Hubcap Rally at the Voortrekker Monument

The Camera Club Johannesburg (CCJ) hosts a curious competition they have dubbed “The Hubcap Rally.” I’m not entirely certain of the origin of the name. Perhaps the first one involved taking photos of wheels while travelling to one’s destination.

The origin of the name aside, the competition itself is a little tricky. In this day of digital photography, people aren’t too phased about pressing the shutter-release button 100 times to get that 1 half-decent image.

The Hubcap Rally gives you the finger on that approach, and says, “Take 24 photos, and submit the best 10 at the end of the day. No deleting any.”

That seems easy enough.

“Oh really? Perhaps I forgot to mention that each photo has to meet certain criteria. I’ll need one abstract, one close-up, a few external, a few internal, a landscape, some people, and so on. How you like me now?”

I still like you fine. I’ll just need to be a little more versatile in my approach. Look at the subject a little differently to how I usually do it. And hey, I’ve always got post-processing in photoshop.

“Nope. As it comes out of the camera is how you submit them.”

Dammit you’ve got a lot of rules. I’ll just have to be extra careful how I compose my shots, and make certain the camera settings are all right before I take the photo.

“One more thing. There is a theme. Your series of photos needs to stick to the theme. When the competition is judged, your ability to stick to the theme counts 50% towards your final score. The other 50% is the quality of the photos.

“Every year it’s different theme. This year I’ve chosen ‘The History of the Voortrekker’s and the Voortrekker Monument.‘”

You psycho.

As if there aren’t already ample photos of the Voortreker Monument out there.

Now there are more. I present my panel of photos. In some bizarre twist of fate, I actually won the competition (though by a very narrow margin). They say constraints stimulate creativity, and the Voortrekker Monument would have been a constraint for me by itself, even without the other limitations.

Ebooks and Project Gutenberg

ebook readerJohannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, which is generally considered a Good Thing—unless you are one of those heathens who proudly proclaim that, “I never even read my Matric set work!” followed by a sort of guttural grunting sound.

Another Good Thing is the public domain. People who know me know that I’m not even slightly impressed with this Intellectual Imaginery Property concept. One cannot own ideas. One cannot steal ideas. If concepts were not allowed to flow freely from one individual to another, we’d still be living in caves and still not too sure about how to cook food, let alone hunt it or cultivate it. Corporate copyright and patent jackasses—get over yourselves! The media wants to be free,  ideas want to free, and you guys have got a little tube of silicon gel trying to plug a massive crack in the wall of the world’s largest dam. Good luck with that.

Project Gutenberg is yet another of those Good Things. That’s three now, and if you’ve been paying attention you might realise that I haven’t just been sprouting off random facts and opinions. I actually have a point.

Project Gutenberg ensures that books and other written works that have entered the public domain remain there, and are easily accessible. Getting a copy of some obscure, 100-year-old, out of print book was a challenge before Project Gutenberg. Now you just search and download the ebook, available in a bunch of formats, suitable for your PC, dedicated ebook reader, or cell phone. There are also audio versions of some books, if you’d prefer (but I haven’t checked any of those out).

So I’ve started reading books on my phone. There are a lot of public domain books out there, and I’ve got some catching up to do on the Classics. Never been that interested in them before, but now that I’ve managed to intertwine them into new technology, they seem suddenly fresh and inspiring to me.

I started with Flatland: a romance of many dimensions and War of the Worlds. I’ve also sought out ebooks that aren’t encumbered by that silly DRM nonsense, but aren’t necessarily free. Places to look for that sort of thing are Smashwords and Book View Cafe.

I admit I haven’t paid anyone for an ebook yet—but I probably will in the not too distant future. Even though I haven’t forked out any legal tender for ebooks, I felt bad about being a total freeloader on the system. Project Gutenberg is a project, right? I correctly guess that that meant one could volunteer to do something towards the project.

I’ve started proof-reading a couple of pages a day over at Project Gutenberg’s Distributed Proof-readers site. Essentially, I check scanned pages for Optical Character Recognition (OCR) errors, and make corrections to the text that the computer guessed the scanned pages contained. I like to think of it as noble work, but honestly it’s rather dull. Perhaps I should join a club?

Image credit: Edans “Sony eBook Reader – II”