When Bullies Grow Up

To mark the joyous occasion of Rick Santorum dropping out of the Republican primaries, here’s an observation that I wrote a while ago but never got around to publishing.

Last night I watched the movie Fucking Åmål, or as it was retitled in the USA, Show Me Love. (I have a sneaking suspicion that The Shins’ song Phantom Limb is based on it.) It reminded me of my short school career in good ol’ Sherwood Githens Middle School in North Carolina. The homophobic student body there had a rather broad definition of homosexuality: presumably it would have included actual homosexuality if they had known what that was, but it also included getting good grades, or being bad at sports, or… well, okay, it was pretty arbitrary who got beaten up for being ‘gay.’

The school placed a lot of emphasis on respect and “stomping out killer comments,” as one school poster campaign at the time put it, but even the good teachers only had ineffectual measures at their disposal for stopping the bullying. This was because the prevailing policy in American education at the time was that every child had a right to their ‘self-esteem’ and the children’s right to express themselves was paramount, even if it came at the expense of other children’s right to express themselves.

I believe it’s fallen out of fashion, but this self-esteem business is something that would make today’s conservative pundits and Republican politicians howl. “Your children are being persecuted by their peers for performing well in school!” I imagine them yelping in moral outrage. “And that’s exactly what the liberal conspiracy in America’s schools wants!” Well, it was a flower-power philosophy, and it was stupid, so this is one of those rare times I’d have to side with the conservatives.

Wait a minute though. Conservative politicians hate gays.* So diminutive homophobes punching gay children are actually the real American heroes in this year’s Republican primary. Well, too bad for the smart gay kids, at least the smart straight kids will catch a break if we get a Republican president, right?

“President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob. There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor to try to indoctrinate them. Oh, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.” — Rick Santorum, Americans for Prosperity rally, Feb. 25, 2012

“I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely. […] The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.” — Rick Santorum, interview with Glenn Beck, Feb. 23, 2012

Conservative politicians hate gays and education! It was then that I realized the awful truth:

Republican politicians are what happens
when middle school bullies grow up.

*Of course not all conservative politicians hate gays. For example, I’m sure Mitt Romney is just pretending to hate them. Of course, what Romney’s homophobia lacks in sincerity, Santorum’s makes up for in oversincerity. What I mean when I say “conservative politicians hate gays” is “conservative politicians think that more voters want them to hate gays than not.”

Republican politician of tomorrow

Republican president of tomorrow. (Attribution: Diego Graz, licensed CC-BY.)

Geek tip: ImagingSource camera in Python

In my lab there are some ImagingSource cameras that we use for detection. I was trying to get a model DMK 41BU02 to work so that I could control it directly from my measurement program and not have to use the crappy imaging software that comes with it.

Most USB cameras work with the OpenCV computer vision library without any trouble, and this is how I control them in my instrumentation library, which I wrote in Python. If they don’t work, then there is always an ActiveX interface which usually works.

The ImagingSource cameras, however, include their own driver library, IC Imaging Control. I tried to use SWIG to write a quick Python wrapper for it. However, you can only compile your program with this library if you use Visual C++. Fail!

Thankfully, this article (in German) on the blog of one Edgar Klenske tipped me off: the IC Imaging Control library is itself just a wrapper around DirectShow. That also explains why the headers only compile with VC++. Edgar Klenske’s solution is to use the VideoCapture module, which is itself a wrapper around DirectShow, which comes precompiled so you don’t have to use VC++. Luckily for me, he posted that tip just last week!

And so I was able to subclass my Camera module to interface with DirectShow cameras. Perhaps next I’ll try to install the new OpenCV 2.3 to see if their support for DirectShow has improved any.

My verdict is, never buy any camera from ImagingSource. Their slogan is, ironically, “Technology based on standards.” Sorry, but having your drivers only work with one compiler is more like a lack of standards — standards of both technology and decency.