A Referral Bonus – Topaz Labs

Just something different. Topaz Labs has been running a special sale on their products (a complete bundle) for a large discount. The sale is ending today. I don’t use all the products in their catalog, but the two that I use, I use all the time. Two of the best Photoshop plugins that I have ever used are Sharpen AI and De Noise AI from Topaz Labs. The link below will give you a discount if you choose to purchase any of the products. And give me a little bit in return.

http://topazlabs.refr.cc/winstonl

I can’t vouch for the other products I don’t use, but I can heartily recommend the two products that I do use. Topaz Sharpen AI and De Noise AI are indispensable tools in my workflow. They are class leading.

I did try Mask AI but I didn’t purchase it – I don’t do a lot of masking so I can use other tools to do that task, if I need to. I don’t upscale often, so I don’t use GigaPixel AI. JPEG to Raw AI? Never used it. I’d like to try their video enhancer product, but it takes a lot of compute power to work. In the end, you buy the tools that you use.

Topaz gives you a lifetime license to use their products but you only have a one year window where you can get upgrades for the product. While your license to use the product does not expire, your ability to download and install updates to the product you purchase expires after a year. I was upset when they changed their pricing model, but at least it is not subscription based and you get to use their product for perpetuity. I ended up buying an additional license to use the two products for another year. The upgrades are worth it, even though the version of the products that I had before renewing were already good. In the end, software companies should sell good products at a good price. Topaz, in my use case, sells products that are invaluable to the work I do. Of course, as with everything else, YMMV.

A very quiet day (birdwise)

A nice Saturday morning – sunny and cool. A typical mid Atlantic November day. Huntley Meadows beckoned. It’s never a good sign when you get there a half hour after sunrise and people are leaving. And truth be told, it was three hours of looking for something other than a red winged blackbird. You can hear the kingfisher, but it was far away. You can see the mergansers but they were far away. A blue heron flew in but it was far away. Heck, I probably should have stayed far away from Huntley as well, and catch a few more ZZZs. Oh well, at least there was a collection of water on the ground over some leaves. You just go with the flow. Even if the water is at a standstill (or nearly so).

Fall is Here

Can it be? It’s autumn in the northern hemisphere? Where did summer go? Heck, where did the year go? It has been a rather challenging year for almost everyone. With a scant three months before the page turns and 2020 becomes a memory, it is probably a good time to remember that the hardships and challenges we have endured are what life is about. It is not about jetting to some far off destination. Experiencing the delight of other places or tasting yet another new dish. Life is about living each day the best we can. To be kind and respectful. To watch and listen and learn. We don’t have to agree with what everyone says. Or what everyone does. We must do our part to not harm others. And this means respecting each other as if we are all borne of the same Father. That we are brothers and sisters in the most basic thing that defines each of us. Our DNA says so. Our RNA says so. Does our heart tell the same tale, or do we insist that enlightenment is only for the few? I tend to think it’s for the few. Oh. Check that. That kind of thinking, of allowing ourselves to think that we are better than the other only brings ruin to a community. If this pandemic wracked world has something left to teach us, let it be a simple reminder. A smile, even beneath a mask, still radiates warmth within. We cannot love everyone, but we can respect everyone. And in doing so, perhaps, that respect will become something greater. Something better. Perhaps.

What Galileo Saw

At the limits of what a longish zoom on an APS-C camera can capture. I probably should have set up the camera on the gimbal mount instead of a ballhead to make locating the object easier. This is Jupiter, with the four Galilean moons. Roughly what Galileo saw when he trained his telescope on the largest planet in our solar system.

The moons from left to right are Callisto, Europa, Io and Ganymede

Callisto is barely visible in this picture. It’s the second largest moon in the Jovian system but it has very low reflectivity (albedo), which makes it rather difficult to see with binoculars.

That Analog Pop

Vinyl sounds great, but those pops! I guess it’s the price to pay when listening to something that sounds a little less clinical.

The Beattles, Norwegian Wood

It’s interesting to see what segments in the music are used by the youtube AI.

Cinema Paradiso

One of the greatest movies in the history of cinema is the great Italian film “Cinema Paradiso.” It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, but really, this film should have won the award for Best Picture. Truly a masterpiece, with a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by the peerless Ennio Morricone. As a way to introduce people to this movie, and as a tribute to a truly great composer (who recently died), here is a performance of the theme from “Cinema Paradiso.”

Truly a great film, truly a great soundtrack.

Thank You, Brandon Sanderson!

For giving us such great books to fill our minds (and hearts) with wonder. For the words that provide inspiration every day:

“The most important words a man can say are, “I will do better.” These are not the most important words any man can say. I am a man, and they are what I needed to say.

The ancient code of the Knights Radiant says “journey before destination.” Some may call it a simple platitude, but it is far more. A journey will have pain and failure. It is not only the steps forward that we must accept. It is the stumbles. The trials. The knowledge that we will fail. That we will hurt those around us.

But if we stop, if we accept the person we are when we fall, the journey ends. That failure becomes our destination. To love the journey is to accept no such end. I have found, through painful experience, that the most important step a person can take is always the next one.

Late is Late

July was supposed to be the month to see the comet Neowise. Unfortunately, between the evening thunderstorms and the clouds that occluded the stars at dawn, I didn’t get a chance to venture out and look for this occasional visitor until it had gone around the sun and headed back to the world of Pluto and beyond. When I finally got a chance to look for the comet, the light pollution near a major city, in conjunction with the fading luminosity of an object zooming away from our planet made the search for a near eighth magnitude object a rather daunting task. And a futile one at that. Still, I needed to take a picture of something. And so it was that late really was late, but as with everything else, you make do with what you have. Or in this case, what is easily seen.

The Color Yellow

In the Empire of the Sun, the Emperor Long Xi made it known that the color yellow offended him and decreed that everything in his empire that contained the color yellow was offensive and was to be removed and banished forever. Sire, a cowering servant told him, the light of the sun contains the color yellow. So the emperor proclaimed that everyone must live without the light of the sun and ordered all citizens of the empire to live in caves, for the color yellow is never to be seen again. And so, the people lived underground, never to see the sun again.

In the Republic of the Enlightened, a man shouted that the color yellow made him sad. A great many people heard him shout how yellow made him sad. They all said, yellow makes that man sad, we should let everyone know that yellow makes people sad. And so the word spread that yellow makes everyone sad. And someone said, if yellow makes people sad, we should remove everything that contains yellow. And the word spread that anything that contained yellow should be removed from their midst. And so, the Republic removed everything with the color yellow from their midst.

Some time later, one of their scientist took a piece of glass, pointed it towards the sun and saw the color yellow. The scientist cowered in fear, knowing that he had seen the color yellow, something they all agreed made people sad. He tried to stay silent, but someone saw him hold the piece of glass upon the sky. This man shouted out to the Republic that the scientist had seen the color yellow. The scientist, fearing for his life, told the people that no, he didn’t really see the color yellow coming from his piece of glass. The people did not care. And the scientist was banished from their midst.

Then someone said, what if what the scientist said was true? The light of the sun contains the color yellow! And this thought was shared throughout the republic. And then someone said – “The light of the sun contains the color yellow. It will make us sad.” And the people cried out, the sun makes us all sad. And then someone said, there is no sun in the caves, let us go into the caves. And the word spread and the people of the republic moved into the caves.

In other parts of the world, people wondered. Why do those people live in caves? They didn’t know that the color yellow was deemed unacceptable by the empire and by the republic. And so life went on. They often disagreed amongst themselves. They talked about a great many things and the things that caused harm to some were eventually relegated to the caves. They knew that sometimes, someone brought the things out of the caves. They understood that they cannot control the lives and actions of everyone, but they knew that as a community, they were better off living in a world where they can talk to one other without fear of being struck down. And they knew that as a community, they must always make sure that everyone is respected, and they knew that though they didn’t always agree, a true community cannot survive if they live in fear of each another.

The things that came out of the caves went back to the caves. Sometimes, though, they discovered that the things in the caves were not harmful after all. And so those things from the caves remained in the light, freed from darkness. And the people thrived.

Transcendence

I have been a fan of musical theater for decades now. I have seen shows in my hometown, in New York, in the movies and in television. The last five years gave the world at least two truly great musicals – Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen. In the tumult of today, I often sit back and just listen to these shows. And many others.

I didn’t really listen to the whole Hamilton soundtrack until the show started streaming in Disney Plus. The first act was great. The acting, the songs, the story was just a treat. The second act, though, was incredible. And then there was this song, this moment in the show that made me realize that this is a show that all of us needs to see. Not just for the incredible cast, the incredible songs, the incredible performances. For me, this song is transcendent.

The beauty of this song is not just the melody or the voices that sing it. We all make mistakes and we all have regrets. And yet, in the midst of the sadness there was no recrimination. Instead, it talks about the loss, sacrifice, forgiveness and love. A beautiful tune and in the sadness of it all, hope and love.

Thank you Renee Elise Goldsberry. Thank you Philippa Soo. Thank you, Hamilton cast and singers. And thank you Lin-Manuel Miranda. Truly amazing.