Monday, January 20, 2020

Macro Monday 36, Retina

Let's start with the good one, shall we? Curtis is such a good natured kitty, mostly putting up with me getting my camera right into his little face. I love his eyes but I don't usually get a chance to get up close. If you look really carefully, you can see a selfie in his pupil

There is a photo of Curtis as the home screen or whatever it's called. Here's a series of macro photos of the screen, taken at increasing magnifications from 1x right up to 5x. This is for a photo scavenger hunt I'm taking part in.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

AMA results!

I hesitate to say answers, because, well, my long time readers know how that goes. Thank you to everyone who voluntarily played along.

So first up, Heather! I know her through photography.
Are Curtis and Celina related? Have they always enjoyed each other's company? Have you always had cats or are C and C the first lucky ones to own you? :)

We do not believe they are related. Then again, in the world of cats, who knows?

We got them the same day from Meow Foundation. A buddy of mine volunteered there, and snuck us in for a tour. The idea was for them to meet there to see if they would get along, but what with a complication along the way, it didn't happen. Celina was quarantined while her stitches healed. The idea was, believe it or not, for her to be released back to the outside world. We never understood why. When we first saw them, her fur was plushy and perfect; you'd think she had just come from a pampering session. Curtis was in tougher shape, with some matted fur and cuts and scrapes.

Our last adventure with bringing a cat home ended badly. I suppose I should begin at the beginning. Our first cat was Sebastian, a huge orange guy that was the terror of the cat neighbourhood. He regularly beat up other cats and chased dogs. We got him even before we moved into this house. Thorin lived with us for a while, but hated being kept in while Sebastian went out. He escaped one day and never came back. Nefertiti joined us. She was a tiny little scrap, utterly dominant. She regularly tried to take on Sebastian, but that just amused him. They got along quite well.

Eventually Sebastian died of kidney failure. We thought Nefertiti was lonely so we brought home Amelia. She was a medium sized tuxedo cat, and I don't think she ever got over being abandoned by her former owners. They got along ok, but weren't particularly buddies. Nefertiti died of old age, essentially.

Our big mistake was thinking Amelia was lonely. We brought home Bernard, a fairly big orange guy. They barely got along at first, and it went downhill from there. He started beating her up and we had to keep them separated. Poor Amelia. Eventually we encouraged Bernard to interview for head cat at a buddy's house, and he moved. What pissed me off was that he got along just fine with another cat there.

Amelia was an odd cat. We had to board her a while while we were doing major house renovations. I'm pretty sure she thought she had been abandoned again, and that we were new people in a new house when we picked her up. She never settled in, and was always a very twitchy nervous cat. If a car door would slam because someone was visiting a neighbour, she would be out of our laps ready to run for her life. The doorbell would have her spasming downstairs to hide in the basement. We usually opened the garage door, and came in that way, and every time, she was halfway to the back out the house, ready to run for it if it turned out not to be us. She eventually died of cat dementia.

We went without cats for a little while, then decided we wanted some fur balls around. You can catch up with the beginning of the story here. They were about a  year old when we got them, and as regular readers know, they are buddies and often curl up and sleep together. Every now and then they scrap a bit.

Someone comes to the door and they are right there. I'm sure they'd like us to believe that they are being sociable and greeting our guests, but we are pretty sure they are checking them out so as to convince the other humans to take them home. I suspect that some of our friends drop by just to see the cats.

Here they are again, for those who haven't met them.

Second is Michelle. I know her through running. And swimming. And biking. And many other activities.
What makes you truly happy and has that evolved over time?

This is probably the most difficult question in all the AMA to date. I've got solid draft responses to the other ones, but this is making me think. About all I can say is that it depends. It changes from time to time. Sometimes the best thing is to cuddle a cat and relax in the sunshine. Sooner or later, though, biological imperatives kick in and the cat must be disturbed.

Walking around carrying a camera has been a source of great happiness over the last few years. Time in the pool having a good swim or relaxing in the hot tub after is often right up there on the happiness scale. I never had the mythical "runner's high", but some of my runs were amazing, along the rivers, up on bluffs. Part of that was the company, of course.

Speaking of company, we just passed our 35th anniversary, and that makes me happy. We've had our issues, of course, but all in all it's been a great ride. We're looking forward to many more years.

Lots of New Zealand was serenely happy. Hope it's still that way when we get back there.

Third is Sophia. I met her doing ballroom dancing.
What was your childhood dream? And what is your favourite photo so far?

My dad was a pilot, and for a time I thought I wanted to be one as well. That ended when we discovered how bad my eyes were. From my brother's adventures along the way, I'm glad I didn't become one. The profession went from being one of the most glamorous in the world, to being a glorified bus driver.

They get so little respect now, they have to go through the security screening in the airports, just like the rest of us. Why are they being checked for weapons, when they're the ones flying the plane? The closest I got to the industry was flunking out of air traffic control school, and that was probably a good thing as well.

I remember chatting with an older cousin (Which is pretty select company, I have only 3 cousins older than me.) the summer before going into grade 6. She had had to write an essay about what she wanted to be when she grew up, and told me I'd probably have to do the same soon, and thinking about it in advance would make it easier. It didn't.

Holy doodle. At that point I didn't have a clue. I did have to write the essay, but I can't remember what I said. It was probably like almost every other test I ever wrote in school, I made it up as I went along. That's pretty well been the story of my life so far, making it up as I go along. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

The big question I have from childhood, is wondering what became of a particular friend. We shared the same birthday, but lost touch with each other about grade 8 or so. Every time I hear the Moody Blues song "Your Wildest Dreams" I think of her.

Favourite photo (of mine) so far. That is a tough one. It varies with my moods. My Image of the Month tab in my photoblog has many of my favourites.

Fourth is Janice.
What's your best guess at long we have on this planet until everything goes to hell in a hand basket?

According to some, it's been going that way since antiquity. Two quotes.
Horace, 1st Century BC,

“Our sires’ age was worse than our grandsires’. We, their sons, are more worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more corrupt.”

and Socrates,

"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers."

If you are a pessimist, it's easy to think that now is the worst it's ever been. Trump, climate change, drug resistant diseases, rapacious corporations, overpopulation, it goes on and on, the 24 hour news cycle reveling in every catastrophe in lurid detail.

This betrays a lack of historical sense. During the Black Death during the 1300s about half the population of Europe died. HALF!! Some entire villages and towns died. People could be forgiven for thinking the world was ending. But people lived through it, and it was one of the causes of the end of feudalism.

Now think of the Spanish Flu in 1918, a horrific event just past living memory. More died from it than from the fighting in WWI. It infected nearly a third of the world's population, and it's estimated that between 20 and 50 million people died out of a worldwide population of about 1.6 billion. That's a lot of people. Yet more lived, and carried on.

Even within my own lifetime, air pollution and acid rain was such a threat it was beginning to affect crops and water quality. We fixed it. Damage to the ozone layer from chloro-flurocarbons was slowed by product bans and we don't hear much about it any more. Nuclear war was a real threat in the 50's and 60's. We were smart enough, or lucky enough to get through it. Admittedly, seeing nuclear weapons in the hands of Trump or religious fanatics makes me nervous. Anybody that knows about the real potential for bio-weapons isn't talking about it much but probably has nightmares.

While I have faith that the right wing whackadoodles will do nearly anything to cling desperately to power, their voter base is dying off. Some of us boomers are seeing the light and doing what we can to help speed the change. Right now the pendulum is swinging in what seems to be the wrong direction, particularly in the USA. But it will swing back.

I tell myself that of all the smartest people that have ever lived, half are alive right now.  Is it going to be all rainbows and unicorn poop? Certainly not. We're already at the point where no matter what we do, the climate is going to keep getting more extreme, and lots more species are going to die off. Not the human species, though, pending something really extreme happening. Really extreme like a big asteroid strike, or the Wyoming super volcano erupting.

The superhero solution isn't going to happen, that is, some leader taking charge and pushing a set of solutions. I think it's going to be ordinary people changing their own lives, and pushing corporations and politicians to embrace the changes. Some of this will happen second hand. We've already talked to our financial advisor about investments in green funds, and pulling out of carbon intensive investments. There's a balance there, though. It's warm and fuzzy to be green, but until the alternatives are financially viable, the fund managers are going to be reluctant to invest. Push them, create the demand, and it will start going around. It's already beginning.

So that's it for the supplied questions. I've been thinking about what questions I could attribute to someone who would appreciate the wit (or the half of it) but admit nothing much has come to mind.

So a generic question. How would you make the world a better place?

The key to making almost anything happen is money, and ox-goring realization. Let me explain that. During one of my jobs I ended up doing the behind the scenes customization for some moderately complicated software. Let's just say the admin interface was a bit of a kludge and leave it there. The assumption would be that anyone using it would be trained, almost certainly by me, since I understood it best. (One of my readers knows where this is going.) I had suggested that since we could assign people the rights to do this for their own company, we ought to clean up the interface. That would make the training easier and reduce the impact of mistakes. Since that would take resources that could make changes to the interface users could see, the suggestion was refused.

We didn't think about the one exception to our assumption, the guy paying the bills. He insisted on having all the admin rights, mainly so he could play in a demo environment for sales purposes. He thought he understood it, until one day he meddled in the prod environment and did it wrong. That change locked him out so he couldn't fix it, and had to come to me. His major complaint was that the interface didn't tell him he was about to do something wrong, and it shouldn't have allowed him to do it. I nodded wisely as I fixed his goof, explained what he had done wrong, and reminded him of the email suggesting changes. That lead to some minor improvements being made. It didn't matter till it affected him.

People will not give up their cars easily. Nor will they easily accept what is perceived as an inferior substitute, such as an electric car with shorter range, even if they don't need the longer range. Nor will they willingly pay increased taxes based on their bad habits. Except some of those things are going to happen. 

They will respond somewhat to incentives. Many people replaced their furnaces, doors, and windows during some Alberta incentives. Some of the changes can be driven by incentives. Some places have provided incentive for electric cars, but I think that whole world still needs some development.

I mentioned money earlier. Pushing your financial advisors to invest away from fossil fuels, or at least invest in renewables is a start. Pushing government to do the same has a huge multiplier effect. What motivates government? You either motivate the person at the top of the pyramid (Prime Minister or Premier) or you push the next layer down, the cabinet. 

Individual vote threatening won't work. But massive threats to vote for someone else has an impact. Those politicians want to stay on the gravy train more than they want anything else, otherwise they'd have to get a real job. They try to convince you that they are one of them. But they aren't. Most of them have never held a real job in their lives. Much as they complain about people on welfare, taking up tax dollars, that's what they've done, only working for elected politicians, or becoming one.

Find out who is currently bribing the government, (It's a long list.) and start shaming them. Don't buy their products, and write to them to say why. Encourage others to do the same. Corporations are much more vulnerable to these publicity campaigns than a government because they operate on a quarter by quarter basis. Use social media. All those other 'bigs' (oil, Pharma, farm, and everything else under the sun.) are already pulling every lever they have to influence government in their favour. Which only means more profit for them, and more costs for us.

There's a rule on social media, don't feed the troll. But social media is one of the ways how the trolls breed. Push Facebook, Instagram, and particularly Twitter to change their policies to repress the trolls. Remember, to those companies, you are the product. They don't care about any one person leaving. But when it starts turning into a wave of people leaving, they will change. You have to gore their ox, which is a tough thing, but it's the only way.

Dictators know the rule, when your army refuses to shoot protesters, your reign is over. We haven't got there yet, not here. But Trump is a beacon, and acolytes named Harper, Kenney, and Ford (at the least) are following in that path. It's an anti-democratic path, one good only for the people who are extremely wealthy. I mean extremely wealthy, net worth $10 million and way up. What's weird is that people who are nearly broke think they are more like the multi-millionaires, than immigrants, or Muslims, or the homeless, or, or, or, and vote for policies that are bad for them personally as long as they are worse for that 'other'.

Which reminds me of the joke I've told several times. Three guys meet, an investment banker, a trade union worker, and a white collar worker. While the other two of them are introducing themselves and figuring out how to gang up on the banker, the banker takes 11 of the dozen doughnuts provided for the meeting and eats most of them. He stuffs the rest in his pockets, then swills most of the coffee. When they sit down, the banker tells the white collar guy, "watch out for that trade union guy, he's going to steal your doughnut." Too often the white collar guy buys it, thinking he's more like the banker than the trade union guy. As if. To play you out with a laugh, the other joke is told by the immortal George Carlin. It's a big club and you ain't in it. That is the raw truth. Think about it. 

It seems only appropriate to include a Deadwood of the Day.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Off to a good start

Here we are, a little over two weeks into the new year. Only 7 blog posts, which by last year's standards would have me ashamed of myself. But I'm happy, because I haven't had much to say.

However it has been a good start to the year. I had one interesting photo project that has the client happy so far, even if it did take much longer than anyone anticipated to change costumes. Playing with studio lights to get the effect they wanted was fun, interesting, and a learning experience. I'll be doing more for them later this month.

I played with another experiment the other morning, using the pre-dawn, barely post-coffee, minus WTF outside darkness. It was a good step forward, and the resulting couple photos are along the road to what I want, but not quite there yet. You'll just have to wait in patience till I do get it right.

My buddies at Tri It Multisport have several races they want me to photograph for them: The Get Shit Done race, Wild Rose Triathlon, and the Mahogany Swim Run. Feel free to show up and cheer, I'll take your photo too. I've done photos for the triathlon several times now, and it's always great to see so many women achieving their goals. The other two races were new to me last year, and I'm looking forward to doing them better this year.

What might be my big project of the year is being pitched to me. There's still some details to be flanged up, but it seems to be promising so far.

Yes, it's still even colder than minus WTF. So a beach photo from NZ for you.

Deadwood of the Day

In the serendipity department, this one is from November 2016. As you'll recall, that is shortly after I started doing all this. I think this is taken from Ogden Road, and it's part of the plant I used to work in. What was a calm field when I was there, is a construction zone for the photo, and is a construction as of the last time I drove past there. The whole thing is a construction zone, near as I can tell. I'd love to get a tour now, complete with camera equipment of course.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The cats have the right idea

The plan was to be swimming now. Yes, right now, swimming. Then other stuff on the way home. But.

It is colder than minus WTF out there just now. Our back yard thermometer says minus 37, and it doesn't really matter if that's F or C. For some people it's a great big F. Just saying.

I had a bit of trouble going to sleep last night so I was up reading, then to bed, and then no desire to get out of bed this morning. Such is retired life. I can swim later in the day if I still want. Or do a spin training session, if I remember how.

Like I said, the cats have the right idea how to deal with it.

Just lately I've been rereading some older books from our library downstairs. I'd finished Good Omens and had the uncomfortable feeling that either I was getting better at predicting what was coming next, or I'd read it a long time ago. It came out in 1990 so that's entirely possible. Then it was into Empire of Lies, but I bogged down. Time travel novels are complicated enough, and this one included travels across different time lines in addition to back and forth. Plus it's a one man striving against shadowy foes to do something, which doesn't really turn my crank. And plus it was set at least partially in the Ottoman Empire where they took Vienna, and then continued to expand. I got lost and gave up.

No more on tap from the library, so some older books. Some of my blog readers might find it odd, but I'm a big fan of the Georgette Heyer Regency Romances. My writer within loves her command of the language, sparkling dialogue, and wonderful place setting. Yes, of course all the main characters are white, typically extraordinarily rich (with some exceptions) in comparison to what we know of the living conditions then, and there's a lot of societal assumptions about the place of women. I regret that her estate has not permitted the novels to be made into movies and introduce them to a wider audience. Not Hollywood, of course, BBC.

There are some DVD's on the go as well. We finished Dexter seasons one to four, and that was a bit of a slog. The plot holes were getting to be too much for me. Even though one of my favourite actors is in season 5 as one of the main bad guys, I don't think I'll watch it. Lots of people I know raved about the show, but I don't really see what the attraction was.

Linda found Whispering Pines, based on a Blake Crouch novel. We watched the first episode, but I'm not sure I'll go on. Its another one man against shadowy enemies to find the truth where nothing is as it seems. There haven't been any fleets of black vehicles going too fast all in a tight convoy yet, but I have every reason to expect it. Yawn.

As a treat for you, here is the oldest unblogged photo. There's only another 499 edited photos from the last year that have not made it onto the blog for whatever reason. This is from the steampunk museum in Omaru. Such a fun place.

Deadwood of the Day

In the serendipity department, same file number gets you a bee! A reminder that it once was warm, and should be again. I hope the little bees are warm in their hive. This is from the summer of 2017.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Macro Monday 35, more icy experiments

There are days I'm sure my neighbours think I'm a lunatic. The other day it started snowing. I've been wanting to try to get nice macro shots of fresh snow flakes. I set up my camera in the garage, ready to go. Then I was outside, waving a mitten to the sky to capture snowflakes. Several people driving by gave me the eye.

Part of this is luck, getting a flake trapped on the mitten by itself, oriented nicely for the camera, which has difficulties I've gone into before. Do enough, my reasoning is, and eventually I'll get a superb one.

This is the best of the bunch. In some there is a surprising amount of detail to be seen within the flake itself as the layers of ice grew.

This one is unusual in that it's a panorama built from two shots. When the camera is mounted on macro rails, it's easy to move it sideways just a tiny bit. The difficult part is getting a snowflake oriented properly so it's all in focus.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Resolutionista city and last call for AMA

The pool has been full of them this week. I admire them for getting off the couch, and getting to the pool takes a bit more gumption than many other fitness plans, but it does make things a bit more difficult for the regulars.

After all, we have it down to a fine art. We know the lockers we want. We have our swim bag packed and ready to go. We know where the good showers are. We know which pool, and even which lanes we want, though we don't always get what we want. We nod, smile, or chat to the lifeguards we see almost every visit, and to the regulars we often see. We know how fast we swim, and can usually recognize those that swim faster, slower, or about the same speed. There are times we conspire to swim with those that swim a similar speed. Much of the time we want to get in, get it done, and get on with whatever is next.

The resolutionistas get in the way of all this. It's why they don't want the tourists using the London tube during rush hour. The regulars know exactly, and I do mean exactly, where they are going, and want to do so with the minimum number of steps. They stand on a place on the platform because they know the door will open right there. Calgary transit can only dream of such precision. Your life is over if you mess with their transit plan.

It isn't that serious at the pool. Mostly. I just ask that if you don't know the swim etiquette then ask someone. No, this isn't leading up to an adventure story. My swims have actually been really good so far this year. Swimming works ever so much better when your left arm joins the party.

Not that I do resolutions, but capturing snowflakes is one of the things I want to work on. I was out yesterday, and some of my neighbours gave me a funny look as I was holding a mitten to the sky to catch snowflakes. They will show up on a Macro Monday next week.

I've done some experiments with another photo project, but mainly it's been thinking about what I want it to look like, rather than just shuffling stuff around to see what I capture. There are some other photo projects coming to fruition, and let me tell you I'm pretty excited about them!

This is your last chance to get in on the AMA action of your own free will. I might attribute some questions to you, if I don't think that post is long enough.

Christmas is over for another year. Our tree was packed away and the living room is back to normal. No ornaments that we know of were molested by the cats.

In the serendipity department, the same file number was used back in 2017 during my Yukon trip.

Deadwood of the Day

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Recent books and commentary

I used to be a huge reader, and then it got away from me for whatever reason. Then I was spending lots of time writing my own world, and didn't want to be influenced by another writer's voice. I still did some reading, but mainly it was keeping up with my favourite authors, and periodically excising their turns of phrase from my own work.

Once I started carrying around a camera I started reading photography books. Natural enough, I suppose. At first it was all good, I was learning. Then I started to figure out my own interests (still a work in progress), and my own way of doing things.

Then I started noticing things I disagreed with, which is fine. There are typically lots of equally valid ways using a camera, and capturing a scene. Then some blogs and video-blogger that seemed distinctly troll-ish. There's a lot of people on the web who blog or video-blog and put out extreme opinions to capture viewers. One small example is trashing a new camera because it doesn't do something they think is important. Mostly I just looked over that and moved on.

And then there was a first the other day. This one was recommended to me, and since I love colour I got it from the library. An initial browse was all good; there's some great photos in it, and what looks like good composition suggestions.

However, there was a problem that I tripped over, and darned near didn't get back up again. It was this phrase on page 9 as he was getting closer and closer while shooting a car emblem. "...but now my light meter indicated a slower 1/100 sec shutter speed. Why? Because the lens was now extended further, so light needed more time to travel down the lens onto the sensor." OMG, as the kids say now.

Maybe I'm being pedantic, but if he has such a fundamental misunderstanding of basic physics and optics, how can he get any of the rest of it right? Light takes about 1/1,000,000,000 of a second to travel a foot. The fastest shutter speed for most of our cameras is 1/4,000 of a second. The length of the lens system has completely nothing to do with gathering light and the resulting shutter speed.

Anyway, I kept on, and I'm mostly glad I did. His thoughts around portrait backgrounds are awesome food for thought. A great addition to a new photographer's library, one phrase notwithstanding. Maybe we should blame the editor that let that sneak through.

Have you seen those videos of people climbing tower cranes and tall buildings? Even though I don't particularly have a fear of heights, there are certain portions of anatomy that clench when I watch those. This is a book of photos from such climbs, and they're better than the novelty value. Some of the shots are genuinely artistic.

They do go on a bit, in what I think of as artsy-fartsy art language about the beauty of these abandoned sites, and how they should be preserved, and the nobility of their pursuit but I mostly started skipping the big blocks of text and enjoyed the photos. There is info about each photo of what it's of, or where it's taken from.

I have a sneaking admiration for them. If I was climbing up such places, I'd be hanging on with both hands. Taking photos would be a distant second priority.

I've seen some black and white movies that have been "colourized" and they look horrible. The people shooting movies in black and white were mostly masters of lighting, shade, texture, and colour to have the movie turn out right. They should be enjoyed for what they are.

So I was a bit dubious about this book of colourized historical photos. Well, holy doodle. These are amazing! The photos are large and well presented, with some information about them and the process. They've usually repaired some of the damage to the original photo, so we see this amazing picture of a world long gone. The colours look natural. There's some great portraits, and ideas for composition. Loved it!

Back to movies for a bit of a rant. What is it with remakes, or ret-cons, or whatever they're calling it now? Have the people making movies really run out of ideas? Or are they so debased that the only thing that matters is repeating something else that worked because they think it will make money? I get that acquiring the rights might be difficult, which is why no Georgette Heyer books have been made into movies, and I can just imagine how delightful they would be if done right.

Many movies now (looking at you, comic book superhero movies) are barely the equivalent of a child's paint by numbers artistic effort. Lots of movies are what I think of as journeyman efforts; the people involved know how to make movies, there are characters and a story, and it's properly put together. I think of it them like an art student's painting; they know how to do it, and are working on the art part of it.

Then there are some movies that are art. Everything goes well and it's a delight to watch, even rewatch. And then there are a few magical movies where everything comes together and something amazing happens, we get Art with a capital A. They become part of our shared heritage and shouldn't be tampered with or sullied by remakes.

This is my current read. I'm a few chapters in and loving it so far.  I've had the author's name on my to be read list for a while. Then I saw the trailer for The Gentlemen, and was struck by the thought I'd seen that actress somewhere before. Which is why IMBD was invented. She is known for Downton Abbey, but she's also in a TV series, and this is the book that is the basis of that. We've got the TV series on hold from the library as well. It should be fun.

Getting on to the last call for AMA!

Deadwood of the Day

And in the serendipity department, we have this same file number from 2017 to cheer up a dull day where it's just starting to snow.

Some other posts you might enjoy.

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