Now that’s grim

Norwich, August 2006. Grim I say, grim.

Norwich Sky

Roads: Traffic Management

Today on Radio Norfolk a focus on reducing the speed you drive your car at to save lives. No problem with that, except some of the issues also covered were bad driving traffic management (causes of lives lost).

My experience is that driving skills are going downhill. Each day I witness one to three cars that drift across lanes and back again while cornering a roundabout. Lane disipline has been shot to pieces.

Worse, are those drivers who believe that in the left-hand lane of a roundabout you can go right. I’ve even been hit by one of those, the driver completely obivious to what he had done wrong.

One extremely bad junction is a roundabout connecting the A12 with Pasteur Road in Great Yarmouth. Southbound isn’t so bad – you usually find most people drifting lanes but that’s as bad as it gets. Northbound, and people first think there are three lanes on the exit of the A12 before you reach the junction (there are two lanes, ahead and ahead plus right, clearly signposted), but three lanes once you have joined the roundabout itself. So you end up with three cars side-by-side in a wide two-lane road, and if you’re to the right of someone who’s just “created” a middle-lane and wanted to go straight-on yourself, you have to allow the rude motorist to effectively undertake you else risk accident.

Indeed it is only because it is so dangerous that people are far more cautious, leading to fewer accidents. Certainly junctions I’ve visited following “improvements” are often more dangerous than before, and cause drivers to be far more aware of the risks. Perhaps safety by promoting chaos?

And while on the subject of driving. Who’s bright idea was it to put lane markings on the lanes themselves at the junctions? Ever been unable to read them because there have been cars queued up on them? Like, d’oh.

Middle East at war: King Abdullah speaks

BBC News has a good, frank, TV interview with King Abdullah II of Jordan in which he reflects on an unstable Middle East. To summarise:

“King Abdullah of Jordan, in a BBC interview, said the international community had shown only piecemeal ways of dealing with the Middle East and had no overall strategy.”

See here for more.

I suspect the recent U.N. draft resolution to end the crisis and bring about a ceasefire was deliberately in favour of Israel – it allows a second resolution with greater balance to be drafted giving the appearance that Israel has backed-down to local political pressure. Also important is that now the Lebonese are apparently being representated at the table, something I think was missing during the original text drafting.

It’s a messy business, international diplomacy. People’s lives and livelihoods are at stake. What does not help are the “interests in the background” that inevitably lead to “you scatch my back, I’ll scratch yours” scenarios.

Controlling out-of-focus blur, in photos

I recently experimented a little with my Canon DSLR. I wanted to see if there was a quick and easy way of remembers, even understanding, the rules behind background blur.

You’ve seen the shots – a flower or face sharply in focus. The background is a blur. Creates a single focal point (in most cases).

Basically, the wider your aperture, the more it will blur. So, F5.6 will blur more than F16.

There is a side effect. By increasing aperture you increase the light into the film/sensor, and potentially overexpose your shot. Of course, the upside is you can then lower the ISO possibly down to 100, increasing resolution/quality.

There is another matter to consider. The length of the lens used – a telephoto will also increase blur compared to a wide-angle. So 105mm will have more blur than the same F-stop on a 50mm.

The actual “blur” is more often referred to as the areas outside of depth-of-field. For depth-of-field is the distance over which things are in focus. A photo of a garden with plants and hedges will for instance have a must high depth of field (no background blur) versus a bee within a plant. There are calculations to work all this out prior to your shot being made, personally I prefer a little live experimentation.