B&H Photo (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/) Kudos!

I just ordered four things from B&H Photo. This is a US company that sells everything imaginable for photography, video, and some home entertainment and computer stuff as well.

I am Canadian. I generally deliberately buy Canadian. So why would I purchase online from a New York, New York, USA company?

  • better prices
  • better availability
  • better service
  • better support

I will go into each of these separately.

Better Prices.

When CAD was 3/4 of USD my last new camera was under $600 USD and $800 CAD. That’s a wash. However, spare batteries were 1/3 the price (Watson versus Panasonic) or 1/2 the price (Panasonic proprietary.) Both work perfectly and the stated small difference in charge capacity is undetectable in my usage.

The UV I wanted was not available in Canada. B&H had one for some $24 which is $60 in Canada. That’s some exchange rate, eh? And, I was able to choose, instead, the better one at maybe $27 which is nano-coated. When my spouse’s smaller UV fogged up in the Bahamas, my larger one did not. Coating repels water.

Better Availability.

Years ago I decided I should have bought the Olympus (film) ZLR in Canada. I did get it from B&H.

I searched for a weatherproof, point&shoot, with image stabilization. I was able to get an Olympus Stylus 780 IS from B&H. Now the batteries seem to be dying; symptom is, on power up, needs clock reset. Cause: battery dead long enough for internal clock backup to discharge.

Try to buy a battery for an Olympus Stylus 780 IS that is eight years old. At B&H I can do so. Even better, I can get a Watson equivalent that is half the price. On top of that, I can replace the clunky, long-cord Olympus charger with a Watson charger for under $20 USD. This charger can do several other batteries, and with a ‘plate change’, can do even more. Insanely, it has a USB port that can be used to charge other devices. More insanely, it comes with a car 12-volt adapter and a European outlet plug adapter.

Try getting that at H’ry’s or Dtwn Camera. (names mangled to avoid slander charges.)

If you want a case for a camera, B&H is likely to suggest one or more that fit exactly.

And, part of my order was a nano-coated, B&W (made in Germany) filter for my wife’s Nikon P7800. No fogging up next trip, eh?

Better Service.

When I decided to purchase the 780 IS, it was ‘available’ in Canada at H’ry’s. However, their website said approximately the following: 1) your order must be prepaid and is not cancellable. 2) we have no idea, and make no promises, as to delivery date. 3) mumble words about not being liable for tying up your money for as long as they choose.

B&H would never put such c..p on their website.

The order I placed yesterday (B&H appears to live in devout Judaism in its approach to holidays; Sunday work is OK but Saturday is Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) … that order was marked shipped on today, the following Monday.

B&H offers to do all the ‘brokerage’ with a known charge up front. I always take that option; otherwise the delivery arrives with COD and generally, a driver who, amazingly, cannot make change.

Better Support.

When I could not find the UV at the size and coating I wanted, I used B&H feedback to get, in reply, a hotlink to their specific page with this item on it. Exactly. I ordered from this page.

When I could not find a selection of underwater cameras, same result. I did not order. I am going to keep using my non-underwater weatherproof cameras, for now.

When I was annoyed with their website cross-scripting, they responded with attempted assurances that the website involved is used ‘a lot.’ While that does not erase my concern (NoScript drives me nuts all the time, but cross-scripting is something I don’t understand well and am loath to permit) it was an attempt to explain their world view to me. Better than the silence I get from most places.

Anything Else?

This is not a fair criticism of B&H as nobody does this next thing well.

I’d like to be able to find underwater cameras that have excellent resolution. It appears that, more or less, they are all roughly equal. And, they are all a trace less sharp than their non-underwater peers using similar lenses and similar sensors. Why? An underwater camera does not ‘power out’ the lens on start-up. This because moving seals here just can’t manage large pressure differences, as when submerged twenty feet or so. Because the lens does not move forward, the light path is instead ‘folded’ by mirrors. At least one reflection turns the path sideways inside the camera; focussing movement is then on that sideways path. This means a small (but consistent across all such cameras) image degradation.

I think that Nikon once made an underwater camera that was ‘front bulged’ a bit and did not fold the optics.

There is no way to find out which cameras fold / don’t fold the optical path.

B&H is not alone in this information deficit. I’ve been on DPReview and they don’t seem to get this question either.

Net Net on this one: I’d consider replacing (with a submersible)  my weatherproof Stylus, but only with a camera of comparable image quality. The Stylus 780 IS has, on the occasion when used in suddenly decent light, produced remarkably sharp and wonderful images. Used in s..tty rain conditions, it only looks OK/good. (higher ISO, tougher stabilization at lower shutter speeds, etc.)

The Dumb Question

Those who visit often will be looking for this, as I often provide at least one.

Why would I buy from B&H Photo?

That’s a dumb question.

Simplicity? or fact. Muslims ‘vs’ Christians

Here you will find one instance of this: Muslims defending Christians from brutal stupidity.

Rather than have the Christians separated, to be killed, the Muslims essentially all agreed: we’ve had enough of this s..t. Kill us all, or go away. Good God (or Allah) they went away.

Islam is not the problem.

I have read the entire Koran / Quran in two different translations. The Koran is not the problem.

The problem is, imho, in the stuff I have not read: the hadith. Essentially these books are like the New Testament for Christians: they chronicle the life of Christ. If we took all that Christ said out of the NT we’d need the rest. Islam hoards ‘the rest’ in the hadith.

Everything about Muhammad (may he rest in peace) is very likely to be in this collection. How he drank water. (I’m not kidding here.) Here is the seed of the Caliphate needing to expand, forever.

Sharia law is complicated. Here is a Wikipedia link.

A quote: There are two primary sources of sharia: the Quran, and the Hadiths (opinions and life example of Muhammad). For topics and issues not directly addressed in these primary sources, Sharia is derived.

Apparently, Sharia is not written down. Good luck in court.

Back to my main point. Muslims can do, and often do, extraordinary acts of personal risk and human kindness.

Muslims at one point were on the cutting edge of science. Until the desire to ‘return’ to the wonderful ‘Caliphate’ era caused everything newer to be deprecated.

We are all losers here. Let’s not make the Muslims who willingly help us part of the losing side.

An Islamic State primer

This is courtesy of Federation of American Scientists, via their blog/eMail Secrecy News.

A CRS report is one created by the Congressional Research Service at the request of the US Congress, or a committee therein, or whatever.

CRS reports are not generally available to the public. Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News of the F.A.S. fixes this.

I will not give any quotes. Click on this link to see a recent CRS report on IS or ISIL.

You have a right to know what’s roughly best information on IS in the USA right now.


Volkswagen Emissions (admissions?)

I will keep this brief.

Here you will find a BBC News page on a recent comment by Volkswagen on the faulty emissions control in their diesel vehicles. Besides implying that the problem only existed in the United States, you will find these quotes in the above-referenced page:

The company said the problem began when it decided to launch a large-scale promotion of diesel vehicles in the US in 2005, but found it impossible to meet strict emissions limits in force in that country in time.

Mr Mueller said it was relatively simple and inexpensive to fix the millions of affected cars, but this had not been possible before, as the technology for the fixes was not available when the cars were built.

In any case, the company was unaware at the time that there was a problem.
I submit that these statements are contradictory. One cannot find something impossible without being aware that that something has a problem.

Those waiting for the dumb questions can relax; here they are.

Are we dumb enough to believe that

  • Volkswagen could not do emissions properly, but only in the USA? (There have been noises of recalls in a Lot of countries, eh?)
  • Improper emissions-emitting vehicles were sold, but it wasn’t a problem?

and finally,

  • Will this tactic allow VW to somehow magically reduce the cost of correcting a huge number of emitting vehicles, and the likely fines?
  • Are the lobbyists busy right now, working on this?

I said, as always, that they are dumb questions.

The Adventures of George

This book is a spoof wherein W is cast as the top chef in a restaurant.

What follows is a copy of the review I posted on Amazon as a Kindle Book Review Team member.

The Adventures of George    Blair Gowrie

An interesting tale told in verse, a fun read

four stars

This is a tricky work to rate, so as always, do not let my star count override your judgement of content. More on the stars, counting, and my rating challenges later. I found that, the more I read, the more I enjoyed and appreciated the work.

It is essentially a set of connected short stories told in rhyming verse. You need either to know world figures, or have someone help you if you don’t. I mention this because younger readers might get a kick out of this work too.

Everything revolves around the staff of a restaurant and its chief chef and owner, George. Various international figures try to influence various things, from kidnapping George to threatening violence if Mister Hamburger does not get out of certain countries. The plot moves around the world a fair bit.

The book is light-hearted despite the serious situations. The various tales interweave as the work walks forward, one of the reasons I suggest a purchaser read the entire book for sure(but probably not in one session – it’s fairly long and includes some thirty-one poem sections, all of more than one page.)

For an example of the style of writing, consider this: “One day there came into the club /a stranger causing a great hubbub /with his soldierly, swaggering, uniformed figure,/ and short black hair and moustache a-quiver, /and with him aides and associates ten, /all muscular, military, mustachioed men, /and looking around with disdain he decried /not a table there was which was not occupied, /and noticing a nearby noisy group /of diners spooning up their soup /at a longish table seating twenty /and laden with food and drink a-plenty, /he called the captain with this demand, /“Give me that table, it’s my command.””

Again, the section entitled David Chipperfield begins thus: “The theatre was arranged in a dinner type style, /with tables for patrons to watch and to dine, /or have a few drinks, whisky, or perhaps beer./ And to the stage Vince’s table was near, /providing a view of the chorus line /where the sequined beauties all looked divine/in ostrich-feather costumes with beaver-fur trimming,/ high-stepping, high-kicking, dancing and spinning, /with perfect co-ordination and timing, /and dazzling smiles, white teeth all a-shining.”

If you’re scrolling for the tiny carps, they are few. Maybe a typo. The odd not-rhyme and a few close rhymes. Nothing of consequence, and not surprising in a work of this size.

So, back to the star count. Again, this is an unusual work and your opinion may be different. My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. I try to be consistent. I think four stars is about right. If you understand the ‘form’ of this work, you should be happy with your purchase.

Kindle Book Review Team member.

(Note: this reviewer received a free copy of this book for an independent review. He is not associated with the author or Amazon.)

On Unintended Consequences, or, Bacillus thuringiensis

Once upon a time our shack in Severn County backed onto a forest with lots of wildlife. There were garter and water snakes on the rocks out by the dock, frogs, grasshoppers, crickets. We had bats in our bat-house, orioles on a beaver pond point, the odd wren and brown creeper, red-eyed vireos nesting, and the occasional robin. We used to hear whip-poor-wills and woodcocks. (We also had the odd rattlesnake, so caution especially for small people, was always requested.)

Then we had the gypsy moth. Its caterpillar is hard on trees, especially oaks. The smaller one on our tiny property was reduced to a stub, but the shoots grew back later into a sort of briar-patch of saplings.

So, a company (Zimmer Air, as I recall) offered us gypsy moth spraying. Now this is from memory, but the contract was written so that a sudden wind could blow a hole in it. If we agreed to pay, we paid even if the spraying missed the target.

What I remember most about the glossy brochure they left in the shack door was, what they said about Bacillus thuringiensis. (The bacterium creates insecticidal crystals that kill insects.) Quote: the gut of an insect is alkaline, and human stomaches are acid, so the bacterium cannot flourish there. Fact: the human intestine is basic. There is actually some doubt as to the non-toxicity of this bacterium, commonly referred to as B-t.

I refused to pay for the spraying, and hoped my neighbour would too. She did, but she explained she (as neighbour) was allowing the next property over to be sprayed. They have a lot of large oak trees, so I gave no objections. Spraying occurred.

Now for the result:

  • No insects with non-aquatic larvae. No grasshoppers. No crickets.
  • No frogs, no snakes, no toads, no bullfrog calls.
  • No orioles, no bats, no thrushes, no whip-poor-will calls.

Deer flies, horse flies, black flies: yes. Few dragonflies. Fewer mosquitoes.

Chipmunks, flying squirrels, squirrels, yes. Terns, gulls, herons, less. No cormorants. No buffleheads.

A decade later there is a faint sign of recovery. We saw one small toad this year, and I think a mink frog. No swallows yet, and only one tern.


Broad-spectrum spraying can have unintended consequences. Like giving a small child antibiotic, to discover this increases the chances of asthma later in life.

It is not clear overall that the unsprayed forest is worse off. A few oaks in the deep bush succumbed, but some did not and some recovered. There was worse forest damage by a wind storm, which took down most of the pines in what must have been local wind concentrations.

Still, there is no oriole nest on the beaver pond rock we still call Oriole Point. The number of chickadees coming to the feeder used to be eight; this year it’s three or four. (I think most bird nestlings are insectivorous and learn to eat seeds later, like weaned children.)

Since I almost always include a dumb question, here is today’s:

Is it smart to interfere with an ecosystem, risking unintended consequences?