"Yeah, well, you know, that's just like, uh, your opinion, man."

More Photos Pain

14:47 Tuesday, 27 October 2015

I last wrote about Photos back in April (with a small tip in May). My experience has only gotten worse since then.

The Sea & Sky Airshow was last weekend, and I shot about four thousand images. That seems like a large number, but please understand that I'm shooting in continuous shooting mode at the "low" setting of about six frames per second. So a four-second shot of a presentation yields about 24 images. Out of those four thousand images, I only expect to get between 25 to 50 "keepers." These are images that are unique or compelling in some fashion. So there's a lot of work weeding out the "clinkers."

My first swipe through is using Finder with Quick Look. I open a finder window with the folder containing the images in List view, sorted by creation date, select the first image and hit the spacebar and take a look at a pretty large representation of the image. These are good enough to tell if they're out of focus, or the composition is totally wrong. If it's no good, Command-Delete moves it to the trash, and then on to the next image.

I got through about two thousand images that way last night.

My plan after that initial culling was to import the remainder into my Aperture library on my iMac. The Aperture library resides on an external Firewire 800 7200rpm hard drive. It's fast enough for my purposes, and avoids hammering my aging internal HD (potentially to be replaced with an SSD if I don't decide to get a Retina iMac).

The reason I chose Aperture is because Photos brings a whole host of problems to an effort like this.

First, Photos is linked to iCloud, and I have no desire to upload two thousand images to iCloud and slow down my wireless network while that's underway and syncing to all my other devices.

Second, Photos is awful for comparing images. You can't open two images side by side like you can in Aperture, and examine them at 100% (pixel-for-pixel). I do this for two images that are roughly as nice in terms of composition, but one may be slightly sharper than the other.

Finally, when you delete an image in Photos, it isn't really deleted. It sits around for about a month, taking up space, in case you change your mind.

So my intention was to use Aperture's vastly superior features to more closely review the remaining images, and winnow the whole project down to about 50 keepers.

When you insert an SD card into the slot on an iMac, both Photos and Aperture will show you an import window with thumbnails of all the images. That happened when I began the first review in Finder. I after deleting the first two thousand images, I emptied the trash and ejected the SD card because I've found that both Photos and Aperture can become confused if you delete an image in Finder and the apps can't find the file associated with a thumbnail preview on import; so it's wiser to just empty the trash, eject the SD card and reinsert it.

That is, it's wiser if you're paying attention to what you're doing. When I reinserted the SD card, Photos became the frontmost app with the Import window showing. Not paying attention, I clicked the Import all new photos button and it was off to the races! Worse, I failed to notice my error for several minutes, after over a thousand images had already been imported.

Now I've got all the nonsense going on with iCloud syncing. I can just delete the whole batch, but again, they're not really deleted until Photos decides I've had enough time to change my mind. At least deleting them should hide them from my Photos library.

I'm really disappointed with Photos. It's not a well designed app, at least for anyone who's even modestly more into photography than just taking snapshots with an iPhone. It has no real way to manage RAW images. You can't tell it to import JPEGs only if you wished to place your RAW files elsewhere. Smart Albums don't sync across libraries; indeed, you can't even create a Smart Album in iOS. You can't search by exif data in Photos on iOS, and you have only limited exif data in Photos on MacOS.

Aperture and iPhoto and PhotoStream were getting a little creaky and unwieldy; but I think they could have been fixed up and the result would have been vastly better than this lobotomized solution Apple's given us. It has truly dumbed-down their own offerings in photo management.

I'm not often disappointed by Apple, but this has been a very bitter disappointment to me.

Take the Train

11:25 Saturday, 24 October 2015

For the last several years, I've been making a couple of trips up north in the fall. In September, I go to Albany to visit my Mom around her birthday; and in October, I go to Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania to visit a couple of friends of mine. This year, the September trip was out because my dog Bodhi was still recovering from his surgery, and I didn't want to leave him with anyone until I knew he was fit enough to not require any special attention.

When it was clear Bodhi was going to be fine, I looked at combining the two trips into one. The first surprise was that the air fare wasn't going to be as expensive as I'd anticipated. Normally the Pennsylvania fare is in the low-to-mid $300s, while the Albany trip is usually in the low $400s. I thought that since I was essentially making two one-way flights, the total fare would be somewhere around $500.00. Surprisingly, the whole thing came in at $327!

I decided to look into taking a train from Harrisburg to Albany, and that fare was $95.00, which seemed pretty reasonable. I'd never taken the train anywhere in the United States before, so I was also curious as to what the experience would be like.

I had a great visit in Boiling Springs, and my friend took me to the train station in Harrisburg on her way to work on Monday morning. The station setting was nice, not elaborate or ornate, but not shabby either. The only sign of security was a uniformed police officer, and a video that seemed to be on a loop that kept talking about keeping an eye out for anything looking suspicious. That was kind of creepy, but certainly no worse than the canned PA announcements about security at the airport.

When it came time to board the train, you just walked down to the track and got onboard. There was no queue where the airline caste system plays itself out, with "special needs," first class, "Sky premium", Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion, and then Zone 1, Zone 2 and so on. One doesn't show a boarding pass to a gate agent, you just get onboard. You pick any seat you like that isn't occupied, throw your stuff up in the ginormous overhead compartment, or leave it at the end of the car in a place for luggage that perhaps you can't lift over your head! Your seat is an enormous thing compared to the torture devices the airlines use to routinely violate human rights in "coach" class. You don't feel like a chump because you didn't pay $30.00 to "upgrade" to "premium" seating with two more inches of knee-room, but virtually no greater width. And did I mention, you don't have to walk through "first class" and avoid making eye contact with the privileged and the élite!


Talk about a good first impression! All at once I recognized all the stress I experienced flying because it was completely absent here! You get so used to the inhumane ordeal corporate America and the state security apparatus put you through in order to fly that you become somewhat inured to it. It's only when you experience a form of travel that doesn't subject you to that endless stream of large and small indignities that you realize how badly you've been treated.

The train pulls away from the station, and still nobody has asked for ID or a ticket or anything! After you've been rolling down the tracks awhile, a nice man in a hat comes by your seat and asks to see your ticket. He doesn't even take it! He just asks to see it! (Well, they scan it, so it's not completely 19th Century.)

You get to look out the window and watch the scenery go by. Some of it is urban decay, but I think it's useful that we should be exposed to that. Frankly, I don't know why mayors or other officials don't ride the trains and make note of all the abandoned crap rusting out on private property and order the owners to clean it up! Probably violates someone's civil rights to maintain a junkyard on their property. But a lot of the scenery is very pretty, and not the kind of thing you'd ever see from 30,000 feet, or when your eyes are glued to the road as you white-knuckle your way through interstate traffic.

I had to change trains at Penn Station in New York. I hadn't been to NYC since 1976, and I had a couple of hours, so I went up to the street and found a pizza place and had a slice of New York pizza. Then I wandered down and took a picture of the Empire State Building, like the tourist I am!

When I got back to Penn Station, I had to figure out where the waiting area was, but that wasn't too difficult and it was the only place anyone asked to see my ticket, other than on the train. Sitting there, listening to the announcements of trains bound for a list of destinations was charming. I don't want to make Penn Station out to be some kind of boutique travel experience, it is most assuredly not that! But to change trains, you don't have to get off one train and then try to sprint to another terminal, dodging throngs of humanity all carrying rolling bags or pushing strollers, or beeping electric carts. Nope, just go to the waiting area and wait for your train to appear. I had a couple of hours and it was a nice day, so I took a walk. There I did encounter throngs of humanity, but hey, it's New York!

On the trip up to Albany, the train had to stop and wait for some traffic to clear. This ended up delaying us by about half an hour. It's not like you don't sometimes get stuck on the runway for half an hour or longer, strapped into your seat, often smashed against the other passengers in your row, unable to get up to relieve yourself or stretch your legs. When the train stopped, I got up and walked back to the café car (The café car!) and ordered a beer and walked back to my seat, like a civilized human being.

The person in front of me reclined their seat at one point. I barely noticed. The seat tray in front of me was large and sturdy and useful. You even get a 110v electrical outlet! (There are two, so I presume one is expected to share. I don't know because only one person sat next to me briefly on the entire trip!) Trains are also much quieter than planes! I used a sound meter app I have on my phone and unless you're on an especially bad section of track, the train is much quieter than any plane I've been on. I routinely use the sound meter to measure the sound level in planes, and it's typically around 91-94dB, the train was about 10dB lower.

I think we've got this travel thing all wrong. Just like there's a slow-food movement, there ought to be a slow-travel movement. It's vastly more humane and civilized than air travel. We need more trains.

When I make travel plans in the future, I will definitely be looking for train options.

A train is a mode of mass transit that still respects human dignity.

Ironic Confusion

10:52 Saturday, 10 October 2015

In the competition for attention, one means of attracting and maintaining interest is to adopt a position that is contrary to either the so-called "conventional wisdom," or a trendy view. Now, that's not to say that contrary positions are illegitimate; indeed, they are often more legitimate than the prevailing view, the war in Iraq being one example (The original view of the George W. Bush administration. Not the current view, which has the benefit of hindsight.). Nevertheless, sometimes it is applied to much less significant matters, often to do little more than attract some attention.

I thought of this today as I read an opinion piece in the New York Times, Can We End the Meditation Madness? Note the alliterative provocation, "meditation madness."

In his piece, Mr. Adams, says he is "being stalked by meditation evangelists." He concludes by writing,

"Evangelists, it’s time to stop judging. The next time you meet people who choose not to meditate, take a deep breath and let us relax in peace."

These "evangelists" that are troubling him are not people who meditate. Meditation, when practiced regularly, fosters a robust sense of equanimity. Even infrequent practice, by someone who has previously meditated regularly, will sustain an awareness of equanimity and mindfulness of the futility of judging.

The people who he's criticizing, assuming they are not merely straw men, are not people who truly meditate. They are people in the throes of desire, undertaking a new activity seeking something and, having done so, also seeking to have their choices validated by others. One might say, were Mr. Adams to practice meditation, he wouldn't find these individuals so troubling. As it is, he might be grateful to them for providing him something to write about, and presumably earn some modest remuneration from the NY Times.

What one learns in meditation is to observe and let go. One "observes" one's own thoughts arising unbidden and then, through conscious effort at focusing on one's breath or some other object, choosing not to engage with those thoughts, instead noticing them pass away, replaced by another unbidden thought, again to be observed and allowed to pass away.

One is cultivating the "conscious" ability not to engage with the random chatter that occurs in the reactive mind. Judgmental thoughts may arise, but unless one engages them, they merely pass away. Engaging with them seldom changes anything for the better. Dr. James Vornov, I believe, called this "widening the space between stimulus and response."

Mindfulness is choosing to inhabit the space between stimulus and response.

Something worth thinking about in the age of social media, internet "shaming" and the like.