MasterCard’s Truly Priceless Ad Campaign

(Originally posted on 2007-11-20 as /archives/118)

The 2007 Subprime Mortgage Financial Crisis is well underway, and what does MasterCard do?  Present me with an ad about using a credit card to get busy with some big-time housing market speculation (see a cobbled-together version of it below).  Priceless.


To be sure I don’t see many enemies there.  The market is non-evil.  It just is.  Real Estate has always been a very risky business.  Why?  …because buildings aren’t liquid capital, and houses eat up a large part of one’s income, so one isn’t diversified when one buys a house.  What do I call a non-liquid, non-diverse investment?  I call it a gamble.  Still, if you really want to live in that house, and that house is for sale, then you will need to buy it.

Me?  I tend to prefer to go the Coliag route, which is to rent, while putting the difference between what I pay for rent and what I would have paid for a house into diversified funds.  Coliag (not his actual name) did so well this way that he was buying things like cars, computers, and photographic equipment with cash… before the age of 44, and he stilled had a great retirement stash.  The man was frugal and it paid-off, plus he didn’t need to worry about mowing the lawn.

Yes, some folks have done really well buying and selling their houses, but guess what?  It’s still a gamble, and the baby boom that drove the long-term-run-up is over.

My first house purchase was in Plano Texas… just North of Richardson’s Telecom Corridor…  just before the Dot-bomb-bubble-burst.  IT is a luxury, and spending on luxuries slows down when the overall economy slows down. Yes, I know, “But computer jobs are important.” …but they are not. If I run a foundry that makes car parts, and business is slow, then do you think that I am going to buy more aluminum, or complete my new HR IT project? That’s the real story of the dot-bomb implosion. The media focussed on the failing dotcoms, but that didn’t account for most of the layoffs. We had too many computer programmers, working on too many projects, at too many companies, that were still needing to “buy their aluminum”. In a slowdown-like-that the luxuries go first. My industry went first.

I survived one-layoff-per-quarter for 5 years at two different companies, but when I finally was “affected” it was certainly not within my control: the company that I worked-for went from around 2500 workers to less-than 250 during my period with them.  No-one is safe when the cuts run that deep.  Folks said, “Why aren’t you looking for another job?” and then looked at me like I was some kind of freaky alien when I said: “There aren’t many available jobs for what I do, so I am going to focus on doing the best job that I can at my current position.”

  1. I lost my job, and most people that do-what-I-do were already flooding the job market.  I could no longer afford my house, because I had too-little work (I never completely stopped working).
  2. My foreign national neighbors, most of whom were great engineers, were forced to go home, when they also lost their jobs, and couldn’t afford to pay Dallas Texas real estate prices, and also live in India, or wherever, so many of them were forced into foreclosure.  This drove down the value of my house.  So I couldn’t afford to sell it.
  3. I could not afford to rent-out my house, because any potential renters could simply buy my neighbors’ houses for peanuts.  I was very dissapointed with  NPR‘s recent article about renting-out your house if you can’t sell it.  The interviewie had a good experience doing that… when the market was hot… and the article implied that y’all will have the same experience now.  It’s just not so.
  4. The housing market in my area-of-town completely crashed as developers put their new houses on the market, because these builders were also competing with the foreclosures.  Spec builders make building decisions based on yesterday’s demand: where “yesterday” was around five years ago, but the housing market moves up-and-down much faster than that.  (This is is the type of thing that makes it tough to sell a house in Phoenix these days.)  Plus, new houses are luxuries, and “spending on luxuries slows down when the overall economy slows down.” <– I just quoted myself!  (Why 5 years?  They need roads, and sewers, and utilities, and government approvals, and so on.)
  5. …then my car got totalled.
  6. …my spouse divorced me (actually that happened before the layoff).
  7. …my arthritis got worse.
  8. …and someone kicked my dog.  No, I just made that part up.  I didn’t have a dog.

How much did I lose by “owning” that house for three years?  It cost me $100,000 more (two closings, two residences, and a 30,000 loss in value) than I would have paid for renting one apartment, but hey, my (former) spouse wanted that house, so we bought it.  I now had no job, no family, and no savings.  Swell.

My plan was to work as much as possible, while spending my free time either looking for better work, or riding my motorcycle to Wendy’s for that great dollar menu.  Really.

I followed every lead.  I went to a Diversity Job Fair like this one (because how diverse would it really be without at least one white male?  That’s a joke.  Actually, it was because I was going to every job fair.)

So I go to the hotel that’s hosting the job fair, and they have 30-or-so companies arrayed around a large conference room.  Two of those companies were tech companies.  Hundreds of people were in line to speak to those two companies.  One of the companies was looking for Math folks with top-secret government clearance to work on a flight simulator or something (not a good fit for me), and the other one wasn’t taking resumes.  They simply asked every person to go to their Web site.  Well…  Well, why not talk to everyone else?

The Wal-Mart recruiter that was there explained to me that she was hiring night stockers for the Christmas rush, and I told her that I loved doing night stocking when I worked in retail, plus that I would really like to move to Bentonville Arkansas to work for the IT department there.  She told me that she would take my resume back to Arkansas.  I assumed that it would just be tossed.  It wasn’t.

Wal-Mart called me up.  I had a few interviews.  They asked me to fix something that couldn’t be fixed in the way that they wanted it to be fixed (this “something” happened to be listed on my resume). I told them what could, and couldn’t be accomplished.  I have integrity, so I was clear about the situation.

During one of the interviews Jeff (the manager) spins around in his seat and types “W. Paul Caligiuri” (my old name) into Google and finds the Web site that I set up to sell my house.  He laughs and says: “Did you put this up yesterday in order to impress us about how confident you are about this job?” or something like that.  “Well… No.”  I didn’t explain that the Web site had been up for years.  Bentonville Arkansas had a booming economy.  So that’s how I ended up in Arkansas: the best motorcycling-place in the US of A.

I had to pay for the Texas house for 1.5 years of my stay in Arkansas.  It was simply that hard to sell.  I would go down there every other weekend, and work on it.

I suspect that lots of folks are being burned by the mortgage crisis, but that we only hear about the fringe cases, because the fringe cases make for better stories (just like in the dot-bomb days).  Also, Real Estate is:

  • Not-liquid
  • Not-diverse
  • A gamble
  • …and a luxury, and “spending on luxuries slows down when the overall economy slows down.” <– I just quoted myself!

Oh, and the MasterCard ad was a really bad idea on someone’s part.

There’s lots of bad ads out there.  They don’t get made “because they work”, they get made because advertising firms know more about selling their own services, than they know about selling their client’s products.


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Walkaround: Cessna Bird Dogs and Piper AE-1

(Post date: 2016-08-30.)

I usually only accept my images when they “make a good picture”. These walkarounds have a different priority. In this case it’s to get as much detail as possible for modelers: free flight, paper, RC, styrene kits, all types.

This post is for the Cessna Bird Dog and similar warbirds (including a Piper AE-1). The bird dog was most famously used in Vietnam to find targets. There were Airforce pilots in large propeller planes, and fast jets, but then there were the people that flew these tiny little airplanes at low level, while being shot at, to find targets, and downed pilots.

If you have any interest in these airplanes, or the soldiers that flew them, then you need to read Mark Berent’s books. He was there. The books are excellent.

If you would like the highest resolution versions of these copyrighted images, or prints, then please let me know, and I will upload them to or


Airplane Model: (1962?) Taylorcraft DCO-65
N3752L - TAYLORCRAFT DCO-65 - Left


Airplane Model: 1951 CESSNA 305 D
Engine Type: Continental O-470 A&C65 Series
N4763E - 1951 CESSNA 305 D - Instrument Panel


Airplane Model: Piper AE-1 (1942 Piper J5C)
Engine Type: Lycoming O-235-C

This one’s an ambulance (with a mannequin in it). To see what the ambulance looks like with the top closed, see the background of the first N50573 image below.

The bird dogs are related to the Cessna 170, this one’s related to the Piper J5 Cub.
N3044L - 1942 PIPER J5C - Ambulance


Airplane Model: 1942 Taylorcraft DCO-65
Engine Type: Continental A&C65 Series
N50573 - 1942 TAYLORCRAFT DCO-65 - Birddog - Right

N50573 - 1942 TAYLORCRAFT DCO-65 - Birddog - Front and Filter

N50573 - TAYLORCRAFT DCO-65 - Left Distance

N50573 - 1942 TAYLORCRAFT DCO-65 - Birddog - Left



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(Originally posted on 2008-03-04 as /archives/160)

This simulator could have been awesome, but the steering works backwards! BACKWARDS!

Someone asked me, “Are you using countersteering?” at my last track day, and I didn’t know how to answer that question. I thought, “Is there any way that I could not be countersteering at these speeds?”  Countersteering occurs when the rider of a single-track vehicle (bicycle or motorcycle) pushes on the right side of the handlebar to turn right, and pushes on the left side of the handlebar to turn left.  By pushing on the same side, the rider is “turning” the handlebars the opposite way.  With cars you steer right to go right, but with bikes you steer left to go right.

OK, so you might be thinking, “I don’t do that! I lean!”, but you are doing that.  Imagine this: a bicycle rider holds her arms out straight.  She needs to turn right, so she leans to the right.  What’s happening here?  As she moves her weight to the right her right arm begins to push the right side of the handlebars out farther than the left: she is now countersteering.  Countersteering has more to do with initiating the turn than the leaning itself does.  You might have to sit on a bike and actually try this out to be able to picture it.  Do it in an exaggerated fashion, lock your arms, and watch the handlebars as you lean.

Motorcycle instruction usually includes discussion on countersteering because the locking-of-the-arms-thing greatly slows down steering.  Sometimes the effect on steering is so bad that riders ride right off the road when they tense up.  If the rider can learn to loosen her arms, and consciously push on the opposite side of the handlebar, then she will turn much quicker.

I literally practice holding the bars loosely when I ride my wife’s cruiser.  I take each hand off the handlebars one at a time (it has a throttle lock).  I practice bending my arms.  Etc.  This can actually help in all kinds of conditions.  That instability that occurs next to a truck?  It’s less troublesome if you hold the bars lightly.  When you push back against the shaking of the bars, your pushes lag behind the bars movement slightly.  Your periodic pushing summates with the periodic movement of the bars increasing the shaking.  Really.

So, how does this all work?  Countersteering initiates the lean by using the bike’s momentum to pull it over.  Imagine the momentum that you feel when a car turns.  When you turn to the left the momentum makes you feel like you are being pushed slightly to the right in your seat: correct?  This is the same with a two wheeled vehicle.  Turning left simultaneously causes momentum to push your vehicle to lean to the right (like an upside-down pendulum).  The bike then turns in the direction that it is leaning.  It’s that simple.  Really.  I didn’t understand this for a long time, because I was told that the affect was caused by gyroscopic precession, and for sure, that occurs, but it doesn’t cause bikes to turn.  Anyway I am sitting there watching a Kieth Code video, and he explains it.  He only spent a few seconds on the subject, but it made the whole thing clear.

Here is the Wikipedia entry for countersteering. The very top says “For the similar technique used in automobiles, see opposite lock.”  Please ignore that first statement.  The technique described there is about pointing your car’s wheels in the direction that you want the car to move, even if your car’s body is stepped-out.  This automotive technique is not remotely like the motorcycle technique, even though Doc Hudson says otherwise.

Before I tell you about this next part I want to make something very clear: I very much appreciate MSF instruction.  Without the MSF I wouldn’t be riding.  I would have no idea how to get started.

I took the MSF Basic RiderCourse twice.  In 2007 I took it near Topeka Kansas (where I earned 100% on both tests), and in 2003 I took it in Plano Texas.  While in Plano one of the RiderCoaches told us some things about countersteering that weren’t exactly correct.  I don’t know if any of those things are part of the official curriculum, but I want to quickly cover them, just in case you are told something similar.

  • She told us about countersteering, and that it is caused by gyroscopic precession occurring at a 90-degree angle, but she didn’t tell us what plane the 90-degrees was measured from.  This Web site has a good example of what she was talking about. This is all true, but that force doesn’t cause countersteering to work.  In fact gyroscopic precession makes turning more difficult.  Robby Kasten proved that with his wonderful reverse rotating rotors invention.
  • She had us sit on motorcycles that were standing still and told us to turn our bars and feel the motorcycle fall in the other direction, while using our legs to not let it fall all the way.  About 50% of the time my motorcycle fell in the same direction.  Of course it did.  Countersteering doesn’t work while standing still: gyroscopic, momentum, or otherwise.  A motorcycle should never be used as a Ouija board!  To be sure the RiderCoach in Kansas had us do the same exercise, but he made it clear that we were to make the bike lean ourselves by using our legs and imagine that the handlebar turning caused it.
  • She told us to watch the other RiderCoach’s front wheel, and to see how it was facing the opposite way while he was riding around.  I couldn’t see this, and I said so, and the reason that I couldn’t see it is that it just wasn’t so.  The front wheel doesn’t go the opposite way once you are leaned over.  (The speedway/flat track thing is something slightly different.  It works more like the automobile-reverse-lock technique once the bike is leaned over.)
  • She told us that countersteering doesn’t work under 13 MPH. This is not true. What is true is that there is another, much-safer, turning-technique that involves turning the handlebars in the direction of the turn, weighting the outside peg, and using your own body to lean the bike. That doesn’t mean that countersteering won’t work. It just means that you are capable of exerting enough-force to overcome-it at those slower-speeds. Here is a video that proves that countersteering works at-all-speeds, and on-all single-track-vehicles (motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, etc.)

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Are emergency rooms really that big a drag on the medical system?

(Originally posted in 2009 as /archives/2634)

By Thierry Geoffroy (Thierry Geoffroy) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

My how things have changed since I wrote this essay in 2009. Governor Romney pandered to the voters in the 2012 Presidential Election—by continuously insulted the President of the United States for adopting a national health care plan—that is almost exactly like Governor Romney’s plan for Massachusetts. Massachusetts’ plan works, and Romney knows it; that’s why he signed-it, and that’s why the United States adopted it.

Our country has adopted Governor Romney’s and Massachusetts’ health care plan, and Governor Romney pandered to the Republican voters by insulting the

This is a new version of my contributions to Are emergency rooms really that big a drag on the medical system? on The Straight Dope board (A message board for fans of The Straight Dope).  I highly recommend The Straight Dope.   If your favorite newspaper doesn’t carry it, then go here. Everyone knows The Straight Dope has a different purpose, but it is Snopes equal in the fight against ignorance.

Emergency rooms shouldn’t be free, but they must help everyone, and some never pay the bill. If a patient doesn’t pay her bill, then who ends up paying it? The hospital does at first, but ultimately we all do. As Shodan said, “If you are mandated to treat everyone whether they can pay or not, you have to charge those who pay more to cover for those who don’t.” We now have a national health care system without a detailed policy for those that cannot pay. The patients, the insurance companies, and the Physicians have little means of controlling those costs.

I was in poverty for many years. I am certainly not against care for the poor. Being “against” national health care is meaningless. We have had it for some time (whether we are talking about Medicaid, Medicare, or yes, those that simply don’t pay). The question is whether we want control over what is happening, or not, and “not” is just bad business.

How bad is the problem? Go here to read Malcolm Gladwell’s Million Dollar Murray. Here is a teaser quote: “Culhane estimates that in New York at least sixty-two million dollars was being spent annually to shelter just those twenty-five hundred hard-core homeless.”

Being against national health care is unreasonable. We have it, we just do it really badly. Lets stop doing it badly.

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Scott Kelby: Two Lights, One White Background

(Originally published on 2016-03-28 as /archives/10922)

Scott Kelby made this video for Westcott, but it’s good information for everyone.

The next step would be to consider adding weak lights behind the subject: either to light-up the background, or to highlight the subject’s hair. A third light isn’t needed here, because the white backdrop reflects so much light.

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Lens Compression and Lens Distortion

(Originally published 2016-03-16 as /archives/10930)

This lens-compression-thing: we all agree on it correct?

Lens Compression

The definition of lens compression is this: if you use a longer focal length, then the background will appear to be closer to the subject. There are numerous examples of images that “prove” this out there (including the GIF below), but guess what? Lens compression doesn’t actually exist.

Here’s how the prove-it examples work:

  1. First the photographer makes a photo of a subject, standing in front of a background object, with a short focal length lens (wide angle, less magnification).
  2. Then the photographer takes the same picture, of the same subject, at the same distance from the camera, but with a longer focal length lens (telephoto, more magnification).
  3. Then we compare the two images, and note that the background object appears to be closer to the subject in image #2.Here’s the kicker:
  4. If we then crop image #1, so that the subject takes up the same amount of space in each image, we will note that the subject now looks to be the same exact distance from the background object as in image #2.

In other words: lens compression is just an optical illusion.

Lens distortion

Barrel Distortion, Pincushioning, Bokeh, etc., may be different with each of the two lenses. Generally the wider angle lens (shorter focal length, less magnification) will distort the image more and cause more foreshortening relative to the telephoto lens (longer focal length, more magnification), but not always. A lot depends on lens design, and post processing software is really good at removing distortion these days.

The following GIF was shared at “reddit /r/educationalgifs How different lenses affect portraits“. It shows the foreshortening issue and the so-called-lens-compression-issue at various focal lengths of a telephoto super zoom lens. For many people this will be proof that lens compression is real. It still isn’t real, and not all wide angle lenses will cause such drastic foreshortening.

OK: so if the focal length is changing, then why is the subject’s head mostly the same size? Because the photographer is moving physically closer to the subject, for the wider angle shots, and farther away for the telephoto shots.

Here’s the GIF:
XBIOEvZ - Imgur

Back to the Lens Compression Example

OK, so Paul must be wrong about lens compression. I mean look at how that tree in the background of that GIF moves closer to the subject: right?

In the following video, Dieter Schneider does the steps (from above) to prove that lens compression does not exist.

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Free Portrait Guides

(Originally posted on 2016-05-06)

(The posing and lighting guides are below.)

The “Hers” blog Facebook page has a “Posing for one” guide.  I think that the negative reader comments are interesting:

The right way to make some one look better ????? In who’s eyes !!! That’s awful I’m sorry but this wrong on so many levels…so thinner arms make the shot better ??? Really come on this is hiding who you really are it’s as bad as photoshop …if you have fat arms or belly or bum so what you don’t look any less sexy fact if you show your flaws and own them with confidence there is nothing more beautiful or sexy than that !!!!fact!!!!

This is silly. People, love yourselves for who you are, not for what you think is the socially acceptable version of beauty.

She looks thin whatever pose she makes cause SHE.IS.THIN

When you put a set of images in front of a subject, which ones do they want? The ones with the better poses. Plus: posing-well is easier, and more accurate, than digital editing.

Here are some posing and portrait guides from Digital Camera World:



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