27MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

“Individuals who have been wronged by unlawful racial discrimination should be made whole; but under our Constitution there can be no such thing as either a creditor or a debtor race. That concept is alien to the Constitution’s focus upon the individual. …To pursue the concept of racial entitlement – even for the most admirable and benign of purposes – is to reinforce and preserve for future mischief the way of thinking that produced race slavery, race privilege and race hatred. In the eyes of government, we are just one race here. It is American.”

Antonin Scalia

We’re gonna miss Scalia.  He was solid.

25MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

So, it’s Aristotle Week at Quote of the Day!

 

“In the many forms of government which have sprung up there has always been an acknowledgement of justice and proportionate equality, although mankind fail in attaining them, as indeed I have already explained. Democracy, for example, arises out of the notion that those who are equal in any respect are equal in all respects; because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal.”

Aristotle

 

And I thought this was a Marxist delusion.

The 10,000 Year Explosion – A Book Review

I just finished reading Gregory Cochran’s and Henry Harpending’s 2010 book “The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution.”  In some senses this book seems to be a rebuttal of Jared Diamond’s book “Guns, Germs and Steel, The Fates of Human Societies.”  Diamond’s thesis was that geography was the basis for all the differences between the levels of human technological progress across the world.  The underlying message of Diamond’s book is that all humans are exactly the same biologically.  An Australian Aborigone and Albert Einstein are equally likely to discover general relativity as long as they were both living in Eurasia at the right time in the right place.  In my review of Diamond’s book I stated that the results of geographic isolation clearly had great impact on the ability of neighboring peoples to benefit from the latest technological technology discoveries.  But I also doubted that this provided any proof that there were no meaningful differences between different human population groups.

“The Ten Thousand Year Explosion” is the answer to Diamond’s assertion on equivalence of human populations.  Cochran and Harpending provide a thesis on why human populations would differ and then a litany of examples of where they do.  The book is a fascinating story of how modern humans expanded out of Africa at the end of the last Ice Age and interacted and replaced the archaic humans who preceded them in colonizing Eurasia.  It is truly amazing that in a few short years Neanderthals and other archaic humans have gone from a few bones sitting in a museum display to creatures whose DNA can be compared gene by gene with our own.  Cochran and Harpending examine the genetic evidence and put forth the case that hybridization of modern humans with Neanderthals in Europe is the most likely explanation for the explosion of genetic and cultural changes that occurred when these two human populations interacted.  Their thesis is that the introduction of new alleles (genetic options) gave these humans added flexibility to adapt to their new environment and this led to selection for physical and mental characteristics that in turn gave rise to advances in agriculture, technology, culture and language.

Another message that Cochran and Harpending stress is that human evolution has not slowed even now.  A final example to reinforce this idea is the case of the Ashkenazi Jews.  Cochran and Harpending analyze the history of the Ashkenazi people and the genetic linkage between their higher average intelligence as a group and a number of genetic diseases that are linked to brain function.  He points out that these changes occurred in a period of less than a thousand years and are the result of natural selection reinforced by reproductive isolation and selective advantage based on occupation.

The 10,000 Year Explosion is a fascinating book.  You’ll learn that there literally was a tribe that gave rise to all the Indo-European speaking tribes (Celts and Greeks and Romans and Slavs and Germans and Aryans) and that this pastoral tribe went on to conquer and mix with people over half of Eurasia because they could digest lactose in milk.  And they were epic poets in Ireland, Greece and India.  The book is full of interesting facts and thought provoking ideas.  And I think it will convince most people that Jared Diamond is only looking at half the story by neglecting the genetic and other physical evidence about human history that is now available to scientists.  It turns out nature and nurture are inextricably linked and progress breeds change and vice versa.  We continue to change and to deny this is silly and counterproductive.

Review of Sigma MC-11 Adapter – Using Sigma Brand Canon-Mount Lenses on Sony E-Mount Cameras – Part 1

As mentioned in earlier posts I rented the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens for Canon EF and the Sigma 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro for Canon EF to use on my Sony A7 III with the Sigma MC-11 adapter.  I had heard on a “The Camera Store” video that the MC-11 paired with Sigma Canon mount lenses  was practically equivalent to native e-mount lenses with respect to autofocus on A7 cameras.  The only caveat was that the Sigma lenses for which this was true were restricted to three series, the Art Series, the Sports Series and the Contemporary Series.  Unfortunately for me I was interested in the Sigma 180mm f\2.8 macro lens which is not in any of these series.  So I rent ed this lens and the 150-600mm sports Series lens to compare how they performed with the MC-11.  I can now confirm that the lens series that are specified by Sigma for use with the MC-11 do indeed autofocus with Sony A7 cameras utilizing all the various capabilities of the autofocus system of the Sony A7 III (at least as far as I was able to determine).  And unfortunately, I can also confirm that lenses that aren’t in those sanctioned series of lenses have much less autofocus capability than those that do.  Many functions such as autofocus while remaining in magnified view don’t work at all.  As far as the accuracy of the autofocus it’s not as clear whether the capability of the lenses differ that much because I was using it as a macro lens and that type of lens usually doesn’t autofocus as quickly as normal lenses.  My sense is that it is less capable.  It feels like the autofocus that was available on the first generation of A7 cameras.

But the main message of this post is if there are Sigma lenses that extend the lens range for the A7 cameras in one of these three lens series (Art,Sports, Contemporary) you can expect to get near native autofocus capability with the Canon mount versions on the MC-11 adapter.

Avengers: Infinity War – A Science Fiction and Fantasy Movie Review

Spoiler alert.  If you don’t want to know how this movie ends don’t read this.  But just know that I don’t recommend this movie.

Last week was a birthday party for one of my grandsons.  I was talking to my two older grandsons (13 and 10 years old) and told them I’d seen a commercial for The Incredibles Part 2.  They told me it was already out so I told them I’d take them to see it Saturday. (May 19th).  Well I checked the theater listings on Friday and it turns out The Incredibles doesn’t start playing until June.  Not wanting to disappoint the kids I asked them if there was anything else out they wanted to see.  Well, they said The Avengers.  I’d brought them to see the first two and they were pretty good.  But I’d heard that the third one (Civil War) was starting to get lefty preachy so I skipped it.  So, I went to Infinity War with some trepidation.  And I had good cause.

This movie is a hot mess.  They threw everything and the kitchen sink into it.  There’s all the Avenger characters, then they added in the Guardians of the Galaxy crew for good measure.  Then there was someone called Doctor Strange and some stray characters with him.  He seemed to be some kind of imitation Dr. Who – Time Lord character.  Then they threw in the Black Panther characters.  And just in case there was anyone who wanted more, they threw in Spiderman.  All these various characters are working together to defeat Thanos.  He’s collecting the Infinity Stones and if he gets all six of them he’ll be able to perform his plan which is to kill half of all the intelligent beings in the Universe.  There’s all kinds of battles and fights and at the end Thanos wins and his power kills half of the world.  You see half of the Avengers and the other super heroes evaporating into dust.

Now, what the hell kind of Super Hero movie is that to bring kids to?  The good guys lose and half of everyone in the world dies.  Of course, in the next movie they’ll bring them all back to life but what a depressing stupid mess!  Thanks Marvel.  Well I sure hope they don’t ruin the Incredibles too.  Honestly, I’m starting to wonder if the only movies worth watching are from a generation ago.  I’m going to start making a list of the movies that we watched as kids and renting or buying them so the grandkids have stuff worth watching.

11MAY2018 – American Greatness Post of the Day

Chris Buskirk interviewed Michael Anton ( link ) about his tenure in the Trump Administration.  There are a number of interesting things in the interview.  But toward the end they talk a bit about Anton’s opinion of Donald Trump.  As opposed to the usual disillusionment we typically hear from former administration members Anton is extremely positive about his former boss.  Here are the more important ones I gleaned from the audio interview.

“He was just right about the issues that mattered right now and that’s why I supported him.”

“I knew him reasonably well … wasn’t having dinner with him … was a staff guy … but was around him a lot over the course of fifteen, sixteen months.”

“Liked him enormously, respected him enormously …  there is a patriotic core to him that burns very hot.”

“He’s in it for the right reason, is doing it for the right reason … he didn’t have to do any of this.”

“He’s governing as President almost purely out of love for this country.”

Both Buskirk and Anton were educated at Claremont-McKenna College and were pupils of Harry Jaffa who was associated with the Claremont Institute.  I have found the people associated with the Claremont Institute to be extremely aware of what is currently at stake in our political situation and perceptive about the actual value of the various players on the political landscape.

30APR2018 – Quote of the Day

I know, I know.  It’s almost May, but enjoy it anyway.

 

STAVE II:  THE FIRST OF THE THREE SPIRITS

“The school is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A
solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.”

Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed.

They left the high-road, by a well-remembered lane, and
soon approached a mansion of dull red brick, with a little
weathercock-surmounted cupola, on the roof, and a bell
hanging in it. It was a large house, but one of broken
fortunes; for the spacious offices were little used, their walls
were damp and mossy, their windows broken, and their
gates decayed. Fowls clucked and strutted in the stables;
and the coach-houses and sheds were over-run with grass.
Nor was it more retentive of its ancient state, within; for
entering the dreary hall, and glancing through the open
doors of many rooms, they found them poorly furnished,
cold, and vast. There was an earthy savour in the air, a
chilly bareness in the place, which associated itself somehow
with too much getting up by candle-light, and not too
much to eat.

They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a
door at the back of the house. It opened before them, and
disclosed a long, bare, melancholy room, made barer still by
lines of plain deal forms and desks. At one of these a lonely
boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down
upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he
used to be.

Not a latent echo in the house, not a squeak and scuffle
from the mice behind the panelling, not a drip from the
half-thawed water-spout in the dull yard behind, not a sigh among
the leafless boughs of one despondent poplar, not the idle
swinging of an empty store-house door, no, not a clicking in
the fire, but fell upon the heart of Scrooge with a softening
influence, and gave a freer passage to his tears.

The Spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his
younger self, intent upon his reading. Suddenly a man, in
foreign garments: wonderfully real and distinct to look at:
stood outside the window, with an axe stuck in his belt, and
leading by the bridle an ass laden with wood.

“Why, it’s Ali Baba!” Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. “It’s
dear old honest Ali Baba! Yes, yes, I know! One Christmas
time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone,
he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy! And
Valentine,” said Scrooge, “and his wild brother, Orson; there
they go! And what’s his name, who was put down in his
drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus; don’t you see him!
And the Sultan’s Groom turned upside down by the Genii;
there he is upon his head! Serve him right. I’m glad of it.
What business had he to be married to the Princess!”

To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his nature
on such subjects, in a most extraordinary voice between
laughing and crying; and to see his heightened and excited
face; would have been a surprise to his business friends in
the city, indeed.

“There’s the Parrot!” cried Scrooge. “Green body and
yellow tail, with a thing like a lettuce growing out of the
top of his head; there he is! Poor Robin Crusoe, he called
him, when he came home again after sailing round the
island. ‘Poor Robin Crusoe, where have you been, Robin
Crusoe?’  The man thought he was dreaming, but he wasn’t.
It was the Parrot, you know. There goes Friday, running
for his life to the little creek! Halloa! Hoop! Halloo!”

Then, with a rapidity of transition very foreign to his
usual character, he said, in pity for his former self, “Poor
boy!” and cried again.

“I wish,” Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his
pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his
cuff: “but it’s too late now.”

“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy
singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should
like to have given him something: that’s all.”

The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand:
saying as it did so, “Let us see another Christmas!”

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

IN PROSE
BEING
A Ghost Story of Christmas

by Charles Dickens