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Comment of the Fortnight
1 June 1998
The Reflective Pause

I've done a lot of photography at amateur wrestling tournaments. I used a Pentax K-1000 manual 35mm camera for most of the pictures, and I was quite happy with it. I have also been using a digital camera, and am relatively pleased with the results it has given me.

I lost the K-1000 several months ago, and decided to replace it before a recent tournament. Since I still had my telephoto lens, I wanted a compatible camera. I ended up buying a Pentax ZX-M. The main differences between it and the K-1000 is that the ZX-M can do auto-exposure, it uses a bar graph rather than a needle indicator to show light level when you set it on manual, and it has a motorized drive instead of a manual film advance lever. This last feature may be the worst thing that ever happened to me.

When I took pictures with the manual camera, I had time to go through a thought process like this:

[click - lower camera slightly] Yuck. That picture stinks. [push lever] They'll be in a better position for a picture when the guy in blue starts locking up for a throw. [raise camera to eye] I'll start turning and moving left for that.
The digital camera takes about five seconds to write a picture to memory before it is ready for the next picture. This also gives me time for that pause to reflect and evaluate.

With the motorized drive, the thought process runs more like this:

[click] Darn. Not quite it. [whir "I'm ready. Click me. Click me."] Oops maybe this one [click] Darn. [whir "I'm ready. Quick. Take another."] OK [click]
Instead of ending up with one lousy picture, I take three before I realize, "Hey-these all stink!"

This isn't the only place where I've seen this effect. When I teach HTML classes and have to explain something detailed to a student, he will often keep focusing on the monitor until I turn it off. This stops the siren song of the monitor [Look at me! I have the answer!] and the keyboard [Quick. Type something.]

I often do this as well - I go to a different room without a computer in it so that I have time to pause and reflect rather than blindly typing something just so that I am being "productive."

All of this leads up to an old saying which I give here, as well as an updated version for the Internet:

The old saying: Programs written at the keyboard look like it.
Update: Websites designed at the keyboard look like it.
Do you also find the need for that reflective pause? Please let me know your thoughts on this.

California's Open Primary

Believe it or not, this topic is related to the previous one, in that it is another instance in which I've had to change my way of thinking. This is the first year that California has what is called an open primary.

Instead of voting for the best candidate from the party in which I'm registered, I go through this thought process:

This sets up an odd situation - if enough people follow this thought process, you end up with the Republicans choosing the worst Democrat and the Democrats choosing the worst Republican. In November, you have a race between two lousy candidates. (Third parties usually don't have more than one candidate, so you don't have this situation with them.)

Yes, I know. I win the Slow Thinker Award of 1998 for having taken this long to figure it out. I'm sure someone has written a thesis on the game theory aspects of an open primary. In any case, it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.

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