Campaigning Right

There are a lot of attacks coming against Obama from the far-right… Many of them are utterly baseless, but the problem is that not many of them have been ‘debunked’ yet, so aside from people who are really familiar with his history and his entire platform, they’ll seem true. For example, there’s a strong argument that he’s going to raise taxes, not just on those making over $250k/year as he said, but on those making $32,000 a year or more. This is patently false, and comes from misinterpreting his non-binding vote for budget appropriations, but it sounds scary and if that’s all you see, you’re going to be shocked and want to vote for McCain.

The problem is that the Obama campaign is doing a bad job fighting these things. I posted about their Fight the Smears page, but it hasn’t been updated in a while… Or at all, really. I’ve submitted several things and they haven’t showed up, or even gotten a reply.

They need to have a person (or a group of people) on staff full-time who scour the web looking for all of the attacks being used against Obama. (There are a lot of them, and they’re easy to find.) But then, they need to be able to interact with policy advisers, spokespeople, and even Obama himself, to accurately counter each of these. And there needs to be a site full of these things. Or even a (moderated!) discussion forum.

I find it hard to believe that this position doesn’t already exist, but if it does, they’re utterly failing at communicating what they’re doing. It needs to be easy to rebut any of the attacks being used against him, and it’s currently not.

New Use for Megapixels

I tend to look skeptically on claims of megapixels. As I think I’ve mentioned before here, I have a 20×30″ print hanging up, taken by my 6-megapixel EOS 10D. Now I shoot with a 10-megapixel XTi, but typically keep it down at “Medium” quality, which is a 5-ish megapixel image. The reason is that I can take many more pictures, and that there’s no good reason for me to exceed it.

One thing I lament, though, is how “short” 200mm can be, even with a 1.6x crop. (So it’s effectively a 320mm lens.) I think the 100-400mm zoom (loving that it has a Wikipedia page!) would do the trick, though it’s a $1,500 lens. (On sale at Amazon?)

At the RedSox game, I bumped the resolution to its full setting. In a, “that’s really not quite an accurate statement” way, I effectively had a 5-megapixel, 400mm setup. Because 5 megapixels is all I needed anyway, this “zoom by cropping” thing actually works pretty well.

The main problem I’m noticing is that at 10 megapixels, I’m seeing a lot of imperfections in images that I didn’t see at 5. It doesn’t ordinarily matter anyway, since no one views images at 100% in ordinary situations, but I really feel like all the extra resolution does is amplify imperfections inherent in the lens.

America’s Most Corrupt Industry

Consumerist has an interesting post on the games credit card companies play to try to get more money out of you. At least half of them sound blatantly deceptive and should probably be illegal.

I just pulled out my bill to verify that the due date was when I thought it was (it is), but I discovered another interesting thing, albeit minor… (A one-penny difference.)

While I get 3% cash back on certain things, I only get 1% cash back on “Everything Else” (which sounds like a Mastercard trademark—”For Everything Else, there’s Mastercard”). To date, my “Everything Else” spending has been a paltry $115.57. So what’s 1% of that? $1.11557, or $1.16, right?

No, $1.15. They round down/truncate.


I was ogling the D3 a bit more, the full-frame digital SLR that has remarkably high ISOs… (Aside: having seen sample shots, ISO3200 and ISO6400 do have some noise/grain. Very usable, but not the same as shooting at ISO200.)

It also turns out that the D3 technology has been put into a smaller digital SLR, the Nikon D700. It’s $2,000 cheaper, but apparently retains the high-ISO, full-frame sensor. It gains on-board flash. It features Live View (so you can use it like a point-and-shoot, instead of looking through the viewfinder like a real photographer), a 920k-pixel LCD (which is apparently quite superior to those on Canon cameras), and seemingly features the Adaptive Dynamic Range feature on the D300 and D3, which is pretty neat.

Nikon also has a 14-24mm zoom lens. This doesn’t sound too impressive in the age of 10mm zooms, until you realize that this is 14mm for full-frame cameras: the 10mm and 12mm lenses are designed just for cropped-sensor digital cameras. A 10mm lens on my XTi would be the equivalent of a 16mm lens on a full-frame camera, on account of the 1.6 crop factor. And if I mounted the 10mm lens on a full-frame sensor, it would look horrible, with the image being inside of a black circle. But the 14mm is the real deal. It’s also an f/2.8 lens, which is quite fast, and it’s also apparently ridiculously sharp. The word “insane” comes up a lot in describing this lens.

It’s worth noting that the D700, although $2k cheaper than the D3, is still $3,000. Canon’s 5D is around $2,000, and can hold its own at high ISOs, just not 6400+.

Some More Photos

Yesterday I was in the back yard working, when I noticed the setting sun was illuminating a fern in the woods, causing it to glow brilliantly while its surroundings were black. This would be a good photo.

By the time I came back out, the fern had fallen into the shade, but the light continued to be just right.

Mi Favorito

Often, losing details in the shadows or highlights of a photo isn’t desired. Sometimes it takes special precautions (e.g., bracketing for HDR) to not lose any details. But there’s something neat about having a strongly-backlit leaf that’s so bright compared to the background that everything else is pitch black. That photo might be a little too fine-artsy, but I still like it.

Birch Leaves with Guests

Here, the background was also backlit, just less so, but your eyes are still drawn to what they should be. And I’m loving that this lens, as cheap and light as it is, can be pretty darn sharp. (I did do software sharpening afterwards too, but that’s SOP.)

Daddy Longlegs

There’s a close-up of a few of the leaves, complete with two Daddy Longlegs.

Shooting those last night, BTW, was one of those times when I switched to full-manual*. I spend a lot of time in aperture priority, but photographing a strongly-backlit leaf isn’t something the camera’s metering is really meant to deal with, so it was overexposing by a good deal. I locked it at 1/250-second exposure with good results.

I took a set of 99 photos, but many were flawed. The biggest problem was that, for some of these photos, the sun was just out of frame, so even a lens hood didn’t work. For some I tried to use my hand to block out some more light, but there’s a fine line there, where you go from not quite blocking enough to having your hand in the frame. (Although with a long zoom and a decently fast aperture, the only effect was minor vignetting… Which in some of these photos wouldn’t have showed.)

Going to Fenway tonight, though I suspect 200mm will be far too short for anything all that good.

* The EXIF will betray that I actually went to shutter-priority, but since the camera wanted a wider aperture and the lens was already wide open, switching over to full-manual to ‘lock’ the aperture would have done exactly the same thing.

McCain and Technology

Carly Fiorina recently joined McCain in proclaiming that he “gets” technology, even after he previously admitted that he was “illiterate” when it came to computers. The past couple days have seen a barrage of news articles talking about how he’s ushered in a new wave of helpers to help get his campaign back on track. I read an article recently pointing out that Obama’s site is closing in on a million registered users, whereas an analyst suggested the the social aspects of McCain’s site appeared to have been neglected.

With that in the back of my mind, I just Googled “McCain tax cuts” to look into something, and clicked on the first link. It’s called “McCain Staging Site” on, and with most images not loading and the site seemingly lacking font stylesheet data, I’m pretty certain we weren’t meant to see this page. But it’s the #1 ranked page on Google for “McCain tax cuts,” something you might ordinarily have to work hard at. It would technologically trivial, by the way, to do some back-end magic and make that page redirect to a production page. Having a staging site ranked #1 in Google for what’s probably a fairly common search time is a bit less than impressive.

I know we’re not electing him to Webmaster in Chief, but the little things like this can make a big difference.

Money, money, where’d it go?

As rumored last week, Obama’s holding his acceptance speech at a 70,000-person stadium instead of the comparatively small center holding the convention.

News outlets, though, are threatening to curtail their coverage of the event, saying that it “could add hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs” to something that they’ve already budgeted millions for.

Loan me a good camera for a couple days, buy me a plane ticket to Denver, and an economy hotel room for the duration, and I’ll do it. Total cost? Maybe $2,000? That includes a per diem, though. If you give me a high-end video camera, fly me to Denver, and get me a press pass, I’ll pay for my own food.

I’ll just take 10% of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that this would apparently save?

The Most Tragically Awkward Video

Carly Fiorina came out supporting McCain’s understanding of technology, even after Obama’s site built up a grassroots site with almost a million users. I knew I recognized the name, but it wasn’t until I read the news that I remembered why: she’s the HP leader that took some sort of massive (eight-figure) retirement package after she was practically fired.

So the McCain camp turned to Youtube to publish this video, calling for videos of selfless neighbors. The Wonkette called it “the most tragically awkward video in the history of YouTube,” which didn’t immediately become clear. Obama gives really powerful speeches, whereas McCain has a gentler, more subdued voice. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they really could picked a speech where he didn’t sound like he was running out of breath. (Remember, this is for McCain, not an attack ad!) But that isn’t the “tragically awkward” part. That’s when the other guy starts obviously reading from cue cards and stumbling through the speech. It kind of grows in awkwardness as it progresses.


The 2009 BMW 7-series is even more ridiculous than before, according to this Edmunds article.

Internet in the center console, on the navigation screen? That could be very handy, but I’m envisioning myriad crashes as people checking their e-mail forget that they’re also driving a very heavy car (over 2 tons) at high speeds (up to 183 MPH, apparently). Although I have to say, the Internet access in the back seat is a neat idea. Even if I can’t drive a 2009 7-series, I guess I’ll be content for being driven around in one. 😉