Lion of the Blogosphere

Archive for September 2013

The Lion goes to diversity training

The trainer was a nice well-dressed black man, with a decent hint of a black accent. There was also a black woman with him who just sat there the whole time and never said a word. I have no clue what her purpose was. Maybe to create some extra jobs for more black people? But more on that later.

The training was not so bad at all. The nice black man showed us some humorous videos. And before I knew it, it was over. Quite pleasant, really.

Diversity training had the following benefits:

(1) Created jobs for two black people. What else do you think they are going to do? Computer programming? Compete against Asians for those jobs? I don’t think so.

(2) Gives otherwise useless women in HR something to do so they feel like they are contributing.

(3) Takes time out of employees work schedule. By making employees less productive, this creates the need for more employees, and with unemployment over 7% and labor force participation declining, this is a good thing.

But the downside of the diversity training is that some people (such as evil libertarians) think the purpose of a corporation is to make money for the shareholders, and I can’t figure out how this benefited the shareholders.

* * *

There were some comments suggesting that diversity training is a smart policy for the corporation to prevent lawsuits, but that erroneously assumes that the company is run by smart people who know exactly what they are doing. The reality is that HR folk are liberal women who want to feel that they are contributing something, and that’s what motivates the diversity training, which had nothing to do about telling us what NOT do in order not to be sued.

Training in which we are told what not to say when interviewing job applicants, for example, might be genuinely useful in preventing lawsuits, but there has been no such training like that.

The mere fact that the company did something called “diversity training” is unlikely to be of much use in a real lawsuit in which a plaintiff alleges that some company employee did something bad.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 30, 2013 at EST pm

Posted in Labor Markets

Joe Lhota in the New York Times

There’s an extremely favorable overview of Joe Lhota in the today’s New York Times. I wasn’t even aware that he was an intellectual Barry Goldwater pro-abortion pro-legal-marijuana libertarian who nevertheless understands the limits of libertarianism. I highly recommend reading this article.

When Mr. Giuliani, in 1994, supported a partial ban on smoking in restaurants, Mr. Lhota, a cigar enthusiast, resisted, describing smoking as a personal matter outside the government’s purview. The ban was imposed anyway.

Looking back on the episode, Mr. Lhota now concedes that he was wrong. “I thought the world was going to come to an end, and then it didn’t,” he said. “It was the right thing to do.”

Nowadays, he added, “I’m practical when it comes to these issues.”

The ban on smoking has vastly improved the quality or bars and restaurants in New York City. It’s an example of the failure of zero-tolerance laissez-fairism and demonstrates that there are circumstances in which government regulations can improve quality of life in a positive sum manner.

It’s really too bad that Lhota has not a chance in hell of defeating de Blasio.

* * *

The photograph of Joe Lhota was taken by Pulitzer-prize-winning photojournalist Todd Heisler. Heisler seems to like wide angle large aperture lenses. (Which is actually pretty common among photojournalists.)

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 30, 2013 at EST am

Autonomous cars are coming!

There’s an article in Friday’s Wall Street Journal about autonomous cars. According to the article, you should be able to buy your own self-driving car sometime in the 2020s, maybe as early as 2020.

But the article was lacking in exploring how the world will change once self-driving cars are available to everyone.

(1) They shouldn’t really cost much more than regular cars, if they cost any more at all. We are just talking about a regular car plus a computer system, so maybe an extra thousand dollars when they first come out.

(2) Self-driving cars will be a lot safer than human-controlled cars. Human-controlled cars are involved in tens of thousands of fatalities each year in the United States alone, plus millions of non-fatal accidents. This means that eventually, maybe by the 2030s, driving a car yourself will become illegal. They will stop making cars with steering wheels, gas pedals, and other controls for humans to ensure that humans don’t try to drive without the computer.

(3) Self-driving cars will make owning your own car a lot more useful than it already is. That’s going make public transportation even less desirable.

(4) We are certainly not going to have to pay people to drive when vehicles can drive themselves. This means that anyone who makes a living driving a car, truck, bus or taxi will be out of work.

(5) The cost of a taxi-ride will decrease because you will only be paying for rental of the taxi and not for the driver’s salary. This will also put pressure on public transportation that adheres to a fixed route such as buses and subways.

* * *

Regarding the jobs that will be destroyed by autonomous vehicles, of course this technology will be a huge net benefit to society even though it will put people out of work.

But the problem that people refuse to even think about is what people should do to earn money in the future economy which will be able to create all the goods and robotic services we need and much more with very little human labor, and especially very little unskilled and semi-skilled labor.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 29, 2013 at EST pm

Posted in Robots, Technology

Government shutdown?

I wish that House Republicans were just half as passionately opposed to immigration as they are to Obamacare.

Republicans lost on Obamacare. They should get over it and stop acting like obstructionist sore losers. If Republicans want to reduce the number of people getting Obamacare benefits, they should look to decreasing the the population of immigrants who receive far more in government largess than they pay in taxes.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 29, 2013 at EST am

Posted in Politics

Golden Dawn

In Greece, many lawmakers from the allegedly “neo-fascist” Golden Dawn have been arrested because the political party has been declared a “criminal organization.”

It’s too bad that the Golden Dawn party has some Nazi-like aspects to it, but having the political opposition thrown in jail makes the mainstream parties sound just as fascist to me as the fascist party.

Also, it’s quite understandable why the people of Greece would turn to an anti-immigration part when the country has insanely high unemployment. Why does Greece need more immigrants? And it should also be pointed out that the mainstream political parties led Greece into insolvency, so can Golden Dawn really be any worse?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 28, 2013 at EST pm

Posted in International

Hyper-authenticity in the New York Times

It must be a real word, because it’s used in the nation’s most prestigious newspaper to describe the two Williamsburgs:

Grand Street is more than just the dividing line between streets that are numbered north and those numbered south. The border has become Williamsburg’s equivalent of the Mason-Dixon line, cleaving the neighborhood into two: a sleek, moneyed “North Williamsburg” and a gritty, hyper-authentic “South Williamsburg.”

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 26, 2013 at EST am

Posted in New York City

Why do Republicans hate the “individual mandate”?

For some reason, Republicans really hate the so-called “individual mandate” which requires people to buy health insurance, otherwise they pay a reasonable small amount in extra taxes.

When someone gets sick and shows up at the hospital without insurance and without the ability to pay, what happens is that they get treated and then the costs of their treatment get passed along to everyone else. So people without insurance are free riders. The “individual mandate” is necessary to address the free-rider problem

Republicans should only be able to oppose the individual mandate if they are going to pass a law that says that if someone gets sick and they don’t have any money or insurance, the hospital will just kick them out and let them die. But I don’t know about a single Republican who is proposing that (except maybe Ron Paul?), and in fact it was the great Republican Ronald Reagan who signed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act into law.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 25, 2013 at EST pm

When Democrats behave responsibly

There’s a NY Times article about how the Democratic mayor of San Jose is attempting to reform city pension, which is strongly opposed by the city unions.

We would never have seen fiscal responsibility like this from Democrats back in the 1980s. But with Republicans becoming the party of stupid (with national candidates like Sarah Palin and obsession with outlawing abortion), smart voters who used to vote Republican are now Democratic, and they are helping to transform the Democratic Party into a party of fiscal responsibility and practical policies. At least it’s playing out like that in some places.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 24, 2013 at EST pm

Posted in Politics

Review of Ricoh GR

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The Ricoh GR is the lightest camera in the history of digital photography that has an APS-C-sized sensor. Ricoh has boldly gone against the zeitgeist of camera review sites which praise cameras when they feel extra heavy (with adjectives such as “solidly built” and “not plasticky”).

Let’s compare the weight of the Ricoh GR to other similar cameras, all of which have the same-size or smaller sensor:

Ricoh GR: 8.64 oz
Sony RX100 II: 9.91 oz
Panasonic LX7: 10.51 oz
Nikon Coolpix A: 10.55 oz
Fuji X100s: 15.70 oz
Olympus E-PM2 (body only, no lens): 9.49 oz
Olympus E-P5 (body only, no lens): 14.82 oz

One especially wonders what’s in the Olympus E-P5 that makes it weigh so much when it has a smaller sensor than the Ricoh GR and no lens. Olympus must have added an unnecessary chunk of solid steel so that camera reviewers could praise the “build quality.” If you add even the lightest pancake lens to the E-P5, it weighs in at well over a pound. And then there’s the fact that the m43 pancake lenses suck compared to the hyper-sharp Ricoh GR lens.

The design of the GR is strictly utilitarian. It looks like something that might have come out of Soviet-era Russia or communist China. It’s a simple black brick, with no adornments of any sort except for the words “GR” stamped on the front, and a grip which only adds to the camera’s ugliness. The lack of design makes the GR appear chunkier than the Olympus E-PM2, even though the E-PM2 (wihout a lens) is very close to the same size as the GR. The Olympus appears more svelte because of the curves and the metal-colored accents.

But that’s the real inner beauty of the GR. It doesn’t draw attention to itself in any way. It looks like nothing more than a cheap and somewhat over-sized point-and-shoot camera. If people see you using it, they will probably think you were too cheap to buy a “better” brand like Canon or Sony. Only a fellow camera enthusiast will recognize that you’re using an elite camera.

The Ricoh GR comes with a 28mm-equivalent f/2.8 prime lens. Several years ago, I would never have imagined paying $800 for a camera limited to only one focal length, and a wide-angle focal length at that. However, I now realize that there’s no artistry in longer focal lengths. Short telephoto lenses with large apertures are good for cheesy glamour shots, and anything longer than that is good only for pervert-voyeurs and the type of animal/wildlife shots that working-class people might hang on their walls. Serious intellectual photography requires wider angles. 28mm is the focal length favored by famed photographer Garry Winogrand. 28mm is true wide angle. 35mm is halfway between normal and wide angle, and 24mm is halfway between wide angle and ultra-wide angle. The only question is whether 28mm is wide enough to be serious, or if you need ultra-wide angles, in which case the Ricoh isn’t really good enough and you will have to use a much larger and heavier camera. (The 5.5 oz 9-18mm [18-36mm equivalent] lens with the Olympus E-PM2 is probably as small and light as you are going to get.)

As far as using the GR as a camera, on the plus side it offers a lot of different options for setting and returning to a precise manual focus distance, the leaf shutter is nearly silent, you can use automatic exposure compensation and still set the exact aperture and shutter speed that you want, and the camera contains dedicated controls for changing aperture (or shutter speed in shutter priority mode), exposure compensation, and ISO. Ricoh gets that in a digital world, ISO is a critical aspect of exposure, while most every other camera manufacturer seems stuck in the 1990s.

On the minus side, the auto-focus is not as fast as interchangeable lens cameras, and the auto white balance and exposure seem flaky compared to my Olympus cameras. There has been talk on the web about the Ricoh having bad colors, but I shot the same scene side-by-side with an Olympus E-PM2 and the only difference I could discern is that Olympus had the more pleasing default color balance. After adjusting the blue-yellow and green-magenta sliders in Adobe Camera Raw, the colors looked the same. In the photo above, both Olympus and Ricoh made greens which I thought were too turquoise. I used the HSL tab in Adobe Camera Raw to make the greens more yellow.

The GR is for serious photographers who shoot raw and know how to use the sliders in Adobe Camera Raw (or similar software). If you just want a point-and-shoot camera with consistent JPEG output, you are probably better off with a Sony RX100 II. (I don’t own that camera, but Sony is known for it’s good JPEGs.)

A major issue I discovered is that when you do extreme lifting of the shadows, you can see these weird colored concentric rings. There are those who might say that you shouldn’t do that much shadow-lifting, but it was an issue in at least one real-world shot I took. This means that the camera’s practical DR is a lot lower than the very high figure stated at DxOMark. But the high DR number does mean that as long as you’re not doing anything really extreme, the shadows have much lower noise than in photos taken with lesser cameras.

The GR lacks image stabilization. There are those who say that you don’t “need” image stabilization with wide angle lenses. Maybe it’s true that you don’t “need” it, but then it’s also true that you don’t need a camera either. One photo I took at 1/40 of a second was blurred because of camera shake, so when you are dealing with a very sharp lens and a very high resolution sensor, the old rule from film days about shooting at a shutter speed that’s an inverse of the 35mm-equivalent focal length is far too optimistic. I subsequently set the camera so that it has a minimum shutter speed of 1/125 in auto ISO mode (that’s a trick I can’t do on Olympus cameras, but I wish that Ricoh let you set a faster minimum shutter speed of 1/250), and now I make sure to concentrate on holding the camera steady when taking a photo, and I haven’t noticed any more blurred shots.

Finally, let’s talk about the lens. Absolutely amazing! When I first looked at the photos on my computer monitor, I couldn’t believe how sharp they were. And the sharpness extends from the center of the frame to the utmost corners. It absolutely blows away any of my Micro-Four-Thirds lenses, especially the very mediocre (at best) 14mm pancake lens. You probably have to step up to a Nikon D800 to get better image quality than you can get from this tiny lightweight camera, and I suspect that there’s no Nikon full-frame lens that will give you completely sharp corners at wide angles like you get with the GR.

After looking at photos taken with the GR, all of the photos taken with my Olympus Micro-Four-Thirds cameras now look disappointingly soft. The GR has far more resolution than one would ever need for posting photos to the internet, however affordable 4K monitors and televisions are just around the corner (that’s 3840 x 2160 8.3mp resolution with a 16:9 aspect ratio), so photos taken with the Ricoh GR should look stunning on them. Are you ready for 4K?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 22, 2013 at EST pm

So the Pope says

The Pope says that Catholics should stop obsessing over abortion and gays. (Link to NY Times article.)

So does that mean that Republicans can now also stop obsessing about that stuff? At least the Catholic Republicans?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 20, 2013 at EST pm

Posted in Politics, Religion

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