Sunday, June 19, 2016

Morning thoughts

This photo perfectly expresses my mood today.

Morning sun capturing the steam from brewing coffee. The house is quiet, even the cats are quiet. I just saw one of my neighbours out for a walk, but the street is otherwise quiet. As a pro tip, after I add water to the fresh ground coffee, (Uganda Bugiso if you're wondering), I also add it to the mug and thermos, so the coffee stays hotter. It's the little things.

I've just finished my morning reading, going through some web pages, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, email. Curtis has taken over my lap, which makes it a bit difficult to run the laptop. I'm fairly sure that he resents the electronics that distract me from the magnificence that is him.

Yesterday I finished reading Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall. It's the first book I've actually finished in a while. I've been wanting to do more reading. Somehow it's always been just a bit further down my list than I get to. Look for the list on the right side, under the blog archive, though there isn't much on it now.

But I like maps, and this is a book about the consequences of making political maps without fully considering the relevant geography. He talks about those consequences in a way that makes it easy to understand what happened, but without getting bogged down into details of some ancient feud. This is extremely readable.

If you read the paper and wonder why "those" people can't get along, this is an excellent primer, and has a bibliography for further details if you're so inclined. The first is  Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, which is excellent! Marshall talks about Russia, China, United States, Western Europe, Africa, The Middle East, India and Pakistan, Korea and Japan, Latin America, and the Arctic. Given the subject matter, it's a good thing that Canada doesn't get mentioned much.

It got me thinking, though. Lots of human conflict involves being horrible to other people in the hopes they will knuckle under. The USA is particularly good at this, being horrible to nearly everyone, especially when it comes to air power. If there is one thing they're good at, it's dropping bombs and firing missiles at targets. Pity they aren't very good at picking the right targets.

We know from WWII history that bombing didn't break the spirit of people in British Isles or in occupied  Europe or in Japan. They carried on as best they could, and didn't stop until Russian boots walked through Berlin, or the atomic bombs were used in Japan.

Now we are running into asymmetric warfare, where a small group of people are opposing a regular army. The best example is in Afghanistan, where they have successfully repelled the Victorian British Empire, the Russians, and now the Americans. You'd think it would be clear by now that dropping bombs on such people isn't going to work. What would work, eventually, is the rule, "if it's alive and isn't one of us, kill it." That worked better before there were War Crimes Tribunals, and independent journalists.

The first rule to solving a problem is to stop doing the things that make it worse. Being horrible isn't working, and in fact makes things worse. Drop a bomb on a wedding party, and the survivors would have to be saints to not hate the people that did it. Why is anyone surprised they would seek revenge? If you want something bad enough, you will find a way to get it, even if it costs your own life.

It's hard to stop being horrible. The people you've been horrible to aren't easily going to believe you've stopped. Anybody that has ever listened to Donald Trump will never believe he will stop being horrible. His future depends on it, and sadly, there is an audience that likes him being horrible. So part of the solution is to deal with that, and get rational candidates for high political office.

But let's take a specific example. There are a huge number of refugees languishing in various tent cities. Often the camps are in countries that can't really afford to deal with them. Rich countries take a trivial number of refugees, and the USA is busy clutching it's pearls over numbers of Syrian refugees that can easily be counted in the dozens.

Enough of the dicking around. Build a town, a real one. A small city even. The idea behind the tent cities is that supposedly, the people will go home. Well, for all too many of them home doesn't exist anymore. Build a new home. Many of them. Provide clean drinking water, treat sewage, pick up the garbage, and all the various other amenities that cities offer. Many of the refugees themselves will have the skills needed.

Many people have the idea that refugees are poor, and poorly educated. That isn't always true. Maybe Canada got the cream of the crop, but from what I've heard, they have a burning desire to work, to contribute, to become part of the society. Why wouldn't you take advantage of that?

I say start building the city. Cities. Call it a speculative investment if you must. Think about the Marshal plan that rebuilt Europe after WWII. In a few short decades the Germans and Japanese when from being enemies to being foundational states of the Western economic system.

Yes, when you say billions of dollars, it sounds like a lot. But two things. That money builds something that could endure for generations; but a billion dollars spent on bombs only buys destruction. Think about where the money goes. It gets spent to buy material goods, to buy people's time. What do they do with the money? Spend it on goods and services till they get caught up. Money is like manure, best spread out.

I think it's worth trying. What's the worst that could happen? As near as I can tell, nothing worse than what's already happening.

On the fitness front I've been feeling like I'm verging on overtraining. The run is going really well, but the swim has been tough lately. I skipped a run and swim at the end of the week just to rest up a bit.

The runs on Monday and Wednesday went really well, 5 and 8 K respectively, about a 6:30 pace. Then Saturday was 15 K. I hadn't run around the reservoir in a while and Michelle was up for it. This morning, just by accident I found a blog post about the very first time I ran around the reservoir. You can find it here. We did the same route, in the same direction. 15 K, 1:43:30 for a 6:53 pace. For a long time we did long runs at a 7:30 pace, and the last few have been a bit quicker.

We were both feeling strong, starting at just over a 7 pace, and settling in just under that. Except for going up hills, this was a chatchatchat pace, her a little more than me. My quads and hams were feeling it a little, but not enough to slow down or stop. No walk breaks at all, compared to the last long run home from work, which was a bit of a shambles in comparison. What's really good about this run is that the last 2 K were fast. We went from a 6:45 - 7 min pace, to 6:25 then 6:18, and could have gone faster yet.

It was a beautiful day for a run, warm with a bit of overcast. Lots of people were out having a picnic along the path, but we weren't having to dodge too many dogs walking their idiot owners. We stretched after, watching the kids playing the water park at South Glenmore park. My bammy was talking to me a bit.

Bison burgers and lamb shish-kabob. So good.

The great camera adventure is going well. A software disc came with the camera, but my laptop doesn't have a disc reader. The replacement I downloaded turned out to be not quite the same thing. I was wondering why it wasn't "seeing" the camera images that I knew perfectly well were sitting in a folder right there. I had downloaded version 3.14, and needed a version 4.xx. Once I got that I was cooking with gas. I'm still figuring out how it works, and what changes make for a better photo.

One thing I tried was comparing the camera to the iPhone 6. Here's two shots of the garden from the iPhone. The first is the normal setting, and the second is zoomed in all the way, using the metal yellow flower as an aiming point.

Now, here are two photos from the Canon, shot from exactly the same spot, with the camera on automatic. The regular size looks much the same field of view. The iPhone actually looks like it zooms in a bit further. You can see a pink flower off to the left of the Canon photo, but not the iPhone. Maybe I didn't center it exactly.

Part of the trick here is that I'm not quite comparing apples to apples. The iPhone photos are JPEG's, with the phone and software doing whatever it does. The Canon photos are a RAW file, viewed in Preview, and captured in a PNG screen shot. The file sizes are similar. I'm not sure what they would look like if I opened with the RAW editor and captured a screen shot from there.

Here's the difference, enlarging part of each photo. The first is the iPhone. The Lamb's ears are blurry and discoloured and the back ground is completely blurred. The Canon photo zoomed in to about the same place shows much more detail and natural colour. The background foliage is clear as well. I can zoom into the photo even further, to where the edges start to pixilate. Of course, I can't tell what these look like in the published version of the blog. Maybe you're looking at the photos wondering what I'm babbling about.

I had a bit of the same experience watching a Blue-Ray disc of Miss Marple. I've talked earlier about the difference between the DVD version we have and the Blue-Ray. Last night I watched The Mirror Cracked from Side to Side. It isn't one of my favourites, but I think this one shows off how good the remastering process was.

Earlier this weekend we visited Vale's greenhouse in Black Diamond. They have an art show once a year. We didn't go on the day they had wine, oh well, but it's still nice to walk through and look at art. Much of it doesn't do a thing for me, but there were a few pieces that really called to me. I hadn't known you could get paint to texture like that. The one wheat field looked like real wheat blistering up from the canvas. Linda got another plant, I think it's called cups and saucers.

I want to get these lilies!

Millarville market opened up this weekend. It's a fun place to go anyways, and my buddy Lori D ran the half marathon. I'd considered it, but decided not to. Some other buddies showed up and we had a good time.

Did I mention that work renewed my contract till August 31? that was a bit odd, in that my boss and I had talked about the end of July to finish up some odds and ends. Then Penn West sold a zillion dollars of property in Sask, so maybe things changed. Still 80% time, which is nice.

And that's enough for now.

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