Friday, September 26, 2008

And the video feature

If it looks blurry at times, it's a focusing issue. I'm using a long lens, with a narrow depth of field. I'll try to post some with a wider lens. That will also help with the camera shake. I don't have the steadiest hands, anyway.
video

Messing around with the D90

And my Tamron 90mm.




Here's the full figurine. Hillary really likes these guys. They're made by Jim Shore.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

50" Samsung Plasma HDTV

$597. In for two. Gotta love Fatwallet.

Interesting...


Fox is finally letting him talk, instead of shouting him down, saying he wants to give in to the terrorists.

Trust me. I know what I'm talking about.


"NEW YORK - Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin says the United States could be headed for another Great Depression if Congress doesn't act on the financial crisis. " -via AP

Does that mean that if Congress acts, a depression will be averted? Wow. We'd better get right on that. Good thing we have economic experts like Sarah Palin to explain things to us.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it"


Santayana was right.

I don't agree with everything this article says, but the parallels between 1929 and today are shocking.

For example:

Modern industry had the capacity to produce vast quantities of consumer goods, but this created a fundamental problem: Prosperity could continue only if demand was made to grow as rapidly as supply. Accordingly, people had to be persuaded to abandon such traditional values as saving, postponing pleasures and purchases, and buying only what they needed.... Advertising methods that had been developed to build support for World War I were used to persuade people to buy such relatively new products as automobiles and such completely new ones as radios and household appliances. The resulting mass consumption kept the economy going through most of the 1920s.

Mass consumption fueled by pervasive advertising. Hmmm...

AND:

To get around this difficulty, the 1920s produced another innovation—“credit,” an attractive name for consumer debt. People were allowed to “buy now, pay later.” But this only put off the day when consumers accumulated so much debt that they could not keep buying up all the products coming off assembly lines. That day came in 1929.

That day also came in 2008.

AND:

[Banks] lent heavily and unwisely to borrowers in Europe...who would have difficulty repaying the loans, particularly if there was a serious economic downturn. These huge debts made the international banking structure extremely unstable by the late 1920s.

Replace "borrowers in Europe" with "sub-prime homeowners" and "1920s" with "2000s" and we're right on target.

AND:

The stock market crash announced the beginning of the Great Depression, but the deep economic problems of the 1920s had already converged a few months earlier to start the downward spiral. The credit of a large portion of the nation’s consumers had been exhausted, and they were spending much of their current income to pay for past, rather than new, purchases.


This is also true today.

AND:

Many banks had made loans to businesses and people who now could not repay them, and some banks had also lost money by investing in the stock market. When depositors hit by the depression needed to withdraw their savings, the banks often did not have the money to give them. This caused other depositors to panic and demand their cash, ruining the banks. By the winter of 1932 to 1933, the banking system reached the point of nearly complete collapse; more than 5,000 banks failed by March 1933, wiping out the savings of millions of people.

We're not quite there yet, but we're getting much closer. The FDIC insures people up to $100,000 per bank. But what if too many banks go under? The government doesn't have that kind of money. It'll have to print it, devaluing all money. What a mess.

Couldn't have said it better myself

The inmates are running the asylum

I want you to think of the least financially responsible person you know. Got someone in mind? Good. Likely, that person exhibits some of the following behaviors:

*Spends money frivolously
*Cannot effectively manage a budget
*Spends more money than they earn
*Finances big purchases through credit, without the means to pay off the debt
*Uses debt to pay off other debt

Would you put that person in charge of a business? No? Me neither. Why then is one of the world's worst offenders in this regard in charge of the U.S. Economy? Of course, I'm talking about the federal government.

Obama is using the current financial crisis to blast McCain's plan for personal retirement savings programs. He essentially argues that if people invested in some of the failing financial institutions, they would have lost a lot of money toward retirement. Apparently, he thinks the money should be given to the federal government so that it will be taken care of for those of us who are too dumb to save for retirement on our own, and who would have blown their retirement money on beer and cigarettes.

Well, there's a big problem with that argument. While beer and cigarettes are terrible investments, they're arguably better than nothing. Which is precisely what my Social Security witholding is getting me. I'd be better off burning 75% of the money that goes into Social Security, and keeping the rest than if the government held on to twice as much as it does now. The government isn't taking care of my Social Security money. It's squandering it, like it has for decades.

Those of us who pay Social Security taxes every paycheck are footing the bill for those withdrawing now. As the population ages, fewer people will be paying for more people. It's only a matter of time before Social Security runs out of money, and everyone knows it. But rather than face the difficult solutions demanded by reality, politicians bury their heads in the sand and talk up their "committment" to Social Security.

If you were the CEO of a business, and your business lost hundreds of billions of dollars once, you'd probably be fired and/or your business would be bankrupt. The government's done it consistently for decades, yet people can't wait to give it $700 billion more dollars on the hope that it will finally work this time.

Roulette has better odds of success, and the risk we're taking with this bailout plan has more in common with the Russian version.

This guy looks trustworthy

I don't trust anyone in the Government to responsibly handle enormous power with vague limitations. Especially when it's to the tune of $700 billion. Especially when it's unconstitutional. ESPECIALLY when he looks like Voldemort.

This looks absolutely terrible

Check this out. I'll post my more detailed thoughts later. I'm actually, legitimately frightened.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm working close to home tomorrow


I'm covering a deposition in Olathe, just a few miles from my house. If all goes according to plan, I'll eat at Oklahoma Joe's for lunch. My favorite BBQ place in town. And it's up against some stiff competition. This is Kansas City, after all.

The original KC location is pictured above. In a gas station.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The reason I was so upset...

...about the Whoopi/McCain exchange was that it implied, incorrectly, that the Constitution is an antiquated instrument that doesn't apply to today.

Whoopi thinks that, based on her statements in the clip. McCain does too, based on his quote in the article. Bush apparently does as well, with his warrantless wiretapping scheme. And despite the fact that he claims to be different, Obama voted in favor of FISA, effectively rubberstamping his approval on warrantless wiretaps against Americans without reasonable suspicion. But he promised to use more restraint, once he's in charge.

Somehow, I don't trust him, or anyone else with that kind of power to use it responsibly. That's why it's important not to give it out in the first place.

I'm skeptical of anyone who promises to use more restraint when breaking the Constitution. He's basically saying that he won't break the Constitution as badly. That's not good enough for me.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A little late for that, isn't it?

Biden's son quits lobbying.

Morons, all of them


In this clip, John McCain talks about how he would appoint judges who would be faithful to the Constitution. Whoopi Goldberg asks him if that would mean black people would be slaves, apparently because she thinks slavery was mandated in the Constitution. John McCain thanked Whoopi for bringing up "an excellent point", and said that he understood.

This is not an excellent point. The Constitution never mandated slavery. In fact, it has explicitly banned slavery since 1865.

I hate how McCain couldn't explain this. Based on the video, I don't even think he understands the distinction. Even the most strict constructionist judge would not allow slavery to return. The Thirteenth Amendment is one of very few limitations on individual actions in the Constitution.

The Constitution was not designed to prohibit people from doing things. It wasn't even designed to give people individual rights. It was designed to limit the powers of government. McCain does a poor job playing the role of someone concerned about the Constitution. Check out his quote from 2006 on the Don Imus show:

"I work in Washington and I know that money corrupts. And I and a lot of other people were trying to stop that corruption. Obviously, from what we've been seeing lately, we didn't complete the job. But I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government.''

How is a government that ignores its Constitution "clean"?

I'm not buying it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I have a new camera

My D90 arrived today. The video quality looks good. I'll post samples later.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Bombs are not a precision instrument

Check out this story.

In summary, the US bombed a village in a foreign country, with which we are, at least technically, an ally. In doing so, we could not know how many people we would kill, or whether we would kill "insurgents" or civilians. We claimed we only killed a few civilians while killing scores of insurgents. The UN and Afghan government investigated, and concluded that we killed dozens of women and children. We only changed our story when video evidence surfaced which rebutted our lies.

This type of action doesn't help defeat terrorism. It merely serves to give terrorists a rallying point to show that the US is killing women and children in their countries, and lying about it until they're caught. Sadly, I can't argue with them on that.

If the survivors in that village didn't hate the US before, you can bet they do now. By becoming involved in nation building and foreign wars, we undermine our own security, rather than enhance it. We killed millions of civilians in Vietnam, the first Gulf War, the decade of bombing and sanctions that followed, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Before anyone says that my approach would allow the terrorists to "win", consider how we should define our own success. Do the terrorists hate us less? No. Are there fewer terrorists? No. Are there more people who hate America? Yes. None of those sound like victories to me, yet our policy is leading us directly to those results.

The terrorists don't hate us because we're free and prosperous. They hate us because we're meddling in their countries, killing their people, and propping up unpopular totalitarian regimes which use our weapons to kill their people.

We've been doing so long before 9/11 ever occurred. I'm not saying that 9/11 was warranted. Clearly it wasn't. But we likely could have avoided it with a different foreign policy. Our current policy makes it more, rather than less likely, that something like it will happen again.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Good moment yesterday


I loved how KU's Darrell Stuckey caught Louisiana Tech's Phillip Livas on the two when all hope of doing so appeared lost. It was even better that they managed to not only prevent a touchdown, but kept them from scoring at all. That's what the above celebration was all about.

KU Sports has a good writeup on it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Darnell Gets His Deal

Darnell Jackson, one of the most pleasant surprises from KU's last two seasons, just signed a 3 year guaranteed contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was definitely one of my favorites. No one thought he'd make the NBA a couple years ago, but due to his remarkable improvement, he got it done.

He wrote an open letter to the fans, and asked the Lawrence newspaper to publish it. This was a really great gesture, and goes to show that there are some guys out there that really deserve to be rooted for.

Taken from the Lawrence Journal-World

Dear Jayhawk fans,

Just about five years ago I realized a dream when coach (Bill) Self offered me a scholarship to become a Jayhawk. I came to Kansas as a young man who had a lot to learn in a lot of ways. My freshman year was a real eye opener.

On one hand I got a chance to play with some of the greatest players to don a KU uniform in Aaron Miles, Wayne Simien and Keith Langford.

But the rigors of big time college basketball was a real challenge. I had to grow up quickly and learn to take care of business in the classroom and on the court. As all of you know I was a role player my freshman year and played in only 13 games.

But what I hope you all realize is I felt so fortunate to play for the Jayhawks and especially to practice with and learn from guys like Simien and Langford.

By my sophomore year I was a little more prepared for what I needed to do. Coach Self gave me a chance to play a lot more. That year was one of the hardest years of my life. As most of you probably recall, my mom and grandma were hit by a drunk driver that year.

I was already struggling with trying to grow up and be a better student and a better teammate. Then when my mom was seriously hurt and my grandma was killed, I felt like the world was caving in on me. That, I think, was the first time I really truly started to understand what it meant to be part of the Jayhawk family.

Looking back I see what incredible support I received from so many Jayhawk fans that I had never even met. At the time I was really struggling to battle the “woe is me” trap. But now I can look back and see how I learned so much from all of you who were so ready to offer love and support.

I can tell you now, that is one of my most cherished memories as a Jayhawk. I loved winning on the court but it was then I started to see that being a Jayhawk was really something that would be there for me the rest of my life.

By my junior year I was still struggling with insecurity about handling all the stress I felt. My mom was still in pain and needing surgery after surgery. My little brother and sister were growing up and I felt I needed to be there for them. I still lacked confidence that I could step up and be what the coaching staff was hoping from me.

I felt like I needed to be a leader and to represent KU in a great way that all you fans deserved. But I still needed to grow up and learn how to handle all these things. But everywhere I turned there was always a KU fan with an encouraging word.

At the time I sometimes thought that no one really understood what I was going through. But looking back I have learned that even if that was true what really was amazing was that people just wanted to show love and support.

I now realize how that continuous support from all of you was always something that lifted me up and made me feel good and positive. It was my junior year that all my inner turmoil came to a head. I felt so overwhelmed by everything that I just reacted without really thinking and came home to Oklahoma City. I just felt I couldn't take care of my family and school as well as being the Jayhawk everybody wanted me to be any more. I was just feeling overwhelmed.

That is when it happened. After coach Self came down and talked with me I decided to come back. It was then I started to realize that the reason I was feeling so overwhelmed was that I was mostly focusing on myself and my stress. All this time I was playing for the greatest basketball school in the country with the best fans hands down.

I started to see what a blessing it was to have people who were so willing to show love and support. And I can assure you that you fans did show love and support far beyond anything I could have hoped for. I also realized that the coaching staff was trying to get me to become the best I could be.

I realized that all of the yelling and pushing was just trying to get me to work harder and improve. Over the summer between my junior and senior years I got to spend a lot of time at home. I really began to see and focus on all the blessings I had rather than all the trials. I came back for my senior year determined to be the best Jayhawk I could be.

A very close friend of mine, my mentor, always would tell me that when I was so blessed I needed to understand that put a responsibility on me to multiply those blessings by giving blessings to others.

I really was seeing what a great blessing it was to be on such a great team, with great coaches but most of all having the Jayhawk on my jersey in a packed Allen Fieldhouse with the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic fans anywhere.

So I wanted to start giving back by playing my butt off and giving all you fans something to cheer about. In April I was able to realize a second great dream along with all my teammates when we brought a National Championship back to Lawrence.

I didn't think anything could ever top running out on the court at Allen Fieldhouse. But when 100,000 fans showed up to celebrate our championship I truly felt so honored to be able to be a small part in bringing such joy to all you fans.

Believe me, it only begins to pay you back for all the love and support you have given me these last four years.

Well, this week I realized a third dream when I signed a multi-year contract to play in the NBA for the Cleveland Cavaliers. I am very excited to play in Cleveland. But I want all of you fans to know that no matter where I go or what I do, I will forever be thankful to you for showing all the love and support for me these last four years. I AM FOREVER A JAYHAWK. I even have a degree to prove it. You fans have taught me so much and meant so much to me so I wanted to send you this letter saying THANK YOU.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk,
Darnell Jackson

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Good Call or Bad Call?

I don't normally discuss politics here, but my brother and I spoke about the Sarah Palin VP selection tonight, and it got me thinking. This isn't an endorsement of McCain or Obama. Frankly, I hope they both lose. I don't like their positions in common, and I don't like their positions on which they differ. But the Palin pick intrigues me.

Let's weigh the pros and cons of Sarah Palin as a VP selection:

Cons:
-Lack of distinguished educational background
-Lack of distinguishing credentials
-Major lack of experience

Pros:
-Theoretically helps with the female vote
-Gets the social conservatives who are skeptical of McCain on board
-Makes the McCain ticket a lot younger
-She's not a Washington insider
-She forces the Obama ticket to tread more softly with their attacks, so as not to further alienate the Clinton backers.
-She's an attention grabbing choice - The media immediately dropped its coverage of the Obama speech to focus on her.
-Major lack of experience

You probably noticed her inexperience on both lists. This is not a typo. Let me explain.

A year ago, Obama had a unique advantage over every other realistic candidate from either party. He was the only candidate (with a chance) who opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. At that time its popularity was at an all-time low. However, right or wrong, the current perception is that Iraq is improving. What's worse for Obama is that the improvements supposedly resulted from the troop surge, which he opposed.

But Obama has a great fallback issue, which happens to be McCain's weak point: The Economy. I capitalized it for a reason. (HINT: It's important) Historically, no other issue has led as many presidents into (and out of) office.

But what does this have to do with Palin? Well, her weakest point could actually be exploited to McCain's advantage. Here's why: Clearly she's inexperienced. But if Sarah Palin achieves nothing else in her political life than to transform this election into a referendum on experience, she'll have achieved more for McCain than anyone thought possible.

Seriously. There are three big themes in this campaign: Iraq, The Economy, and Experience. On which of these do you think Obama least wants the voters to base their decisions? Palin's lack of experience actually serves to highlight Obama's relative inexperience. The Obama camp has to handle this carefully. Stones, Glass Houses, etc.

So, is Palin a good vice-presidential selection? Well, that depends on your perspective.

Is she a good choice for the United States? Clearly not. Even if you agree with Palin's politics completely, there are scores of like-minded people who would be better qualified to run the country if the need arose.

Is she a good choice for the McCain camp? I think so. McCain will likely still lose, but he had to do something unconventional, and nothing says conventional like Mitt Romney. It's a gamble for sure, but he had to pull something unorthodox to stand a chance. Who could he have picked with more potential upside to his campaign?

More people watched her speech last night than tuned in to Obama's acceptance speech. Who would have thought that was possible a couple weeks ago? If the Palin coverage continues, and no more skeletons surface, it could prove to be a brilliant maneuver.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Nikon D90


Surprise, surprise, I'm getting a new camera. The Nikon D90 should work (for me) just as well as my D300. It's also cheaper, and does video. The video feature isn't like the video feature in compact digital cameras. It allows shallow depth of field when used with the appropriate lenses and settings, and records in quality up to 720p. Further, the high ISO performance should be great, because it's using the same sensor as the D300.

I always said I'd wait until I had a kid to get a video camera. That's happening in February, so it's probably about time.