June 2006

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Virgina Postrel writes,

The anti-photo policies of museums don’t necessarily make sense, except as some kind of revenue enhancer. Prohibiting flash is one thing. And I don’t blame the Louvre for blocking photos in the often-crowded Italian painting gallery. But prohibiting all photos in an uncrowded museum filled with works in the public domain is unnecessary—unless you think it will generate sales in the museum store.

I can understand that a museum might prohibit flash photography because it’s annoying, but I think that gift-shop revenue is the real motivator. When it comes to old paintings, there’s no copyright anymore, so museums have to find other ways to keep you from making copies.

Apparently, some museums imply that flash photography causes paintings to degrade more quickly, perhaps causing the pigments to fade or something. On first consideration, this seems plausible because at close range the flash can be brighter than the sun, and the sun can certainly fade paint.

It turns out, however, that flash photography is essentially harmless.

The key intuition is that it always takes the same amount of light striking a piece of film to expose it properly, and for that amount of light to reach the film, it first has to bounce off the painting. So every photograph of a painting involves hitting it with the same amount of light. It could be a high-speed flash fired in a 1000th of a second, or a 1-second long exposure in a dimly-lit museum gallery.

In other words—and this is the whole point—a flash picture is equivalent to leaving the museum lights on for one extra second.

(My 1-second figure is just a reasonable guess based on some photographic sources and a little playing around with my camera. The actual exposure will depend on the film speed and aperture, the actual museum lighting, and maybe the tones present in the painting. But once those are chosen, it’s still the same amount of light for flash as for ambient light photography. The same principle also applies if you’re shooting digital.)

So, if 300 people take pictures every day, that’s equivalent to leaving the museum lights on for an extra 5 minutes each day.

Technically, a photographic flash usually emits more ultraviolet light than ordinary museum lighting, and paint pigments are known to suffer more damage from UV light. Also, certain types of chemical damage are disproportionately worse for high-intensity light. However, studies by professional conservators indicate that neither of these factors contributes to the aging that art works undergo while on display at a museum.

So, if you want a good picture of a painting but the museum won’t let you take a flash photo, you can always take one in ambient light. Of course, it’s hard to hold the camera steady for a full second in your hands, so you’d have to shoot with the camera mounted on a tripod.

And wouldn’t you know it, most museums prohibit the use of tripods.

I guess you’ll just have to buy a photo from the gift shop after all.

Further reading: Here’s an article on the subject. Or there’s this book: Effects of Light on Materials in Collections: Data on Photoflash and Related Sources, summarized briefly here.

Glenn Reynolds, while reporting that this is the sixtieth anniversary of the bikini, has decided this this is blog sweeps week. I figure I better do my part.

Here’s an image of the infamous Reason magazine pillow girl in a nifty little cowgirl/bikini outfit.

Rush Limbaugh had another run-in with the drug police:

Rush Limbaugh was detained for more than three hours Monday at Palm Beach International Airport after authorities said they found a bottle of Viagra in his possession without a prescription.

It’s a perfectly legal drug. Who really cares whether or not he has a prescription?

Assholes from U.S. Customs, that’s who.

Someday I’ll have to find out why it is that police need probable cause to search you except when you’re crossing the border. Where is that exception in the Constitution?

I don’t like Rush Limbaugh, and I never would have thought I’d feel sorry for him, but nobody deserves this kind of crap.

What’s even sadder is that I don’t think Rush is going to learn anything at all from his troubles.

(Hat tip: Drug WarRant)

Jeff Fest
Larger ImageJeff Fest

I stopped in at the Jeff Fest (a.k.a. The Jefferson Park Community Festival) on the northwest side today. It’s one of the many festivals going on this summer in Chicago.

(My photos can also be seen as a slideshow without the commentary.)

Getting a Ride
Larger ImageGetting a Ride

Here’s Chicago’s most famous Elvis impersonator:

Rick Saucedo
Larger ImageRick Saucedo

A few more sites around the fest:

Camera Girl
Larger ImageCamera Girl
A Couple Enjoying the Show
Larger ImageA Couple Enjoying the Show
Tasty Goodness
Larger ImageTasty Goodness
Girls Posing for Me
Larger ImageGirls Posing for Me

Lots more photos after the jump…


This happened back in April, but it’s worth telling, because you just can’t make up this kind of stupidity.

At Los Angeles International Airport, employees of the Transportation Security Administration discovered that passenger Daniel Brown was on the no-fly list, so they grabbed him before he boarded his plane and interrogated him, despite the fact that he was a uniformed Marine.

He had his military identification and his travel orders, and he was traveling with 26 other Marines who could vouch for him.

Wait, it gets better.

You might think, as I did, that this was one of those name mixups we keep hearing about where someone has the same name as a terrorist and the TSA is just too stupid to realize this. After all, these are the guys who detained Senator Ted Kennedy because some terrorist once used “T. Kennedy” as an alias.

But no, it wasn’t a case of mistaken identity. USMC Staff Sergeant Daniel Brown really was on the no-fly list. The reason? On a previous trip, when Brown was returning from a tour in Iraq, the TSA found gunpowder on his shoes.

Imagine that. Gunpowder residue on the shoes of a U.S. Marine returning from a war zone.

The same article that reports this story also mentions a recent Government Accountability Office report leaked to NBC News concerning recent security tests. GAO security testers tried to bring bomb-making materials through the TSA security checkpoints. They tried this at 21 airports around the country, and succeed at every single airport. With these kinds of decision-making skills, that doesn’t surprise me.

When the TSA folks finally kicked Daniel Brown loose, he caught another flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul, where he found that all 26 of the Marines he had been traveling with were waiting for him, so they could take the bus home together.

That doesn’t surprise me either.

(Hat tip, Reason‘s Daily Brickbat.)

One year ago today, the U.S. Supreme court ruled on the Kelo decision, confirming that governments could use their eminent domain powers to take private property and hand it over to private developers for private use. All that was needed was the thinnest of public use justifications, such as that the new owners would use the property in a way which generated greater tax revenue.

In just the past year, more than 5,700 properties nationwide have been threatened by or taken with eminent domain for private development–a figure that compares with more than 10,000 examples over a five-year period preceding the Kelo argument[.]

That’s from an announcement about four new reports just issued by the Institute for Justice and the Castle Coalition.

I’m particularly interested in Opening the Floodgates: Eminent Domain Abuse in the Post-Kelo World which compiles information about a bunch of properties threatened by eminent domain for private use, including a few right here in Illinois. The first one, on page 36, discusses the International Plaza shopping center, which I blogged about last fall.

Best of all, it includes this picture of the mall:

International Plaza
Larger ImageInternational Plaza

I took that picture for my blog entry—I can even see where my car is parked—and an intern at the the Institute for Justice emailed me a couple of weeks ago asking me if they could use it.

That’s just cool.

(Get all the reports from http://www.castlecoalition.org/kelo/index.html, but be warned that they are huge PDF files.)

Thoughts upon viewing the video for “Sex Over The Phone” by The Village People:

  • I hope string ties never become trendy again. (Although, for all I know, they already are.)
  • Production values for music videos have come a long way.
  • Those guys have some serious mustaches.
  • Did phone sex lines really have to take your credit card number and call you back? What was that all about? 900 numbers not invented yet? Slow credit card check? Phone system couldn’t handle transfers to the women?
  • Sometimes you can hear that the singer has a pretty good voice.
  • The women don’t look really happy to be in the video.
  • The 80’s were a weird decade.

Oh, just follow the link. It’s really…something.

I’m not a fan of impeaching U.S. Presidents for unimportant crimes—or worse, imagined crimes—but if a Democratic Congress ever impeaches George Bush, I would be highly amused if they got him for flag desecration.

Public Defender Dude has more to say.

Alright, it’s a bad idea…but there’s a certain cosmic sense of justice to it.

I should read Leslie’s Omnibus more often. I missed a really good story that would have made for a great pictorial feature.

The World Naked Bike Ride plans to hit Chicago and at least 25 other cities around the world Saturday as a peaceful protest against international oil consumption, according Chicago ride organizer Aurora Danai.

“We don’t expect everyone to be OK with this,” said Danai, a 26-year-old Bucktown resident. “We’re just trying to have a good time and raise awareness.”

Now in its third year, World Naked Bike Ride is a way for communities to simultaneously protest oil use and promote positive self-images by ditching motor-powered vehicles and the body coverings society demands people wear, Danai said.

World Naked Bike Ride organizers expect people in at least 14 countries to participate in Saturday’s ride. Locally, Danai expects about 300 people to bike, skate and even jog during the event.

The Chicago ride will take place at night, Danai said, out of respect for parents who do not want their children exposed to adult nudity.

On that note, welcome to the blogroll, Leslie.

Mike at Crime & Federalism wants reading suggestions. He prefers practical non-fiction and enjoys “books that are that are hybrids of insight and practicality.”

Here are my suggestions:

Armchair Economist by Steven Landsburg. It’s about thinking carefully about incentives and how people respond to them. Good for thinking about public policy, but I’ve also found this way of thinking useful in other ways, such as how to structure a business deal so both sides have an incentive to do the right thing.

A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness by V. S. Ramachandran. A few glimpses of the modern way of thinking about thinking.

Anatomy of Movement by Blandine C. Germain. How your muscles and skeleton work, with lots of diagrams. If this doesn’t sound useful now, just wait until you get older


Anybody else have ideas?

White House press secretary Tony Snow had this to say when asked for the President’s reaction to news that the U.S. military had suffered its 2500th death in Iraq:

“It’s a number,” said Tony Snow, the White House press secretary.

“Every time there’s one of these 500-benchmarks, people want something,” Snow added at his near-daily press briefing at the White House. “The president would like the war to be over now. Everybody would like the war to be over now.”

He’s got a point. 2500 is a nice round number, but it’s not terribly significant by itself, except to the news media. 2500 deaths is just an arbitrary number, worse than 2499 deaths but not as bad as 2501 deaths.

Then again, the So-Called “Austin Mayor” Blog has a point too.

Want to commit non-violent crimes and not get prosecuted? According to an AP piece on Yahoo, it’s not as hard as you might think:

Dan L’Allier said he witnessed 45 tons of the New York loot being unloaded in Minnesota at his company’s headquarters. He and disaster specialist Chris Christopherson complained to a company executive, but were ordered to keep quiet. They persisted, going instead to the FBI.

The two whistleblowers eventually lost their jobs, received death threats and were blackballed in the disaster relief industry. But they remained convinced their sacrifice was worth seeing justice done.

They were wrong.

The key to escaping justice is apparently to commit the same kind of crime as a bunch of FBI agents and top federal employees:

A March 2002 entry in the FBI‘s “prosecutive status” report states the U.S. Attorney’s office in Minnesota intended “to prosecute individuals who were alleged to be involved in the transportation of stolen goods from New York City after the terrorist attack.” A followup entry from Sept. 6, 2002 lists the specific evidence supporting such a charge.

The lead investigators for the FBI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency told AP that the plan to prosecute KEI for those thefts stopped as soon as it became clear in late summer 2002 that an FBI agent in Minnesota had stolen a crystal globe from ground zero.

That prompted a broader review that ultimately found 16 government employees, including a top FBI executive and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, had such artifacts from New York or the Pentagon.

“How could you secure an indictment?” FEMA investigator Kirk Beauchamp asked. “It would be a conflict.”

(As an aside, is anyone else worried that FEMA has investigators? Do you think they carry guns? I mean, FEMA employees with guns? Is that safe?)

It’s a strange story with a lot of weird angles, including the sort of fumbling ass-covering that we’ve all come to expect whenever FEMA is involved.


You’re Fiji!

As calm, relaxed, and removed from life as they come, you’re just so chilled out, it hurts people to see you.  Everyone aspires to be where you are, but most of them just can’t put their stress away.  Little do they know that even you sometimes have inner turmoil and struggles!  For the most part, though, it’s sun and fun for you, and that’s the way you like it.  It’s just sort of hard to get things done with all that partying.

Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

Sigh. If only that were true…