mangochutney

Tasty bits and pieces from the internet, mixed with opinions and canned.

Last Week Tonight segment on Authoritarianism

Another brilliant segment produced by John Oliver's team. It's something people in the U.S. should watch because their country is being turned into an authoritarian regime piece by piece, day by day. The institutions John Oliver mentions as protecting U.S. citizens from the bad impulses of Trump are being steadily dismantled by him and his cronies.

If the people this country don't stand up and start to work against it, they will soon find themselves in a country with no law but the word of their Führer. The poor sods who helped him gain power, the ones cheering for him at his Nuremberg Rally rallies, cheering for the abuse he screams at the press, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and any other enemy-of-the-day Trump conjures, will be the first to suffer once the economy plummets completely because the kleptocratic swamp Trump has created looted the country for everything that it was worth, and they will be the first ones he sends to die if he starts a war to distract from his domestic failures.

The dulcet tones of a husky

I love dogs, I believe that we humans don't deserve these amazing companions, and I'm also acutely aware that when considering a husky as a family member, you have to take into account how communicative they can be.

So without further ado, I present the husky fire alarm:

Empfehlung: Schotterradelstrecke im und um den Mattheiser Wald

Ich habe seit etwas über einem Jahr wieder enorm Spaß am Radfahren und bin beim Fahrradtyp CX/Gravel hängengeblieben. Leider sind viele Strecken auf Komoot eher für Mountainbikes ausgelegt und mit einem ungefederten CX-Rad kommt man da häufig weder gut rauf, noch gesund runter (selbst, wenn ich als Streckentyp "Fahrrad mit Schotter" angebe).

Ich bastele mir also seit einiger Zeit so meine eigenen Touren und teile hier meine erste, fertige Tour. Sie verbringt viel Zeit auf Schotterpfaden, Waldautobahnen, in den Weinbergen, und unbefestigten Wegen im Wald. Außerdem gibt es am Anfang/Ende einen richtig hübschen Anstieg den Petrisberg hoch. Start- und Endpunkt ist das Restaurant "Jahreszeiten" am Turm Luxemburg, in dem ich immer wieder gerne einkehre.

Viel Spaß!

Republicans, the Government Overreach Party

This editorial cartoon drawn by Bruce MacKinnon and published in The Chronicle Herald popped up in my Twitter feed this morning and I'm alternating between amazement, speechlessness, sadness, and fear for the U.S.A.

Bruce MacKinnon's editorial cartoon for Sept. 29, 2018. - Bruce MacKinnon, Copyright: The Chronicle Herald Bruce MacKinnon's editorial cartoon for Sept. 29, 2018, Copyright: The Chronicle Herald

The cartoon shows the arms of a person pinning down the blindfolded Lady Justice on a bed, with a hand over her mouth, in reference to the accusation made by Christine Blasey Ford against Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee. The cufflinks of the abuser have the GOP's elephant on them.

I think this is an amazing piece of political satire, absolute genius. I'm German, I live in Germany, I'm only indirectly affected by what happens over there but the proceedings of last week, which were hard to ignore even over here, had me speechless so many times.
To me, it's inconceivable that the GOP props up a man for the highest judicial position in the country, who has had a number of credible accusations of sexual assault, and testimony of character leveled against him, that absolutely disqualifies him not just for the Supreme Court but for any position in the judicial system. And that doesn't even cover the frankly insane and disgraceful performance before the Judicial Committee which betrays a deep disdain for the rule of law, hatred towards women, and shows a complete lack of capacity for impartiality.

It's sad that U.S. politics is at a point where the Republicans, who have long been a danger to the U.S.A., are now willing to risk the last shred of independence of the Supreme Court to push through their agenda of hate, misogyny, homophobia, and shameless pursuit of power over other people, all of it driven by nothing but greed.

The fear that if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, the U.S. will deteriorate into an autocracy even faster, is very real and I sincerely hope that the people of the U.S. realise this and stand up before it is too late.

Side note:

This morning I read about an interesting case the Supreme Court is going to decide very soon: "Gamble vs. US"
Some people on Twitter argued that the true reason the GOP and Trump want to push Kavanaugh into a SCOTUS seat, is so he can rule on the above case.
At its core, the lawsuit is about a weapon possessions charge and whether a defendant can be tried for the same charge by both state and federal authorities (so called "double jeopardy"). Several people argue that a decision to prevent state and federal authorities from prosecuting someone for the same crime, could mean that a federal pardon from Trump, might prevent state authorities from prosecuting a person and would thus minimise the pressure state prosecutors can put on defendants in cases linked to Trump.

The Fujifilm XF23mmF1.4 R is boring (and that's amazing)

When writing about gear, I typically try to limit myself to solutions for problems I faced, or some New Shiny™ that really piqued my interest. This is an exception. It's an ode to my favourite lens.

Half a year after having started shooting with a Fujifilm X-E1 and the XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS kit lens, I was considering buying a lens with a wide aperture for greater creative freedom. I checked which focal length I used most often and at the time ~ 75% of the shots I kept were somewhere around 23 mm (~ 35 mm full-frame equivalent) leading me to buy the Fujifilm XF23mmF1.4 R.

I won't lose to many words about the overall quality of this lens. Many people have done so before me and most of them have a lot more experience with photography and gear than I do. The focal length is versatile, the build quality and the overall image quality are great. Placing the field of focus is easy, and considering the amount of glass that has to be moved, it focuses quickly enough.

What I love most about the 23/1.4, though, is the fact that it's so boring, so predictable, so utterly unspectacular. In other words, it's dependable.

The two characteristics that influence the dependability and predictability of the lens the most are sharpness and the way it makes out-of-focus areas look.

Sharpness

Even wide open, the lens renders sharp pictures across ~ 70% of the frame from the center. More importantly, though, this doesn't change based on the subject distance. I can shoot close-ups at ƒ/1.4 and be sure that the center of the frame is going to be tack sharp while anything behind it ends up an unrecognisable blur. When shooting landscapes in waining light at the widest aperture, I know that the result is still going to be good.

Rendering of the out-of-focus areas

Many great lenses can also be capricious at times, where the way the out-of-focus areas are rendered can vary wildly depending on the subject distance and aperture and lead to less than desirable results sometimes, like overly busy looking backgrounds. The XF23mmF1.4 R delivers absolutely consistent results that take a lot of guesswork out of taking pictures. I choose my subject, the distance and angle, and pick the aperture I want.
Furthermore, the progression from sharp to blurry moving from the in-focus subject to the background feels almost linear (depending on the composition). The same holds true for aperture changes from ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/8.

Mika's front paws

If I could improve one aspect about the 23/1.4, it would be the addition of weather sealing. As one of the older optics in Fujifilm's line-up, it's not sealed against the elements.
Unfortunately the smaller, lighter, and weather-sealed XF23mmF2 R WR is no viable alternative. Its image quality is great but the rendering characteristics aren't nearly as predictable or dependable, making the lens less versatile.

Even so, the XF23mmF1.4 R is the lens I would take to a deserted island with me, the glass I would choose if I had to go with one lens for the rest of my days.