Just thought I'd share a great picture by one of my favorite Flickrites, Michael Oberman aka ozoni11. This guy's photos are simply incredible: check them out and you'll be thanking me for the pointer, I guarantee it.
Perry de Havilland states my own views on the subject well: immigration is on balance a positive thing, just as long as the immigrants one takes in are willing to abide by the core values which make their prospective new homes worth living in, and it would be an even more positive phenomenon if there were no option for immigrants to become new clients of the welfare state. Saying "No!" to wannabe jihadists is right and proper, but those who would restrict the immigration of even decent, highly qualified and ambitious people in the name of "protecting" against illusionary "racial" dangers are lunatics who aren't to be given the time of day.
Canon Inc. reported a 16 percent jump in quarterly profit and a record annual profit for the seventh straight year amid strong sales of its digital cameras, copiers and printers.
Canon's group net profit for the fourth quarter totaled 125.6 billion yen (US$1 billion), up from 108 billion yen the same period in 2005, the company said Monday.
Quarterly sales climbed 8.6 percent to 1.2 trillion yen (US$9.9 billion) from 1.1 trillion yen the previous year.
What I found noteworthy was the following passage.
By sector for the October-December quarter, camera sales surged nearly 17 percent on year, while sales of copying machines and other office imaging products rose about 7 percent. Laser beam printers and other computer peripherals jumped 10 percent from a year earlier.
In other words, the chief driver of Canon's profit growth is its camera department, and almost certainly the DSLR producing segment in particular. To give you an idea of how powerful a revenue generator this is, consider the following:
Canon is forecasting an eighth straight record year for 2007, projecting net profit of 495 billion yen (US$4.1 billion) on 4.45 trillion yen (US$36.5 billion) in sales.
All those enthusiasts buying "L glass" in (usually vain) hopes of someday going "full frame" adds up to quite a tidy sum. Not quite Microsoftian levels of profitability, but then again, Canon doesn't have a monopoly (thank goodness). If I were a Canon user, I'd thank my stars every day that Nikon existed to provide the only serious challenge to this behemoth of a company.
PS: To understand something about the reality behind all the "going full frame" talk so popular amongst Canon DSLR buyers, I suggest reading this blog post by Terry Chay. Most of the "full frame" talkers will never make the move, for the simple reason that the economics of semiconductor manufacturing simply won't let Canon provide full-frame cameras at a price most amateurs are willing to pay. Nikon knows what its doing by releasing the D40, even if I don't like it: the "one camera body and two cheap zoom lenses" bottom end of the market is where most of the money is, not in providing a marginally profitable camera like the 5D which only cannibalizes 1DS Mark II sales, and I'm certain Canon's 350D/400D models generate 90% or more of the profits from its DSLR operations.
I finally picked up the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 lens I'd been debating over before getting the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D, and so far it's been ... interesting to work with. As far as the lens itself goes, I have no complaints - look at the full size image and you'll see what I mean - but taking decent macro pictures requires a very different mindset to the one I've grown accustomed to with normal-sized subjects: forget about autofocusing, and even shooting at f/7.1 often isn't enough to get sufficient depth of field.
Go here for other examples of shots I've been able to manage with the lens thus far.
Over on Occidentalism, Marmot's Hole regular Sonagi reviews the latest Japan-related issue to have certain Korean groups and even the Korean government up in arms, namely a memoir by Yoko Kawashima Watkins called "So Far from the Bamboo Grove". Unlike the vast majority of angry netizens who gave the book a single star on Amazon, Sonagi actually bothers to read the thing before passing judgement on it, and the conclusion is ...
The Tamron SP AF 28-75mm f/2.8 isn't a true macro lens by any means, what with a maximum 1:2.8 reproduction ratio, but its relatively close focusing distance allows it to be pressed into service with sometimes decent results. (Hint: Best viewed full size if you have the required bandwidth.)
Much has been made in recent years of how wired South Korea is, and how this is evidence that Koreans are on the leading edge of the internet age, promising to leave Western laggards like the United States in the dust. This sort of talk is particularly prone to issue from the mouths of agitators for some form of expensive government activism or other, but what such propagandists for more public spending never bother to note is that internet connectivity is hardly a solid measure of IT sophistication in general, and I can't think of a better way to illustrate the weakness of this link than the story currently on Slashdot about the Korean government warning its citizens against the adoption of Windows Vista - not because Vista is bad and/or dangerous, but because large numbers of important Korean businesses have been built on the braindead technology that is ActiveX, support for which is finally being constrained in Vista in order to tighten up security. Some measure of responsibility lies with Microsoft for introducing ActiveX to begin with, but the company is to be praised for finally relegating this gigantic security hazard to a less prominent position, while the lion's share of the blame must surely lie with all the Korean companies which chose to tie themselves completely to a single platform long known to be extremely insecure, all in the name of being on some imaginary leading edge leading to the abyss.
This kind of expensive cockup is precisely what one gets with "ppalli ppalli" ("hurry hurry!") thinking working within a highly conformist mindset - people rushing en masse down blind alleys and off precipices like characters in the videogame "Lemmings" - and it can only be made worse when governments are stirred up into embarking on expensive programs by nationalistic opinionators and pseudo-intellectuals obsessed with the metaphor of technological progress as a zero-sum competition with "winning" and "losing" countries: it's obvious the "digital divide" and "we are losing to Korea!!!" propagandists have learned nothing from Japan's analog HDTV program or its stillborn "fifth generation computing" initiative, both of which in their time also stirred up similar pressures for governments to hurry up and "do something" ...
PS: Foreign Policy provides a fine example of precisely the sort of inane "falling behind" rhetoric I'm talking about. Consider that Mr. Bleha is putting out such pap in an age when American firms like Intel, AMD, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Ebay and Yahoo are dominating the technology world as never before, while internet innovators like Youtube, Blogger, MySpace, Flickr and 90% of the Web 2.0 outfits anyone's ever heard of are all based in the United States ...
As bloggers go, Neomarxisme's RichardDavid Marx has to be one of the best writers around, often witty, always engaging, and never afraid to make sweeping pronouncements in a definitive tone guaranteed to provoke the reader (sometimes even to distraction); what is more, Marx's blog is one of the few Japan-centric ones which both has something serious to say about the country and is authored by a commenter actually fluent enough in the language to go beyond a superficial understanding of his environment. If there's one thing I know before checking in on Neomarxisme, it's that I will not be bored by any updates made since my last visit, and this post on the mainland Asian roots of the Japanese exemplifies all that is best about the blog - as well as its most glaring weaknesses.
A very clear-headed post on the Marmot's Hole explains in down-to-earth fashion what every sensible economist will state in the face of usually incredulous audiences: that imports are a positive, not a negative, and in fact paying for them is the entire reason for exporting goods and services to begin with. Mercantilist politicians and bureaucrats who fail to grasp this and fetishize trade surpluses are harming their own citizens above all, and we can see this very clearly in the nosebleed prices Korean and Japanese consumers pay for beef, despite being relatively close to an ultra-low-cost, high quality producer like Australia.
Generally speaking, the single most positive step any political regime in the OECD could take for its citizenry would be to declare unilateral free trade rather than wait for bilateral treaties which proceed on the assumption that one is making "sacrifices" by conceding better terms for one's own domestic consumers, but the average voter is so easily fooled by the nationalistic rhetoric of parasitical special interest groups that most will readily swallow the line that "we" are being robbed by getting access to cheaper goods and services, which is one amongst the many reasons why I despise nationalism.
I'm not a fan of so-called "High Dynamic Range" photography (more properly labelled tone mapping) by any means. Not only do I see it as mostly pointless gimmick, seeing as 12-bit RAW files already possess far more dynamic range than any printer or consumer-level monitor can hope to display, but I also take a strong dislike to the typical "HDR look" favored by Flickrites using Photomatix software, as I find such "pictures" to be gaudy and kitschy almost without exception*, crossing the line separating photography from bad fantasy art a la Boris Vallejo. HDR is one of those technical "advances" in photography whose main effect seems to be to serve as a lure distracting amateur photographers from spending time honing their actual photography skills, squandering it instead on turning out dreck that wouldn't be fit to adorn the covers of even pulp novels by the likes of L. Ron Hubbard.
Why am I writing all this, you might wonder? The answer is, to provide context for why I find noteworthy the work of a Flickr user by the alias valpodando, who seems to be able to manage to do what so many others cannot, namely use the Photomatix tone-mapping technique to create images which are arresting without venturing into the realm of absurdity. He doesn't always succeed in staying within that boundary, but by and large this guy does a much better job of knowing when to stop than most of the other aficionados of this technique. Clearly Photomatix-style "HDR" [sic] isn't an entirely worthless photographic process, at least in the hands of photographers who have the requisite taste to use it with a little restraint - perhaps one should best think of it as a modern update on Ansel Adams' "Zone System". That said, this is one technique I think best left to the landscape photographers, in which grouping I do not belong.