3648 – Convergence

 Walimex 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye  Comments Off on 3648 – Convergence
Oct 142016
 

This is a little bit odd and actually surprising. Exactly ten years ago I’ve posted “1 – After Grandma Has Gone“. Ten times 365 plus three days from leap years, in my book that makes 3653. Somewhere along the line we’ve lost five posts, have we?

Maybe not. I can’t be sure that I haven’t missed a post or two, although I deem it unlikely. Five posts? No way!

The most likely explanation is, that I’ve re-used the last number five times. It happens. I’ve caught myself doing it, and so far I have assumed that I’ve caught myself every single time that it happened. I may have been wrong.

Anyway. This blog is ten years old and I pretend it has been daily. I’m not going to look for the errors and renumber a few thousand posts 🙂

When I began, I found my numbering scheme a little pretentious, but I decided to do it anyway. I saw it as kind of motivational, and really, it was. Next target: 4000 in little less than a year.

Jul 022016
 

The “White Peacock” is the biggest public restaurant at the palace. It is in one of the side buildings.

It has a big terrace and it was a pleasure to eat there on a sunny, but not yet too hot day.

There are all sorts of ways between the buildings, some leading through doors in the walls between. The Image of the Day shows one such way. It exploits the symmetry of the decoration and the sensor’s pretty extensive DOF. The lens is the 60/2.8 macro at f8. I love the effect of the compression and how it makes the doorway look almost like a mural.

3521 – The Old Portal

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Jun 092016
 

Today this is the side entrance to the backyard of a kindergarten in Villach. The inscription above the portal is partially unreadable, but it begins with “ORATE ET VIGI”, obviously a variation of the more common “vigilate et orate”, “watch and pray”, from Matthew 26:41.

It could be the last surviving part of a former monastery, it could be an entrance to former gardens of the Franciscan monastery not far away. It could also have been torn out of context by a former proprietor of the building. I don’t find anything about it online. It looks genuinely old though.

May 312016
 

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.

Apr 022016
 

Interesting. Quite a few of the last images were taken with the Olympus 60/2.8 macro lens. None of the images is a macro of course, but I really, really like this lens. I like the tight perspective and I like the light weight.

I tend to carry three lenses at any time. If I’m on vacation or in Carinthia and using the car, I frequently use the three pro lenses. To Vienna I normally travel lighter though. Something like 12-17-45 or 12-25-45 or even 12-25-75 are my go-to triples when I lust for primes. The 60/2.8 may at times take the part of the long lens in such a triple, but if I need it light and flexible, I may also couple it with the 9-18 and the 25/1.8. That’s how I travel today.

3451 – A Strange Flag

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Mar 312016
 

At least that’s what this image reminds me of. But then, I don’t like flags and I don’t like nations.

Whenever things get tight, people tend to flock together in groups, tend to accentuate the differences and not the common, tend to seek salvation in separation. It’s easy to see why.

Keeping the unknown at bay and sticking to the known is a way of denying change. It’s only that change does not come through refugees. Refugees come through change.

Their world changes, and it is through our actions or our refusal to act. Sure, we can keep them out and just pretend that there is no problem. The problem is only that it does not work.

By refusing to change we must change ourselves. By setting up borders we lose the freedom to cross them. By waging war in other countries we make ourselves the target of revenge. By following our fears we make them reality.

Bombs in Paris, bombs in Brussels, and the only thing we’re capable of is to ramp up surveillance and further limit freedom. It didn’t help the French and it didn’t help the Belgians, did it?

Do you remember Terry Gilliam’s prophetic movie “Brazil“? Well, it positively begins to feel like that.