The Sigma Bigma 50-500mm

Ever since my 70-300mm lens was stolen I haven’t had a telephoto beyond 200mm, which ain’t very long, even at a 1.5 crop factor. Another 300mm would be okay, but for wildlife it would be swell to get something longer.

Dx0Mark likes the Sigma 50-500m lens, AKA the Bigma. It tested just a whisker width’s behind the Nikon, but for a thousand dollars less scratch. One of the guys in my videography class last fall is a stringer for the local paper, and he loves his. The next time I have $1,500 burning a hole in my pocket I’ll have to list the pros and cons of buying one versus buying all of the other stuff I want. Ain’t that always the way?

Posted in Photography | Tagged | Comments Off

Bosch Dishwasher Long Term Review

Back in 2009 we replaced our old dishwasher with a Bosch dishwasher. Though I loved it at first, I wouldn’t buy another.

The Good

$T2eC16R,!)EE9s2ugOmBBR0(nYBnKQ~~60_12

You’ll just have to trust me when I say this black rectangle is a Bosch dishwasher.

I bought a Bosch because it was the quietest dishwasher on the market. It really is amazingly quiet. Every so often I’ll open the door to put something in the dishwasher and only then realize it was running. It’s that quiet.

Bosch dishwashers don’t use a heated drying cycle. If they did, they’d have the same door vent as other dishwashers, and that vent is a big hole in the soundproofing. Eliminating the heated dry cycle makes the Bosch quiet and energy efficient. The downside is that things don’t dry exactly like they do in a conventional dishwasher. After making a few adjustments, we found the secrets for getting a Bosch to dry dishes and I don’t consider that a problem.

Now I’m doing saying nice things.

The Bad

Because this was a $700 dishwasher in 2009 dollars, Bosch has to provide extra features to justify the sticker price. For example, normal $350 dishwashers have racks with a bunch of tines sticking up to hold glasses and plates. “Pshaw!” said Bosch.

Instead, to design their racks Bosch hired an engineer who played with too many Transformers toys as a child. Tines flip up and down. Most of the bottom rack has no tines or slots at all, except for some clip-on tines that flip up and down. The clip-ons fall off all the time. And when they’re not falling off they’re flipping down. After a couple of years we quit putting them back in, so there’s never enough things to keep dishes from falling over. Advantage – $350 dishwasher.

Speaking of things which fall off all the time, the wheels on the bottom rack fall off all the time. Even when they’re all in place the rack doesn’t slide smoothly into the dishwasher, so you have to wiggle or shove it into place. Round two goes to the $350 dishwasher.

Then there’s the button. On those horrible cheap dishwashers you press the button and the dishwasher starts. On this finely crafted European dishwashing appliance you press the button. Which just turns it off. You have to press the button again to actually start the dishwasher. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve pressed the button once and opened the door the next day to find a load of dirty dishes. And why you’d ever want to turn off a dishwasher I can’t even … You win again, $350 dishwasher.

Most dishwashers have a little latch under the handle that you have to press to open the door. The incredible strain of pressing the little latch has caused millions of Americans to develop calloused, arthritic fingers, excruciating shoulder pain and – in extreme cases – diabetes, asthma, scoliosis, impotence, and death.

Bosch to the rescue! There’s no little latch to press. You just gently pull the handle and the door opens. Or you can pull a little bit harder and the entire damned front panel and circuit board will rip loose, requiring a $170 repair. Two repairs like that and a fella could buy hisself one of them fancypants $350 dishwashers with all the tines and the non-falloff wheels. On the plus side, as a Bosch dishwasher owner I can smugly look back with heartwarming satisfaction on the four carefree years of my life when I didn’t have to press a little latch.

My wife has been annoyed with the Bosch’s quirks for years. I’ve put up with it because of how quiet it is, but that repair bill was the final straw for me.

Posted in Best Of, Funny Ha-Ha, Home Life | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Word of the Day – Reynolds’ Law and Murray’s Third Law

Good stuff:

I haven’t been blogging much lately, because I haven’t had many thoughts that haven’t been better expressed elsewhere. But I have to draw attention to a remark of Glenn Reynolds, which seems to me to express an important and little-noticed point:

The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.

I dub this Reynolds’ Law: “Subsidizing the markers of status doesn’t produce the character traits that result in that status; it undermines them.” It’s easy to see why. If people don’t need to defer gratification, work hard, etc., in order to achieve the status they desire, they’ll be less inclined to do those things. The greater the government subsidy, the greater the effect, and the more net harm produced.

This law is thus a relative to Murray’s third law in Losing Ground, the Law of Net Harm: “The less likely it is that the unwanted behavior will change voluntarily, the more likely it is that a program to induce change will cause net harm.” But Reynolds’ Law rests on a different and more secure foundation. It focuses on character as fundamental.

Previous WOTDPredicate

Posted in Word of the Day | 1 Comment

Obama Administration is Cool With States Legalizing It

Reactions to DOJ Marijuana Memo: Dismay, Exuberance, Skepticism. Under Obama, the Department of Justice has carried on the Bush administration policy of prosecuting medical marijuana clinics, even in states where they were as legal as doctors slingin’ Xanax, Valium, and Oxycontin. So it is a a little bit of a surprise that the current DoJ is down with Colorado and Washington state legalizing weed. Good for them.

We Got A Black President Before Weed’s Legal
In My Mind In My Time That Shit’s Unbelievable
I Love Obama I Love All People
I Just can’t Believe That The Plant’s Not Legal
A Plant, A Seed, That Grows In The Soil
And They’re Still Fightin’ Bloody Wars Over Oil?
Reefer Madness Is Useless Propaganda
Fear Is The Tool That They Use To Command Us
So Understand Us We Don’t Fear No Plant
We don’t fear no plant

All My Friends Are Stoners Everyone I Know Gets High
Maybe there’s A Reason Why Weed’s Not Legalized
Maybe they’re Afraid Of Too Much Peace And Harmony
Maybe they’re Afraid Of Open Minds And People Free

No Rest Upon My Feet Until My People Free
When They Turn The Ganja Plant Into An Evil Weed
It’s Reefer Madness

PreviouslyDr. Sanjay Gupta Wants to Legalize It

Posted in Politics | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Netflix for Legos

Pleygo Is Basically Netflix for Legos

Come to think of it, you could use the Netflix model for lots of things.

Posted in Ecommerce, Nifty | Comments Off

Something Evil About Robots.txt I Didn’t Know

Quick background: A robots.txt file on your website will tell search engines and other bots that obey the robot exclusion standard what files and folders they can and can’t index, or whether they can access the website at all.

I’ve been working on the robots.txt file at work the last few days.* Once the file had the bots I wanted to exclude I decided to run it through a robots.txt validator.

Boy did I learn a few things. It turns out that you should put robot exclusions at the top and directory and file exclusions below. There were also a few minor formatting issues that I’m not sure really mattered.

There was one, however, that was a shock. Let’s say you’ve got a folder called “video”. There’s a huge difference between these two disallow statements:

Disallow: /video/
Disallow: /video

The first example with a trailing slash tells robots not to index anything in the video directory. So far so good. The second example without a trailing slash tells robots not to index anything in the video directory, or any file at the root level with video at the beginning of the filename.

Without the trailing slash, you would exclude /video.html, videoplayer.aspx – you name it. Anything at the same level of the directory structure that begins with video. You can get into trouble in a hurry if you leave the backslash off of the disallow directive.

* What prompted the work was all of the bots that kept showing up in our error files. One of the worst? The Internet Archive Bot that collects pages for the Internet Archive. It would generate hundreds of errors a day. When I looked around at bot ban lists the IA bot showed up over and over. You’d think Internet Archive would  have worked the bugs out of their bot by now.

Posted in Ecommerce, Tech | 2 Comments

DSLR Video – “Higher Calibre, Higher Mindedness: The Story of YoGun”

So last weekend Melissa and I went to the Knoxville 24 Hour Film Festival. The idea was for teams to shoot a four minute in 24 hours. The required elements were:

  • A bounty hunter.
  • A large body of water.
  • The phrase “So there I was minding my own business.”
  • Fire.

This video ws about YoGun, the fictional merger of yoga and guns and the inner peace one acquires from shooting. Guns and video, what’s not to like?

“Spring Rain, congratulations. You have progressed from level one to level four, revolvers and the associated calibers. You have now graduated to Zen level five, semi-automatics.”

Posted in A&E, East Tennessee, Guns | Tagged , | Comments Off

Dr. Sanjay Gupta Wants to Legalize It

CNNDr. Sanjay Gupta: Why I changed my mind on weed

In 1944, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia commissioned research to be performed by the New York Academy of Science. Among their conclusions: they found marijuana did not lead to significant addiction in the medical sense of the word. They also did not find any evidence marijuana led to morphine, heroin or cocaine addiction.

We now know that while estimates vary, marijuana leads to dependence in around 9 to 10% of its adult users. By comparison, cocaine, a schedule 2 substance “with less abuse potential than schedule 1 drugs” hooks 20% of those who use it. Around 25% of heroin users become addicted.

The worst is tobacco, where the number is closer to 30% of smokers, many of whom go on to die because of their addiction.

PreviouslyNYC Wants to Ever-so-slightly Legalize It

Posted in Political Survival Kit, Politics | Tagged , | 1 Comment

This is Your Train on Drugs, UK and Detroit Editions

High speed rail scheme cost to double to £80bn, economists warn:

HS1, the high-speed rail line that connects the Channel Tunnel with London, was initially expected to cost £1billion. The final bill was around £11billion.

The London Underground’s Jubilee Line extension, the biggest rail project before HS1, came in at four times the original estimate in real terms.

And unlike buses, trains require the destruction of everything along their route:

Even though the first train is not due to run along the new line until 2026, values of homes close to the route have already fallen by as much as 40 per cent. Estate agents have said that properties up to a mile from the route are being blighted by the proposed line, with some close to the proposed line failing to sell at any price.

Apparently the UK wants to be Springfield to Detroit’s North Haverbrook.

Everyone’s heard about Detroit’s financial problems. One of the many failed attempts to revitalize their downtown (and to funnel taxpayer money to political cronies) was a train system, the Detroit People Mover:

The Mover costs $12 million annually in city and state subsidies to run.[9] The cost-effectiveness of the Mover has drawn criticism.[10] In every year between 1997 and 2006, the cost per passenger mile exceeded $3, and was $4.26 in 2009,[11] compared with Detroit bus routes that operate at $0.82[11] (the New York City Subway operates at $0.30 per passenger mile). The Mackinac Center for Public Policy also charges that the system does not benefit locals, pointing out that fewer than 30% of the riders are Detroit residents and that Saturday ridership (likely out-of-towners) dwarfs that of weekday usage.[12] The system was designed to move up to 15 million riders a year. In 2008 it served approximately 2 million riders. In fiscal year 1999-2000 the city was spending $3 for every $0.50 rider fare, according to The Detroit News. In 2006, the Mover filled less than 10 percent of its seats.[12]

Among the busiest periods was the five days around the 2006 Super Bowl XL, when 215,910 patrons used the service.[13] In 2008, the system moved about 7,500 people per day, about 2.5 percent of its daily peak capacity of 288,000.[14][15]

Under-utilized and overbudget is a pretty good summary of recent urban trains.

PreviouslyThis is Your Train on Drugs: CA Train Versus Endangered Species, Asthmatic Children

Posted in Economics, European Union | Tagged | Comments Off

Good and Evil, and Commerce and Capitalism as a Way to Cure Poverty

“In fact, Bono, C. S. Lewis has a great quote which I love: ‘When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that’s left in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less.”
Jim Daly, interviewing Bono

That was in the context of interviewing Bono, who recently said “Aid is just a stopgap. Commerce [and] entrepreneurial capitalism take more people out of poverty than aid. We need Africa to become an economic powerhouse.”

A crazy new idea for Africa and most third world nations is to observe the rule of law, recognize constitutional rights, engage in democracy, bring women and minorities equal rights, and engage in free market capitalism. Historically, that’s a hell of a winning formula. It worked for most first world countries.

India and China have improved their lot just by practicing that last part, free market capitalism. Both of them – but especially China – have a long way to go on the other parts that have to do with human rights, but the little bit they’ve done so far has improved the lifes of several billion people. Foreign aid and economic redistribution could never have done what capitalism has done for those people.

PreviouslyBreaking News: Bono and Matt Yglesias Mugged by Economic Reality

Posted in Economics, Political Survival Kit, Quotes | 1 Comment

Word of the Day – Predicate

My fourth grader asked me for help with her English homework, which was all about predicates. I had completely forgotten the difference between objects and predicates and had to look it up. The lesson? Once you graduate high school you’ll probably never use this stuff in daily life and will eventually forget it, but it is nice to know.

We watched a School House Rock video on predicates, but this page had the best explanation.

One of the two main parts of a sentence or clause, modifying the subject and including the verb, objects, or phrases governed by the verb. Adjective: predicative.

In both grammar and logic, the predicate serves to make an assertion or denial about the subject of the sentence, as in “Merdine sneezes” and “Gus never smiles.”

Previous WOTDBliss Point

Posted in Word of the Day | 1 Comment

Still Alive and I Have a Job No Less

No posts lately because I’ve been busy at a new full time gig, which I like a bunch. I needed a job and they needed me badly. ‘Nuff said.

Meanwhile, I’m putting out the videos I’ve been working on for a while. Here’s one.

Hootchie Cootchie Man

Posted in A&E, Home Life | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

“Kids and dogs: If you’re having a baby, do not get a puppy.”

The One Thing No One Tells You Before You Have Kids – Don’t get a dog. People in comments are raking her over the coals for dissin’ the dog.

I don’t think her problems were caused by the dog. Read between the lines and you discover that at the time she got fed up with the dog she had three kids under the age of five. That’s a lot of butts to wipe.

We had two kids under the age of three, plus a dog and three cats. We were in our mid-thirties and couldn’t put off kids too much longer, my wife was in school which actually worked out great with kids, and so we decided to go ahead and have a second. It wasn’t easy, though I can’t imagine having three that young. A year or two later my mom couldn’t live alone any more due to failing health and being mostly blind, so she moved in with us, and after she developed Alzheimer’s things got much more difficult for a few years. Thus endeth my tale of woe.

So I don’t think the lesson is don’t get a puppy. The lesson is that if you can it’s nice to put a little space between the kids’ birthdays.

Posted in Home Life | 1 Comment

Detroit Files for Bankruptcy

Trying to pay for stuff you can’t afford will do that to you:

It’s the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, dwarfing Jefferson County, Ala.’s $3.1 billion sewage district restructuring.

In June 2012, the City of Stockton became the largest-ever city to file for bankruptcy, at the time.

The Motor City faces $20 billion of long-term liabilities. The Wall Street Journal’s Matt Dillon says those holding onto $11 billion in unsecured debt are basically staring into the abyss, facing the prospect of getting next to nothing from the city’s obligations.

The pension funds want to block Orr’s attempt to drastically reduce the amount of benefits owed to current and former city workers.

Pension funds for unionized city employees are one of the reasons Stockton went bankrupt.

Posted in Economics | Tagged | Comments Off

Consensus Changes on Salt

CDC says Americans still consume too much, but studies show no benefit in reducing salt

Richard Feynman said that one of the advantages of the scientific method has over religion is that science has the freedom to be wrong. Religious institutions are reluctant to ever admit error. The scientific method lets experiments and new data supercede previous ideas.

That works well when science is an ivory tower institution. The problem comes when bad science is applied to real world problems or used to set public policy. By the time science corrects itself the damage has been done, or how long it will take the new science to replace the old.

Posted in Science | 3 Comments