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02 August

The Uses Of Spectral Cameras

scSpectral cameras are one of a kind camera that divides the image in several bands. By doing this, one can see more than the naked eye. Thus, spectral cameras are greatly used for different applications, may it be for agriculture, food processing, mineralogy, eye care and many others. Basically, the nature of this camera is it has sensors or processing systems that can provide specific results. The sensors will look at objects through an electromagnetic spectrum and these objects will leave its own fingerprints, which is unique. The fingerprints are also called the spectral signatures which allow the user to identify the materials specifically. Engineers have built this in order to differentiate some things, conduct studies, and create possible treatments and many others.

For instance, the spectral camera allows the agriculturists to monitor their crops and identify any disease. Since it is specific, it sees the growth of the crops and gives them convenience in treating any existing problem. Moreover, food manufacturers also use this kind of camera to monitor their products from any defects or presence of foreign materials. Although the spectral cameras are quite expensive and complex, it allows them to maintain the quality of the product and produce a good yield.

How Spectral Cameras Are Used

Engineers have built spectral cameras in order to identify certain objects that cannot be seen through the naked eye. This camera is not the traditional type of imaging that captures and processes a visible light in three different bands; red, blue and green. It usually divides a spectrum in several bands which will reveal the fingerprints of the object, a kind of spectral signature that distinguishes it from the other. Thus, the spectral cameras are useful in identifying things like foreign materials, bacteria, and many others.

For instance, this type of camera is used by mineralogists to search for new oil fields. Since they can identify every material that is found underneath the soil surface, it is easier for them to know if there is a presence of oil in it. In addition to this, the camera is also used in the identification of foreign materials or defects in food manufacturing. Because it is specific, it helps them maintain good quality while producing high yields. Therefore, spectral imaging is beneficial in any fields. Although it is definitely expensive to purchase and quite complex to operate, users are assured of getting the best experience and a more detailed identification of objects through spectral cameras.

01 April

Russian Intrigue And The Markets

Oil prices are riding high, Russian stock prices are above pre-August 1998 crisis levels, foreign investors with short memories or strong stomachs for risk are buying up selected Russian bonds, the IMF is on the verge of approving a long-delayed $4.5 billion re-financing operation. Russia’s capacity to surprise is once again on overdrive, writes Anthony Robinson.russianmarket

But, in the background, masked by the lethargy of an unprecedently hot summer can be heard the muffled sounds of Russian politics famously described by Winston Churchill as akin to “a dog fight under a carpet”. With duma (parliamentary) elections looming this December and presidential elections slated for next June, political life is a maze of complicated plotting liable to confuse all but the initiated and inject an unpredictable element of risk into any financial or other dealing with Russia over the next 12 months.

Vycheslav Nikhonov, grandson of Molotov – Stalin’s faithful foreign minister – and head of Fond Politika, one of Moscow’s most prestigious political think tanks, is counted among the ranks of the initiated. In an interview, he sought to illuminate the contemporary political landscape.

“Actually, Russian politics are quite clear – except for one very large wild card, President Boris Yeltsin, who makes everything unpredictable. He can change the rules of the game and bend the constitution. So nothing can be excluded. Right now, the Kremlin staff is working on all kinds of schemes, such as banning the Communist party, dissolving the duma, or forging a union with Belarus. This would require re-writing the constitution and serve as an excuse to postpone the presidential elections and keep Yeltsin in power. Nothing has been decided, but nothing can be excluded.”

But this portrait of a quasi-feudal society run by a wilful despot suffering from poor health and unpredictable moods and untrammeled by other political forces or restraints is not the whole picture, as Nikhonov readily concedes. “Of course there are restraints. There are political forces such as the Communist party and local and regional power centres, such as Moscow with its powerful mayor Yuri Luzhkov and regional governors and local oligarchs. There is also the IMF which has to be listened to if Russia’s debts are to be restructured.”

The reluctance of the police and armed forces to get involved in political adventures also has to be taken into account. So does public opinion, although Yeltsin felt strong enough to ignore his own rock bottom poll rating on 16 May, when he suddenly dismissed prime minister Yevgeny Primakov who was, and remains, the most popular politician in Russia.

The extensive powers enjoyed by a Russian president under the re-written constitution tailor-made for Yeltsin after he crushed the duma with tanks in October 1993 ensure that the presidency, not control of the duma, is the big prize in Russian politics. This is why Russia’s powerful oligarchs are concentrating their energy and financial resources on securing a candidate who will protect their interests, Nikhonov argues.

“It is a myth that the oligarchs put up the money to re-elect Yeltsin in 1996. The money came from the budget and the oligarchs only channeled it to where it was needed and received a hefty fee for doing so,” he adds. This time round the financial “grand electors” of the next president are Gazprom – the $18 billion annual turnover gas monopoly where Victor Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin’s long-time prime minister, is back in a key position, and RAO-UES, the electricity grid company headed by Anatoly Chubais.

The latter is either revered as one of the key architects of market reform and privatisation or passionately loathed.

Given the hugely controversial nature of privatisation it is not difficult to see why politicians hailed as democrats and reformers in the west have never been able to gain more than 10% of the vote. Now they are in danger of failing to breach the 5% minimum needed to secure a presence in the next duma.

Nikhonov argues that over the next few months millions of dollars will be spent in the media and other ways to ensure that the reformers, suitably repackaged into a new electoral alliance, and the centrist Yabloko group headed by Grigory Yavlinsky, secure seats in the new parliament.

As in 1996, the intention is to prevent a return to the totalitarian past, and at the same time to protect economic interests and property rights, no matter how shaky the original claim to that wealth may have been.

Nikhonov argues that a stable 70% of Russian voters and most of the likely presidential candidates belong to a political centre that eschews political extremism and a return to the Soviet past. But for the handful of Russian super-rich and powerful corporations what counts is the election of precisely those candidates who can guarantee that neither their fortunes nor their personal liberties will be touched after the elections.

He says: “These people are paying big money to stay in power and remain big players.”

What this boils down to is “the search for a presidential candidate who is anticommunist, anti-Luzhkov and anti-Primakov”, says Nikhonov, “because Primakov fought against the oligarchs and Luzhkov with his Moscow power base is seen as too independent”.

Right now, this makes Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin the preferred, albeit not enthusiastically supported presidential candidate of Russia’s power brokers. But it cannot be excluded that some time in the autumn President Yeltsin will oblige Stepashin to share the fate of his four immediate predecessors and make way for someone else.

04 March

A Newspaper Vs. Newspaper Battle? Say It IS So…

(Not often we get to talk about the heyday of print journalism, not to mention a story about competition. Read it and weep of times lost, friends.)

The Post, picking up on the U.S. journalistic habit of hiring celebrities as writers and editors, was about to unveil Mr. Gretzky as a new sports columnist in their Saturday paper. So the Globe, in an apparent attempt to steal their rival’s thunder, broke the embargo with a front-page story on Tuesday headlined, “MDs fear arthritis has struck Gretzky.”

The Globe set aside a full-page to probe Mr. Gretzky’s aches and pains on Wednesday, and on Thursday it turned nasty, asking pointed questions about how much he was paid to participate in an osteoarthritis public awareness campaign, whether it was part of a commercial deal with the drug company under which he was to shill for the pain reliever Tylenol, and whether he was going to donate any of his earnings to research. By Saturday, when the hockey player’s debut column appeared on the front page of the Post, the Globe was attaching subheadings like “Hero or huckster?” to its Gretzky stories, and implying broadly that the Great One may not even have arthritis.

Two days later, as Mr. Gretzky was defensively fending off the rest of the media pack by insisting “I got caught up in a newspaper war,” the Post struck back. Cam Cole, the former Edmonton Journal sports columnist whose association with Mr. Gretzky dates back to his days with the Edmonton Oilers, produced a scathing condemnation of the Globe’s attacks on the Post’s rookie sportswriter. Mr. Cole did not say whether his old friend actually has arthritis or not, but he championed his right to sell his celebrity to whoever can afford it. Neither paper questioned whether the hockey player is so tied up in corporate endorsements that it might compromise his journalistic integrity.

Even as the Gretzky tug-of-war was playing itself out, the Post was trying to beat the Globe on another front. In an attempt to get the results of the September 16 Saskatchewan election into the next day’s edition, the Post drew its conclusions from early voting returns and went to print reporting an NDP majority. “Three in row for Romanow,” wrote political columnist Paul Wells on the front page “He makes it look so easy.” A full page: of inside coverage observed that the fledgling Saskatchewan Party’s vigorous anti-tax campaign had failed and that it now faced an uncertain future.

The problem with the Post’s election coverage was that it was only slightly less inaccurate than the Chicago Tribune’s notorious “Dewey beats Truman” headline of 1948. In fact, the incumbent NDP had been reduced to a 29-seat minority, just three ahead of the neophyte Saskatchewan Party, and the latter had actually garnered more of the popular vote. In some cities, apparently, the Post had delivery trucks racing around trying to replace the bungled edition with a later, corrected one. The Globe, meanwhile, played it safe and covered the story a day late.

Even though the two combatants have no choice but to go head-to-head on hard news like elections, there is evidence that each is also trying to develop readership niches that tend to be ignored or neglected by the other. “Before the Post came along the Globe had trouble attracting female readers,” observes Prof. Dornan. “Now they have five prominent female columnists, a family section that is, if not exclusively for females, seems targeted to them, and in their content division they are onto the soft stuff–decor, fashion and the like.”

By contrast, there are days when the Post seems to be taking its cue from the so-called “Lads” magazines, which are unabashedly politically incorrect, gender-insensitive and inordinately interested in female celebrities with augmented breasts. From the outset, its editorial pages have expressed hostility towards orthodox feminism.

The Post also displayed an utterly male sensibility the day it ran a small front-page story about a minor research project investigating the putative relationship between ethnicity and penis size. When the story caused telephones in the research lab to ring off the wall, the newspaper responded with voluminous coverage. It was a classic example of news “manufacturing,” a controversy created entirely by the Post.

Last week, the Post covered just about all of its marketing targets with a frontpage story about a new medical procedure involving ovarian grafts that restores fertility to post-menopausal women. The headline “Scientists Reverse Menopause” blared at readers in a type-size normally reserved for declarations of war, and it was accompanied by a huge picture of the first beneficiary of the procedure, a voluptuous 30-year-old belly dancer who bad her ovaries removed several years ago after a cancer scare. The clever juxtaposition of the headline and the picture produced an irresistible story, because it seemed to promise a medical breakthrough that would make middle-aged women look young and ravishing. The Globe played catch-up on the story the next day by underplaying it with the headline: “Delaying menopause: scientists urge caution–questions remain about technique.”

The Post’s fountain-of-female-youth scoop was actually a pick-up from the Daily Telegraph, the influential British newspaper that is also owned by Canadian press baron Conrad Black’s Hollinger International. One of the Post’s key competitive advantages is its access to content from Mr. Black’s far-flung publishing empire, including local news from Southam papers in major cities across Canada. The Globe’s intra-corporate news network is, by comparison, non-existent.

Jim McKenzie, professor of journalism at the University of Regina, notes that the Post is not only importing news content into the domestic market, it is also importing stylistic changes. “What I’m seeing is the end to any attempt to report the news objectively,” Prof. McKenzie says. “There seems to be no dividing line between what is opinion and what is fact. Now the reader has to carefully discern what is being said.”

The co-mingling of news and opinion in the Post is perhaps best exemplified in the work of its star crime reporter, Christie Blatchford. She is a news-breaker of the first order, but she unabashedly expresses a personal point-of-view in every story. Writing about a recent trial in Edmonton, she championed the accused (a young boy who shot another youngster to death during what appeared to be a booze-fuelled game of chicken), and she did it so effectively that she set the tone for virtually all of the local coverage. In the end, even the judge appeared to agree with her.

Rick Salutin, the independent leftist media critic who writes a weekly Globe column, says the Post seems to be making up the rules as it goes along. “When the Post started up last October, their ads seemed to indicate that they were going to compete with the Globe as being the newspaper of record, that they were going to challenge the reader and when you were finished with it you would have the IQ of an Einstein,” Mr. Salutin recalls. “Now they have ads showing someone reading their paper and kicking the newspaper box, basically saying you might not like what you read, but it’ll be lively and entertaining. Now they’ve got the Globe wondering if it’s spunky enough for readers.”

Mr. Salutin sees the war as a battle over who will define the rules of engagement. “Like in life, if you can set the rules for the fight, your odds of winning go up,” he says. “Will the Post be able to bait the Globe into fighting it out in the street? I don’t know. So much of what the Post is doing is in the repressed right-wing sexuality, sort of a ‘young-boy-grab-your-crotch’ attitude.”

If there is such a thing as right-wing sexuality, then there must also be leftwing sexuality, which may describe the Globe’s approach to things procreative or sensuous. The September 23 weekend edition, for example, dedicated two full pages to an exclusive interview with a lesbian RCMP officer in Prince Edward Island who lost her job when she was convicted of sexual interference for seducing a 16-year-old girl. The story accepted the ex-policewoman’s assertion that, in fact, the girl seduced her, and overlooked the fact that the woman’s “the child went after me” response is classic sexual predator self-justification.

The question as to whether stories about lusty lesbians or rejuvenated belly dancers are winning the hearts and minds of Canadian newspaper readers will be at least partly answered at the end of October. That is when the Newspaper Audience Databank Inc. (NADbank), a firm that audits circulation numbers for print media, will release its report showing how many copies the respective papers sell. These numbers are used by advertisers to decide where to place their ads, and by the newspapers to justify how much they charge for the ad space.

Even before the numbers are out they have already become a source of controversy. Initially slated to be released on October 1 so that advertisers could prepare for the Christmas market, the report was delayed because NADbank discovered, contrary to all expectations, and despite all the advertising and hundreds of thousands of free copies given away by the combatants, that overall newspaper readership in the Toronto area actually went down over the last year by 4%.

This dip comes even as the price of newspapers is coming down. A single month of the Post by itself is $14.98, 35% below the Globe subscription price of $22.95. When the Post started up, it offered subscriptions through its local Southam sister papers, such as the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald, for only an additional $6 a month. Since then, the rate for those taking another Southam paper has only risen to $8.56 per month.

Some believe the tricks like piggybacking of the Post onto affiliated papers, and all the giveaways, have worked, and the dip in readership is an anomaly. Mark Sherman is the president of Media Experts, a media buying group with offices in Toronto and Montreal that purchases space in newspapers on behalf of advertisers. Mr. Sherman says there is no doubt that the new NADbank numbers will reveal that the Post has taken some of the Globe’s readership. The big question is how much.

Mr. Sherman says the vigorous competition has caused the Globe to be more flexible with advertisers in order to keep them. “There has been a dramatic shift in their posture and philosophy,” he says. But he will not say how much the war has affected the price of advertising. “I don’t want to be telling tales out of school, but this has resulted in better deals for clients in added value and the like,” he says.

The real benefit to the Post coming along, says Mr. Sherman, is that Canada now has two truly national newspapers, instead of one pretending to be. “We now have a national newspaper industry. Next year, with some solid numbers, the Post should be getting more advertising dollars. These won’t necessarily come out of the Globe, but from the entire media spectrum. So on the whole it should bring more money into the newspaper industry.”

Phillip Crawley, publisher and CEO of the Globe, says that when the NADbank numbers finally come out his paper expects to be number one nationally, and in the Toronto area. He says that the Globe’s ad revenue through the end of August was actually ahead of target, though he will not say by how much.

With the delay in the NADbank data, Mr. Crawley says, his paper has commissioned its own circulation research and relied on monthly data from the polling company Angus Reid. “What we’ve been doing all this year is talking to agencies with other data. NADbank is certainly not the only data available,” he says. “What we’ve found using their research, and some of our own, is that people actually spend more time [reading newspapers].”

Mr. Crawley wonders why the Post, after nearly a year in business, has yet to produce any definitive numbers. “At one point they said they would be coming out with audited figures at the end of July, but then backed away due–they said–to logistical reasons. Now the NADbank numbers are delayed,” he says. “My guess is that all this is due to the fact that it has been a freakish year with the market being distorted by the huge volumes of free newspapers out there.”

The last numbers available for the Globe come from a KPMG Chartered Accountants audit for one year ending December 31, 1998. Its Monday to Friday circulation was pegged at 317,826 and its weekend sales were 394,953. At the end of April this year, Post publisher Don Babick claimed his paper’s three-week average daily circulation was 287,000.

So there is a lot riding on the NADbank numbers. “When those numbers come out I can tell you that [the war] will really heat up,” says Mr. Crawley. “Even now the temperature is going up. But when the solid numbers start coming in it’s going to make the current competition look like a kids’ party.”

The best fights become personal

There has been minor sniping between writers at the Post and the Globe right from the beginning, but in the last month, the potshots have been coming fast and furious. For instance, in a September10 analysis of the media reaction to the appointment of Adrienne Clarkson as governor-general, Post columnist Andrew Coyne dedicated his entire piece to recording and trashing the approval expressed by a chorus of Globe columnists (though there were a couple of prominent dissenters), labelling them members of an elitist left-wing Toronto subculture. “It is in the Tory Globe and Mail that we see the subculture at its most unself-conscious, as serene in its geocentrism as it is unanimous,” Mr. Coyne wrote.

Five days later, the Globe’s Madelaine Drohan blamed the Post for creating a false hysteria over the so-called brain drain. “The National Post has hammered home its right-wing agenda with a succession of stories on the brain drain and the perceived need for tax cuts,” Ms. Drohan wrote. Taking aim at Post proprietor Conrad Black, she added, “The right-wing agenda his paper is pushing is more in tune with post-Thatcher Britain or the winner-takes-all ideology of the United States than with placid, middle class Canada.”

22 February

Ladies And Music – What’s Not To Love?

We arrived at the Festival on Sunday afternoon. A highlight of the week for me was riding my bicycle (which we’d stowed on the back of the RV) from Hart up to the Festival. It is one long uphill as you leave the Lake Michigan shore and head 17 miles inland to the Festival gates. The climb was well worth it though, for the thrill of womyn cheering me on along the road from their cars and vans as I pedaled towards the Festival.

Traveling in style!

Traveling in style!

Although the Festival gates don’t open until Monday afternoon, already hundreds of womyn were lined up along the Forest Service road leading to the gate. For the rest of the afternoon we walked up and down the line, checking out the festive campsites womyn had created along the road and greeting womyn. Since Val was a Festie virgin, I offered her the chance to ride the bike up the line so she could have a turn basking in the cheers from the womyn. “I think I’m going to need some time to acclimate first!” she said with wide eyes.

The first morning I got up early to make coffee. The cold weather made the campstove contrary so I pumped a great deal of pressure into it and briskly held a match to the burner. WHOOSH! A giant fire ball roared past my head, leaving me with a line of ashes along my hairline, burnt lips and a sense of narrowly-averted disaster. After stopping for some coffee made by the womyn at the Saint’s concession stand I staggered over to the oob booth where I told my story to the craftswoman next to me.

“Oh, don’t worry!” she said cheerfully. “The skin on your face grows back right away. I burned all of it off mine once.” My curiosity had to be indulged so I asked her what happened. “I was firebreathing and stiltwalking at the same time, and forgot to wipe my face before I blew a new flame. My whole head went up in flames!” Where else besides Festival could you get medical advice from a firebreathing stiltwalking lesbian?

This year I enhanced the “services” offered at the oob booth by adding a nail salon! Yes, a feminist nail salon on the Land. Equipped with bottles of purple glitter and lavender glow-in-the-dark nail polish, I painted womyn’s nails as they strolled through the crafts area. It was intriguing and freeing to reclaim this feminine ritual of altering oneself for male approval for our own purpose of indulging in wacky, spangly fun. I loved thinking about all the womyn with glowy nails lounging at the night stage, dancing at August Night Cafe, and making love on the Land.

The meteor shower this year was spectacular. At times the shooting stars filled the sky like a fireworks show put on by the universe especially for us. I treasure the chance to be immersed in nature for a week every year, living with whatever weather is handed out, watching for birds I don’t see at home like peewees and wild turkeys, and drinking in the starlight which is obscured from my view the rest of the year by the lights of Washington, DC. Sometimes, however, the rustic camping experience can be a little too “natural” – a violent thunderstorm shook everyone one night with waves of scary thunder rattling the tent poles and a deluge of rain. In the morning women emerged bleary and damp to inspect their campsites. Many women packed up and left after that night.

I only made it to one workshop this year: “Kissing, the Oral Majority!” led by Tracy Bartlett. I wanted to try a departure this year from the intellectually – and politically-oriented workshops I usually attend – and I can highly recommend it! Imagine 200 quivering women sitting in a field waiting for some juicy kissing! (Some women didn’t bother waiting for Bartlett to finish the instructions. . .)

There were several “exercises” Bartlett led us through, each building on techniques used in the previous one. (The first one was to use your fingertips to explore your partner’s face, using different touches and pressures.) Afterwards your partner had the chance to say what she liked, what she didn’t, and what she would add or change before you switched places[middle dot] Some women came as couples, while the single women divided into groups of 10 and sat in two concentric circles facing each other. With each new exercise, the outer circle moved over one position to shift partners. At times the workshop had to wait while especially enthusiastic workshoppers protracted their homework!

Bartlett spoke about recognizing and celebrating ourselves as sexual, sensual beings and offered some insights into why women sometimes feel uncomfortable with experiencing themselves sensually. She encouraged us to talk to our partners during love-making and to practice being sexy. For instance, if you feel shy about telling your partner what you like, Bartlett suggested practicing when you’re alone: Whisper “Slow down and turn left here” to yourself in your most seductive voice while you’re in the car!

Later in the week I sat at the night stage, wondering what was keeping Jennie and Val who had left for the portajanes some 45 minutes earlier. Finally they rushed back down to our tarp, flustered by suppressed giggles. “I dropped my flashlight down the portajane!” Val announced as she collapsed in laughter.

We were in stiches as she told how the flashlight had rolled off its perch on the toilet paper holder directly into the jane’s odorous depths, its blue glow continuing to illuminate the jane’s contents. She summoned Jennie for a consultation and after a tentative effort at attempting to rescue it, decided the flashlight was history. The same unfortunate accident happened to Alyson Palmer from the band Betty, who described it when she emceed at the Night stage. The story ended differently for Palmer’s flashlight, however. Palmer decided she was more terrified of the bugs she might get attacked by in the dark than she was of the portajane – and fished the flashlight out!

The week flashed by quickly as the three of us divided our time between working at the oob booth, visiting with festival friends, and taking in the workshops and sun. All three of us loved hearing from those of you who stopped by the booth to say “hi.” It is very special to put a face with the names we see on the mailing labels and letters. It’s an incomparable thrill to hear your support and encouragement.