Archive for November, 2006

November 26, 2006

MEGAN MCARDLE now has her own cool online store.

But it doesn’t offer subscriptions to The Economist.

November 26, 2006


November 26, 2006

IT’S THREE, THREE, THREE BLOGS IN ONE — or maybe in three! It’s the new

November 26, 2006

DISSING THE TROOPS AGAIN: Charles Rangel pulls a John Kerry, and I don’t think he’ll be able to explain this as a “botched joke.”

Karl Rove’s prayer: Get this guy on TV as much as possible!

November 26, 2006

DIGITAL CAMERA CARNIVAL, PART THREE: I wasn’t going to do a new installment of this, but people keep sending me stuff! Follow the links for Part One and Part Two if you happened to miss those earlier installments.

Reader Roger Baumgarten emails:

I’m a thrilled owner of the Canon Digital Rebel XT. Have produced amazing pix with this body coupled with the Canon 70-200 f/4L, Tamron 28-75 f/2.8, and my new Canon 85 f/1.8. Here’s a sample gallery, shot hand-held, no flash, ISO 1600!!! The lack of noise at high ISO is astonishing.

For general browsing of my XT photos:

Yes, you get much lower noise at high ISO’s with digital SLRs than with pocket cameras, because of the larger sensor sizes and better noise-reduction circuitry.

Jonathan Gewirtz emails:

Once you get that neat new digital camera you will need to organize and edit the many photos that you will make. The right software makes doing this a lot easier. Photoshop is great, but for quick image adjustments, batch editing and organizing, as well as super-easy photo emailing and other features (slideshow making, print ordering), Google’s Picasa is hard to beat. It’s free, very well designed and the latest version allows you (finally!) to use your own directory hierarchy for organizing images. Because Picasa is so easy to use and doesn’t cost anything it’s worth trying even if you already have photo software that you like.

I’ve been meaning to give it a try. I use Photoshop CS for serious editing, and Photoshop Elements — or, on my laptop, the extremely elderly but still adequate Micrografx Picture Publisher — for lighter duty. I haven’t upgraded to the latest Photoshop Elements though. Maybe I should give Picasa a try. You can’t beat free.

Bill Hobbs emails with a question:

I have a Canon Digital Rebel with a 28-135mm image-stabilized zoom that I absolutely love – although I do crave the higher mega-pixel of the 30D.

My question is: My daughter, age 9, wants to start taking pictures, and I’m not wanting to hang my thousand-dollar camera around her neck, what the best point-and-shoot digital camera under $200 or even under $150?

I’d go with the Ken Rockwell-recommended Canon Powershot A530 — at $149 it hits the under-150 price point, and Rockwell loves it.

Reader Andrew K emails:

I was wondering if you are into scuba at all. If so, any recommendations on a decent digital camera and case for underwater photography (down to recreational limits of about 120 ft.)?

I’m very much into scuba, and I generally rent my cameras from Cathy Church’s underwater photo center. You can see some of the stuff they use here. The pictures — and underwater video — for my Popular Mechanics rebreather piece were taken with the housed Olympus. It worked fine.

You can buy underwater housings — mostly designed for particular cameras — from Ikelite and other companies. I’d recommend renting, though, unless you plan to do a lot of photography over an extended period.

Reader Karen Baker emails:

I have a photoblog called Photos by Seawitch.

I’m including a couple of photos. Both of these were taken with my Nikon D50. I’ve been experimenting with a number of the settings to see what works best when. At my blog, the photos are from my HP Photosmart M407 and the Nikon D50. I switched to the Nikon D50 because I wanted to be able to use telephoto and macro lenses. I don’t have a macro lens yet, but very soon. A lot of my shots are of brown pelicans, least terns, and osprey. There’s also a lot that are of the damage done to my hometown of Gulfport and other cities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

I created three videos with some of the pictures I’ve taken.

Link This was done at the start of the hurricane season for 2006. It has before, during, and after shots of Hurricane Katrina

Link I did this one to thank all the volunteers, military, local, state, and federal officials, the utility companies, and the police and fire departments.

Link I did this for the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and it shows the progress that has been made.

The photos are a mix from both cameras and each one is set to music. The are between 4 1/2 to just under 5 minutes long.

I hope you’ll consider watching the videos and possibly linking to my photo blog. I realize you must receive many e-mails.

I sure have gotten a lot here! That’s it for this series, though. I’m carnivalled-out!

November 26, 2006

IF PEOPLE ARE SO WORRIED ABOUT MITT ROMNEY’S MORMONISM, why aren’t they just as worried about Harry Reid’s?

I’m pretty sure that if Republicans raised questions about Reid, they’d be accused of bigotry.

November 26, 2006

MARK STEYN looks at demographics and destiny.

November 26, 2006

AN INTERESTING COMPARISON OF what the BBC thinks is important vs. what its readers think is important.

(Via Jeff Jarvis.)

November 26, 2006

SOME GRIM MILESTONES are observed: “On a related note, at the current rate the US military death toll will surpass that of the 1.5-year long Mexican War (13283) in another 10 or 12 years or so.”

November 26, 2006

MILITARY RECRUITING: John McIntyre notes sloppiness and inaccuracy on the part of Paul Campos. For some people, it’s always 1968.

November 26, 2006


November 26, 2006

MORE INTERESTING DEVELOPMENTS IN ANBAR, where the U.S. and local tribes seem to be going after Al Qaeda pretty hard all of a sudden.

November 26, 2006

JEEZ: “They’re here, they’re fat, and they want a department devoted to them.”

UPDATE: Tom Elia: “What if you’re not only fat, but also short and bald with a big nose? Do people like me get three academic departments, or one special, blended one?”

November 26, 2006

GATEWAY PUNDIT has a roundup on those massive anti-Chavez marches in Caracas.

Plus, here’s video from Venezuela News and Views, and more photos. Estimates are over a million people; such estimates are always iffy, of course, but these photos show a huge number of marchers.

November 26, 2006


November 26, 2006

MARK IN MEXICO continues to report on events in Oaxaca.

November 26, 2006

YOUTUBE joins the drug war.

November 26, 2006

ANOTHER WRONG-HOUSE NO-KNOCK RAID. Something needs to be done.

November 25, 2006


November 25, 2006


The Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar, the oldest and most highly respected institution in Sunni Islam; and the Grand Mufti of Egypt have released an official fatwa declaring the practice of female circumcision (also called female genital mutilation or female genital cutting) un-Islamic. The decision was made at a conference hosted in Egypt and attended by Muslim clergy from around the world.

Sadly, this counts as progress. But, you know, it does count as progress.

November 25, 2006

RADLEY BALKO has more thoughts on paramilitary police raids. I agree on the difficulty of winning a Section 1983 suit. It happens, and sometimes there’s a settlement before trial — I consulted on a case a few years ago that produced a big settlement, though it should have produced a bigger one — but it’s very much an uphill battle.

November 25, 2006

HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS march against Hugo Chavez in Caracas, according to this report. Pretty impressive photo.

November 25, 2006

BLOGGING ABOUT BIG SCREEN TV’S AT TALKLEFT. Here’s a big post on the subject from InstaPundit a while back.

I wound up buying this one, and I remain quite happy with it. Note that I was able to get the local H.H. Gregg store to match the Amazon price. And here’s some advice from the folks at Consumer Reports.

November 25, 2006

RON BAILEY LOOKS AT big ideas for the future of energy. “Maybe Nocera is right that solar power is the way to go, but history teaches us to scrap the Apollo Project model for technology R&D. Federal bureaucrats are simply not smart enough to pick winning energy technologies. Instead, eliminate all energy subsidies, set a price for carbon, and then let tens of thousands of energy researchers and entrepreneurs develop and test various new technologies in the market. No one knows now how humanity will fuel the 21st century, but Apollo and Manhattan Project-style Federal energy research projects will prove to be a huge waste of time, money and talent.”

November 25, 2006

GRASSROOTS POPULISM: It’s in the most unlikely places.

November 25, 2006

HEH: “I guess you can be an absolute moral authority without being an absolute spelling authority.”

November 25, 2006

WELL, YES. Glenn Greenwald is extraordinarily lame, even when he’s writing under his own name. The problem with the term “Christianist” isn’t that it adds “ist” to the end of a religion. It’s that, by parallelling “Islamist,” it is a deliberate attempt at conflating people who oppose gay marriage — or, apparently, Madonna’s schlocky posturing — with people who blow up discos and mosques, and throw gay people off of walls. That’s the kind of execrable moral equivalence engaged in by the Soviets and their proxies, and it’s the sort of thing that Andrew Sullivan used to oppose eloquently, before he started to engage in it himself.

For a more intelligent take, read this. And there’s a bit more, here.

UPDATE: More on the difference between Islamists and “Christianists,” in a video that can be found here. It’s a sad thing — actually, it’s a shameful thing — that I have to point this out.

November 25, 2006

MICKEY KAUS: “Alcee Hastings has mounted his defense, and it looks like the last-ditch variety.”

UPDATE: Joe Conason: “No doubt Pelosi understands that she, the Congressional Black Caucus and the new Democratic Congress will hear mocking laughter from all sides if they turn HPSCI over to Hastings. They may mumble about the possibility that the FBI crime lab compromised the evidence against him, or claim that they now worry about the fairness of his impeachment trial. Weighed against their own votes to impeach and convict him, and against their promises to clean up the corrupt Congress, those claims will count for nothing. The chairmanship of a select committee is not an entitlement, and grave doubts about the integrity of Hastings should disqualify him.” (Via A.L.F.).

November 25, 2006

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Ed Morrissey has some useful thoughts on pork:

Are Americans in love with pork? I find that hypothesis doubtful. Representative Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has crusaded against pork in Congress, ran on an explicitly anti-pork platform in Arizona for his re-election campaign. He promised to keep pork from flowing into his district — and he won re-election by a margin of 74%-26%, outpolling his challenger by 71,000 votes out of 147,000.

Why did Flake win? Voters in his district understand that pork and earmarks are the gateway drug to corruption. Every major corruption scandal has revolved around earmarking federal funds for grants and contracts to specific entities, who have returned the favor by showering the politicians with favors, gifts, and cash — plenty of cash. Bribery does not work as easily on the macro level in Congress, because it takes so many votes to get a bill passed. Instead, corrupting influences focus on gaining federal money through amendments and earmarks because those are routinely carried as a professional courtesy into the final version of the legislation.

If one cares about clean government, then one has to oppose pork and the earmarking process. At the very least, the process should be stripped of its anonymity and exposed to the taxpayers who foot the bill. If we can stop earmarks, then we can limit the damage possible from corrupt politicians. We need to promote more Jeff Flakes for office, and fewer Robert Byrds, Trent Lotts, and Ted Kennedys.

Read the whole thing.

November 25, 2006

A TOUCHING FAITH in the good sense of the American people.

Actually, that would be a good show — where the real Kramer gets a lot of heat for the behavior of the actor who plays him on TV. It’s almost Seinfeldian. . . .

November 25, 2006

THINGS ARE HEATING UP IN OAXACA, and it doesn’t look pretty.

UPDATE: Drew Kelley emails:

If Iraq is a “civil war”, and it is a multi-party dispute over who is going to run things; what in the hell is Mexico, where you actually have a second “government” (I think we could have a real good debate as to whether or not Mexico has a first “government”) proclaimed as the legitimate voice of the people, and there is various degrees of anarchy in the streets of major cities throughout the country? Just who does run Laredo? Juarez? Chiapas? What constitutes a civil war in Mexico?

Mexico isn’t like Iraq, but it’s in worse shape than most Americans realize.

November 25, 2006

SO I WENT TO THE MALL, and it was crowded but not absolutely jammed, probably because of the football game. The mall workers told me that it was extremely busy yesterday on “Black Friday,” so I guess people are shopping.

Mary Katharine Ham, meanwhile, reports that this year’s Black Friday coverage is much more positive, now that we’ve entered the bold new age of Democratic-led prosperity. “Three cheers for Democrats and their Black-Friday-Fixin’, Reluctance-Banishing, Cure-All Economic Elixir!”

Plus, a look back at the reporting of Michael Hiltzik!

November 25, 2006

JOHN WIXTED has decided to support raising the minimum wage.

November 25, 2006

HOLIDAY SHOPPING ON FRIDAY was reportedly “huge.” And online shopping was strong enough to stall Wal-Mart’s website.

I’m doing (actually, have already done) most of my Christmas shopping at old reliable, but I will be taking the girls to the mall later today. I’ll report back on how it looks, though I’m pretty sure the answer is going to be “crowded as hell.”

UPDATE: Time for another poll!

Where will you do your holiday shopping?
All or nearly all online
Mostly online
About half and half
Mostly bricks-and-mortar stores
All or nearly all bricks-and-mortar stores free polls

November 25, 2006

RADLEY BALKO HAS MORE on the Atlanta no-knock raid that resulted in the death of a 92-year-old woman. Plus this useful observation:

If the police storm in and you — not being a drug dealer and consequently having no reason to think the police might break into your home — mistake them for criminal intruders and meet them with a gun, you are at fault. I guess your crime is living in an area where drug dealers could use your porch while you aren’t home, or being a too trusting, frail, old woman. Sorry about your luck.

On the other hand, if the police break into your home and they mistake the blue cup, TV remote, the t-shirt you’re holding to cover your genitals because they broke in while you were sleeping naked, or the glint off your wristwatch for a gun — and subsequently shoot you (all of these scenarios have actually happened), well, then no one is to blame. Because, you see, SWAT raids are inherently dangerous and volatile, and it’s perfectly understandable how police might mistake an innocent person holding a t-shirt for a violent drug dealer with gun.

Do you see the double standard, here? If the warrant is legit, they are allowed to make mistakes. You aren’t.

This discrepancy grows all the more absurd when you consider that they have extensive training, you don’t. They have also spent hours preparing for the raid. You were startled from your sleep, and have just seconds to make a life-or-death decision. To top it all off, many times they’ve just deployed a flashbang grenade that is designed to confuse and disorient you.

What’s the solution? It isn’t to encourage people to start shooting raiding cops to kill. That kind of talk is foolish, and needs to stop. But it isn’t to encourage to people to refrain from defending their homes, either. Both of those suggestions will lead to more people dying — both police and citizens.

The solution is actually pretty simple: Stop invading people’s homes for nonviolent offenses.

Yes. Also, the police should be held strictly liable for mistakes, without benefit of official immunity. And they should be required to record video of the entire proceedings, in a tamper-resistant format.

UPDATE: Over at The Volokh Conspiracy, an interesting comment from Tom Holsinger:

I have about 700-800 hours of experience litigating police brutality and excessive force cases as plaintiff’s counsel in private practice, and evaluating them as a trial court research attorney, mostly the former. My county, Stanislaus in California, had a tragedy occur during a no-knock raid when a police officer accidently killed a young boy in bed with the accidental discharge of a shotgun.

IMO the standard which should be used for wrongful death and injury actions by persons other than those identified in the warrant in no-knock raids should be strict liability. Ditto for even the person identified in the warrant if the items searched for are not found.

No-knock searches create an inherent major risk of harm to innocent persons such that compensation for injury should be mandated. I.e., immunity would be irrelevant. Pay immediately. Plus a reasonable attorney’s fee.

I think he’s exactly right, of course.

November 25, 2006

LONDON POISONING UPDATE: Reportedly, it was polonium, and others are at risk. Has Putin overstepped this time?

UPDATE: Paul Milenkovic emails:

To ask if Mr. Putin has overstepped, if he is indeed implicated as the victim of poisoning has charged, is to put things a bit mildly. For all of the talk of the terrorist threat from the political Islam and a nuclear threat ranging from an atom bomb downwards towards “dirty bombs”, it appears that the first radiologicial act of terrorism was state-sponsored and connected to Russia.

And this is radiological terrorism. In addition to killing one man, one has to ask how many others were exposed, perhaps not to a lethal dose but to a quantity to result in cancer some years later? While this does not rise to the level of a dirty bomb attack, it certainly crosses a threshold and gives other terrorists ideas regarding the kind of attack they could stage.

Conducting an assassination in a foreign country by shooting a man or perhaps by poison is one thing, but employing a radioactive poison is crossing a threshold we all hoped would not be crossed. If this sort of thing had been connected to political Islam there would have been some serious repercussions, but as Russia still maintains a nuclear arsenal, they will get away with this, and there will be terrible consequences for letting this pass.

Well, at least this is out, and not being covered up the way some Iranian assassination efforts have been.

November 25, 2006

GUNS IN NATIONAL PARKS: Extreme Mortman notes that James Webb and George Allen agree on this issue, something that escaped the notice of the New York Times as it ridiculed Allen for his position.

I predict that Webb will produce more embarrassments of this sort for the Times and various others.

November 25, 2006

MORE NEWS FROM ANBAR, at The Mudville Gazette.

And there’s more here, including a complaint that the rules of engagement are leaving U.S. forces “hamstrung.”

UPDATE: Reader Nicholas Klemen emails:

I want to point out a huge difference between Iraq and Vietnam that people fail to mention. In Vietnam, we had one powerful enemy, and our defeat assured the communist victory.

In Iraq, there are at least 5 major warring factions, perhaps more. Kurds, secular Sunnis, fundie Sunnis, nationalist Shia, and Iranian-backed Shia. Even if we haven’t won this round, neither has anyone else. This war isn’t over…not be a longshot. That doesn’t mean we need to stay and occupy, but we can pick winners and use diplomacy to guide the result of the civil war into a democracy.

I don’t know if we can pick winners, but we may be able to pick a couple of losers, which may be good enough. (Seeing that the right people lose is important, after all). The Sunnis seem to have picked themselves as losers, and to be doing their best to ensure that they’ll be driven out of the country in response to their campaign of terror.

UPDATE: I don’t think that what’s happening to the Sunnis is a good thing; I just think they’ve brought it on themselves by foolishly stirring up a civil war that they can’t win. They haven’t been as canny as I’d hoped. What’s going on now is a political, not a military problem — we’d rather it were a military problem because we’re better at military matters than politics — and it will require an Iraqi political solution. The Sunnis, however, seem to me to have ensured that it will be a solution that they don’t like.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A more detailed, and positive, take at The Mudville Gazette.

November 25, 2006

BUCK SARGENT says goodbye.

November 25, 2006


Dr. Dick’s discovery of the first cancer stem cell that year has led to the flurry of recent breakthroughs redefining cancer biology. Scientists once believed all cancer cells could sprout and sustain a tumour. But proof is growing that this deadly power belongs only to a tiny subset of abnormal stem cells that had previously gone undetected. These bad seeds have now been identified as the source of cancers of the blood, breast, bone, prostate, and this week, in another finding from Dr. Dick, the colon.

The implications are staggering. Billions of dollars and decades of research may have targeted the wrong cells to cure the disease. No current treatment has been designed to kill them and they appear to be naturally resistant to the gold-standard therapies.

This may lead to new and better treatments, which is good. It’s kind of depressing to think that we may have been going about things all wrong, though. (Via NewsBeat1).

November 24, 2006

SANDY LEVINSON: “This is the perfect time for Speaker-designate Pelosi to announce that she will sponsor a bill, ideally with the outgoing Speaker Dennis Hastert, to revert to the older Succession in Office Act that was replaced in 1947 with the present one. This would indeed make Condoleezza Rice the designated successor were the vice presidency vacant. It would represent an act of high statepersonship and, as much as any single act could do, establish that she means it when she describes the arrival not only of new leadership, but a new public-spiritiedness to replace naked partisanship.”

Mike Rappaport agrees. Any idea that can draw the support of both is worth thinking about.

UPDATE: Ilya Somin agrees, too, and adds: “There is also another weakness in the current system, one that Michael and Sandy don’t consider in their posts. Fourth in line under the 1947 act is the president pro tempore of the Senate. By tradition, the president pro temp is the longest-serving Senator of the majority party. The current PPT is Republican porker Ted Stevens of Alaska – soon to be replaced by the Democrats’ own ‘King of Pork,’ Bob Byrd of West Virginia. In addition to their other shortcomings, both Stevens and Byrd are in their 80s (83 and 89 respectively). This is not accidental. By its very nature, the presidency pro temp is likely to be held by elderly and often infirm politicians. Senators who last for decades are also likely (by virtue of their seniority) to be heavily implicated in porkbarreling and other dubious practices of the world’s greatest deliberative body. For these reasons, among others, the PPT should not be included in the line of presidential succession.”

November 24, 2006

JIM GERAGHTY NOTES THAT assassination is now becoming stylish.

November 24, 2006

IF YOU’RE IN LONDON, Jackie Danicki could use your help with a photo identification.

November 24, 2006

PATTERICO IS fact-checking the Los Angeles Times on Ramadi.

UPDATE: Marc Danziger says that Patterico is understating his case.

November 24, 2006


The judge who acquitted a New Brunswick blogger of obstructing justice says Charles LeBlanc was merely “plying his trade” at a protest last summer and shouldn’t have been arrested. . . .

LeBlanc, who writes about poverty and politics on his website, was arrested and pinned to the ground by three police officers outside a business conference last June. A police officer later admitted to deleting a photo of himself from LeBlanc’s camera.

So how about charges against the cops?

November 24, 2006

A.C. KLEINHEIDER has more thoughts on pundits who misunderstand Tennessee politics.

They should learn a bit more, or at least let Michael Barone inform their views a bit.

November 24, 2006

DIGITAL CAMERA CARNIVAL, PART TWO: The stuff on these seems to be coming in faster than I can get around to posting it. Maybe I’ll do a part three! Maybe not . . . . Here’s a link to Part One in case you missed it.

Reader Kelaine Vargas emails:

With info from one of your earlier camera blogs, I bought the Sony DSC-T10 and am thrilled with it. I really wanted one that would fit in my jeans pocket–the images are great, and it has a lot of functional and actually useful options. It also uploads into Picasa on my Dell laptop very easily. But the coolest thing about it was the ingenious waterproof case you can buy for it. It might not take brilliant underwater pictures, but so far on a motorboat, on the beach and in a kayak, it has been indispensable–I’ve been the only one who could take pictures without worrying about getting wet or sandy!

Those are available for a lot of small digital cameras. So are more sophisticated cases for scuba photography, though I have always just rented underwater cameras myself. Reader Lee Earle emails:

My choice is the Pentax Optio T10. I picked it up overseas when my old Olympus gave up the ghost.

What sold me on it is that there are NO tiny selectors or dials. Everything but the on/off, shutter, and review is touch-screen – as with many video digicams.

For old folks like me, it is superbly easy to use. Tons of features and controls (most of them I’ll never use) that are easily accessible via fingertip control. When reviewing shots at increased magnification, it even offers touch-&-drag’ – much like Yahoo maps – to move the image within the ‘window’ to see additional areas and detail.

Sound, movies, and even note taking, right on the photo!

That is pretty cool. With more of the populace getting older and bifocalish, maybe one of my pet peeves regarding electronics — tiny, low-contrast labels on switches and jacks — will finally be addressed.

Reader Luke Holder sends this link and writes: “I am a Marine Corps officer, pursuing photography as an hobby, and have only recently started a blog to share my work. My post isn’t so much about my camera as it is about my pictures … but isn’t a camera all about the pictures anyway?” Yes, it is.

Reader Kirk Parker writes: “I’m a film-camera old dog just looking at transitioning to digital. (How old? My favorite SLR is the all-mechanical Pentax KX.) I find the possibility of using ‘old glass’ on a digital camera very interesting. One thing that concerns me is the difference in image area between the digital sensor and the 24x36mm film size in 35mm. How does this translate to ‘effective’ focal length? I’d love hearing more from some of your readers like Trey Monroe on this subject.” This depends on sensor size, but generally there’s a significant stepup in effective focal length — on my Nikon, for example, a 12mm lens is equivalent to an 18mm lens on a 35mm camera.

Reader Jim Martin notes that there are issues to mounting old Nikon lenses on Nikon digital SLR bodies, and sends a link to this report by Nikon blogger Thom Morgan: “The original F-mount appeared in 1959, and lenses that were produced from then until about 1979 are usually referred to as Pre-AI. These lenses are dangerous on current Nikon bodies. With the exception of a modified F5, mounting one of these lenses on your new Nikon will result in damage, so don’t even try it. If you find that you have one of these lenses and want to use it on a current camera, you must have the lens converted to AI first. Nikon used to do this, but now it’s done by a number of independent companies.” There’s a handy table of what works and what doesn’t, too.

Martin also sends a link to these cool photos by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

Here’s more thinking on lenses from Alan Digman:

Completely agree with Trey Monroe regarding good glass. I, too, own a D50 DSLR (and have been an avid photographer for about 30 years). The difference between a kit lens and a higher quality ‘faster’ lens is nothing short of astonishing. While decent gear in general is important, I agree with Ken Rockwell that the most important thing with photography is the hands in which the camera rests. I can’t say enough about Ken’s excellent, practical advice.

Just remember…Shoot until you can shoot no more….That’s the beauty of digital.

Yes, and shooting, and reviewing, lots of pictures will make you a better photographer. And Ken Rockwell is always full of good advice.

Reader James Goneaux writes that he’d really like this 160 megapixel camera, but that he thinks he’ll spend the price on something else: “Like my son’s college years. All of them.”

Tom Grey has an interesting request:

Please advise on a digital camera with video AND with a setting for audio only recording — so I can take a picture, or a short video, or a long recording without picture. Cameras with the Video, like my Canon Powershot A85, have everything technically there, except a switch to just record audio only. You’ve already noted how the microphones for video are often pretty good.

An audio recording camera would be excellent for little podcasts for PJ Media, possibly with a single still picture — like so many news shows are now doing.

That would be a nice feature. Of course, most video editing programs — and many audio editing programs — will let you extract the audio from a video recording, but you’re wasting memory if all you want is audio.

Paul Worthington has a post on wide-angle photography and digital cameras. He likes the Kodak V570 because it supports a wider field of view than most small digital cameras. It’s also stylish and attractive.

Robert Finley has a bag-bleg: “I have a D70. I love it, for every reason you could conceivably love a camera. One thing I don’t love, however, is my old cam bag that I’m using. It’s a leftover from my film SLR. I would love input on a simple, durable bag that is appropriate for a very high activity level (hiking and stuff like that). I’ve dug around on the web, and have found little in the way of objective reviews.”

Aaron Vienot writes to disagree with my preference for cameras that use AA batteries:

IMO, your preference for cameras that use commodity battery types (e.g. AA), brushes past two important points: cost (high) and battery life (low, in my experience).

My previous camera was a cheap 4MP fixed-lens that used two AAAs. A friend still has an older-but-nice 3MP that uses two AAs. Battery consumption rates in both cameras was/is phenomenal. I tried lithium AAAs (cost: about $2.50/cell) in my camera and the life expectancy maybe tripled as compared to alkalines, although the depletion mode was deceptive: the camera would report full battery power until about two minutes before the lithium cells were unusable.

That camera failed under warranty and I decided to trade up to a proper zoom lens. I chose a Casio Exilm EX-Z60. It has a huge LCD display, a 3X optical zoom, a 6MP resolution, and a 3.7V Li-Ion battery.

Several months later, I can report that the battery life is excellent. The battery recharges from AC in about two hours; the charging dock is compact enough to travel comfortably in a smaller camera case. A spare battery was also purchased for the camera. I have yet to be stranded, not even during an all-day Fourteener hike in the Colorado Rockies. The spare would have paid for itself in under a year, except that I got in on sale: it has already paid for itself. I want nothing more to do with cameras that require consumable batteries.

On the other hand, reader Pat Slattery emails:

Last night a friend’s daughter’s Sony digital camera battery caught fire on her dresser and started the room on fire. Fortunately, they extinguished the fire (which was spreading rapidly). This was a new battery she’d just received from Sony. Have you heard of this happening to anyone else, like the problem with the laptop batteries a few months ago? Apparently this thing didn’t just smoke, it literally went up in flames large enough to ignite the pictures on the wall, etc. Her daughter’s friend happened to be in the room when it ignited and said that it just suddenly started burning.

I searched google news for “sony digital camera battery fire” and didn’t find any reports.

Over at DailyPundit, David Gillies posts a review of his Canon Powershot SD600.

Meanwhile, Lynne Kiesling likes her waterproof Pentax Optio W10.

And N.Z. Bear has a review, including photos of his new Canon SD800IS, which he likes a lot.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that people usually love their digital cameras. Part of this is because cameras — especially digital cameras — are cool, and they’re a kind of creative partner in something we like. I think it’s also because (as Lynne kind of notes) they keep getting better even faster than we expect.

Of course, Chester has a blog post that should be entitled “Who needs a digital camera when you’ve got a RAZR phone?”

And here’s a lot of advice from a reader who says (s)he is well positioned to know:

If you use this please do so anonymously. Since I work for a major retailer, and I’m a bit sharp about some of our supplier’s products, I’d rather not have my name attached to this one.

I run a photo lab for a major retailer, and see a lot of prints from a lot of cameras. On the side, I do the occasional wedding for a little extra spending money, using a Canon 20D. Because I’m such a camera freak, I keep a small point and shoot with me everywhere I go. Here’s my thoughts on what I’ve seen in your first camera carnival post, and what I’ve seen on the market so far. YMMV, etc.

Prime lenses are nice, but Image Stabilized or Vibration Reduction zoom lenses are a lot more versatile. In the digital era, one shouldn’t be changing lenses any more than necessary, as dust on the sensor is a pain to clean off. My favorite lenses are ones that start at about 28mm equivalent (for the smaller APS “C” class sensors most manufacturers seem to prefer) and end up at 300mm equivalent. Nikon has a nice 18-200mm VR, as do Sigma and Tamron. Canon, as usual, is playing catch up. If you’re an enthusiast or a pro with specialized needs, buy primes. Otherwise, don’t waste space and weight in your camera bag.

The best point and shoot camera on the market for image quality and versatility, bar none, is the Fuji F30. Yes, it tends to blow out highlights a bit in bright sunlight, nothing that can’t be corrected with a -2/3 EV, easily accessible through the EV button the manufacturer thoughtfully provides on the camera body. But this beast really shines indoors, with an ISO range from 100-3200. At ISO 800, the F30 has less digital noise than most cameras at ISO 200. That makes all the difference in the world between getting the shot and not. As if that weren’t nough, Fuji’s iFlash system really does work wonders, rarely causing red eye, and providing far better illumination than any other camera in it’s class. Add to that a 580 shot life for the battery (if you use flash half the time, which you really won’t need to), a very sharp, distortion free lens, and you’ve got a winner.

So what if it’s only 6MP? I’ve got news for the camera manufacturers: Pixel stuffing is killing the industry. There’s not a compact or point and shoot camera over 8MP I’d dirty my hands with. I wouldn’t even own them for a paperweight, they’re that bad. Image quality for compacts peaked at 7MP, and went downhill from there. Too many pixels on the sensor means too little light at each pixel site, which means too much noise in the image.

DSLR’s are getting cheaper all the time. At the moment, almost every major lens manufacter out there has a compatible digital body. Given that DSLR sensors are 5 or more times larger than compact camera sensors, the consumer can expect DSLR pictures to be as much as 5 times better, particularly in terms of digital noise.

So what should you buy? If you need a compact, buy something with no more than 8MP, preferably 7MP or less. You know my feelings for Fuji, but they’re not the only good manufacturer out there. I bought a Canon A620 for my mother. The Canon A710IS has been very favorably reviewed. Nikon is usually very good, Kodak is easy to use, as is Pentax, and Casio definitely lives up to their motto, “The unexpected extra!”. In a good way, I mean.

If you need an ultrazoom, the Fuji S6000FD is on my Christmas list, and almost all of the other manufacturers have decent offerings. The Canon S3IS, Sony H2, and Panasonic FZ7 spring to mind. The Nikon S10 is pretty nifty if you need a small camera in this class.

If you need a digital SLR, buy whatever body matches your lenses, or if you have no lenses, go to a camera shop and try out the different models. In fact, that’s good advice, no matter what camera class you plan to purchase. But whatever you do, be skeptical of claims made by salespeople, particularly those who receive commissions.


Over at Brain Fertilizer an ode to the Lumix FZ10.

I’d hoped for more on printers, but over at The Online Photographer, a first look at the new HP 9180 printer — which looks to be pretty cool indeed.

And, finally — this came in just as I was posting here — Brian Frye is photoblogging from Alaska. Lots of cool pix. That’s what the cameras are for!

November 24, 2006

JOHN TAMMES ROUNDS UP news from Afghanistan that you may have missed.

November 24, 2006

ARE “CHRISTIANISTS” TAKING OVER TENNESSEE? Clark Stooksbury wonders how he missed it: “Maybe I have breathed in too much smoke from cross burnings or have been bitten at too many snake handling services, but I hadn’t previously considered how the post-election decision of one Tennessee network affiliate to preempt a Madonna concert for such ‘Christianist’ propaganda as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off would have on the election in Tennessee two weeks earlier.

Perhaps that’s more of Ann Coulter’s space-time bending at work. Plus, Stooksbury observes: “The other big election in Tennessee was for governor. We reelected Phil Bredesen, the son of a Tennessee dirt farmer who became a Pentecostal preacher. No wait, Bredesen is actually a New Jersey born, Harvard educated health care executive who was overwhelmingly reelected this year — he carried every county.” Subtle they are, those Christianists.

UPDATE: Subtler than I knew! James Somers emails:

I couldn’t help but notice that here in Connecticut tonight, one of the network affiliates is going to be running “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” in primetime. What does this mean? Sure, Connecticut is the only state in America that, without being compelled by a court order, enacted legislation recognizing civil unions between gays. Sure, we nominated Ned Lamont to run for Senate. But you know, I’m sure they could have run a Madonna concert instead of this Matthew Broderick hash if they had wanted. From this I can only assume that Puritanism isn’t dead here in New England, and that the dark forces of the Theocratic Christianist Theoconservatives are alive and well in the Nutmeg State. Can we be far at all from banning kite-flying and conducting mass executions at soccer stadiums?

This whole “Christianist” thing is kind of silly, as episodes like this one illustrate. At best, it’s a vapid book-marketing term, but it seems more like a variety of bigotry on its own account, and a pretty empty variety of bigotry at that.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Like I said. Sheesh.

November 24, 2006

THE INSTA-WIFE IS NOT AMUSED at the HuffPo prayer for Dick Cheney’s death, comparing it to Michael Richards’ outburst.

November 24, 2006


November 24, 2006


I don’t have much to add to those, although we’ve been very happy with this latest iteration of the venerable George Foreman grill, which has removable dishwasher-safe grill plates. I threw away the old one in disgust a couple of years ago because it was so hard to clean. This one isn’t. We mostly use it for making Paninis — I haven’t tried out the waffle attachment yet, but it looks as if it should work well.

November 24, 2006

HARD COMPRESSION, SOFT COMPRESSION: My earlier post on hardware compressors drew a response from Ed Driscoll suggesting that software compression is just as good. Yes and no.

I use a lot of compression on podcasts — much, much more than I use on music, where my instinct is generally to fiddle with the original signal as little as possible. (In fact, getting bolder about that is one thing that improved our sound quality a lot over the first several episodes). And I do the compression on the .wav files in the computer. But I also use hardware compression on the input side, mostly so that when somebody laughs, coughs, etc., it doesn’t produce a peak signal that’s loud enough to produce distortion. I could accomplish the same thing by just recording at a lower level and then boosting levels on the .wav file in the computer later, but I find it’s always best to start with a good, loud, clean signal — you can do a lot in the digital realm, but you can do a lot more if you start out with a pretty good signal to begin with.

As with the noise reduction software — Ed likes Soundsoap, which is for the Mac, I get the same thing with the noise reduction routine in Adobe Audition — there are limits to how far you can go without introducing artifacts. When we do the podcast interviews by phone I always record a few seconds of silence up front (which is really a few seconds’ sample of the telephone line noise) and then, when processing later, I sample that, tell Audition to take out everything that sounds like that, and generally produce a pretty dramatic improvement. Nonetheless, I try to start with as little noise as possible. The noise reduction is pretty good — when we interviewed Michael Zemel in his office, there was a loud air conditioner outside, and the noise reduction removed that so efficiently that you could hear the room reverberation when we talked, something that was completely masked by the air conditioner noise on the original file. But that was taking it about as far as it would go. My own philosophy of signal processing, unless you’re deliberately trying to produce something distorted and weird, is that less is more. Not everyone agrees, of course, but the better the signal you start with, the more room you have for fiddling with it later.

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll emails that Soundsoap isn’t just for Macs, and he’s right. Sorry — I hadn’t realized there was a PC version, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Boy, write about music-geek stuff and the email pours in:

Tom Spaulding here, guitar tech for John Fogerty, currently with Hall and Oates on their promo tour for their excellent Christmas CD “Home For Christmas”. I’m blogging that tour at Caught Up In The Fable.

I agree with most of your take on signal processing, but you might get better results in eliminating air conditioning noise by using a high pass filter on your interview mic. I’m sure you are aware of the “bass
roll-off” switch on most microphones that typically attenuates the amount of low end (100hz or lower). There’s not much useable info down there in a voice interview and eliminating it at the source (the mic) will let the algorithm of the software noise reducer work more efficiently in removing the rest of the noise.

I tend to favor the Waves De-noiser plug-ins in Cubase and Nuendo…very useful. Another good hardware compressor that can be bought cheaply is the half-rack dbx 163X. Ebay has them for around $50-100 dollars: one slider that reads “more” is all you need!

Yes, I keep the roll-off switch on on the Edirol all the time, and will probably never remove it unless I record a concert or something. And check out Tom’s blog for lots of cool photos and guitar-geekery. I should note that Bob Britt, who’s playing as Fogerty’s second guitarist at the moment (or at least when I saw him on an MHD special recently), is really, really good.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Lawrence Faria emails:

Having John Fogerty’s technician confirm your compression tactics is heavy duty confirmation that you really know what you’re doing. I’m surprised, though that in the discussion of your instinct to preserve as much as possible of the original signal didn’t include getting the best possible signal with the best possible microphone.

In an October 28th post, you mentioned your experience with your brother’s old Western Electric phone. You mentioned you wish you had one. Bill Quick noted that post, and added that they often turn up at Goodwill and the Salvation Army.

If you want one, you now have a place to look for one of the most durable products ever made. If you can arrange to have an university official see you rummaging around in those places, you might even get a pay raise out of it.

Heh. Alas, though, it’s the phone that our interviewees are talking on that raises problems. On my end, it’s a fairly decent AKG C3000 condenser microphone.

November 24, 2006

JANE HAMSHER: Cementing the Democrats’ position by calling swing voters stupid.

Plus, praying for Dick Cheney’s death, at the Huffington Post.

Just in case you thought that bitter, angry losers would become less bitter and angry after winning one.

November 23, 2006


November 23, 2006

WELL, EVERYBODY’S GONE, the second load of dishes is in the dishwasher — only two more to go! — and a good time was had by all. The crowd gets bigger as new births and marriages outweigh losses. Our tribe is increasing! We did the traditional toast to those who aren’t with us for reasons of time or space, and everyone had a great time. The two legs of lamb disappeared as if piranhas had gotten to them; ditto the turkey. (No Turducken for us.) Plus stuffing, various casseroles, deviled eggs by the dozen, and a whole bunch of desserts. Also a fair amount of beer and wine. But while consuming mass quantities was once a big deal — a splurge — now we’re all used to having plenty of food. Now the real splurge consists in getting everyone to take time from their busy schedules to all get together. It’s a feast of no-other-priorities! I like it. I think that Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday, because it’s all about getting the family together. When I was a kid, I was bigger on presents. Now, that is the present.

UPDATE: Some readers want the leg of lamb recipe. It’s here, along with some others. And this recipe is a good one, too.

November 23, 2006

TOO BUSY COOKING to put up the next installment of the Digital Camera Carnival today — I’ll post it tomorrow. Entries keep coming in!

Meanwhile, if you missed it, here’s part one.

November 23, 2006

IN THE MAIL: S.M. Stirling’s new novel, The Sky People, an alternate-history kind of science fiction novel in which the cold war was much cooler — and so was Venus. Mars, on the other hand, is warmer. Neat idea. Here’s how he described it in an interview I did with him a while back:

Right now I’m working on an alternate history series which might be summed up as “What if the background of some of the pulps existed in the real world?”

In the 1950’s, we discovered that Earth was definitely the sole inhabitable planet in this solar system, which was a terrible blow to traditional SF.

In my new alternate history, we discover instead that we have two other habitable, and in fact inhabited, planets. Mars is a cold, dry world of ancient ruined cities, thinly peopled by the decadent descendants of lost civilizations (or are they?); Venus a hot, wet, fecund one of primitive humans (and other hominids) with an archaic fauna.

Then I try to treat everything else in as densely realistic a style as I can. It makes for an interesting contrast.

Looks good. Cool cover, too.

November 23, 2006


He said that the price was not the Golan, but rather to get the international tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese prime Minister Rafiq Hariri called off, and to allow Syrian influence and involvement – although maybe not troops – in Lebanon.

“The Syrians are terrified by the prospect of the tribunal,” the official said, “and they want it called off. That is their top priority, and as a by-product they want to keep a hold on Lebanon.”

The Golan was “in no way” the top agenda item for Assad, he said, who was concerned that the tribunal could actually threaten his regime.

“Assad’s regime is a small Alawite clique, with some Sunni allies,” the official explained. “If some of the cornerstones of this very small and tight clique are taken out to be tried, judged and convicted, then the whole building may collapse and this is what Assad is worried about.”

The official said Assad knew who would be implicated and tried, and that – if not Assad himself – it was people “very, very close to him, the top officials of the regime.”

Hmm. But will Baker decide we should sell Lebanon to the Syrians in exchange for empty promises on Iraq? That would be the way to bet, I fear, but perhaps I’m wrong. (Thanks to reader Jim Brown for the link).

Meanwhile, Gemayel’s funeral turns into an anti-Syria rally.

UPDATE: More worries about Bush going wobbly: “The last two years of eight-year presidencies are historically difficult, particularly after a loss in the final midterm elections. Eisenhower in 1959-60 assumed a more aggressive conservative posture by firing off multiple vetoes of excessive spending legislation. During the Iran-contra scandal, Ronald Reagan in 1987-88 was steadfast in pursuing Cold War victory. But the way George W. Bush handled Rumsfeld was not a good sign for his concluding years as president.”

November 23, 2006

REGULATING NANOTECHNOLOGY under FIFRA? “Under the new determination, first reported on Tuesday by the Daily Environment Report, a Washington publication, and confirmed yesterday by the EPA, any company wishing to sell a product that it claims will kill germs by the release of nanotech silver or related technology will first have to provide scientific evidence that the product does not pose an environmental risk.”

UPDATE: Chris Peterson has thoughts on this at Nanodot.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Howard Lovy isn’t surprised.

November 23, 2006

A LIST OF THINGS that American journalists should be thankful for.

November 23, 2006

BE THANKFUL FOR BECCY COLE. They call her “the anti-Dixie Chick,” but that’s appropriate as much for the measured and adult tone of her response to critics as for her actual political views.

November 23, 2006

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! It’ll be the usual here — I’m cooking leg of lamb (actually, 2 of ’em) and a turkey for a family get-together featuring my family and Helen’s. (They’ll bring the other dishes, so it’s not as heavy a cooking load as it sounds.) It’s about 25 people. We always have a good time, and the weather looks like it’ll be good.

November 22, 2006

DISTURBING THE PEACE with potato guns.

I think it was more like one of these than one of these.

November 22, 2006

CARRYING WEAPONS IN NATIONAL PARKS: It seems like a good idea to me. It’s not like there’s a cop on every corner.

November 22, 2006


The problems in Iraq, in the radical Middle East at large—with democratization, with nuclearization, with Islamism—are not, repeat not, a lack of dialogue with Syria and Iran.

We know what both rogue states wish and it is our exit from the Middle East and thus a free hand to undermine the newly established democracies of Lebanon and Iraq—in the manner that all autocracies must destroy their antitheses.

They both sponsor and harbor terrorists for a reason—to undermine anything Western: a Western-leaning Lebanese democracy, a Western-style democracy in Iraq, a Westernized Israel, or soldiers of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Syria, as we see once again with the killing of Pierre Gemayel, is practicing serial murdering in Lebanon. . . . Iran is a rogue nation that seeks bombs to use them against the region’s only viable democracy in Israel. Neither Damascus nor Teheran can tolerate a democratic Iraq—no more than the Soviet Union would have allowed the Baltic Republics to have pro-Western democracies or Nazi Germany wished to be a partner in peace with republican Czechoslovakia.

Yes, yes, we need perhaps to have a national “dialogue”, but not over talking to Iran and Syria—but instead whether we wish to continue to fight and win this war.

Read the whole thing.

November 22, 2006

Photo by the lovely and talented Insta-WifeLAST NIGHT I went to a program at the Knoxville News-Sentinel’s offices by the Society of Professional Journalists. The topic, naturally enough, was blogs and media. Helen came along — for us, this counted as a romantic night out. Yes, we are geeks.

Other participants have already blogged it, so you can read accounts from Randy “SKBubba” Neal (pictured with me to the right), and Bob Stepno. I learned from News Sentinel editor Jack McElroy that they’ll be distributing cheap digital video cameras to their reporters, to add web video content to their stories. I think that’s an excellent idea.

November 22, 2006


November 22, 2006

MARY KATHARINE HAM has posted a special NASCAR-themed edition of HamNation.

November 22, 2006


Plus, fast turkey-cooking with a rocket grill.

November 22, 2006

OUTSOURCING COMPASSION in the health care industry?

November 22, 2006


November 22, 2006

LIVEBLOGGING THE DUTCH ELECTIONS: At Pieter Dorsman’s, of course.

November 22, 2006


The Anbar tribes’ turn against al-Qaeda has developed significantly since the end of the Anbar Campaign late last year, which swept al-Qaeda and the insurgency from the major towns and cities west of Ramadi. Over the past year, the majority of the tribes have denounced al-Qaeda and formed alliances with the Iraqi government and U.S. forces operating in the region. Numerous ‘foreign fighters’ have been killed or captured by the tribes. The tribes are working to restore order, and are providing recruits for the police and Army, despite horrific suicide attacks on recruiting centers. These attacks have not deterred the recruiting, but in fact have motivated the tribes to fight al-Qaeda.

The Anbar tribes have also taken an active role in fighting al-Qaeda. In March, several tribes and Sunni insurgent groups formed the Anbar Revenge Brigades to hunt al-Qaeda operatives in western Iraq. At the end of the summer, 25 of the 31 Anbar tribes banded together and created the Anbar Salvation Council to openly fight al-Qaeda, and pledged “30,000 young men armed with assault rifles who were willing to confront and kill the insurgents and criminal gangs.”The Council has killed and captured numerous ‘foreign fighters’ and has provided hundreds of recruits for the police and Army, despite horrific attacks designed to terrorize new volunteers. . . . Lost in the current debate over Iraq – civil war or sectarian violence, success or failure, increasing troops or strategic redeployment, victory or defeat – is the sea-change occurring in western Iraq. The U.S. military has coaxed a large majority of the Sunnis of Anbar province, perhaps one of the most sympathetic groups to al-Qaeda in the Middle East, to turn on al-Qaeda. The choice wasn’t difficult after the tribes saw what al-Qaeda had to offer.

Read the whole thing.

November 22, 2006

I’VE WRITTEN HERE BEFORE about the Secret Service’s problems — see this collection of links — but here’s a new kind of embarrassment:

First Daughter Barbara Bush had her purse and cell phone stolen as she had dinner in a restaurant in Buenos Aires, Argentina, even though she was being guarded by a detail of Secret Service agents, according to law enforcement reports made available to ABC News. . . .

The purse snatching took place on Barbara’s first night in town while she was dining in the picturesque San Telmo neighborhood. According to the reports, the Secret Service agents failed to notice the incident.

They’re supposed to be looking for assassins, not petty thieves. Still, this is embarrassing, and I imagine that Barbara Bush’s cellphone may have had numbers in it that shouldn’t fall into the wrong hands.

November 22, 2006

BIG NEWS: “PJ Media, as of 9:10 PST today, has been informed that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has just issued an order barring the deportation of Zahra Kamalfar and her children from Moscow for two weeks. Aeroflot – the airline that was going to take Kamalfar and her children to Tehran – has been notified and is reportedly complying. Aeroflot is returning the family belongings that already were shipped by the airline to Tehran. Moscow airport authorities have given the family temporary blankets, etc.” About time.

There’s lots more on this story at PJ Media, which seems to be pretty much the only place covering it.

November 22, 2006

DIGITAL CAMERA CARNIVAL: Okay, the entries are in. There were actually so many that I’m breaking this Carnival into two parts, with the second to follow tomorrow or Friday. (That also means that it’s not too late to send one in — just put “digital camera carnival” in the subject line so that I can find it.) But first, my own post in response to a reader email from Danny Glover (yes, that Danny Glover: the blogger!). Glover writes:

My wife and I are wanting a digital camera but don’t really have any experience in that realm other than clicking a few photos of our kids on my Dad’s camera. I know you’ve written about cameras regularly.

We not looking for anything fancy, but we don’t want junk, either. Any recommendations on the best and most user-friendly options out there now for newcomers like us? Something in the middle tier that will take great pictures, interact well with our Dell Inspiron, etc.? Can you point me to some of your most useful blog posts on the subject?

The short answer is that it’s hard to buy a bad digital camera any more. Most anything in the $200-400 range will be very good, and pretty easy to use. I’m quite happy with my Sony DSC-W7 pocket camera, and you could drop to the 5-megapixel DSC-W5 without sacrificing very much. Ann Althouse has this small Sony, and a look at her blog will illustrate that it does excellent work. Unlike mine, though, it uses a proprietary rechargeable battery instead of AA batteries. I like the flexibility of being able to pick up fresh batteries anywhere in a pinch, though in truth I seldom have to do that.

In this earlier post, Andrew Marcus explains why he favors the Canon Powershot A630 — it’s good, reasonably priced, takes AA batteries and has a swinging display screen that’s handy for some shots. Things to look at: If your laptop has only one kind of cardreader — my Dell has an SD slot but no other — you might want a camera that uses that kind of card. It’s not hard to hook up a USB cable, though. Also check video formats. If you’ve got a PC, you’re better off with a camera that records video in MPEG; if you’ve got an Apple, you might prefer one that records in QuickTime, though this isn’t a big issue if you’re willing to spend 50-75 bucks on software. (More on digital still cameras and video here.) I also recommend checking out sites like, Steve’s Digicams, and for reviews. (I notice that Ken has a holiday camera guide posted, too. He calls the Canon Powershot A530 the best buy of the season, and at $149 on Amazon, it would have to be.) The good news, as I’ve said, is that you can’t really go wrong. Reader Allan McLane writes that he bought the Canon SD800 on Rockwell’s recommendation and reports “I completely agree with his comments.” He also recommends this photoblog.

Here’s a new forum for discussing digital SLRs. And here’s a cool surgical camera.

Clayton Cramer is posting pictures (with links to full 6MP images) from his HP Photosmart e427 camera.

Meanwhile, reader Trey Monroe stresses lenses:

My advice, get a camera that can use interchangeable lenses, and buy up a lot of the older lenses. I have a Nikon D50, entry level digital SLR. I have been buying old glass on eBay, I refuse to pay more than $40 including shipping. What I get are WONDERFUL old lenses that I can use manually on the camera. These lenses produce SHARP images with wonderful color. So far, I bought a 24mm, a 28mm, a 55mm macro, a 105mm, a 135mm, and a vintage 200mm with an original case. None cost more than $40 delivered. The differences in the images is visible even in 4×6 enlargements. The colors are better too! See if the Cannon cameras or other brands can do the same thing, then buy up the old glass, buy a handheld meter if you have to, and take pictures that will put those plastic zoom lenses that come with the cameras to shame. It is all about the lenses, garbage in, well, you know the rest.

Yes, I’ve noted before that my Toshiba 3.2 megapixel camera takes pictures that enlarge as well as many 6 megapixel images, because it has an excellent Canon lens. The glass does matter.

Speaking of glass, at Technogypsy there’s a look at Macro photography and legacy lenses.

John Palmer posts several pictures from his new Canon SD700 — plus a warning about shirt-pocket cameras’ tendency to fall out of the shirt pocket if you’re not careful. He adds by email: “Follow-up to that post. I dropped that camera into our hot tub and had to buy another one!” Beware.

My brother has a Panasonic Lumix with a smooth, slick body that looks great, but it’s so slick that it’s easy to drop it from your hand if you don’t use the wrist lanyard. But it’s otherwise a great camera. Hmm, maybe this is a marketing strategy!

Doug Landrum posts with suggestions to think about how you will use your camera. Good advice.

Some very cool balloon photoblogging here, with pictures by a Panasonic FZ4

Brian Leon looks at the question of filters vs. photoshop.

Phil Philpot sends a link to a 1500 Megapixel photo of Macchu Picchu. Can you say detail?

Eric Scheie still likes his Nikon Coolpix. It’s stylish yet competent — just like him. And his dog.

More later.

UPDATE: Disagreement on the AA battery issue, from Ann Althouse, with interesting discussion in the comments.

November 22, 2006

BEFORE SERVING YOUR GUESTS TOMORROW, be sure to go through this Thanksgiving pre-meal safety demonstration.

November 22, 2006


I couldn’t decide which bit of smarmy commentary to use, so I’ll use both. Which comment should Uncle have made:

1 – Janet Reno criticizing the heavy-handed tactics of the Justice Department is like Michael Richards criticizing me for racial insensitivity.


2 – When someone who set people on fire says you’re setting a dangerous precedent, it may be time for some serious introspection.

Decisions, decisions?

He’s soliciting feedback.

November 22, 2006

IF THE SAUDIS ARE WORRIED ABOUT BAD PRESS, perhaps they shouldn’t describe keeping slaves as “traditional Muslim behavior.”

November 22, 2006

POLICE IN ATLANTA have shot and killed a 92-year-old woman in what appears to be another wrong-house no-knock raid. As I’ve said before, these raids should only occur when there’s reason to believe that lives are in immediate jeopardy. And police should be liable, civilly and criminally, without any shield of official immunity, in cases where these no-knock raids go wrong.

UPDATE: The police claim that they knocked and announced. However, as Radley Balko has noted, often such behavior is pretty notional, with the door being kicked down immediately thereafter. Do the police have video that would support their story? Because in cases like this, I think the burden should be on the government to demonstrate that it acted appropriately. Home, castle, and all that.

Meanwhile, reader Harold Williams emails:

Reading the reports by professional journalists confuses me about what actually happened. The 3 plainclothes men were shot “as they approached the house.” The woman shot “from the inside.” That’s different than an alternative description ‘as they broke in the door.’

For a 92 year old lady to hit 3 fast-moving with a handgun in a surprise no-knock probably means that the detectives were less than 10 feet from her. If this is the case, then I would think that the relative positioning of everyone and time/distance would have let at least one detective overwhelm her.

Anytime an innocent person is killed it is a tragedy. In this case more so by the addition of a variety of factors. Could the police have been so STUPID as to break in a door in a troubled neighborhood without at least one clearly uniformed authority figure?

Let’s give the facts a day to clarify themselves, then assign blame. And I mean heads roll if stupidity and negligence resulted in an innocent death.

Heads, alas, don’t roll nearly often enough in such cases. But we should certainly try to figure out what happened. Of course, if raids like this were routinely videotaped we wouldn’t have to wonder quite so much who to believe.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tamara K. comments:

Look, if three burly dudes in street clothes start banging on my door one night and try and force their way into my home, I don’t care if they’re yelling “Police!” or “Singing Telegram!”, that’s why I keep a loaded M4 carbine in the house. They’re not dressed like cops, and I can think of no reason the police would need to get into my house, so my natural assumption would be that these were home invaders of some sort. If the real police need to talk with me, they can get two guys in stopsign hats and 1 Adam 12 outfits to come knock on my door like civilized people. I, a civilized person myself, will then answer it.

They will either say “Miss K., we have a warrant,” in which case we’ll all go for a ride to the station, call up some lawyers, and get everything as squared away as we can, since this is obviously a mistake, or they will say “Is Mr. Gonzales here? We have a warrant for his arrest,” whereupon I will reply “Why, no; you have the wrong address. Would you like to come in for milk and cookies and to look around and reassure yourselves that there is no Mr. Gonzales here?”

That makes sense to me.

MORE: More background here. Note that the officers weren’t in uniform.

And Radley Balko has more thoughts.

STILL MORE: Radley Balko watched the press conference and reports:

According to the Atlanta assistant chief of police:

1) The search warrant was in fact a no-knock warrant.

2) Police claim there was an undercover buy at the residence. The seller was apparently a man — obviously not Ms. Johnston.

3) “Suspected narcotics” were seized from the home, and have been sent to a crime lab for analysis. The assistant chief wouldn’t say how much of the suspected narcotics they found.

4) He also wouldn’t speculate if Johnston herself was involved in dealing drugs, or knew if drugs were being dealt from her home, saying only that both were “under investigation.”

5) He maintains that despite the no-knock warrant police still announced themselves before entering, though he acknowledged moments later that the announcement came as police were battering down the door.

It isn’t at all difficult to see how a 92-year old woman may not have heard or comprehended the announcement. A reader reminds me that the incident is pretty similar to a police shooting in Alabama this past June, where an innocent, elderly man was shot when police forced entry into his home while looking for his nephew. The man — who had done nothing wrong — also mistook the officers for criminal intruders, and met them with a gun. Fortunately, he survived.

Even assuming the controlled buy, the incident still illustrates the folly of these raids. Paramilitary tactics don’t defuse violent situations, as police groups and their supporters sometimes claim. They create them. They make things more volatile for everyone — cops, suspects, and bystanders. Does anyone honestly believe that Ms. Johnson would have opened fire had a couple of uniformed officers politely knocked on her door, showed her a warrant, and asked if they could come inside?

Meanwhile, reader John McGinnis emails:

Go to Enter 933 Neal St. Atlanta, Ga in the address bar. In the house pop up click the “bird’s eye view” link. You should get a two pane display. One overview satellite shot and a tighter shot of just that house. If you are like me the first that that should pop out is that there is a wheel chair ramp right up to the front of the home. I would have hoped that that substructure would have given the cops some pause if they had done some pre-site surveillance.

This link should get you the photo. Unless crack houses are taking the handicap-accessibility laws more seriously than I had thought, this might have sounded a cautionary note.

November 22, 2006

RENOWNED KIDNEYBLOGGER VIRGINIA POSTREL has more on organ donation policy here and here.

November 22, 2006

MORE ON GAY MARRIAGE IN ISRAEL: “The decision does not mean that Israeli gays and lesbians can enter into homosexual marriages in Israel itself. The Israeli state does not have any system of civil marriage, and – to my knowledge – none of the state-certified religious authorities (Jewish, Muslim, and Christian) endorse gay marriage. . . . However, under the new decision, Israeli citizens can enter into gay marriages in foreign jurisdictions that allow them (such as Canada, Massachusetts, and some European countries), and have them recognized by the Israeli state.”

November 22, 2006

GOING ON JEOPARDY: I said it was brave, but perhaps it was foolhardy.

November 21, 2006


November 21, 2006


November 21, 2006

GUN RIGHTS UPDATE: “Bush isn’t watching the store.”

November 21, 2006

THOUGHTS ON LEBANON, SYRIA, IRAQ AND THE U.S., from Jules Crittenden: “This is the thing about dirty jobs that need to be done. They can only be ignored or left half-done for so long.”

November 21, 2006

TERRY HEATON: The blogosphere belongs to the blogosphere.

November 21, 2006

IRAQ: “So far this month, the civilian casualty count is well below the casualty count in October and below the six-month average. The security force casualties reduced 21 percent over the past four weeks, and are at the lowest level in 25 weeks, he said.”

UPDATE: The U.N., on the other hand, says that civilian casualties are up. In this, as in most things, I’m not inclined to trust the U.N. But your views may differ.

ANOTHER UPDATE: D’oh! Greyhawk emails:

Check the first paragraph of that AP story – the key word is October.

“BAGHDAD, Iraq – The United Nations said Wednesday that 3,709 Iraqi civilians were killed in October, the highest monthly toll since the March 2003 U.S. invasion and another sign of the severity of Iraq’s sectarian bloodbath.”

The headline is of course “U.N.: Iraqi civilian deaths at new high” – but should be “UN releases report of last months death toll in Iraq”.

But I guess that’s how the AP wants to cover the huge drop in violence this (post-Ramadan) month.

Well, my face is red for not noticing the different periods.

November 21, 2006

HMM, does this mean he’s running in 2008? Joe Lieberman hires Marshall “BullMoose” Wittmann.

November 21, 2006

WITH COLD WEATHER HERE, Jigsha Desai explains how to make chai.

November 21, 2006


Why do I feel like a voice in the wilderness? I keep pointing out problems with the election commission in Shelby County and nothing happens. Now, I have been given a copy of the state voter database by the Republican Party for analysis.

Checking the oldest 200,000 voters, I find over 7,000 people who are deceased. This doesn’t include the voters who had birthdates from the 1800s or 01/01/01. Checking for voters who might have two registrations in the state, I find over 5,600. Why doesn’t this alarm other people? Why doesn’t the state election commission push for a state-wide voter database?

Via the Knoxville News-Sentinel’s Michael Silence, who has more. As I’ve said before, we should be addressing these problems now, not waiting until there’s a crisis with a disputed election.

November 21, 2006


Why do I feel like a voice in the wilderness? I keep pointing out problems with the election commission in Shelby County and nothing happens. Now, I have been given a copy of the state voter database by the Republican Party for analysis.

Checking the oldest 200,000 voters, I find over 7,000 people who are deceased. This doesn’t include the voters who had birthdates from the 1800s or 01/01/01. Checking for voters who might have two registrations in the state, I find over 5,600. Why doesn’t this alarm other people? Why doesn’t the state election commission push for a state-wide voter database?

Via the Knoxville News-Sentinel’s Michael Silence, who has more.

November 21, 2006

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: This seems like good news:

Had the appropriators challenged Coburn and DeMint, their only weapon would have been to threaten to shut the government down (if the spending bills aren’t allowed to pass and a CR is not issued, the government is forced to shut down). And that was something they weren’t willing to commit to.

So…if Congress does pass the CR as is currently expected in December, and the Democrats subsequently extend it for a full year, then Coburn and DeMint will have unilaterally saved taxpayers a whopping $17 billion!

$17 billion here, $17 billion there, pretty soon you’re talking big money.

November 21, 2006

HERE’S THE LATEST on Iranian exile Zahra Kamalfar. The Russian authorities seem to have tried a dirty trick, but it’s failed for the moment.

November 21, 2006

MICHAEL TOTTEN: “The only thing that surprises me even slightly about today’s political assassination in Beirut is that the victim was Pierre Gemayel, a Christian, rather than Fouad Seniora, a Sunni. All the assassination victims after Rafik Hariri, a Sunni, have been Christians. But the most heated sectarian tension right now is between Sunnis and Shias. The Christians aren’t in a fighting mood, but many say the Sunnis are.”

These Christians don’t seem so happy.

UPDATE: Why has the United States been so passive in the face of Syrian dirty tricks? Beats me.

November 21, 2006

TECH BLEG: Will the EVDO card that works in my laptop also work in a MacBook pro? This makes it seem as if it won’t.

November 21, 2006

A WHILE BACK, I MENTIONED NONIE DARWISH’S BOOK, Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror.

Now we learn she’s been disinvited from speaking at Brown University.

As Scott Johnson observes: “The boundaries of acceptable speech on university campuses continue to contract.”

November 21, 2006

MICHAEL SILENCE: “Is anybody live blogging Black Friday? If not, someone should.”

I think it’ll be a big year for online shopping; I’m guessing bricks-and-mortar sales will be only so-so.