Category Archives: Life

Hawk or Dove?

Usually, iNaturalist’s AI is pretty good at narrowing down a plant or animal to a genus, but sometimes it can get confused. Like this pigeon sitting on a silk floss tree branch. It was “pretty sure” it was a hawk.

Um, nope!

I can sort of see that with the first image, but the second one makes it blindingly obvious!

Here’s the kicker, though: Pigeons and doves are the same as far as biological classification. Some names might lean toward one or the other, like the mourning dove, but others, like the rock pigeon or rock dove seen here, can be called either.

Which means the AI was literally confusing hawks and doves!

Bisected Halo

A circular halo around the sun, which is behind a tree. A contrail crosses the halo, leaving its shadow on the thin cloud layer below.

A clear 22-degree halo around the sun, bright enough that I didn’t have to adjust the image afterward. This is straight from my phone.

Even cooler: you can actually see the contrail’s shadow on the layer of cloud that’s producing the halo! The sun is behind the tree, and while the contrail pops out so it looks closer than the almost uniform layer, it’s clear from the shadow that the contrail is higher.

Moonshots

Crescent Moon.

Saturday night’s crescent moon. One shot for the daylit crescent, the other for the night side lit by earthshine (with some clouds as a bonus). J. helped with focusing the telephoto lens.

The second shot is a lot noisier than I’d like since I was adjusting levels on the JPEG, but I have the raw file, so maybe I’ll be able to do something better with it. It’ll be a good exercise in learning how to use Darktable.

Overexposed crescent moon, with the  night side faintly visible and a glowing cloud below it.

Ring! Ring! Who’s There? *handcuffs*

Cnet has a report on how police departments are being inundated with false alarms from Amazon Ring alerts because people have freaked out over the camera footage of innocent activities. In one case someone called to report footage of themselves walking into the door!

I’m reminded of a case that happened nearby just a month ago. In Manhattan Beach (near Los Angeles), police from five cities — and an LA Sheriff’s helicopter — descended on a neighborhood because someone panicked over Ring footage of a food delivery sent to the wrong address. It took them an hour and a half to confirm that there was no crime in progress.

The story basically filled a bingo card:

  • IoT doorbell camera (and of course it was Ring)
  • Gig/app delivery service
  • Upscale neighborhood
  • Paranoid reaction to, you know, people
  • NextDoor posts quoted in article (because of course they are)
  • Massive police over-response
  • SMS alerts sent to neighboring cities

It was absurd. Fortunately no one was hurt or arrested, so it remains an absurdity, but between the waste of resources, the increase in fear, and the risk that something could have gone wrong, it fits right in with these other cautionary tales. As Fight for the Future puts it:

Ubiquitous, privately owned surveillance camera networks are NOT going to make our neighborhoods safer. They just make us all paranoid. Soon we’ll be snitching on our neighbors Red Scare style. Enough