Monthly Archives: January 2006

Photo Clearance Sale: Naperville Riverwalk

While I’m trying to learn how to use my new Nikon D200, I’m going to publish a lot of my photos from earlier this year. It’s sort of a clearance sale to empty my inventory.

Here are some nice ones from the Naperville Riverwalk.

Passing Along the Riverwalk
Larger ImagePassing Along the Riverwalk

Follow this link for about two dozen more Naperville Riverwalk photos (some of which I’ve posted before).

Knowing About Rape

Eugene Volokh catches an apparent problem in an article in Oregon State’s Daily Barometer:

According to a press release issued by the Women’s Center, 2,000 rapes occur every five minutes.

This amounts to the claim that, on average, every woman in the United States is raped once every 9 months, which is absurd. Eugene tracks down the actual press release, which says:

About 2,000 rapes are committed daily at the rate of about one every 5 minutes.

That’s completely different from the newspaper quote. But it’s still not right: One every five minutes would only be 288 per day. That’s a seven-fold discrepancy. I don’t know which of those numbers is correct, but that sentence is definitely wrong.

Eugene goes on to find some other statistics that make more sense. You can read the rest if you want to.

I’m more interested in one of the comments, by someone called dk35, who I think felt that Eugene was minimizing the problem of rape by focusing on the statistics:

Who doesn’t think rape isn’t a serious problem? What I don’t get is why you need statistics at all to convince people that rape is a serious problem.

What I don’t get is how else dk35 expects people to learn that rape is a serious problem. Divine inspiration? By being raped?

Here’s why you need statistics: I have never been raped. I have never even met someone who told me they were raped. There has been no rape in my life. By my direct observation and by second-hand accounts, the incidence of rape is exactly zero.

It is only through indirect evidence such as reliable statistical reports that I can be aware of the depressing frequency of rape.

Censorship of Google in China

Google’s recent launch of the Chinese Google service is attracting a lot of attention because Google has agreed to censor the results in accord with Chinese law.

I feel about this the same way I did when Microsoft censored its blogs: In China, the only alternative to censored service is no service at all. I think that even partial service is better than none, because the censored topics are not the only things people want to find on the web.

But here’s what I don’t get: Suppose Google built a complete data center in China with its own database and its own googlebots. The googlebots would scan the web as usual, following links wherever they go. However, when the bots attempted to follow a link to censored content, the Chinese government firewall would block access, and the bots wouldn’t add those blocked pages to the index. The resulting database would therefore contain only materials that passed Chinese censorship. No one would blame Google for this.

Instead, Google scans much of the web outside of China, and then omits pages blocked by the Chinese firewall from its result sets. The same search results are available to users as if the data center were entirely within China, but now people blame Google for the censorship.

Like others, I’m angry about the censorship of Google results in China, but I think the proper target for our anger is the Chinese government.

How Smart Is Blonde Justice?

Blonde Justice is a legal blog run by a public defender who prefers to remain anonymous and thus styles herself after the Elle Woods character played by Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde and Legally Blonde 2.

I worry about people who run anonymous blogs. Not that I distrust their motives or anything like that. I just worry because so many of them aren’t very good at keeping it anonymous. Slowly, bit by bit, they give themselves away: Little bits of description about their city, references to events reported in the local news, their age or occupation.

Anonymous legal bloggers are especially vulnerable. If a blogger reveals that he’s a 38-year old defense lawyer in a small two-partner firm in Cleveland, it only takes an hour or so of browsing on-line attorney biographies to figure out who the author is. I’ve figured out a couple of them just out of monkey curiosity. If I knew more about the legal system, I could probably figure out a few more.

I’d also have to be more motivated. Other people are a lot more motivated than I am, and several famous bloggers have been unmasked, such as Washington sex kitten Jessica Cutler, who blogged as Washingtonienne. (Of course, when you’re a Senate staffer sleeping with other Senate staffers for money, a lot of people are gonna come looking for you.) More recently, South Knox Bubba unmasked himself before someone else could do it.

It takes a smart person to stay anonymous for a long time.

So how smart is Blonde Justice? Check out her answer to one of those annoying question lists that keep going around:

Four Places You’ve Been on Vacation

You know, no one really knows where the Simpsons live. Yes, Springfield, but in what state? I’ve always thought I’d figure it out by where they go on vacation. A family isn’t going to say “Yippee! We’re going to ____!” and name the state where they live. By process of elimination then, someday we should know where they live. Therefore, I had to geographically anonymized this section. Sorry.

On a sailboat
On a cruise ship
Tropical Islands
Central America

Blonde Justice is that smart. And that paranoid. I gotta admire that.

D200 On the Way

I managed to move things along a bit on the D200 front. Sort of.

Last thursday, I just queried Adorama about my order for a D200 and got this response:

Please be advised that you are at the top of our waiting list, however to this point we have only received one shipment from Nikon for very few cameras & have not gotten any since.

Unfortunately it is not in our hands we are relying on Nikon to supply us & so far they have not come through they way we were expecting.

We apologize for any delays & inconveniences & thank you for your patronage.

Sigh. I’ve never had trouble with Adorama before, and really, I’m not having trouble now. The problem is that Nikon production can’t keep up with the spike in demand for D200 bodies. Worse, Nikon isn’t committing to a delivery schedule with its dealers.

What was weird is that the major online camera stores like Adorama aren’t receiving new shipments from Nikon, but I keep hearing about people buying them from the Best Buy and Circuit City online stores. They’ll just keep checking the websites until they see D200 bodies in stock, then they’ll quickly order one. Here I was trying to buying one from a dedicated camera store, and Nikon keeps shipping new ones to the big electronics chains.

I decided that with Adorama’s honest but unsatisfying response, I might as well try to snag one from one of the big stores.

I had no luck at Circuit City, but I snared one Thursday morning at Best Buy. I ordered it with overnight delivery so that I’d get it on Friday and be able to play with my new toy all weekend. They sent me 3 emails confirming my order, and I started obsessively checking the order status on the web site to see when it would ship.

Meanwhile, I dealt with another problem. My order at Adorama included Nikon’s new 18-200mm VR lens. That wasn’t shipping either because it was also backordered. Best Buy and Circuit City don’t even sell DSLR lenses, so I had no way to get an 18-200 VR lens for the D200 body, and without a lens, it’s useless.

What I had to do was order a lens that Adorama had in stock, so that I’d have something to take photos with until the 18-200 came.

My first thought was to order one of the cheap kit lenses that Nikon ships with some of their cameras, such as their 18-55mm lens for $160. But that would be a bit of a waste, because once the 18-200 came, it would completely subsume the 18-55 and I’d never need it again.

My second thought was to order one of the other specialty lenses I’d been thinking of ordering at a later date. But which one? I could order the 12-24mm wide-angle zoom lense for $920, but that’s a lot of money to spend right now, and do I really want to do nothing but take wide-angle photos for the next few weeks? The 10.5mm fish-eye lens was cheaper at $570, but that’s a trick lens that should be used sparingly.

At the opposite end of the focal range is Nikon’s 70-200mm telephoto lens. Seeing just the numbers for the focal length, you might think this lens would also be subsumed by the 18-200 lens, but if you look at the specifications and reviews, it’s actually a professional quality lens. It also has a professional quality price of $1650 which is way too expensive for me.

My third thought was to order Nikon’s 17-55mm lens. Again, don’t let the focal length fool you. Unlike the 18-55mm kit lens, this is a piece of high-quality professional glass. It can take magnificent, sharp, beautiful pictures. As it should for $1200. It would be nice to have, but that’s a steep price.

I finally settled on a lens I hadn’t given much thought to until now: A 35mm f/2 lens for $305. That’s a prime lens, meaning it only has one focal length and cannot zoom in and out. However, because of the simplicity of the non-zoom design, it produces a high-quality image. What it lacks in flexibility, it makes up for in image quality.

Also, at 35mm, it’s what’s known as a “normal” lens: Its field of view is considered close to the field of view of the human eye. Years ago, before zoom lenses of today’s high quality were available, many beginning photographers would start out with a normal lens. I figure that working with a non-zooming normal lens will help me practice thinking about how to compose pictures.

So that’s what I ordered from Adorama, requesting overnight delivery to arrive with the camera.

Thursday evening, however, I noticed that there was a message I had missed on the answering machine. It must have come in while I was out. It was a call from Best Buy because they needed to confirm the shipping address for security purposes.

Understand, they had my email address if they wanted to reach me, and they had the Order Status page on the web site to let me know to contact them. Instead of using either of those, they left phone messages for me. By the time I returned the call, it was too late for Friday delivery.

As I sit here, UPS tracking shows that my camera left the warehouse in Ohio and is now, for some reason, in Rockford, Illinois, before its trip to Chicago tomorrow.

The lens, on the other hand, was shipped on time by Adorama and arrived on Friday. Ain’t she a beaut’?

Nikon 35mm f/2D AF Lens
Larger ImageNikon 35mm f/2D AF Lens

An object suitable for aesthetic contemplation. And not much else.

Community Standards

The Volokh Conspiracy has a post about the Google subpoena, and a comment by someone using the name DEGOP has this to say about the definition of pornography:

“Prevailing community standards” is the only test worth a darn. We abandon it at our peril. The problem is that community standards in San Francisco are a lot worse than they are in, say, Kansas. Therefore, on the Internet, serious protections have to be in place. Otherwise, the children in Kansas might end up as corrupted as the children in San Francisco, even though their parents try to protect them.

This is wrong on so many levels.

First of all, “prevailing community standards” is no test at all, since no person seeking to produce, distribute, or consume sex-themed materials could possibly know what that standard means. It’s a travesty of justice for our courts use such a vague and unpredictable “test” to decide people’s liberty.

Second, if DEGOP is correct about the relative standards of San Francisco and Kansas, then a lot of people would say that San Francisco’s standards are a lot better than in Kansas, because they permit more pornography. According to the 60 Minutes story “Porn in the U.S.A.”, Americans spend $10 billion a year on porn. Wherever you make pornography available to people, they buy it, rent it, and use it. To millions of people, porn is not a problem on the internet but one of its many enjoyable features.

Third, DEGOP may be wrong about the relative standards in San Francisco and Kansas. Using U.S. census figures, Wikipedia, and an internet strip club guide, we can construct a crude proxy for community standards. San Francisco has 21 strip clubs for a population of 744000, or one per 35000 residents, whereas Kansas has 36 clubs for 2.7 million residents, or one per 76000. A significant difference, but not exactly night and day.

But wait, DEGOP is comparing the entire state of Kansas to a densely populated California city. If we look at California as a whole, we find 212 strip clubs serving a population of 36 million, giving it one strip club per 170000 people. Put another way, Kansas has five times as many strip clubs per person as California.

So, this DEGOP person can’t even judge the “community standards” correctly in his own argument, picking regions of his choice. It’s absurd to make “community standards” into a legal test.

It seems to me that the internet itself is a community, and the prevailing standard here is broader and more permissive than anywhere else in the world. A lot of us like it that way.

Chuck Norris Lets Me Blog Here

Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.

Chuck Norris frequently donates blood to the Red Cross. Just not his own.

I first saw Chuck Norris in 1978’s Good Guys Wear Black (directed by Ted Post, who may not be famous, but sure has been busy).

Good Guys Wear Black

I can’t really remember much of the story, but Norris was the man of few words we have all come to know, out to avenge something or other. The big fight at the end had a stunt which was featured in all the coming attractions: The bad guy tries to run Chuck over with his car, but Chuck leaps up just in time to kick through the windshield, killing the bad guy. (You can just barely see it reflected in the sunglasses of the movie poster.) It sounds tame by the standards of modern action movies, but I remember it was pretty cool at the time.

People have been poking fun at Chuck Norris for almost as long as he’s been around. The latest fad has been to collect “facts” about Chuck Norris that show how tough he really is.

When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.

There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live.

Looking back at Norris’s first few movies, I don’t think anyone could have predicted that he would be so famous that he’s a part of our common cultural landscape.

Superman owns a pair of Chuck Norris pajamas.

Chuck Norris can touch MC Hammer.

Naturally, someone has collected all these Chuck Facts into a website. This is my favorite:

Chuck Norris does not go hunting because the word “hunting” implies the possibility of failure. Chuck Norris goes killing.

There are thousands more.