one taken with a wide angle lens and the other with a telephoto lens.  The wide angle photo looks more “natural”, more “three dimensional”, while the telephoto picture looks “flat”.  The photo above was taken at a distance of 6 inches, with a wide angle lens.  It's a good approximation of what you'd see if you were out there eyeball-to-eyeball with our little hummer lady. 

Now if the orioles would only let me get this close!

Realtime Satellite Data on Google Earth...

When I was a kid in the '60s, trying to find the position of a satellite meant hours of detective work in the library, and only for those few satellites whose ephemeri (positions) were made publicly available.  Here's a web page that gives you a Google Earth view with the positions of thousands of satellites layered upon it, updated every 30 seconds.  At right is what it looked like a few minutes ago in my neck of the woods.  Awesome!

Robotic Seagull...

The flight is surprisingly natural looking.  I want one!