Getting Laid in French

For those who don't know, Montreal is the largest city in the province of Quebec (located in that northern country known as Canada). Quebec is a French province and Montreal is mostly French as well.

On Sunday, as the kids and I were walking downtown, we passed a man begging with a sign. As we passed, Tania asked me, "Why does he say he's ugly?" I asked what she meant and she said, "His sign says, 'Je suis laid'". She further explained that laid means ugly.

I had seen the sign but did not understand the first part since I didn't know what laid meant and I assumed (incorrectly) the kids didn't either. The rest of the sign (which I did understand) said ... help me out and I can get a facial. (ok, it said it in French not English).

The word came up again last night as Jason was reading to me Les Trois Boucs: "... un ogre tres laid et très méchant ..." ("... a very ugly and very mean ogre ...") .

It is pronounced the same way as the French words lait and les, namely (for English speakers) leh.

Image nabbed from here.

I adjusted the image to remove a bluish tint, I don't know if this is permissible under the Creative Commons license or not (depends how you argue what constitutes a 'derivative' work).

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Montreal Again

Went downtown with the kids again and took a few pictures (412 - I wanted to experiment some more with panoramas).

I took a number of burst shots on the highway because I was curious what AutoStitch would do with them. This is 1 of 12 shots heading down Autoroute 15.
AutoStitch assembled them together in a sort of fish eye view.
This is one shot (out of 12) on Autoroute 20 heading into downtown.
This is the image retouched using GIMP (something similar to PhotoShop, but free). I straightened the image, cropped out the front of the car, eliminated some window reflections and adjusted the colours to make them brighter and more vivid. I think it came out pretty well. Total retouching time was about 30 minutes.
This is one shot (out of 34) inside the Ville-Marie Tunnel. I liked the colours and the blur.
This is a retouched version of the image (once again using GIMP). The image was straightened and cropped, the colours and contrast were adjusted and front of the car was painted out and the white lines extended. I am not happy with the white lines on the left side. It was pretty difficult to do using a mouse, as well, I could not find a 100% suitable tool for painting in the lines. I did not crop out the front of the car because I wanted the blurred orange cone on the far bottom left. Total retouching time was about 45 minutes.
This piece of art was AutoStitched together from 6 vertically panned shots. It appears AutoStitch expects panoramic shots to be horizontal, not vertical.
It was a quick fix to simply rotate the images 90 degrees clockwise and then AutoStitch them together. I then rotated the panoramic image 90 degrees counterclockwise to get the original.
This is a panned shot of a pool outside Place des Arts. I sat at the corner and clicked away (12 shots). As you can see, there is some fisheye distortion. Again, stiched together using AutoStitch.
Some graffiti for Ingrid and breal who have expressed interest in graffiti. This was stiched together from 8 images using AutoStitch.
I also took a few pictures of some of the flowers in our flower bed. A pretty tulip. Unretouched.
Some blue flowers. Unretouched.
Another pretty blue flower (also comes in pink). Unretouched.
A few days ago I tried my hand at retouching an older photo that I wished was more vibrant (I had taken it on a cloudy Autumn day). Unfortunately there is not much dynamic range in the picture so enhancing it was a bit tough. This is the original.
This is made a bit brighter, with heavy saturation of the reds and yellows. A few minutes retouching time with GIMP.
This is the same as the above, except I removed all the blues and cyans. Again, just a few minutes to retouch using GIMP.

Photo credits: Richard of Forbidden Planet.

All images were taken on the Island of Montreal.

[Update 26-May-2008 @ 21:30 - fixed some typos and grammatical errors because, clearly, I can't write.]

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A Stitch in Time ...

I have been trying my hand at panorama pictures lately - taking multiple overlapping shots and then stitching them together.

My first attempts came out quite well. My later attempts highlighted some shortcomings with stitching software.

360 degree panorama in a park we went to for Mother's Day. This definitely came out well, even though I was just holding the camera and turning in spot.
A smaller view cropped from the panoramic view.
Part of a panoramic shot taken at St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal. Subject matter which moves between shots end up looking like ghosts.
I tried to capture a wall of graffiti by taking multiple shots and sliding horizontally between shots. Unfortunately, it seems the stitching software expects the camera to remain in a fixed position and not to be moving. As you can see, it did not stitch it together correctly. The red door on the left is in the wrong place and if you look to the right side, the automated parking ticket dispenser is partly ghosted on its left side. I tried to stitch the image together in smaller batches (this image is comprised of 63 separate images), but was not successful. I then tried a different photo stitching software. And the result below shows that it was not quite so successful either.

I primarily use AutoStitch to do the stitching. It is pretty simple, just load a bunch of pictures and it does the rest. By default, it generates a panorama with a maximum width of 1400 pixels. You can go to the options menu and change it to be 100%. The application has run out of memory trying to stitch together some of the larger panoramas.

For the last panorama, I tried hugin. This one is not so automatic. It does have some automated tools for matching up and lining up the images (not part of the standard download) and I was not able to get them to work (the just abruptly terminated). So I was forced to identify anchor points among the various images. I only did one of two per pair of images; this may explain why it came out so garbled. The recommended number is 10 or more per image pair.

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The Darkness Macabre

is the title of a fictional poem I quoted from in a play I wrote in 1985, for a course called Theatre and Drama. I was 19. Below are the 3 lines I quoted from it. Even then, I could be pretty morose.

At times fear does seem more to be the enemy than the empty darkness which beckons us to our death.

Oh, foolish mortal! Can you not see or has the darkness entered your eyes?

See how the fool does dare to trek across the open hand of Death.

I also came across a book of compositions from Grade 5. As you can see, my penmanship and artistic skills were a little on the challenged side.

Feb 21


If I were a mosquito I would be small and I wouldn’t bite people yet one day someone will succeed in killing me.

The captions are: HATCHING and KILLED

Image credit: Richard of Forbidden Planet

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" Are you weaker than a woman?"

Throughout the city [Jerusalem] people were dying of hunger in large numbers, and enduring unspeakable sufferings. In every house the merest hint of food sparked violence, and close relatives fell to blows, snatching from one another the pitiful supports of life. No respect was paid even to the dying; the ruffians [anti-Roman zealots] searched them, in case they were concealing food somewhere in their clothes, or just pretending to be near death. Gaping with hunger, like mad dogs, lawless gangs went staggering and reeling through the streets, battering upon the doors like drunkards, and so bewildered that they broke into the same house two or three times in an hour. Need drove the starving to gnaw at anything. Refuse, which even animals would reject, was collected and turned into food. In the end, they were eating belts and shoes, and the leather stripped off their shields. Tufts of withered grass were devoured, and sold in little bundles for four drachmas.

But why dwell on the commonplace rubbish which the starving were driven to feed upon, given that what I have to recount is an act unparalleled in the history of either the Greeks or the barbarians, and as horrible to relate as it is incredible to hear? For my part, I should gladly have omitted this tragedy, lest I should be suspected of monstrous fabrication. But there were many witnesses of it among my contemporaries; and besides, I should do poor service to my country if I were to suppress the agonies she went through.

Among the residents of the region beyond Jordan was a woman called Mary, daughter of Eleazar, of the village of Bethezuba (the name means "House of Hyssop"). She was well off, and of good family, and had fled to Jerusalem with her relatives, where she became involved with the siege. Most of the property she had packed up and brought with her from Peraea had been plundered by the tyrants [Simon and John, leaders of the Jewish war-effort], and the rest of her treasure, together with such foods as she had been able to procure, was being carried by their henchmen in their daily raids. In her bitter resentment, the poor woman cursed and abused these extortioners, and this incensed them against her. However, no one put her to death either from exasperation or pity. She grew weary of trying to find food for her kinsfolk. In any case, it was by now impossible to get any, wherever you tried. Famine gnawed at her vitals, and the fire of rage was ever fiercer than famine.

Driven by fury and want, she committed a crime against nature. Seizing her child, an infant at the breast, she cried, "My poor baby, why should I keep you alive in this world of war and famine? Even if we live till the Romans come, they will make slaves of us; and anyway, hunger will get us before slavery does; and the rebels are crueler than both. Come, be food for me, and an avenging fury to the rebels, and a tale of cold horror to the world to complete the monstrous agony of the Jews." With these words she killed her son, roasted the body, devoured half of it, and stored the rest in a safe place. The rebels were on her at once, smelling roasted meat, and threatening to kill her instantly if she did not produce it. She assured them she had saved them a share, and revealed the remains of her child. Seized with horror and stupefaction, they stood paralyzed at the sight. But she said, "This is my own child, and my own handiwork. Eat, for I have eaten already. Do not show yourselves weaker than a woman, or more pitiful than a mother. But if you have pious scruples, and shrink away from human sacrifice, then what I have eaten can count as your share, and I will eat what is left as well." At that they slunk away, trembling, not daring to eat, although they were reluctant to yield even this food to the mother.

Josephus, The Jewish War, c. 75 C.E.

I find this an incredibly powerful passage describing the desperate plight of the Jewish people as the Romans besieged Jerusalem in 70 C.E.




"I did not stop it, because I had no right to."

"A man is thrown down on his back and three or four men sit or stand on his arms and legs and hold him down; and either a gun barrel or a rifle barrel or a carbine barrel or a stick as big as a belaying pin, -- that is, with an inch circumference, -- is simply thrust into his jaws and his jaws are thrust back, and, if possible, a wooden log or stone is put under his head or neck, so he can be held more firmly. In the case of very old men I have seen their teeth fall out, -- I mean when it was done a little roughly. He is simply held down and then water is poured onto his face down his throat and nose from a jar; and that is kept up until the man gives some sign or becomes unconscious. And, when he becomes unconscious, he is simply rolled aside and he is allowed to come to. In almost every case the men have been a little roughly handled. They were rolled aside rudely, so that water was expelled. A man suffers tremendously, there is no doubt about it. His sufferings must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown. ... I did not stop it, because I had no right to."

Testimony of First Lieutenant Grover Flint taken by the Senate Committee on Affairs in the Philippine Islands (also known as the Lodge Committe) in 1902 investigating U.S. military atrocities during the Philippine-American War.




"The zinc oxide pigment used ... as a sunscreen active agent in commercial formulations causes significant damage to DNA under UV illumination."

I love it when one of my off the beaten path observations is right.

I find and article supporting my thesis in the Journal of Oleo Science published by the Japan Oil Chemist's Society.

The article is quite dull (no, really, it is horrendously mind-numbingly dull), but it confirms what I had suspected that sunscreens containing TiO2 or ZnO are damaging to the skin.

You can find the article here.

The citation for the article is:

Hisao HIDAKA, Hiroyuki KOBAYASHI, Takayoshi KOIKE, Tsugio SATO and Nick SERPONE, “DNA Damage Photoinduced by Cosmetic Pigments and Sunscreen Agents under Solar Exposure and Artificial UV Illumination”, J. Oleo Sci., Vol. 55, 249-261 (2006) .

[Update 13-May-2008 @ 23:48: fixed broken link]

[Update 14-May-2008 @ 00:17: add graphic and more information]

From the study, sun block using TiO2, ZnO or CeO2 results in more DNA damage than exposure of DNA to raw UV. Note: the image is somewhat deceptive in that it uses 3 different timescales: 360 minutes, 120 minutes and 180 minutes. Plot (a) is for "unprotected" DNA. Plot (b) is for DNA with TiO2, Plot (c) for DNA with ZnO. Plot(d) for DNA with CeO2.

The white bands at the bottom are supercoiled forms of DNA (normal, healthy). The bands at the top are relaxed forms of DNA (damaged). In the ZnO sample, the DNA further transitions to linear form - the bands in the middle of the plot.

Fifteen minutes of exposure with TiO2 or ZnO results in more genetic damage than 3 hours of raw exposure.

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Moses missed a few

Before gaining entry to the afterlife, the ancient Egyptians believed that the deceased would be judged before a tribunal of gods (actually, his/her heart would be weighed to see if they had been just or not). They were also expected to recite this negative confession.

There are a few different versions of this floating around - the exact number and specific assertions sometimes slightly vary.

The form is always the same: "[Name of god] who comes from [name of place], I have not [committed this transgression]". I have eliminated the introductory clause of each assertion.

The Egyptians had a lot of gods and there is some overlap (e.g. "I have not stolen" and "I have not stolen grain" were affirmed to two different gods).

  1. I have not committed sin.

  2. I have not committed robbery with violence.

  3. I have not stolen.

  4. I have not slain men and women.

  5. I have not stolen grain.

  6. I have not purloined offerings.

  7. I have not stolen the property of God.

  8. I have not uttered lies.

  9. I have not carried away food.

  10. I have not uttered curses.

  11. I have not committed adultery.

  12. I have not lain with men.

  13. I have made none to weep.

  14. I have not eaten the heart.

  15. I have not attacked any man.

  16. I am not a man of deceit.

  17. I have not stolen cultivated land.

  18. I have not been an eavesdropper.

  19. I have not slandered.

  20. I have not been angry without just cause.

  21. I have not debauched the wife of any man.

  22. I have not polluted myself.

  23. I have terrorized none.

  24. I have not transgressed the law.

  25. I have not been wroth.

  26. I have not shut my ears to the words of truth.

  27. I have not blasphemed.

  28. I am not a man of violence.

  29. I have not been a stirrer up of strife.

  30. I have not acted with undue haste.

  31. I have not pried into matters.

  32. I have not multiplied my words in speaking.

  33. I have wronged none.

  34. I have done no evil.

  35. I have not worked witchcraft against the king.

  36. I have never stopped the flow of water.

  37. I have never raised my voice.

  38. I have not cursed God.

  39. I have not acted with arrogance.

  40. I have not stolen the bread of the gods.

  41. I have not carried away the khenfu cakes from the Spirits of the dead.

  42. I have not snatched away the bread of the child, nor treated with contempt the god of my city.

  43. I have not slain the cattle belonging to the god.

If you think about it, this is really a response to a list of commandments. We could easily envision a Jew or Christian standing before God and reciting a negative confession against the Decalogue: "Lord of Hosts, I have worshipped no other gods. Lord of Mercy, I have killed no one. Lord of Fidelity, I have not committed adultery. Lord of Truth, I have not borne false witness. etc ...).

The text is adapted from here. You can find it in Book IX under the heading "The Negative Confession" (just a little past halfway down the page).

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adj: very cold, icy. From the Latin gelidus which is from gelu meaning frost.

I came across this word last night in Stephen King's short story I am the Doorway: ... the flesh was soft and gelid, like the flesh of an apple gone rotten ....

From the context, I guessed wrong at the meaning. My impression was it meant something akin to gelatinous - I was wrong.

From a writing perspective, I wonder if the adjectives and the simile are both necessary. The simile amplifies the adjectives and repetition or amplification can be a good thing - it can also be wordy

"... the flesh was soft and cold ..."

"... the flesh was like an apple gone rotten ..."

But who am I to tinker?

Has anyone ever seen this word (and knew what it meant) before today?

[As an aside, I notice I haven't been receiving e-mail notifications from blogger for the past few days, so I failed to notice that there were new comments. Yes, yes, I know, I can always check my own blog, rather than checking my e-mail. My settings, I just checked, are to receive e-mail notification.]

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"Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water putrefies; the idle mind decays."

Leonardo da Vinci


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