Last light in late November. This is an escalator at an Underground station, leading to a platform above ground. It’s not much of a subject, but isn’t that light gorgeous?
I’ve used DxO Optics Pro for this image. I could have done it to de-fish the picture, but that’s not what I’m after. If I want ultra-wide and recti-linear, I just use an appropriate lens.
No, it’s that I used 1/100 s and ISO 1250. The advantage is, that I’ve frozen the escalator’s movement, and although everything up to ISO 3200 would be perfectly OK for an image like this, I routinely use DxO for everything above 400. It’s not necessary and nobody will peep at pixels, but then, there is more to DxO’s PRIME noise reduction than noise reduction. Color accuracy, dynamic range, they are all better than with Lightroom. They’d better be so, given that Lightroom renders in real-time and DxO takes half a minute for an image.
Today’s image has been taken in an Underground station that I pass through every time I travel to Vienna. It’s always well after midnight and I regularly arrive half a minute after the train left. That always gives me about ten minutes, and normally I use the time to make an image. You’ve seen a few, this is just a little wider and more curly 🙂
I already mentioned that Lisbon is not easy to navigate for wheelchair users, that not even all of the underground stations are free of barriers, but then there are some that must be scary to anyone who suffers from vertigo.
The descent from Chiado into the station Baixa-Chiado is such a place. A stairway down, then a chain of four steep escalators, followed by one final stairway. A long way to fall if you fall 🙂
Do you know what happened to Germany? Why they suddenly open their borders for Syrian refugees? I have no idea.
Fact is, while Austria is touched by its own generosity (which means welcoming refugees, giving them some food and medical care and then happily waving them goodbye when they pass on to Germany), Germany really, really invests big time.
The estimates for this year are for a total of 800.000 refugees. That’s much. Very much, and politically it is a risky proposition for any government. A conservative government like Angela Merkel’s may have it easier, but even she may have a price to pay.
But then, is it all that much?
Don’t get me wrong, I totally admire what Germany does, but let’s just get the figures straight: 800.000 is 1% of the current population of Germany. One hundred people (OK, babies included) have to care for one refugee.
Think of it: there is one person who needs three meals a day. They are cheap meals, let’s say they average 5 Euro each. Once a month you pay one such meal. Does it hurt?
Of course housing is the biggest cost factor. Let’s say that a cheap, government-provided accomodation costs 300 Euros a month. Now we are at 8 Euros a month. Add your percent of minimum clothing and we are at the price of two packs of cigarettes, the equivalent of a pizza or less than one visit of “The Hunger Games 17”.
I still admire what Germany does and it’s the right thing to do. I just want to make clear that this is no titanic task that only mighty Germany can do. Everybody can, and I think Austria can easily do it as well. After all, during the Bosnian crisis we had our 1% of refugees – and we came out of it as a rich country.
We talked about refugees lately and I ultimately blamed Capitalism, or better, the system we’re entangled with, a system that happens to be capitalist in nature. Of course history tells us, that we’d not necessarily be better off with a communist system, or better, a system that claims communism.
It’s not that I don’t lean to the left and it’s not that I don’t suggest that its thinkers are less tainted by obvious self-interest, but somehow there is a deep problem with human nature.
Look into the bible. Matthew 5, the “Sermon on the Mount”. It’s one of the most important texts of Christianity and it is holy to billions who’d never even think about “turning the other cheek”. Jesus is unmistakable, but we have a problem even seeing the problem.
Cognitive dissonance seems to be wired into our genes. Egoism is what made us survive, but egoism is also what can be our ultimate downfall.
Recently I’ve bought a book by some Lewis Dartnell. It’s called “The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch“. It is a collection of recipies for how to purify water, how to resart agriculture, how to refine materials, generate power, doing chemistry, etc. It is pretty much a joke that I have it as an eBook, but if it’s really good, I may buy a few paper copies and store them in strategic places 🙂
The problem is, we have entered a phase in our development as a species, where we know an awe-inspiring number of facts about the world, but in reality we as members of that species hardly know anything at all.
I am a computer programmer and I have learned solving problems, creating abstrations, bringing order into chaos. I attended a technical high school and I have learned to take transistors, resistors, capacitors, diodes and other basic parts, put them together and create an amplifier or an oscillator or a simple radio or even a computer. And then, having learned all that does not mean being able to faultlessly reproduce it. But, for the sake of the argument, let’s pretend I could.
Probably I could even create power. I’d need iron and copper wires though. Standing in front of a mountain and being told to dig out the ore and turn it into metal, a ferrite core or a thread of copper wire, I would fail miserably. Those things that I can do, other people would have no chance doing, but ultimately, in case of total breakdown, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’d need to do, without other people providing the materials, the energy, the food to sustain me, the medical support to keep me healthy.
We are egoists, but our civilization is based on vast knowledge that can’t be comprehended by single persons any more. In order to function, our civilization needs cooperation, and it also needs permanent access to its collected knowledge. If nobody can keep everything we know in a single mind, then knowledge gets lost if it is not stored in an accessible way for all future.
Think of the typical post-apocalypse scenario. Would we be able to kickstart civilization and get back to where we were in short time? Would we have to re-learn everything from scratch, taking millennia? Or would we simply perish, having lost both our tools and the ability to re-make them?
It all depends upon access to knowledge. And here we are back to egoism.
A lot of things are wrong with the patent system, but maybe the most damaging is, that patents are granted without making sure that the general public gets a benefit. Patents are not granted for concrete processes, they are granted for descriptions so abstract, that even specialists in the field have trouble to understand them. Patents are intended to be unreadable and as vague as possible. This maximizes profit for the holder and it protects from easy copying. Unfortunately once a company goes out of business, it may well take its processual knowledge with it.
Remember Polaroid? You can buy a used camera, but the film is unavailable. It has been reengineered, but the result is not the same as the original.
Wanna build a Saturn V rocket? Bad luck, even NASA has lost records of how to do so.
And now imagine a catastrophe a few decades after we have made the transition from paper books to eBooks. No electricity? Bad luck again, you won’t have access to any knowledge at all.
Our civilization is already fragile and it can only get worse.
As to the patent system, I even have an idea. Let’s grant patents, but let’s also require that working implementations in plain and readable description are archived by government agencies. These agencies would guarantee secrecy of trade secrets, but they would also guarantee the option to access in case we need it. As an additional benefit, these agencies would also be able to use unified and durable long-term archiving methods.
Furthermore, I would require complete exposure of all such knowledge after a grace period long enough to turn an invention into considerable wealth.
A system like that would not stiffle inventions and it would allow for making a more than decent living off one’s creativity. It would just reign in the excesses and it would also help survival of the species.
When you spend nine hours a week on trains, you better begin liking railway stations. While yesterday’s image was taken in Vienna, this one is from Villach.
The sticker on the escalator spells “Sauber”, meaning “clean”. Kind of a hopeful declaration, but maybe it even works. At least the railway station is clean indeed 🙂