Campaign Donations

I stumbled across HuffPo’s FundRace, a searchable database of public campaign contributions. (I don’t recall the threshold, but campaign donations above a certain amount must be reported. I’ve given less than $50 to Obama, and thus am not listed, but donations for a few hundred dollars and more do show up.)

You can search by ZIP code, address, name, profession, or employer. (So there is no ambiguity: “Employer” lists the employer of the person who made a donation; it does not mean that the employer was involved in the donation. It’s just part of the reporting.) Some of the more notable things I’ve turned up:

  • Those listing “Apple” (the new, proper name for what was once “Apple Computer”) gave $6,856 to Republicans (9 donors), and $40,421 to Democrats (48 donors). Microsoft was only slightly more balanced, with $97,281 to Republicans (95 people) and $436,236 to Democrats (514 people). Google had $51,327 from Republicans (42), and $337,265 from Democrats (268). Also Vint Cerf, whose accomplishments include things like founding the Internet (at least, moreso than anyone else can claim), works for Google, and was the biggest donor there.
  • George Bush Sr. hasn’t given to any candidates, but has given to numerous PACs, including Sununu’s!
  • William Clinton, whose occupation is listed as “Former President,” gave $2,300 to Obama (in “Q2 2008”). Somewhat amusingly, another William Clinton in VA, whose occupation and employer are blank, gave $2,300 to McCain. (A third William Clinton, a CA attorney, gave $500 to Obama.) Hillary Clinton gave $2,300 to Obama (also in “Q2 2008”). Barack Obama hasn’t made any contributions, but Michelle Obama did give $399 to her husband’s campaign. (That’s all?)
  • They weren’t joking about Hollywood being liberal. Those listing “Actor” as a profession include:
    • Ben Stiller of Los Angeles, $6,900 to Hillary
    • Bette Midler (who I’m pretty sure is an actress, not actor) of Nashville, $6,900 to Hillary.
    • Chevy Chase, of Bedford, NY, $4,600 to Hillary.
    • Ben Affleck of Santa Monica, CA, $4,600 to Obama.
    • Michael Douglas, Universal City, CA, $4,600 to Christopher Dodd.
    • Will Smith, Los Angeles, $4,600, Obama.
    • Matt Damon, Santa Monica, $4,600, Obama.
    • Thomas Hanks, Beverly Hills, $2,300 for Hillary.
    • Samuel Jackson, Los Angeles, $2,300 for Obama.
    • Samuel Waterson [sic] of NYC (better known as Jack McCoy), $2,300 for Obama.
    • Morgan Freeman of NYC, $2,300 to Obama.
    • Adam Sandler of Manchester, NH (!), $2,100 to Giuliani (!!).
    • Ben Stein, Malibu, CA, $800 to McCain
    • Omar Epps (better known as Dr. Foreman), Los Angeles, $2,300, Obama.
  • Actresses is about the same; I’ll let you read it yourself.
  • Those listing their occupation as “Priest” collectively gave $35,351 to the Republicans (51 priests), and $57,222 to the Democrats (99 priests).
  • “Rabbi” isn’t even fair: $18,735 to the Republicans, $115,187 to the Democrats.
  • “Pastor” is the first combination I’ve seen that gives more to the Republicans. America’s pastors gave $205,731 to the Republicans, but only $113,984 to the Democrats.
  • “Minister”s gave $187,799 to the Republicans, and $310,476 to the Democrats.
  • There are actually more than a dozen bishops who have donated money; $7,118 to the Republicans, $11,650 to the Democrats. V. Gene Robinson, of NH fame, gave $500 to Obama. No one lists “Cardinal” as their occupation, and unsurprisingly, there were no Popes in America that contributed to campaigns.
  • 101 people list their occupation as “Captain,” but it’s almost an even split: $32,330 to the Republicans, $30,423 to the Democrats. (Incidentally, “Captain” covers everything from military members to pilots, executives (?) to maritime people…)
  • I was surprised to see that those listing their employer as “US Army” gave more to Democrats than Republicans: $186,724 to the Republicans, but $252,664 to the Democrats. “US Marine Corps” was almost 2:1 in favor of the Republicans, though it’s got only a couple dozen people listed.
  • “Firefighter” is quite close. $61,759 from 100 people to the Republicans, and $58,995 to the Democrats from 111 people. Thus slightly more firefighters donated to the Democratic party, but Republican firefighters donated slightly more.
  • “Police Officer” is quite Republican; $139,229 to the Republicans, and $91,622 to the Democrats.
  • You’ve got red on you [video, only tangentially related]. 5 people listing “Deceased” as their profession collectively gave $7,754 to the Republicans, while only 4 “Deceased” people collectively gave $4,352 to the Democrats. I love the guy at the bottom of the list, who posthumously donated $2 to the RNC.
  • One person lists his occupation as “Prisoner.” He gave $250 to John Kerry in 2004.
  • One person lists her occupation as “Stripper.” She gave $278 to Ron Paul.
  • Of 57 postmasters, 17 gave a net $4,840 to the Republicans, and 30 gave a combined $21,435 to the Democrats. Also, an amusing amount list their address as a PO Box.
  • All 5 of America’s campaign-donating butchers gave their blood-money to the Republicans, a net $6,347.
  • Only 2 nuclear physicists donated to campaigns; $400 to Mike Gravel and $250 to the RNC.
  • America’s only campaign-contributing juggler gave $500 to the DNCs.
  • Two out of three clowns are Democrats. (Umm….) Also, the only Republican clown gave his money in 2004.
  • The guy who lists his occupation as “Santa” and his employer as “North Pole” lives in New Hampshire. (No one lists their occupation as “Tooth Fairy.”
  • 19 people list “God” as their employer: 10 Republicans ($5,460) and 9 Democrats ($2,809). No one who made a campaign contribution in 2004 or 2008 lists “Satan” as their employer.
  • Hairdressers who donate to campaigns are overwhelmingly Democrats.
  • No Astronauts donated to campaigns in 2004 or 2008.
  • Two psychics donated. Both Democrats. Think about that for a minute.
  • Three masseuses donated, also all to Democrats. We’re a more comfortable party.
  • 143 plumbers collectively gave $91,364 to the Republicans, while only 99 plumbers donated to the Democrats ($56,635).
  • Cowboys favor Republicans, though not by as much as you might think.
  • Most of the Red Sox management donate to the Democrats; Curt Schilling is the only player on the list, and he donated $2,300 to McCain.
  • Almost everyone on the Yankees gives to Republicans.
  • “Professional Athlete” doesn’t turn up many names I recognize, besides the aforementioned Curt Schilling. The exception is Peyton Manning, who gave $2,300 to Fred Thompson.
  • Those employed by the NBA have given exclusively to Democrats.
  • Seamstresses have a tendency to go Democrat, though not overwhelmingly.
  • Innkeepers, though, are overwhelmingly Democrat-givers.
  • Beekeepers (all 9 of them) are almost split down the middle.

I think my research is done. I’ll go with the party with fewer zombie contributors, and the backing of two out of three clowns, and the majority of seamstresses. Just don’t tell any butchers. Really, though, what did it for me was seeing who the psychics were supporting.

The Dream Network

Periodically I come across deals for computers that are very tempting. I’m not necessarily in the market right away: I’m going to keep my laptop until I’ve been working long enough that I can afford something stellar. It’s silly to “upgrade” a little bit. But every time I see these deals, I think of the various ways I could set things up… My “ideal (but realistic) computer” would actually be a network:

  • Network infrastructure: Gigabit Ethernet, switched, over Cat6. 10GigE and fiber are cool, but really not worth the cost for a home network.
  • A server machine. It needn’t be anything too powerful, and could (should) be something that doesn’t use a ton of electricity. The machine would run Linux and serve multiple rolls:
    • Fileserver. It’d have a handful (4-6?) of 500GB disks, running RAID. While performance is important, it’s important to me that this thing be very ‘safe’ and not lose data. (Actually, in a very ideal setup, there’d be two fileservers for maximum redundancy, but my goal with this setup is to be reasonable. What interests me, though, is that I think it’d be possible to use an uncommon but awesome network file system like Coda or AFS, but also have some network shares on top of that service that ‘look normal,’ so Windows could just merrily connect to an M: drive or whatnot, merrily oblivious to the fact that the fileserver is actually a network of two machines.) It’s important that the machine have gobs of free space, so that I can merrily rip every CD and DVD I own, save every photo I take, and back up my computers, without every worrying about being almost out of disk space. It’s also important to be hyper-organized here, and have one “share” for music, one “share” for photos I’ve taken, etc.
    • Internet gateway. It’d act as my router/firewall to the Internet, and also do stuff like DNS caching. It may or may not serve as a caching proxy; I tend to only notice caches when they act up, but then again, it might be quite helpful.
    • Timeserver. For about $100 you can get a good GPS with PPS (pulse-per-second) output and keep time down to a microsecond. Hook it up to the serial port of this machine, and have your local machine sync to that for unnecessarily accurate time. (Actually, it looks like you can do PTP in software with reasonable accuracy?)
    • Asterisk machine, potentially taking in an analog phone line and also VoIP services, and giving me a nice IP-based system to use, blending them all so it’s transparent how they’re coming in. It would also do stuff like voicemail, call routing/forwarding, etc. For added fun, it could be made to do faxes: receive them and save them as a PDF, and act as a “printer” for outgoing faxes. The code’s there to do this already.
    • Printserver. If you have multiple machines, it’s best to hang your printer(s) off of an always-on server. It could speak CUPS or the like to Linux, and simultaneously share the printer for Windows hosts.
    • MythTV backend? But most likely not; I’d prefer to offload that to a more powerful machine, rather than bogging down a server.
  • Primary desktop. Surprisingly, a quad-core system, 4 GB of RAM, and a 24″ LCD can be had for around $1,000 these days. That’s all I need in a system. I have my Logitech G15, which is all the keyboard I need. My concern is with what to run… These days I make use of Windows and Linux pretty heavily. I think virtualization will be mature enough by the time I’m actually going for a setup like this to allow me to get a Linux-based Xen host and run Windows inside of a virtual machine with no performance degradation. (This is actually mostly possible already, but as Andrew will attest, Xen can still have some kinks….) The system should have a big monitor. It’d be interesting to put something like an 8GB solid-state drive in it and use that for a super-fast boot, but the jury’s still out on whether it’s worthwhile. (I guess that some places are pushing SSD under some special name to make Windows boot instantly, but the reviews I’ve heard suggest that it gives a nominal improvement at best.)
  • Secondary desktop. Pay attention for a while to the short bursts of time when you can’t use your computer. The system locks up for a bit, or it’s just unbearably slow while the disks spin up and get a massive file, or you have to reboot, or you’re playing a full-screen game and die and wait 15 seconds to respawn, or….. In this “ideal setup,” I’d have a second machine. It needn’t be anything special; in fact, it could be the cheapest machine possible. It’d basically run Firefox, AIM/IRC, Picasa (off of the network fileserver), iTunes, and the like. For the sake of completeness, it should probably run whatever the other system doesn’t, out of Linux, XP, and Vista.

The Top

Inspired in a roundabout way by a recent Ask MetaFilter question, and fueled my desire to procrastinate a little longer, here’s my take–in no particular order–on the top songs ever. I started off as a blanket list of songs were good, but kept whittling it down until only the best songs ever remained.

  1. Pink Floyd – Keep Talking: Not only does it sound great, but find me another song with a guest appearance by Stephen Hawking. And, unlike some of their other songs, it’s pretty “normal” and upbeat. (However, High Hopes takes a close second for Pink Floyd songs, and honorable mention goes to Run Like Hell, Cluster One, Learning to Fly, and the rather creepy One of My Turns. And The Happiest Days of Our Lives, but only if you play it loud.
  2. RHCP – Snow (Hey Oh): I’m hesitant to include things I’ve loved for less than a month, but I’ve liked the Red Hot Chili Peppers for years and years, so it’s not like I’m throwing a Top 10 spot into something unfamiliar. (Their Aeroplane is a close second.)
  3. Jimmy Eat World – Hear You Me: Many of the songs I love turn into lists of other great songs by that author. This isn’t so with Jimmy Eat World–some of their other songs are so-so. This one has secured a spot in the top, though. It’s always been a good time, but have it come up on Shuffle when someone close to you has died and tell me it isn’t wonderfully appropriate. I also tend to not keep downbeat songs in my playlists, but this one–even with all the associate sadness–stays in. You owe it a listen.
  4. Creed – One: I think I own a couple Creed songs, but I might rank them in the Top 100 artists in my playlist. But something about this song propels it into the Top 10. Part of it’s just that it sounds great. It also has a neat sort of “burst of energy” that keeps you from just playing it as background music. And the lyrics are excellent, too. (Actually, one might copy-and-paste this text for Green Day’s American Idiot, although I rank One higher.)
  5. The Fray: I just can’t decide which one. I confess that Iliked them so much that I almost did something vile–bought a CD. I didn’t, but if ever I came close, it was upon hearing their other songs. You’ll surely recognize How to Save a Life and Over My Head (Cable Car), but some of the others–All at Once, Heaven Forbid, Little House, Look after You, and She Is are all as good.
  6. Smashing Pumpkins – Today: Out of a band that does a lot of, err, melancholy, songs, a beacon of happiness. (I think.) And don’t skip the beginning, which caused my classic, “I forgot about glockenspiels!” line. (But really, when was the last time you thought about glockenspiels? I’d gone years without so much as remembering their existence. I might not think about coconuts more than every few weeks, or ventriloquists more than once a month. But glockenspiels? It’s been years.)
  7. Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit: Amid a sea of nice calm, upbeat music, we need something that can only be described as loud. This is it. Unintelligible lyrics? Check. Screaming, without being “heavy metal” that grates on my nerves? Check. But the real reason for including them? Lyrics like “a mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido” are a reminder that sometimes, just every now and then, a song doesn’t have to make any sense at all to be good.

In lieu of finishing a Top 10 list, I’ll leave you with three songs that I bet you heard years ago but forgot all about–the glockenspiel factor.

  • New Radicals – You Get What You Give.
  • Spacehog – In the Meantime.
  • Primitive Radio Gods – Standing outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand.

DNS Dork

The real geeks in the room already know what the root zone file is, but for those of you with lives… DNS (Domain Name Service) is the service that transforms names ( into IPs ( DNS is hierarchical: as a good analogy, think of there being a folder called “.com,” with entries for things like “amazon” and “n1zyy” (for and, two sites of very comparable importance.) Within the amazon ‘folder’ is a “www,” and within “n1zyy” is a “blogs,” for example. A domain name is really ‘backwards,’ then: if it were a folder on your hard drive, it would be something like

Of course, this is all spread out amongst many servers across the world. When you go to connect to, you first need to find out how to query the .com nameservers. The root servers are the ones that give you this answer: they contain a mapping of what nameservers are responsible for each top-level domain (TLD), like .com, .org, and .uk.

So you get your answer for what nameservers process .com requests, and go to one of them, asking what nameserver is responsible for You get your answer and ask that nameserver who’s responsible for, and finally get the IP your computer needs to connect to. And, for good measure, it probably gets cached, so that the next time you visit the site, you don’t have to go through the overhead of doing all those lookups again. (Of course, this all happens in the blink of an eye, behind the scenes.)

Anyway! The root zone file is the file that the root servers have, which spells out which nameservers handle which top-level domains.

Yours truly found the root zone file (it’s no big secret) and wrote a page displaying its contents, and a flag denoting the country of each of the nameservers. The one thing I don’t do is map each of the top-level domains to their respective country, since, in many cases, I don’t have the foggiest clue.

What’s interesting to note is that a lot of the data is just downright bizarre. Cuba has six nameservers for .cu. One is in Cuba, one in the Netherlands, and four are in the US. Fiji (.fj) has its first two nameservers… at American universities hosting foreign countries’ nameservers, however bizarre, isn’t new. .co (Colombia) has its first nameservers in Colombia (at a university there), but also has NYU and Columbia University (I think they did that just for the humor of Columbia hosting Colombia).

In other news, it turns out that there’s a list of country-to-ccTLD (Country-Code Top Level Domain) mappings. I’m going to work on incorporating this data… Maybe I can even pair it up with my IPGeo page with IP allocations per country…


Culled from recent news, here are some things that have occurred that I can find absolutely no excuse for having happened:

  • Hackers infiltrated computer systems, turning off power to several (foreign) cities. I guess it makes sense that the power grid would now be controlled by computers, but it’s sheer idiocy to have such a system, in any way, connected to the Internet. (And one has to suspect it was, in some manner, an inside job: I can’t imagine there’s a spiffy web GUI with a “Turn off power to Washington, DC” button, but rather some inscrutable interface.)
  • This is actually old news, but it was dug up recently: Mike Huckabee’s son was arrested for trying to bring a gun on an airplane. I’ll buy that it probably wasn’t his intention to hijack the plane, but how you “accidentally” carry a gun into an airport escapes me. Most of us are paranoid about whether our tiny bottle of shampoo is pushing the envelope and whether it’ll result in a cavity search. And yet people keep waltzing in with guns. Furthermore, anyone who doesn’t know where their guns are shouldn’t be allowed to carry them in the first place. (Despite what some have said, this doesn’t change my opinion of Huckabee himself… His statements like, “And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards…” are what influence my views of him.)
  • Another case of a laptop with private data on more than half a million people going missing.

An Uncontrollable Urge

A few years ago Andy and I ran a hosting company. It never got that far, but it was fun, and also a learning experience.  Today I’m finding that I can’t get the idea of starting it again out of my head. The problem is that, this time, I’d want to start it big.

There are a bunch of technologies that I find downright exciting:

  • Old racks full of blade servers are hitting the used market. And by “old” I mean dual 2-3 GHz Xeons, a gig or two of RAM, and hard drives that still rival what hosts are renting in dedicated servers. I’d probably want to put in new drives, but the machines are cheap and they’re plentiful.
  • Boston has a number of good data centers, and all the big Tier 1 providers are here. That there seem to be no well-known hosting companies out here is frankly kind of surprising. You have no idea how badly I want to pick up a couple racks in a colocation facility, and pull in a couple 100 Mbps lines.
  • cPanel looks like it’s matured a lot since I last used it, and it has some good third-party stuff such as script installers. It looks like it remains the number one choice in virtual hosting.
  • Xen is downright exciting. It permits splitting a physical host into multiple virtual machines. With the advent of chips with hardware virtualization support from both AMD and Intel, it now runs with very little overhead. It used to require extensive modifications to the “guest” OS, so that only modified versions of Linux worked. With newer processors, though, you’re able to run machines without them having to know they’re in a virtual machine, opening up options. You can run Windows now. The virtual dedicated server / virtual private server market is growing. (Xen also supports moving hosts between physical servers, which has a lot of nice applications, too!)
  • OpenBSD’s firewall, pf, continues to intrigue me for its power. I just found PFW, a really spiffy web GUI for managing pf. Not only does it do basic firewall stuff, but it’s got support for prioritization of traffic / QoS, and for load balancing. I’m probably just scratching the surface.
  • I’ve spent years honing my admin skills and improving server performance. Improved performance on a shared server, of course, means more clients per server, or more money.

I’m wholly convinced I should start a Boston hosting company. I just need $100,000 capital or so. (Santa, do you read my blog? Do you fund businesses? I’ll give you partial equity.)

Catholic Voters’ Guide

The Diocese of Manchester passed out a voters’ guide. As previously mentioned, this immediately worried me.

It begins with a disclaimer that they don’t endorse any candidate, party, or PAC, but outlines seven issues. (Bold captions are their headings, the rest of the text is my commentary on it, unless quoted, in which case it’s quoted from the aforementioned publication.)

The Right to Life and the Dignity of the Human Person.

Of course this covers abortion, but they also include “destruction of human embryos for research,” an “intrinsic evil.” (Of course, one’s “dignity” is the exact terminology used by proponents of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide to promote one’s right to euthanasia when they’re in pain and near death, so it’s an ironic wording choice.)

Curiously, they add “This teaching also compels us as Catholics to oppose genocide, torture, unjust war…”

Of course, I oppose genocide and torture. The “unjust war” bit is interesting: I can think of only one thing that they might be referring to, but I don’t know if they’d be so vague if that’s what they meant.

Call to Family, Community, and Participation

It starts off that family, “based on marriage between a man and a woman” (of course they’d add this), is fundamentally important. While I’m not sure why the families have to be between a man and a woman, I’m also not sure what this one is trying to say. It basically just talks at length about how policies should work on supporting families, their needs, and “the common good.” (Honestly, the first thing that comes to mind is universal health care.)

Rights and Responsibilities

They start off with right to life (anti- abortion and death penalty), but then add “Each of us has a right to religious freedom”–obviously the church isn’t going to oppose this, but I’m a bit proud that they’re eager to support peoples’ rights to not be Catholic, too. And then they add that we all have the right to “those things required for human decency–food and shelter, education and employment, health care and housing.” (Emphasis mine.)

Option [sic] for the Poor and Vulnerable


Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers

They call for a living wage and “opportunities for legal status for immigrant workers,” which seems to amount to tacit support for affording humane treatment to illegal immigrants.


I’m going to quote this one verbatim because it’s so well-done: “We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. Our Catholic commitment to solidarity requires that we pursue justice, eliminate racism, end human trafficking, protect human rights, seek peace, and avoid the use of force except as a necessary last resort.”

Care for God’s Creation

“God’s Creation” is then implicitly defined as the Earth.

All in all, I’m left with a positive note. One thing that drives me mad is when people try to use the church to justify atrocities. The “moral majority” often seem to be the same ones advocating killing illegal immigrants as they cross the border, torturing suspected terrorists, opposing health care, and fighting living wages. I wish they’d come to their senses about same-sex marriage, but I really can’t fault them on abortion, which is a much trickier issue. I thought I’d be outraged by this guide, but, in actuality, it seems to support many of the things I support, and, for the most part, does so very tactfully in a way that still requires that people think for themselves.


So I’m a huge fan of Ask Metafilter. The basic premise is simple: you ask a question and lots of people answer. But Ask MeFi rocks because they maintain high standards. So you actually get really good answers. It costs $5 to join, which is done to pay for the servers but, frankly, seems like a good way for keeping crap out, too.  You’re allowed one question a week, so I try to make it good. But oftentimes, I put it off for several weeks for want of something worthy of using up my question.

So I started a list. And I figured I’d allowed voting and comments. And before I knew it, I had this monstrosity. It was actually extraordinarily simple to code, too. I hope to add better questions over time: these are the ones that were on my mind at the time. You can vote (the + and – buttons), and leave comments. Feel free to do so. (I’m not taking question ideas: get your own account if that’s what you want!)

Is Congress Insane?

There are a lot of issues that I really understand both sides of. Most anything with money will benefit some at the expense of others. I don’t think gun control or drug policy have “clean” answers: I’m not at all comfortable banning guns, but I’m not at all comfortable allowing felons to own automatic weapons; I don’t get why smoking marijuana is a crime, but I’m not at all opposed to putting heroin dealers in jail. And I still struggle with the issue of abortion.

But there have been some really strange things going on…

  • In 2006, the military established a policy manual describing what was–and what wasn’t–an acceptable interrogation method. In particular, it banned:
    • Forcing detainees to be nude for interrogations
    • Engaging in sexual acts, real or simulated
    • “Beating, shocking, or burning” them
    • Mock executions
    • Waterboarding
    • Starving or freezing them

    In my mind, this is a no-brainer. We’re not some backwards third-world nation led by a cruel military dictator. (Well, snide comments aside…) We’re the freaking United States of America, and we pride ourself on being ‘advanced’ past barbarism. The 2006 military policy confirmed this.

  • A bill that would require the CIA to follow the same rules got struck down in Congress. Of course, don’t be so quick to fault Congress–if it had made it through, the Administration said it would veto it anyway.
  • So what did Congress pass? I’m glad you asked! The House passed House Resolution 847. It’s a non-binding resolution, which is a nice way of saying that it’s utterly pointless and carries no weight. It contains lots of feel-good stuff endorsing Christmas. But a lot of people seem troubled by the fact that it also “recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world.” I mean, I’m a Christian, and, if you define “great” in terms of numbers as opposed to quality, it’s a fact that Christianity is one of the “great religions.” But I’m still left with an uneasy feeling about this. Even if “it’s true,” why is Congress giving Christianity its stamp of approval? It just seems really strange. And our Founding Fathers were uneasy about it, too. (Of course, the First Amendment bans Congress from establishing a religion, not endorsing it. But a case from the 80’s gives us a clarification that government endorsement of a religion still construes an Establishment Clause violation.)
    But of course it’s a moot point, because the First Amendment starts off with “make no law,” and this isn’t a law. It’s a Resolution. And it doesn’t really do anything except proclaim to the world that the United States likes Christianity. And frankly, I’d like it if our proclamations to the world were kept in line with our Constitution.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against Christianity. I just find it really, really weird that Congress is endorsing it. Especially when half the world thinks we’re in a war against Islam, where endorsing Christianity is only going to further that misinterpretation?

Raise your hand if you think that Congress has lots its mind!

Why I’d Go Nikon

Andrew’s biased me. I’m a Canon fan. I own a Canon body, and now, two Canon-mount lenses. And this brings in switching costs: the lenses would be useless to me if I had a Canon. And, while I think it’s mostly irrational, I’ve come to love everything about Canon cameras and see any difference as a flaw in Nikons.

But I’m still excited about the Nikon D3. And it turns out that I’m far from the only one. The D3 has a ton of people anticipating its release. And even at 5 grand, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re sold out at first. I don’t have that much to spend on a camera, but if I were a serious photographer, I’d have pre-ordered mine already.  Why?

  • Higher ISOs mean you can get shots that you otherwise couldn’t. Or that you can buy cheaper (and lighter) lenses and still get good shots. Everything in photography is a trade-off: to increase shutter speed, you need to either raise the ISO (which raises grain), or use a wider aperture (which usually hits hard limits: your lens is only so good, and you pay through the nose for faster ones). Increases in usable ISO, though, come “free”–if you can suddenly take clean shots at ISO6400, as you apparently can with the D3, you can get shots that, frankly, were impossible on other cameras.
  • Higher ISOs can mean increased savings. To get really good shots when I can’t shoot above ISO1600 (or ISO800 if I want clean shots), I pretty much have to buy a faster lens. Pros have tens of thousands in high-end lenses for just this reason. They can get the shots I can’t. Suddenly, at ISO6400, I’d be on par with them.
  • A lot of cameras are using “cropped” sensors… The sensor is smaller than 35mm film, so only the center of the image coming through the lens falls on the sensor, effectively cropping the image. This is beneficial if you’re using telephoto lenses, as it’s essentially a “bonus” zoom. (A 200mm lens on my camera is equivalent to a 320mm lens on a full-frame camera.) But for people who shoot at the wide end, it’s a major pain. The crop gave rise to things like Sigma’s 10-20mm lens, which is ridiculously wide. The reason is that, on a 1.6x crop sensor, it’s 16mm equivalent at the wide end: right on par with existing lenses. A lot of lenses are being built just for these cropped sensors, which permits them to be lighter and cheaper. But people still prefer the full-frame sensors, so now there are two types of lenses floating out there. Nikon nailed it here: their camera will work with both. If you mount a lens for ‘cropped’ cameras, it’ll only use part of the sensor. If you mount a full-frame lens, it uses the whole frame.
  • They built a longer-life shutter. Bravo. (Actually, Canon did too…)
  • They improved the LCD to over 900,000 pixels. One thing that drives me nuts on the 10D is that the image is tiny and low-resolution. You have to spend time zooming in to see if it came out alright. And when you’re shooting live action, this means missing a ton of shots. So you shoot blindly, and then realize that the whole thing came out unusable.
  • They have a built-in guide, so you don’t have to carry the manual around. Again, brilliant! The menu also looks a little bit less like it was made in 1982.
  • When I talk about high ISOs, 6400 is just their ‘normal’ upper. As with most cameras, you can enable “Expanded ISO” mode, which gives you some more settings, with the catch that they’re somewhat noisy. But you can shoot at ISO25,600. This is just obscene, and I’m fairly certain that, until Nikon came out with this, no one had ever even thought about a camera being this fast.
  • They kept up a high shutter speed… Between 9 and 11 frames per second, in fact.

Something tells me that the folks at Canon are scrambling to develop a sensor this good.. I hope they are. Because I hate those stupid circular viewfinders on Nikon cameras.

Aside: I really hope the folks at Canon are also scrambling to develop a camera that ditches the shutter… I’m still at a loss to explain why it’s even in a digital camera.

Aside: Maybe they can steal my ideas and include a useful integrated WiFi chip… Or a built-in intervalometer. That’d be trivial to implement?