Sound & Complete A personal blog. The dawn of my camera <p>I like taking photographs, and I <em>love</em> cameras.</p> <p>My grandfather was the first professional photographer in my hometown,<sup id="fnref:1"><a href="#fn:1" class="footnote">1</a></sup> and I loved playing with his cameras. His darkroom was my favorite place on Earth, filled with cameras, lenses, and a huge <a href="">enlarger</a> in the middle of a table. I spent hours playing there, and perhaps that’s what sparked my interest in photography, but it was definitely what sparked my interest in photographic gear.</p> <p>My grandfather gave me my first camera. It was a DDR-made <a href="">Praktica B100</a> semi-automatic SLR with a 50mm Pentacon f/1.8 lens. It was so superior to all the Soviet Zenith SLRs my high-school friends had, and its optical performance made my poorly composed photographs look at least decent. I cherished that camera and enjoyed every minute with it, and I actually still do, although sadly I haven’t shot film since 2010.</p> <figure> <img class="wide" src="/images/camera-dawn/praktica-karolina.jpg" /> <figcaption>Fig. 1: Karolina captured with Praktica B100, Summer 2007. Apologies for the poor quality of the scan. </figcaption> </figure> <p>I learned a ton<sup id="fnref:2"><a href="#fn:2" class="footnote">2</a></sup> shooting film with the Praktica B100, and I learned to love <em>bokeh</em> of f/1.8 above all, like every mediocre photographer. Shooting film was, unfortunately, expensive, and when I finally got a part-time job in college in 2006, I was able to afford one of the greatest cameras ever made—the Nikon D40.</p> <h4 id="nikon">Nikon</h4> <p>Nikon D40, which I bought with a first generation, terrible 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, was brilliant because, like its rival Canon EOS 400D,<sup id="fnref:3"><a href="#fn:3" class="footnote">3</a></sup> it was <em>very</em> cheap. It was the first of Nikon’s DSLR to “feature” the lack of AF motor in the body, which meant you had to buy the newer AF-S series lenses if you wanted to use autofocus, and it looked cheap and funny compared to bigger DSLRs. It produced decent images, though (especially the RAW files), it was easy to use and ergonomic, and sold very well. Funny thing about this cheap, entry-level DSLR is that I still have it today. It’s been with me on many, many trips, thrown around, used in rain and snow (which I neither recommend nor condone), and it didn’t once break.</p> <figure> <img class="wide" src="/images/camera-dawn/nikon-dogs.jpg" /> <figcaption>Fig. 2: My parents' dogs captured with Nikon D40 (Sigma 18-250), Summer 2012. </figcaption> </figure> <p>I bought a big, “all-purpose” lens for the Nikon in 2011, which was still optically almost as poor as the kit lens, but gave me the 18-250mm focal length and a sore shoulder every time I had to haul it somewhere. I liked that, though. Despite the fact that my photographs weren’t particularly good, I felt that the more <em>gear</em> I have, and the more serious it looks, the better. I took a lot of nice pictures during the many, many travels, but the more time passed, the more I realized that the Nikon stays at home quite a lot, simply because it’s too big, and too heavy.<sup id="fnref:4"><a href="#fn:4" class="footnote">4</a></sup></p> <p>It was 2012 and the whole mirrorless revolution was at its peak, with all major manufacturers embracing either the micro 4/3 format or trying to put APS-C (or even <a href="">full frame!</a>) sensors into smaller bodies. I wanted to jumped on that wagon.</p> <h4 id="fujifilm">Fujifilm</h4> <p>I bought a Fujifilm X10. It had a sensor smaller than micro 4/3, it rendered pleasing colors (hello, <a href="">Velvia!</a>), was portable, had a lot of manual controls and was a very enjoyable camera. It had a fixed lens, though and couldn’t really produce any shallow depth-of-field, which I, as a still mediocre photographer, really missed. I liked Fujifilm colors and manual controls (and, yes, retro aesthetics), so I bought another mirrorless camera, the X-E1, together with two absolutely brilliant lenses: 14mm f/2.8 and 35mm f/1.4.</p> <figure> <img class="wide" src="/images/camera-dawn/fujifilm-tokyo.jpg" /> <figcaption>Fig. 3: Adverts in Tokyo metro, December 2013. Shot with a Fujifilm X-E1 and Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 lens. <br /> JPEG straight from the camera.</figcaption> </figure> <p>I loved the X-E1 despite its numerous flaws, and I really enjoyed shooting with it; it was a camera that, through its manual controls and well thought-through interface, made you <em>want</em> to go out and shoot. Still, it wasn’t exactly pocketable. Yes, the body was relatively small, but the lenses were big and heavy. So I sold both my Fujifilm cameras, all the lenses and accessories this Spring.<sup id="fnref:5"><a href="#fn:5" class="footnote">5</a></sup></p> <h4 id="the-smartphone-revolution">The smartphone revolution</h4> <p>I’d say there are three types of photographers.</p> <ol> <li> <p>The type that shoots candid photographs with a smartphone, didn’t have a camera before the iPhone era (or had a cheap compact one), doesn’t care much about the quality (either artistic or technical) and just “takes photos.” I.e., the great majority of world’s population.</p> </li> <li> <p>The <em>photographer,</em> and I don’t mean that sarcastically. This person takes great photographs and takes great joy and pride in that. The gear is completely secondary. This category is represented by the small minority of world’s population, but somewhat includes my girlfriend.<sup id="fnref:6"><a href="#fn:6" class="footnote">6</a></sup></p> </li> <li> <p>And finally there’s the <em>enthusiast.</em> Enthusiasts know about the gear, know about composition (which doesn’t necessarily mean their photos are well composed!), and know about technical aspects of photography. They can distinguish a bad image from a good one, and some of them are also <em>photographers.</em> Sadly, not all, and I’d even say most enthusiasts are in it for the <em>gear.</em> I am a proud member of this category. I like taking pictures. I envy the <em>photographers</em> their skill and talent. I take hundreds of photographs and every now and then I take a good one. I’d say it’s about 1% of all the pictures I take, but that’s okay. Once I do get that great shot, though, I want it to be of great technical quality, so that I can print it and proudly hang on my wall. That’s why I’m into gear. That’s why I didn’t want to take photographs with my smartphone.</p> </li> </ol> <figure> <img class="wide" src="/images/camera-dawn/iphone4-amsterdam.jpg" /> <figcaption>Fig. 4: Amsterdam covered in snow. Taken in December 2010 with an iPhone 4. </figcaption> </figure> <p>Craig Mod was right when he wrote <a href="">“Goodbye, cameras”</a> back in 2013 already, but I didn’t believe him.<sup id="fnref:7"><a href="#fn:7" class="footnote">7</a></sup> I did take some nice shots with my iPhone 4, but they were never really sharp, and the colors never really looked right. Years of using (D)SLRs also made me addicted to using a viewfinder, and I always found framing pictures without it uncomfortable and inaccurate. But the smartphone cameras got better and better, and their displays grew bigger and brighter (which made using them for framing photographs much better) I always had one in my pocket, too.</p> <p>It’s not only the optics and sensors of smartphone cameras that are improving as technology progresses, but the software, too. I’d go as far as saying that it’s the software that lets you get the most out of smartphone photography. Take a look at the photograph below.</p> <figure> <img class="wide" src="/images/camera-dawn/samsung-toblach-lake.jpg" /> <figcaption>Fig. 5: View of the Dolomites from Lago di Dobbiaco, shot with Samsung Galaxy S5 (HDR on) last weekend. </figcaption> </figure> <p>I have shots of the very same place at the very same time taken with the Nikon DSLR. Despite the Nikon having more than twice the size of a sensor, shooting RAW and pulling shadows in post-processing, it can’t beat Samsung’s subtle-but-effective HDR mode’s dynamic range. In these conditions even the Fujifilm’s excellent X-Trans sensor would struggle, yet my smartphone’s tiny sensor aided by great, built-in HDR software manages very well. Here’s another one.</p> <figure> <img class="wide" src="/images/camera-dawn/samsung-dolomites.jpg" /> <figcaption>Fig. 6: View of the Dolomites from the Drei Zinnen, shot with Samsung Galaxy S5 (panorama mode). </figcaption> </figure> <p>Galaxy S5’s HDR mode gives exactly the amount of detail and dynamic range for photographs to look more than decent, yet the fact they are shot in HDR is not immediately obvious.</p> <p>After coming back from the Dolomites I transferred all the photographs to my computer, and realized that the majority of great shots from that trip are from the phone. It renders colors better than the Nikon, it has better dynamic range (thanks to its clever HDR mode), it’s orders of magnitude smaller and lighter, I always have it with me, it geotags the photographs, and can back them up to Dropbox on the fly if I so wish. I understand of course that this particular comparison is unfair towards the DSLR, because our D40’s sensor is 7 years old.<sup id="fnref:8"><a href="#fn:8" class="footnote">8</a></sup> Still, the sole fact that this comparison is possible made me wonder if I still need <em>a camera</em>. The truth is, I don’t. I would actually sell the D40 setup if it was worth any money.</p> <h4 id="the-dawn-of-my-camera">The dawn of my camera</h4> <p>I love cameras. I love that they’re purpose built, precise tools. Modern Japanese DSLR are of course very much like computers, in as much as most of their operation is controlled purely electronically, but then again a lot of camera elements, like shutters and of course lenses require very precise craftsmanship. That’s pretty rare when it comes to consumer goods available in the 21st century.<sup id="fnref:9"><a href="#fn:9" class="footnote">9</a></sup></p> <p>Smartphones have smaller sensors, which currently causes problems with depth of field control and noise, but as the technology matures, these may no longer be issues in, say, 5 years from now (I’m looking at you, <a href="">Lytro</a>). I don’t think the problem of having a single focal length will ever be solved, so obviously in situations when you either need a very long lens (nature, sports photography) or a very wide one (architecture, landscape to some extent), good old cameras will remain the best, if not the only option. For the great majority of people, they will stop making sense. Suddenly it turns out, I’m one of these people.</p> <p>My first thought after coming back from Italy was to go on Amazon and take look at some new cameras to replace the aging D40. I looked at full-frame offerings like the D610 or Sony A7, then also at my favorite Fujifilm with its spectacular X-T1, and then I took another look at the pictures taken with the Samsung, and realized I won’t be buying a new camera. And while I feel a bit sad about it, because of how much cameras mean to me, I’m feeling optimistic about the future.</p> <p>It’s definitely a bad time to be a imaging equipment manufacturer. But it’s a very exciting time for photography.</p> <div class="footnotes"> <ol> <li id="fn:1"> <p>It is probably worth mentioning that <a href="">my hometown</a> is a bit of a shithole, a city of almost 50,000 inhabitants in central Poland, half way between Warsaw and <a href="Łódź">Łódź</a>, essentially a big bedroom for both. Still, I always considered my grandfather’s achievement of being a professional photographer no small feat, given his complete lack of education (because war and such). <a href="#fnref:1" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:2"> <p>No, really, I learned a lot about photography back then. With my high-school friend Leon we even took some crazy multiple-exposure night shots using flashlights; I’m pretty sure he still has these photos somewhere. Great times. <a href="#fnref:2" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:3"> <p>I think it was called “Rebel XTi” in the US (for no good reason at all). <a href="#fnref:3" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:4"> <p>At no point did I consider buying a huge, full-frame DSLR, no sir, <em>na-ah!</em> D40 with the Sigma 18-250 was hefty enough. <a href="#fnref:4" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:5"> <p>Actually the direct reason for why I sold all that was because I was in a financial ruin and needed some money. This is what happens when you spend too much money on photography gear, kids. <a href="#fnref:5" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:6"> <p>“Somewhat,” because I don’t think she’d describe herself as a photographer, since her interest in photography isn’t that great. She’s also pretty dumb when it comes to technical aspects of photography, but it doesn’t matter how poorly the settings are set on her camera—her photographs are always at least good, and sometimes brilliant. Paradoxically this also means that my girlfriend’s best photographs came from her iPhone, because there were no settings to set (i.e., mess up). <a href="#fnref:6" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:7"> <p>Take a look at his own <a href="">follow-up essay</a> as well. <a href="#fnref:7" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:8"> <p>Mind you, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is also not the latest generation technology. To see what the iPhone 6 Plus is able to produce, head over to <a href="">Austin Mann’s website</a>. <a href="#fnref:8" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:9"> <p>I suppose watches are another example, and perhaps cars to some degree. <a href="#fnref:9" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> </ol> </div> Sat, 15 Aug 2015 00:00:00 +0000 Ornette Coleman Dies at 85 <p>It is with great sadness that I read <a href="">the news about Ornette Coleman’s death</a>. Ornette was one of the first jazz musicians I ever heard of, an artist that inspired my love for jazz but also profoundly expanded my understanding of improvisation and <em>free</em> jazz. </p> <iframe src="" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" style="float:left;margin:10px 20px 10px 0px;"></iframe> <p>There are a lot of great anecdotes about Ornette Coleman, like those about other musicians reportedly paying him not to play during his early days, and those about him studying music theory in an elevator while he had a part time job as an elevator operator.<sup id="fnref:1"><a href="#fn:1" class="footnote">1</a></sup> To me the greatest story about Ornette Coleman is his concert in Warsaw on July 18th, 2007, which was the first “big” jazz concert I ever went to. I remember I needed to get a leave from my part time call-center job explaining to my manager who Ornette Coleman is,<sup id="fnref:2"><a href="#fn:2" class="footnote">2</a></sup> and that I actually needed to save up the money two months in advance to be able to afford two tickets. And when the day came, an elderly man walked on stage of the Roma Music Theatre in Warsaw, and, together with his quartet, performed the most energetic jazz performance I have ever heard in my life, which was even more surprising given the fact that he was already 77 at the time and had difficulty walking. </p> <p>It’s a great loss for the world of improvised music, but luckily Ornette Coleman’s legacy lives on strong, with so many records, concerts and young musicians inspired by his genius. </p> <div class="footnotes"> <ol> <li id="fn:1"> <p>Ornette Coleman didn’t have any formal music training, and did not know, among other things, that he needs to transpose the saxophone parts before playing with a piano. <a href="#fnref:1" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:2"> <p>I also remember being <em>shocked</em> that my American manager <em>did not know who Ornette Coleman was.</em> <a href="#fnref:2" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> </ol> </div> Thu, 11 Jun 2015 00:00:00 +0000 Done <p><img class="wide" src="/images/disputas.jpg" /></p> <p>On Thursday, April 30th I successfully defended my thesis on <a href="/papers/thesis.pdf">“Agents that Play by the Rules”</a> and was awarded the title of PhD.<sup id="fnref:1"><a href="#fn:1" class="footnote">1</a></sup> It was 4,5 years of work,<sup id="fnref:2"><a href="#fn:2" class="footnote">2</a></sup> and the last week was definitely the most stressful and exhausting one I had in my entire life, but now I’m <em>done.</em> There’s no more school to go to, no more exams and no more courses to take.<sup id="fnref:3"><a href="#fn:3" class="footnote">3</a></sup></p> <p>The overwhelming feeling of completion is a very pleasant one. For the first time since March 2010 there is nothing hanging over my head. There are no papers to be finished, and no talks to be given. No students to teach. Hell, I might even comment out <a href="">LaTeX-Box</a> from my <code>.vimrc</code>.<sup id="fnref:4"><a href="#fn:4" class="footnote">4</a></sup> It feels <em>good.</em></p> <p>Completing the PhD was my dream, but at the same time it’s the end of my adventure with academia. I reached my goals, and I don’t intend to pursue further academic appointments. At the same time I stand by everything I wrote <a href="/2011/in-defense-of-the-phd/">back in 2011</a>, and I don’t feel there’s any conflict between that and my current situation. Having to choose once more whether to embark on the PhD journey I wouldn’t hesitate a second. I was given the opportunity to work on very interesting topics within theoretical computer science, formal logic and game theory, and most importantly I had the pleasure of meeting and working with fantastic people, many of which are now my good friends. If the price to pay for all that is a ~5-year setback to my non-academic career, it’s a price I am very glad to pay.</p> <p>Last Monday I started a new job, joining a British cloud computing consultancy called <a href="">Cloudreach</a> as a systems engineer. It’s all very, <em>very</em> different than academia, but in a good, fast-paced<sup id="fnref:5"><a href="#fn:5" class="footnote">5</a></sup> and exciting way.</p> <p>The future looks bright, as they say.</p> <p><small><em>(thanks for the photograph, Hege)</em></small></p> <div class="footnotes"> <ol> <li id="fn:1"> <p>Technically I was “recommended for the title”, as in Norway PhD defenses do not include any graduation ceremony, and the official letter stating that I am indeed a doctor will be mailed to me soon. Still, there is nothing now that could happen to prevent the degree from being awarded. <a href="#fnref:1" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:2"> <p>I was about to write “<em>hard</em> work,” but let’s face it, writing a PhD thesis, while not an easy task, ain’t exactly coal mining. <a href="#fnref:2" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:3"> <p>Except for a driver’s license course. <a href="#fnref:3" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:4"> <p>I <em>hate</em> LaTeX. And <a href="/2014/stop-using-latex-switch-to-ms-word/">“research”</a> shows you should hate it, too. <a href="#fnref:4" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:5"> <p>Yes, industry works at a faster pace than academia, or at least the European academia (never been to a US campus, but I heard stories of what pre-tenure jobs in American universities are like), and everyone in my office seems to be working a lot, but as a newbie I’m not exactly flooded with obligations or deadlines. I guess this will change soon. <a href="#fnref:5" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> </ol> </div> Sun, 10 May 2015 00:00:00 +0000 Dell’s Project Sputnik: M3800 <p>Dell <a href="">announces</a> another in its series of “developer laptops” with Ubuntu pre-installed. This time it’s the überpowerful M3800 mobile workstation, available with everything from an i7 CPU, through a Quadro K1100M graphics board to a 3840×2160 display. I remember <a href="">ArsTechnica’s review</a> of the XPS 13 developer edition, in which they basically said the best thing about the laptop was that it was “unremarkable”, which by today’s standards is the best compliment. Dell managed to deliver a premium quality linux laptop that <em>just worked</em>, Cupertino style. If they manage to do the same with the powerful 15’’ mobile workstation and, as they announce in the blogpost linked above, with the upcoming XPS 13’’, we’ll have Linux-powered alternatives to both the Retina Macbook Pro and the Macbook Air. Which would be brilliant.</p> <p>You seem to be doing a great job, Dell.</p> <p><strong>update 01.01.2015:</strong> Andy Turfer has a review of this laptop <a href="">on his blog</a>.</p> Sat, 07 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0000 Dr. Karolina <p><img class="wide" src="/images/drkarolina.jpg" /></p> <p>My girlfriend <a href="">Karolina</a> defended her PhD on Monday, and shall be referred to as Dr. Karolina from now on. It was an excellent defense and you’ve missed out if weren’t there. You still can (and should) read her book, however. It’s very good (and I’m not biased) and <a href="">available (for free!) on her website</a>.</p> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0000 Cheating in LetterPress <p>I’ve been trying to hone some web-development skills the last few days, and yesterday evening I read about a particularly elegant Python microframework called <a href="">Flask</a>. I read the tutorial, did some stackoverflow searches and hacked a very simple (borderline trivial, actually) <a href="">app</a> for cheating in <a href="">LetterPress</a> in just a few hours. The code that runs the whole application is merely 50 lines long, and that’s only because I’m adhering to <a href="">PEP8</a>’s blank lines policies. Karolina contributed some CSS code and a logo, and we deployed it to <a href="">Heroku</a> in a couple of minutes. As a web-development newbie I have to say I’m amazed by how quickly and easily one can learn writing simple applications from scratch these days. And Heroku deployment can be done (for free!) by just one <code>git push</code>. Amazing stuff, especially if you remember coding PHP in 2004. </p> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 00:00:00 +0000 “Under the skin” <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> <p>In the spirit of 2014-summaries I’d like to mention Jonathan Glazer’s film “Under the skin”, which was definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, and one of the very best sci-fi movies I have ever seen. If you have some winter holidays now, rent it on iTunes or Amazon or something and watch it. It’s very disturbing, but great.</p> <p>(Also I think it’s a perfect example of that <a href="/2014/12/30/the-rise-of-the-image-the-fall-of-the-word/"><em>new video</em> Mitchell Stephens talks about.</a>)</p> Wed, 31 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0000 “The rise of the image, the fall of the word” <p>I’ve been trying to read as many books as I can these Christmas holidays since I have plenty of free time and the weather outside is particularly cold,<sup id="fnref:1"><a href="#fn:1" class="footnote">1</a></sup> so another book that I’ve read is Mitchell Stephens classic: “The rise of the image, the fall of the word.” It’s obligatory reading for anyone studying journalism and new media these days, as it tries to argue for cultural significance of television, or specifically something that Stephens calls the <em>new video</em>. A very interesting book indeed, and although I don’t quite agree with some opinions about montage and fast cutting, Stephens’ book is well worth reading if only for the very insightful analysis of history and significance of the written word, and then later development of film and video. </p> <p>But there’s one other interesting thing about this book. The second edition was published in 1998, before the age of ubiquitous high-speed internet, YouTube, Netflix, the iPhone, the iPad, Snapchat, Vine and Instagram, and in the era when television was at its highest—in everyone’s home and at the center of home entertainment. It is surprising to see how much things have changed within the last 16 years,<sup id="fnref:2"><a href="#fn:2" class="footnote">2</a></sup> and it is <em>astonishing</em> how accurate are the predictions about the future of video the author makes. Stephens basically predicted YouTube, Netflix, and the iPhone/iPad. He also somewhat predicted the rise in quality of original programming on television, which is what many now refer to as the “<a href="">renaissance</a> <a href="">of TV</a>.” The only new, revolutionary technologies he didn’t foresee were high-speed internet in our smartphones, and the Kindle-driven e-book revolution<sup id="fnref:3"><a href="#fn:3" class="footnote">3</a></sup> that delays the death of the word,<sup id="fnref:4"><a href="#fn:4" class="footnote">4</a></sup> but I guess nobody saw it coming. Stephens also mentioned that video games will become more mature and will evolve into something more than teenager entertainment, which is also happening, although at a pace slower than expected. It would be interesting to see if he’d want to change anything in his book if it were to be written now, but I doubt that. </p> <p>Again, a recommendation. Read this book especially if you love books and hate TV. </p> <div class="footnotes"> <ol> <li id="fn:1"> <p>Also, I’ve been trying to win a bet with <a href="">Karolina</a> (no luck so far I’m afraid). <a href="#fnref:1" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:2"> <p>I’m not an expert here, but I suppose it’s even less than that. I’d say things started happening really quickly once high-speed internet connectivity became a standard, once internet streaming services appeared (YouTube was created in 2005, Netflix and Hulu started offering video-on-demand streaming in 2007), and once the iPhone came out, so around 2005–2007. So then it’s basically the last 7–9 years. <a href="#fnref:2" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:3"> <p>I wonder if there’s any research behind the increased readership and e-book reader sales. Do Kindles increase it, or are they bought solely because they’re an attractive gadget? <a href="#fnref:3" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:4"> <p>One could also point out that the internet itself fuels a lot of text creation, with its blogs (who knew there’s gonna be so many bloggers in societies in which apparently nobody reads?), tweets, reddits, etc. <a href="#fnref:4" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> </ol> </div> Tue, 30 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0000 Stop using LaTeX, switch to MS Word <p>A <a href="">hilarious article</a> appeared in PLOS ONE recently (thanks for the link, Pim). StackOverflow <a href="">already made</a> some good comments, but here’s my two pennies’ worth. </p> <p>While I find the study methodologically flawed<sup id="fnref:1"><a href="#fn:1" class="footnote">1</a></sup> and I have a strong dislike for MS Word for numerous (un)sentimental reasons, I cannot disagree with the fact that LaTeX <em>sucks</em>. It has a complex syntax (take a look at <a href="">Markdown</a> or <a href="">reStructuredText</a> for comparison), meaningless error messages, it comes as a ginormous zip file full of obsolete stuff and it’s not exactly easy to customize (even installing new fonts is non-trivial). Yes, it has great syntax for mathematical symbols, very good output file quality by default and good default typographical settings, but it doesn’t stop to amaze me that it’s been around for so long and no one has come up with a better alternative. </p> <p>Well, I guess we should just embrace MS Word and stop wasting taxpayers’ money, as Markus Knauff and Jelica Nejasmic suggest. </p> <p><strong>update, Dec. 29th:</strong> Also, this: </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>The Word vs. LaTex efficiency argument is in line with microwave food vs. actual cooking</p>&mdash; Michele Lanza (@lanzamichele) <a href="">December 26, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script> <div class="footnotes"> <ol> <li id="fn:1"> <p>Copying an already written text is waay different than writing it from scratch, tables are notoriously LaTeX’s weakest point, as is customizing <em>anything</em>, the article doesn’t even touch upon the topic of editing long, complex documents, the list goes on… <a href="#fnref:1" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> </ol> </div> Sun, 28 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0000 “Where the Conflict Really Lies” <p>Since it’s Christmas, I feel it’s only appropriate to share some thoughts about a book on philosophy of religion I recently read. </p> <p>Written by contemporary analytic philosophy’s chief theist and protestant, <a href="">Alvin Plantinga</a>, “Where the Conflict Really Lies” is a careful and systematic study of the (alleged) conflicts between science, naturalism and religion.<sup id="fnref:1"><a href="#fn:1" class="footnote">1</a></sup> As far as I am aware, this book is the only such comprehensive and earnest account of what <em>exactly</em> Christianity says about, e.g., theory of evolution and natural selection, among other controversial topics. I don’t feel competent enough to argue about some points and original arguments Plantinga makes about naturalism, I think it’s best I refer the interested reader to <a href="">a long review by Thomas Nagel</a>, but at the same time I can wholeheartedly recommend Plantinga’s book to atheists and theists alike—to the former, because it’s good to know what you’re fighting against, and to the latter, because it’s good to know what it is <em>exactly</em> that you believe in. And it really is surprising to see how poorly researched are the many arguments made by scientific, militant atheists of Dawkins-kind. Actually, regardless of whether you agree with Plantinga’s religious stance and his strongly theistic point of view, you have to give him credit for defending theism and Christianity in a strongly atheistic environment which analytic philosophy most definitely is. It really is a shame there’s so few serious religious analytic philosophers. </p> <p>So, whether you want to feel stronger about your atheism or want to get better at fighting off those pesky atheist’s attacks, read Plangina’s book. What better time to do this than Christmas holidays?</p> <p>Merry Christmas everyone!</p> <div class="footnotes"> <ol> <li id="fn:1"> <p>Plantinga argues that his points are not Christianity-centric and can be applied to <em>theism</em> in general, although he stays away from “indecisive deism” or agnosticism. And he is himself a Christian, and can’t speak for Muslims or Buddhists, or others. <a href="#fnref:1" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> </ol> </div> Thu, 25 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0000