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Monday, July 26, 2010

Mini-Smores-Grill

Mini-Smores-Grill


What a great idea! I'm going to make this when my granddaughter comes to visit - We're going to have Smores!

Complete plans found at Instructables.com: http://www.instructables.com/id/Mini-Smores-Grill/

Monday, July 19, 2010

Size versus Quality

Size versus Quality

I'm trying to figure out the relationship between the file size and the quality of digital images.
To start, I've selected a JPEG image (a photo taken of an oil painting by a great artist...me!)
The following series of images are all the same size, but I've progressively decreased the quality. IrfanView allows me to select options for saving JPEG or GIF images.


The only option I changed for each of the following examples is that of quality, starting with 100% and decreasing to a minimum of 1%.
Image #1: firefighter-400x312-100.jpg, 84 KB


Image #2: firefighter-400x312-90.jpg, 28 KB


Image #3: firefighter-400x312-80.jpg, 20 KB


Image #4: firefighter-400x312-70.jpg, 16 KB


Image #5: firefighter-400x312-60.jpg, 14 KB


Image #6: firefighter-400x312-50.jpg, 12 KB


Image #7: firefighter-400x312-40.jpg, 10 KB


Image #8: firefighter-400x312-30.jpg, 9 KB
Image #9: firefighter-400x312-20.jpg, 6 KB


Image #10: firefighter-400x312-10.jpg, 4 KB
Image #11: firefighter-400x312-01.jpg, 2 KB


Severe degradation is not seen until the quality is reduced to about 20%.
A huge reduction in file size is seen at the 90% level: from 84 KB down to 28 KB.
Now, let's use a sharper image to start with.
soda-pop-400x533-100.jpg, 172 KB
soda-pop-400x533-90.jpg, 62 KB
soda-pop-400x533-50.jpg, 29 KB
soda-pop-400x533-20.jpg, 18 KB
soda-pop-400x533-10.jpg, 14 KB
soda-pop-400x533-01.jpg, 9 KB
Again, at about 10-20% the quality is unacceptably degraded. But even at 50%, the image is fine, at least for small images. Probably, the larger the image, the more critial resolution becomes. But for purposes of a blog, even as low as 30% is fine, and the file size is greatly reduced, making site load times much faster.
For larger images, I plan to make several trial versions of the image, selecting the one that is lower in file size, but still acceptably sharp.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Faded Glory: On Being an Ex-Firefighter, Part 3

Faded Glory: On Being an Ex-Firefighter, Part 1

Faded Glory: On Being an Ex-Firefighter, Part 2

Faded Glory: On Being an Ex-Firefighter, Part 3

I connected with the local Fire Corps. They support the fire department with rehabilitation, fundraising, and behind-the-scenes assistance that does not require exposure to smoke or fire. Firefighters at structure fires or incidents that last more than a few hours require fresh water and food and places to rest, protected from temperature extremes. The Fire Corps meets these needs.

I still cannot participate regularly, but special events can be scheduled ahead of time. I can fit my calendar to some of the opportunities to serve. My first experience with helping the Fire Corps occurred this past week, and it slammed home the startling realization that I am a has-been, a no-name, an ex-firefighter, experiencing faded glory.

I knew no one in the Fire Corps, and they knew little about me. I served food and water to firefighters attending a three-day training conference. They saw me only as a helper, a nameless service-worker. No one asked my advice...no one checked with me first...no one asked me to help them drag a hose or operate a pumper.

It was a bit disconcerting.

I had been a firefighter since 1982. I served with three different fire departments until I resigned in 2007. That's 25 years of experience as a firefighter! In that time I worked as a rookie, a firefighter, a lieutenant, a captain, a training officer, a president (of the volunteer's association), and even as a chief. I experienced thousands of hours of training and thousands of hours of emergency incident response.

I drove brush rigs, pumpers, rescue rigs, tenders, aerial trucks, hazmat trucks, ambulances, and water rescue craft.

I entered burning buildings, poisonous environments, burning forests, and burning rangeland.

In each of the three departments, firefighters relied upon me as a leader, a trainer, a mentor. I helped decide standards and policy. I represented our department at state and regional conferences.

I knew how to tie a bowline knot, for crying out loud!

I once had been a volunteer firefighter. Now, I was a water boy.

I didn't blame the firefighters. I purposely didn't broadcast my credentials. I've never admired people who promote themselves, especially when in the place of being the newcomer or stranger. I believe strongly that we must earn the right to be respected or heard. A new member of any organization should not boast of, nor even describe at length, their previous status or experience. It's far better to let your abilities gradually become apparent, like the subtle fragrance of perfume worn by a confident woman. (Not sure that's an appropriate analogy, given the theme of this treatise, but I'm thinking of my wife right now, and it's hard to ignore her influence upon me!)

Still, I was surprised by my inner feeling of dismay and disappointment. I felt disconnected, like a man looking from the outside into a house he once called home, before it had been sold to strangers.

I carried chests of ice. I packed cases of water and Gatorade. I lifted and pushed and pulled. Sometimes I sat. For three days I was small. I was a helper...I was a supporter. I was surrounded by firefighters and firefighting gear...and I was not a firefighter.

So now, the week is over. I actually did have a chance late on the final day to sit with a few of the firefighters and rehearse some of my past glory. I was invited into the "inner sanctum", the career firefighter's day room, and I ate some crackers and sausage with them. They seemed surprised, and impressed, with my tale. I had thought myself to be a modest, quietly humble person, but I discovered that I was thirsty for recognition, hungry for stature, longing for camaraderie.

I miss being a volunteer firefighter.

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Faded Glory: On Being an Ex-Firefighter, Part 2

Faded Glory: On Being an Ex-Firefighter, Part 1

Faded Glory: On Being an Ex-Firefighter, Part 2

About three years ago, in the spring of 2007, I moved to work at a facility that incinerates chemical weapons. I live in a small town that relies on volunteers for most of their fire calls. I drive past their main fire station often, and I easily hear their sirens. The air horns especially bring strong memories of firefighting...only fire apparatus use air horns.

My work schedule is crazy. They call it a "DuPont Schedule"...I guess it was first implemented at DuPont or something. I only work fourteen days a month, but it's the hardest fourteen days I've ever experienced. It's not hard in terms of work, but it's hard in terms of sleep...I don't get much of it, at least not any of quality. It's a rotating shift schedule, switching weekly between night and day shifts. In black and white print, the 12-hour shifts seem benign:

Night Shift: 5:00 pm to 5:00 am
Day Shift: 5:00 am to 5:00 pm

Day 1: Night Shift
Day 2: Night Shift
Day 3: Night Shift
Day 4: Night Shift
Day 5: Off
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off
Day 8: Day Shift
Day 9: Day Shift
Day 10: Day Shift
Day 11: Off
Day 12: Night Shift
Day 13: Night Shift
Day 14: Night Shift
Day 15: Off
Day 16: Off
Day 17: Off
Day 18: Day Shift
Day 19: Day Shift
Day 20: Day Shift
Day 21: Day Shift
Day 22: Off
Day 23: Off
Day 24: Off
Day 25: Off
Day 26: Off
Day 27: Off
Day 28: Off

Whoa! Seven days off? Why am I griping?

I'm griping because it takes me about two-and-a-half days after changing from days to nights before I stop feeling grouchy, tired, and apathetic. The older I get, the longer it's taking.

I have absolutely no time available to commit to being a volunteer firefighter. I cannot risk losing more sleep than I am able to grab during the first three weeks of the month. During my week off, I want to spend extended time with my wife. I cannot spend the best part of my month away from home, away from family, away from other interests and commitments.

So, I am an ex-firefighter. But, I still want to help.

Next week, the final installment: Faded Glory: On Being an Ex-Firefighter, Part 3

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.