Monday, August 2, 2021

July Image of the Month

The actual best image of the month is reserved for a book I'm working on.

Second runner up
This batch of lilies have been catching my eye for weeks. I love the profusion of that colour, the different stages of blossom, the shapes, everything.


First runner up
Some of you may have seen this before. Pretty well any photo of a dragonfly in flight gets consideration for image of the month, just on difficulty points alone.



Image of the month
An unusual image, yes. Silhouette portraits were popular before photography as an inexpensive way for ordinary people to capture someone's likeness. Black and White photography was the only thing before colour film was developed, and for a while only B&W were considered 'art', while colour was aimed at the cheap and popular market. 

This image was a happy accident, driven by necessity. I was standing in brilliant sunshine, shooting a subject in the shade, with the yellow stucco wall beside her also in brilliant sun. It took a few shots to dial in settings. But in the mean time, I ended up with this, and had fun playing with it to get just the right balance of light. In my version I can just see hints of light on her instrument. No idea what the JPEG and web will do to what you're seeing.



Sunday, August 1, 2021

A lazy long weekend, except

Long weekends are not quite so special when you're retired. I almost didn't know there was a long weekend now. I got reminded by it getting mentioned by someone still working, then girded my loins for a trip to the market. More blackberries, if you must know. And peach raspberry pie.

Yes, I was wearing a mask. I had a line ready if anyone was going to remind me we didn't need to wear masks anymore. "The mask is just one of the things to help prevent catching a disease almost as loathsome as voting UCP." Alas, I didn't get a chance to use it. There will be other opportunities, I'm sure.

We won't get into the latest part of the so called COVID response. Basically Kenney has put his fingers in his ears and is shouting la-la-la at the top of his lungs. Alberta's official policy appears to be that the pandemic is over, we can all move along, don't worry about those troubling stats concerning the rapid growth in the Delta variant. Sigh. We will continue to wear the masks at most large indoor spaces.

As far as the Grey's Anatomy binge watching goes, we just reached the season 15 finale, where Meredith has just done something extremely stupid, and everyone else is behaving essentially like teenagers. Stupid rude inconsiderate teenagers. I'm getting tired of it.

The smoke is kind of weird at times. We don't actually see the sun till about 9am; it's lost in the murk till then. At times there's almost no smoke smell, then it's in your face really bad. That happened between one step and the next during a walk. Plus it's going to get really hot again. 

The migration from a vintage 2008 iMac to a new one appears to have worked out. I need to look at an xl created before the migration, add something to it using the new machine to see if it works out, and then send the result to my accountant. The next task is to add all the existing photos to it, and see if it will display them as a slide show for us. You might remember I tried doing that on the cube and it was too much for the poor little thing.

Yes, I'm working Image of the Month.

Oh, and I updated my other blog with photo related news.

Of the Day
Driftwood


Celina

Flower


Peony, from June 23. There will be lots from this date, some are similar shots, some not.



Lily, this is actually a recent shot, I just love that peachy orange.



Dragonfly
Bee
Plus bonus peony and ant.


Friday, July 30, 2021

Flowery Friday 11

 Yesterday was 1575 photos at a kids circus camp. Editing today and tomorrow, and maybe Sunday. There's some real gooders in there.

Today's flowery photos are starting with an overall garden shot from June 6, and going to June 10.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6. You can just see the beginning of the tower the settums build to reproduce. Stay tuned, I took lots of photos of that.

7.

8. So one of 8 or 9 is marked as edit meaning I went back, edited again, and re-exported. I was trying a specific thing. Can you tell what it is?


9. Hint, 8 is actually the second image.


10.

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

16. There were a few more peony bulb shots along the way, as the anticipation slowly built up, day by day.


17.

18.

19.

20. I don't know what terrible thing these little plants have done to warrant being put in jail.


Of the Day
Driftwood. A reminder for my new readers, my driftwood and distressed wood shots are all as found, as unlikely as some of them have been.


Peony

Lily

Dragonfly, with first a serendipity from 2018.



Bee


Retro
Another regular edit and a Photomatix edit from September 2016. These are from the A E Cross conservation area, looking NE towards downtown.  As is probably clear, the first is the tweaked version, and the second is the regular edit. Maybe the clouds are the tiniest bit overbaked, but overall I'm pretty pleased by how this turned out. I'm surrised when I go back and look at this in Lightroom that it was shot with 100 mm lens, not a longer one.



And a serendipity from Yukon in 2017.




Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Human crunchies are practically the cat holy grail

This blog title came to me a couple days ago. This happens sometimes. I'll be in a conversation, or I'll be working on my novels, or my imagination will get just a bit further off the wall than usual, and I'll have a sudden thought. (This usually terrifies Linda but I can't imagine why.) Then I'll think, or say, 'that would make a great blog title'.

And so it does. I have not the slightest idea where this is going. You might want to fasten your seatbelt. In a further warning, this blog has been gestating in draft mode for a while, almost a year if I believe what Blogger is telling me. It's also saying it was published a certain date, but I'm not believing that. If in fact it, or something substantially like it has been published, point out the date to me, and you can drop by to pick out a bottle of wine from the cellar. Onwards.

One of the things that makes humans interesting is that we're interested in different things. I once watched a video of engineers bending a Boeing 777 wing upwards till it broke at 154% of design load. I was riveted by this as the wing slowly bent up, more and more. I could just imagine the look on the faces of the engineering team when the boss comes back and says your calculations were wrong. You said it would break at 150%, figure out where your mistake was.

Lots of people would yawn and go look for a cat video. Even if they are nervous fliers. I'm just glad there are people like those engineers, figuring out how to make structures strong enough to do the job plus a safety factor, but without making it unnecessarily expensive by overbuilding it more than that.

Not everybody is interested in that, and fine. But the ones that are, figured out how to make materials and build engines to routinely carry people halfway round the world in an airplane. Before COVID it was commonplace for people to fly somewhere for some reason, perhaps important, or perhaps not. Our world is mostly better for that; less better in the sense that viruses can travel on the same airplanes.

They figured out how to build a rocket to go to Mars, with a rover smart enough to handle landing on the planet within a few Km of a specific landing spot, and have that rover last more than 10 times it's design lifespan in a brutally harsh environment, while sending back information. They figured out how to use electricity to safely light our homes and power our machines. They figured out how to build cars smart enough to drive themselves, if it wasn't for those darn humans doing unpredictable things.

So many amazing things that really smart people have figured out. But for crying out loud, don't say it's magical. Don't say it's a miracle. It's smart people figuring it out, or almost smart people figuring out what went wrong and doing better next time.

One of the things that makes me despair about people are those that are smart enough to figure something out, and won't. They ask someone to explain, again and again. They ask someone to do that query, figure out the spreadsheet formula, how to get somewhere, how something works, what settings to use, what does that word mean, and on and on. They don't even try. They're lazy.

Then there are the ones that don't admit that other people are smarter and actually do know better. Anti-vaxxers are the most obvious example lately. In spite of millions of deaths world-wide, a significant percent of the population say they wouldn't get a vaccine against COVID, and give spurious 'reasons'. And they wonder why America has turned into a failed state, and as I write today, the COVID numbers are trending upwards again in Calgary.

Enough of humans. Cats, now. You knew I'd get to cats. I love watching cats. They are a peculiar combination of smart and lazy. They are smart enough to be just domesticated enough to live with us, the recreational cat vomiting olympics aside. They see the advantage of those opposable thumbs to manipulate food containers, but have figured out it's better to control the human that has those thumbs, than to grow them themselves. After all, cats think, we're perfect as is.

Used to be there were barn cats and house cats. Maybe in some places there still are. Barn cats lived by their wits and the occasional dish of milk. They often died young, in miscalculations involving farm machinery or larger mammals. House cats lived longer, generally. House cats now, at least some of them, get better care than some humans. One of the vets in the practice we go to specializes in cat dentistry. Pity that most of the expense of such a procedure is the sedation. It's tough enough to get a cat to open it's mouth to look at the teeth, let alone work on them.

Most cats are convinced they want to go outside periodically. They say it's to hunt food to contribute to the household economy. I think it's to hunt for better humans because they're so disappointed with the ones they have now. "Stupidest humans ever," is something we hear a lot.

But the thing that seems to interest them the most are things that make interesting noises. Like crunchy food. Some of you might remember Sebastian, the big orange cat that lived here from the house opening till Jan 1998. He was absolutely nuts about crackers. I couldn't eat a cracker anywhere in the house at any time of the day without him coming along to politely, but very firmly, help himself. Eventually he trained me to give him a cracker by breaking off a little pieces and letting him nibble one at a time. A whole cracker. 

Curtis is fascinated by my morning granola, and often hops up on my desk to help me finish. Maybe it's the milk, but he's interested in other crunchy things. Like the rattle of this keyboard. I only hear it when I've got the hearing aids in. He would come along and investigate, sometimes trying to lie on my hands, while on the keyboard. Sometimes he would just watch the changing screen, and occasionally look at my hands, while offering editorial comments. I miss him doing that.

It's not like we don't feed them. Curtis was prone to a grungy paw infection that we think was caused by a food allergy, since it went away when we fed him a high quality hypoallergenic food. He actually preferred it to the wet food, which was weird. Celina happily chows down on a crunchy food, but doesn't turn her nose up at wet food, or at least most of it. We often think that cats pretend to like or dislike various things at various times, just to mess with the human minds.

Of the Day
Driftwood

Flower

Peony
A matched set, the white and red just getting started.




Lily

Bee


Dragonfly


Front Garden (from July 17)


Retro
From late 2016. I remember struggling to put this panorama together, and playing with the editing to capture the mood. I probably would not work with this one now, given there is so much murky blue in the middle. It was shot from what was then the new pedestrian bridge over Anderson Road. I was thinking it was going to be a good place for highway light trails, and maybe dramatic landscapes or sunsets. Except not. There are problems shooting from a bridge unless you're right on top of a support structure. They move, and that screws up the light trails. The view from the two ends are nothing special and there's nothing in the middle of the span.

Now, of course, this shot is impossible. Right beside the person in the lower left, is an exit ramp, and a little further on is a major highway. The hotel is still there, along with some newer buildings. Much less photogenically, there are a bunch of big shiny metal electrical transmission towers. 


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Updating the Borg

Much of this is about keeping track of a comparison between my old ears, the old ears with the old hearing aids, and the old ears with the new (trial) hearing aids. It quickly became apparent that the new ones were clearly and obviously better than the old ones in every way. If you aren't interested in the details and the adventure along the way, skip down to the photos, though you might want to check out the music link. Oh, and if you haven't had your hearing tested, go get it done.

I'd mentioned yesterday (as I write this) that I'd gone for my first hearing test in 2 years. Generally it's the same as it was, with a few frequencies being a little bit lower, but within the bounds of testing error, and the fragility of the brain interpreting what it gets. There's a new test, where they play a voice saying context free words against a background of other words, like in a noisy restaurant. Then the target words get fainter and fainter. I used to be good at that. Context is more important than I thought.

She winced when she saw how infrequently I've been wearing the current hearing aids, but I'd warned her they didn't have much relevance to my being home all the time. Plus, the current aids are obsolete. The technology has changed significantly since I got them almost 8 years ago. What I thought sounded good then is now almost unwearable. (You can catch up on the story here.)I've got a loaner pair for a few weeks.

Today (as I write) the test is to listen to a piece of music on the computer under different listening conditions. The music is a cover of Barracuda by Sina. (Check out her other covers, and you might like some of her own music.) I chose it because there's a good drum line with what appears to be cymbals and high hat, a good bass guitar line, and a lead guitar that is all over the place. Most importantly, a high vocal lead. The idea is to play the same music at the same volume, and listen to the computer speakers, the earphones, the old hearing aids, and the new hearing aids. All at medium volume, no changes.

Via the computer earphones:
This is what I think of as the standard way of doing it. I like the bass guitar and percussion drum line. I don't hear much of the high hat, though I can see her hitting them. No trouble hearing the lead singer. No trouble hearing the lead guitar. Note that this is the loudest version, and it's well known that louder sounds better, to a point. I came back to listen specifically to the "silly silly fool" line, and it was fine, though not quite as clear as through the bluetooth hearing aids.

Via the computer speakers with just my ears:
It's quieter.  Then again the speakers point straight down into a cluttered desk, and they're computer speakers. Not exactly what you'd call high fidelity. The bass lines are thinner. There is essentially nothing for high hat. The lead singer's voice isn't as rich, and the higher guitar notes are there, but there's no richness to them. I think I'm missing overtones, or undertones. I came back to listen to the "silly silly fool" line, and could hear the s but not the f. The s wasn't sharp and clear.

Via the computer speakers and old hearing aids:
OK, there's the high hat and cymbals. But they're verging on tinny and static-y or hissy. That's almost drowning out some of the other music. It merged with and distorted the singers voice a bit, but I'm hearing more of her voice, especially the 'S' sounds, but they sound sharp and un-natural. The bass lines are almost muted. The "silly silly fool" sounds sibilant and hissy.

There is a way to hook the old hearing aids to an early bluetooth device that talks to the computer, but I didn't bother to hook it up. It cannot possibly be better.

Via the computer blue tooth to new hearing aids:
A bit louder than the previous tests, but quieter than the ear phones. Lead guitar sounds richer, with more strings interaction. The drum percussion and high hat sound more balanced and natural. The "silly silly fool" sounds natural. 

Via the computer speakers and new hearing aids:
Not getting any of the cymbals or high hat sounds. Even the drums percussion sounds dull and faint. I see him pounding on the lead guitar but I'm not hearing much of it. Bass guitar is fine. The "silly silly fool" is ok, but not as clear as through blue tooth. I think this is mainly a computer speaker thing, not a hearing aid thing. I could easily believe the musical data is there, but either the speakers can't reproduce it, or it's getting eaten by the clutter on my desk. 

Now I'm wondering if I can figure out a way to play that version through the good speakers. Maybe I should pick out another song we have on CD, and test my normal ears, with the old hearing aids, and the new ones. Maybe tomorrow. Time to put in the test hearing aids, connect the bluetooth again, find some music, and edit some photos.

OK, so the second test didn't go as planned, trying to play a CD through the good stereo system. It looks like the CD player doesn't want to play. Even after playing with it a bit I couldn't get it to go. It's only 30 years old and is a good quality one, for the time. I can't remember off hand when the last time we actually played a CD through that system, so I suspect the little motor that spins the CD is frozen. Maybe all it needs is a little twist to free it up and it would work again. Except, it's worth about $50 these days, and would cost far more to repair it. No idea what a new CD player costs, or even if you can get one with an output that would plug into the existing system. 

(So an email to a place that fixes retro audio equipment. It's $75 just for the diagnostic. That's 10% of the price of a really good new one, without even considering the actual repair costs. If they can even get the parts for something manufactured in 1992.)

Going to plan B, I plugged the CD into the blue ray player, and listened through the media room speakers. Better than the computer speakers, but still not what you'd call high quality speakers. The music was A Pistol for Paddy Garcia, by the Pogues. With just my ears it sounded a bit muffled and muddy. With the old hearing aids it sounded better, but the highs were kind of tinny and harsh, almost sounding like static. The new hearing aids were much better, with the highs sounding clear, and the overall balance between bass and highs sounding nice.

Then I thought of playing Barracuda through the media room speakers, and running the same test again. Except, I discovered that our iTV thingie no longer appears to connect to the internet as a browser, so I couldn't get Youtube. Sigh. I wonder when that happened. Or stopped happening. You know what I mean. 

Going to plan C, which involved getting the CD player going. I went to The Retro Shop in Inglewood because I like dealing local, and preferably not a chain, and looking at vintage stereo equipment is cool, even if I don't want to actually buy any of it.

I picked out another Nakamichi very similar to the one we had. In hindsight I should have tested it in the store. It didn't work when I got it home. Oops. A bit of playing around isolated the problem to the CD player. I called, she said bring it back and we'll make it right. We tested it there and it didn't work exactly the same way, much to my relief. We discussed what to do, and I suggested rather than wait for repairs and all, I'd take one of the other CD players and pay the difference. She had to clear it with her boss, but he said "make him happy." Good thing my happiness was not dependent on a $3,300 tube amp that looked ever so cool. We tested this on in the store and it worked fine. It works fine here too.

As another side note I tried my old iPad, which was plugged into the preamp, and which was loaded with music. Except the battery was dead, which is a surprise because I thought it had been plugged into the charger, but no. I plugged in the newer iPad and that worked. Plugged the CD Player into that aux input and it still didn't work, but at least I knew now the preamp and amp worked. The old iPad battery charged, but it's iOS 8.4.1, the screen is cracked, and it's extremely dusty. It complains when hooked up to the stereo because it thinks the battery is not charging, but it keeps trying and keeps complaining. Takes all the fun out of it. I think it goes in the e-recycling bin, unless someone wants an old iPad? I think it's the original series, and I'll even give it to you with the protective casing that lets you use it without getting slivers. It works as well as that version would work. Maybe good to amuse a kid?

Back to the hearing aid tests, and The Pogues on the good stereo.
Without hearing aids, things are a bit muddy, although better than the media room. The highs are there just barely. With the old hearing aids, there's a lot more of the higher frequencies, but there's a lot of distortion with it. The hiss of some notes buries other things. The new hearing aids give great clarity. The toms are clear and clean, and the high frequencies are nice and crisp. There's good balance between all the frequencies, and the stereo separation is really good. The only thing better was the computer earphones. 

I'd hoped the photo shoot at the senior's book sale would test the hearing aid's ability to pull conversation out of background noise, but there were never more than a few people in the room at a time. Still, the conversations I had were really clear. 

I was in today for a quick check to see how the trial is making out. She showed me the graph of all my usage, and asked how it all felt. At first I didn't have much to say, figuring I'd wait till I got the new ones I'd already decided to order. Then it turns out my history and any adjustments will carry over to the new ones. She made a slight tweak to the bass of the media a bit. Listening to music as I write this, and I think she's pretty well nailed it.  I get them next week. The TV connection thingie is on back order, and is projected to arrive in September.

Here's what they look like.

Of the Day
Driftwood

Flower

Peony



Lily, but first a serendipity shot from 2017-08-06. I've no idea what this flower is.



Bee

Dragonfly

Retro
The occasion was my first workshop with Neil Zeller and learning how to use my camera. I'm going back and looking at some of the downtown night photos, and I'm wondering why I didn't edit them. This was one of my first attempts to find interesting patterns in ordinary things. I liked the contrast of the grey metal against the grey sky.