Free Markets, Free People

Dale Franks

Dale Franks’ QandO posts


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 23 Feb 14

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about the Ukraine, Free Speech, and guns.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.


Economic Statistics for 20 Feb 14

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.1% in January. The "core" CPI, which excludes food and energy, also rose 0.1%. On a year-over-year basis, both the headline and core CPI rose 1.6%.

Initial jobless claims fell 3,000 to 336,000. The 4-week average rose 1,750 to 338,500, while continuing claims rose 37,000 to 2.981 million.

Markit Economics’ PMI Manufacturing Index Flash for February rose 3 points to 56.7.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.1 points to -30.6 in the latest week.

The Philadelphia Fed Survey’s general conditions index was very negative, dropping to -6.3 in February from January’s 9.4.

The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators rose 0.3% in January.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $29.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4.149 trillion. Reserve Bank credit increased $35.5 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $41.3 billion in the latest week.


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Economic Statistics for 19 Feb 14

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -4.1% last week, with purchases down -6.0% and re-fis -3.0%.

In weekly retail sales, ICSC Goldman reports a 2.5% weekly sales increase, and a 2.1% year-on-year increase. Meanwhile, Redbook says sales rose 3.2% on a year-ago basis.

Thanks to the extreme cold, housing starts plunged -16% in January to a 0.88 million annual rate.

A completely revised method of reporting Producer prices was released today. The overall PPI for January rose 0.2%, which was 1.2% on a year-over-year basis. The core PPI, less food, energy & trade services, rose 0.1% for the month. There is no annual comparison for the latter method of calculating the core PPI rate. The PPI for goods rose 0.4% for the month, and 0.9% for the year. The PPI for trade services rose 0.1% for the month, and 1.3% for the year.


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It’s not the picture, it’s what you do with it

In the post below, Billy Hollis complained that he’s never really done well shooting in black and white. Of course, I haven’t either, mainly because I don’t shoot in black and white. Instead I shoot in raw, and depend on post-processing to make things look the way I want them to look. For instance, here is a plain old photograph, exported to JPG as shot.

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It’s a pretty meh picture. The colors are bland, and frankly, it’s over-exposed by about 1/3 stop. Here is where using a camera that shoots in RAW becomes important. In my case, I’m shooting with a Panasonic Lumix FZ-200 superzoom. Not a pro-grade DSLR, just a regular consumer superzoom with a tiny 1/2.3" sensor (about 6mm x 8mm in size). That’s pretty close to a cell phone camera sensor. But, because it shoots in RAW, I can fiddle with stuff. RAW is a non-compressed photo format that allows you to do non-destructive editing, which means if you fiddle with something and it goes totally wrong, you can always go back to the original shot and try again. You get really fine control over just about everything you can imagine, without affecting the digital negative. In my case, I do the image processing in Adobe Lightroom. You can’t do that sort of image processing when you shoot straight to JPG. Shooting is RAW, therefore, is massively useful, and allows you to do stuff like this to make the colors pop more:

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Of course, that means that you get the full range of black and white darkroom options as well. In the picture below, I’ve popped the contrast and clarity, to try and capture the look of 1950s black and white film.

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Here, I’ve kept the high contrast, and added graininess, as well as vignetting the edges. 1930′s and 1940′s black and white.

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Now, I’ve reversed the contrast to reduce it a lot, removed the grain, and softened the clarity all the way down. This gives it a flat texture and a soft dreamy feel, eliminating fine details.

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So, the key takeaway is that pretty lousy shots can be massively improved simply by shooting in RAW format, and spending a little time in post-processing in Lightroom to get the effect you want. Of course, you can take that a bit too far…

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There is, after all, such a thing as too much processing.


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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 16 Feb 14

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Venezuela and the Mark Steyn libel case.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.


Economic Statistics for 14 Feb 14

Export prices rose 0.2% in January, while import prices rose 0.1%. On a year-over-basis, export prices are down -1.2% and import prices down -1.5%.

The Fed reports that  industrial production fell -0.3% in January, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories declined -07% to 78.5%.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index remained steady at 81.2 in February.


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