Monday, November 30, 2009

I am a Petrie DIsh

I had two flu shots at about 11:15am ... seasonal shot first in the left arm, H1N1 second in the right arm. Seasonal really burned as it went in ... H1N1 I did not feel at all. My doctor laughed that I would critique him on that.

So they are battling it out for supremacy in my blood stream ...

As of mid-afternoon, there is tenderness and a small lump at each site. No other symptoms ... neither achiness nor soreness.

Cool ...

Update: By morning, sites are both mildly tender (don't feel them normally) and a bit red (they were quite red last night.) Lumps down from big and hard at max to a mild bump ... still a big one in diameter though, at least in inch across on both sides but perhaps only 1/8" raised ... NO others symptoms (no headache, no achiness, no fever, etc.)

Update 2: Day 5. No pain at all in the arms. If I push hard enough, I can feel a mild lump down inside. All in all, not a bad experience at all. Now to wait for the massive immune system reaction starting on day 8 ... I plan to stomp a freight train for starters. Then solve world peace. Don't you wish you got your double shot too?

P.S. ... can anyone guess what is growing in the petrie dish above?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Panasonic ZS3 versus Fuji F70EXR -- round 1

Shot by the Fuji F11

This round of testing was a bit marred by a world-class brain fart on my part. Sadly, I left the F70EXR in black and white and did not notice it while I was shooting. The reason being that I was shooting today in brutal sun and gale force winds that had my hands completely frozen within 20 minutes. And I mean that quite literally ... they ached hours later from it ....

However, although we cannot compare colors etc (like I could anyway :-), we can certainly compare sharpness and draw a few interesting conclusions ...

The Fuji F70EXR has a lot of range ... 27-270mm ... and there is a lot of talk on the Fuji Talk Forum about how badly this compromises the lens. Well, the Panasonic ZS3 has a massive range from 25mm through 300mm and so it should be even more compromised ... yet I did not find that.

This round is essentially a telephoto round ... the nature of my subject matter makes for mid to full zoom on every shot. Wide angle is not my thing, but I will still perform some testing later on.

So today I was down by the Ottawa River in Britannia Park, a rather nice area of town with lots of tennis courts and access to the river, parks and trails. A nice area for those who love the outdoors. Here is a view of the indoor tennis courts building from another building about a mile away ... I added some glow to give a dull image some mild interest ...

Note: Clicking on these images shows you the large version with EXIF intact.

The wind surfers caught my ey from up there and I thought that they would make for some interesting shooting. It's not easy to capture their sport, as the lines are very long and you cannot get a close up of both the surfer and the sail.

But there was also a brave windboarder as well, and some of those shots are pretty cool.

Obviously, the Fuji images are easy to spot, being that I already said that they would be black and white :-)

I tried like crazy to get shots of the kite / sail and the surfer ... but only got a few that were any good at all. By this time, my hands were like bricks ...

I gave up trying these shots and turned around to watch the staging area. There were a few of the sails sitting on the ground getting ready for launch or packing up.

I have to say that the ZS3 has remarkable clarity in its images. It reminds me a lot of how I viewed the Fuji F10 at first ... a kind of "liquidity" to surfaces that made them look incredibly 3-dimensional and realistic. Fujis have mostly retained this, although I don't think the EXR cams manage it very well at all in hi-res mode. But they do well enough in EXR modes. The Panny manages it at 10mp, which is pretty wonderful in my book.

Here's the same fellow checking another sail / chute with someone else launching from shore behind him.

The last shots I got at the staging area are a pair of fairly close shots of a landing sequence. Cool how they can control the sail / chute well enough to allow someone to catch it.

I adjourned to wander back towards the parking area, and came across some ducks and a muskrat down below the breakwater. I stood there with my hands in my gloves and pockets just watching the animals. I wanted to shoot them, but was enjoying the feeling of razor blades slicing through my hands by this point. Eventually the pain subsided sufficiently for me to move my hands toward my coat pocket to get the Panny. The instant my hands moved, the muskrat dove. He had been watching me ...

So I continued the walk back to the car and came upon Britannia Beach. A pretty semi-circular sandy beach with white caps rolling in from the near gale force winds (I was not kidding.) And some gulls playing at the shore and once in a while launching themselves upwards to coast on the breeze ... very much like radio-controlled glider pilots taking advantage of updrafts under cliffs. This was cool to watch and I'm sorry that I did not catch it on video.

A few of them found their way closer to me as they walked / flew along the shore.

I think this is where the Panny really shows its stuff. Crisp, clear images with stunning color. Yes, I process every shot, but these did not need much. They looked like this out of camera. And if you want to see something truly amazing, here is a 100% crop of one of these gulls. This is pixel for pixel what was captured. Yes, I sharpened this a bit, but you cannot manufacture what is not there ... and this shows how much is there ...

Simply stunning. I searched for an image from the F70EXR to crop, but all were slightly blurred, as the EXR DR DR800 mode chose F11 for every shot ... thus shooting at 1/170s ... much slower than necessary. This has come up in the past and I generally argue that you can fix it ... but in the freezing cold, my mind was not alert. The sun made the LCD hard to read as well, so I was unaware of what it was doing.

And note that these shots are not blown out. The Panny does not have the Fuji's special hardware, yet the birds look fine and the shadows are not blocked. I used compensation, as any competent photographer would do to preserve the highlights. So it appears that the Panny has a nice tone curve and some intelligent processing for exposure and tone. I did not use the intelligent mode much though, because it disables compensation ... so the Panny seems to be just a little better at daytime shooting ... at least so far.

So ... round 1 narrowly to the ZS3 ... but frankly, both get great images in bright sunlight.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wonderful Ballet -- Nutcracker

The Nutcracker ballet is a beautiful affair ... wonderful music (duh) and terrific dance. Poignant, yet funny and happy. I attended tonight with a friend at a smallish theater in my town. Seats perhaps 300, so not a local theater, in fact it is in our town center.

We started the evening at Baan Thai, a nice little restaurant near the theater. Chinese Broccoli in garlic sauce and Pad Thai ... very tasty. We popped over to the theater about 10 minutes from opening curtain and our seats were the last ones open in our row ... which was the front row, two seats off center. Wow ... what a stunning view of the dancers.

They use children in this production quite extensively, and kudos to them ... no glaring errors and lots of fun. The principle dancers were pretty stunning, their strength blew my mind. I won't go into any detail as there is tons of information on the web. It's just a lovely time. The ending should draw a tear ... if it fails to, have your heart checked as it might not be beating.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Panasonic ZS3 -- First Look

So my new concert cam has arrived. I'm still on the fence regarding its sound quality, but I have certainly seen some wicked videos from it ... I don't think anyone needs to be convinced once they've seen a video like this one:

Meanwhile, I set about checking out its image making ability. And I must admit that I'm a little surprised. Panasonic is no Fuji ... they have never been known for their high ISO prowess. But their more recent efforts have been surprisingly strong as they eschew excessive noise reduction in favour of retaining a lot of detail. This makes a huge difference for someone like me, as I process every image anyway, so I am perfectly happy to process the noise away ...

A superb example of what it can do is epitomized by this flickr set. These images are impressive no matter what camera shot them ... but for it to have been a Panny compact, well that impresses the heck out of me. Here is an image from that set shot at 800 ISO ... and it's terrific. (Note: This is just a link.)

So ... with all this in mind, I set out to create an ISO ladder. This is a time honored test that puts crops together from identically shot images at each possible ISO. I set ISOs manually for these images and left the exposure on automatic. Compensation was set to 0ev, although they could have used more than that.

Those images are loaded through ACR with a bit of adjustment to exposure etc and ACR's NT applied. Almost none through 400 ISO, then more for 800 and 1600. What I note is that the ZS3 retains most of the detail and remains mostly noise free up to and including 400 ISO. This is enough for many concerts.

80 ISO

400 ISO

The 800 ISO image starts to show some smearing and chroma noise (color blotches.) Not fatal though ... as shown in the lovely image above.

800 ISO

The 1600 ISO image is pretty bad ... lots of grain and chroma noise ... too much for the image to look acceptable. Even on the web. But when you process it into black and white, it becomes perfectly acceptable because of the excellent detail retention (for a compact.)

1600 ISO

1600 ISO processed to black and white

I plan on taking it to some concerts on its own to see what it can do. It might just replace my Fuji F70EXR ... which is some kind of feat.

Edit: I just saw an excellent series of images from a KISS concert on the Panasonic Talk forum at DPReview. The fellow show shot them mentioned the minimum shutter setting to be used of 1/60s or 1/125s depending on how much they move. This pins the aperture wide open and the ISO at 400 (although you can set ISO manually.)

Interestingly, this is the moral equivalent of manual mode on other compacts, as all I use that for is to peg the shutter speed.

My conclusion, therefore. is that the ZS3 is an appropriate camera for concerts. Better video and audio than the F70EXR, excellent detail retention to 400 and even 800 ISO ... certainly better battery life. Wow ... look out Fuji.

Primus (the Empire) Strikes Back!

Daaa daaa, da da da daaa daaa .... (Star Wars theme for the musically challenged :-)

For those who might recall my rant over Primus's Neanderthal business practices ...

Today, I got what I suspect is my final bill from Primus ... they thanked me for being a customer as they inserted the shiv between my third and fourth rib ...

So after insulting me so horribly by asking for prepayment of calls that were not yet billed ... I moved to Rogers, with whom I have a long standing relationship. Primus retaliated by adding $200 to my bill, clawing back some of the value of the 15,000 Aeroplan miles they had given me for joining.

Interestingly ... they delayed the giving of these miles ... half after 2 months, half after 4. One could reasonably assume that one had met the time obligation because of said delay, but apparently that's not Neanderthal logic :-)

*sigh* ....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I met with Charlotte's mother yesterday and we had a nice chat and looked over the 19 prints I'd made for consideration for Charlotte's portfolio. She was very pleased with them and I thought I'd post a couple of updated classic images and one new image ...

Charlotte is still quite young ... in her mid-teens, and yet she carries herself like a mature woman. This, coupled with her striking, even chiseled features, screams high fashion model to me.

I touched up one of the marina images to print it in 8x10 format. It remains unusually striking, and is one of or perhaps the best image I have ever recorded.

I added this to the set of images, it had not been processed before. I felt that Charlotte should also have more of an "in situ" pose here ... perhaps the kind of thing one might put on a sailing magazine cover.

And finally, I cleaned up a few parts of an image in the Byward Market. It's pretty nice ...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

We live in a depressing world ...

Ok ... I'm not that kind of blogger. The kind who learns everything there is to know about a subject and then spouts off about it and gets quoted all over the Internet. I'm the other kind ... the kind who just likes to use the blog as a place to remember stuff, pass along kudos when deserved, crap on those who deserve it from as high as possible, and ultimately just journal my life ... such as it is :-)

So once in a while I read something on the net that simply depresses me. Of course, it is easy to find massive injustice, war, strife, murder, mayhem ... this is happening all the time. If you are unable to filter such things out day to day, then you are in for a very rough ride.

But I'm a serious geek, who likes to believe that the companies who provide our life blood these days -- which of course includes mainly access to bandwidth and wireless services -- are going to be satisfied with staggering profits followed by inevitable eroding of margin for bandwidth etc. I recently upgraded to a faster Internet pipe with bigger bandwidth caps for $30 less than it cost a month ago. Seems like a deal to me ...

But my new Internet is in fact no faster than my old Internet access was ... so now I start the investigation into exactly what I am actually getting for my money. Note ... the following rather pathetic showing is on my new 18M down 1M up service ...

This is when I stumble int ... and their news and forums. And an article about the 700mhz auction, which Google likes to say they helped make better by forcing provisions for a more open spectrum or something like that ... and dslreports pokes a nice, great big hole into that theory (Google was basically a fart in the wind in these proceedings) ... the dominant players, Verizon and AT&T got all the licenses and shall continue making astounding profits in voice services, despite the fact that those services are no longer needed in an Internet world.

Anyway .... have a read ... poke around in the site if you want to get a little depressed that geekdom gets better, but costs seem to rise too ... how do they do that? Well ... go take a look.

Edit: Well, at least Rogers appears to be giving me what I paid for ...

F70EXR Macro mode ... an experiment

I did not perform this experiment ... it was performed by Fuji Talk Forum member Altruisto, in the best spirit of investigation. He shot an image of a ruler in order to get an exact measurement of the coverage area at each focal length's closest focus distance.

A bit of background ... with dSLRs, you shoot longer focal lengths (e.g. 300mm) with closer focus distances in order to isolate your subject by eliminating complex and cluttered backgrounds. In the macro world, shooting at 1:1 magnification (coverage area exactly the same as sensor size), you need special lenses. Small sensor cameras all have macro settings with some level of magnification, but usually the highest magnification is at the widest angle. This brings a lot of clutter with it and a lot of weird distortions. With the F70EXR, it also brings serious amounts of CA and purple fringing. And finally, it requires extremely short working distance ... with the subject often a centimeter or two away from the lense, cutting down light to the subject. Bad news all round ...

So back to Altruisto's experiment.

Shooting this target at every focal length the camera can select gives him an opportunity to see if there is a "sweet spot" with similar magnification at a longer focal length.

And he found it. Since the camera reports focus lock, one only has to select each possible focal length and then keep moving the camera forwards or backwards until focus lock is achieved. The resulting images tells you the coverage area (based on what you see of the ruler) and the focal length (in EXIF data) and aperture. Since the Fuji always uses its widest aperture in relatively dark circumstances, you see the actual widest aperture for each focal length. His table is here:

Why is this significant? Well, it turns out that at 55mm, you get the same magnification as you do at 27mm. Yet with a longer working distance (more light on subject, less chance of scaring subject away) and with a much nicer background ... much less angle of view to bring in clutter.

The F70EXR does not report focal lengths while shooting (Fuji, shame on you) ... but it does change the aperture slightly at each focal length, and the magic number is f4.9. So zoom in a bit, then one click at a time until you see f4.9, and you know you are at 55mm.

This is a very significant discovery and congratulations to Altruisto for discovering it.

See his original thread here.

My own confirmation of the technique worked exactly as advertised. I shot the closest possible image of the *copy function on the keyboard, then without moving the cam, I zoomed to f4.9 and backed up in tiny increments until I could again get focus lock. The resulting image has exactly the same magnification (as predicted by the table) and shows much less of the background. This will make for much better flower and insect shots.

Here are my samples ... two 800px images with a full sized crop of the word *copy in the bottom right hand corner. Shot in very dark circumstances, so I ran some NR in ACR and then ran Topaz Denoise 3 on them as the last step (when they were small) ... fading the amount of NR to get the right balance (in my opinion of course.) Bad lighting, so bear with it ...

One more time ... this is a major contribution to the body of knowledge on this camera.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Billy Bragg plays the Bronson Center with guests Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson of the Skydiggers

Now this was a superb concert. I discovered an act that perfectly matches my musical taste, and I enjoyed two superb entertainers. Both Andy Maize and Billy Bragg have a terrific touch for comedy, so the audience was laughing all night long between the beauty of the Skydiggers' voices and the poignant and stirring messages in Billy Braggs singing ...


I was having lunch one day with Sue, a very good friend for many years ... and she mentioned that she and Don were going to see Billy Bragg and that Don could pick up some extra tickets if I was interested. I was ... being that Billy is a British rocker with political leanings, I thought it would make a perfect boys night out and I asked her to get me three tickets.

Jonathan reacted predictably ... so Nick told me that he would pick a friend and they would come with me. Right up until last weekend, this was the plan. And then Nick found out that he'd been scheduled to work, and since he is leaving next week for 10 days in the UK, he could not very well turn down the shift.

Needless to say ... I asked my friend Jackie, but she had a prior commitment and that was that. Burn the tickets I thought ... it's been a stressful week and I really could not drum up sufficient energy to try to peddle the tickets. But luckily, Sue's colleague knew a young couple with a baby who (a) were big Billy Bragg fans, and (b) needed a break. I was happy that the tickets would go to a good cause and it all turned out just fine ...

The night finally arrived and we met at the Royal Treasure in Chinatown for a remarkable meal ... so fricken tasty ... my mouth waters just thinking about it.

And then we were off. I gave Don the extra tickets and we drove both cars the 5 blocks to the Bronson Center ... Don got out early and found the young fellow, who then went home to fetch the wife. As I remember ... leaving the baby with a sitter was never easy, so the last minute dash makes perfect sense.

We walked to the front of the already packed venue, and noticed that, just as the time Jackie and I saw Katie Melua, the left side was again less occupied near the front. We ended up grabbing row two stage left. Not bad seats at all ... Sue and Don were kind enough to give me the seat closest to center so that I could get a decent camera angle. Looking back, you can see the audience packed in pretty tightly.

The guy right behind me with the headphones seemed to be bootlegging the show with excellent equipment. This gives me some ideas, as I don't like the quality of the audio on the F70 ... it's not bad here, but the G10 always does far better.

We chatted while we waited, and a nice young lady (who was there with another nice young lady) spoke with me a bit regarding the F70's video and audio quality and mastering movies on Windows versus the MAC. I forgot your name, so if you read this post, please include it in the comments.

I happen to like iMovie very much ... but I have found that, on Windows 7, Windows Live Movie Maker is a very competent editor. So my MAC sits idle waiting for me to find the time to play with iPhone apps ... but that's another story. By the way, she was able to knit through most of the concert in the dark ... I thought that was quite the skill.
A note on the lighting. This is the second time round with the Fuji F70EXR in concert mode. The lighting at this venue is a real cut above the lighting at the Black Sheep Inn. But still not in the same league as the lighting at the NAC for example. So the images are generally shot at 3200 ISO ... only the first image us at 800ISO, the next and last are shot at 1600 ISO, and the rest at 3200 ISO. It was very dark in there. The Fuji handled this surprisingly well ... remembering that it has a really tiny sensor. Edit: In retrospect, I think I will stay at 800 and 1600 next time and simply pull up the tones. The noise is less difficult to deal with than that generated at 3200 ISO.

I wasn't sure if I would want to process these imagesin black & white as I did for the Black Sheep Images ... but after doing the first image in both styles, I preferred the color.

When Andy Maize walked on stage, he did his sound check right there ... I actually thought he was a stage hand ... that is until he started singing. Holy crap ... he and Josh Finlayson can sing. I mean *really* sing.

He introduced himself and Josh as members of the band Skydiggers, although I must admit that I forgot the name when I got home and it took me at least 20 minutes of searching to eventually find them. The way I finally did it was to listen to the lyrics of my videos and eventually I got one to come up in Google.

Andy has this interesting habit of shaking his right hand while singing as if he is playing a tambourine. The more intense the singing, the more intense the shaking. You can see that on the first video above. This image makes me wonder if his hands are a little wonky.

He also does the twist a lot on stage ... it is very amusing, yet he moves well. It gets the audience laughing, which is a nice addition to their obvious singing talent. The Fuji's 270mm zoom allowed me to get some pretty close shots, even though we were at least 25 to 30 feet from where they stood.

They played a spectacularly beautiful song at one point ... both their voices in perfect harmony at a fairly high pitch ... the audience was enraptured. And stupid me, I enjoyed it so much I forgot to get it on video. But I got a lot of other stuff that's really nice.

And that's about it for the Skydiggers. They really were great. I am definitely going to be buying a bunch of their stuff. Unfortunately, I cannot find their solo effort on iTunes ... but a lot of other stuff is there.

When they walked off ... we got a 15 or 20 minute intermission while they set up for Billy Bragg. This did not require a lot of effort, since he played one guitar at a time and there was no band. :-)

They did, however, have to bring out his tea. He drank a lot of tea during the performance ... he made a few comments that seemed to be poking at Red Rose or something like that ... but I never quite got the gist.

And then he was off ... now let me say that I know nothing of his body of work. I am impressed by the scope of what he has done and by what I heard. But I am no expert, so I have not put the song names on the videos. On the other hand, I'm pretty good with Google, so I found all the names of the songs and include them in this post.

There are ten videos, so enjoy. The audio and video is surprisingly good from the F70EXR, and the YouTube ratings and comments are coming in pretty high.

Part 1 opens with "The World Turned Upside Down", a really upbeat number that pretty much rails against the class struggle, a sad tale of defiance and slaughter in 1649 ... or so I gather from the lyrics. He moves straight into a similarly themed song "To Have And To Have Not." I really like these lines:
Just because you're better then me
Doesn't mean i'm lazy
Just because you're going forwards
Doesn't mean i'm going backwards

The final song in Part 1 is the very sad lament "Mr. Love & Justice" ... I must admit that as I get to know his lyrics and his voice I am becoming quite a fan of Billy. The actual process of finding all the song names and reading the lyrics has given me a deep appreciation for who he is and what he stands for.

Billy uses a capo *constantly* ...

I stopped shooting images for quite a while and just recorded video.

Part 2 contains a song called "Upfield" ...

Part 3 contains a very funny story about musicians. You need to "read the dots" to be a real musician. Play piano ... etc. But this was all a setup to discuss his work with Wilco on bringing Woodie Guthrie's archives back into the light. He discusses Patty Smith's famous quote that "all great artists have their hand down the front of their trousers" :-) The story goes on to discuss Mount Stromboli and sexual innuendo and ends with the song "Ingrid Bergman" ... a very funny version.

Part 4 opens with another Woody Guthrie song from the Mermaid CD ... "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key" ... this, to me, is where Billy really shows that he has serious singing chops. This is one beautiful song.

After a short discussion of the great depression, he plays a 70 year old song called "I Ain't Got no Home in This World" ... another beauty. A lament. Very touching.

He swapped to an acoustic guitar after a while, and I shot some more video. Part 5 starts with the song "Sexuality" ... a nice song and well sung ... it ends with the very moving "Like Soldiers Do" ...

Part 6 is still acoustic, and opens with another moving condemnation of war ... "Everywhere." Listen for such poignant lyrics as:
Over here, over there, it's the same everywhere
A boy cries out for his mama before he dies for his home

Later, I reeled off a whack of images before I continued recording.

He was pretty animated through this first part of the acoustic set ... I can't really remember what he was discussing here. Perhaps it will come out later in part 5.

In this zoomed out image, you can see that they left a back room open to the stage with some light in it so there was a ladder visible and a couple of people standing stage right all night long. The lighting was subdued enough that it rarely impedes on images or video, but in this image I was able to brings these details out a bit ...

And then he switched back to the electric ...

Part 7 opens with the "Old Clash Fan Fight Song" ... this is a pretty cool song with some nice vocals and interesting riffs. After yet another sip of tea, he came back to the microphone and talked about the Clash's momentous position in his life ... they introduced him to political activism. He went to a rally in Victoria Park and came out of there with certain knowledge that he was not alone and that his generation would make their stand against racism. The Clash got him to the concert, but he is clear that bands and singers cannot change the world. The world changes when the audience each undertake their small piece of changing the world ... staying true to the ideal ... fighting racism and bullying where it occurs. It's an impressive presentation of the ideas ... especially when he targets cynicism as the real enemy ...


Part 8 continues the theme ... you are not alone ... you *can* make a difference ... your participation *does* make a difference. He goes smoothly into "I Keep Faith", a lovely song about the pain and sacrifice of having and keeping your ideals ... it's really quite moving. He clarifies his use of the word "faith" ... he does not mean spiritual faith, but rather faith in his fellow man ... humanity. Solidarity ... he uses this moment to stand with the public service who are striking the museums as this is written. He ends off with the shout "Their's Power in a Union" ... which of course leads immediately to the song of the same name. Nicely done, I must say.

Part 8 ends the concert ... at least the main body of work. He leaves the stage and there is about 2 minutes of standing ovation and shouting for his return. In part 9, he returns for the encore. Part 9 gave me fits ... I uploaded it twice last night and once this morning and YouTube failed to process it every time. I finally recreated the video this morning and uploaded it and everything was fine. Strange.

Part 9 opens with Levi Stubbs' Tears. This is a poignant song ... a sad tale of a lonely existence ... in fact, it's really sad. Maybe a tad too familiar ... the next song is again sad ... "Sing Their Souls Back Home" ... a song of shattered families ... war and terror ... it's quite moving. Although you may not agree with the war and strife in the war today, it is very sad that some of our young give their lives in the service of their country (us, remember) ... this song really makes you think about them.

And finally ... part 10 ... the last song in the encore ... he makes a joke about a Hootenanny ... but no dancing. The song opens with a driving riff ... kind of like the first song ... this was "A New England" ... he had the audience sing the chorus and a few bits of the verse ... it was *very* impressive! It's a great song on its own, but I LOVE hearing an audience sing along ... it always moves me deeply.

He ends the song on a really long note ... very, very nice. Now you'll have to watch the vid to see him teabag the audience ....

Don't miss him if you get a chance ... really ... and watch for the Skydiggers ... they're an absolute hoot.