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Overwhelmed

Airline pilots were once the heroes of the skies. Today, in the quest for safety, airplanes are meant to largely fly themselves. Which is why the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447, which killed 228 people, remains so perplexing and significant. William Langewiesche explores how a series of small errors turned a state-of-the-art cockpit into a death trap.

On the last day of May in 2009, as night enveloped the airport in Rio de Janeiro, the 216 passengers waiting to board a flight to Paris could not have suspected that they would never see daylight again, or that many would sit strapped to their seats for another two years before being found dead in the darkness, 13,000 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. But that is what happened. Air France Flight 447 carried a crew of nine flight attendants and three pilots—their numbers augmented because of duty-time limitations on a 5,700-mile trip that was expected to last nearly 11 hours. These were highly trained people, flying an immaculate wide-bodied Airbus A330 for one of the premier airlines of the world, an iconic company of which all of France is proud. Even today—with the flight recorders recovered from the sea floor, French technical reports in hand, and exhaustive inquests under way in French courts—it remains almost unimaginable that the airplane crashed. A small glitch took Flight 447 down, a brief loss of airspeed indications—the merest blip of an information problem during steady straight-and-level flight. It seems absurd, but the pilots were overwhelmed.

Amazing long read of what went wrong on that fatal flight.

Why the Trolls Will Always Win

Essay from Kathy Sierra

This month is the 10-year anniversary of my first online threat. I thought it was a one-off, then. Just one angry guy. And it wasn’t really THAT bad. But looking back, it was the canary in the coal mine… the first hint that if I kept on this path, it would not end well. And what was that path? We’ll get to that in a minute.

Later I learned that the first threat had nothing to do with what I actually made or said in my books, blog posts, articles, and conference presentations. The real problem — as my first harasser described — was that others were beginning to pay attention to me. He wrote as if mere exposure to my work was harming his world.

But here’s the key: it turned out he wasn’t outraged about my work. His rage was because, in his mind, my work didn’t deserve the attention. Spoiler alert: “deserve” and “attention” are at the heart.

A year later, I wrote a light-hearted article about “haters” (the quotes matter) and something I called The Koolaid Point. It wasn’t about harassment, abuse, or threats against people but about the kind of brand “trolls” you find in, say, Apple discussion forums. My wildly non-scientific theory was this: the most vocal trolling and “hate” for a brand kicks in HARD once a critical mass of brand fans/users are thought to have “drunk the Koolaid”. In other words, the hate wasn’t so much about the product/brand but that other people were falling for it.

I was delighted, a few weeks’ later, to see my little “Koolaid Point” in Wired’s Jargon Watch column.

The me of 2005 had no idea what was coming.

Less than two years later, I’d learn that my festive take on harmless brand trolling also applied to people. And it wasn’t festive. Or harmless. Especially for women.

I now believe the most dangerous time for a woman with online visibility is the point at which others are seen to be listening, “following”, “liking”, “favoriting”, retweeting. In other words, the point at which her readers have (in the troll’s mind) “drunk the Koolaid”. Apparently, that just can’t be allowed.

From the hater’s POV, you (the Koolaid server) do not “deserve” that attention. You are “stealing” an audience. From their angry, frustrated point of view, the idea that others listen to you is insanity. From their emotion-fueled view you don’t have readers you have cult followers. That just can’t be allowed.

You must be stopped. And if they cannot stop you, they can at least ruin your quality of life. A standard goal, in troll culture, I soon learned, is to cause “personal ruin”. They aren’t all trolls, though. Some of those who seek to stop and/or ruin you are misguided/misinformed but well-intended. They actually believe in a cause, and they believe you (or rather the Koolaid you’re serving) threatens that cause.

But the Koolaid-Point-driven attacks are usually started by (speculating, educated guess here, not an actual psychologist, etc) sociopaths. They’re doing it out of pure malice, “for the lulz.” And those doing it for the lulz are masters at manipulating public perception. Master trolls can build an online army out of the well-intended, by appealing to The Cause (more on that later). The very best/worst trolls can even make the non-sociopaths believe “for the lulz” is itself a noble cause.

But I actually got off easy, then. Most of the master trolls weren’t active on Twitter in 2007. Today, they, along with their friends, fans, followers, and a zoo of anonymous sock puppet accounts are. The time from troll-has-an-idea to troll-mobilizes-brutal-assault has shrunk from weeks to minutes. Twitter, for all its good, is a hate amplifier. Twitter boosts signal power with head-snapping speed and strength. Today, Twitter (and this isn’t a complaint about Twitter, it’s about what Twitter enables) is the troll’s best weapon for attacking you. And by “you”, I mean “you the server of Koolaid.” You who must be stopped.

It begins with simple threats. You know, rape, dismemberment, the usual. It’s a good place to start, those threats, because you might simply vanish once those threats include your family. Mission accomplished. But today, many women online — you women who are far braver than I am — you stick around. And now, since you stuck around through the first wave of threats, you are now a much BIGGER problem. Because the Worst Possible Thing has happened: as a result of those attacks, you are NOW serving Victim-Flavored Koolaid.

Our Family Adventure with the 2014 Ford Escape

It’s been a long summer but one of the highlights was spending some time with the 2014 Ford Escape.  I reviewed in 2013 and the SUV is essentially the same.  Instead of just driving it around Saskatoon (done that before), I decided to take it on the road.  This is after all where a crossover is supposed to come in useful isn’t it (that and as a hockey kid taxi).  So the four of us got up really early one Sunday and took a long one day drive from Saskatoon to Drumheller and back.   It’s around 1000km in a day if you are keeping track.  At the end of the trip we were going to either love or hate the 2014 Ford Escape.

2014 Ford Escape Titanium Edition

We packed relatively light.  Even though it was a brand new vehicle we tossed our emergency kit in the back, three camera bags, a cooler, and some extra jackets in case the weather forecast was horribly wrong.  That took up about 5% of the rear cargo space.

After hitting Rosetown for breakfast where we met this old-timer, we made a brief stop at Alsask to show the kids the old NORAD radar dome  

Alsask Radar Dome

Alsask Radar Dome

Ford Escape meets giant dinosaur in Drumheller

We got into Drumheller at about noon where the Ford Escape met this guy.   I know I signed something that stopped people from smoking in the Ford Escape, I couldn’t remember if I was covered by stampeding dinosaurs.  So I sent Mark and Oliver up to deal with the T-Rex.

Mark and Oliver with the T-Rex

After an epic struggle, they subdued the beat and saved the Escape.

I have driven from Saskatoon to Calgary many times and each time (generally at Hanna), I would get out and feel the pain in my back after four long hours of driving.  This time it was completely different and here is why  With the Escape, there was none of that.  The air conditioner kept the kids cool while the heated seats kept Wendy and I feeling a lot more comfortable.  If only they had a back massage feature.

After lunch we checked the GPS for directions to the Atlas Coal Mine.  It couldn’t find it.  It found every other little attraction in Drumheller but missed this one.  Obviously Ford downloads these attractions from a database but I was surprised a National Historic Site was not on it.  Ironically enough Siri with it’s much despised Apple Maps found us a way and we arrived after our failed conversation with Ford Sync.  Apple 1 – Ford Sync 0.

Arriving at Atlas Coal Mine

Once at the Atlas Coal Mine, I discovered the true value of the Ford Escape.  We explored an abandoned wooden bridge (which was home to rattlesnakes) and was almost completely rotten.

Wooden Bridge at Atlas Coal Mine

Explored the mine site

Rusty and abandoned trucks

Wendy stumbled onto a model shoot

Photo shoot at Atlas Coal Mine

 

We took a mine tour

Oliver chimping on his camera

Mark and Oliver at the Atlas Coal Mine

Climbed the “walk from hell” (this is important)

Atlas Coal Mine

Where I tore my right quad and put myself in incredible pain (not all Ford reviews have happy endings).  After heading back down the “walk from hell” (it’s what the miners called it), I limped back to the waiting Ford Escape while the family kept exploring (thanks guys!)

Guide at the Atlas Coal Mine

The pain was incredible, my leg was almost useless and I limped back to the vehicle in incredible pain.  I got in and actually had to lift my leg inside, turned on the Escape, turned on the a/c and turned on the heated seat.  It didn’t take away the pain but facing a five hour trip back to Saskatoon and realizing how much better it made my leg feel, it was amazing. (and made me add a tensor bandage and A535 to my emergency kit) when I got back into Drumheller.

I felt good enough to limp out and explore the Star Mine Suspension Bridge in Rosedale.  While I never recommend walking on a moving suspension bridge with a torn quad, the heat kept it from getting really bad.

Star Mine Suspension Bridge

18 hours after, one rattlesnake sighting, two provinces, one radar dome, one torn quad, 1000 kms, three McDonald’s and one A&W run later, we rolled back into Saskatoon.  Instead of whining and complaining despite being well past their bedtimes, the boys hopped out the car and Oliver said that was fun.  He then hugged the Ford Escape goodnight.  Yeah you read that right, after an 18 hour day, my six year old hugged the Escape.  

It was then I realized why you want a 2014 Ford Escape.  It is a lot of fun to drive in the city and the highway.  It’s safe and like I wrote about the 2013 Ford Escape, it saved my families life when a guy lost control on icy roads.  It looks great.  Sirius XM radio is a lot of fun.

All of that is amazing but you buy one because the Escape facilitates fun times together with others.  Whether that is an epic road trip with family or a weekend getaway with friends, it made a great trip better.  It made a long day seem shorter.  It made an improbable one day trip possible.  It is small enough to be fun to drive but large enough that you can bring people along.  It is everything a SUV should be.  Since the first time I drove the Ford Escape, I fell in love with it and said that it was my favourite vehicle to drive.  Since then it has become my families favourite vehicle as well.  It facilitates fun.

You can read all about the technical specs here but in the end, they add up to one thing; great times spent together.

Some observations

  • I have been reviewing Ford cars for three years.  Oliver is now six and since her first saw the Ford Sync GPS display, he has been fascinated.  He sits in the back seat on a painful angle the entire time so he can see the display.  That hasn’t changed.  I hope to review a Ford car in 2015 just to see how long this continues.  It’s weird.  Of course the one advantage of Ford Sync GPS screens is not navigation but the fact that you never hear, “Are we there yet?”
  • The bad thing about turn by turn instructions is that if you deviate off your course to take the scenic route (which I did), everyone panics and start back seat driving.  Wendy is chirping at me, the boys are chirping at me.  Sync is telling to “turn right, turn right, turn right”.  I’m like, I just want see some scenery!  EVERYONE CALM DOWN and Sync is still going, “turn right, turn right, turn right”.  Why does no one trust me?!
  • The Escape is fast.  Shockingly fast for a SUV.  Very comfortable to drive on a two lane highway.  When I wanted to pass, I could.
  • The Sync still crashes.  Every Ford vehicle I have reviewed has had something go wrong with the Sync.  The last time it wasn’t that bad but it asked me to go to a dealer.  Turning the Escape off and on rebooted it (it is from Microsoft after all).  Instead of asking me to go to a dealer, it should just say, restart your car.  It’s not a big thing but I can’t believe it still does this.  Then again, Microsoft.  I should be used to it by now.
  • Speaking of taking the scenic route, you will take more of them.  The handling of the Escape is great and it kind of calls out for winding roads and rolling hills.  A lot of fun.
  • Even though the body design is older, it still turns heads.  As I was limping towards the Star Mine Suspension Bridge someone turned and said, “that is a nice looking SUV”.  

If you want more information about a Ford Escape, check out Ford’s website or stop by any Ford dealer (like Jubilee Ford or Merlin Ford Lincoln in Saskatoon)

Also thanks to Wendy for taking some of the better photos from this trip.  She posted some of her favourites to her weblog.

Apple has become a fashion company

From Bloomberg

Today, Apple established itself as the world’s biggest fashion company by releasing a smartwatch that is more about beauty and variety than about technology.

I have been hard on Apple for putting off bold moves, focusing on incremental improvements to its products and allowing competitor Samsung to make a rather convincing grab for technological leadership. Today’s gala event in Cupertino, California, has done little to change that picture. Apple presented its catch-up big-screen iPhones, waxing eloquent about their high-resolution displays, fast-focus cameras and 25 percent higher processor speeds as if they could surprise anyone.

The Apple Watch isn’t a tech miracle. It requires a phone to work, creating an Occam’s-razor moment for the consumer: Do I need another device if I still have to carry my phone around with me everywhere? Samsung has overcome this by offering a smartwatch that doesn’t need a phone.

The Apple Watch’s functionality isn’t market-beating. It’s a basic fitness tracker that can count steps, measure the heart rate and prompt the wearer to be more active. The device can handle messaging the way its competitors do. The Siri voice assistant makes an expected appearance. Though Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook seemed enthusiastic about the watch’s useful features, they are too boring to discuss — particularly in comparison to the Apple Watch’s beauty as an object.

MSN Messenger to end after 15 years

Here is the BBC Obit

MSN Messenger was a hard-working internet visionary which taught a generation to touch-type and lol, writes BBC technology reporter Dave Lee.

It touched the lives of millions of teenagers who, in an age before real social networking, were just getting accustomed to what it was like to live on the internet.

MSN Messenger heralded a new era: a time when chatting up a classmate no longer meant the terrifying prospect of actually having to say something to them.

It meant no longer would young teens have to endure the torture of ringing the landline number of their newest crush – knowing there was a high probability that dad would pick up.

But after all the “ASL?”s and “u there?”s, Messenger’s loyal subjects became less dependent. “I’ll brb”, people said… but they never did.

Other sites, smarter and better looking, would see Messenger cast aside. In an age of exciting digital discovery, Messenger became the web’s wooden toy.

After a long career, it spent its final year enjoying a comfortable retirement in China. Its less well-regarded relative, Windows Messenger, still battles on on work computers the world over.

“It’s like MSN,” office workers say, “…just not as fun.”

MSN Messenger is survived by Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Snapchat, Skype, Google+ and Instagram.

What happened to Motorola

Interesting article on what happens when your corporate culture goes bad.

Meanwhile, in arguably one of the worst decisions ever made by a major corporate CEO, Zander struck a deal with his Silicon Valley friend Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple. Together their companies created a Motorola iTunes phone, the first phone connected to Apple’s music store. “We can’t think of a more natural partnership than this one with Apple,” Zander said at the time. Named the Rokr, the phone launched in the fall of 2005. Jobs, who introduced it, called it “an iPod Shuffle right on your phone.”

Zander says he believed that by working with Apple, Motorola could become cool again. But much as it had taught the Chinese to compete with it years before, Motorola was teaching one of the most creative, competitive, and consumer-savvy companies of all time how to make a phone.

Two years later, when Jobs introduced the first iPhone, Zander’s Motorola was still pushing Razrs, pumping up sales by taking new variations further and further downmarket. The result: ever-lower profit margins. One analyst calculated that the company made, on average, only about $5 per device.

Partly because of the huge layoffs of recent years, Motorola’s innovation machine was stalling. The company had long numbered among the top 10 American firms registering U.S. patents, notes analyst Joan Lappin; by 2006 it dropped to No. 34.

Zander insists that he saw the smartphone onslaught coming but that Motorola “didn’t have the DNA or the people” to understand the software involved. He also blames a less-than-speedy Motorola supplier that, he says, caused the company to miss nearly a year in the product cycle. “We should have just broken the contract” with the supplier, he says now. “The one regret I have is that I should have taken myself out of the CEO job and run the [phone] division [myself].”

Another mistake: Zander never engaged in China the way the Galvins had, leaving the details to his division heads and country managers. When China upped its networks to 3G, his managers pushed what they had—older 2G phones—at steep discounts in order to preserve market share, unbeknownst to the CEO. The collapse of the China business in 2007 left Zander dumbstruck. That year the South Korean company Samsung topped Motorola in phone sales for the first time, and it never looked back.

Mark’s Cell Phone

I gave Mark an Sony Xperia J last Christmas which he loved.  He thought it was the greatest phone ever, even if it wasn’t.  The Sony Xperia J has a memory problem that means that it doesn’t handle apps well.  I am not sure why this version of Android on this phone acts so poorly but according to the tech forums, it does.

The phone broke this summer and all of a sudden Mark’s attitude changed for the better.  So much that we had some very long talks about it.  He told me he missed being able to talk to his friends and Wendy and I via text but he didn’t really miss his phone very much.  He was kind of glad that he didn’t have it around.  He was funnier, more laid back, and said he was sleeping better.

It wasn’t the phone that was the problem, it was that he would find some time and play some games that would keep him on it for hours.  He was like a lot of youth, addicted to their phone.

So we talked about the kind of phone that we would get.  I decided on getting him a Blackberry Curve. It would let him text others and not be distracted by other stuff. Virgin Mobile’s was $150 which I found a little steep.  Telus had one for $100 so I decided to make the switch.  He isn’t under contract so I set off to Best Buy and get his phone.  While I was there, I saw they had a Nokia Lumia 520 for Windows Phone for $110.  I was torn over what phone to get but in the end it was the constant barrage of Windows Phone tweets by Darren Sproat that won me over.  I haven’t heard of anyone excited over a Blackberry since 2005.

Nokia Lumia 520

I set it up with Telus who has far inferior pre-paid plans than Virgin Mobile and gave it to Mark.  The next day the phone wasn’t working.  I called back and Telus said that they hadn’t gotten paid.  I had a receipt and a confirmation number from Mastercard and still that wasn’t enough.  It was kind of weird.  

So I took Mark’s phone to Tech Box.  I had never been in there and they unlocked the phone for $20.  It took a couple of days more than they said (the first code was slow coming and then didn’t work) but they told me that one of them would be in the office on a Sunday and to stop by.  We did, they unlocked the doors, and the phone was working.  He was thrilled.

So I set up Mark’s phone for him and I have really come to like it.  It doesn’t have all of the apps that the iPhone or Android does but I was able to get him…

  • Instagram
  • Vine
  • Twitter
  • The Score
  • BBC
  • CBC
  • CNN
  • Metro
  • TuneIn
  • A podcast app
  • Weather app
  • Photoshop

He told me today that he misses having a StarPhoenix app but other than that, he is set.  Internet Explorer isn’t that bad on the phone either.  I didn’t install any games and he is fine with that.  The phone is pretty snappy and the tiles feature of Windows 8 is designed for a phone (and not a computer screen).  It works really well.  I have told a couple of people that while I love my iPhone, I could switch to Windows Phone and be perfectly happy.   Especially when I think that I spent $110 for the phone.

There are some other cool stuff installed for apps like a transit app (that doesn’t work in Saskatoon because we don’t make our route information available like most other cities).  Bing Maps is no better or worse than Apple Maps (actually it is probably better).

So back to Mark.  He’s happy with the phone.  He likes not having a phone with the distractions of games and then frustrated over not getting other things done.  He’s like a lot of 14 year olds but with this phone, he seems to have found a mix of being connected and not being too connected.  We will see how it goes.

How Militarizing Police Can Increase Violence

Does more military gear make cops more likely to act violent?

Long before the killing of Michael Brown and the subsequent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, which have brought with them countless images of heavily armored local authorities pointing guns at and firing tear gas and other nonlethal weapons at unarmed protesters, some were disturbed by what Washington Post journalist Radley Balko calls “the rise of the warrior cop” — that is, the increasing tendency of some local police forces to rely on military-style gear and tactics, even in situations that appear devoid of any real threat to officers’ safety.

The story of how this happened and the oftentimes tragic results have been well-told by Balko, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others. In short, there’s been a flood of drug-war and post-9/11 money that has helped outfit police departments, even towns where a single murder is an incredibly rare event, with gear that could help repel seasoned paramilitaries.

What’s less clear is how this gear changes the psychological dynamics of policing and crowd control. Is it true, as many people are arguing online, that “When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” — that is, that simply having military gear will make police more likely to act in an aggressive manner toward civilians? How does this change the relationship between police and civilians?

At the most specific level, these questions haven’t been studied empirically. But a great deal of social-psychological research, as well as important anecdotal evidence from law-enforcement specialists themselves, suggests that militarized policing can greatly inflame situations that might otherwise end peacefully.

The so-called “weapons effect” can partly explain what’s going on in Ferguson and elsewhere. The mere presence of weapons, in short, appears to prime more aggressive behavior. This has been shown in a variety of experiments in different lab and real-world settings.

“Theory underlying the weapons effect or similar kinds of phenomena would suggest that the more you fill the environment with stimuli that are associated with violence, the more likely violence is to occur,” said Bruce Bartholow, a University of Missouri social psychologist who has studied the weapons effect. Brad Bushman, a psychologist at Ohio State, agreed. “I would expect a bigger effect if you see military weapons than if you see normal weapons,” he said.

This isn’t just about a link between visual stimuli like guns and violence, however. It also has to do with the roles people adopt, with how they respond to the presence of others who may — or may not — mean them harm. To a certain extent, if you dress and treat people like soldiers facing a deadly enemy, they’ll act like it.

“This process isn’t necessarily good or bad, but depends on the extent to which the more militaristic role fits the situation,” said Craig Anderson, a psychologist at Iowa State, in an email. “When it doesn’t fit well, it is likely to lead to more judgment and behavior errors.” Maria Haberfeld, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice who has studied how police departments outfit themselves, said the dynamic could be particularly dangerous in the context of nonviolent protests like Ferguson (there was rioting and looting earlier this week, but there have also been widespread reports of nonviolent protests being broken up by police aggression).

“Military equipment is used against an enemy,” said Haberfeld. “So if you give the same equipment to local police, by default you create an environment in which the public is perceived as an enemy.” On the other side of these confrontations, this could have a negative effect on protesters. “We live in a democratic country, and we believe that this is our right to go out and exercise the right to [free speech],” she said. “And when you go out there and exercise that right and suddenly you are faced with soldiers — even though these are not soldiers, but police officers looking like soldiers — then something is triggered, definitely.”

Bushman said that meeting nonviolent protests with a militarized response is “really a bad idea. I can’t believe they’re doing it.” “It’s just really bad for the officers because they feel more powerful, more invincible, more militaristic, ready to attack,” he said. “And also, I think it elicits a response from the observers that, hey, this is war, and people become defensive and they have a fight/flight response.” The adoption of masks themselves in a militarized setting, on the part of police or protesters, can also contribute to violence by triggering senses of anonymity and what psychologists call deindividuation. “There’s all kinds of evidence in social psychology that that will lead people to do things that they wouldn’t do if they could be identified,” said Bartholow.

All this militarization, said Bartholow, can be contrasted “against the old kind of beat-cop model where people in the neighborhood know the police officers’ name and he’s kind of everybody’s buddy in a sense.”

The Best Lens Options for Your Pentax DSLR

So if you are like me, you own a Pentax DSLR. You love your camera but the lens selection is paltry compared to Canon or Nikon and of course you hear photographers tells you that there isn’t the good glass to go with Pentax.  Even many local camera shops don’t have a great section despite them selling a lot of Pentax K-3 and K-5 IIs cameras in the last year.

So what do you do?  First of all you take a look around online and see what is there.  If you are reading this page, there is a good chance that you are doing just that.  To help you with your search, I have listed around 25 lenses that would all make great additions to any photographers bag.

If you have no idea which lens you want to purchase, ask your local camera shop for advice or check out this video from Pentax.

Ricoh has more about the available Pentax lenses here.

So the next time someone tells you there are not great lenses for the Pentax cameras, remind them of what is out there.  There is some amazing and professional quality glass for your camera.

Each link on the post goes to Amazon.com which offers you some purchasing options and price for each lens.  Since lens price is often moving, it’s easier to check them out there.

Normal Lenses: In photography and cinematography, a normal lens is a lens that reproduces a field of view that generally looks “natural” to a human observer under normal viewing conditions, as compared with lenses with longer or shorter focal lengths which produce an expanded or contracted field of view that distorts the perspective when viewed from a normal viewing distance.

Pentax 35mm DA L F2.4 AL

Pentax 35mm DA L F2.4 AL

This versatile Pentax 35mm DA L F2.4 AL Lens is considered a standard, normal focal length lens for the Pentax DSLRs it was designed for, but it’s a great lens to own, even if you only have one lens. This 35mm lens (equivalent to 52.5mm in 35mm format) is ideal for family photos, portraits, landscapes and a lot more. The fast f2.4 maximum aperture helps you get pictures even in low-light situations, and it provides high-resolution images with edge-to-edge sharpness. An aspherical lens element helps to compensate for spherical aberration to maximize image quality, and PENTAX Super Protect (SP) coating helps repel dust, water, and grease–making the lens easier to clean.

35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Lens

35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Lens

The 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Lens for Pentax DSLR Cameras from Sigma is the first entry into Sigma’s Art series of professional lenses, with an emphasis on artistic expression and the creative potential of the lens. With a bright f/1.4 maximum aperture, floating inner focusing system, and Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) you’ll have quick and accurate control over the artistic effects achieved by the lens’ high quality elements.

For wide angle photography, this 35mm lens and its circular 9-bladed f/1.4 aperture ensure excellent brightness and blurred background (bokeh) effects. The Super Multi-Layer Coating reduces flare and ghosting and provides sharp and high contrast images even in backlit conditions.

The lens’ Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) and floating inner focusing system ensure that you experience quick, quiet and precise autofocusing whenever you need it. Adjust focus using either autofocus (AF), or full-time manual focus, without having to switch camera modes or change settings – just flick the switch from AF to MF.

For greater build quality and strength, all metallic parts and the new Thermally Stable Composite compound material (TSC), are housed internally. Its brass made bayonet mount has both high accuracy and durability, and a special treatment is applied to its surface giving it greater strength and making it highly resistant to long-term daily use.

Pentax smc DA 50mm f/1.8 Lens

Pentax smc da 50mm f1.8

The smc DA 50mm f/1.8 Lens from Pentax is a fast and inexpensive f/1.8 lens for cameras with a Pentax K mount. Mounted to a camera with an APS-C sensor, this lens gives an angle of view equivalent to a 76.5mm telephoto lens–ideal for portraits. The wide f/1.8 aperture makes this an essential lens for working in low light, and it also delivers beautiful bokeh (the out-of-focus portion of a photograph). This lightweight (4.3 oz) lens is very compact–just 1.5″ (3.8 cm) long.

Pentax Normal SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 Autofocus Lens

Pentax 50mm f/1.4 Lens.png

A standard lens for Pentax autofocus cameras with a bright f/1.4 aperture.  The SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 is an excellent choice for lowlight handheld photography, and effectively becomes a brilliant short telephoto portrait lens when used with your Pentax DSLR.  The Pentax Super Multi Coating process provides the highest possible transmission of light.

Portrait Lenses: a prime lens with a relatively high aperture and usually a means for softening definition in taking portraits

Pentax 55mm f/1.4 DA* SDM Autofocus Lens

Pentax 55mm f/1.4 SDM Lens

The Pentax 55mm f/1.4 DA* SDM Autofocus Lens is a compact and bright short-telephoto lens of the highest order, made exclusively for Pentax digital SLR cameras.  In a stocky housing ready for harsh conditions, you’ll get a bright f/1.4 aperture-worlds away from the experience you’re used to with more common zooms-that opens up new creative doors to you as a photographer.

This lens was born to shoot between f/1.4 and f/2.8, and comes with a 9-bladed aperture diaphragm which shows up as perfectly round when you stay between f/1.4-2.8.  Shoot dramatic portraits with bright point light sources behind the subject, and you’ll be dazzled with lovely diffuse, circular out-of-focus highlights that make everybody look better.  Beyond portraits, this lens works well any time you would use a moderate telephoto focal length.

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens

Sigma 85mm f/1.4.jpg

When you need a medium-telephoto standard lens for everything from portraiture to sports, the fast Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens for Pentax Digital SLRs is a great solution. This large aperture beauty is designed with an SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass element and a glass mold element which yield first-class, sharp image captures with high contrast.

The 85mm f/1.4 has Sigma’s HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) which provides fast, accurate and quiet autofocusing. The exterior of this lens is EX-finished which translates to a superior build and optical quality, enhanced handling and appearance. It comes with a petal-type hood to block out extraneous light. A dedicated hood adapter for cameras with an APS-C size image sensor is also included to expand the length of the hood for blocking out extraneous light more effectively.

This fast f/1.4 lens is great for capturing fast moving images, allowing you to use faster shutter speeds, and is what you want when shooting under low lighting conditions. This highly efficient lens has a nine blade circular diaphragm for creating pleasant out-of-focus highlights (bokeh) which is a major asset to portrait and wedding photographers.

Short Telephoto Lenses

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Lens

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 ART lens

The Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Lens for Pentax is a wide-angle to normal-length zoom lens that features a fast, bright constant f/1.8 maximum aperture. It is specifically designed for use with APS-C-sized sensors and provides a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 27-52.5mm.

The lens integrates four aspherical elements into its construction as well as five Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass elements to help minimize various aberrations and distortions throughout the zoom range as well as provide greater image sharpness and clarity. A Super Multi-Layer Coating has also been applied to lens elements to reduce surface reflections, lens flare, and ghosting to produce images with higher contrast and color fidelity. The lens barrel design is constructed from a Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) material that is akin to metal in texture and resistance to temperature and environmental changes while also remaining lightweight and compact. An internal focusing and zooming mechanism also helps to maintain a compact and consistent overall length and non-rotating front ring also better enables the use of circular polarizing filters. For control of focus, a Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) is used to ensure fast, precise, and quiet focusing capabilities that are well suited to continuous shooting and movie recording.

This lens is part of Sigma’s Art line; deeming it well-suited to creative image making due to its large, constant f/1.8 maximum aperture and ability to produce aesthetic bokeh by way of a nine-blade circular diaphragm. The range of focal lengths it covers, from wide-angle to normal-length, is nicely situated for everyday and artistic shooting applications.

Pentax DA* 16-50mm f/2.8ED AL [IF] SDM Lens

Pentax 16-50 f/2.8 lens

 

Pentax DA* 16-50mm f/2.8ED AL [IF] SDM Lens is a high-quality bright f/2.8 lens. This lens brings together advanced optical technologies, including aspherical elements, special optical-glass elements, and original lens coatings. It offers a versatile ultra-wide to medium-telephoto zoom range, and can be used as the ideal standard zoom lens in a wide variety of applications, including landscape, snapshot and portrait.

Walk Around Lens

I love a good walk around lens.  There are times when I don’t know what I am going to expect when I go out with my camera .  I could be shooting wide or long.  The quality may not be as good as a prime but sometimes you need more versatility than you need sharpness or low light performance.

Pentax SMC DA 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 ED AL (IF) DC WR Lens

Pentax 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 WR Lens

You may already have this lens.  It’s offered in some kits as an alternative to the 18-55 lens.  If you have the option of getting it, make sure you do as it is well worth the price.  If it doesn’t come in a kit, you may want to consider picking it up.  It’s got a decent range, is decently sharp, and is weather resistant.  It offers a focal length that is equivalent (in 35mm format) from 27.5 to 207mm. This wide coverage is ideal for a variety of telephoto applications, including portraiture, sports and scenery.

The image circle in DA-series lenses is designed to perfectly match the 23.5mm x 15.7mm size of the CCD used in Pentax digital SLRs to optimize camera performance. This design also contributes to a drastic reduction in size, weight and production cost compared to 35mm-format counterparts with similar specifications.

Pentax DA (DA-Star) zoom lenses come equipped with the SDM System, which assures smoother, quieter auto-focusing operation by using a built-in supersonic motor. Like all Pentax lenses, this lens is treated with smc coating for maximum light transmission, sharp definition, and high contrast images.

Tamron AF 18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD Aspherical (IF) MACRO 

Tamron 18-200mm Zoom Lens for Pentax DSLRs.jpg

The Tamron AF18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD Aspherical (IF) MACRO is a high power zoom lens designed exclusively for digital SLR cameras using the more compact (APS-C) digital size image sensors. The focal length of this lens is equivalent to approx. 28-300mm in 35mm format.

Designed as an “all-in-one” lens, it will meet almost all photographic opportunities without changing lenses.

The 18-200mm zoom lens realizes an MFD (Minimum Focus Distance) of 1.5′ (45 cm) over the entire zoom range by the employment of a new optical/mechanical design configuration. Since the maximum magnification ratio at f=200mm is 1:3.7, you can enjoy close-up photography easily and conveniently.

Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro HSM Lens

Sigma 18-250mm walk around lens for Pentax DSLR

The 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro HSM from Sigma is an incredibly versatile lens that is a real jack-of-all-trades lens you can carry in any situation. With a focal length spanning from a wide-angle 18mm up to a 250 mm telephoto zoom, with macro capabilities to boot, Sigma’s 18-250mm could easily be your camera’s first all-in-one lens, or a great replacement for several smaller lenses that you’re looking to consolidate.

Sigma redesigned the optical and structural design of this lens in order to achieve a relatively compact size, at 4.0″ long, as well as a close minimum focusing distance of 13.8″ for macro photography. Their Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) construction maintains the structure of the lens, with little variation despite changing temperatures. The lens also incorporates a brass-made bayonet mount, to further reinforce the lenses durability and resistance to wear and tear over time.

The minimum focusing distance is the same throughout the focal length of the entire zoom range, and provides a maximum magnification ratio of 1:2.9. As an added benefit over fixed focal length macro lenses, the size and framing of subjects can quickly and easily be adjusted by rotating the zoom ring. For even further convenience, at each focusing distance on the side of the lens barrel, the maximum magnification ratio is also displayed.

For high image quality, you know you’ve got to have high quality glass, and Sigma has incorporated their Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass element into the 18-250mm. In addition to the SLD element, three aspherical lenses, including a double-sided aspherical lens, have been used in the lens’ construction–offering excellent correction of color aberration, for better clarity and quality of images throughout the zoom range.

A Super Multi-Layer Coating has also been employed to reduce flare and ghosting with this lens. This makes it resistant to strong incident light, such as backlight behind a subject, providing sharper, high contrast images even shooting into a light source. To prevent internal reflections from occurring, the included petal-type lens hood can be attached in order to block out extraneous light.

For a lens that offers a wide-angle to telephoto focal length, and the ability to zoom-in with macro photography, Sigma’s 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro HSM made for Pentax cameras is more than a match. Whether you’re on a macro product shoot, a walk in the park, or have a wedding to go to, this lens will help you shoot high quality images in any situation.

Pentax smc DA 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 ED SDM Lens

Pentax smc 18 270mm lens 1 1358880197

The Pentax smc Pentax-DA 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 ED SDM Lens is an all-encompassing zoom lens, featuring a 15x zoom rangefrom a wide 18mm to a long 270mm (equivalent to 27.5-414mm in 35mm format). Benefitting the long reach of this lens, two extra-low dispersion elements have been incorporated into the lens construction to help reduce chromatic aberration and improve overall image clarity. A minimum focus distance of 1.6′ across the entire zoom range also makes this lens an effective tool for macro and close-up work.

Telephoto Lens: In photography and cinematography, a telephoto lens is a specific type of a long-focus lens in which the physical length of the lens is shorter than the focal length. This is achieved by incorporating a special lens group known as a telephoto group that extends the light path to create a long-focus lens in a much shorter overall design. The angle of view and other effects of long-focus lenses are the same for telephoto lenses of the same specified focal length. Long-focal-length lenses are often informally referred to as telephoto lenses although this is technically incorrect: a telephoto lens specifically incorporates the telephoto group.

Telephoto lenses are sometimes broken into the further sub-types of medium telephoto: lenses covering between a 30° and 10° field of view (85mm to 135mm in 35mm film format), and super telephoto: lenses covering between 8° through less than 1° field of view (over 300mm in 35mm film format).

Pentax HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8 ED WR Lens

Pentax 55-300mm f/4.8 WR Lens

The HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8 ED WR Lens from Pentax is a portrait-length to telephoto zoom lens that provides a 35mm-equivalent focal range of 84.5-460mm. This extensive zoom range is complemented by the inclusion of two extra-low dispersion glass elements, which work to minimize chromatic aberrations and enhance overall image sharpness and clarity. A high-grade multi-layer HD coating has been applied to lens elements to help minimize flare and ghosting for enhanced contrast and, additionally, an SP Protect coating has also been applied to the front lens element to effectively protect it from dirt, oil, and finger prints.

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM

Sigma 70-100 f/2.8 lens for Pentax DSLR cameras

The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM for Pentax is the second generation of large-aperture telephoto zoom lenses incorporating Sigma’s OS (Optical Stabilizer) anti-shake system. It offers the equivalent of shooting at shutter speeds 3 to 4 stops slower than without OS, thus allowing handheld telephoto zoom shooting even in poorly lit conditions. Its HSM ensures quiet and high speed AF as well as full-time manual focusing.

It features a large maximum aperture of f/2.8 that remains constant throughout the zoom range, making it incredibly valuable when shooting in low light situations such as weddings or other events. It is also great when shooting fast-moving subjects such as sports, when fast shutter speeds are needed to capture fleeting moments. The 70-200mm f/2.8 is fast and versatile and at a length of 7.8 (19.8cm) will be a tool that seldom sees the inside of your camera bag. The lens comes with a petal-type lens hood plus an adapter to extend its length for users with APS-c cameras.

Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) Macro AF Lens

Tamron 70 200 lens

 

The Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) Macro Lens is a telephoto zoom lens that has a large maximum aperture of f/2.8 which remains constant throughout the zoom range. It also offers an excellent “close-focusing-distance” minimum of just 3.1′ (0.95 m) throughout its entire zoom range, with a maximum macro magnification ratio of 1:3.1 at f=200mm. When mounted on an APS-C sensor size digital SLR camera, it provides a focal length equivalent of 105-300mm.

The advantage that the Tamron has over the Sigma is cost.  While it lacks image stabilization, your Pentax camera has that built into the body which means that you don’t need it.  This lets you save the money and still get great performance in that distance.

Sigma 50-500mm F/4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM Lens

Sigma 50-500mm lens for Pentax DSLR cameras

This Sigma 50-500mm F/4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM Lens for Pentax covers a lot of ground. The 10x zoom can be used on everything from landscape and portrait photos to sports action and wildlife photography. It uses 4 Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass elements for optimum color correction and sharpness through the entire zoom range, and a Hyper-Sonic Motor (HSM) provides quiet and high-speed auto focusing. The Optical Stabilization (OS) system allows you to use the lens even off a tripod to capture sharp, clear photos.

This 50-500mm lens is designed for use with Pentax DSLR cameras–with an APS-C-sized sensor, the effective zoom range is approximately 75-750mm in 35mm equivalent.

While around $500 more than the Sigma 150 to 500, it is slightly sharper so keep that in mind when you are considering which one to get.

Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM APO Autofocus Lens for Pentax

Sigma 150-500mm lens for Pentax DSLR cameras

This Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM APO Lens for Pentax is for digital SLR cameras with a Pentax K lens mount. It is an ultra telephoto zoom lens ideal for nature, wildlife, or sports photography. This zoom range translates into an equivalent range of 225-750mm when used with digital SLR cameras with an APS size sensor.

The OS (Optical Stabilizer) system minimizes image blur caused by camera shake, and offers the equivalent of shooting at a shutter speed 3-4 stops faster. This allows handheld telephoto zoom shooting even in poorly lit conditions.

The use of the OS (Optical Stabilizer) system, HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor), APO apochromatic design, three elements of SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass, and multicoated optics all enable this lens to provide a high level of performance throughout its entire zoom range, as well as versatility. A rear focus system insures quick, convenient manual focus and a non-rotating front barrel.

The improved DG lens design corrects for various aberrations. This lens is specially coated to get the best color balance, while cutting down on ghosting caused by reflections from the digital image sensor. The lens provides the utmost correction against lateral chromatic aberration, which is a serious problem for digital SLR cameras.

Pentax SMCP-DA* 300mm f/4 ED (IF) SDM Autofocus Lens for Digital SLR

Pentax smc DA 300mm F4 ED IF SDM

The Pentax SMCP-DA* 300mm f/4 ED (IF) SDM Lens is a high-quality telephoto lens that is designed for exclusive use with Pentax digital SLR cameras. It offers a focal length that is equivalent (in 35mm format) to 450mm. This wide coverage is ideal for a variety of telephoto applications, including portraiture, sports and scenery.

Pentax DA* (DA-Star) zoom lenses come equipped with the SDM System, which assures smoother, quieter auto-focusing operation by using a built-in supersonic motor. When mounted on the K10D digital SLR camera body, the focus mode is automatically switched to SDM-assisted auto-focusing. When mounted on older Pentax digital SLR camera bodies, the conventional autofocus mode using a camera-mounted motor is selected.

Sigma 500mm f/4.5 EX DG APO Autofocus Lens

Sigma 500mm f/4.5 lens for Pentax DSLR

This Sigma 500mm f/4.5 EX DG APO lens is an Apochromatic ultra-telephoto lens with a fast f/4.5 maximum aperture, and it incorporates two ELD (Extraordinary Low Dispersion) glass elements to reduce chromatic aberration to a minimum. Internal focus enables responsive and fast autofocus speed.

The improved DG lens design corrects for various aberrations. This lens is specially coated to get the best color balance whilst cutting down on ghosting caused by reflections from the digital image sensor. The lens provides the utmost correction against lateral chromatic aberration which is a serious problem for digital SLR cameras.

By adding the optional Sigma APO teleconverter, you can use this lens as a 700mm f/6.3 MF ultra-telephoto lens with a 1.4x EX teleconverter, or as a 1000mm f/9 MF ultra-telephoto lens with a 2x teleconverter.

Macro

Pentax smc Pentax-D FA 100mm f/2.8 WR Macro Lens

Pentax DA FA Macro 100mm f2 8 WR

 

Optimized for DSLRs and compatible with film SLR cameras, the smc PENTAX-D FA 100mm f/2.8 WR Macro Lens is constructed with an aluminum housing and 6 weather seals (thus the WR designation) so you can shoot in almost any environment without risking internal damage to the lens. Optical elements are treated with the Pentax Super Protect multi-layer coating to lower surface reflection, reduce ultraviolet rays, and deliver clear, high-contrast images. Plus, the configurations of its optical elements produce crisp, sharp images with no flare and ghosting. It also features a “Quick Shift” focusing system which allows you to easily switch between manual and AF modes.

Achieving life-size (1:1) magnification, this macro lens is ideal for the close-up photography including, but not limited to, nature, technical, medical or product applications. It is also great for portraiture. Its 8 rounded diaphragm blade configuration assists in producing out-of-focus areas of your images with a pleasing look.

Wide Angle Lens: The terms “wide-angle” and “telephoto” are based on the different angles of view they provide when compared with a normal lens. A wide-angle lens captures a wider angle of view than a normal lens does. There is no single wide-angle lens, but rather a variety of lenses that give wider and wider angles of view, some of which are classified as super or ultra wide-angle lenses, and the widest of all – fish-eye lenses. Lenses considered to be wide-angle include the 35 mm, 28 mm and 24 mm varieties, with the 28 mm being the “standard” wide-angle lens. Super wide angle lenses then take over, and run from 20 mm to about 13 mm.

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC J Autofocus Lens

Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens for Pentax DSLR cameras

The Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC lens offers a super-wide zoom solution to digital cameras, and was exclusively designed to suit the characteristics of digital SLR cameras. The super wide-angle capability of this zoom lens (equivalent range of approx. 15-30mm when used with a Pentax digital SLR camera makes it a very powerful tool for both indoor and landscape photography.

Man Flies Drone Through Fireworks, The Results Are Spectacular

Someone needs to do this during the PotashCorp Fireworks Festival in Saskatoon.

So if there is intelligent life out there, why hasn’t anyone contacted us

It could be we are in a remote part of space that no one cares about.  We are the Moose Jaw of planets.

The Americas may have been colonized by Europeans long before anyone in a small Inuit tribe in far northern Canada realized it had happened. There could be an urbanization component to the interstellar dwellings of higher species, in which all the neighboring solar systems in a certain area are colonized and in communication, and it would be impractical and purposeless for anyone to deal with coming all the way out to the random part of the spiral where we live.

There are a lot of interesting hypothesis of why we haven’t had our first contact.  The following is the scariest.

There are scary predator civilizations out there, and most intelligent life knows better than to broadcast any outgoing signals and advertise their location.

This is an unpleasant concept and would help explain the lack of any signals being received by the SETI satellites. It also means that we might be the super naive newbies who are being unbelievably stupid and risky by ever broadcasting outward signals. There’s a debate going on currently about whether we should engage in METI (Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence—the reverse of SETI) or not, and most people say we should not. Stephen Hawking warns, “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.” Even Carl Sagan (a general believer that any civilization advanced enough for interstellar travel would be altruistic, not hostile) called the practice of METI “deeply unwise and immature,” and recommended that “the newest children in a strange and uncertain cosmos should listen quietly for a long time, patiently learning about the universe and comparing notes, before shouting into an unknown jungle that we do not understand.” Scary.

A new report shows nuclear weapons almost detonated in North Carolina in 1961

Eric Schlosser has a new book out about how close the U.S. came to blowing off it’s own eastern seaboard during the Cold War

At the height of the Cold War, the Air Force feared that the Soviet Union could launch a surprise attack on the United States and destroy all of our air bases, and we’d have no way to retaliate against the Soviets. So the Air Force came up with this idea of having about a dozen B-52 bombers airborne 24 hours a day, with nuclear weapons on board. That way, if we were attacked, those dozen planes might escape the destruction on the ground, head to the Soviet Union, and blast the Soviets with hydrogen bombs.

The planes were sort of an insurance policy. They were meant to deter the Soviets from trying a surprise attack. But this Air Force program, called the “airborne alert,” also posed some serious risks for the United States. The B-52 was designed in the late 1940s–and it wasn’t designed to be flying 24 hours a day. So the airborne alerts put enormous stress on these aircraft. It really wore out the planes and made them more likely to crash.

Nobody realized, at the time, that some design flaws in our nuclear weapons made them vulnerable to detonating in an accident. There was an illusion of safety. In the book, I explore the safety problems with our nuclear arsenal. We were putting planes that were at risk of crashing into the air over the United States with nuclear weapons that were at risk of accidentally detonating. The airborne alert was finally ended in 1968, after a B-52 crashed in Greenland with four hydrogen bombs and contaminated a stretch of the Arctic Ice with plutonium.

How close was this to detonating?

Well, for most of the Cold War, there was no code or anything that you needed to enter. All you needed to do was turn a switch or two in the cockpit to arm the bomb, and then release it. There were mechanisms on the weapon to prevent it from detonating prematurely and destroying our own planes. There were barometric switches that would operate when they sensed a change in altitude. There were timers that delayed the explosion until our planes had enough time to get away. The Goldsboro bomb that almost detonated was known as Weapon No. 1. As the plane was spinning and breaking apart, the centrifugal forces pulled a lanyard in the cockpit–and that lanyard was what a crew member would manually pull during wartime to release the bomb. This hydrogen bomb was a machine, a dumb object. It had no idea whether the lanyard was being pulled by a person or by a centrifugal force. Once the lanyard was pulled, the weapon just behaved like it was designed to.

The bomb went through all of its arming steps except for one, and a single switch prevented a full-scale nuclear detonation. That type of switch was later found to be defective. It had failed in dozens of other cases, allowing weapons to be inadvertently armed. And that safety switch could have very easily been circumvented by stray electricity in the B-52 as it was breaking apart. As Secretary of Defense McNamara said, “By the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted.” That’s literally correct, a short circuit could’ve fully armed the bomb.

I interviewed McNamara before he passed away. The Goldsboro accident occurred just a few days after he took office. He wasn’t an expert in nuclear weapons; he’d been head of the Ford Motor Company. And this accident scared the hell out of him. It would have spread lethal radioactive fallout up the Eastern Seaboard–and put a real damper on all the optimism of the Kennedy administration’s New Frontier. And this wasn’t the only really serious nuclear weapons accident that the United States had. There were others that were dangerous and yet kept from view.

So yeah, try not to think about this thought by Schlosser before you go to bed.

Any country that wants nuclear weapons has to keep in mind that these weapons may pose a greater threat to yourself than to your enemies. These weapons are complicated things to possess and maintain, especially if you keep them fully assembled and ready to use. If you’re only going to put them together when you’re about to go to war, then there’s a higher level of safety. But if you keep them fully assembled, and mated to a weapons system, and ready to go, then there are limitless ways that something could go wrong.

The weekend that was

On Friday evening we headed to the cabin for what we expected was going to be a wet and miserable weekend.  It was but we had a good time.

Oliver was quite sick on Friday morning which meant that Wendy took the day off.  His daycare has a thing about vomitting kids…  They picked me up at work and we were off to the lake and got in there in decent time.

I am nursing an incredibly sore hip so I hobbled in and went to bed.  The boys took Maggi for a long walk and swim in the lake and I was awoken by a wet dog looking to warm up with someone.  Saturday I picked up Oliver’s flu and felt horrible.  Wendy delegated the job of packing Oliver’s stuff to Mark and he didn’t pack any socks and underwear for Oliver so off to Regina we went.  18km of really soft and sloppy roads were not a lot of fun to drive but we made it to the highway.

The rain kept falling the entire time we were in Regina and the road was a slippery and muddy mess by the time we got back to Cymric.  It was a long slow drive back to the cabin where I managed to lose control once.  Not only that but we realized it was going to rain all night and into Sunday. 

I woke up on Sunday morning to a gift of a photography book by Tom Ang, A Walkable City by Jeff Speck, a Black Rapid camera strap, and an podcast attachment for my iPhone.

Here is Speck speaking to TED.

So yeah the drive home was brutal.  The car was covered in mud and it was hard to keep it on the road.  For those who feel that Saskatchewan should be converting more highways into gravel, I respectfully disagree.  The sand base of that road makes more slippery then ice when wet.  So yeah, let’s pave the entire province. 

Father’s Day Giveaway from Ford!

With Father’s Day almost here, I have a cool giveaway for readers of the blog for Father’s Day compliments of Ford Canada.

Here are the rules.  Leave a comment with your real name and email address.  Tell a story about driving with your dad (or step-dad or uncle or father figure), tell us a little about the car, the place, and why it was memorable.  It can be meaningful or funny, you pick.

I’ll do a draw from the contestants and you will win….

  • Ford Genuine Parts Bar Stool with Backrest Constructed from heavy gauge 1” tubular steel frames with lustrous chrome plated finish. Commercial grade vinyl covering screened on the underside so designs will not scratch off with use. Thick foam padded seats rotate on a 360 degree swivel. Easy assembly required. Recommended for indoor use only. Dimensions: Seat – height 30” Seat Diameter- 14” Backrest Height: 42”
Gp stool
  • Ford Genuine Parts retro metal and wood sign.
Ford v8 blue
  • Ford ball cap

Winners will be notified by email on Monday and Ford will ship the prize anywhere in Canada.  I am looking forward to reading your stories!

The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas

I am surprised at the scope of this but at the same time not surprised they the NSA is doing it.

The National Security Agency is secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas.

According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the surveillance is part of a top-secret system – code-named SOMALGET – that was implemented without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government. Instead, the agency appears to have used access legally obtained in cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to open a backdoor to the country’s cellular telephone network, enabling it to covertly record and store the “full-take audio” of every mobile call made to, from and within the Bahamas – and to replay those calls for up to a month.

SOMALGET is part of a broader NSA program called MYSTIC, which The Intercept has learned is being used to secretly monitor the telecommunications systems of the Bahamas and several other countries, including Mexico, the Philippines, and Kenya. But while MYSTIC scrapes mobile networks for so-called “metadata” – information that reveals the time, source, and destination of calls – SOMALGET is a cutting-edge tool that enables the NSA to vacuum up and store the actual content of every conversation in an entire country.

All told, the NSA is using MYSTIC to gather personal data on mobile calls placed in countries with a combined population of more than 250 million people. And according to classified documents, the agency is seeking funding to export the sweeping surveillance capability elsewhere.

The program raises profound questions about the nature and extent of American surveillance abroad. The U.S. intelligence community routinely justifies its massive spying efforts by citing the threats to national security posed by global terrorism and unpredictable rival nations like Russia and Iran. But the NSA documents indicate that SOMALGET has been deployed in the Bahamas to locate “international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers” – traditional law-enforcement concerns, but a far cry from derailing terror plots or intercepting weapons of mass destruction.

“The Bahamas is a stable democracy that shares democratic principles, personal freedoms, and rule of law with the United States,” the State Department concluded in a crime and safety report published last year. “There is little to no threat facing Americans from domestic (Bahamian) terrorism, war, or civil unrest.”

By targeting the Bahamas’ entire mobile network, the NSA is intentionally collecting and retaining intelligence on millions of people who have not been accused of any crime or terrorist activity. Nearly five million Americans visit the country each year, and many prominent U.S. citizens keep homes there, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey.

In addition, the program is a serious – and perhaps illegal – abuse of the access to international phone networks that other countries willingly grant the United States for legitimate law-enforcement surveillance. If the NSA is using the Drug Enforcement Administration’s relationship to the Bahamas as a cover for secretly recording the entire country’s mobile phone calls, it could imperil the longstanding tradition of international law enforcement cooperation that the United States enjoys with its allies.

“It’s surprising, the short-sightedness of the government,” says Michael German, a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice who spent 16 years as an FBI agent conducting undercover investigations. “That they couldn’t see how exploiting a lawful mechanism to such a degree that you might lose that justifiable access – that’s where the intelligence community is acting in a way that harms its long-term interests, and clearly the long-term national security interests of the United States.”