Under the Rainbow
An odd/interesting cloud configuration late in the early evening hours yesterday yielded a nice rainbow against a cloudy sky, with the palms lining the entrance illuminated by the rays of the evening sun. Liked it.
Little Book Review: Photos
I was browsing around the iBooks bookstore yesterday, and I ended up buying a small digital media volume called Photos, by Tom Rudderham ($5.99).
It’s the kind of book I’d recommend to people who want to get the most out of their iPhone’s camera, especially the 5s. It’s a lovely ebook, filled with video and multi-image, semi-interactive illustrations. It offers practical advice and tips, as well as a great deal of inspiration.
My one reservation about buying the book now is that Apple will release a new Photos app for iOS 8 and for Mac OS 10.10 Yosemite, which will likely alter the behavior of the app described in Rudderham’s book somewhat. But the rest of it is still worth the $5.99 asking price.
It’s very well-written, though I noted a couple of errors a more thorough editorial scrub might have detected, nothing that affects the utility of the book. It covers the basic iPhone/iPad platforms, the Photos app, the operation of the Camera app, general photography tips, then some third-party photography apps, and then a large chapter on iPhoto, which is very well done. The final chapter includes the work of four photographers who use the iPhone as their camera.
Sometimes I buy photography books from O’Reilly or Amazon, and I end up being a little disappointed. This one was not a disappointment at all.
Update: Something I’d intended to write as I thought about this yesterday, but forgot! One interesting omission I noted was in the use of the panorama feature of the iPhone. The book describes the usual horizontal panorama, but you can also do a vertical one as well. I don’t recommend them if you’ve got tall vertical elements in your composition, but if you just want to get some additional sky in an otherwise normal landscape frame, you can use the panorama feature in a landscape orientation as well. I tried using it for some buildings in downtown Jacksonville and you get some very distracting distortion from the verticals.
Every Picture Tells a Story
One of the things we do when confronting loss and the feelings that accompany it is to try to surround ourselves with the memory of "the departed." I know that last week was more difficult than the week immediately after my father’s death. The first week is filled with activity, things that modern society deems "must be done." And indeed they must. But that’s good too. I think. I guess.
I don’t know.
Anyway, we, my six siblings and I, wanted to put together a slideshow of my dad’s life to show at "calling hours." Really, it was as much for us as for anyone else. I don’t know if anyone other than family sat through 30 minutes of snapshots and old songs.
As I was going through the collection of old photos we all tend to accumulate, one of the things that really struck me was how "bad" many of the images were.
Now, let me quickly add that I love those images to death, and they’re among the most important things to me in the world at this moment. But in terms of what I’ve become accustomed to from digital images? Wow. We’ve come such a very long way.
While I tend to regard my iPhone 5s camera as the tool of last resort, I think I can say that I would happily have had all the old photos we had of my dad shot with the camera built into an iPhone 5s. Anyone today who sneers about mobile phone cameras, let alone point-n-shoots, is an idiot.
Well, no, that’s not true either. It’s worse than being an idiot. Which is probably a pejorative term that has become socially inappropriate. But I digress. The internet is filled with fools who know everything about nothing, and have to trumpet it ceaselessly.
And it’s a shame.
The point of the camera, for most of us, well, for all of us really, is to capture memories. We can do that today better, and easier, than at any time ever.
Capture your memories. Take pictures of your family. Even if it’s with your iPhone or your little point & shoot.
Learn a little about composition. Learn a little about how to use what you have to your best advantage. But don’t worry about whether or not you have a "good" camera. Just shoot.
You, or the people who love you, will be so very, very glad you did.
A Cool Morning In July
"Cool" being somewhat relative. It was 73 degrees out, and the humidity was below "sauna," so it was very nice. Took my time walking with Bodhi and tried to capture a few things. Herewith being this morning’s haul:
An Orchard weaver:
And a female Cardinal gathering nesting materials and keeping an eye on me:
Forgot to notice I was still in shutter priority so it was bumping up the ISO on the Cardinal. I know, "Pay attention."
I don’t wish to belabor the subject of the passing of my father, but I dreamed about him again last night, and I’m a sucker for alliteration. So there you go.
Expanded, it’s a 100% crop. Oly E-M1, Zuiko 50-200mm with the EC14 tcon. Handheld. (Shutter priority at 1/1000 and you can get away with that.)
Air was clear. Very clear.
Google and Facebook
Shortly before my father died, the news broke that Facebook had published a paper documenting an experiment it had performed on its users. Happily, this seems to have stirred more outrage than I anticipated. Unfortunately, I suspect this is a manifestation of the typical sort of internet "outrage" we see all too often, where everybody seems to take great umbrage for a moment, then goes all "Oooohhh, shiny!" on the "next big thing." We are unable to sustain any meaningful level of outrage, and I suspect Facebook, Google and Amazon all kind of count on this.
I’m disappointed, though unsurprised.
I’m disappointed because Facebook’s "experiment" was entirely foreseeable, indeed, it seems to me that one would have to be a fool not to expect it. Anyone with the kinds of tools that Facebook and Google have at their disposal is going to want to see what they can do with them.
When General Patraeus’ affair was revealed because he was sharing the same Gmail account with his mistress, I wondered how many data scientists at Google went "Hmmmmm…" and quickly wrote an "algorithm" (a search query) to count how many Gmail accounts were being used by more than one user who were not in the same marital relationship. Because I would. Wouldn’t you?
With the vast, truly staggering, amounts of data Google and Facebook are gathering, and the equally staggering computational resources and intellectual horsepower these corporations are able to throw at that data, I think we can be certain they are developing some very interesting insights. Facebook just made the mistake of sharing that fact with us. Apparently it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
We know Facebook wondered about "emotional contagion." Do you suppose there aren’t some bright scientists that might not want to see how or if independent "swing voters’" polling views could be influenced by "personalized" search results? Do you suppose there aren’t some corporate officers that might be interested in knowing if any legislators or regulators are involved in any illicit conduct, so that they might be able to use that data to influence the individual to behave more compatibly with Google’s or Facebook’s corporate initiatives? It wouldn’t be so baldly Machiavellian. It’d be a "good government" internal "experiment" to see if they might be able to increase the "transparency" of government by identifying corruption or vulnerability to corruption. Because that would be "good," right?
I wonder how much of that might be going on already, given how little interest the federal government has in a surveillance apparatus that rivals the NSA in scope.
But we’re not outraged. We all think it’s just great. Because Google and Facebook are giving us all these wonderful things.
Big Brother Larry is solving all kinds of horrendous problems for us. They stumbled a bit with Glass, but its still giving them useful data. It’s not going to be as ubiquitous as the mobile phone, because no normal human being wants to wear a mobile phone on their face. But a watch, now that’s something. Can still gather arousal data, location data, more ambient environmental data than a phone that might remain in a pocket or a purse. Yes, a watch, that’d be a useful platform for surveillance, I mean, data gathering. And it’s so very useful! Brother Larry tells us so.
“Or look at the unlocking that we showed,” Mr. Page said, referring to a system in which your computer detects that your watch is nearby, then lets you start using it without typing in a passcode. “It just makes a lot of sense,” Mr. Page said. “That’s a big hassle today.”
Yes, "a big hassle today." Brother Larry is going to save us all from the "big hassle" of typing your password on your computer. All you have to do is wear this thing on your wrist that lets Brother Larry listen in to what’s going on around you, see what kind of mood you’re in. Privacy is so inconvenient! And we don’t need to worry about that at all, as Farhad Manjoo explains for us:
What is more, for “context aware” computing to become truly useful, our devices must deeply understand our context — and that necessarily involves collecting, analyzing and acting on boatloads of information about each of us and the world around us. Google excels at that.
Yes, Google excels at that. Understanding "our context."
Brother Larry reassures us too. Be not afraid!
Perhaps more important, only Google has Mr. Page — and he is completely undaunted by the resistance these technologies may engender. “For me, I’m so excited about the possibilities to improve things for people, my worry would be the opposite,” he said. “We get so worried about these things that we don’t get the benefits.”
Who is Google accountable to? No one. Larry and Sergey hold the controlling interest in the stock. If they don’t already, they will soon hold a "controlling interest" in your government as well.
Google is accountable to no one.
What are they doing in their data centers?
Use your imagination.
This is a test.
On a Different Note
I’ve been using Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite on my (2009) 27" iMac. In the first couple of betas, full sized jpgs or RAW images were not displayed properly in Aperture, iPhoto or Preview. Looked like a video card issue, as it wasn’t a universal problem. The latest preview has images displaying correctly in Preview and iPhoto, but still exhibiting corruption in Aperture. Update: I take it back. It’s not fixed in iPhoto. If you select the edit function in iPhoto, the image turns into noise.
I had a fairly substantial correspondence with someone from Apple regarding the issues I was seeing in Aperture on Yosemite. I’d reported a bug, and they closed it as a duplicate, but then they kept writing to me anyway. Kinda cool.
Even though Aperture has been discontinued, it’s expected to be compatible with Yosemite and I’ll certainly continue to use it as I watch Photos evolve. Although many people have lamented the lack of attention Aperture appeared to receive in recent years, it remains a very capable tool.
Eulogy For My Father
The following is the text of my eulogy at my father’s funeral. I thought if I read it loud and fast, I’d get through it okay. The priest was very, I don’t know, "priestly," I guess. I was giving orders. That mostly worked. Mostly, that is, until I got to the paragraph about Mom. Paused to take a breath and I could just feel the throat tightening up. Pushed through, and finished okay.
The reference to the cat in the last part is a ceramic cat I placed at the alter of St. Agatha’s church. As I was flying up to New York, thinking about that day, I suddenly had the thought that Snowball, Dad’s ceramic sports buddy, had to be at the funeral too. And so she was.
It’s not undying prose, but this is my blog, so I get to publish whatever I want.
Anyway, here’s what I said:
Good morning. On behalf of my mother and the rest of my family, thank you for being here this morning. Dad, I know, is pleased.
I last spoke to my father a week ago this past Saturday on video. He ended our conversation as he always did, "I love you, pal. Keep the faith."
That was his signature tag-line, "Keep the faith." It’s especially fitting that we’re saying our last goodbyes to him in a church, where people come to celebrate and renew their faith.
My father was a man of faith. Looking over his life, it didn’t have to be that way.
The youngest of six children, he’d lost a sister in her infancy. His father died when he was 10 years old. He stood with his mother in bread lines during the Great Depression. He quit school in the eighth grade to go to work to help support her. World War II began and he watched his brothers and his cousins go off to war. When he turned 17, he begged his mother to let him go too.
Reluctantly, she did.
Before he was nineteen years old, my father knew great personal loss, sailed halfway around the world in a small ship, had seen combat, knew fear, visited a very foreign nation and culture that only weeks before had been doing its desperate best to try to kill him, and had seen first-hand the devastation caused by an atomic weapon at Nagasaki.
All of that had to make some kind of impression. And we know it did. For all of his life, Dad exhibited the startle reflex whenever you woke him. As kids, we learned to be careful waking Dad.
After the war, Dad got out of the Navy and tried working in the civilian world. He didn’t like it very much, and reenlisted in the Navy.
In 1955, while stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, he met a young navy teletype operator and six weeks later they were engaged. Six months after that, they were married, not far from this spot, in the old St. Agatha’s church.
Maybe opposites do attract. Dad was the outgoing one, the center of attention who wore his heart on his sleeve. Mom was always more quiet and reserved. As a couple, she was the calm center of gravity that kept him in his orbit, even when doing so wasn’t easy, and sometimes it wasn’t.
"Keep the faith." That was important to him.
Faith means complete trust or confidence, a strong belief. What I heard him say each time was, "Don’t be afraid." Dad knew fear. He’d experienced great personal loss and violence at the hands of men firsthand. But he wasn’t afraid. He didn’t act out of fear. He acted out of faith.
Love is faith in action. Faith is the foundation of love. Complete trust and confidence is an unconditional affirmation, and utterly necessary for love. It doesn’t mean any of that is easy, or that anyone gets it right all the time.
Dad’s life was one of action, of faith, and of love. Having seven kids had to be an act of faith, and he loved us all.
Playing Santa Claus, Dad kept faith with the spirit of Christmas, which is that of love, bringing joy and happiness to children; especially to some who might otherwise have known little. Some of those kids broke his heart, but they made it stronger too. He had complete trust and confidence in the ability of any child to experience joy from the actions of a kind and generous figure showing them love.
His work on behalf of veterans organizations was in keeping faith with them too. Complete trust and confidence in the value of their service, their sacrifice, on behalf of the values and ideals we share as a nation.
Honor is a quality attained by keeping faith with a shared set of values or ideals.
We honor our commitments, our agreements, by adhering to them, keeping faith with them. We honor our families by conducting ourselves in a way that is consistent with our best ideals.
My father was an honorable man.
When we speak of honoring someone, we mean that we offer public recognition and praise for someone’s acts that were faithful to our shared values.
You have honored my father many times, as you honor him here today. Your presence, your time and attention this morning, are an affirmation of the value of his life. It is an act of love, and we thank you.
Dad grew weaker in his later years. He had to give up being Santa. Had to stop marching in parades. No longer the spinning planet that sometimes seemed like he was about to spin off into space, his orbit settled in closer to his strong center of gravity: Mom.
Love is faith in action. Mom lived that too, throughout her life; but never more so than toward the end of Dad’s life. He depended on her, and she never let him down. She honored her vows, honored her husband, and kept the faith.
He passed away in their home, in Mom’s loving presence.
We, her children, honor her here today too.
We love you, Mom. And we’re here for you, and we’ll be here for you every day.
To my brothers and sisters, who’ve kept the faith and looked after Dad and Mom, provided the help and comfort that they needed, I honor you here today too. Thank you.
They say you can’t pick your family. Well, I was lucky. I feel like I won the lottery.
So, about the cat. This is Snowball.
Dad was a big sports fan. Loved his Detroit Tigers. Mom, not so much. Being mostly housebound, Dad wanted a buddy to watch the games with. Snowball here, being a ceramic cat, didn’t really have much else to do and was shanghai’ed, er, I mean, happily volunteered.
Snowball, being a cat, ceramic, but still a cat, was especially pleased that Dad rooted for the Tigers and the Lions. She joined him in rooting for the Orangemen too. It wasn’t quite as exciting, but she did like watching the bouncing ball.
Snowball, being a ceramic cat and therefore somewhat vocally challenged, has asked me to share with you that she will miss him.
We will too. Very much.
So long, Dad. We love you. You kept the faith.
Pretty much one of the few times we’re all together in one place. Someone wanted to get a group photo in front of the Canastota World War II war memorial, my Dad’s last big project. On the plaque in front of the memorial, you’ll find his name as chairman of the committee that created the memorial. His name is on the memorial itself, too.
A Brief Note
I’m back in Florida, happy to be home, sad about Dad. Lots of thoughts running around in my head, and I can hear the voice of my former therapist, "David, just be still." I suppose I should work on that. For now, I’m just messing around with some familiar things to kind of re-orient myself in time and space.
Sad as it was, there was plenty of joy and laughter too. I’m a pretty lucky guy, family-wise. Saw my baby brother and his son for the first time in a decade. Watched some old home movies Mom thought had been lost, but had made the transition to digital courtesy of my brother Mark, the other Mac-nerd in the family. Ran with my baby sister, and it was my fastest run in a couple of years. It was cool that morning and we’d never run together before though we both thought we ran at similar paces. It was her fastest pace ever. Found a lot of snapshots I didn’t know existed that fill in a lot of blanks. Have a lot of scanning to do.
I am grateful that my dad didn’t suffer. He was his usual playful, mischievous self right up until the end. We didn’t have weeks and months of bedridden decline and all the attendant indignities. There were a few in the latter months, but not many. I spoke to him the afternoon before he died with my daughter, Caitie on FaceTime, as we’d done so often before. I didn’t think it would be the last time I’d speak to him, but truthfully, it’s been always in the back of my mind that it might be for many years now. I never failed to tell him I loved him. I don’t have any regrets about things I never said, he knew how I felt about him, that I loved him very much and I was grateful to him for being a wonderful dad.
I will miss him very much.