Friday, September 29, 2017

Another park of colour

You're probably all sick of the colourful Yukon photos, so I'll give you a break. You get Bow River and Fish Creek colours! I was a few minutes early to meet up with a buddy for coffee, so I strolled along the Bow River a bit, loving the reflections of the fall colours in the water.

Later I was down in Fish Creek for a walk near bridge 7. Not in the creek like I've done other times, just around it. This view is looking south east. You'd almost never know there was a major road, a railway track, a light rail track, a small creek, several good sized parking lots, and lots of other stuff related to being within a big city.

This is not bridge 7.

This is bridge 7. Look at the colour reflected in the water!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A frothing political rant

Vote, $#@!

We have a civic election coming up in a few weeks. The candidates are out banging on doors and "literature" is being distributed. Just now I'm holding a glossy brochure for the incumbent in our ward.

Before you get any other message, absorb this. Go vote! There are many ways to do so. No matter how busy you are, there is something that will fit into your schedule. Just go do it!

I was asked how I decide who to vote for. As you might suspect, I have a process. First, I look at the incumbent. The question I ask is, are they doing a stellar job, or do they meet the diaper rule? I think Twain said it, that politicians and diapers should be changed often, and for the same reason. I'm a big fan of the diaper rule.

The incumbent is usually not doing a stellar job, though there have been exceptions. Next I eliminate all the white men and see what I have left. Yes, this is discriminatory and racist, but there are two reasons. One, these people have been running things since forever with results that can best be described as mixed. It's time for other people to have a chance. Second, and best of all from my perspective, it usually cuts the herd down to an easily considered size.

Time for a little digression about the neighbourhood I live in. I am sad to say my neighbours are deeply conservative, in both the small c and capital C senses. Federally, Prime Minister Harper represented this riding, mainly because it's one of the safest conservative seats in the country. Before him, it was Preston Manning, for much the same reason. Before that, and I'm reaching here, it was Bobbie Sparrow, who I'm pretty sure came from old money and was regarded as a safe vote, or at least that's the impression I got the one time I met her.

Provincially, Dave Rodney has been our MLA since forever. A complete non-entity, he tries to give a good appearance and do what he's told. Even in the diminished circumstances of the party, he hasn't been tapped for a leadership role of any kind, which tells it's own tale. Even in the NDP tidal wave during the last provincial election, he got re-elected. Sigh. Diaper rule, big time.

So here, with typically strong incumbents, (and in the current civic election our incumbent is the second most senior council member, having served since 2000) we don't get much in the way of people running against them. Pity, but I can't blame them. It's a safe bet to lose the election, and almost certainly lose your deposit.

Usually the hopefuls are other men, with a few women, and almost all of them are of the white persuasion. This area was not what you'd call ethnically diverse, though the new neighbourhoods south of Fish Creek have changed that somewhat. About time.

After considering the incumbent, my process is to look carefully at the the candidates that are not white men, if any. Not being part of the old boys club, or "one of us" as Humphrey Appleby put it, is a plus in my books.  It doesn't matter if they were born here or not. I'm a big fan of immigrants. I've worked with lots of them, and many have a hustle that has to be seen to be believed. Related higher education, or experience in other government, or in the local community association, or in some form of business is desirable, but not essential. With any luck the process stops here.

If I must, I consider what's left. I sigh deeply, and try to pick the least dangerous one. Any candidate trying to push my buttons on law and order is an instant turn off. A similar result happens to those who harp upon lowering taxes preferably to zero or further if possible, and at the senior levels of government actively try to game the system to lower taxes for them and their buddies. I believe that taxes are the price of a civilized society, and that the free market will not solve all problems better than government.

A quick example. Take the fire department. In no world does it make sense for a private firm to provide the services done by the current fire department. They would skimp on equipment and training, and I could just see someone checking the address before responding to an emergency call to make sure they'd paid their service premiums. I wouldn't put it beyond some predatory capitalists to set fires to create business. Oh no, not directly of course. They would incentivize the the process, and outsource it. There are numerous other examples.

Yes, it makes sense to keep an eye on government spending and try to make sure it lines up with the priorities that make for a better community. Keep in mind that it's bedrock economics that government spending should be somewhat counter-cyclical. That means in good times government should lower spending to pay down any accumulated debt, and in bad times increase spending via deficit financing if necessary to help stimulate the economy. The City cannot run a deficit, though of course it uses debt to finance infrastructure. Just about the only thing more expensive than building new infrastructure, is coping with the failures of infrastructure through lack of maintenance, or not building it in the first place.

There are any number of other boondoggles spouted by politicians to get your vote. I've mentioned a couple of them, lowering taxes and law and order. Another is cutting "the fat", usually taken to mean cutting union positions. The fact that union people usually happen to provide front line services doesn't mean anything to them, since them and their buddies don't work those jobs. They talk of looking for efficiencies, and are willing to hire expensive consultants (who just happen to be their buddy) to find them. They might be a one issue candidate, or closely related, be a complete loon in general. They prey on the fear of the outsider, people that are different than those in that electoral area. Often that means immigrants, or people of a different religion, or the LBGTQ community, but they'll demonize anyone to get a vote. Maybe it's appeals to the good old days, or bringing back good jobs.

Ask yourself if a candidate is creating division between people, or trying to build communities? Are they trying to prey on your fears? Do they gloss over specifics and get upset when you ask them questions? Look how they talk to minorities, women, immigrants, the homeless, or anyone they perceive to be of lesser status. Individually they are probably charming charismatic people, but look past the gloss. Look at who supports them, and think hard about their dog-whistling statements. How do they treat the other people running for that office? Are they treated as respected competitors to be vigorously debated, or as opponents to be destroyed?

We need look no further than the recent American presidential election. Many people are looking on Donald Trump with horror. I'm appalled that he got elected, and don't want to see anyone even remotely like him elected here. Only a fraction of American voters lost their minds enough to vote for him, but the damage was done by the majority that did not vote. I'd like to believe that if almost all voters had voted, he'd have lost in a landslide. Then again, Hilary's emails, and misogyny in general.

I believe that the more people vote, the more sensible the results are going to be. To many politicians now use wedge tactics that divide voters, and try to push out the moderate middle, and seek to inflame a minority that's just big enough to give them power. We have to resist such tactics, so get out there and vote!

And now to sooth you down after such a rabble-rousing blog (you have voted, right?) here's a butterfly and a sunset scene.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I found yet more Tombstone panoramas

At last I'm coming out of the Yukon overwhelm-ment, as I've been thinking of it. I've been feeling much more perky starting earlier this week. I was working on the aurora time lapse movies and found more panorama photos that I had somehow overlooked. These are in addition to the Yukon panoramas that included some Tombstone photos, and the dedicated Tombstone photos post. If you scroll back through the blog, or look for the Yukon label, you can see other photos from my trip.

Normally I take some photos, anything from a dozen to a few hundred photos, import them into the computer, process them, and get on with whatever else is going on. Some make it to the blog, some are just for me to enjoy, and lots have nothing at all happen to them.

I've had some weekend events where I've taken more than a thousand photos, but there is a slightly different process. The computer works hard doing some automated adjustments, all I have to do is look for obvious deletes. It doesn't really matter how many there are, they get treated as a block.

Yukon was different. I loved it, but a week and more than 6,000 photos overwhelmed me.  A week of staying up way past my usual bedtime on the aurora hunt. A week of being driven from place to place while trying to remain alert for photo possibilities. A week of thinking about what would be the best shot and trying to think beyond the obvious. A week of amazing scenery, and I still can't get Tombstone out of my mind.

Many of my photos have turned out better than expected, but I have to admit I'm not entirely satisfied with my aurora time lapse movies. I'll try to tweak the individual images and the overall movie settings and see if it's better. One of my learnings for next time is to have a camera chip(s) for the usual daytime photos, but have a dedicated chip for each aurora night. Then it's easier to put them in individual folders and treat them differently.

With one camera it's hard to get both a time lapse and individual shots of the aurora. A successful time lapse needs to be carefully set up keeping in mind how bright the aurora might get and then leave it alone, hoping you've aimed at the right part of the sky. The individual shots might be taken in a short sequence as the aurora appears, and there's no concern about moving the camera as the aurora moves, or changing the settings as required.

A couple of these panoramas might look familiar because you may have seen a portion of the shot in other photos, number 6 for example. You might remember that little tree. Keep in mind what you see here is essentially a low res web version that is less than 1MB. My screen version is usually between two and three hundred MB, and zooms in for detail you would not believe. The print version would be substantially larger yet. I fell into that first one, remembering how the shadows played across the mountainside.








One of these might well be September image of the month. Tell me if you think so.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Still garden colour

I was a little mind blown after coming home from Yukon. Just a little, and it took a while to uncompress. When I left it was a hot and smokey summer, and when I got back it was fall verging on winter.

The dahlias were looking a little sad in the rain, and all the bees were tucked away in their hive, at least I hoped so. I figured we'd be getting snow soon, and a tiny bit of it blasted through, but Linda has been really good about covering things up overnight the last week or so. Some flowers are still going strong.

As of today, it's warm and sunny. The season is obvious in the state of the garden, but there is still lots of colour to be seen. If it stays nice for a while (crosses fingers) we will continue to see the glads, dahlias, and roses blooming, plus some of the hanging basket and potted plants that Linda drugs into a blooming over-drive.

Normally I wouldn't publish such an out of focus picture, but I like how the wings show up.

It sort of reminds me of a set of mouths open, ready for food. As long as they don't chase after me...

Mostly the orange tailed bees are small, but just the last few days I've seen a couple of huge ones, twice or three times the size of the small ones. Not sure if they're the giant capacity bees out to carry bigger loads back to the hive or what.

I thought we were done with poppies for the year.

The begonias are still hanging in there.

The glads in the back seem to be doing even better than the ones out front.

You never know with Calgary. We could settle into a pattern of warmish sunny days and nights just cool enough we don't have to cover the plants, that lasts until mid-november almost. Or we could get a foot of snow next week. I'm just enjoying it as it comes.

I've been working with some of the aurora shots for a time lapse movie, but I'm not particularly pleased with the results. At the time I was mainly thinking of trying to get a good photo of them, as opposed to a time lapse, so I was periodically moving the camera and changing the settings. As always, live and learn.

Thanks for all the kind comments on the various Yukon photos!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The long awaited Tombstone Park, Yukon photos

In some ways I'm still digesting the Yukon trip. Each photo I edit brings back memories and thoughts, these Tombstone ones in particular.

I still can't get over the light and how it reacts with the vegetation and stone. Sometimes everything is so dull because the shadows are so dark, and a few minutes later it will look entirely different because it's in strong sunlight. Plus I was taking photos with different lenses and focal lengths, so forgive me if it looks like I've repeated a photo.

If I went through the file numbers and thought about it I could probably tell more closely where the photos were taken, but all you need to know is they were on the main road, with a minor detour up a road you can't drive on anymore. We drove all the way to the north end of the park, enjoyed the view of Chapman Lake, and drove back, with frequent stops along the way. I don't think we hit every scenic lookout, but if I were doing it again, I would, and probably lots of random spots along the road. Maybe renting one of those RV campers would be a good idea, since it would take me forever to get anywhere.

Especially since the view changes about every 10 feet, and the light changes everything just as quickly. The landscapes beg to be looked at through the prism of lines, shapes, forms, textures, but then your brain melts and you're overwhelmed all over again.

Every time I think I want to print one of these, another catches my eye and begs to be printed as well. That might turn into a problem really quickly. I'm suspecting one of the Tombstone photos will be image of the month, but lets wait a week or so and see.

I'd like to think these will need to be looked at on a desktop, even if they aren't panoramas like the other day. There are still some auroras to be made into time-lapse movies, but I need to make some space for that. Plus there are probably some lovely photos that have slipped through my editing process, and I'll just have to include them as I go along. I know that will damage the souls of my readers, but you'll just have to cope.