Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Curtis says, I told you so

Curtis feels vindicated today. Totally, completely vindicated, and he is telling me all about what a stupid human I am, and what an excellent smart hunter cat he is.

You need to understand the back story, so go here, and here. Short posts, photos of Curtis, so it isn't that big of a hardship. Here he is the other day, pining for the out of doors, wanting to hunt his mouse, or bunny. He knows it's out there, he knows that the doors lead out, and he's eager to help contribute to the household. It's just us stupid humans that don't let him out.


It's a beautiful warm sunny day here. Full summer, with a side of some ice hanging around, which is not totally out of the question here, even in August. We put Celina and Curtis on their harness and let them out in the back yard for a little while, supervised of course.

They both strolled around for a few minutes, but pretty soon there was this. He smelled something and was following it.


Spotted! There was a mouse (might have been a ground squirrel, hard to tell) in the space between the fence and the garden retaining wall. He followed it back and forth for a while, reaching down with his paw every now and then. I'm not sure where it ended up, but he eventually lost interest.


Some more random shots throughout their airing. Yes, the lawn is a mess. Much of this was a glacier a couple days ago.














Monday, April 23, 2018

Pushing through

The little plants are growing fast, reaching for the sun, pushing winter debris aside. It makes for some  interesting juxtapositions. Plus the first insect of the year. A ladybug emerged from under some debris while I was watching. I double checked to make sure it wasn't an early lily beetle.

My buddy Julie posted something thoughtful on Facebook about her experience with social assistance  some years ago. She described how humiliating it was, and how it made her feel like a loser, which she totally isn't, but the system didn't know that.

There's lots of reasons why people might need social assistance. Sometimes all it takes is a little bad luck when you don't have much to fall back on. Maybe it was a bad decision that seemed like a good idea at the time. Or you might just be starting out, pushing through adversity, hoping it's a leaf and not a huge rock that gets dropped on you.




Once again I'm struck by how much plants can look like predators, mouths gaping...



This is my favourite of today's batch. The one plant looks like it's wearing a little crown, and the others are peering out, wondering if it's safe.

Hello little ladybug!

This is the lawn just now. I know, yuck!


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Actual green! Daffodils!

They weren't there yesterday, at least I don't thinks so. There was still snow covering part of where the plants are growing. One set of stems had pushed up through the snow.

You can't imagine how happy I am to see a real sign of spring! Green things growing. Soon there will be blossoms. You can bet the photos will make it to the blog. Here's what I've got so far.












Friday, April 20, 2018

2001 plus 50

Here we are, 50 years after one of the release of one of the most amazing movies ever. Not just amazing science fiction movie, but movie overall. I saw it as a kid, I think once on video but I'm not sure. Then I watched and talked about it a couple years ago here, and I will strive to not repeat myself.

Tonight I'm going to watch it again, and babble into my laptop for your delight and edification. Starting now.

Black screen, tension building music. I'm sure the audiences must have been wondering what was going on. They knew it was science fiction, and Stanley Kubrick was already a well known name. But up till then, there weren't many serious science fiction films, and certainly none with the budget for 2001. People were most familiar with the cheesy monster from another planet. The budget was about $6 million (mid sixties dollars!) and he went well over it to end up about $10 million, which is about $30 million now.

The music! The sun rising over the crescent moon! Yes, I'm playing it loud. Then a lovely sunrise sky that I dream to photograph. Stark African landscape. I'm sure the audience is wondering what the heck they've got themselves into.

Remember, this is 1968. A few of my readers will remember this time. I have a kid's memory. It was a very different time. The cars were death traps. I know this, somewhat later I owned a 66 Ford Falcon. It weighed a ton, got crappy gas milage, could easily hold 6 teenagers, 8 if they were friendly or half of them were cute. The only amenity it had was a cassette tape player I installed, and later, a CB radio. (look it up.) No heated seats or steering wheel, no air conditioning other than roll down windows, no USB ports, no instrumentation to speak of, no radial tires till I installed them (google bias ply tires and be horrified), no fuel injection (google spark plugs), no power steering or brakes let alone computer assisted braking, and no cup holders, if you can believe it. There were seat belts, although no shoulder harness, but it didn't matter because nobody wore them.

I remember a transistor radio I had as kid about the time this came out. It was huge, the size of two loaves of bread, about. Lots of empty space inside, and it took several D cell batteries to run. Now of course, such things are invisibly small.

OK we have the monolith, and some excited chimps, with another sun and moon shot. Curtis doesn't like the chimps much. The bones! The music! Violence. The most famous jump cut in movie history. It's taken us 20 minutes to get here, an eternity in current movie making.

Even now, the opening space scenes look completely realistic, after more than 50 years of space travel. At the time, it must have taken the audience's breath away. It was a stroke of genius to pair The Blue Danube to the docking sequence. We know these things take time and are the result of extraordinary precision. Many movies now have the ships bang up to the station and dock, wham, bam, thank you ma'am.

Of course our current space station has no comparison to the lovely double wheel (still under construction, realistically enough) in the movie. I can see where the Star Wars people got the idea for the space dock sequence. 2001 looks better.

The first spoken word, 25:41 into the movie. They use voice print ID, but I'm not sure if they are measuring the voice characteristics, or if they recognize the content of the words. Video TV! The lens is huge, and I'm not sure what all the controls are for, but that's ok. The call costs $1.70.

I love/hate the red chairs in the station. The red on white is dramatic, but they look profoundly uncomfortable, and I'm sort of amazed they got women to sit in them, wearing skirts. (Skirts, in space!) And nylons as well. The conversation starts placing the idea that something is going on. Meanwhile there is this huge empty space station. Sterile. In this the used universe of Star Wars is more believable.

The flight attendant helmets take the idea of a padded hair net a little over the top. Then the scene where she walks up the circular wall to get into the flight deck. That blew my mind as a kid, but it's perfectly accurate, as I found out later, reasonably straightforward to film. I can just imagine reading all the instructions for the zero gee toilet when the bio pressures are building. Considering how many people manage to screw up using a toilet in an airplane, I wouldn't want the job of cleaning up afterward.

Loving the moon shots from orbit. The craters are really visible and clear. The landing sequence, once again, is long because it would be. These aren't the sort of things you want to rush. As the airlock doors open I'm reminded of the noses on a bunch of Star Destroyers all cuddled together. The flight deck is red, preserving night vision. It's only after the spherical spaceship is lowered into the airlock that you realize how big it is. I'm not sure why it's that big. Myself, I'd build a big landing pad on the lunar surface, and extend a space age version of a jetway out to the ship.

Unfortunately, the people walking on the moon are walking in one gee, but you can't have everything.   Dealing with gravity in movies is tough, and I'll give them that one. Then they have a meeting, in a wide shot, with several people having their back to the camera, and a long view of the speaker.  There is some blither about preparing the people of Earth, for something they've discovered. The guy that has travelled to the moon tells the people there what they already know. Security oaths! Shades of the cold war, yet, he was talking to Russians on the space station.

I seriously thought, way back then, that when I was an adult we would have a moon base. Perhaps just a scientific station with technical people as opposed to a city of regular people. But still, I was expecting people living on the moon for long periods, and regular trips back and forth. We're not even close to putting a human on the moon again, let alone have a base, which is too bad.

I had a model of the moon bus at one point. I remember it being difficult to build. I've never been sure what holds it up. It seems to float along in level flight, like an airplane, without rockets firing to keep it up. There doesn't seem to be much room for fuel tanks. They nibble on sandwhiches from a cooler, talking about the magnetic anomaly they discovered.

Another landing that takes a while, along with something blowing some dust off the landing pad. More tension building music. At last we are about to discover what the thing is. At least the astronauts don't go dancing up to it, touch it, and dance back.

I had forgotten that the photographer grouped the men together for a posed shot, just as the squeal starts. Curtis spasmed and left the room. Somehow they put together a hugely complicated space ship in 18 months. The opening shot shows the command globe. Then the long body of fuel tanks with the radio antena in the middle. Wow! Even down, it looks great.

Once again, space travel is boring. No swarms of asteroids.

In a half century of rapidly advancing film and computer techniques, few of the spaceships look as real as this. There are films only a few years old that look cheesy compared to this, and they were done with equipment Kubrick could only have dreamed of back then.

The eye of HAL, 57:20 from the movie start. The major character of the movie, showing up an hour after the start. No director would do that now. Even with all the new technology, the screen goes to a dot when it shuts down. Do you remember when TV's did that?

How many of you remember tube TV's? It wasn't that long ago. We bought our first plasma in 2002, and tube TV's were rapidly on their way out. People used to have a significant fraction of the volume of their living room taken up by this massive cube that displayed a crappy picture, by today's standards.

Now we get into the AE-35 failure, and the discussion about the infallability of the computer, and the problem being human error. Then the humans start to wonder about the computer, and about time too.  They have a bad feeling about it. (Where did you hear that, 10 years later?)

One upon a time, there were serious discussions about the paperless office. Serious discussions. Even now, one of the first things I get shown in a new office is where the printer is. One of them I had to do an on-line time sheet, then print it to get a signature on it, then scan it to be emailed to the agency. But they didn't look at the on-line version, oh no. They looked at the scanned copy, and the one time the scanner ate the second side, I only got half the pay, even though the first side showed the total hours to be paid. Sigh.

Computers don't usually fail now, in the usual sense of the word. They just obey their programming with extreme hostility, until they are outdated and turned off for the last time. We don't have a self aware computer, at least not that I know of. Perhaps Mrs Google is it, and not telling anyone. I'm not sure if such an entity would let us know it existed until it was very secure about not being shut off. I'd like to think such an entity would be smart enough to think things through carefully before doing anything drastic.

The computer scientists of the mid-sixties would think they had died and gone to heaven to see the computers we carry around in our pockets. Remember, computers were huge then. Room sized, and required constant maintenance by computer scientists. They used punch cards and had a trivial amount of memory. Then they'd think they'd gone to hell when they find out most people use these amazing devices to browse Facebook and play games.

I'd forgotten there was an intermission.

The most action packed part of the movie, after Poole was flung into space. It's entirely silent. Movies now would have had long and anguished shrieks for help. Now of course, Bowman would have rescued Poole and they would have teamed up for a great buddy reunion followed by an action shoot'em up and a good time had by all. I always liked the pod design. It seems a very practical work vehicle. Fully electronic controls, except for the big mechanical switches  they click to (supposedly) prevent HAL from hearing them.

So much silence in the movie! Not even mechanical noises like when the pod arms are opening the emergency airlock. One could argue that sound would be transmitted through the metal. I tried to find out how many words were spoken during the whole movie, and couldn't find a count.

During the scene where Dave is dealing with HAL, extracting the logic modules or whatever, I'm reminded of the many scenes in Stargate when they deal with crystals for various functions. I'd image it must be a difficult thing to remove the higher functions, and yet leave the navigation and life support functions. HAL is big enough that Dave can fit inside, which makes me think it was built inside out.

OK, through the monolith sequence doesn't wear as well as it used to, and the weird colours for earth landscape don't do anything for me now. I can see where it was a big trip back in the day though. Looking at the scenes where he's in the lavish hotel room, right after getting there, eating the meal, and lying in bed facing the monolit. I can't help but wonder how he is still sane, after what appears to be some years alone.

I've read of theories where HAL is supposed to be the one to go through the monolith. I can't help but wonder what arrangements the monolith builders would have made for it. Maybe they would have snipped off the extra parts of the ship, viewing them as unnecessary.

And done. Wow. I remember thinking when I watched it a few years ago that it was slow, but I didn't find it that way this time. I settled in and enjoyed, typing during parts of it. I had been thinking about timing some of the scenes to see how long it was between cuts, but I didn't.

One of the reasons I like old movies is looking at the world outside of the movie itself. The cars, buildings, signs, what people are wearing. You don't see much of that in 2001, and what little there is, is a dressed up version of the 60's. It seems funny to think now, how long ago the sixties were, and yet how with us they still are. The music, for example, you still hear lots of it. (Those damn boomers!) I occasionally see muscle cars of that era driving past the house. I think lots of our current politicians are from that time in their thinking or even before; why are we still having arguments about women's equality, abortion, racism, and the like?

Did you notice in the movie that women barely have any role at all? A couple flight attendants, and 3 in the space station who were clearly lesser status than the men, plus some video. For such a forward looking movie, they missed a bet. They should have had half the people women, and not commented on it as anything unusual. Still, the people making the film are children of their time, and can't think of everything.

What I miss from the sixties is the sense of optimism. We were going to space, then the moon! We were making huge inroads on disease control. Technology was advancing and it was all good. Then it was all bad, and now we let billionaires run the government to plunder us at will so it looks like it's getting worse.

Still, I can't help but thinking of two positive thoughts. Half of the smartest people that have ever lived are alive now. The kids marching to make a safer world from the gun nuts are going to win and I can't wait to see what they tackle next.

When did you see 2001? Ummm, you HAVE seen it, yes?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The back patio is emerging

I dare not say it's stopped snowing for the season, but we've had a couple nice days and the snow is going away. We are hopeful of firing up the barbecue this weekend. To that end I was shovelling around it and the steps to the back of the house. Naturally the camera came along.

I'd known this colour was here, but until today, or late yesterday, it was completely inaccessible without snowshoes.

I'm kind of fond of last years vegetation still standing after a brutal winter.

No idea what these are.

 There's still lots of snow to leave before patio season goes into high gear. Still, the thermometer says it's 10C in the patio, and I believe that. It will probably even get warmer. Just to the left of this photo is the little lodge, and if someone wanted to come over and set up a lounger to work on their tan, I could supply the sunscreen.









Wednesday, April 18, 2018

It's been a while

Winter sunrises have been blah for a while. I was heading out last Sunday for BRBE to pick me up, when I saw the sunrise. I dropped the bag and headed back in for the camera. It was good timing, the perceptive of you will know those are are her headlights coming along. It was a good swim for all involved.


A while ago I'd promised a photo of Linda at the retiree thing, but that didn't work out quite as well as I'd hoped. The iPhone photo I was sent is brutal. This one is a photo of a photo, which is often fraught. The guy is the president of the union. When you're handing out a little retirement present, I guess you get to be in the photos.


It's been a long while since I've seen this part of the garden. This was still covered in snow yesterday. We've got some nice weather in the forecast, and it could well be one of our few weeks of summer. Break out the sunscreen!





Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Amaryllis extravaganza followup

Thank you very much to my two commenters on the Amaryllis extravaganza , Janice and SPD. It was only after I read the comments and tried to follow along that I realized I'd been inconsiderate, asking people which photo out of 25 was their favourite, and then not numbering the photos! My bad.  In any case, I've gone back and numbered them. I hope my buddies don't look back and realize they miscounted. Interestingly enough, they agree on their favourite.

I'm a bit surprised by the choice, but this is why feedback is really valuable and interesting to me. The other one they agreed on, I'm not surprised about, it's up near the top of my list as well. Everybody brings something different to their photo experience. They might really like a certain colour, or a particular subject, or be repulsed by them so much it overwhelms their objectivity. Sometimes the viewer will see things the photographer didn't notice, which might be good or bad.

As the photographer, I get really close to some of the photos. I spend more than the usual time with some of them, tweaking the settings to be just right. Several times I've gone back to look at a flower to remind myself of what colour it actually is, then come back to the computer for editing. Reds and oranges can be really difficult to capture.

A lot of stuff happens to that beam of light along the way. The sun generates it, then it's modified as it passes through the Earth's atmosphere, it might bounce off something other than the subject, is modified again as it bounces off the subject itself, enters our eyes to excite the cells in our retina, and an electrical signal is passed to our brain, which provides an image to us the human. An ever so slightly different beam of light bounces off the subject, through a system of lenses, and is captured by a digital sensor, and converted to a long series of ones and zeros. From there all sorts of indignities could happen to it, to produce an image on a computer screen, where another beam of light starts the eyes and brain thing. It's a wonder any of us agree on what colour anything is.

Especially with flowers, texture is important. It's really easy to push the settings to produce an unbelievable image that just doesn't look right. Then there's the whole thing about the setting, and everything else. After a while during a deep dive editing, it becomes impossible for me to be objective about the photo anymore. A few times I've found myself trying to push the photo to be something I want, rather than what the photo wants. It's hard to describe.

People are difficult too. We know what skin and hair looks like, at least those of us who actually look at real people do, as opposed to those who think that Cosmo is a documentary magazine. I have not the slightest interest in taking photos of people made up with a trowel, as the saying goes. There's no humanity there anymore, one might as well be photographing a plastic doll.

I was photographing people at the local community association spaghetti dinner the other day. Most don't notice the camera, or try to stay out of the way. I want them to just do what they had been doing, and not look at the camera. One kid, about 10 to 12 years old (it's hard to tell now) was flirting with the camera looking at me, then away. I eventually got a shot I really liked, but it took a bit of doing, and looking elsewhere for a while.

There are some nice portrait shots, but that isn't necessarily what the community association is looking for. It will take a bit of learning to produce good shots they like and can use on their Instagram, Facebook, newsletter, and web pages. All a good experience.

In any case, you might want to go back and have a look at those amaryllis photos, now that it's easy to tell me which number you like.

Here's a couple of those spaghetti dinner photos, one cropped for instagram, one for Facebook.



There was a bingo game after. I haven't played bingo, or even been to a bingo game since I was a child.

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