Lion of the Blogosphere

Archive for January 2013

Burrito joint and mobile photography


This photograph was taken with an iPod Touch 5G @ ISO 400, 1/15 sec

A quick photo I took with my iPod Touch 5G while waiting for a delicious Mexican dish. A grilled chicken burrito is $9.15 (price includes tax), twice the price of Taco Bell, if there were actually any Taco Bells in Manhattan, which there aren’t. Well, there are a few exceptions—for example there are two in Harlem—but there isn’t a Taco Bell on every corner the way there is in Phoenix, Arizona.

As you can see, it’s not a high quality photo from a technical perspective. The tiny sensor in the iPod Touch 5G is pretty noisy. Even at the lowest ISO there is a lot of detail smearing from an over-aggressive noise filter that you can’t turn off, and the situation gets worse in low light. The camera is barely able to handle this low-light situation. On the other hand, it’s not really any worse than the first digital camera I bought in 2001, a Nikon Coolpix 880, and that camera had a sensor that was four times bigger than what’s in the iPod Touch 5G. And I’d even say that, in good light, the iPod Touch 5G has more accurate colors than that old Nikon, and the lens is surprisingly sharp.

But the benefits of mobile photography, that is photography using a mobile device not primarily designed to be a camera such as a cell phone, iPod or tablet, lie not with the technical superiority of the photos but with the availability of the camera. Few people carried digital cameras with them all the time, but half the people now have a smartphone or some other device that’s also a camera. It’s an unprecedented opportunity for documentary photography, to capture the essence of the world today. Too bad most people don’t actually do that with their mobile cameras.

In my case, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable pulling out a real camera to take this picture. The guys behind the counter might not have liked it. Remember what happened when a woman tried to take a picture at Momofuku Ko? But with my iPod Touch 5G, I doubt they realized that I surreptitiously took their photo, because people are always fiddling with their smartphones while waiting for their burritos.

In addition to stealth, people could benfit from mobile photography because it restricts you to a single focal length, generally equivalent to about 30 to 35mm on a 35mm film camera. The iPod Touch 5G is equivalent to 33mm. This is a nice focal length for documentary photography, giving the photo a slight amount of exciting wide angle distortion, but not so bad that it requires great skill to compose photos. By mastering a single focal length, people could perhaps become better photographers than if they have some zoom that makes them lazy.

To take this photo, I used an app called PureShot. It’s a little bit better than the built-in Apple camera app because it displays the ISO and shutter speed and also gives you a histogram, almost like a real camera. But nevertheless, it doesn’t really give you much extra control over the camera and you still get the same smeary photos with low dynamic range.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 27, 2013 at 2:13 PM

Posted in Photography, Technology

Comment about comments

Comments are occasionally edited because they are too mean-spirited, or because they address topics that are inappropriate for the goals of this blog. So I will delete a sentence or change a word to improve the comment.

Editing seems preferable to throwing out the entire comment. Which happens if the comment is all bathwater and no baby.

Please don’t take it personally if your comment is edited.

Also, WordPress has a very good spam filter, which occasionally marks non-spam comments as spam. There’s the possibility that if your comment didn’t appear, it’s because WordPress thought it was spam and I had nothing to do with it (except for being too lazy to read each spam comment to see if there happen to be any non-spams mixed in).

Thank you for reading and commenting.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 27, 2013 at 1:29 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Regular charity vs. nerdy charity

Why do rich people give money to charity? It’s hard for me, a non-rich person, to really answer, because it’s so alien to me. Maybe it’s like asking why the ancient Pharoahs built huge pyramids.

As reported in today’s NY Times, Michael Bloomberg gave another $350 million to Johns Hopkins University, and he has now given a total of $1.1 billion to that institution. Does Hopkins really need even more money? What does that accomplish beside make an elite institution even more elite? Why does Bloomberg get to avoid paying income tax on that money? What’s the big deal if Bloomberg could only give $225 billion to Hopkins because he had to pay an extra $125 million? According to some conservative types, such a burdensome tax would take away Bloomberg’s and other rich people’s motivation to work, and this would severely harm economic growth. (Extremely unlikely in my opinion; rich people work because they want to work, and it’s not clear why anything bad would happen to the economy if Bloomberg decided to do nothing for the rest of his life besides play World of Warcraft.)

Johns Hopkins, like other universities, is run by liberals. If conservative Republicans were smart, they would be eager to abolish tax deductions for charitable contributions, because it would partially defund liberals. But Republicans aren’t very smart all. Often, they are downright stupid. Republicans tend to see all tax loopholes as fast ones they pulled on the Democrats.

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, there is a Saturday essay by Bill Gates about how he’s trying to “fix the world’s biggest problems.” Because Bill Gates is a big nerd, and nerds aren’t good at understanding illogical social behavior, Gates thinks that the purpose of charity is actually to do good, and he’s approaching from a nerdy scientific approach to figure out how to actually measure the benefits of his charitable giving so that he can do the most good with the money he has to give.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 27, 2013 at 1:12 PM

Posted in Politics, Taxes, Wealth

Preppers in the NY Times

There’s a surprisingly entertaining article in today’s NY Times about the New York City prepper movement.

What I learned about prepping is that it’s one of those extremely rare hobbies that cuts across races and social class. There are many black preppers, and reporter Alan Feuer writes that preppers are “doctors, doormen, charter school executives, subway conductors, [and] advertising writers.”

Feuer didn’t say what would happen if a doctor from the Upper East Side goes to a prepper meeting, and he discovers that he’s sitting next to one of the doormen who work at the very building where he lives.

But I have to say that Manhattan is probably the absolute worst place to live if you are worried about the collapse of civilization. Providing food, water, and sanitation for so many people living packed together in high rise buildings requires the economy to keep functioning. And the vast majority Manhattanites don’t have cars, so they can’t drive away to the country. We will be trapped here.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 27, 2013 at 12:04 PM

Posted in New York City

Snowy in NYC

This photograph was taken with an Olympus E-PM1 and a Lumix 14mm f/2.5 lens.

No evidence of rising global temperatures this afternoon in Manhattan.

But what’s that tall building rising above all the others? Is it? Yes, it is One57, which will be the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere when completed.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 26, 2013 at 4:38 PM

Posted in Photography

Good policing and the liberals who hate it

There’s an article in today’s NY Times, written by John Tierney who is probably the best reporter that they have on staff, about the tactics employed by New York City police to reduce crime.

The first thing they do is identify crime hot spots. Thos are places where crimes have occurred in the past. Then the police often show up at the hot spots, where they stop and frisk any suspicious looking people they see hanging out there. This presumably puts the fear of the law into the criminal element, and they decide to do something else that night instead of committing a crime, and maybe for the next few nights as well.

It seems like a pretty sensible policing strategy to me, but there are certain liberal types who hate this strategy, because it seems that the suspicious-looking people who hang out at the hot spots are almost all black and Hispanic, and the liberal types think it is racist to stop and frisk them.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 26, 2013 at 11:12 AM

Advice about raw converters

The website dpreview published a comparison of three raw converters earlier this week. If you recall, there was a discussion about raw converters in one of my recent blog posts.

Based upon reading dpreview’s review, I think that Lightroom sounds like the better way to go over DxO Optics Pro, even though Lightroom costs an extra $50 at current prices ($149 vs $99). Lightroom just seems to have more features, plus, and this is a very big plus, there is a lot more instructional material out there on the web about Lightroom, and as I mentioned before, these programs are very complicated.

Regarding the price, be warned that when Adobe releases a new version of Lightroom, they will stop adding support for new cameras into the previous versions of Lightroom. So if you buy a camera in the future, you will have to buy a Lightroom upgrade if you want to be able to develop the raw files from the new camera. Furthermore, Adobe’s new policy is that you can only get the reduced upgrade price if you upgrade from the most recent version. So you should look at that $149 purchase as something that will only last you until your next camera purchase.

Lightroom is worth $149 if you’ve paid for a camera that provides you with raw files; without Lightroom or a similar program, you can’t take full advantage of what your camera is giving you. Once again, I recommend the Panasonic LX7 as the best inexpensive camera that provides you with raw file capability. That camera tends to go on sale for $299 every so often, if you are patient.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 25, 2013 at 5:28 PM

Posted in Photography

And about the future robot economy

Tying the last post into the future robot economy:

Before the industrial revolution, we lived in a world in which we perceived there to be infinite resources, but a limited supply of labor to convert those resources into useful stuff like food and shelter.

The industrial revolution didn’t change that immediately, but there has been a progression in which labor became less and less necessary to convert the resources into useful stuff, and today we are awash in excess labor so a lot of it is being directed to “service” activities and away from the conversion of resources into useful stuff.

This will culminate with the future robot revolution, in which labor becomes irrelevant to the production of inherently valuable goods and services, and will only be used to provide the type of high-status service that a robot just can’t provide.

This also means that people will no longer be able to rise up in class based on the value of their labor, because labor will become do devalued, and we will go back to a more feudalistic type of economy in which a small minority own all of the robots and everyone else is poor.

There will be two classes of poor: the less poor who can provide services that amuse the few super-rich, and poorer poor who have nothing valuable to contribute to the super-rich.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 25, 2013 at 7:47 AM

Posted in Robots

Razib Khan on the declining middle class

A reader directed me to Razib Khan’s blog post from last week where he predicts that the next phase of globalization will harm the college educated. That at least is true with respect to engineers, because there’s the perception that engineers don’t need good English language skills or an understanding of American culture.

He concludes:

Globally it means great gains in median wealth. In the United States though it may mean the shift away from the ideal and reality of a broad middle class society. Because of economic productivity driven by technology the bottom 75-90% of the American population will feel minimal material want. There will be food on the table and consumer gadgets galore. But they will lack the markers of relative affluence. For example, I see no prospect that air travel will become cheaper in the near future. So fewer and fewer Americans may have the means or inclination to travel abroad. In some ways this is a back to the past scenario, where the few controlled the levers of society, and the many were powerless.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 25, 2013 at 7:45 AM

Posted in Economics

GMU libertarian economist type in the WSJ

One of the George Mason University (bogus third-tier commuter state school supported by tax dollars) libertarian economist types somehow managed to bag a Wall Street Journal editorial in which he says that the middle class has it great because they have so much awesome technology that the middle class didn’t have fifty years ago, and they should stop whining about how the top X% is so many times wealthier than them.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 25, 2013 at 7:31 AM

Posted in Economics

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