Saturday, April 26, 2008

Antigua Take Two

Flickr now accepts video footage. One can upload video files up to 150MB in size, however the player will only play the first 90 seconds of the clip if it exceeds that length. One can also later re-download the original file, making it an excellent archive if you can chop your library up into 150MB chunks. Only pro users can do this, but the bandwidth and storage is unlimited. Very cool.

Here's a brief video from a trip to Antigua in January. I took the footage with my Canon G9 using a "magic filter" at 1024x768 15fps ... I cut the footage using Windows Movie Maker because for some reason, Adobe Premiere Pro wouldn't import about 1/3 of my clips. I rendered the output in 720p WMV prior to uploading to Flickr. I don't have a 100% settled video production workflow ... need to think about it some more.

The soundtrack is an original composition written, played and recorded by me ... it is called "A/G Jam" and was my first ever digital recording.


Friday, April 18, 2008

New Underwater Photography Rig

Ikelite w YS110 and YS27
So ... I upgraded my underwater photography rig. I'll try it underwater in June when my wife and I go to the Rosewood Mayakoba for a few days to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

I've got to give a big shout out to Jack Connick who helped me put together the arm system. Here's a link to his online shop:

The new setup is a significant upgrade and quite a big bigger. The case is solid and has a changeable front port that can accomodate a wide angle adadpter - as seen in the picture. This type of wide perspective is very useful underwater as it allows you to get closer and significantly cut down the water between yourself and the subject - the key to clear, colorful underwater photographs.

I also bought a new, more powerful strobe - a Sea & Sea YS-110 - to be my primary strobe. The new housing allows a direct electronic connection between the camera's hotshoe and the strobe via a sync cord. This is much more reliable than the optical system I previously employed. My old primary - the YS-27DX is now the fill and will be fired as an optical slave.

I can't wait to use it ... In June I'll be going diving both on the ocean reefs near Playa Aventuras as well as in some fresh water caverns called cenotes nearby.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dancing Bears

Here's a fun little video I cut together. I saw the same footage set to some other music while surfing the internet the other day ... and it got me thinking. So I looked around on the internet and found the raw footage on the USGS website. Couldn't resist ... they ARE dancing bears ...

The soundtrack is "The Music Never Stopped" from The Grateful Dead live at Red Rocks in Colorado on July 7th, 1978.


Thanks to J.Stetz and A.Macleod of the Northern Divide Bear Project at the USGS' Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center Glacier National Park, MT for the video footage of the bears doing their thing.

"USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center has posted images recorded with remote cameras of grizzly bears and black bears in Glacier National Park. The video and photographs are part of a study conducted by USGS Research Biologist Kate Kendall to determine the size and distribution of bear populations in northwestern Montana. Bears are identified and counted through genetic analysis of hair samples collected from barbed wire hair traps and bear rub trees. Remote photography is used to learn more about bears use of naturally-occurring bear rubs and how they respond to baited hair traps. Information from this work will be used to improve sampling methods and understand bear behavior."

My friend and former colleague Dan McKinley (who works for etsy) requested I say something about the "credit crisis" ... Allow me to do so now while I wait for blogger to chew on my video footage.

Over the last 15-20 years, there has been a seismic shift in the way private enterprise is financed in the United States and to a lesser extent the rest of the world. In the past, commercial depository banks sat at the center of the commercial business cycle. They directly provided capital to industry for investment and working capital and provided traditional banking and other services like payroll and employee banking. They were also highly regulated after the crash of '29 and numerous bank failures in the Great Depression prompted a whole slew of federal and state regulations.

The Glass Steagall Act of 1933 had separated commercial banking (taking deposits and making loans) and investment banking (creating, selling and trading securities) into two different businesses as it was perceived that conflicts of interest made such combinations anti-competitive.

In 1999, Glass Steagall was repealed. It had already been substantially weakened in 1990 when the Federal Reserve and other regulators re-interpreted portions of the act to allow commercial banks to get involved in investment banking while investment banks got into lending and other banking activities.

By the dawn of the 21st century, banks were old-fashioned wholesale distributors and warehousers of cash. "Investors" supplied the world with its needed capital through securitized structured products that literally allowed cash to move around the globe ... the sovereign surplus of Abu Dhabi could extend credit to a young couple in Des Moines looking to buy their first home. Global savers (i.e. the rest of the world and US pension funds) funnelled cash almost directly to borrowers (i.e. the US Consumer, Corporate America & the US Federal Goverment).

We went on a massive borrowing binge. We created a huge amount of debt, much of which is sitting on the balance sheets of the biggest financial institutions in the world that sit at the nexis of the "new" financial order. Some of this stuff is incredibly hard to value ... all we know is that it isn't worth what everyone thought it was worth. We know that the Federal Reserve has been effectively buying many of these hard to value assets by allowing investment houses to use them as collateral for loans. We know Bear Stearns asserted strongly that their net worth was $80/share just two days before being forced to accept $2 and then later getting that up to $10.

What comes next? I hope we are through with bad and unexpected news. I think we are stretched to the max across the board. We have very little fiscal flexibility in the US thanks to the double whammy of large tax cuts and a massive war effort. While I remain extremely optimistic about the long-term prospects of the US economy, I think we are in for good long rough patch while the financial system works out the excesses of the past. I'm hopeful that the current difficult environment does not extend past 2008, but that's just hope.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Live at the Beacon Theater

Bob Weir and Ratdog were down the street at the Beacon Theater this week so I figured I'd embed a Grateful Dead show from 1976 at the same.