I've been pretty astonished at how much better my new camera is compared to my old one. Of course, the old Canon cost $400 and the new Lumix cost $1200, so you might think it damn well better take superior pictures. And you'd be right. The combination of a bigger sensor and better optics just produces higher quality results.

Oddly enough, though, that's only half the story. There are several other things it does better that have turned out to be nearly as important:

Burst mode. One of the dirty little secrets of the pros has always been that they just take a lot more pictures than the rest of us.1 If you take 500 shots, you're a lot more likely to get two or three good ones than if you take 20 shots. Back in the days of film, there was nothing much you could do about this unless you were willing to spend gigantic amounts of money on film and processing.

But in the digital era, taking lots of pictures is free, so why not do it? Even for something as static as a group photo, you should use burst mode. That way you'll have a much better chance of getting at least one where nobody is blinking or looking away or something. For anything that moves (cats, birds, babies, etc.), it's a no-brainer. One of the reasons my Lumix pictures have been better is because I've made about 12,000 exposures since I've gotten it. Of that, I've saved maybe 50 or so. That's half of one percent. If I had taken only a few hundred, I'd probably have only three or four good ones (and they wouldn't be quite as good).

Faster, more accurate autofocus. This hardly needs any explanation. The fact that the autofocus is faster means I'm less likely to miss a shot. The fact that it's more accurate means the focus is less likely to be soft.

Easy exposure compensation. This one is a little more subtle. As near as I can tell, the metering on the Canon and the Lumix are about equally good. But depending on circumstances, I often want to under or overexpose a bit. The Canon could do this, of course, but it was a little clunky, so I often didn't bother. However, the Lumix has a dedicated dial on the top of the camera that's easy to get to, so I'm never tempted to just settle for good enough. I always dial in some exposure compensation if I need it.

All that said, it was the most humdrum thing in the world that really surprised me. Sometimes I take pictures of my TV to illustrate a blog post, as I did on Thursday:

That is...remarkably sharp and well exposed. With the old Canon, I had to take a dozen shots to get two or three good ones. Something about the interaction of the refresh on the TV and the refresh on the camera's CCD (or something) produced lots of shots that were blurred, wildly color imbalanced, or exposed badly. With the Lumix I don't get any of that. Every shot is fine. It's like night and day.

I'm not sure what possessed me to spend $1200 on a fixed-lens camera. That's enough to buy a middling DSLR. But although the Lumix doesn't quite produce DSLR results, it comes a lot closer than I expected.

1They also have pricier equipment, more experience, and better eyes. But those aren't exactly secrets, are they?

These tweets from Paul Ryan's press secretary kind of crack me up:

This is a pretty crude evasion, and a seemingly pointless one. Anybody who's savvy enough to know what a CBO score is in the first place also knows that this is badly misleading. Earlier bills were scored. Earlier bills went through committee. Earlier bills were posted online a month ago. But none of that applies to the actual bill that was passed on Thursday.

So why bother? The answer is simple: Donald Trump has taught Republicans that Twitter is a useful tool for communicating with your base, and that's all this is. Most people who read these tweets will have no idea what they're about, just that they're more examples of how the lying left is always telling lies about Republicans. It will become a useful attack meme on the right for a while, and that's all it's for.

Here's some genuinely useful information: what people think you're saying when you tell them how likely something is. Here's the approximate ranking:

  • 90% — Almost certainly, highly likely
  • 80% — Very good chance
  • 70% — Probably, probable, likely, we believe
  • 60% — Better than even
  • 50% — About even
  • 40% — ??
  • 30% — ??
  • 25% — Probably not, we doubt
  • 20% — Unlikely, improbable, little chance
  • 10% — Chances are slight
  • 0% — Highly unlikely, almost no chance

There are no real surprises here except for one: apparently we don't have a common word to express moderate doubt. The entire space between 25 percent and 50 percent is empty. Why do you suppose that is?1

1The most obvious answer is that the researchers just didn't happen to include the right phrases in their study, but that's boring. I would like to see some more creative suggestions.

It's been a longtime complaint of mine that Democrats have been so lackluster in the support of Obamacare. But that's nothing. After watching Republicans dash for the exits after passing Trumpcare, here's how I now think of Democratic enthusiasm for Obamacare:

After voting to pass Trumpcare, Republicans are practically scurrying to find rocks to hide under. They don't want to talk to reporters and they don't want to hold townhalls for their constituents. You'd think they'd all be proud of their votes. But it sure doesn't seem like it. Funny, isn't it?

Here is Donald Trump defending his offhand statement that Australia has better health care than America:

Needless to say, Trump doesn't have a clue about what kind of health care Australia provides or whether it's better than ours. He's just whistling in the wind, like he always does.

The interesting thing about this is that shows yet again how little Trump knows about conservative ideology—and how little he cares about it. For years, conservatives have insisted that America has the best health care in the world. Just look at all those Canadians crossing the border for hip replacements! And the reason for our superiority is that we rely on the free market far more than most countries.

Trump just casually batted that away. Australia has a fairly common system cobbled together over the years, with taxes paying for basic universal health care and private insurance companies picking up the slack (sort of like Medigap insurance in the US for Medicare patients). It's not especially generous, but it's also about half the cost of American health care.

And Trump just said it's better than the health care we get. Ditto for Britain's fully socialized health care. Ditto for the Scandinavian countries. Ditto for France and Germany and Japan. Everyone with a government-funded universal health care system is better than us.

Normally, a statement like this would produce a huge blowback among conservatives. But not this time. That's because conservatives all know that Trump has no idea what he's saying, and no plans to let it guide policy. He's certainly not planning to adopt the Australian model. Just the opposite: it's little more than random babbling while he happily allows Congress to kill off the most Australian-ish aspects of American health care.

Today's homage to Donald Trump is part of my relentless quest to bring my readers the finest possible blogging experience. Here's how far I'm willing to go: yesterday I drove out to one of Irvine's leading fast food emporiums and bought a taco bowl. $5.79! I brought it home, got out my camera, and introduced it to the cats. It was so disgusting they immediately ran away and wouldn't come back. Eventually it fell apart.

So then I went to one of Irvine's leading supermarkets and bought a box of tostada shells. $4.99! I filled one up with cat food and then added a dollop of sour cream for that authentic south-of-the-border flavor. Hilbert still wasn't having any. Luckily, Hopper was intrigued by the sour cream. She jumped up and started licking it, and thanks to the burst mode on my camera I got 40 or 50 shots of this. Within minutes my homage was finished. Enjoy!

Housekeeping Note

I had another round of vaccinations yesterday and I had a bad reaction to one of them. I'm on the mend, but still tired. So I think I'll put up Friday catblogging and call it a day.

I wonder. Will today's vote finally be enough to get Democrats—and lefties in general—to finally defend Obamacare loudly and vigorously? Or is it still going to be the same old tired There's no question that Obamacare wasn't perfect, but...?

Note to members of Congress: sure, Obamacare should be more generous and subsidies should be higher. But you don't need to harp on it. It's covered 20 million people! It cost less than projected! It's slashed medical bankruptcies! It forced insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions! It's great!

Note to lefties: sure, Obamacare should have included a public option and it should have been more generous. Hell, in a different, better universe it would have been universal single-payer. But just let it go. Obamacare has covered 20 million people! It cost less than projected! It's slashed medical bankruptcies! It forced insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions! It's great!

We'll see.

The Republican health care bill was surrounded by so much brazen lying that it's almost a relief to highlight a case of ordinary old misleading statistics. Here's the Daily Signal showing us how much crime plummeted in San Diego after a border wall was built in the early 90s:

Not bad! Of course, crime was plummeting all over the country during this period. I'm too lazy to dredge up the 2015-16 figures, but here are the FBI crime stats for our biggest cities for 1989-2014. Normally I'd show crime rates, but the Daily Signal used total crimes so I will too:

There are basically two buckets here: a group of cities where crime fell by about 70 percent (bottom) and a group where crime fell by about 30 percent (top). San Diego is a good performer, but so are Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York. That's three southwestern cities and one northern city. The top group of mediocre performers includes three southwestern cities and two northern cities.

So did San Diego's wall make a difference? It sure doesn't look like it. And that's despite the fact that everyone agrees it significantly dented the rate of illegal border crossings.

The refreshing thing here is that this is just an ordinary old misdemeanor case of deception via omission. It almost makes me feel nostalgic. Hell, it might not even be a case of deliberate deception. It's possible that reporter Kelsey Harkness had no idea that plummeting crime was a nationwide phenomenon. Not everyone reads Mother Jones, after all.

Lunchtime Photo

Today's photo has been personally curated for you by my sister. It's a cactus at sunrise over in Upper Newport Bay. UPDATE: According to a Twitter reader, this is Opuntia ficus-indica, "Brought by Columbus back to the Mediterranean, where it can now be found in large quantities." According to Wikipedia, "Some of the common English names for the plant and its fruit are Indian fig opuntia, Barbary fig, cactus pear, spineless cactus, and prickly pear."

Be sure to tune in tomorrow at noon1 for a very special episode of Friday Catblogging. Everyone is saying it's the best catblogging ever, believe me.

1That's noon God's Time, known to you humans as Pacific Time.