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

It's Alive!

05:39 Saturday, 29 February 2020

In my last post, I wrote about breaking my Oly Stylus 1s, my favorite compact camera.

Well, a week ago, Mitzi and I were cleaning up the house in preparation for a little get-together we were hosting, and I was straightening up my office, a significant portion of which entails putting things away. (I sometimes think my office, or any place I occupy for that matter, could be used as a teaching aid for the concept of entropy.)

I got to the Stylus 1s, and wondered what to do with a camera that didn't work, can't be repaired (Olympus no longer has parts for them) and yet still seemed to be too nice to "throw away." I thought I might stash it in a drawer with a mental note to post something on DPReview that I'd ship it to someone for the cost of shipping if they wanted it for parts or something.

On a whim, I put a battery in it and turned it on. The lens extended and immediately retracted. It hadn't spontaneously "gotten well" sitting on the shelf. Then it occurred to me that the problem might be that the sensor, which is stabilized, may have gotten stuck somehow when it fell. If the sensor can't go through its startup movements, it'll generate an error and shut the camera down.

Figuring I had nothing to lose, I decided I'd employ the classic repair technique, "bang on it." Since the sensor only moves in a single plane, I reasoned I only needed to hit it on the bottom, top and sides. The top would be problematic, since the pop-up flash is there, and it's perhaps the most fragile part of the exterior of the camera. So I started with the bottom. I slammed the bottom of the whole camera into the top of the small bookcase where it had been resting, then I turned it on. Same symptom. Tried it again, only a little harder. No change.

Then I tried one side of the camera, I think it was the right side as you're looking at the lens. Rapped it hard against the top of the bookcase and then turned it on. Nothing.

With little left to lose except hope, I turned it on the other side and banged that, hard, against the top of the bookcase.

Powered it on and... Woo-hoo! The lens remained extended.

Wondering if my vigorous "repair" technique had damaged something else, I looked at the LCD screen and it showed an image! I grabbed a memory card and inserted it. I pressed the shutter button, got an auto-focus confirmation and it tripped the shutter! I played with the zoom, and that seemed to work too. Took a few shots around the room to see if the frame was straight. I'd dropped an E-PM1 many years ago, returning from a work trip. I'd put it on top of my suitcase as I fished for my keys to unlock the door to my condo. Unlocked the door and managed to bump the suitcase and spill the camera to the deck. In that case, the camera "worked" in the sense that would take an image. But the sensor had become cocked in the stabilization mechanism, so it always gave an error beep, the sensor was no longer stabilized and images were always tilted with respect to the camera body. I ended up taking that one apart and learning that camera repair was not in my skill set.

Well, the Stylus 1s gave every appearance of being fully functional! Hallelujah! I put a nice wrist-strap back on it, and it's been walking with me again since. It's working fine.

It isn't often that a story like that has a happy ending, so I'm very grateful. I'll also be a lot more mindful about securing the camera whenever I have to fiddle with something. Thankfully, we don't wear gloves very often down here in the Sunshine State.

Thanks for dropping by.

Photography and its discontents

09:36 Friday, 21 February 2020

In the early years of the apocalypse, it is still possible to amuse oneself with seemingly harmless distractions. One of mine is photography. But it's in our nature to make ourselves miserable about something we supposedly love, and photography is no exception. Herewith being an enumeration of my most recent laments.

Walking is one of my principle forms of activity, and I like to carry a camera with me because you never know what you might stumble upon. The very fact that I'm carrying a camera helps me to keep aware of my surroundings and not get lost in my own head.

Because you never know what you're going to encounter, it's worthwhile to have a versatile range of focal lengths. I know a lot of people who do street photography often confine themselves to a single focal length, using a favorite prime lens affixed to their camera. I'm not doing street, it usually involves shooting people and people don't seem to like having their picture taken, unless it's in a selfie or otherwise "on brand." The candid shots of people being people tend to make people angry. So I like to shoot landscapes, birds, bugs, flowers, animals, the odd artifact, stuff that isn't likely to look at me cross-eyed.

When Bodhi was alive, I'd walk around Belleza with the Oly E-M5 mounted with a 14-150 zoom lens. I also had the external grip for the E-M5, and that had a shutter release and control dial on the grip and it was just about the most comfortable camera I've ever held. Naturally, I sold it. But that effective focal length (efl) of 28mm to 300mm was just about perfect for casual walking around with a camera photography.

Well, things are different today. I don't take many short walks anymore, (three quarters of a mile was the distance around Belleza) they're usually in the range of one to four miles. And carrying even a lightweight camera and lens combination like either my E-M10 mk2 or the E-M1 mk2 with the 14-150 on it involves a sling and by the end of the longer walks it's a little or a lot uncomfortable.

Last summer, flush with the cash from the sale of my condo, I bought a used Olympus compact super-zoom, the Stylus 1s. As a compact, it had a 1/1.7" sensor, which is kind of small, but it allowed for a 28-300mm efl zoom. this was a high-end compact, so the zoom had a constant f2.8 aperture throughout the range, and it was known for being quite sharp. It was an expensive camera when released, but it's a very small, unprofitable niche for Oly so it didn't last long on the market.

It very quickly became my favorite walking around camera. It hung comfortably from my wrist, was versatile, sharp and fun to use, and I looked forward to taking it with me every time I went for a walk.

Well, several weeks ago, we had a brief bout of very chilly weather. Cold enough, Floridian that I am now, that I put on a pair of gloves. Big mistake.

I'm out the door, bundled up with hat and gloves and camera on my wrist, ready to go. I track my walks using my Apple Watch and of course the capacitive screen doesn't work with my gloves on. So I pulled my right glove off with my left hand, not feeling or seeing or otherwise noticing that the neoprene wrist strap for the camera is coming off right with it! I did notice the sudden decrease in weight on my arm, and the sound of the camera hitting the pavers!

You go through the whole five stages of grief with a loss like this. Denial! That initial reaction of disbelief. Bargaining. I picked it up. There is not a mark on it! Well, maybe it's okay? I turned it on, the lens extended and immediately retracted again. Okay, maybe it's just, I don't know, stunned. I step into the house, remove the battery and then press the power button. This is sometimes helpful for cameras whose processors have frozen because of some glitch. There's capacitor or small battery that holds some data and maybe it's an error code I needed to clear or something. Put the battery back in, powered it back on and same thing.

Anger! Dropped a series of f-bombs, which alarmed Mitzi. I was angry at myself because this was, at this moment, my very favorite camera and not an inexpensive one, and through my own stupidity, I'd broken it.

Depression. I manage to gather the E-M10 mk2 with the 14-150 on it and head out, still cursing myself and feeling stupid and sad and miserable. But that's the wonderful thing about exercise, and having some insight into the nonproductive habits of thought one can slip into if one is not mindful.

I learned some time ago that we never truly have anything. Anything you think you have can be taken from you in an instant, and we're really powerless to do much about it. Sometimes you can, and maybe it's appropriate to fight to hold onto something. But most of the time, it's better to just let it go. Be grateful for the time you had, and not dwell on the loss.

It was a four mile walk, so by the time I got home I was fine. Not exactly happy about it, but over it.


On the subject of walking around, Del Webb is not exactly a very photogenic environment. I suppose if I was into satire or irony I could make something of it, but I'm not. The place is too new, too perfectly manicured, too clean, too sterile to be an interesting location for photography.

Belleza was wonderful because it was about 20 years old and there were visible signs of the struggle against decay. And it was a much higher density environment, so I was always closer to the landscape, whether it was the hedges with their anoles and dragonflies and tiny flowers, or the retention ponds with the wading birds and turtles. Here, you're seldom less than 50 feet from the water's edge. The birds are unaccustomed to people being in close proximity and even with a 300mm efl, I can't get the kind of close-ups that I routinely got in Belleza where the birds seemed much more accustomed to people.

So it's a more challenging environment. While I could leave my condo and have confidence that there would be any number of things that would draw my eye, here I have to look much harder, and look past all the accoutrements of bourgeoisie living in northeast Florida. The latter part is the challenge because it's just kind of "What the hell?" And I am one of them.

There's a rather fancy fountain at the front of the big clubhouse, and in the morning, when the light was good, it made for an interesting subject. I don't know how long it's been there, but up until recently it had an interesting patina of gray-green scale, approximating verdigris, that gave some relief to the figures in the fountain. Well, the HOA took over control of the development this year, and one of the first things they did was take the fountain down and have it painted. Sigh.

If I can remember how, I'll post few before and after photos of the fountain. The before shots are with the Stylus 1s, the after are from the E-M1 mk2.

Anastasia Club Fountain before painting Anastasia Club Fountain before painting Anastasia Club Fountain after painting Anastasia Club Fountain after painting

But it's not all bad news. I'm not far from the Tolomato river (otherwise known as the Intracoastal Waterway), and there's a nice little access road that leads down there. I've just ordered some fresh DEET and I think I'm going to start walking out the back gate and down to the river and back.

Bit of Blog

05:26 Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Over halfway through the second month of the year, and nothing heard from the Marmot.

Do not be alarmed. I'm still here. A tiny bit of a lesser man, but still here nevertheless.

Had my gall bladder removed last Friday. Yep, Valentine's Day. Never let it be said that I don't plan ahead. Had flowers delivered Thursday! Hold your applause. They were very well received.

A couple of years ago, I was doing some intermittent fasting, which I'd done before with no ill effects. Except, you know, I don't really follow the recommendations. Most of the diets I'd read about recommended you eat about 200-300 calories on the day you're fasting. I figured, "Screw that! I'm just going to eat nothing!" Which was easier than I thought it might be. The key thing is to keep yourself distracted and drink water from time to time. And I found if I did that, I could lose between one and two pounds a week, as long as I maintained my activity level on fasting days. Cool.

But, "diets" don't really work unless you stay on them, and I'd go off after I'd lost ten pounds or so and then I'd gain that back, which isn't good. I was fasting two days a week, Mondays and Thursdays, days not really associated with social dining, except for Thursday once a year, but otherwise it's pretty transparent to your daily life. One remarkable thing I noticed was how much time you devote to eating; and on fasting days, when you're really conscious of time, well, it adds to the challenge a bit.

Anyway, started my third go-round with intermittent fasting on a Thursday and as usual, I wake up on Friday morning and have a nice big breakfast of bacon and eggs and toast, probably some avocado, some cheese. Yum!

About two hours later, I'm doubled over in pain, feeling like I'm being punched in the stomach. If a stomach punch was a continuous experience. At first I thought it was food poisoning or something. Experience lasted for several hours, finally abated and wow! Hoped that would never happen again!

Fasted Monday, Tuesday morning had a big breakfast with different groceries and two hours later, boom! This time I'm on the phone to my doctor and they got me in that day to see someone. They draw some blood and I get a call later that afternoon and the doc tells me (he's a resident, so he consults with an attending) that they considered having me drive to the ER and admitting me. My liver enzymes are off the charts. But there's no other indications, so the plan is to come back the next day and draw some more blood and see what they're doing.

I end up chatting with my little sister, Diane, who works for a medical malpractice insurance company, and she says, "It's your gall bladder. Get it out!" She'd had her gall bladder removed several years previously for similar symptoms. I told her the doc had said they thought it might be gall bladder, but they don't see liver enzymes like this with gall bladder. So she gets on her computer and in a couple of hours I have some papers that show an association of gall bladder attacks with high liver enzymes.

So I go back in for the blood work, and they'd also scheduled an ultrasound for my liver and gall bladder. Get all that done and then wait for the results. It's Mayo, so they're pretty quick. I get a call back that day from the resident and the good news is the liver enzymes are down - a little. Liver looks good. (Yay, liver!) Gall bladder though, well that thing is full of "sludge" (that's a medical term) and stones and so forth. And they give me a surgical consult.

Meet with the surgeon, he says it should come out right away. Well, we were getting ready to go to Ireland for almost two weeks. A lot of lifting of heavy suitcases, pints of beer and so forth, probably not compatible with recovering from surgery. It is laparoscopic, but still. Meanwhile, I'd stopped the fasting and was symptom-free. My theory was that as long as I was eating daily, my clogged up gall bladder could manage to regulate itself such that it wouldn't feel like it was trying to kill me. But if I gave it a day off, it probably filled up a tiny bit more than "usual" and then when it had to suddenly do it's thing, it got all plugged up.

We had a couple of weeks before we were supposed to leave, I figured I'd watch what I was eating and see what happened. Didn't want to be in Ireland being sick either, so it was kind of touch and go. But no symptoms as long as I wasn't fasting.

So, go to Ireland, had a great time, no problems. Come home, no symptoms, kind of forget about the whole thing.

Then last summer, Diane comes to visit us in the Finger Lakes and she asks me about my gall bladder, as sisters do. I told her I still had it and she said, "I told you to get it out. You don't need it and you don't want to know all the horrible things that can go wrong!" So I promised her I'd get it out.

Well, we came back from the Finger Lakes, started to move into the new house and then Mitzi broke her wrist! So we do the Mayo thing for her wrist and one walking wounded is enough, so I put the gall bladder on pause. Fast forward to last November, and we realize that Mitzi's wrist has met our max out of pocket for Tricare, and I should probably try to get my gall bladder removed while it would be fully covered (no out of pocket).

Things don't happen that fast. Had another surgical consult and the soonest they could get me in was Valentine's Day. So that's what we did!

Outpatient surgery, but you do have general anesthesia so there's a bit more to it. Went in at 5:30 a.m., was home by about 1:00 p.m. No heavy lifting for several weeks. Didn't need any narcotics. Took some acetaminophen the first couple of days, felt like a mild stomach ache and an occasional twinge from an incision (there are four). But nothing since. Probably overdid it Saturday, ended up in bed at 4:00 p.m. and stayed there until Sunday morning, but fine since then.

Once I'm fully recovered, I'm going to give the intermittent fasting thing a try again. See what happens. I'd like to try the "fast five" thing, where you eat all your calories in a 5-hour period during the day, every day, but that doesn't align very well with the social aspects of eating, and I enjoy breakfast too much. I'd rather have five normal days and two days when I'm unavailable and slightly grumpy. But we'll see.

Anyway, I'm still here. One little bit less of me than before, but no big deal. Joni Mitchell comes to mind, "Something's lost and something's gained, in living every day." Who needs a gall bladder anyway?

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you're well. I'll be back this way again soon.