Picasa photo tuning

This is a continuation of Part 1 of my Picasa discussion.

I am continually surprised by how powerful the relatively simple photo tuning tools of Picasa are. Take for example this photo my wife snapped while flying from Seattle to San Francisco, and how easily Picasa turns it into a great picture.


Here is the original photo:


First all I do is apply an “I’m Feeling Lucky” pass:


Next I straighten the shot:


Then I crop the photo:


Finally I do another “I’m Feeling Lucky” pass:


And there we have it. Quite an amazing difference compared to the first photo. Here is another example before and after thanks to the I’m feeling lucky button (easily my favourite feature in Picasa):


Some more information is available from the Picasa Team about tuning photos.

Tuesdays and Google Reader

I read an interesting article linked from Hacker News to 16th Letter which discussed different productivity on different days.

While both myself and Melissa are both late to the party on productivity on Tuesdays, I was interested to see that she tested it by looking at her Google Reader stats. Myself, I use Google Reader as a procrastination tool, so I don’t know if I would call it a measure of productivity, but regardless here are Melissa’s stats:


Wow, that’s a big jump! Intrigued, I checked my own stats:


Not quite as big a jump, but still very distinct. I then checked my wife’s:


There it is again… fascinating. What do your stats look like?

Wikipedia article of the day – Banach-Tarski Paradox

As found from a commenter on Hacker News, the Banach-Tarski Paradox is described as thus:

The Banach–Tarski paradox is a theorem in set theoretic geometry which states that a solid ball in 3-dimensional space can be split into several non-overlapping pieces, which can then be put back together in a different way to yield two identical copies of the original ball. The reassembly process involves only moving the pieces around and rotating them, without changing their shape. However, the pieces themselves are complicated: they are not usual solids but infinite scatterings of points. In a paper published in 1924, Stefan Banach and Alfred Tarski gave a construction of such a “paradoxical decomposition”, based on earlier paradoxical decompositions of a unit interval and of a sphere due to Giuseppe Vitali and Felix Hausdorff, and discussed a number of related questions concerning decompositions of subsets of Euclidean spaces in various dimensions.

Is there anything Wikipedia doesn’t know? The Palace of the Soviets

Palace of SovietsThrough Google Reader, to BoingBoing, to Modern Mechanix, I found the following Wikipedia article detailing the Palace of the Soviets, which I found fascinating. The 30s was a heady time for large scale architecture in Europe. Albert Speer rose through the Nazi ranks after being hired by Hitler to design his large scale projects (his book Inside the Third Reich is an amazing read).

The amazing thing is that construction did actually begin, and was only stopped due to the beginning of World War 2. Plans for its completion remained open until 1958, when it was converted into a swimming pool.

Sand won’t save you this time.

No, it certainly won’t.

Holy crap that is some scary stuff.  Ever felt like burning a bucket of sand?  Just get yourself some chlorine trifluoride.  Asbestos contaminating your house?  This will burn it right up.

There’s a report from the early 1950s of a one-ton spill of the stuff. It burned its way through a foot of concrete floor and chewed up another meter of sand and gravel beneath, completing a day that I’m sure no one involved ever forgot. That process, I should add, would necessarily have been accompanied by copious amounts of horribly toxic and corrosive by-products: it’s bad enough when your reagent ignites wet sand, but the clouds of hot hydrofluoric acid are your special door prize if you’re foolhardy enough to hang around and watch the fireworks.

American Idol auditions

This may be a bit late, but I was sent this explanation of the Dunning-Kruger effect by a work colleague.  It perfectly explains the reason behind the look of incredulousness on the faces of people auditioning.

Kruger and Dunning noted … “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”. They hypothesized that with a typical skill which humans may possess in greater or lesser degree,

  1. Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
  2. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
  3. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.
  4. If they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.

Makes me wonder whether I’m imagining my Rock Band skills now…