Sunday 28 February 2010

On Google, and Face Recognition.

On Google: Well yes. here I am, writing this on Blogger, owned by Google. I connect to the net using Firefox, with a google toolbar. I could use Google's own browser, Chrome, but I like Firefox better. My computer's contents are indexed by Google Desktop search, my primary email is a Gmail account, my photos are sorted edited, and uploaded by Google' Picasa.
I go travelling on the astral plane now and then by courtesy of google earth.. I may have wandered down your street, or buzzed over your house with Google-earth, or stood outside using google streetview.
Google's products are pretty amazing. Back in the nineties, in the days of 56K modem dialups and slow page loads, (ohh i remember those heady days of the superfast Windows 95 coming out...) Internet explorer was young, Netscape Navigator was its rival, AOL rained free disks down in every mail delivery trying to coax new customers... Anyway, back then, I was fascinated by search engines. I had a folder of favourites, and I used one called "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" which aggregated lots of different searchers, Web spiders, they were often known as, then.
One day, I don't know just when, 1998 probably, I found this new search engine, called Google. From day one it was better than Lycos, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, all of them. In a fairly short time, It became the only search engine I needed, I so wish I'd had money to invest in those early days.

Now, from a system that ran off a few computers and a then huge 28 gb disk drive at Stanford to todays vast worldwide empire.
The company's motto "Do No Evil". And as I said, my computer, my everyday life all are googled.

Recently, Google's "Picasa" free photomanagement software was upgraded. And now it has facial recognition as standard.
It trawls through your drives, finds every image there, organises them nicely in folders, and extracts thumbnails of every face it can see. well okay, in my case, every face and one landrover door-hinge.
It then presents you with a few thumbnails and invites you to label them with names. So, say I label "Uncle Ted", (Uncle Ted is a mythical, just invented by me person, by the way)  in a short while, picasa will present me with sixty or so other faces it thinks may be Uncle Ted. It invites me to click on a tick, or a cross, yea or nay. The more I tick, the better its accuracy at deciding whether an image may be uncle Ted or not.
My verdict?
Uncannily accurate.
But then it occurs to me. Some of my albums are web albums. But anyway, google/picasa might be talking to home, Mountain View California, whether I know it or not. Imagine. It now knows what Uncle Ted looks like.  But maybe I'm not the only Picasa user who's got Ted in their albums. Maybe somewhere else, he's there as Eddie Verney, Or Doc V. Or Loverboy? Or Spanglepants?
Megagoogle gradually puts together images from other users (0.00023 milliseconds), Ted's workplaces, a street surveillance camera in Bangkok, an ATM in new York... It sees his old school pics on Friends Reunited. It listens to his twitter stream. It knows who he knows, who appears in pictures with him. Thanks to Pam's Christmas You tube video, it knows his voice, so it can find him in the world's phonechatter, it knows what car he drives, where he is on streetview, it watches him in a bar, it's in his iphone.
How soon before you can click on a picture of Ted and ask to see all the othe pictures of him it can find?
"Well, I never knew that about him, Who's she? Where did they get the goat?"

Are you feeling claustrophobic yet?

Some years ago, I read a book, a thriller in which a man is executed by... a gun, fixed co-axially to a street surveillance camera. His facial co-ordinates have been fed into the London city centre computer, which, in real-life, was proudly presented as having facial recognition abilities "To alert Police and track known shoplifters" Hahahahaaa! Shoplifters. I'll bet... Anyway, in the book, the camera is told to watch for that face, track on it, and, when certain parameters are met, send a signal... The bad guy will, at some time in the next three months, visit London. He always walks down Oxford street.
So. At some time, the camera will see, the computer will identify, track, triangulate, signal, BANG!
And the victim lies in the street with a neat hole in his forehead, no assassin is found.
I mentioned this to my tame Um.. Person with insider knowledge. And he (or she, or it) laughed. "We've had that ability for years"

And I suppose that's what some of those drones above war zones have, built in. But here it is. in a free photo package from Google. Poor Ted. He never knew what hit him.

Opt Out of Google?

Worried about Google knowing everything about you?Want to keep your privacy? Not have your conversations recorded and translated into every language? Not appear on Google Street-View? Want your prospective employers, future in-laws, college admissions people, not to be able to google and find out about that um... incident, a few years back?

Well, Google has an opt-out package for you. Watch the video.

Google Opt Out Feature Lets Users Protect Privacy By Moving To Remote Village

A Hymn to Corporate America. What's Your Logo?

This is made by a studio in Paris, It's a shorthand condensed version of how america shows itself to us, via action movies, cop shows, and, of course, the creeping spread of logo-imperialism. Yes, it's exaggerated.
But, I have to say, this is pretty much how we're fed America's corporate image.

And yes, we know that it's not all like that... or we hope not... meanwhile, MacDonalds, Starbucks, and all the rest spread out, like plague pustules, all over the globe.

Saturday 27 February 2010

A Football Match Pits 1933 players against 1991's

"1933 Arsenal plays the 1991 team of Liverpool, who are playing for the first time in black and white".

Cupid and Psyche

 Cupid and Psyche, by J.L. David

 "I hope", says Psyche's mom "that you were... careful.. whilst I was away?"
"Oh mom, Cupid and me are just friends, stop fussing!"

Friday 26 February 2010

Young Sir Arbuthnot took Nanny's stories very seriously, and, as a consequence, never went out unprepared for the possibility of a zombie ambush.

A Note to All Angels

It has come to my notice that the ongoing saturday-nights out on the town are bringing Angeldom into disrepute. Angels are reminded that wings and halos are NOT to be worn when off duty. 
Angels arrested by police are reminded that the Almighty has expressed an intention to institute immediate transfers to duty in "the other place"
Archangel Gabriel

Advanced Health Warning...

It occurs to me that the health conscious aliens might go for the low-fat humans first.
None of us are safe.

Hans Could Never Resist..

...pissing in combat pianos.

The Story..

The story to fit this picture -has not yet arrived.
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Sometimes, a Bit of Encouragement is Needed

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Some Instructional Videos For Women.

Gary Rith has posted some timely advice for the married lady, here.
I thought I'd add further assistance, for those of you unsure of a woman's place in this rapidly changing world.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Marjorie Was Getting Frustrated.

She'd explained so many times that passenger waiting times would be greatly improved if they got nekkid BEFORE arriving at security. Mind you, Jack's habit of posting the hot chicks straight to his blog slowed things down too.

Fish Bar

Do fish drink?
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Motivational Kiln Picture

Okay englishman, get to work... your flared jeans will be of little help in this endeavour. 
It will fire every wednesday... What are you waiting for?
Get throwing!

This kiln's built by the same person, but it's a lot older. And slightly smaller. Too small to park a suv in.

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Wednesday 17 February 2010

Pots I've Borrowed from Museums

Matt, here's some you'd like: These date from the time when I was making repros for an archaeologicist, museums, and for re-enactment groups.

Roman Bottle, unglazed. A real beauty, I didn't want to give it back.

Samian ware bowl, terra sigillata, decorated with various erotic scenes, press moulded, made in northern France  (Gaul, home to Asterix and Obelix!)
Found at  the site of a Roman fort, The archaeologist said to me, Just imagine the scene, A centurion, returning from leave, pulls this bowl out of his kitbag, "Hey lads!" he says, in latin "See what I got in Gaul!", and the raucous laughter and jests as it's passed around the guard-room. Maybe he lost it, later on, in a bet, to a decurion from Iberia.
Bronze Age pot. Burnished decoration, the 'handle' is made by pinching through the side of the pot, and adding fresh clay. I suspect it's for attaching a cord. The museum's store had at least twenty of these, uncracked, looking as if they could have been made just last week.

"Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come."

Past Archives

The view out my window, december 1981. The red-painted building is the pottery I was working at.
The same view, in august '81
A year later, dec '82, I was living in the second house along, I grew tomatoes in that porch, in the summer.

A Cabin, near the pottery.

Dylan Thomas, an extract from "A Child's Christmas in Wales"

From "A Child's Christmas in Wales "
"Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."

"But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards.

"Were there postmen then, too?"
"With sprinkling eyes and wind-cherried noses, on spread, frozen feet they crunched up to the doors and mittened on them manfully. But all that the children could hear was a ringing of bells."
"You mean that the postman went rat-a-tat-tat and the doors rang?"
"I mean that the bells the children could hear were inside them."
"I only hear thunder sometimes, never bells."
"There were church bells, too."
"Inside them?"
"No, no, no, in the bat-black, snow-white belfries, tugged by bishops and storks. And they rang their tidings over the bandaged town, over the frozen foam of the powder and ice-cream hills, over the crackling sea. It seemed that all the churches boomed for joy under my window; and the weathercocks crew for Christmas, on our fence."

Dylan Thomas: My mother knew him, back in Swansea, in the nineteen thirties, he was one of her brother's friends. Her brother, Leonard wrote poems too, declaimed in greek and latin.. my mother, significantly younger, did not like Dylan Thomas, didn't like the way he leered at her... She would cross the road to avoid him. Said he was usually drunk, she'd hear Len and Dylan coming up the road, after a few beers, reciting poems in sonorous voice. Dylan Thomas, she says, was "Pompous".

Tuesday 16 February 2010

In My Craft Or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art

Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

Dylan Thomas

Sunday 14 February 2010

Kiln Building in 1990 -A pictorial essay.

After I stopped renting premises for my pottery, I had a big heap of materials, and the equipment I'd not managed to sell, racks and so forth, and a couple of big stacks of second hand firebricks on what had once been a garden at home.
I had a bit of space inside, enough to make a few pots, and just across the yard was a factory unit which made furniture frames out of kiln dried hardwood. It costs a business like that a lot of money shipping the offcuts away, so it was only natural that my brother and I put all the old fireplaces in the house back into use, installing a woodfired cast-iron stove with a water heating coil, too.
And of course, it was only natural that a pyromaniac potter would decide to knock down the raku kiln and build a nice little woodfire kiln. 
The kiln was a mashup, a hybrid. Well, up to the arch it was a strightforward Fred Olsen Fastfire,  I'd been in correspondence with Nils Lou some time previously, and he'd sent me his plans for what looks like a terrific kiln, the Minnesota Flat-Top, which I'd always planned to be my studio kiln, the place I eventually ended up renting refused to let me have a flame-fired kiln, due to their insurer's fears, and ignorance of the nature of kilns. So I had been all-electric there.
The MFT's roof was a compression structure, which allowed it to remain flat, with no fear of collapse. I liked that. I've built arches the hard way, cutting and shaping. With this, it's just standard bricks, on end, lightly buttered with clay slip, and clamped up by steel bars acting on the corners. I think I put hard firebricks in the corners to take the crush-load a bit better.
Here's a blow-by blow photosaga.
Concrete slab, 6", with reinforcing mesh, followed by a layer of flat-laid hard firebrick.

Firebox walls are hard firebrick. Two opposing equal fireboxes.

Floorslabs, from Butterley Brick, I paid for these, but they were very generous in letting me pick over their refractory seconds and scrap pile.

Walls were large K-23 insulating firebrick, bought very cheaply after they'd been used for the international potters-camp kils at Aberystwith. Lots of people wanted them, but few had the ability to truck them away. I had a big van and trailer.

Almost there!

Dill-the-Dog getting underfoot and stealing bits of wood to chomp on.
The chimney seen here was for use in drying-out, this was 8", it really needed a 10", rising to 12ft above the kiln floor. Door was bricked out of normal size K-23s, bagwalls were hard firebrick. Grates were welded out of 1" rebar, and angle sections, all sourced from construction site salvage.
Firing in 6 hours to 1300degrees C (2370degrees F)(stoneware), was quite easy, though I preferred closer to twelve hours, with a small fire lit the night before in the front firebox to ensure a dry start to the main firing.
Not too long after it was built, my source of dry hardwood went bust! Damn! No big problem, though, it could be fired on oil or gas with only a little alteration.
However. I was persuaded to start making stuff for a couple or three other potters, in their workshops, which I did for a while, making things that they could envisage but  lacked the ability to throw, so it was a mix of production and tutoring,  I still wanted to do my own thing though,  so I stopped all that, and started working in building and plumbing in order to try get the  taxman off my back. I was so disillusioned by my experiences with shops and galleries defaulting on payment to me, and me going into bankruptcy with a tax man threatening me on a regular basis, that I abandoned potting altogether until last year.

On the Difficulties of Visiting One's Valentine.

Saturday 13 February 2010

My Valentine!

She's my Valentine.
She's my poet,
She is the one,
The only one,
She has the key to my heart.

And she makes me feel like this....

And she sets me on fire!

She's my Red Dirt Mule!

(The hearts are pieces by the Dutch artist, Frank Tjepkema)

Walter, Mesmerised by a Cutie.

I've got two scanners, though they're rarely used. But re-commissioning the computer after disc-fail, led to me noticing that I had all this stuff sitting idle, and I've got piles of stuff.... Like these cartoons, by "Cull". My great-uncle Walter worked with Cull, they were both draughtsmen, with the air-ministry, drawing blueprints during the war and throughout the fifties, when I was little, littler than I am now, anyway, visits to Uncle Walter and Auntie Sybil were ofter spent drawing. Walter had an endless supply of drawing paper, mostly of wing-root design on top secret v-bombers, or engine details of delta-wing supersonic fighters.
The Russians would have found a jackpot if they'd ever turned our childish drawings over to see the back.
I drew aircraft, my sister drew horses. She still draws horses, and makes money doing so.
Cull drew wing-roots. And the people he worked with, and mystery buxom cuties. Here's Walt, mesmerised by a buxom cutie in uniform....

Friday 12 February 2010

Coming Home

Quite a long time ago I used to live in a little town in the middle of the Baltic.


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I've Been Rootling Through Old Photos

After I had to close the pottery, after working with Earth, Fire, and Water, I decided to work with Air,  and became a Wind Turbine Maintenance Engineer. It's a very responsible post, as without these things there would be no wind....
The top picture's me and my little brother, fitting a new wind-speed sensor assembly on the top of a turbine.
The dark blobs and streaks on the tower were due to  premature failure of the seals meant to hold grease in.
We had to hire a big cherrypicker to get up there with a hot pressure-washer and scrubbing brushes...
Oh, and the bearings all got replaced, needing a very big crane on site. The cherry-picker guy chickened out because we were getting pushed about so much by the wind, which cost us an extra couple of days.

A Potter's Nightmare

Or "Things That Go Boom in the Night"

Although I often fired that kiln, this did NOT happen on my watch! What happened here was that the kiln was started on small pilot burners, left a couple of hours, then the gas was turned on to the main burners... But three of the four pilot burners went out. And my boss didn't check, or purge the kiln atmosphere before turning on the big gas valve... so it filled with a nice mix of forced air and gas, and... bricks rained out of the sky.
This was in, ahem... 1977. yes, children, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. 
I learned a few useful lessons from that. And after the kiln was rebuilt, I learned that combustion experts are not infallible, and that fire extinguishers only last a few seconds.
The gas valve guys had come and fitted new flame-failure devices to the kiln, and were testing the auto proportioning valve. They'd run the kiln up to red heat, and decided to go for lunch whilst it cooled a bit. 
So without telling anybody, they popped the door, left it open about an inch. Just above the kiln door was a roof with wooden timbers.
Our clay pugging part timer went into the kiln room, let out a shriek, and yelled "We're on FIRE!", so I yelled to everyone (There were twelve workers) to get out, and call the fire brigade, whilst I heroically ran in the opposite direction, toward the fire... (see how brave I am?) (or stupid?). I grabbed the first extinguisher, aimed it at the flames and ""PHOOOOOOF! it said, and went limp. Yep. phoooooof. No foreplay so to speak, just hit the button, a white jet, and a fire extinguisher hanging limply.
What a disappointment. And the fire was still going. Oh. And the air was filled with choking, eye watering, blinding white powder.  The fire was going even better than before, right up to the apex of the roof. I ran back into the main room, grabbed the foam extinguisher, and tried that. Oooh baby.. the fire loved that, gimme some more, she panted.... but that foam extinguisher? Shppurrrtttttt! tt! tt t... And then, that was it. That fire, she was still going, crackling and banging and moaning. Your extremely brave correspondent said "Fuck it", and left the building, coughing and wheezing .
By which time heehawheehaw! the fire engine was roaring in through the gate.
It turned out, don't-cha know, that my technique was wrong.
The firemen went up the roof with axes, ripped the tiles off and blasted about a zillion gallons of water on it. Well, yes, of course, they smashed a couple of weeks' worth of production, but they saved the kiln room and the glazing room.

Just around then, a white van turned up with two gas furnace experts, who'd had a pub lunch. With beer. And missed all the excitement they'd caused. Their company's insurance faced a big claim, and I hope those two were sacked.
After that, I went on a fire training course. I've forgotten most of it now. But my technique is better.

Despite my heroism, I didn't even get a medal.

Seriously, potter-friends,  learn what to do in a fire. I know. kilns are good at NOT starting fires. But we can all be stupid at times.
Get the right extinguishers. Your local fire department will often do free training sessions. A fire extinguisher comes and goes in about fourteen seconds.

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