Tuesday, November 12, 2019

If you like penguins

So I know that title hooked one of my regular readers. Here's my latest read. I've been in a hang out at home and read sort of mood the last little while.

This is the book to get out of the library if you like penguins. I had thought it was Antarctic landscapes, and there are indeed some, extremely well done. Also ice, and some reflections. So far so good. There is a short history of Antarctic exploration, and that was all to the good as well. A few seals, also quite well done if you like that sort of thing.

But mainly it's penguins. Lots and lots of penguins.

Celina hasn't shown up in the blog lately. She is a harder cat to photograph than Curtis. But here today, for the many Celina fans! She was interested in me taking the book photos.

You can be forgiven for thinking she disapproves. There is much she disapproves of. As you can see, quite a pretty kitty, but just not as photogenic as Curtis.

Your hit of colour for today. No, I have not discovered a jello fetish.

Deadwood of the Day

Monday, November 11, 2019

Some colourful introspection

So, back to a photography book again. This one.

Most of them I'd never heard of. Which is not a surprise; I've never been to an art school, or have a formal photography education. I'm just me, carrying around a camera and taking photos of what interests me. Some of it interests other people enough that they drop in and look at some of my work, which is nice. Some, most, or all of which doesn't interest other people and that's fine too.

They mostly talk about how they got started and the work that made them known. There's typically only one photo for each, and no idea how they picked it out. It was interesting reading about their take on photography, what interests them and why. I note that of the 50, 35 were born before 1960, making the youngest of them senior citizens. The youngest photographer mentioned was born in 1980, and so was 36 when the book was published.

I get that it takes some time and experience to make a name for yourself, and  that it's fully possible for someone who is 78 to be actively working. But more than 10% of the 'contemporary' photographers are almost 80? That's a bit of a stretch for me. Maybe I'm wrong about what contemporary means.
Lately I've been thinking about what interests me and why, and what do I want to spend my remaining time working on? What's important enough to me that I want to get up in the morning and work on? Some kids know what they want to be when they grow up; but I've never known that. I don't even know it now, but if I'm going to get anything done, I'd better be about it.

In the short term, here we are almost mid-November, and I'm only a few blogs shy of my most productive blogging year ever. Not counting this one, I've got 45 more to do before the New Year, and I've got 51 days to do it. No special reason, mainly just to say that I published something once a day on average for a year.

I just realized that I can say that now. I blogged just over once a day for all 2019, then in 2018, I hit publish 31 days in December, 30 days in November, 31 days in October, 31 days in September. August I slacked off and only blogged 29 times. Still, it's easier to say a specific year. Forward ho!

That said, I'm not going to do that next year, I know that now. I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet, but I think I'm going to continue blogging, but maybe more like weekly, or something between weekly and daily. I'm looking at Spark to publish content because photos on that platform look great. But each one is stand alone, so there needs to be another platform to tie them together. That might be this blog, but might not.

I think the time has come to make a push and get the long worked on novel(s) in a shape to self publish. That might be the big goal for 2020, to start pushing out chunks of that.

I've often talked about taking fewer, more interesting photos, and that certainly will be a focus. That gets me back to, interesting to who? For me, certainly, and maybe you, but probably not the mob that only likes cats and sunsets. I'd like to think that some of my work will be a bit challenging in some ways.

Maybe like this. It's a photo of a real thing, not a Photoshop construct.

Deadwood of the Day

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Rick Mercer Party. I'm serious.

Because who wouldn't go if they were invited to the Rick Mercer party? Come on, you would go. Don't lie to me.

The idea is this. Rick Mercer gets to pick 199 other sensible Canadians to join his party. While not being constrained to choose only one per riding, the idea is that he spreads them out from across the country. Maybe it should be like jury duty, you can't say no unless you have a really good reason. He gets to be Prime Minister, and he can choose his cabinet ministers and everything. He and his people get paid just like the current lot.

Think of it this way for a minute. How could it possibly be worse than what we have now? Rick knows people all over the country. Ordinary people, famous people, from all professions, all ages, all areas. Yes, he might pick a few who turn out to be nutbars, but how's that different than the current political parties? The current batch are essentially ideological hacks playing to their base, and that's getting dangerous.

We get them up and running, and we give them 4 years. Seriously. Four years and done. No pension, but well paid for the duration. (Maybe cut a deal for pension contributions going to the current employer, if any.) They can change the rules about elections, if they so choose, so the next one could be some form of proportional representation. They would have nothing to gain or lose by doing so.

The other 138 seats? Hold an election like usual, with each party putting forward a list of 138 people. Maybe break it down into regions so the list isn't so long. Voters pick their top 138 across all parties, and the ones with the most votes win. Still thinking this part through.

As you might imagine, my current read is this book.

It's wonderful, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love me a good rant, and I aspire to his brilliance.

But I'm thinking, how do we get Canadians more interested in the political process? I think teaching them (us) more about how the country is actually governed is a start. Teaching critical thinking to pick out the political lies. Somehow get the partisan poisonousness out. Maybe we should start a fund for an inventor to create a partisan-o-meter. It would need fuses, of course, to keep it from exploding when pointed at a Harper or a Kenney.

I simultaneously want more Canadians to vote, and have them pass a test to be able to vote. Yes, I know. Like, explain equalization in 500 words or less. Who pays for CPP? Should First Nations be created independent nations eligible for a UN seat, a province or territory like the current Canadian ones, or a municipality, and defend your answer.   What powers does the Governor General have? Maybe those are a bit of a stretch, but give the jury panel the ability to reward a good effort.

My thinking is that citizens should have to pass the same test that immigrants do to become citizens. I can't help thinking there has to be some way of harnessing the power of social media for good, to help people run the country, as opposed to being a rage machine. Maybe the internet is at the DC-3 stage of development, and we're still working out the finer points that would let us create a 747 or the Concorde.

I think more cameras in the House of Commons would be a good thing. We should be able to see our representatives at work, and if they behave like assholes, we should be able to have a feedback button.  Maybe we should implant our MP's with an electrode, and every thousand up votes gives them a good tingle, and every hundred down votes gives them a bad tingle, I'm thinking cattle prod in the genitals. Give them some skin in the game, as the saying goes. If you fail the partisan-o-meter or the citizenship classes, you don't get a feedback button.

As for the reading I mentioned here, the photos from ISS in the Scott Kelly book are wonderful! I love trying to figure what is in the photo before reading the caption, and I didn't succeed very often. Some of the photos are abstracts, essentially. Love those games with scale.

Deadwood of the Day

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Cannabis bafflement

No, not because I'm ingesting it. I haven't done that since I was a teenager. Yes I inhaled. The result was a raging head cold.

So once upon a time pot (the current name is cannabis, and there are more nicknames for it than for breasts, but pot is shorter) was illegal. It would rot your brain. It was a gateway drug for heroin. It made you unfit for the military, or any other useful occupation. Buying it contributed to crime, organized or otherwise. On and on it went, the moralistic preachers trying to tell kids what not to do. So of course they did. Duh. Maybe this explains much of the last 50 years.

In the process they recreated prohibition. Criminals got rich supplying the various narcotics desired. Police forces had their budgets enriched by tough on crime politicians, and personal pockets lined by various bribes to look the other way. The low level dealers were the ones that mostly got scooped up by the police, mainly because they couldn't bribe them better than the higher ups.

So imagine the pot industry represented by a circle. All the growers, the producers, the transporters, the sellers, the consumers, the money-laundering accountants, police bribes, the whole works. It can be whatever size you like. I don't think anyone really knows how much money, time, or product was involved. Remember, all this activity was illegal, and yet there was a thriving industry. Anybody that wanted to buy pot could do so with little difficulty.

Then came medical marijuana, and a lessening of the social stigma associated with pot. Plus a growing re-awareness of the usefulness of hemp as a product. I remember hemp ropes in my childhood, and nobody thought that was unusual.

There were discussions of de-criminalizing which always fired up the law and order crowd. I think people were a bit surprised when the Liberals promised to legalize it, and actually did so. Now pot stores, oops, cannabis stores are springing up like weeds.

It's been happening thing for a while. There is a cannabis store in the local Co-op mall. It was "opening soon" for the longest time, and now it's open. One of my neighbours and I always joke that she was going to check it out. Maybe she has, I haven't asked. I have never seen anyone going in or out.

What what got me started writing this was going into the bakery in Glenmore Landing. It used to be a regular stop, when exiting off 14th st was easy. That area has been under construction for years, it seems, and I'm mildly amazed any of the stores are still in business. Friday, for complicated reasons, that turned out to be the store.

One of my friends used to work in the tea shop right beside the bakery. It changed owners then went out of business. My friend had to find other work, and has done so. It was empty for a while, now there's a cannabis store opening soon. It's the biggest one I've seen yet.

Most are small storefronts in what seems like every strip mall in town. I'm just assuming the same is true across Alberta and the rest of Canada. I mentioned our local Co-op, and the Woodbine Safeway is not to be outdone. It's a common thing, and yet, outside one specific time and place, I've never seen anyone going in or out. The exception was the first store opening in Willow Park, a small shopping mall near the Anderson LRT station. The lineup was huge! Hundreds of people. Nothing since, though I'm pretty sure that store is still there.

None the less I'm baffled by the whole situation.

Somewhere, the money appeared to renovate all those storefronts, buy products, pay the staff (I assume they're being paid in money not product.) and deal with all the paperwork. Remember that circle I mentioned earlier? Assume all of that goes into the now opening stores. Is the industry really big enough to support all those stores? What money manager thought this would be a good investment? I sure hope it isn't any that are taking care of my investments.

Imagine you are a pot user. That might be easier for some of my readers than others, and no judgement here. You probably have a regular supplier, products you are familiar with, an established price, the whole works. Why on earth would you drop that to go into a storefront where they will check your ID? I can't see how it would be any cheaper, since your local dealer likely doesn't pay any rent for a storefront. Do you believe that the government supplied pot is going to be better quality than what you already buy?

Imagine you are someone who has, for whatever reasons that seem good to you, not bought your own pot. You know you could get it, you chose not to. Maybe you take a hit on a joint going around at a party and that's enough for you. In any case, if you haven't bought it, why would you start buying it now, just because it's legal? The novelty? Nostalgia? Your troubles have learned to swim in the booze, and you need something stronger?

Why would you buy it in the face of workplace drug and alcohol policies that ban working under the influence of drugs such as booze, pain medication, and yes, pot? If you travel to the USA in particular, their border Nazi-wannabes are just as down on pot as they ever were. Forget a small amount in a bag or pocket and you are in a world of hurt.

I can't imagine anyone stupid enough to put Canadian legal cannabis on a credit card, but you do know that the card is American, and the border people can search your credit record, right? Even though buying pot is legal here, they can deny you entry. Do you believe the next Conservative government won't de-legalize cannabis? (If you believe there is a next Conservative government, you probably want them to do this, then seize the records and do a pot-head search and jail effort.)

What I'm saying is that I don't see that circle growing any bigger. The current users keep using and maybe they buy from the new stores and maybe they don't. But new users? Or maybe that circle is a whole lot bigger than I ever imagined, and all these storefronts are going to thrive. Maybe all that money flowing through legitimate channels, getting taxed, is going to be a bonanza for the various governments, and that's why it was done. Maybe it's just me being an old boomer buddy-duddy.

The only people I can see making any money out of this are the accountants and lawyers that handle all the paperwork with those stores opening up, the mergers that will be happening (you heard it here first) and the legal battles.

I wish the government had brought in electoral reform and got rid of our antiquated first past the post system rather than legalizing pot. But if they were going to go down the legalizing pot road, I wish they'd been a bit more open minded. In that case, they should have looked at all the products that were criminalized because of morality, and think about how to separate crime from morality.

We should have tackled all drugs and treated them similarly. Booze, tobacco, pot, heroin, prescription pain medication, whatever, all of them treated consistently, and with controls on minors, and safe use considerations. The sex trade, which I have previously ranted about. Gambling. Set the appropriate zoning by-laws in place, create oversight mechanisms just like other professions. Educate kids in school that use of drugs has (so many puns and none intended) it's ups and downs.

So yeah, I'm baffled by the whole thing. I don't have any photos that relate to the cannabis trade. Winter has arrived here, so you get warm New Zealand photos from much earlier this year.

Deadwood of the Day

Friday, November 8, 2019

A post walk abstract

It's been a busy day, though much of it was nervously watching other car traffic. People were very twitchy out there today. Perhaps the most exciting incident was the guy in front of me as I was driving south on 24th St in Braeside. He was in the right lane with his right signal on. I had every reason to believe he was actually turning right, and he started to. Then, right signal light still on, abruptly turned left, cutting through my lane and making me hit the brakes to avoid him hitting me, through the next lane over, then nearly taking out the poor woman in the left turn lane who was actually turning left and had no reason to expect a car to appear on her right, and scaring the crap out of the oncoming guy, since he was doing a shoulder check to change lanes because of bus stop construction.

Last night I was going back through some recent photos wondering if I'd overlooked anything. This one sort of caught my eye, and I tried dropping it into black and white, since it was essentially that anyway. Then I started playing with it some more, having fun with texture.

I played more with the tree branches from yesterday, trying one of the suggestions for the top left corner. As is usual for me, I just made things worse. I really must learn how that adjustment brush works. I'm probably missing something.

Deadwood of the Day

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Waiting for butter tarts

Once upon a time there used to be a little coffee shop near Millarville that had butter tarts the size of a dinner plate. Very tasty, and good coffee too. The place is still there, I think, but as of quite a while ago it was under new ownership and the butter tarts were much smaller, and much less tasty. Such is life. Enjoy things while you can.

Then a little while ago we discovered the Canadian Butter Tart Factory in Strathmore. Or rather, we discovered the butter tarts on sale at various markets. They are amazing. Best I've ever had. Good thing we live a long way from Strathmore.

The Millarville Christmas market is open this weekend, and Linda is there now. I am home awaiting the butter tarts, and whatever else might come home, and getting bossed around by cats. In particular, this one.

I think he's mostly getting used to the idea I'm around much of the day now, and seems to think if I eat something, he should be able to eat something. Sometimes he is underfoot as I'm trying to do something, other times he is asleep somewhere, though the slit of one golden eye can often be seen gleaming out at me.

Here's a couple of the paths on yesterday's walk. I was loving the light through the trees.

And this. I don't know what to think anymore. I was caught by the sun through the trees, bouncing off the tree bark and snow, filtered through some snow falling off the trees behind the ones in front. It was lovely in a translucent sort of way. Colour didn't work, at least I think not, so I played in B&W for a while with different profiles and settings. In the end you have to stop sometime. I don't know if this could be made a better image by someone better with B&W, or if all the tree branches make it such a mess I shouldn't have taken the photo in the first place. Feel free to tell me what you think.

Just so you know, the butter tarts are calling me, singing in multi-part butter tart harmony. I think I know how Jason felt listening to the Sirens, though there is no mast handy to lash myself to.

Deadwood of the Day

Wednesday, November 6, 2019


Some photography books talk about seeing the shot in your head before you ever push the shutter button, and perhaps before you even pick up the camera and head out. That by being more selective about what you want, you will limit the number of shots you take, and increase your percentage of keepers.

My agreement is along the lines that if you want to shoot sunsets, or birds/animals feeding, or something in front of a starry sky, you have to go out at the right time of day. It's true that the more specifically you can define what you want, the better you can plan to try to get it.

However, I mostly disagree with this, for my style of shooting, such as it is. Unless someone is paying you to get a specific shot, and you are on a deadline, mission oriented, and determined to deliver, you will close yourself off to all the other possible shots out there. So many of the shots I love were completely unexpected.

I love going out when the light is nice, and being open to discovering something beautiful and photogenic. Maybe it's something small, like a hollowed out stump, or big like a sweeping vista, or the bear that nobody knew was there, or some particular quality of light and weather that turns something ordinary into something extraordinary. Hopefully I've got the right lens on the camera, or time to change lenses.

One of the rules about taking more interesting photographs is to stand in front of more interesting things. Which is true, and great advice. But I like looking for ways of making the ordinary look interesting. Great light. An unusual context or juxtaposition. Playing with scale. Something that makes people stop and say they've never seen it like this, and I don't mean by using software to make it lurid or unrealistic.

As I was making my coffee this morning, I was watching the light. Poor Curtis was baffled as I was in and out several times to take photos around the house, then I was off to Fish Creek. Mostly I was thinking about the community association newsletter cover. The deadline was coming up and they were hoping for a winter shot with nice colour. That can be tough. These are the first ones I came up with, just around the house. They were not chosen. Yes the light was that lovely.

I didn't even send this one in, though it was the one I tried to be really specific about what I wanted. I could see the shot in my head, the community welcome sign, the snow in the streetlights, the light trails of passing cars or maybe even a bus or (gasp!) an emergency vehicle with the flashing lights going. I even went out in the snow, set up, and took about 100 shots. Unfortunately, when I got home I realized it was compositionally wrong for the cover, and no amount of cropping would make it right. Oh well. But I'm still happy I got the shot I visualized.

Curtis, of course, is always photogenic.

Deadwood of the Day
I thought maybe seeing some green after all the white would be nice.

Some other posts you might enjoy.

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