"Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

Elvin Bishop: What the Hell Is Going On?

8/29/14, 7:21 PM

For Loren Webster:

Identity

8/27/14, 3:42 PM

This August has been miserably hot. July you expect it, not so much in August. Mornings were seldom below 75 degrees. I can handle running in 75 degree weather, but much above that and the challenge becomes shedding heat. Your heart rate goes up not just because of the effort of running, but to move blood more quickly to the surface of the skin to shed heat. And with the humidity so high, there is little in the way of evaporative cooling from sweat. You have to run slower to avoid getting close to your max heart rate too soon. Which just makes the whole experience less rewarding. You're hot and sweaty, working your ass off and running slowly!

This morning was a very nice 75 degrees with the humidity at a reasonable level, but I got a late start. The sun was already up, and it can be intense, even a little after 7:00 a.m. So for the second or third time this month, I got to my turn around point with my Garmin 305 beeping at me that my HR was over 170. I can run a very long time with my HR in the 160s and be quite comfortable. But when I'm hitting 170 by the halfway point, I know I can't run back, I have to walk.

But it was still a beautiful morning, and I enjoyed the walk.

I walk a lot with Bodhi, but I usually have a camera and I always have to devote some level of attention to Bodhi. There are other people and dogs around the property that Bodhi likes (or doesn't) to interact with, and if I'm not paying attention, someone could get hurt. Usually me, if he bolts to go say "Hi!" to someone he likes and I don't notice before he reaches the end of the leash.

But walking back, I didn't have to pay attention to Bodhi. Running in the heat, I'm mostly thinking about managing my pace, trying to keep myself motivated. Walking back was just easy and a nice time to think. It was probably the most productive "thinking" time I've had in a very long while. I'll have to do it on purpose now.

One of the things I was thinking about was this article I read about Christopher Thomas Knight, the Maine hermit who spent 26 years living in the woods without human contact. It's a fascinating story, but I was especially struck by this quote:

"I did examine myself," he said. "Solitude did increase my perception. But here's the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn't even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free."

I suppose I should leave it to the Buddhists to comment on whether or not this is a Buddhist perspective; but then, I believe we're all Buddhists, most of just don't know it.

There is no "self." Identity is contingent. We fashion identity from the things around us, chiefly people.

He was completely free. (In an identity sense. In the comments, which I don't recommend, you'll read a little discussion about how "free" someone is who has to rely on theft to sustain life.) He was free in the sense that he was unaccountable to anyone. He didn't have to be consistent with some artificial notion of who he was.

To function in society, which he has to do now, you do need an identity. A set of characteristics that makes you "different" from someone else.

Absent that requirement (which, truthfully, is like saying "absent gravity") we're all the same. And indeed, we all truly are. We're all just the ongoing consequences of a vast physical universe, of which consciousness is just another phenomenon. I happen to think it's a wonderful phenomenon, but I think perhaps we may take it a bit too seriously.

But in creating "society" (we are social creatures) we have to deny our true identity. We don't see ourselves in each other, which allows us to go about killing one another.

I was listening to the Diane Rehm show yesterday, and she was doing a segment on the fraternity/sorority system in colleges and universities. One of the callers, a woman, made an interesting point, and that was for being a member of a fraternity or sorority to be a "cool" thing, other students had to be "not" cool. That is to say, the system seems to require diminishing "others" in order to sustain itself. Because you have to want to "join" a fraternity or sorority. It's not like a family-like relationship that emerges from a shared experience or occupation. You have to want to have that membership be a part of your identity, because you think it gives you some value, some advantage, that non-members are denied.

Of course, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is another aspect of this notion of identity, taken to an extreme.

And then there's the problem a race and identity, and that's still very much with us, even as much as we'd like to deny it.

One of my favorite movies is an Eddie Murphy movie, Holy Man. In it, Murphy plays an enlightened seeker, perhaps something else, who likes to help people. In one of the scenes where he's kind of preaching, there's a little parenthetical phrase that's almost thrown-away, but I've always really enjoyed hearing it, because it's true and it matters, and if it wasn't there you'd never know it. Anyway, he's talking to a shop-at-home audience on TV and he says, "Now, if I were you, and I am you, I'd…" I don't recall the rest of it, but that "I am you" struck me the first time I saw it. It's not a well-regarded movie, but what do "they" know?

Anyway, we're all in this together. All we ever truly "have" is each other. No one gets out of here alive.

We should probably try and remember that more often. Even if only on long walks early in the morning.

Cops

8/20/14, 8:57 AM

Yesterday, the Washington Post published an OpEd piece by a former LA police officer with the provocative title, "I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me." The slug line beneath the title read, "It’s not the police, but the people they stop, who can prevent a detention from turning into a tragedy." The author is Sunil Dutta, now a professor of "homeland security" at Colorado Tech University, a for-profit education company. (I didn't know "homeland security" was an academic discipline. Depressing.)

I'm sure both the author and the Post knew the piece would be attention-grabbing. It's not intended to edify the reader in any meaningful way. It's primary purpose is to garner attention for the Post and for the author. If you do a Bing search on the author, you'll find he's had quite a life, manufacturing a biography for himself.

All of which is to say, we shouldn't give a great deal of credence to what the author has to say.

That said, it still deserves criticism. Because people will give the piece attention, and some people will agree with the author, and that's unfortunate, because much of his premise is misguided.

Superficially, the author is correct. Most of the time, if you are submissive and respectful to the police, they will not deliberately physically harm you. They may not be especially gentle with you, if they take you into custody, but they probably won't beat you, mace you, taze you or shoot you if you're submissive, respectful and cooperative.

When I was a kid, some friends and I were out riding around and we were pulled over by the police. One of my friends was disrespectful and the cop pulled him out of the car, took him to the back, behind the car and slugged him in the stomach.

From that day on, I knew that the only thing you said to a guy with a gun and a badge was, "Yes, sir." Because you never know which one is an asshole, so you have to kind of assume they all are.

Unfortunately, that's where we're at with law enforcement these days. An acquaintance of mine is a cop for the county sheriff, I won't say which. He lived in a small beach community that has its own police department. He had a party at his place one weekend, and one of his guests was loud and someone called the police. They, apparently, didn't know they were at the residence of a county sheriff's officer, and when he objected to the way they were handling his guest, they got physical with him. When they pulled his ID, and realized he was a cop, they didn't give him break, they actually doubled down. Because they'd screwed up in terms of procedure, to protect themselves by destroying his credibility, they heaped a bunch of charges on him. He was suspended while an internal affairs investigation reviewed his case. The charges were later dropped. He kept his job, but he moved out of the beach community.

Even the cops are sometimes afraid of the cops.

It seems we already live in a police state. We're just no longer able to pretend that we're not. Have your papers on you at all times.

In the second to the last paragraph, the author makes the assertion that, "An average person cannot comprehend the risks and has no true understanding of a cop’s job." Then goes on to argue that because of that gulf of misunderstanding, people should "Show some empathy for an officer’s safety concerns. Don’t make our job more difficult than it already is."

A black person in America can make the same argument. The average cop cannot comprehend the risks and has no true understanding of what it means to be black in America. And because of that, a cop should show some empathy for a citizen's safety concerns, and not make a black citizen's life more difficult than it already is.

I suppose every jackbooted thug in a uniform throughout history has thought they were performing a public service when they beat some guy they thought deserved it. Maybe some of them did.

But it doesn't make it right.

To be clear, not all cops are jackbooted thugs. But some of them are. And you can't tell the difference by looking at them.

Adobe

8/15/14, 1:47 PM

I have Adobe Flash installed on my Macs, because there are still some web sites that require it to view video.

I still hate it.

I haven't bitched about it in a while, but I just updated Flash (again), and it reminded me how much I hate Flash, and by extension, its developer.

In what I can only conclude is some passive-aggressive jab at Mac users, Adobe has a preference pane for Flash that appears in System Preferences.

Within that preference pane is a radio button that says "Allow Adobe to install updates (recommended)". I have that radio button selected. I would like Adobe to please install the updates, so I don't have to.

But, it doesn't really do anything.

Instead, seemingly every other day, when I happen upon a page that has some Flash that I can't force to HTML 5 video, I get an alert that I need to update Flash. And given how Flash is another security vulnerability, I dutifully install it.

Installing the update means going to Adobe's web page and downloading an installer, which then downloads the actual update, runs and demands that I quit Safari and System Preferences so it can install.

Then I have to give it permission.

Then it launches Safari after it's done and takes me to Adobe's page, which I otherwise would never have occasion to visit. Would have been nice if it had simply launched Safari and restored my previous session. Bastards.

Plus!

This time, since Apple has announced it's abandoning development of Aperture, and since so many people apparently think it's going to stop working or something, and are talking about migrating to Lightroom, well Adobe added a little opportunity to download a free trial of Lightroom along with my Flash update.

So it's like getting some spam with my security update! So cool.

But that's not all.

There's a radio button in the Storage tab of the Preference Pane that gives me the option to have web sites "Ask me before allowing new sites to save information on this computer". That's the option I have selected.

Whenever I view a video in Flash, I almost always have to watch a commercial first, but both the commercial and the actual video I really wanted to watch have little pop-ups that inform me that some web site wants to store some data on my computer. I always click "deny." The little pop-up always ignores my click, and simply persists. If I click "deny" enough, sometimes it will eventually go away. But if it does, if I move the cursor using the mouse or the trackpad, it reappears!

As if to say, "Oh! You're still here? Did you change your mind? Can I store some data? Hunh? Can I? Hunh?"

I've just now selected "Block all sites from storing information on this computer". We'll see if that breaks anything.

I won't go into how impossible it was to update the "free" version of Adobe Acrobat Professional that came with my Fujitsu ScanSnap automatic document scanner. It simply was impossible to install any updates. Ever.

I hate Adobe. I'll never use Lightroom as my primary photo management app. I wish Flash would just die.

On the Brighter Side

8/13/14, 9:38 AM

Always carry a camera.

I took the E-M1 this morning, with the mZuiko 75-300 mounted because I wanted to get a shot of the waning "super" moon before I went for my run. Got downstairs with Bodhi, took a few frames of the moon and took off for our walk.

At some point in the early part of the walk, I hear jet engines and I happen to look up and spot a rather low 737 and it looks as though its flight path will have it crossing the moon!

The camera is still on, and still configured for shooting the moon. It hunted for a fraction of a second, which made me think I was going to miss the shot, then locked focus.

I chimped after the sequence finished, and was thrilled. Herewith being the results, jpegs "straight out of the camera" as they say:

Photo of an airliner passing before the waning moon. Photo of an airliner passing before the waning moon. Photo of an airliner just after passing before the waning moon. Photo of an airliner after passing before the waning moon.

Bummed

8/13/14, 8:48 AM

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty bummed out. I don’t watch TV, and the only web news site I regularly visit is the New York Times, so it’s not like I’m being bombarded by this information 24/7, but it just seems like all the news is so utterly, utterly bad.

Ebola in Africa, along with Boko Haram. Israel and Hamas. ISIS (which used to be a fun thing when it was Sterling Archer’s employer). Russia and Ukraine and Malaysia Airlines. Anti-semitism in Europe. Unarmed black teens being shot by police. Police dressed like Special Forces tear gassing and pointing weapons at protestors. Our utterly idiotic, feckless, criminally irresponsible Congress. A Supreme Court that just discards the separation of church and state.

Then Robin Williams.

Damn.

Analog

8/9/14, 11:08 AM

These are some unidentified people in photographs I discovered on an undeveloped roll of film in a thrift-shop camera.

Unidentified couple at Florida theme park. Unidentified couple at Florida theme park.

I went to the Community Hospice of Northeast Florida Thrift Shop last Monday, mostly to drop off some items I wished to donate. (I had a very nice Breville Juicer, which I’d used precisely never in five years. They’re right. You’re better off just eating the fruits and vegetables.) While I was there, of course I browsed around.

Got a nice Brother daisy-wheel electronic typewriter. Doesn’t have an electronic display, but it has a sixty-some character "memory," so it can retype your mistakes for you. Or something. Anyway, I expect to begin work on my manifesto any day now. (Hey! It was $10.00! They still sell them! Cost you $85.00 on Amazon. And no way Google or the NSA is going to peer over my shoulder while I document my fevered conspiracy theories!)

Bought a router/drill guide attachment for a rotary tool. Designed for Black & Decker, works for my Dremel although there is some difficulty attaching the drill guide. $3.00.

In a display case, I noticed an odd looking camera, it was a Minolta Freedom 90EX QD, 35mm point-and-shoot. About a year ago, someone had given me a bag full of expired 35mm film, knowing my interest in photography. I no longer had a 35mm film camera, but I kept it anyway because I suppose I’m a latent hoarder.

Anyway, I figured I’d buy the camera. While I was peering into the case, I saw a small Olympus leather camera case. I asked to take a look at it, and it turned out there was a camera in it! It was an Oly Stylus (mju) Zoom 105. I pulled the lens cover open and the camera powered up! There was still a battery in it, and a roll of film.

I bought it too.

The Minolta is the older camera, released about 1992 (the manual is copyright 1992, may not have been on the market until ’93); the Stylus was released in ’95.

The two images above are from the seven that had already been exposed on the roll. Looks like the couple was at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and all of those seven were from that trip. The battery was manufactured in August 2008. Perhaps they put a new battery in the camera before their trip, so these pictures may be from about 2008. They appear to be an older couple, and the Stylus was around $300.00 when it was new, so perhaps they hadn’t made the transition to digital, having a good compact point-and-shoot that they liked.

The shots I took with that roll were very bluish, I guess the red-sensitive chemicals degrade faster than the others. I shot another roll Tuesday morning just around sunrise. It turns out that’s too dark for this camera. Images were blurry from camera shake due to long exposure times. The good news is that auto-exposure and auto-focus seem to work.

I ordered a battery for the Minolta and that cost as much as the camera. It’s a 6v lithium 223. I’ve shot a few frames from another roll of expired film, and I want to experiment with some of the features of the camera before I finish it. Apparently it’ll permit double exposures. I’ll have that roll printed, then I’ll probably buy a couple rolls of new Fuji film and see what kind of images I can get with unexpired film.

One of the things that struck me was that I really do seem to appreciate using the LCD display to compose shots. Even the electronic viewfinders in the E-M1 and E-M5 are better than the tiny viewfinders in these point-and-shoots. I can’t see myself using these on a regular basis, but it’s interesting to be reminded of what it used to be like when taking pictures.

It’s better today.

Speaking of Images

8/5/14, 1:46 PM

It has been a relatively birdless summer at the retention ponds, though I’ve been seeing some Green Herons around here lately. This morning we had a Wood Stork and a Snowy Egret.

Photo of a Wood Stork.

And the occasional Golden Silk Orb-Weaver spider (from a Sunday morning hike at Guana State Park):

Photo of a Golden Silk Orb-Weaver spider.

What To Do About Aperture?

8/5/14, 1:22 PM

I was disappointed when I heard that Apple was ceasing development of Aperture. It’s the main application I use for organizing and editing my images. I’ve spent a lot of time learning how Aperture works, and there’s still a lot more I really need to learn about it. But now it’s going to be replaced by something called "Photos," which is expected to be a significantly less capable application.

Now, "less capable" doesn’t necessarily mean "less useful." And until we see a beta, or it ships, we don’t really know what the Mac app is going to do. So I’m keeping an open mind. Photos might turn out to be a better solution for me than Aperture, we shall see.

That isn’t stopping a lot of people from talking about a migration path to Adobe’s Lightroom, which puzzles me greatly.

We don’t know what Photos will look like on the Mac. It may give us everything Aperture gives us in the way of editing tools. If it doesn’t, there are a lot of photo editing applications out there. It may give us everything Aperture gives us in the way of storing, organizing, and otherwise managing our image collections. If it doesn’t, well, we can cross that bridge when we have to, which isn’t anytime soon.

Because Aperture 3.5.1 still works.

I don’t understand why people feel as though they have to abandon using an application that currently meets their needs, simply because the developer is ceasing development of it. At some point, the underlying parts of the infrastructure in the OS are going to cease to exist, and you’ll be stuck with the last version of the OS that supported the app, but that doesn’t seem likely to happen for a couple of years at least.

People are foolish.