Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Overheard in the Office...


The 35mm Canon EOS-1N lacks all the charm associated associated with using an MMM ("metal, mechanical, manual") 35mm film camera like my Nikon FM2n, but it has one advantage: It uses all the EF-mount autofocus lenses from my work cameras. As a matter of fact, with the battery grip mounted, it handles and operates exactly like my EOS-1Ds Mark II.

I'm gonna grab some T-Max P3200, and maybe bust a roll or two of Natura 1600 out of the freezer and drag this along to Vegas for SHOT. I would love to shoot some nighttime film on the strip.

Counsel for Rough Times

"Always keep a grappling hook sewn into your underwear." #lifehacks

Maranello Drift

The Perils of Social Media Fact-Checking

I don't normally do "guest posts" on VFTP. After all, it's weird letting someone else write in your diary. But my friend Jon Hauptman, HMFIC at PHLster holsters and half of the podcasting team at The Guns Guide to Liberals and one of the smartest dudes I know, wrote a post on Facebook the other day that I asked to copy here.

It was a thoughtful piece on how, in an attempt to mitigate the spread of inflammatory and divisive "fake news" stories, the social media giant's fact checking process was going to have the opposite effect as the one intended, and widen the rifts it was hoped to mend.

He went one better than letting me copypasta the FB post, and went and polished it up & sent it to me via email. Take it away, Jon:

      "I’ve been noticing a new invasive, interrupting, and patronizing feature implemented by the do-gooders over at Facebook which attempts to screen posts and alert users to the potential that they’re viewing content which could be classified as misleading or “Fake News.” The clumsy implementation, at this time of launch, gives me the impression that, at best, this is a superficial attempt to “do something,” while utterly misunderstanding the how’s and why’s of people’s motivation to share and consume content (something which seems like it should be entirely within their comprehension, given their position as a nexus of information sharing and personal data harvesting). Combined with their choice of fact-checking affiliate (Snopes, about which I have no personal opinion, other than being aware that they’re not universally trusted), I’m left with the impression that Facebook’s implementation of this suffers from some amount of monoculture and wishful thinking. 
  This rant is inspired by my first encounter with the new system, in which it identified an entirely innocuous meme related to the Die Hard movie as an attempt to spread false information. 
“Fake news,” at the root, is an information literacy problem, not an information delivery problem. If it’s treated as the latter rather than the former, this kind of ridiculous false positive will be inevitable and rampant. And it’s already causing me to have zero faith in the process behind their information verification (and neither they, nor Snopes, have that kind of credibility to burn in the circles which will inevitably be fact-checked the most). Although, to be entirely fair to Facebook, if they’re under some kind of pressure (self imposed or otherwise) to curb the spread of fake news, the primary tools at their disposal are ones of information delivery, so it’s not that hard for them to kludge this shoddy fix together. However, it’s still myopic and I expect it to be dramatically counterproductive.  
Fact checking, unfortunately, isn’t what we think it is. Despite the superficial appearance, fact checking isn’t a helpful tool for determining the truth and for forming an accurate opinion. Instead, it’s actually an in/out group filter which segregates people by belief and value, while allowing each group to believe they hold the Factual High-Ground, and to claim any subsequent moral position which proceeds from being “factually correct.” 
Facts don’t change people’s minds. If you don’t believe me, just Google, “facts don’t change people’s minds,” and review the plethora of articles and studies about this. I don’t necessarily expect you to change your mind (of course) but at least be prepared to argue against an enormous body of evidence, while performatively proving my point. 

“Fact’s don’t change people’s minds,” is a substantially different assertion than, “Facts don’t matter.” Facts matter to our BELIEFS. Our beliefs are largely constructed around our feelings and values. And then, we seek out the facts which support those beliefs. In the event that a mind is changed by facts, that’s because that mind VALUES a new set of facts over the ones it already has.  
If a set of facts has led someone to negative consequences, they might feel anxious, angry, frustrated, or confused. Those negative feelings result in an evaluation of values, beliefs, and supporting facts. Subsequently, a new set of facts is sought and collected, resulting in positive feelings. People get a dopamine hit when they learn something or recognize a pattern. Most facts gathered by people are taken on board in order to fit the patterns they already have in place. Or, often more accurately, we all have cognitive biases which look for and enjoy facts which fit our patterns. It’s usually a decent coarse reality check which helps keep us motivated on the various paths of progress surrounding our values and beliefs. At worst, it’s a dangerous set of cognitive blinders (but, that’s why information literacy and discipline are important).  
It feels good to be right and it feels bad to be wrong, and being right and wrong (in most of our lives) has to do with recognizing patterns and behaving in ways which generate desired results, more than they have to do with objective correctness. People are literally happy to do things “wrong” for long periods of time, until a time comes when their beliefs and values severely clash with a more “right” way of doing things. People feel, first. Then, they believe. Then, they gather facts to support the beliefs. If you question or deny their facts, that’s a proxy attack on The Self. 
This is why fact checking is counterproductive. 
Confronting people, in a moment of their enthusiasm and dopamine reception, to tell them that this thing they already believe and are excited to share is actually, in fact, false, according to an authority they don’t already recognize, is a Backfire Effect generator. (Google Backfire Effect.) Frankly, I’m concerned that this multibillion dollar company with access to all the data and experts they could possibly want, which sits as a primary communication medium between us and the world, fails to understand and recognize this fundamental human behavior. And that obliviousness makes me very concerned that they simply lack the ability to execute this properly without making the problem of fake news, disintegrating consensus reality, and polarization IMMEDIATELY worse.  
They’re making the mistake of thinking that facts have anything at all to do with what people believe. And that people have any tolerance at all for being told what is true (especially by source they don’t value as an authority). This revelation of the 2016 election is embarrassingly old news and the inability to see the connection between that and efforts to mechanically mitigate the spread of fake news belies an irresponsible obliviousness, regardless of how well intentioned it may be.
Here’s the War Game I think they should have played over at Facebook before implementing this, and what I would have brought up in a meeting, were I unlucky enough to be employed in that kind of monoculture: 
My main concern is doing this wrong, based on how people evaluate information in terms of their pre existing beliefs and biases. There’s no way for this screening strategy to be perfect and unbiased enough to garner the necessary credibility among those who (according to Facebook) need it the most. And every single mistake (or anything which could be interpreted as error or bias) will be viewed as representative of the system and rife in the implementation. This system has to walk an incredible tightrope of being entirely correct and completely unbiased, while appearing as such to the people who are most inclined to view it as the opposite. But, it’s like Facebook somehow has no idea that some significant number of Facebook users aren’t going to extend them the benefit of the doubt and evaluate this imposed fact checking in good faith. To them, both Facebook and any fact checking authority to which they appeal is ALREADY biased, and this imposition is additional proof of their ham-fisted or malevolent social engineering.
Even if there was a 100% perfectly neutral and unbiased fact checking organization. And even if Facebook's system had a perfectly neutral and unbiased filter for selecting content to be fact checked, people would still perceive it as biased. Given the degree to which we’re politically compartmentalized, liberals and conservatives will have far more exposure to their preferred content being subjected to fact checking filters. If you're in a X bubble, you'll see a lot of X content being fact checked and filtered. And even if there was some third party neutral audit which clearly showed equivalent fact checking was taking place, it will do basically nothing to change the perceptions of people who see their content of choice being "censored" constantly. And that's assuming a perfectly unbiased system. 
I’d be on the side of fact checking if facts actually had anything to do with what people believe. Given the relationship between values, beliefs, and facts, “fact checking” is values enforcement, even if it’s accidental. This is going to reveal itself to be a way to “check” people who believe unapproved facts, more than it’s a tool for improving the information diet."

Make up your minds!

Also, Shannon Watts was snarkily pointing out that Texas had just passed a law allowing guns in churches...without mentioning the incident to which that law was passed in response.

With Shannon it's hard to distinguish between actual malice and willful ignorance.

By the way, I had to use a screen shot instead of embedding the actual tweet, because just this morning I discovered that I'd somehow leveled up in Twitter!

I don't recollect any interaction in the past, but maybe she's an obsessive self-googler* and stumbled across this post?

*Self-googling is the first step on the road to being a lolcow, people. Don't do it.

Monday, December 30, 2019

This timeline is weird.

The internet was a mistake.

Muppets, the lot of them...

On the one hand, and on the other...

John has a good breakdown of the incident here. This was a congregation that had put some planning in ahead of time...

"Next question: How many of these guys carried medical gear on their person?"

Definitely learned the lessons of Sutherland Springs.  Nobody was going to be prowling the aisles of this church, shooting defenseless and cowering victims.

But on the gripping hand...

From the same social media discussion that spawned the comment about medical gear in the caption to the first photo came the following exchange:
Friend A: "Shared this on a church related group and immediately got the"elitist" tag. Of course" 
Me: "It's amazing how many people out there are now confident that they, too, could make a 12-yard double-action headshot, from the holster, on a moving target, over the heads of their fellow parishioners. 'Bruh, I've seen your church security team come in and shoot at the range. Some of y'all have a hard time making a single-action headshot on a stationary B27 at seven yards with all the time in the world to shoot and not a no-shoot in sight.'
Friend B: "There is an infinite amount of excuses for screwing around instead of learning and doing work" 
Friend C: "You'd think that seeing the guy who wasn't trained and made poor choices/bad draw get killed and the guy that was trained put the killer down quickly would be a lesson. I doubt it will be, though. People can't learn if they think they already know."
Your hypothetical self-defense gun usage could be the proverbial "three yards, three shots, three seconds"...or it could be forty-five feet on a moving target, or it could start by that dude you didn't see approaching you grabbing your arm or knocking you off your feet.

Get some training. Practice what you learn. Do the work.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Public Service Announcement...

Ten Years Ago at VFTP...

From December 2009...
"So the cover of this month's American Rifleman announces "The Unexpected SIG516". 
A new AR clone these days is about as "unexpected" as another Friday the 13th sequel or Law & Order spinoff. What's "unexpected" is that there are still some gun manufacturers who haven't jumped on this bandwagon, since all that's needed to get in the game is an ATF variance letter sent to Continental Machine Tool or Sabre Defense. In a world where such unlikely candidates as Ruger, Remington, and Smith & Wesson are pimping AR-style carbines, what's left? 
Here are my predictions for "unexpected" AR announcements at SHOT: 
  1. Harrington & Richardson H&R-15: Cast parts and stained birch furniture keep costs down. Sold at Wal-Mart for $109.95.
  2. Marlin MAR-15: Neither direct impingement nor piston operated, the MAR-15 is California-legal, since the bolt is cycled via a complex linkage actuated by rocking the pistol grip forward and back.
  3. Thompson/Center EncoR-15: Available in almost two hundred chamberings, three quarters of which are designed by J.D. Jones and only of interest to handloaders who also hunt rabid grizzly bears.
  4. General Motors GI-15: Unsold inventory stocks will allow these to be sold at zero percent financing with a hefty manufacturer's rebate less than six months after their introduction. Brace for recalls.
  5. Apple iR-15: Only works with proprietary ammunition. Made of sleek, white plastic. Has to be sent to an authorized service center for field-stripping and cleaning. Owners soon sport glazed, zombielike expressions of loyalty familiar to posters at MacForums or GlockTalk.
  6. Harley-Davidson HD-15: Leaks oil. Comes with clip-on ponytail and lick'n'stick eagle tattoo in box, as well as coupon for chromed BUIS, charging handle, and highway pegs."

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Skewing the 'Tubes...

Obsolescent Media

I've been weeding out my library of dead tree books (other than reference volumes), with my metric being "Am I likely to sit down and read this again?"

For example, I loved David Weber's Honor Harrington books the first time through. When At All Costs was released, I re-read the series to get in the mood for the new book, but stopped at the end of Echoes of Honor and jumped right to the new book. The last time I tried reading the series through, I think I made it to Admiral Mary Sue's big weeb katana duel in Flag in Exile before throwing in the towel.

In the end, I decided to keep a paperback copy of the first book, On Basilisk Station, and cart the rest to Half Price Books.

My peak years of infatuation with the Honorverse coincided with my peak disposable income years, and so I had a raft of hardcovers to haul off.

Just as I was getting ready to carry the first box to the car, I remembered that some of these had CD-ROMs of the Baen Free Library in them! I pulled the disc from the hardback of At All Costs, prompting a question from Bobbi...
RX: "Um, do you even have a CD-ROM drive anymore?" 
Me: "Sure! Well, I mean, not in my computer. I had to buy a janky Chicom external CD drive to be able to read the scanned negatives when I get film developed."

Automotif CLVI...

An interesting find: A first generation Cadillac Seville ('77?).

This was the very first downsized Caddy, following the first fuel crisis. Its base DNA was derived from the Nova, and the final result was a Cadillac that was half a ton lighter than the deVille and much nimbler and easier to navigate in tight quarters.

It featured the rear suspension from the previous generation ('68-'74') Nova and 11-in rear drums from the Nova police package, a 350 Olds Rocket V8 with Bosch/Bendix fuel injection (still a rarity back then), and the first optional digital dash & trip computer in a Detroit car.

They actually stickered for more than any of the bigger Caddies on the lot at the time, except the limos, and were intended to bring younger buyers back from Benz and BMW (a recurring theme with Caddy, seen later in the Catera and CTS).

Friday, December 27, 2019

Today in History: #4 on the list of Collectivism's Greatest Hits

On this date in 1929, good ol' Josef Stalin announced that it was time for the liquidation of the kulaks as a class.

Note that this did not mean the state would take control of the land of prosperous farmers and then let the prosperous farmers administer the now collectivized farms. The state just wanted the land, the farmers went to the gulags. What could possibly go wrong?

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Maximizing Resources

Having tended the chickens of Cluckheim Keep while housesitting for Marko in the dead of New Hampshire winter was a chore, but while Castle Frostbite is way out past where the buses stop running, it's not off-grid. Ensuring that the chickens had access to a thawed water source was as simple as making sure the extension cord stayed plugged in.

Living off-grid on solar power means that burning electrons in a resistance grid for heat is too much of a luxury for all but the grandest setups, so Joel at TUATK has developed a clever way to ensure his flock has a steady supply of water using available resources around his crib.

Update your planet-saving manuals...

That's what I thought it meant, too...

Bobbi's interpretation of Boxing Day, that is.

Wait, you're serious...

Glurge is creeping fascism!
I honestly thought it was a parody account at first, but no. We've crossed some sort of weird event horizon now, beyond which stuff doesn't have to actually make any damn sense at all.

Let's open the wrapper on this little jeremiad and see what we have...

Oh, look, a byline by Amanda Marcotte, which is as close as you can get to a guarantee there will be some stunningly bitter craziness ahead.
Running down this year's schedule of Christmas movie offerings is like a trip into an uncanny valley of shiny-teethed, blow-dried heteronormative whiteness, with only a few token movies with characters of color. It's like watching "The Stepford Wives," but scarier, since the evil plot to replace normal people with robots is never actually revealed.
Wait, the headline promised fascism, but all we have are gripes about white people and heterosexuality. And robots. Are straight white people symbols of fascism? Are they robots? Are they nazi robots? I'm not sure where we're going with this...
None of this should be a surprise, because Hallmark movies, as cloying and saccharine as they are, constitute the platonic ideal of fascist propaganda.
Nazis, then. Okay, I think I know where we're going with this.
That is probably a startling statement to some. When most of us think about fascistically propagandistic movies, we think of the grotesque grandeur of Leni Riefenstahl's films celebrating the Third Reich — grand, but cold sweeping shots of soldiers goose-stepping and flags waving, all meant to inspire awe and terror. But the reality is, even in Nazi Germany, the majority of movies approved by the Nazi minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, were escapist and feather-light, with a Hallmark movie-style emphasis on the importance of "normality."
Ah, now I'm tracking. Goebbels made wholesome escapist glurge, therefore by the transitive property of Nazism, all wholesome escapist glurge is fascism.

You know what else Goebbels did? He took a shit. This is why I've never taken a dump myself, because I'm no Nazi!

The only real surprise in the article was that it took thirteen full paragraphs for Trump to be invoked by name:
Hallmark movies, with their emphasis on returning home and the pleasures of the small, domestic life, also send a not-at-all subtle signal of disdain for cosmopolitanism and curiosity about the larger world, which is exactly the sort of attitude that helps breed the kind of defensive white nationalism that we see growing in strength in the Donald Trump era.
The tl;dr version of the Salon piece, in case you're in a hurry:


Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Information Illiteracy is a Real Problem

Someone makes a post that's a funny pop culture inside joke, but the real punchline is that they put "Share if you want to honor his heroism" so they can snicker behind their hands when Boomers unfamiliar with Die Hard share the post unironically.

So Snopes and Facebook's "fake news" algorithm debunk it, and people I know are mad at the internet about it.

Why? It's literally doing its job, trying to keep your grandma from being fooled by every troll meme the anons throw at her. "Haha, this one's obviously a joke!" Not to her, it ain't. She's the normie-est normie that ever normie-ed. If a website has non-potato photos and the word "news" anywhere in its URL, it might as well be the straight-up Reuters news feed, as far as she's concerned.

Maybe if they'd had this feature a few years ago, West Point cadets wouldn't be in danger of having their careers aborted in the third trimester for playing the circle game.

The problem under discussion here is the tendency for informationally-illiterate people to believe that a well laid out page with non-potato photos and the word “news” somewhere in its URL is telling them the gospel truth, simply because what it’s saying fits their biases.

Then when CNN or the BBC or whoever comes along and points out that it’s made-up bullshit from a click-farm in Macedonia, they get assmad and yell about the biased MSM and its "fake news".

Google before you share. Google the URL of the originating site, too, if it's not one you're familiar with. If just reading a headline is so bias-confirming that you get a little shot of dopamine when you click "share" because you're excited about how it's going to Own The Libs/Show Trump's A Moron, think about why you're clicking "share".

Merry Christmas!

Here's wishing a Merry Christmas to all y'all who come by and read this stuff!

Hopefully y'all are having a great holiday with the fam, or your family of choice, and gearing up to make 2020 your best year yet. Be awesome!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Flying B

The other day I stumbled across a web piece highlighting this 1947 Bentley Mark VI Drophead Coupe, with a body by French coachbuilder, Franay.

This is a custom coach-built sports car built in 1947 for a very well-to-do Englishman. He would be driving his sporting automobile with the missus beside him, and driving with the verve of a man who had perhaps survived Alamein or Arnhem.

There is no clock on the dashboard, just engine instruments.

Behind the front seats is this jump seat, facing to the right of the car, with access to a small bar & cooler. The bar has a thermometer so Jeeves can monitor the temperature of the chilled beverages before mixing them and passing them forward to the driver's compartment, and a clock so that our gentleman can ask "Jeeves!" (that's the old-fashioned name for Siri or Alexa) "I say, what the devil time is it?"

You'll note that Jeeves also has access to Sir & Madam's luggage so he can fetch it when they arrive at their summer cottage.

Click over to the article for more detailed pics of the car, inside, outside, and underhood, as well as a bit of history on it.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Yesterday's brunch...

Bobbi's friend, The Data Viking, treated us to brunch at Liter House yesterday. It was delicious and muchly appreciated!

Bloody Mary made with green chile vodka. The garnish atop it is a piece of sausage bracketed by cucumber, a couple pickle slices, and cubes of cheddar, and there's a chicken wing bobbing around in there someplace.

H.L. Mencken is laughing his ass off...

Still some assets left to sell...

The latest news from the ongoing tailspin of America's once-great retailer has Sears selling the Diehard auto battery brand to Advance Auto Parts for $200M.

Their tool brand, Craftsman, went to Black & Decker a couple years ago, you may remember. They still have Kenmore appliances.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

From an Away Game...

"As a matter of fact, it's like a little multitool. Makes a good handcuff shim, and can also be used to decode or bypass older Master Lock 175 combination locks! Works a treat on flex cuffs, too."

Plain ol' Goody's hair clips have a bunch of uses.

Tonight's the Night...

This is the night where those wise elders used to shake down the tribe: "Oh, no! Night Wolf has eaten Moon Woman! Give me money and I will get him to spit her back out!"

Sure enough, tomorrow night would be shorter...

If you're wrestling the SAD demon, take heart. It gets better, starting literally right now.

Saturday, December 21, 2019


They can make anything tactical these days. Witness "tactical hair clips"...

Although an ordinary hair clip is more tacticool than most people realize. Stay tuned for some hoodrat shit.

Moar Winter Pictures...

The Mustang on Tuesday morning when I went out to clear Bobbi's car off for her so she could get to work. I'd just swept a good 5" of snow off that car the day before. Shot the photo with the Sony RX100 I kept in my coat pocket.

Running an errand yesterday, I tossed the Canon Rebel T1i wearing the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 lens in the passenger seat of the Zed Drei. It was just the right field-of-view for shooting Christmas lights in the neighborhood out of the rolled-down driver's side window. Well-built, compact, and reasonably fast, and you can focus as close as 6" from your subject. All it lacks is IS, but that's probably a function of the size and low price. If you've got a crop-sensor Canon, this is practically a must-have.

Does not work that way!

Every now and again I get a blind email inquiry where someone is asking to write for VFTP, which always leaves me a little baffled.

I realize that there are things like "group blogs" and "commercial blogs" but I thought it would be pretty obvious to anybody who had read this blog for any length of time that it was a personal blog about whatever the hell I felt like writing about that day.  Which makes me think that these requests come from people who, y'know, haven't actually read the blog.

Pictures in a book!

Forgive the potato-quality photo (which is somewhat ironic, considering the topic of the post), but I just got my copy of Tom Givens' new Concealed Carry Class book, which is packed with good info and profusely illustrated. What's neat for me is that a couple of the photos in the book are mine.

I've been paid for photos before, in the sense that I do most of my own photo work for RECOIL and the various pieces written specifically for NRA online pubs, but that was always ancillary to the writing. This is the first time I've been straight-up paid for photography in print, and that's kinda cool.

Friday, December 20, 2019

It can get rather pretty out around here...

Boeing will not be going to space today.

Man, 2019 has just not been Boeing's year. Looks like their stock is down already on the news.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

So edgy, r/childfree!

Thaw a-comin'...

Sunday evening we got just shy of five inches of heavy, wet snow. Monday afternoon and evening followed that up with another four inches or so, and again it was heavy, wet stuff, with the temperature hovering right around freezing.

Tuesday's temps got into the upper twenties with plenty of sunshine triggering more melting on pavement...and then the temperature dropped, and seriously. Yesterday's high was in the low twenties, and that happened early in the morning, and it got down to 7°F last night, so all that slush from Tuesday is now rock-hard glare ice. It's days like this that I get annoyed at the neighbors who couldn't be arsed to clear their sidewalks.

Fortunately it's supposed warm up over the weekend, though, and all this should be melted off by Sunday.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Brought to You by the March of Technology

A lot of the very earliest digital cameras came from digital companies. The first one I remember playing with was an Apple QuickTake* 100 (actually built for Apple by Kodak, an early pioneer in digital imaging) and not long after that, the Logitech Fotoman Pixtura, which was so similar to the Apple product that I was unsurprised to find out that it, too was a Kodak design.

Most of the very earliest professional-grade DSLR's were made by imaging companies like Fuji or Kodak grafting their sensor hardware onto the backs of Nikon & Canon film SLR's. After a few years of this, Canon and Nikon decided they didn't need the imaging companies anymore and started making their own.

The thing is, professional cameras needed big sensors, and big sensors were crazy expensive back then. When Nikon launched the groundbreaking D1, their first solo in-house DSLR, to much fanfare in 1999, the sticker price was $4,999. That's almost eight grand in today's money according to usinflationcalculator.com. A big chunk of that price was the sensor, and even then there was a compromise.

The need for the larger sensors was because Canon and Nikon both had enormous infrastructure in lens manufacturing that was all based around projecting an image onto a 35mm negative, which is to say an image surface measuring 36x24mm. If the sensors were made too small, these existing lenses would be useless. But if the sensors were made the same size as a 35mm negative, they'd be hideously expensive and out of reach of most of the consumer market.

Indeed, Canon's first professional DSLR with a "full frame" 36x24mm sensor, the EOS 1Ds, dropped in 2003, and it stickered at $7999 in a year when just another few grand would get you into the driver's seat of a new car...even if the new car was just a Hyundai Accent.

So for most of the Aughties, the solution for Canon and Nikon was to make slightly smaller sensors in a size known as APS-C, aping a short-lived film format. These were big enough to use the existing 35mm lenses, albeit with a "crop factor" that made them act as if their focal length were 1.5x longer (or 1.6x for Canon, whose APS-C sensor was a teeny bit smaller.) These smaller sensors allowed Canon to release the Digital Rebel, the first DSLR to hit the market with a sub-$1k price tag.

"Full Frame" sensors remained confined to higher-end cameras, although they trickled into Prosumer-level models like the 5D and D700 which were still expensive, but not unattainably so. More expensive than most bicycles but cheaper than a dirt bike, more expensive than a Kimber but cheaper than a Wilson. Dedicated hobbyists could buy these.

The punchline here, of course, is that with sensors getting cheaper and cheaper, Full Frame has become more and more accessible. Canon's current Full Frame enthusiast camera, the 6D Mark II, is on sale at Amazon for $1,199. Adjusted for inflation, that APS-C sensor $899 Digital Rebel in 2003 cost $1,253 in 2019 dollars.  Lose the complexity of the mirror and the viewfinder prism, and you can get a full-frame Sony a7 II for $898.

Pretty cool that what was once an unobtainium luxury for anybody who couldn't write it off as a business expense is now a thing pretty much any hobbyist can acquire.

*Interesting that the spellchecker in the browser recognizes "QuickTake" as being spelled correctly. Of course, I'm using Safari, so that probably explains it...

Monday, December 16, 2019

Snowfall 2: Electric Boogaloo...

The snow was already falling at a pretty good clip last night when I went to bed. This morning I hauled myself out from under the covers, did some light blogging, sketched out the outline for a forthcoming column, and then suited up to head outside.

First things first, I shoveled the walk between the house and the garage, shoveled a path to the driver's door of Bobbi's SUV, and then swept all the snow off her car. After that was the relatively easy job of cranking her Lexus up and sitting in the driver's seat listening to the radio until the heater and defroster vents were blowing warm air and the butt toaster in the driver's chair was warm.

Back out into the cold, it was time to shovel the walks around the front of the house, as well as those of the neighbor one house to the north. That got finished up around 10:30AM...
I knew this was just staving off the inevitable, because the next wave of snow was scheduled to hit at 2PM and continue through the night, adding another 4-6" atop the roughly 5" we got last night.

Sure enough, 4PM looked like this...

Canon EOS Rebel T1i, EF-S 24mm f/2.8
So it looks like tomorrow morning will be a repeat performance of this morning...

Your Monday Morning Pedantry...

Film photography is getting popular enough again that new films are being released. Medium-format rollfilm is even seeing an uptick, and this is causing the photography equivalent of "It's a magazine, not a clip!"

See, hipsters are liberating medium format Bronicas and Mamiyas from used shelves at camera dealers, shooting roll film, and tagging the results on Instagram with "#120mm".

120 film is not "120mm". I know we call 135 film by the common nomenclature of "35mm", but 135 and 120 are not, in and of themselves, dimensional measurements of anything. They're just Kodak's old in-house designators for certain kinds of film:
"While I’d love to believe there’s some Alex Jones-esque illuminati back story contributing the number 120 to the Knights Templar, unfortunately it was merely a numbering system Kodak implemented to keep track of all the film formats they manufactured. There were many types of film since they were specific to different cameras back then so they needed to simplify their film ordering system.

So Kodak decided that the daylight-loading roll films on flanged spools would be numbered in the order of introduction, starting with the first Kodak film of this type introduced with the No. 2 Bullet camera in 1895 as number 101. Of all the medium format roll types that Kodak produced, only number 120 survived the test of time and is the only medium format film still being produced today.

Fire and Brimstone...

So, the link at the hate watch site read: "Pastor who says Jews are going to Hell speaks at Trump’s Hanukkah party."

"Huh," I thought, "Let's see the backstory on this..."

So I click through to the actual story, which is someone at HuffPo breathless about a preacher Trump invited to the Hanukkah party where he signed that EO aimed at combating anti-Semitism on campus. "Did Trump really bring some Nazi Jew-hater to an anti-Semitism event/Hanukkah party?" I wondered.

Turns out no. He brought some dude whose theology is pretty hard-core Protestant, but nothing unusual. Among this guy's big sins according to HuffPo was this quote from a sermon ten years ago:
Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell. You know, Jesus was very clear. Hell is not only going to be populated by murderers and drug dealers and child abusers. Hell is going to be filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.
Folks, that's pretty standard Protestant theology. I grew up Southern Baptist and the whole cornerstone of that (and most Protestant denominations) is that the only thing that gets you into heaven is an actual "born again" conversion experience; that whole repenting of your sins and accepting Jesus as your savior thing.

This is the theology that thinks pretty much all Catholics are going to hell, too. See, getting baptized as a baby and taking communion doesn't count as getting born again as a person above the age of reason.

So, if you're trying to have a feel-good interfaith ecumenical jamboree, no, a rock-ribbed evangelical Protestant preacher is not the dude you want to invite if you're interested in keeping metaphorical turds out of the punch bowl. It spoils the collegial atmosphere where everyone's pretending the other guy's theology is a-ok. Invite some nice Methodist pastor, or maybe a high church 'Piscop instead.

So, tacky and maybe a bad call for the occasion? Sure. Literally Hitler? Sorry, you're overreacting again.


Someone is importing old Japanese Kei cars to the US, including one that was an unobtainium dream car for me back in the Nineties: The Mitsubishi Minica Dangan ZZ.

In addition to having an extremely metal-sounding name, the Dangan ZZ had a turbocharged and intercooled engine sporting five valves per cylinder. Granted, said engine was a hopelessly twee little three cylinder boasting pistons the size of teacups, but still...

The Nineties were to the Japanese automotive scene what the Sixties were to ours. The manufacturers were engaged in a savage performance war at every price tier in the marketplace. At the top end of various model lines you had cars like the 300ZX Turbo, 3000GT VR4, RX-7 Turbo, and Supra Turbo. Each successive model iteration of those monsters would get quicker and faster, despite them all officially producing only 280bhp...since that was the official power ceiling in Japan:
"By this time, many of Japan’s sports-car engines were capable of producing well over 400 hp, but they were all still restricted to 280 hp. As might have been expected, some cars, such as the Nissan Skyline GT-R, had already started to push the power envelope by generating — in reality — over 320 hp. But in typical Japanese fashion, these cars were still rated by their makers at 280 hp."
Similarly, Japanese Kei car regulations in the Nineties imposed a power ceiling of 64bhp, and no matter how many extra valves per cylinder, turbos, or intercoolers they strapped to these things, they never seemed to make more than that. Weird.

Pic from Wikipedia. I haven't seen one in the wild...yet.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Automotif CLV...

Alfa Romeo Giulia Q4, shot with Sony RX100
These are such good-looking cars. It's too bad that they seem to be living down to the marque's reputation for wonky reliability...

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Oh my lolz...

The Leica Digilux 1 was the second attempt by Leica to badge-engineer their way into the burgeoning consumer digital camera market around the turn of the Millennium. (The first had been when they relabeled some Fuji FinePix variants as the original Leica Digilux, starting in '98.)

The Digilux 1, on the other hand, was a re-badged Panasonic, who was just getting into the consumer digital camera market themselves in 2002. It's a 4MP camera and the Leica variant is cutely styled to vaguely resemble a classic Leica rangefinder camera if you squint hard in the right lighting.

KEH had one for sale for $99, and although I was unlikely to buy it, I decided to at least google up some reviews of the thing. That led me to this hilarity:
"The Leica Digilux 1 delivers film-like pictures and not the flat, video-like pictures that most digital cameras produce. When you look for digital, you look at lots of closeup shots which show the difference in details from different digital cameras. You look for clean, sharp pictures. However, at some point I started looking at the whole picture and there the Digilux 1 just stands out."
Get that? This Overgaard clown is trying to claim that it gives SPECIAL FILM-LIKE PICTURES, unlike those awful electronic pictures other digital cameras do... For Eastman's sake, it's just a damned Panasonic with a 1/1.8" 4MP CCD sensor in it, you brand whore!

Now, even as late as '02 there was a lingering amount of prejudice against digicams in some corners of the photography world, but Nikon was already on its first update of its professional D1 line, and Canon was fixin' to follow up the 1D with the 11MP full-frame 1Ds. Hell, by '02 even a late adopter like me already had a digital camera.

But this Overgaard guy is someone from whom you should expect flim-flammery and silly Leica lifestyle posturing...
Oh, it says "Leica" on it...

If you want to get into Advanced Overgaard Studies, here are some places to start:

Thirty-Five 'Lux has a good piece explaining why the dude is talking out his ass about a professional photography career...
"It is so frustrating to read things written by a dilettante and glorified forum guru. It saddens me that true enthusiasts of photography – who may have no intention of ever using their camera to make a living – are subjected to the kind of information they’re presented with. It’s beyond sad."
La Vida Leica points out that his claims of being an "influencer" are a joke...
"But what about his legion of followers on Facebook? Surely those are legit, right? Well, no. Not really. They've been bought. For a small fee, you can buy as many page likes as you want - either through Facebook's "Boost this page" (advertise) or through shady hacker circles. While this is great for your friend/follower count, in the end it actually hurts you. Why? Well, for one - it's totally bogus. These "friends" don't exist. But secondly, as of late January 2014, Facebook changed their algorithm - reducing the number of people that actually see your posts. By watering your audience down with all these fakes, the percentage of real people that truly exist (and see the posts in their newsfeed) drops considerably. Whoops. Notice where all these likes are coming from... Indonesia. Thailand. Mexico. Several countries where these fake likes originate."
Leicaphilia just points and laughs...
"It’s always been obvious to me that “von Overgaard” is a transparent huckster, a confidence man preying on gullible low-hanging fruit, spinning some bullshit narrative about luxury and beautiful people and world travels and Leica, this just being further proof that a sucker is born every minute and some of those suckers will end up buying a Leica and taking a street shooter’s seminar with “von Overgaard.”"
What's funny is that this has been an interesting learning experience for me, diving down the Overgaard rabbit hole today. In the firearms world, at least the practical handgunning and defensive carbine & shotgun portions of it, my BS detector is pretty well calibrated; I can smell a scam artist who's talking out their ass fairly quickly. With cameras and photography, I'm a relative dilettante, so this has been a super-informative morning and afternoon of internet sleuthing.


Found on Facebook...

Thursday, December 12, 2019

For SaleSold...

Want a good deal on a full-frame DSLR? Let my loss be your gain!

For sale is this well-cared-for Canon EOS 5D Mark II, a camera that is a bit long in the tooth but still capable of outstanding images (and about as cheap as you'll find a modern full-frame DSLR.) For blog readers, I'll ship it with a battery, battery charger, and body cap for $450, shipped. SOLD!

The camera:

A couple of sample shots...

Email me if interested!

Ad Astra...

Another piece of the future dropped into place today...

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Remember the Wish Book?

Looks like it might be the last holiday season to buy gifts from (what's left of) Sears:
"There's no new CEO. The company, which emerged from bankruptcy with 425 stores, will soon have less than half of those stores still open. Rather than holiday sales this year, it started going-out-of-business sales at 96 of its remaining stores the week after Thanksgiving. This suggests that sales and turnaround plans have not lived up to expectations."

Mindlessly soothing...

So, after taking the lockpicking class, I went ahead and ordered a couple of practice locks off Amazon.

They showed up yesterday and I sat here yesterday evening watching the latest episode of The Mandalorian while keeping my hands busy opening locks, both raking and single-pin picking. It was, as the post title indicates, mindlessly soothing activity.


I'm going to make a prediction...

Here're a couple key grafs from one of the latest stories on the Jersey City running gun battle:
"The skirmish began when the suspects, who have only been identified as a 48-year-old man and a woman, were approached at Bayview Cemetery by Det. Seals who was investigating a U-Haul truck which had been linked to the murder of Michael Rumberger — a livery driver who was found dead in his car in Bayonne this past weekend, according to senior law enforcement officials.

As the officer approached, one of the suspects got out of the truck and fatally shot Seals before taking off, said Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly.

Armed with long guns and plenty of ammunition, the suspects then drove their U-Haul truck, which had bomb-making materials inside, to the only Jewish market in the area and shot a Hasidic man on the street before running inside the store, law enforcement sources told NBC New York.

Once inside, investigators say they believe the suspects began firing at shoppers, killing two customers and a cashier.
Let's see...

U-Haul full of guns and bomb-making materials, they get cornered by the cops, and their first response is to shoot the cop, then drive to the nearest Kosher supermarket, popping a Hasidic pedestrian along the way, and run in and start shooting Jewish shoppers?

This pretty much narrows it down to Jihadis or Nazis and, frankly, if it were Nazis, their names and faces would be all over the news while the talking heads wrung their hands about the dangers of white supremacy. So if I were going to place a bet right now...

"Sources said David Anderson, who committed the deadly Tuesday attack with a woman identified as Francine Graham, was a one-time follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement and made the hateful postings on his social media page.
Well that's esoteric...

It's literally the most awkward category of perps on the modern Progressive Intersectional hate crime totem pole: Nazi crackers > Middle Eastern Islamists > Home-Grown Nation of Islam > no-Islam-required Black supremacists. No wonder feet were being dragged.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Camera Stuff...

  • I've stumbled across an interesting blog: 35mmc. It seems fairly active, and the archives are deep. It's got a lot of interesting stuff on 35mm compact film cameras, as you may surmise from the title. That was the original focus of the place, but over time it's morphed into a more general photography site.

  • If you have an APS-C sensor Canon DSLR, like a Rebel, you might have noticed the paucity of good glass without stepping up to the EF lenses. Canon has apparently decided that Rebel shooters are fine with slow kit zooms. There is one gem in the crop-sensor EF-S lens lineup, with focal length appropriate to the smaller sensor: I can't recommend the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens enough. That constant f/2.8 max aperture makes a huge difference shooting indoors.
Canon 7D & 17-55mm f/2.8: It's not a long lens, but it has a useful amount of reach.

Overgrown Toddlers...

We had the impeachment hearings playing on the TV down the hall from the office yesterday, and they consisted of two things:

Firstly, the GOP members of the committee, being the minority party, tried to jam the works up with parliamentary procedure every chance they got. This is how parliamentary politics works, and it's what they're expected to do. I don't have a problem with it, even if it's annoying to watch; this is how the sausage gets made.

Secondly, the actual evidentiary portions of the hearing were nothing but watching a bunch of grown-ass adults acting like kindergarteners on a playground. If you want the TL;DR transcript of the hours of witness testimony & questioning yesterday, here it is, starting at 9AM:
Dems: "Trump put his personal political gain ahead of the interests of the country and abused the powers of his office."

GOP: "Nuh-uh."

Dems: "Yuh-huh."

GOP: "Nuh-uh."

Dems: "Yuh-huh."
Lather, rinse, and repeat for several hours until the station cut away to the Ellen show at 3PM.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Plane Spotting

Hickam AFB the last time the Googlesat took pictures:

Three B2's visiting, a couple of C5's dwarfing the Globemasters, and a flag officer was fixin' to travel in style.

High school plane nerd me would would nerd out over this stuff so hard.

The current view of Nellis from the Googlesat has an interesting assortment of visitors out on the ramp. There are some Tornadoes and Eurofighter Typhoons lined up out there. Over where the aggressors park are what look like some L-159's, operated by Draken International, who contracts as aggressors.

I went to Lakeland airport to look at Draken's home base and see if they had anything interesting sitting around. I spotted this loner just parked by itself out on a ramp.