A couple of months back I went through the ordeal of watching administration spox patting themselves on the back over having “fixed” the rail strike threat and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. And it was all a lie because there was no actual agreement. What they had was a proposal thrown together by negotiators, and nothing else. All of the unions, all 12 of them, still had to vote to approve or disapprove the proposal.
It was basically a house of cards that would fall apart almost before they got done announcing their “big win”. If any one of the twelve unions voted against the proposal, the whole deal would fall apart because if one of the unions went on strike, all of them would. If anyone had bothered to talk to the actual union members they would have found out immediately that they were not happy with the proposal. And almost immediately that’s exactly what happened, the proposal was rejected by one of the unions. And as of this week, four unions have now rejected the proposal and we could be looking at a railroad strike by Dec. 5.
So what happened? Why did the deal fall apart? Because the proposal did almost nothing to fix the problems that were causing the employees to consider going on strike in the first place. The problem wasn’t so much salaries, it was was the the railroads arcane and even, according to some, outright sadistic scheduling system and lack of sick leave that caused the problems, and that system was going virtually unchanged under the new proposal. (If you want to see what the employee scheduling system is like, you can read all about it here at Inlander. )
So here we are, nearing the end of November, and there could be a rail strike that could shut down the entire system by Dec. 5. And it’s highly likely that everyone will blame not the railroads which caused the problem in the first place, but the employees. I’ve already seen headlines and news stories laying the blame directly on the employees, and completely ignoring the real cause of the employees’ anger. I just read one headline at CNN that read something like “Unions Reject Lucrative Offer” implying that the union members are just being greedy, and nothing in the following story mentioned what the real grievances were.
So what’s going to happen now? I have no idea. Under a nearly 100 year old law Congress has the authority to force a contract on both parties, and the new contract would almost certainly leave the existing scheduling system in place. The result of that would be a hell of a lot of very angry employees. And, well, let’s put it this way – I know six people who worked for a railroad. Every one of them has quit in the past year because of the scheduling system. If Congress imposes a contract that doesn’t deal with the scheduling system it could result in the railroads losing so many employees it would be almost as bad as a strike.
Okay, so here’s Zuckerberg’s idea of what a virtual reality should look like.
And here down below is what the granddaddy of virtual worlds, Second Life looks like. This is an actual location in SL called Morning Crescent Moon with the owner, Angharad, standing there in the foreground.
Which one would you rather spend time in?
In addition to looking ridiculously cartoonish appearance of, well, everything, apparently the avatars don’t have feet in Zuck’s world? Or legs?
I don’t get it. Why in heaven’s name would someone want to hang around in what looks like a rejected scene from the Jetsons?
People know I’m a semi-serious photographer so I get questions from people about all sorts of photography related stuff. One question I get a lot comes from people who are thinking of upgrading their camera. They want to move from a cellphone camera or a cheap pocket camera to a “real” camera and want advice about what to get. So let’s take a look at some basic information about the different kinds of cameras out there and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Sidenote: Got questions? Leave them in the comments section or you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And I’ll let you know right up front that there is no hard answer to the question of what camera to buy. When it comes to cameras there are always trade offs. There is no “perfect” camera. Which camera is best for you depends on what you want to do and what compromises you are willing to accept.
Let’s look at the basics. There are four basic types of cameras: Compact (or pocket), bridge, DSLR and mirrorless. But while these are widely accepted as the different types, in reality there is a great deal of blurring of in the lines separating these types, especially when it comes to the camera’s sensors, the part that actually takes the photo, and the electronics and software.
Sidenote: A word about viewfinders. Most modern cameras come with an LCD screen that shows you a representation of the image the camera “sees” through the lens. One would think that the traditional viewfinder, a sort of peephole that you push up to your eye to peer through, would be a thing of the past. It isn’t. A lot of photographers, myself included, still use and still want a traditional viewfinder. My Nikon has a very good LCD screen, but I still use the viewfinder a lot, far more often than I use the LCD screen. For me it seems to work better.
Compact cameras can range from very very bad to very, very good, and prices bounce all over the place from under $100 to, well, to almost as much as your wallet can handle. What they all have in common is small size, usually small enough to easily slip into a pocket. The problem with compact cameras is that unless you’re willing to spend a heck of a lot of money on one, you’re going to be better off just using the camera in your cellphone. Modern cell phone cameras are excellent, often far superior to most of the compact cameras on the market, especially the inexpensive cameras.
The other thing that is true or, rather, used to be true about compact cameras, is that they were very simple to use. They were basically point-and-shoot cameras. There were few if any settings to worry about, the camera’s computers took care of setting everything for you. All you needed to do was point it and press the shutter button. But that’s changed too, especially at the higher prices. A lot of these cameras come with almost as many bells and whistles as DSLR cameras. And this is both good and bad. It’s good in that it gives the photographer more creative control over what the camera does. And it’s bad in that it complicates things when all you want to do is take a quick snapshot. They all will have some kind of default mode where the camera makes all of the decisions for you and all you need to do is press a button.
The good ones, like the Cannon up there, are very good indeed. But it will also cost you about $650, and for not much more than that you can get a pretty nice DSLR with better specifications.
Sidenote: If you have a relatively modern, high quality cellphone, either one of the Android models or an iPhone, chances are good you already have a camera that is as good as, or even better than, most of the compact cameras on the market. If you have something like an iPhone 13 or a Samsung Galaxy S22, you already have one of the best compact cameras made.
Yes, some of them have some pretty clever electronics and software built into them with some interesting special effects capabilities and things like that. Some of them have some pretty nifty zoom lenses. But most of that stuff, well, frankly a lot of those ‘features’ are little more than gimmicks that you’ll play with a couple of times and then never use again.
The only reason to really buy a compact camera is if you need a pocket sized camera with a decent telephoto lens. And if that is your need, go for it. But you’re going to pay for it. Figure on spending around $400+ for a good one.
Don’t get me wrong. Some of these cameras are excellent. I’ve owned a few that were pretty darned good. But I also have a iPhone 13 pro max, and the camera in that is, frankly, amazing, and far, far better than any of the compact cameras I’ve owned in the past.
Bridge cameras are supposed to fill a niche between compact cameras and full blown DSLR. They will have, maybe, much better sensors which offer better resolution photos, better lenses, possibly a zoom lens that will reach out to about 25x telephoto or more, and lots and lots of goodies in the software that let you do interesting things. They will give you some control over things like shutter speeds, apateure, focus, etc. They are supposed to be a jump up in quality from compact cameras, but don’t have interchangeable lenses and lack some of the high end features of a DSLR, which is supposed to help make them cheaper and easier to use than a full blown DSLR.
Here’s the thing with bridge cameras, they’re sort of like the worst of both worlds. You have a camera that is heavy, awkward to carry around, physically as large as a DSLR, and damned near as expensive as a DSLR, but without the advantages of having a DSLR’s interchangeable lenses.
Some of the bridge cameras are excellent, even outstanding. Even some of the ones in the under $500 range aren’t too bad. But if you want a really good one? Be prepared for a bit of sticker shock because some of these puppies will run you well over a grand, which is getting up into DSLR territory.
The biggest problem with bridge cameras, IMO, is the lens. Because the lens cannot be removed it has to be able to do everything the photographer may want to do. They come with a “do it all” type lens that can go from extreme closeups (macro) to extreme telephoto. And in order to do that they have to make compromises that affect things like focus, depth of field, shutter speeds, etc.
And then as I mentioned above, there is a problem with the cost. Yes, you can get a decent bridge camera for around $500. But the really good ones with what I consider to be professional quality features and and software are all in the $700+ range, and some of them run as high as almost $2,000. Just for comparison, my Nikon D5600 DSLR, with a pretty nice 55mm lens, is going for under $800 right now on Amazon.
Let’s move on to SLR type cameras.
DSLR – That’s an acronym that carries over from the film camera era when SLR cameras were considered the high end. So what’s the big deal with SLR type cameras? There are two things, interchangeable lenses and how the photographer sees the image in the viewfinder.
Before SLRs came along, cameras had a separate viewfinder. Sometimes this was little more than a peep hole bolted to the body of the camera to give you a general idea of what you were aiming at. Sort of. You weren’t seeing what the camera was seeing through the lens. Because you weren’t actually seeing what the camera was seeing, this caused a lot of problems. The viewfinder could be misaligned or because of things like parallax, you couldn’t tell if the focus was correct, etc.
SLR cameras use a mirror and prism system where a mirror drops down in front of the film (or sensor in the case of digital cameras) directing the light from the lens into a prism which sends that light into the viewfinder and to your eye. With a SLR what you are seeing in the viewfinder is exactly what the camera sees through the lens. When you press the shutter button, the mirror snaps out of the way so the light coming through the lens falls on the film (or sensor), giving you an image that is, if everything works right, exactly what you saw through the viewfinder.
Needless to say, the ability for the photographer to see exactly what the camera was seeing through the lens was an important development. The SLR system was first introduced in 1935 and has been in use ever since. That it’s been around for nearly a hundred years should give you an idea of just how useful it is. Things are changing, though, and mirrorless cameras are starting to become popular, but I’ll look at those in a minute.
SLR type cameras also have interchangeable lenses. You aren’t stuck with whatever lens the manufacturer decided was best. You can get different apertures, different focal lengths, telephoto, zoom, macro, wide angle, etc. And you weren’t stuck with a single lens manufacturer either. The only problem was that every camera maker had their own lens mounting system, so your Nikon lenses wouldn’t work on your Canon camera, etc.
SLR type cameras also generally have better, well, better everything, really. Better sensors, higher resolution images, better electronics, better software, more options for getting the best exposure, aperture settings, shutter speeds, etc. The problem with all of that is, of course, figuring out how to use all of it to your advantage. Even back in the pre-digital days a lot of SLR cameras had a bewildering variety of knobs and buttons to allow you to set up the camera for the perfect photo, giving you a large number of ways to screw up your photos. Modern cameras with their fancy electronics and processing abilities give you even more control, more complexity, and even more interesting ways of messing up. You can adjust white balance, contrast, brightness, color intensity, shutter speeds, aperture settings, even do some special effects. A lot of these cameras come with WiFi and Bluetooth to connect to your phone or computer to transfer images directly to other devices
Almost all DSLR cameras come with some kind of automated “point-and-shoot” mode where you just let the onboard computers control all of that stuff for you, but if that’s all you’re going to do you might as well stick with a compact camera. One of the points of getting a DSLR is so you can fiddle with all of that stuff to get the perfect photo. So if you do decide to get one of these be prepared to do a lot of homework and a lot of experimenting before you become proficient with it. But the results are worth it.
Now we come to mirrorless cameras. These are a relatively new development. They are basically SLR type cameras that have gotten rid of the mirror. That mirror has always been a bit of a pain in the neck. It is mechanically complex in that it has to drop down in front of the focal plane of the camera to reflect the image into the view finder, and then almost instantly snap up out of the way when you press the shutter button. This can cause vibration, which can mess up an image. It is expensive to manufacturer. It is always a potential failure point in SLR type cameras. And then someone said hey, wait a minute, why do we need that mirror system at all? Just pick off the video from the primary sensor and route that to an LCD display and/or a viewfinder.
And that is the direction cameras are moving these days. A lot of big camera makers are starting to, or already have, phased out most of their SLR style cameras in favor of the mirrorless variety. Despite some pushback from some photographers, mirrorless cameras make a lot of sense and I think you’re eventually going to see DSLR type cameras go away. Does this mean you shouldn’t buy a DSLR? No. DSLR cameras work very, very well. And despite all of the hype about mirrorless cameras, IMO the only thing that makes them attractive is that they are less mechanically complicated and have fewer moving parts that can break. In some ways DSLR cameras are still superior, but that’s changing rapidly. The mirrorless cameras that I’ve seen are very, very nice. I have no incentive to get one, though. I am more than satisfied with the one I have.
Decisions, decisions, decisions…
So, which one should you get? Heck, I don’t know. It’s entirely up to you. That’s going to depend entirely on you. All of the different types of cameras have advantages and disadvantages. There is no such thing as a “perfect” camera. There is no quick and easy answer to that question. All of them have advantages and disadvantages. You’re going to have to decide for yourself if the disadvantages are worth it.
Well sort of. We’ve been eating lettuce all along and picking beans for over a week now so technically this isn’t the first, but the peppers are starting to come in now. This is the first bell pepper of the season and it’s destined to turn into supper, along with that onion and baby garlic head up there. The garlic MrsGF put in as an experiment in early spring is looking fantastic. We couldn’t resist pulling one up to see how they’re looking and that’s a perfect little baby head of garlic. In another couple of months they’ll be ready to harvest. Well if they last that long.
When someone asks me why we do all the work to grow vegetables when they’re so cheap to buy (even now with inflation veggies are cheap if you stick with the generic store brands), my answer is simple. It’s the flavor. The stuff you buy in the grocery store produce department has been bred specifically to make the produce easier to harvest, store for longer periods of time, and to look more appealing to the eye. And in the process of breeding for those traits what they’ve also done is eliminated a lot of the flavor and aroma.
I’m generally a fairly optimistic person but when it comes to the agricultural sector and, more importantly for you and me, us consumers, things aren’t looking too good on the agricultural front. I got up this morning to find soybean futures over 16.50, wheat back up to over 10, and corn flirting with 7.75 on the commodities market. Then I read an article from a JP Morgan analyst indicating that commodities prices could push up as much as 40% higher than they are already. Then there is everything else going on, and it isn’t looking good.
First there is, of course, Ukraine and what’s going on over there. Ukraine is a major producer of wheat and sunflower seed for cooking oil. That supply is now pretty much shut down. Russia exported a large amount of wheat as well and that supply is mostly shut down as well because of sanctions. That’s caused huge disruptions in the markets for wheat and vegetable oils.
Of course things were chaotic even before that. We’re still experiencing shipping issues thanks to ports, shipping companies, railroads and the trucking industry failing to engage in modernizing, improving their facilities, failing to deal with employees fairly and a host of other issues. Problems that have been going on literally for decades but which haven’t become critical until the pandemic stressed the system and it basically broke.
Natural disasters and production problems curtailed the manufacture of herbicides like glyphosate. There have been trade wars going on over the import and export of fertilizers. There is the infamous computer chip shortages which hasn’t just disrupted the auto makers, it’s also messed with ag equipment manufacturers as well. If you’re a farmer in the market for a new tractor, well, good luck trying to find one.
Then there is the drought.
The entire western half of the US is under drought conditions except for northwestern Washington.
Then the avian flu has been sweeping through the country. Here in Wisconsin poultry growers have had to euthanize millions of birds already. In the last two weeks the price of eggs has gone from $1.24 a dozen to over $4.00 a dozen.
But then again I have a cat sleeping on my chest so things aren’t all bad…
I generally stay away from things like this for a variety of reasons, but sometimes things get so utterly ridiculous I just can’t help myself… But let me get on with this.
It is never a good thing when your home state turns up on Snopes. This time it’s about furries. And… Hear that thumping sound in the background? That’s me banging my head on the table because, well, never mind, let’s get on with this.
Someone is now claiming that the Waunakee school district here in Wisconsin has something called a “Furry Protocol”. The claim is that the school now has a policy in place to protect furries from discrimination, including an image of a Powerpoint slide being projected on a screen displaying the supposed protocol and…
I’m trying to imagine what it would have been like if a legitimate news reporter like, oh, Walter Cronkite, was reporting on this back in the 1960s. He would have started talking and when he got to the point about schools putting litter boxes in classrooms he would totally lose it, start giggling, then collapse in laughter and they’d have to cut to a cigarette commercial or something while he recovered.
Now we have a news media that gleefully runs stories where a politician claims, with an absolute straight face, who absolutely believes, that kids are running around schools dressed like cats and dogs, meowing and barking and using litter boxes…
If you’re waiting for food prices to start to come down, I have some bad news for you. The way conditions look right now food prices are probably going to keep going up for a while, and it isn’t just the Ukraine crisis that’s driving it. It’s the drought.
Unless you’re directly affected by water shortages out west you may not even know it, but the US is in the middle of one of the worst droughts in memory, with about 65% of the country experiencing drought conditions. Look at that map up there, just about the entire western half of the country is under drought conditions.
In the last few weeks the commodities market price for wheat has almost doubled, jumping from a bit over $7 up to $13.40 a bushel as of this morning.
Part of this is due to the situation in Ukraine of course, but much of it is because of weather issues. Corn and soybeans haven’t been hit quite as hard but they are up as well.
The drought situation is going to hit the cattle markets as well. With everything as dry as it is out west that means that grass for grazing cattle is in short supply and feed costs are going to be going up.
Considering how fond I am of gadgets, technology and all that stuff, you might be surprised to learn that I also hate having things change. I develop ways of doing things and I dislike having to change. But sometimes there’s no way changes can be avoided, and I’m dealing with that right now.
For something like 10 or 12 years a MacBook pro has lived in our kitchen, mostly on the kitchen table, dealing with day to day chores like handling my email, reading the news, sorting my photos and writing this blog. But after more than a decade of flawless service the MacBook is showing signs it isn’t long for this world and it is going to need to be replaced. But new MacBooks, especially the Pro version, are most definitely not cheap. I was looking at the MacBook Air which is very, very nice. But…
But then I saw my new(ish) iPad sitting there and started wondering why I needed a laptop in the kitchen at all. Why couldn’t I use the iPad for the same things I used the MB for? It’s the new generation iPad so it certainly has the processing power and memory to deal with 99.9% of the stuff I used the laptop for. I decided I didn’t need a laptop, all I needed was a keyboard for the iPad.
And here we are, the first post written and edited entirely on an iPad instead of the elderly MacBook.
The keyboard is – interesting? It you look at a newer iPad you’ll find 3 little gold dots along one edge. That’s how it connects to the optional keyboard. Magnets hold it in place. The keyboard folds up to cover the screen, and folds out to form a stand to hold it in place while typing. It’s a really slick design. There’s no physical connection at all except the magnets so the iPad can be pulled away to use by itself.
But do I like it? Not really. The keyboard isn’t exactly comfortable to use. It’s tiny, the keys are too close together, it is uncomfortable for someone with big hands, like me. Still, it isn’t horrible and it does work and I’ll probably get used to it. Biggest problem so far is trying to use a touch screen instead of a mouse and trackpad. I’m still trying to adapt to that.
It seems that the iPad can do pretty much everything I need it to do in order to replace the Macbook, but it’s going to be awkward for a while until I get used to this setup. It’s easy to copy and paste photos. It can even do some photo editing. So far I’ve been adapting. I don’t have my email switched over yet but that’s coming next.
So Let’s Talk About Toyota…
Toyota managed to p*** off just about all of its customers this past month by announcing that people who owned 2018 or newer vehicles were going to have to start paying a $8 a month subscription fee for a premium audio service they probably don’t want if they wanted to maintain the remote start capabilities of their key fobs. Now the whole story gets complicated and confusing and seems to be changing all the time as Toyota tries to do damage control. Basically here’s what Toyota claims is going on.
Sidenote: I should point out that leaving your vehicle running unattended, even if it’s locked, is illegal in a lot of jurisdictions and can you can get a citation for doing so.
According to the company the key fobs are going to lose the ability to remote start the vehicle because of something to do with the 3G cellular system is shutting down soon. Maybe? But this makes no sense at all because the key fob has absolutely nothing to do with the cellular system. The key fob works by a short range radio transceiver built into the fob, communicating via coded signals with another short range transceiver built into the car. The cellular network has nothing to do with it. And in any case why would key fob functionality be tied to the car’s stereo system to begin with? The explanations I’ve seen so far make absolutely no sense at all.
This is a software problem. Either accidentally or deliberately Toyota tied the remote start function to the premium audio system. If you don’t subscribe to the premium audio features, it is shut off, and the remote start is shut off with it. So rather than fixing the bug and rolling out a software update, Toyota is telling the owners of these cars they’re going to have to pay $8 a month for a service they don’t want in order to keep using a feature they already paid for.
While I’m complaining about stuff let’s move on to Tesla. The company has announced it is going to now cost you $12,000 if you want the self driving functions of the car to be enabled. Twelve. Thousand. Dollars. For a piece of software that, judging from the videos I’ve seen, doesn’t actually work very will and is quite possibly actually dangerous to use. And which now enables activities which are actually illegal, like performing rolling stops at stop signs. And even Tesla calls it a beta version of the software. That means it is still very much in the testing stage of development and is still being modified frequently and still has bugs in it.
And they want you to pay $12,000 to be able to use it.
Do I need to say any more about this? No? Good.
Let’s look at what’s coming up.
I’ve finally had a chance to work with a new bowl hollowing system from Simple Wood Turning Tools. I’ve been using some of their carbide turning tools for some time and really like them, and I’ve had their hollowing system sitting on the shelf and finally had a chance to use it. I liked it so much I want to take a closer look at it here. It just works really, really well. So keep an eye out for that in the future.
I’ve had some ”issues”, as they say, with my old laser engrave and have a new one on the way that is supposed to be coming yet today. Maybe. I hope. It has the rather unfortunate name of Laserpecker, but there’s nothing I can do about that. If it works half as well as the demo videos it should be interesting. It does have some problems that make me a bit nervous, like the fact that a lot of the accessories they advertise for it like the roller and traveling systems don’t actually seem to exist. But we’ll see. Hopefully.
Oh, and I promised you a dog! Here you go:
This is Dash. MrsGF’s sister just got this guy a few weeks ago. His hobbies include slobbering on people, trying to sit on laps, chasing toys and smelling things. Oh, and staring at you when you’re eating because you aren’t sharing with him.