curmudgeon of the year?

I mentioned previously that I have fairly recently gotten into photography, and even put a link to Ken Rockwell's site in there.

He's a pretty good writer, generally focusing on the practical, rather than the theoretical. And that's a good thing. But he just went off on one of the more curmudgeonly rants I think I've ever seen. (And I've certainly been called a curmudgeon based on my comments on various things.)

Ignoring that most of the things he mentions are tools, and that the helpfulness of a tool is in how you use it (and how it fits into your way of doing things), let's look at the specifics.

Well, I really don't have a lot to say about email. I think it's great, and I only spent 20-30 minutes a day on it (generally). Maybe that's just because I don't get nearly as much of it. *shrug*

Cars. Hmm... jumping from "My wife's and my radios suck" to "all cars are crap" is quite a fantastically large leap. I've got a relatively recent Acura. My radio has two dials on it: one for volume and one for tuning. I've also got the standard buttons for station presets. And on my steering wheel I have two up/down "levers". One raises/lowers the volume, and one goes between the presets. Plus a button to change mode (FM1/FM2/XM/AM/CD). So I can do just about anything I'd want to do with regularity without taking my hands off the steering wheel.

I think the problem is just that neither Volvo nor Porsche (and I have almost no direct experience with the latter, but it's a surprise to me) puts a large value on ergonomics. Try looking around more.

Home appliances? Well, there's tradeoffs. The really cheap ones with just a dial? You better know exactly how long you want to cook something. And do they have different power levels (not a feature I use, but my wife does)? What about granularity of that dial? I doubt it gets down to the second. Like I said, tradeoffs.

Florescent lights? Well, I don't have any big problems with them. I have, a few times, been tired enough to see the flickering from them. But that's the only significant problem I have. Are they different light from incandescents? Sure. But better or worse? I'm skeptical about that.

As far as environmental issues? Well, there certainly is the mercury issue. No doubt, that's an issue. A huge one? I don't think so, but you do have to dispose of them more carefully. The lead? I'm not sure where that's coming from. It used to be a significant issue in electronics because of solder, but lead solder basically isn't used any more (and hasn't been, in quite a while). Of course, that isn't without its problems either. But the VLF problem? Well, that's the first I've heard of it. I'll have to look into that.

And, since CFL's basically cut electricity use by about 75%, most businesses use them. It ain't just cheap motels. Actually, the last two nice hotels I've stayed at used them as well (if more subtly than the cheap hotels).

DSLRs suck? That's an interesting thing to say about something one is using to make one's living. After all, most of the articles on his site discuss DSLRs or equipment to use with them. I'm certainly not going to say they're perfect (I'm sure they're worse than medium format cameras, though it's been so long since I shot 35mm film that it's hard for me to make a comparison there. It'd be nice if Nikon had a mid-level 35mm camera for comparison. The nice one is just too expensive for me).

But anyway, the big thing is this: for most of what I shoot, film is just too expensive and inconvenient. Maybe if I was a better photographer, I'd need fewer frames to get shots I was happy with, and that wouldn't be the case. I don't know. But just saying that it's all crap is really throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Moving on to TVs, this I have a bit more to say about. First, he's right that colors (or at least, black levels) are better with CRTs. Of course, the downside of that is that you have to worry about refresh rates and eyestrain, which LCDs, plasmas, and DLPs don't force you to worry about. It's also much harder to get a flat screen with CRT, while it comes out naturally for the other technologies. That's mostly of benefit because reflections are less of an issue. And let's not even get started on volume/weight. (Contemplate how large/heavy a CRT comparable to this would be. I'm guessing the better part of a ton, and several feet thick.)

And 4:3 is best? I doubt it. In fact, our eyes notice things most efficiently side to side, rather than vertically, so wider actually is categorically better. That being said, there sometimes are problems with delivery. And that needs to be worked out. But when watching high-def material (which is pretty much everything I watch), a 16:9 display is fantastic. Ideal? Well, that depends on your source material. I wouldn't mind even wider for sports (or for the large number of movies I have that are anywhere from 1.85:1 to 2.35:1).

What would you rather have? Black bars top/bottom or left/right (I've only seen both occur with commercials. Annoying, but it's just commercials) and seeing the whole scene, or using the full resolution of the display without seeing the entire picture. Some people do disagree, but I'll go with the full picture every time. I'll admit, though, that the only network TV I watch are sports and Jeopardy.

As far as picture quality, yes, I would be happier if the cable company wouldn't try to compress channels so badly. I'd be even happier if the cable company wasn't a monopoly, so there was competition that might prevent that kind of compression. But I've still never seen it get so bad that it looked worse than even pretty good VHS (at least not for more than a few seconds at a time).

And synchronization? The only way I can see for that to be an issue is an older DLP rear projector with the sound coming out of a home theater system. If you do the wiring for that setup in a slightly unusual way, you can get problems. But most home theater systems will also give you a way to compensate for that. And most setups won't give you a problem even to start with.

Remote controls suck? Amen, brother. A pox on all of them. Logitech has at least made an attempt to deal with this, although they've still got an awful lot of buttons.

HD-DVD? Ok, it being abandoned sucked. No question. And yes, I'd've liked it to take less than 10-20 seconds to start up. But it was still very nice. I haven't thrown mine out. And an upscaling DVD player's images are as nice? You're nuts. Seriously, that's an absurd thing to claim. Of course, if you're just watching on a standard def CRT, that's true. But that's a pointless comparison.

Blu-ray? If your player is taking forever to start, then you have an old player that can't handle later disc formats. The problem is lack of memory. Yes, I have that issue with some disks with my older player. My year old player has no such problems. It might take half a minute. Still not great, but hardly painful. (Yes, I will be happy when they make players with faster CPUs and more memory. But still, it's hardly bad enough to condemn the format.)

Really, if you want to condemn the format, why not talk about how consumer-hostile Sony has become since they became a media company? And talk about how bad an idea it was to introduce Blu-ray when it was still lacking desired menuing features (which is what led to older players having the problem with loading newer disks).

Frankly, that alone was enough reason for me to hope for HD-DVD to be the surviving format, even given Blu-ray's obvious technical superiority (better compression and larger capacity).

Moving on, telephones. Yeah, call quality could (and should) be better. But how convenient is that land line? Most people find that convenience worth the occasional problems.

Radio? Well, I mostly listen to NPR. The music's good enough to take my mind off driving when I don't. I don't listen to the radio at home.

CDs? Once again, amen. I hadn't noticed that about remasterings of recordings. I only have a couple of those; I'll have to take a look and see if that's true. I hope not. But it wouldn't terribly surprise me.

Snow/Leopard? Well, I'd need to go back to look at 10.4 again for a visual comparison. I need all the behind-the-scenes differences with the more recent versions, though, so staying with 10.4 isn't really an option.

Windows? That ship sailed years ago; I only use it when I must. I've heard Windows 7 isn't quite complete crap, but haven't tried it myself. You can do some neat things with Windows when you really know what you're doing (I'm no longer in that category), but it really shouldn't need so much work to get to the way things should work from the beginning.

Update: Somewhere in there, I missed TV shows. Yeah, they're pretty much all crap. Too bad 'Pushing Daisies' was too good to stay on the air. But then, my initial guess, after seeing a trailer in front of a movie, and before seeing the show, was that it would work better as a movie than a TV show. Shows what I know; every episode was awesome.

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