Monday, March 4, 2013

Five Vital Amendments to the U.S. Constitution

In the previous post, I presented an entirely new constitution for the United States of America.  That document began as an effort to address the most important flaws in the current constitution.  My remedies for the five biggest issues are below.
I think the document is fairly self-explanatory, but there are brief footnotes at the bottom of each amendment that provide a bit of background.

Enjoy!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Third Constitution of the United States of America

I've been working on a project for a while, and I've decided it is time to release it. So here it is.
I won't try to prejudice your opinion of my efforts by giving any background here, but there is a brief essay at the end of the document if you care to know how it came about.  I suggest you not read until you've gone through the text a couple of times.  The same suggestion applies to the endnotes.

Enjoy!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Leaking Apples

I have used Apple's iTunes for years, but I am on the verge of giving up on it due to its memory usage on Windows XP.  While I haven't attached a debugger to the program, the pattern of behavior indicates to me that the program has some kind of memory leak.  (I'm using the phrase memory leak here to indicate that there's some kind of programming error that fails to free-up memory, whether or not it is due to deleted handles.)  In the two latest versions, the program also stutters at the beginning of each song, even when I set the priority to high.  A third annoyance is Bonjour, which is a network discovery service I have no use for, and that I uninstall after each iTunes upgrade.  I've decided to try some old versions to see when the problems started.  Below are the results so far.
  • iTunes 11 - memory leak, stuttering, yet more background programs, includes Bonjour
  • iTunes 10.7 - memory leak, stuttering, includes Bonjour
  • iTunes 10.6.1 - untested (IIRC, had the memory leak problem), includes Bonjour
  • iTunes 10.5.3.3 - memory leak, no stuttering, includes Bonjour
  • iTunes 10.4.1 - next up for testing
Please note: if you are planning to downgrade to an old version: you will have to restore an old version of the iTunes database, which means all information (ratings, play, etc. ) that has been saved since you first upgraded from that version will be lost.  (Old versions can be found in C:\Documents and Settings\your user name here\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\Previous iTunes Libraries.)  Be sure to save the current version of the iTunes data files somewhere so you can restore those if you don't like the downgrade.   Neither downgrading or upgrading should affect any data stored in the tracks themselves (artist, album, etc.).

Monday, December 24, 2012

Not Quite as Controversial as Moving Christmas to July, But Close

Random Christmas Eve idea:  we could really improve the holiday season by moving Thanksgiving back one month, to the last Friday before the last Sunday in October.  The big holiday would be on Friday, then kids could all do the trick-or-treat thing on Saturday night, and adults could have their parties on the actual 31st, whenever that might fall.  Moving the date would make the holiday season less of a slog, would eliminate the whole "Black Friday/Cyber Monday" madness, and would keep more people off the road during the snowy season in the northern half of the country.  It would also be better for any university that uses the semester system by providing a break midway through the term, instead of having one right about when papers are due and exams start.  For primary and secondary schools that use a quarter system, the new date would fall close enough to the current end of the first quarter that the school calendar could be adjusted to match.  I don't see any downsides to the idea except that everyone would hate it, and retailers would scream bloody murder.  But other than that, no downsides at all...

Update 2012-12-28: The timing of Election Day is not dependent on any holiday, but moving Thanksgiving up would mean that moving the election to the end of the month or early December would be a good idea.  A later date would shorten the transition period in presidential years and reduce the amount of time available for Congress to perform unaccountable mischief in a lame duck session.  It would also be nice to have the election a couple of weeks away from either holiday, since politics and family gatherings tend to create tension.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

You Don't Know How Lucky You Are

Random Sunday afternoon thought: on November 6, 2012, America dodged two bullets, and Romney wasn't the biggest of the two.  The other bullet was anti-empiricism in the political arena.  Nate Silver was the nominal target, but if the second bullet had hit, it would have taken out all facts in the public discourse for decades to come.  "Skewed" polls would become the norm, and narrative would have ruled the land.  All of the very considerable amount of data about climate change, growing inequality, the negative effects of lower tax rates on the rich, the exorbitant cost and low performance of our health care system, scientific measurements of the effects of polluting chemicals, and on and on and on, would have become irrelevant.  The explosion of anti-empiricism would have had deeply harmful effects on the overwhelming majority of people in this country, and on the rest of the globe.  But the American people dodged that bigger bullet, mostly without even knowing it was headed our way.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Internal Division Errors

A while ago I started a project to redraw the counties and county-level equivalent areas in each of the 50 states.  I have several reasons for undertaking such an odd task.  First, I like maps and playing with maps.  Second, it is way for me to virtually visit places I'll never have a chance to get to in real life.  Between the various online map layers, one can get a decent sense of what just about any area of the country is like.  Third, in many states, reconfiguring the internal divisions is something that should be done.  Some counties are too large, others are divided by nearly impassible geography, many could be re-drawn with more natural boundaries, and quite a few are very under-populated.  The new boundaries attempt to balance size, population, watershed boundaries, economic interconnections, and other factors.  Not every newly-drawn or re-drawn county is optimal, but I feel the states I have completed are much better divided than than they are now.  Eventually I'll get to all of the states, but it will take a few more years.

Due to limitations in GMaps, some states may be split into two pages.  In the case of California, I manually split the map up to avoid having to jump around between three or more pages.  You can view more than one of the maps at a time by bookmarking each one in your GMaps account, and then clicking on each in your "My Places" list.  It's kludgy, but it works.*

  • Alabama counties
  • Alaska counties
  • Arizona counties
  • Arkansas counties
  • California counties (Northern, Central, Southern)
  • Colorado counties
  • Connecticut counties
  • Delaware counties
  • Florida counties
  • Georgia counties
  • Hawaii counties
  • Idaho counties
  • Illinois counties
  • Indiana counties
  • Iowa counties
  • Kansas counties
  • Kentucky counties
  • Louisiana counties
  • Maine counties
  • Maryland counties
  • Massachusetts counties
  • Michigan counties
  • Minnesota counties
  • Mississippi counties
  • Missouri counties
* - If you have a GIS program installed, download the KML for each state, and then load them all into a new project, along with state and county layers.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Picture This and That: November 2012 Comparison Chart Edition

Note: I post updated versions of this chart every six months or so.  Check the photography category for the latest.

Photokina has come and gone for the biennium, and we're now entering the season of the holiday consumption orgy.  To assist gift-givers and gift-demanders, below is a chart of the available (or announced and shipping before Christmas) interchangeable-lens cameras (ILC).  There are a slew of newcomers this time, and I have added a row for entry-level full-frame digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras to accommodate what seems to be a new market category.  I also added a row to the rangefinder-style mirrorless system camera (MSC) section because Sony filled a gap in their pricing structure. I've left in place the row for the now-empty full-frame flagship studio DSLR category as I anticipate Canon and Nikon will fill it again.  I am still excluding Fuji's X-series (I am so, so tired of "X" everything) even though a second, less expensive model was added because... well, because it would screw up my chart.  Maybe next time.

On to the newcomers, with the old models in parentheses.  Canon introduced the EOS-M (n/a), EOS 650D/T4i (600D/T3i), and EOS 6D (n/a).  Nikon introduced the J2 (J1), V2 (V1), D3200 (D3100), and D600 (n/a). Sony introduced the NEX-F3 (NEX-C3), NEX-5R (NEX-5N), NEX-6 (n/a), and SLT-A99 (n/a).  Pentax introduced the Q10 (Q), K-30 (n/a), and K-5 II (K-5).  Olympus introduced the E-PM2 (E-PM1) and E-PL5 (E-PL3).  Panasonic introduced the DMC-GF5 (DMC-GF3), DMC-G5 (DMC-G3), and DMC-GH3 (DMC-GH2).  And, finally, Samsung introduced the NX1000 (NX100), NX210 (NX200), and NX20 (NX10).  Canon discontinued the EOS 1100D/T3 and reduced the price on the EOS 600D/T3i to replace it.  There are no direct replacements for the Canon 1Ds Mk.III, Nikon D3x, Olympus E-P3, Olympus E-620, and Pentax K-r. As always, older models are often still available new, and (initially) at a discount relative to current models.  (Old new stock tends to get more expensive several years out.)

A previous version of this chart is here, and a general background post can be found here.  If you're a first-time ILC buyer, remember that cameras are just tools, and the raw pixel count is very likely not the most important selection criteria.  Along with selecting a body, it's also important to consider what gets attached to the front of the camera: glass.  And one shouldn't forget to budget for accessories when making a decision. A minimal accessory package should include two storage cards, one spare battery, a UV filter (a.k.a. scratch protector) for the lens, and a basic carrying case.


Big 2UpstartLittle 4
Camera categoryBrand
(2010 ILC
market share)
Canon
(45%)
Nikon
(30%)
Sony 3
(12%)
Pentax
(?)
Olympus
(5%)
Panasonic
(?)
Samsung
(?)
RF-style MSC
price w/ zoom 1
Low-end-J2
10.1MP
$550
NEX-F3
16.2MP
$500
-E-PM2
16.1MP
$600
DMC-GX1
16.1MP
$470
-
Mid-Range--NEX-5R
16.1MP
$650
Q10
12.4MP
$600
E-PL5
16.1MP
$700
DMC-GF5
12.1MP
$520
NX1000
20.3MP
$600
High-endEOS-M
18.0MP
$799 4
V2
10.1MP
$800
NEX-6
16.1MP
$1000
K-01
16.3MP
$830 2
--NX210
20.3MP
$800
Flagship --NEX-7
24.1MP
$1300
----
Consumer
DSLR / SLT /
SLR-style MSC

price w/ zoom 1
Beginner600D/T3i
18.0MP
$500
D3200
24.2MP
$650
SLT-A37
16.2MP
$600
----
Mid-Range650D/T4i
18.0MP
$800
D5100
16.2MP
$650
SLT-A57
16.2MP
$700
K-30
16.3MP
$850
E-M5
16.1MP
$1100
DMC-G5
15.8MP
$800
-
Enthusiast60D
18.0MP
$1200
D7000
16.2MP
$1300
SLT-A65
24.3MP
$900
--DMC-GH3
16.1MP
$900
NX20
20.3MP
$1000
Professional
DSLR / SLT

price body only
Mid-size
crop sensor
7D
18.0MP
$1600
D300s
12.3MP
$1700
SLT-A77
24.3MP
$1300
K-5 II
16.3MP
$1200 5
E-5
12.3MP
$1700
--
Entry-level
full frame
6D
20.3MP
$2100
D600
24.3MP
$2100
-----
Mid-size
full frame
5D Mk.III
22.3MP
$3500
D800
36.3MP
$3000 5
SLT-A99
24.3MP
$2800
----
Flagship action1D X
18.1MP
$6800
D4
16.2MP
$6000
-----
Flagship studio-------

1 - If multiple zoom kits are available, the price is for the cheapest, which usually includes an 18-55mm (equivalent) lens.
2 - dual-lens kit
3 - Sony's web site is horrible so I'm not linking to it.
4 - prime not zoom lens
5 - The K-5 II and D800 are available without an anti-aliasing filter for a modest additional price.