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

So This Happened

11/26/13, 8:17 AM

A couple of days ago, the NY Times prominently featured one of their "Snowfall"-type articles on the front page of their web site, Two Gunshots on a Summer Night. It's a joint report with Frontline, and I understand their version will be broadcast this evening. (The report is available online at this time.)

To make a long story short, it's about the death of a young woman, a botched police investigation, and allegations of homicide and a cover-up by law enforcement.

In response to the article, the St. Johns County Sheriff's office has released a raft of documentation relating to the case.

To make another long story short, the Sheriff's office alleges that investigator misconduct on the part of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and irresponsible journalists in search of a sensational story have unfairly tarred the reputation of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, one of their officers, and inflicted emotional suffering on the family of the deceased.

Since I live here, I feel inclined to offer my thoughts.

First, I'm very sorry for the loss of the O'Connell family. In all of this, one perhaps loses sight of this tragedy,

Second, I applaud the Sheriff for making the documents publicly and easily available. It was the right thing to do.

I read the article, and I came away with the distinct impression that Michelle O'Connell had likely been murdered, and SJSO was covering up for one of their own. Truly, a newsworthy report, if true.

I learned of the SJSO's response through local media, and I went to the web site to see what documentation they made available.

After reading most of the material, I have a distinctly different impression about the death of Ms. O'Connell. While perhaps only one person knows for certain, the information contained in the material from SJSO does support the idea that Ms. O'Connell took her own life, and does so more convincingly than the theory offered by the reporters from the NY Times and Frontline.

That said, nobody comes off looking good in all this sorry mess.

Nobody.

It hardly instills confidence in law enforcement that the initial investigation was rather carelessly handled, given the circumstances of the event.

It hardly instills confidence in law enforcement that a review by an outside investigative agency, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, appears to be just exactly what the Sheriff's Office is alleging it to be.

It hardly instills confidence in law enforcement and the administration of justice, that for most people, when investigations are made just like the one the SJSO alleges the FDLE conducted, the alleged perpretrators don't have the entire police department standing by to defend them; instead, just a poorly paid, inexperienced public defender.

It hardly instills confidence in law enforcement that young men are placed in positions of authority to use deadly force, equipped to do so, and apparently lack the training and discipline to secure their weapons in their homes.

It hardly instills confidence in The New York Times and Frontline that their reporting seemed more intent on delivering a juicy story than in uncovering the truth. I subscribe to the Times. I, for the most part, have high regard for the quality of their reporting. But, as with the Judith Miller controversy, lack of journalistic integrity, i.e. a commitment to the truth, doesn't simply undermine confidence, it destroys the value of a free press.

There's a story here. But it's not the one The New York Times and Frontline are reporting, and the SJSO is refuting.

Someone should write that story.

Pathologies

11/25/13, 3:02 PM

This will be an incomplete post, just because it's a kind of compelling itch I need to scratch right this minute; but I don't have the inclination at the moment to fully develop it. I hope to return to it later. For now, there's this:

Apple recently issued a new release of their office productivity apps, fomerly known collectively as iWork. The last release was called iWork '09, which only reinforces the shortsightedness of using years as part of your product name. Time moves quickly, software development, often, not so much.

The new versions of Pages, Keynote and Numbers follow a similar pattern of other recent Apple apps, namely iMovie and Final Cut Pro.

The apps are significantly revised in terms of user interface and file formats. Some new features are introduced, many old ones are eliminated.

The reaction follows a similar pattern as well, chiefly one of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I kind of get it, but I also kind of wish we'd have outgrown it by now.

The volume of vitriol that issues from certain people when something doesn't happen the way they expected it to is astonishing. The internet, it seems, is populated by vast numbers of two-year-olds.

I mean, Apple is the company that is most known for blowing-up its own work to make new work. By now, you have to kind of expect it. In fact, some breeds of two-year-olds whine and complain when Apple isn't blowing up its stuff fast enough.

Where is it written, as a matter of law, that every single new release of an application has to be exactly the same application, only with the parts that you didn't like ground down and polished off, and new shiny bits that you wanted added? Microsoft usually does that, except sometimes even they try to get a little "innovative" with the user interface, and get hammered for it too. (The "ribbon" anyone?) Since when is Microsoft the example of "best practices?"

For all the people complaining about the new Pages, Keynote and Numbers, just keep using your old versions if the new ones are such regressions. Alternatively, investigate new applications that might better meet your needs than Apple's. There's also a certain breed of two-year-old that complains about Apple "Sherlocking" independent developers' products by releasing their own competing apps.

I mean, some days it seems like nobody is happy on the internet.

I'm an old fart. I remember when new software was exciting. Often, it did things we could never do before. Clever people would spend days and weeks exploring it and figuring out ways to do things it wasn't necessarily designed to do. Now these are called work-arounds, and the term is more of a pejorative than a celebration of one's cleverness in exceeding the apparent limitations of a particular application.

Nowadays we expect it to be "a floor wax and a dessert topping." And if we don't get it, well, hell hath no fury like a scorned nerd with a blog.

My brand of digital camera is Olympus. I got into the brand in 2008 with an E-520 I bought on the basis of camera features, Oly's reputation for great lenses, and the fact that it was designed from a clean sheet of paper to be a digital camera. The worst thing about it was that the sensor wasn't as good as competing sensors from Nikon and Canon. But, if you worked around the limitations of the camera through technique or technology, you could produce some marvelous images that might rival the others.

This, sadly, is a topic of endless, futile, pointless and infuriating debate among camera gear-heads, another breed of two-year-old that especially likes to gather at camera and photography web sites. So we're not going to do that here.

In any event, Olympus is struggling a bit in the camera marketplace, much like Apple was in the mid-90s. Like Apple, they're trying to innovate their way out of their problems. They had two lines of cameras built on the four thirds format sensor. The PEN series, and the Olympus E-series DSLRs. The PEN series could use the lenses from the E-series DSLRs with an adapter, if you focused manually. (Some could do contrast-detection auto-focus, but not many and not exceedingly well.) Within each platform, there were products at multiple price points. The PENs had the E-Px flagships, the E-PLx "Lite" model, and the E-PMx (Mini). The DSLR had the flagship E-x, mid-tier (only model ever produced) E-30, and the "consumer grade" E-xxx.

Well, that's a lot of product to manage, and Canon and Nikon were eating Olympus' breakfast and lunch in the DSLR business. It didn't seem to be a tenable situation.

In 2012, Oly introduced the OM-D E-M5. Not a PEN camera, but based on the micro four thirds lens mount, like the PENs. It was designed to resemble the OM-series film SLRs Oly produced back in the day (70s-80s). The E-M5 received outstanding reviews. I bought one. I love it.

At the same time, Olympus kept sending signals it was developing a new flagship DSLR to replace the E-5, which had been introduced in 2010.

I have a number of Zuiko lenses designed for the E-series DSLRs. I use them on my E-30, which is a superb DSLR discounting the performance of its Panasonic 12MP CMOS sensor. A few of them are among Oly's "High Grade" lenses, their middle-tier. Great lenses, but they don't perform well on the micro four thirds cameras, at least in terms of auto-focus.

So as it happened, I had a fairly significant investment in both the four thirds and the micro four thirds platforms. Oly was rumored to be developing new flagship cameras for both formats. In truth, they were, but economic reality dictated that ultimately only one platform could be marketed and supported. Oly bet on the micro four thirds platform and released the OM-D E-M1. (Don't ask me how they name these things. It makes no sense.)

I bought one. It's my best camera. If they'd released a traditional E-7 DSLR to replace the E-5, with the new, modern, Sony sensor, I would have happily bought that for my Zuiko lenses. But, they didn't.

The E-M1 has phase-detect sensors built into the sensor that allow the Zuiko lenses to auto-focus much more quickly than they can with contrast-detection auto-focus. In some cases it's faster, in others it's equal, and in some it's not as fast. It's not all-things to all-people.

But the people at the DSLR forum that expected Oly to release an E-7 were bitterly disappointed. This disappointment leads to the same kind of behavior we see with Apple's software "upgrades." People just trashed it, usually with copious amounts of snark and vitriol. Anyone defending the virtues of the new camera were labelled as "fan-boys" or not "real" photographers, who should just go ahead and use their cell phone as their primary camera if they thought an E-M1 was "good enough."

To me, new cameras and new software are still, often, exciting. We can do some things we couldn't do before. We have a new artifact we have to explore and try to master, to find out what its limitations really are.

In doing so, we bump up against our own limitations, and if we're persistent instead of petulant, we often learn to exceed those as well.

Two-year-olds know exactly what they want. And if they don't get exactly what they want, exactly the way they want it, they act like two-year-olds.

It seems to me that neither Apple nor Olympus develop their products for two-year-olds.

And I'm okay with that.

Oldies

11/20/13, 11:32 AM

While I've been kind of shut in by the weather, I added a couple of albums at SmugMug. One is the performance by the Blue Angels at the 2012 Sea & Sky Festival in Jacksonville Beach. The other was some shots I got of their rehearsal, which seemed to mostly take place over my house.

The rehearsal was good for me too, because I'd never tried shooting fast moving aircraft like that. I learned a lot, though perhaps not enough.

In any event, I was pleased with many of the shots. If you like aircraft, give them a look.

In the Dark

11/20/13, 8:37 AM

November has been the most consistently cloudy month in recent memory. It's been a bit frustrating, but I decided that if the weather wasn't going to cooperate, I'd just shoot at night. And this is also an early effort at figuring out a way to efficiently (though it's not efficient yet) share images here.

Without further ado, let's see if this works:

_8300031 _8300031 _8300031 _8300031

Rage Is Not a Strategy

11/16/13, 9:31 AM

An expression often heard when discussing challenging problems is, "Hope is not a strategy." When the problem is "too hard," we often rely on "hope." But hope is just a palliative, not a solution, as the expression seeks to remind us.

These days, as one surveys the news, it seems that when we are confronted with challenging problems, rage is the most likely response from too many quarters. As useless as hope might be, rage is worse.

I live in a condominium. It's a conversion project. A get-rich-quick scheme by well-heeled developers. If you ever want to buy a condo, you should talk to me. I love living here, but there are a lot of things I wish I knew before I bought it. Things are pretty good now. We still face challenging problems, but we've faced many before and solved them. We'll solve the next ones too. But it wasn't always so.

Shortly after the developer turned over control of the condominium to the residents and its board of directors, several things happened. Perhaps worst, Florida was hit by four hurricanes in one year, and property insurance rates skyrocketed. Second, the association discovered the developer had been artificially keeping the assessments low, using their own resources to make up the difference. Third, the real estate bubble began to pop, and a lot of folks who bought their units expecting to flip them and pocket a tidy profit were left with mortgages that would soon balloon and be unaffordable, just as the value of their property was beginning to decline precipitously. Finally, there were some structural problems with the buildings the developer was hiding from the association.

The executive summary on understanding the source of anger is, "I'm not getting what I want, when I want it," or "Someone is doing something to me that I can't control." We had both conditions, but mostly the latter one.

Anger feels empowering, because the fight or flight response energizes you. Angry residents found like-minded others to join together to "take action." Anger gives you tunnel vision and the solution to every problem often seems very simple. Many letters were written, meetings disrupted, board memberships and offices overturned. Lawsuits were threatened, lawsuits were filed. Lawyers made money. There was bitterness and acrimony, shouting, and stomping out of meetings. Management companies were hired and fired.

All of which did nothing to solve any of our problems. The simple solutions weren't solutions at all, and the problems remained.

Fortunately, anger has a weakness, and that is that it is often difficult to sustain that level of rage without some external source constantly feeding it. It's exhausting, and without support it will burn itself out. We didn't have an external source. It was just us, and like it or not we were all in it together.

The angry people got tired, they realized they didn't have any real answers, and that finding solutions takes calm, rational thinking, and effort. Most of them went away. Some even abandoned their units to foreclosure. Some of them calmed down and began to help. Once the turmoil and distraction of all the anger went away, we were able to come up with real solutions to our problems, and things began to get better.

Today, things are pretty good.

We still face challenges. People still get angry. But, in general, we know how to work together to solve problems.

Not so much, I'm afraid, in the wider world outside my little condominium.

The recent debacle in our House of Representatives regarding the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling is a product of rage. Worse, it is the result of a deliberate effort to exploit fear and anxiety for political aims. While my condo association didn't have an external resource to sustain the anger, there are powerful entities within our country who possess both the will and the resources to do so.

The formation and continued existence of the Tea Party is a product of fear and anxiety, stoked by deep-pocketed political and commercial interests into an ongoing rage manufacturing effort.

Much of the conflict we're witnessing within the Republican Party is a product of this. Perhaps too late, they are being reminded that "who sows the wind must expect to reap the whirlwind." Well, tornadoes are bad for business. Which is why you see some of the corporate interests and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce backing off on the inflammatory rhetoric many of the rising Tea Party stars are using.

I'm afraid it's too late. Things will get worse before they begin to get better. Much worse.

Unlike my little condo association, the country is too big for a working majority that realizes the reality that we're all in this together. At least, not in the near term.

The problems we face stem from change, and how we manage it. People fear change. Powerful people are exploiting that fear. The resulting anger and rage are destructive, not constructive. We've seen the first examples in the ongoing dysfunction of our government. It will get worse. They will stoke the furnaces of the rage machine for as long as they can, to diminish the capacity of the government manage change, or to compel changes favoring their interests. I think they understand their ability to accomplish the latter will diminish as the electoral demographics change, so they're concentrating on destroying government.

Change will come, whether we like it or not. The world is growing smaller, hotter and browner.

It must also grow more just.

Justice does not arise from fear. It can only arise from faith.

Ultimately, the powerful reveal themselves as powerless, as their fear leads them to take actions that will ultimately lead to their undoing. Irony is the fifth fundamental force of the universe. But the cost will be high, and the destruction vast.

The emotion I struggle with the most these days isn't anger. It's despair.

Another Mavericks Wish

11/14/13, 7:33 PM

While I'm thinking about it, how silly is it that Finder includes sharing options for e-mail, Messages, AirDrop, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, but not, wait for it... iCloud?!

Seriously, Apple.

Shared Photo Streams? Have you heard of them?

Yeah, I could import the image to iPhoto or Aperture and do it from there, but occasionally there's a one-off image I'd like to share, but I don't really wish to have live on in perpetuity in my Aperture library. And yes, if I have Aperture or iPhoto set up to auto-import, I suppose it would migrate into the library anyway. But while I'm in Finder, evaluating images, and I see one I'd like to share, why can't I just add it to my Photo Stream from Finder right then and there?

Work on that. Thanks.

Mavericks Wish

11/14/13, 6:36 PM

Finder needs to get smart about exif data in Get Info. As it is right now, Finder is a pretty decent photo organizer.

I dump the contents of my memory card to an external drive using Image Capture. Then I examine those in the column view in Finder. Using the two-finger "reverse-pinch" on my trackpad, I can expand the image to 100% and identify the obvious clinkers and delete them.

Occasionally, I'd like to examine the exif data, especially comparing two images, but to do that I have to either import them into Aperture, or use another app to look at the data. Ideally, I'd just like it to appear in Get Info.

I should probably just search the web, somebody may have figured this out already using Spotlight or something.

Update: Duh! Nevermind. Here's a blast from the past, circa 2007!  

Update 2: Upon further review, the ruling on the field stands. Finder needs to get smarter about exif data in the Get Info function of Finder. The current version (10.9) offers the focal length, but virtually nothing else of any immediate use to a photographer comparing images. The exif data exposed by Finder in Get Info includes dimensions, device make, device model, color space, color profile, focal length, alpha channel, red eye correction, F number, and exposure program.

Ideally, I'd need to have shutter speed and ISO added to those, and frankly, I don't care about color space, color profile, alpha channel, or red eye correction.

Test Image III

11/14/13, 10:00 AM

Okay, this may be a little easier than using the Web Inspector. I just right-clicked on the image in the Photo Stream and selected "Copy Image Address" from the contextual menu.

Update: Got a missing image placeholder, so I deleted it.

The URL to load the actual Photo Stream web page with that image displayed remained the same. Clicking on the missing image icon loaded the correct page. Right-clicking on the image and selecting "Copy Image Address," then comparing that address with the one I'd copied for it previously revealed that it had changed. That effectively means you can't embed images from Photo Stream into your web pages, at least not reliably.

So, noted. Too bad. It'd be nice if they'd at least offer a thumbnail you could embed.

Test Image II

11/14/13, 9:46 AM

Snowy Egret 2

Okay, that worked. I grabbed the image link using the Web Inspector from Safari. Enclosed it with the link to the larger image in the shared photo stream. We'll see if we get any angry mail.

Ideally, I'd like Apple to do what Flickr does, and offer the html as a sharing option that I can just copy and paste.

Update: Got a missing image placeholder, so I deleted it.

The URL to load the actual Photo Stream web page with that image displayed remained the same. Clicking on the missing image icon loaded the correct page. Right-clicking on the image and selecting "Copy Image Address," then comparing that address with the one I'd copied for it previously revealed that it had changed. That effectively means you can't embed images from Photo Stream into your web pages, at least not reliably.

So, noted. Too bad. It'd be nice if they'd at least offer a thumbnail you could embed.

Test Image

11/14/13, 9:25 AM

Snowy Egret

_8300031

If that didn't work the first time, I hadn't made the image public. It's not a great shot, just something to test with. I orginally tried to grab a link from my iCloud Photo Stream. That didn't work at all. Trying something different in the next post, grabbed the image URL from the Web Inspector view. Not sure if that will violate some terms of service or not.

Things To Do

11/14/13, 7:46 AM

The weather is clearing a bit, and I may get distracted by the camera, so the timeline on these efforts is rather, well, very elastic.

Damn, It's Great to Be Back

11/13/13, 11:14 PM

I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. Kind of. I mean, there was something that kept me trying to get this thing to work. It felt... exciting. Frustrating, often. But exciting.

This is mine.

My URL. My server space. My Tinderbox file. My export templates.

I put this together. I (mostly, kinda) know how it works.

I have a place on the web where I can place my words, and short of running my own server, it's all mine.

And I'm not doing it to make a bunch of twenty-something, new masters-of-the-universe rich. Or to fulfill the fevered dreams of a bunch of greedy, narcissistic, arrogant asshole venture capitalists and "angel investors."

Fuck a bunch of them.

This feels good.

This feels great!

It's great to be back.

Bring the weapons grid to full power.

Now with RSS!

11/13/13, 7:05 PM

Nice Marmot is now available for syndication, with the usual quirky hiccups I seem to encounter.

I copied (Because we stand on the shoulders of giants around here!) the Tinderbox RSS export templates from A Tinderbox Reference File. They looked similar to my old templates, only they used the newer 2.0 spec. I made the approrpiate changes through my usual trial-and-error technique, and created rss templates appropriate for Nice Marmot.

Created a new agent for the feed, which collects all the day's posts and creates a feed document, "rss.xml" when I export the file. Had some glitches due to some misunderstandings on my part, more trial and error resolved those and now everything looks great.

When I clicked on the RSS link in the sidebar, it launched Feedy, which I didn't even know I'd installed! Well, I use Caffeinated, so I just right-clicked, copied the link and then manually subscribed in Caffeinated.

At first, everything looked okay. It's a full feed, but you should be able to click on an item and get the regular browser view within Caffeinated. Instead, I get a "File not found" error.

Looking at the link from within Caffienated, I noticed that "#" in the URL had been changed to "%". So I looked at the RSS export agent as an HTML View in Tinderbox, and the URLs are all rendered properly with the "#". So then I looked at the actual exported document, rss.xml, and it's got the "#" in the URLs as well. So it's not something getting borked on export.

On a whim, I used Feedy, which I've never used before. Subscribed to the feed, and everything works as advertised! I can get a browser view within Feedy without any "File not found" error.

So I'm guessing this is an "entities" issue of some kind, which have bitten me in the ass before. I'm too tired to try and figure it out now. Since it works in Feedy, I'm inclined to believe it's Caffeinated's problem. I'll play with it some more tomorrow and see if I can't get it working in Caffeinated. You can read the feed just fine, just can't get to the web view.

Still in all, this went far more smoothly than I anticipated.

A Beautiful Day to Blog

11/13/13, 9:49 AM

It's 51 degrees (F), cloudy and windy, and not at all a day when it's fun to be out and about with a camera.

That makes it a great day to be working on Nice Marmot!

I got a little distracted after last week's progress, playing with cameras and photo editors. At some point I'll write about some of the things I'm doing.

For now, I'm going to work on some infrastructure here, and maybe do some laundry.

Hope you're enjoying your day too!

Appearance Counts

11/8/13, 12:29 PM

This post is mostly just text to exercise the plumbing, but also to partially document, for myself, what I'm doing here with the layout.

I work on a 27" Thunderbot display, and I usually have Safari wide open on the page. Yesterday's layout had the text taking up nearly the full width of the screen, so I had to do something to get that under control.

I'm not a genius in these matters, and I'm disposed to do just enough to make it look right without painting myself into a corner, should I choose to do something different a little later. For now, my model is what I use. I have the 27" Thunderbolt (and same size iMac), a 10" Retina iPad, an iPad mini, and an iPhone 5s.

The 5s has the smallest display, 640 pixels, so I just made the default paragraph style 500 pixels. That should leave enough room for a little white space on the left, and a small navigation and miscellaneous sidebar.

So I just added that to the styles document, and then reloaded the page. Everything looks okay on all four displays.

Now to do some work in the Tinderbox file to create the sidebar and some additional pages.

We Struggle Forward, em by em... (Or something)

11/7/13, 7:22 PM

Hey! It's beginning to resemble a weblog! Woo-hoo!

This has been a worthwhile, albeit intermittently frustrating, exercise.

There probably isn't a better way to learn how CSS works. (Well, there may be, but I'm definitely learning quite a bit here.) I've had a fairly basic understanding of html for some time. What has made this occasionally more complicated is the added wrinkle of Tinderbox html export.

For the most part, Tinderbox does just exactly what you tell it to do. The key is to understand just exactly what you're telling it; and then not to tell it to do too much. I kept getting extraneous paragraph tags until I figured out that I didn't need to surround the export code for the note's text. I should start documenting some of the little challenges I've had to overcome. I'll try. There are many "shoulds" in my life.

Tomorrow, I think I'll try to add some basic navigation links to the page, and work some more on the formatting. And I want to add the styles for images, so I can start posting photos!

This will be an ongoing work in progress for the indefinite future. And that's a good thing. After I get the basic layout and navigation done, then I'll configure the RSS export. After that I'll try to bolt on some basic tagging.

What I'm looking forward to is having a clear understanding of how everything is put together here, because I built it. Something I've lacked thus far in all my previous efforts, to my disadvantage and, ultimately, dismay.

Not this time.

The Inner Workings and Hidden Mechanisms of CSS

11/7/13, 2:28 PM

Wherein your genial host learns that the period is not required in the html markup identifying the class item.

Grrrrr...

Making Progress

11/5/13, 6:40 PM

Wherein your genial host gets to learn all about CSS, which seems like it ought to be easier than it's kind of turning out to be.

But that's okay. Helps keep this aging brain from ossifying.

Stay tuned. The destruction continues.

November test post...

11/5/13, 2:26 PM

Here is some text.