August 14, 2003

Misc. News

Posted by Scott at 06:19 AM

I haven't written in several days but there hasn't been that much going on. Here's a small collection of news.

Layout update - A common bit of feedback on the webpage I get is that it's often confusing who wrote an entry. One moment you're reading about the twins and the next you're reading about final exams. The author was listed in fine print at the bottom of the entry. I played around in the GIMP to make some decent headshot thumbnails and tweaked the web generation code to insert the appropriate one with the headline. Hopefully this helps make the author more obvious.

Death by PowerPoint - If you've ever been stuck in a long meeting with overhead presentations that make you glass eyed, you'll appreciate this Dilbert from last week. I think I've seen that presenter on more than one occasion. *grin*

Commonplace Diamonds - I've always thought diamonds were such a crock! We have this false perception that they are rare when in actuality, the DeBeers have huge stockpiles of them. Numerous articles have been written about the scandals the DeBeers family has participated in while maintaining their diamond monopoly. I was happy to read that the manufacturing of diamonds has made good progress.

This Wired article covers recent developers who can make synthetic diamonds for far less money. It was most amusing to read the DeBeers' reaction. They are trying to distinguish their "naturally occurring" diamonds from synthetic, "cultured" diamonds. They have been developing equipment to detect the difference. In the case of one synthetic fabrication process, there are trace amounts of metals ions in the diamond lattice that can be detected through very sensitive spectral analysis. In the other fabrication process, the diamonds are actually more pure than natural diamonds so the machine has to detect the lack of flaws in the diamond lattice.

I have always hated the marketing of diamonds. The idea that if you truly want to show your love, spend a couple of month's salary with the DeBeers is ludicrous. It is quite a warping of the meaning of love. Yes, love is about commitment and sacrifice. My wife is more interested in me getting home on time, changing diapers, loading up the van, getting the kids to bed, etc. than whether she has a nice, rare piece of rock on her hand. That is the sign of sacrifice and commitment!

Unattainable beauty - While reading the article, I also noticed the cover art they did for the story. The amount of digital retouching being done on magazines is unbelievable. I can guarantee you that while that model may exist, she does not look like that. For a peek at what you can do with image manipulation programs like Photoshop and the GIMP, check out the various before and after comparisons of this model. The artist set it up so that when you hover your cursor over the photo, you see the "before", when you remove your cursor, you see the "after". He changed the lighting, he made her skin like porcelain, he removed minor defects, he pumped up her breasts, while narrowing her waist and hips. Many people have no idea how often it happens in magazines. Read more about it here and here.

In the interest of honesty and full disclosure I must admit that most of the pictures I do have been retouched. I crop, adjust lighting and color balance, fix eyes (shut eyes and red eyes), and sometimes remove marks on skin. This has been done for decades by photographers and photo studios. Take this picture of Suzy and Timothy as an example (not that Suzy likes her hair on this one...). It was cropped to better center it. The awful lighting produced by fluorescent bulbs was compensated. Most moles on her arms were removed and a scar that she has on her right arm was removed. I draw the line at re-doing a figure to make it approach the unattainable perfection that these magazine editors thrust in our faces in a feeble attempt to sell more magazines.

I've got to go for now. The kids are waking up. Diapers, clothes, breakfast...


Scott- today we all have a two hour meeting on legal matters- that comic came in handy around the office today!

Posted by: Suzy at August 14, 2003 10:51 AM