Tag Archives: Alte Donau

3512 – A Message From Beyond

You may have heard about it or not, but if not I can tell you: Alexander Van der Bellen won the Austrian presidency.

It was tight. On Sunday night Norbert Hofer, the nationalist with the friendly face, was in front with 52%, but at that time none of the absentee ballots had been counted. We thankfully don’t use voting machines and we count manually. In order to avoid 20 hour counting marathons with all their potential for human error, absentee ballots are counted the day after.

Normally this does not matter. It may shift a seat in a general election, but it hardly makes a difference.

Not so this time. Results of absentee ballots have a strong bias towards progressive. It’s a result of the distribution of voters who use absentee voting. They tend to be from the cities, younger and better educated, more open to change. Obviously that does not correlate well with people who vote for closed borders, hate against muslims and traditional values of the past.

Everybody knew that Alexander Van der Bellen, the former head of the Green Party, would get a mighty boost from absentee ballots, but would it suffice? Sunday night the projections were for 50.0% vs 50.0%, with an overhang of arond 3000 votes for Van der Bellen. With more than four million voters and a margin of deviation of 0.7% nobody knew.

The next afternoon, half an hour before the official result was presented, Norbert Hofer conceded defeat via Facebook. A single district was missing, that’s what was delaying the official result, but at that time it was clear the he would miss presidency by around 30.000 votes.

What did Hofer’s party? Well, they did what they always do. It was hard to attack the counting committees because they had had seats in all of them, but declaring the election invalid was not even the goal. Obviously they were mostly interested in creating a myth, something along the lines of the old Stab-in-the-back myth.

Knowing that the bias of absentee votes would not be in their favor, they already began to declare “doubts” about the absentee voting system weeks before the election. Thus when defeat came, their followers were already primed and “knew” that victory “had been taken” from them and how.

The party itself called for moderation, but they also played with ambiguities. For instance they always said they would still consider an appeal, but they wouldn’t go for it when the irregularities were not massive enough to change the result. On the other hand they didn’t find major irregularities either.

In some districts the counting of absentee ballots had begun too early, but their results were not off the trend.

One district had counted correctly but reported wrong results for the turnout of voters. But then, 145% having voted is obviously wrong and when sums and checksums of votes are correct, there is no problem either. It’s just the usual small percentage of human errors. It’s exactly what the voting system’s builtin checks are designed to capture and what capture they did.

Years ago I’ve worked as election supervisor in a polling station for a few elections. It’s a stressful job. You sleep bad for fear of being late at the polling station. Before the first voters are admitted at 7:00, you must already have counted the number of ballot papers. In the evening, after the election and after having counted the votes, you will have to count again what’s left. Woe to the supervisor when the numbers don’t sum up. It’s an example for one of the numerous small checks.

That’s the whole character of our election system. It is well designed, robust, tried and tested. Therefore, from my long experience with elections I strongly reject the possibility of fraud. It would be easier with voting machines, but our manual system involves much too many people. This is a rich country with a long history of democratic elections. No chaos can be exploited and no violent riots, as they so often plague elections in young democracies.

And again: functionaries of Hofer’s Freedom Party were present everywhere and in all phases. They’ve verified and signed the whole process.

Knowing all that and knowing that everybody else should also know it, I’ve spent some time looking at the comments on Hofer’s Facebook page. Oh my! The party’s strategy of whispered doubt and murmured speculation had yielded fruit.

This is a dangerous thing, because it tries to compensate for loss of an election by de-legitimizing the whole democratic system. Some idiots even called for violence and others posted Van der Bellen’s private address. #notinmyname and #notmypresident were the hash tags.

But then, that’s Jörg Haider’s party, the party still playing with oblique Nazi references, the party that attracts neo-Nazis like flies are attracted by rotten flesh.

3502 – Night is Falling Into a River

Even at f1.8 and 1/10s I had to raise ISO to 800 in this image. That’s not very high, but I had plans for brightening the sky. That’s always a dangerous endeavor in digital images.

Approximately at that time Google had released their Nik suite with Dfine 2, a noise reduction plugin that I had tried years ago. I took the chance to pitch it against Topaz DeNoise 6 (also acquired years ago and upgraded with the old license for free – thanks Topaz!) and against Lightroom’s built-in noise reduction. And while I was at it, I decided to also test it against DxO Optics Pro’s PRIME noise reduction.

My suspicions were justified. In order to get anything out of Dfine and DeNoise that is as good or better than the results from Lightroom, you need a lot of fiddling. You may get better results in Photoshop, because there you could use different strengths and settings on different layers and then work with masks, but in Lightroom I see no advantage of such a plugin over what you already have paid for.

DxO was a different beast though. Basically it blew everything else out of the water. The difference was so obvious, that I don’t bother you with 100% crops.

You most likely see it in the blue of the sky. I had wanted to raise it from what the camera recorded, and due to the peculiarities of Bayer array sensors, blue is a very vulnerable color. Red is so as well, but most of the time you don’t have big dark red areas with smooth gradients in an image. If the sky is red, it’s brightly so, and your consideration is normally not to raise its level, but to keep it from burning out.

DxO PRIME was introduced years ago and I have already tried it in the past. On my old laptop it was marvelous but slow. Processing one single image took between five and eight minutes.

I have no idea how they managed it and it can’t only be my not-so-new-anymore Macbook Pro. Somehow DxO has sped up PRIME by a factor of 10. Now processing an image takes around 40 seconds. I still don’t do it for every image, but it pays off for very high ISO or if you want to strongly brighten up dark areas.

It’s not only detail noise though. Color noise reduction may be much less obvoius than detail noise reduction, but it is responsible for the washed out look of high-ISO images. In fact DxO’s color noise reduction is vastly superior to everything that I’ve seen before.

I’ll show you some more examples in the course of the next few days.

3245 – K

A long time ago, after technical high school, I’ve worked a year for a big international company, where at their Carinthian plant they maintained some engineering staff. The crew was intended to support operations, and to fill the gaps they made side-projects. Names are irrelevant, but at that job I learned how technical soundness is routinely overridden by “from the guts” judgement of managers. I was appalled and I drew what seemed like the only possible conclusion: At the university I chose German Literature instead of Computer Science.

It took me a year to get back to computers. One reason were the two main lectures of the first semester, “The Influence of Ancient Mythology on German Baroque Lyrics” (or something close) and “Franz Kafka”.

I have always disliked lyrics of the Baroque age, and while I had the complete works of Kafka on my book shelves with the full intention to read them some time, I strongly felt that that time was absolutely the wrong time. I hated being force-fed literature and this was the end of my flirt with a non-technical career.

A few years ago I have finally read Kafka’s complete works – on the Kindle. It was the right time 😀

3125 – Water Reflections

There is a promenade between river Danube and those houses. Many of them are old, built in the 1950s or earlier. It’s a garden district with special rules governing the maximum size of buildings. Maybe it’s less desireable to live there than it looks, considering the constant stream of people passing your garden. But still, If I look at that window and how the sparkling river is reflected, I can’t help feeling a little envious 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Water Reflections” by Lucia N. Caruso and Pedro H. da Silva. Hear it on YouTube.