We're All Just Passing Through
07:39 Friday, 31 December 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 70.57°F Pressure: 1013hPa Humidity: 95% Wind: 1.99mph
Tried something yesterday that I hadn't done before. I made a slide show of some ludicrous number of photographs I liked from 2021. I did it first in Photos, but I didn't care for the result. This wasn't something I would be posting publicly, it was just for family and a couple of friends.
So I did it in iMovie. A bit tedious, but I suppose I was doing something wrong. I'll spend a little time later and try and figure out how to do it more efficiently, because I liked the final product and I think I may do this again.
In any event, I ended up with a slideshow that ran about 6:40 or something in that range. With iMovie, you can add your own soundtrack from anything in your library. So I scrolled on through until I found something about 6:40 in length that might be appropriate. Spotted The Circle Game by Joni Mitchell from her Travelogue album. It's a slower, more reflective take on her original.
It was perfect.
I ended up watching the thing several times. Of course, I ended up not liking several of the image choices; but without them, it's unlikely I would have landed on the happy coincidence of 6:40-something.
Anyway, grandkids featured heavily, as one might expect. A lot of pics of Mitzi and I at various places. And a couple of the wife and daughters of a very close friend of mine who died unexpectedly this year. And a picture of my mom, celebrating her 88th birthday.
In one of those serendipitous events that make you feel like there's more here than meets the eye, right about the mid-point of the song and the slide show, Joni sings about the "painted ponies go up and down," just as a photograph of a carousel pony I took in Boston at a little get-together memorial for my friend appeared.
The youngest person in the show, Mitzi's granddaughter, was born this year, a close friend died, mom began her 89th trip around the sun, and Mitzi and I are looking our age.
Anyway, it became very clear at some point that we're all just passing through.
To all who happened this way last year, I wish you a happy 2022. Thanks for dropping by.
Movie: The Matrix Resurrections
06:52 Monday, 27 December 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 60.62°F Pressure: 1014hPa Humidity: 97% Wind: 1.01mph
I enjoyed this movie. I wasn't expecting anything profound, but I was curious. Was it just an attempt to cash in? Was there anything left to say?
In some ways, it's a movie about a movie, The Matrix, and a lot of self-aware, winking to the viewer, commentary about the entertainment business.
The Matrix was one of the movies that made up my library of cinéma therapé. Movies that spoke to me about power and choice and agency. Cast Away, Groundhog Day, Joe Versus the Volcano, The Iron Giant, all of which involve, to one degree or another, the notion of death and resurrection. All personal transformation involves loss, the metaphorical death of the old self. The five stages of grief paralleling the elements of Joseph Campell's hero's journey. I think that theme was thoroughly covered in the first movie, and the second two were just efforts to explore and round out the universe of the first. (And make a lot of money in the process.) I enjoyed them as well, but they didn't offer much in the way of new insight. There was no new, The Matrix Revelations.
I'll watch it again, because there were a lot of things said in dialog that I need to hear (or read the closed captions) again.
It wasn't an effort to build something like the MCU (Marvel cinematic universe), though perhaps that was what Warner Bros. was hoping. There's enough there that someone could, I suppose. But nothing will ever eclipse the original, and I think Lana knows that and this was her way of letting us all know too.
I did enjoy Trinity being the focus of this one; and I was happy that they got to go on and "live happily ever after."
It was a love story, after all.
Movie: Don't Look Up
06:26 Monday, 27 December 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 60.73°F Pressure: 1014hPa Humidity: 95% Wind: 0mph
I enjoyed Don't Look Up. As satire goes, it was no more "offensive" than Idiocracy, or The Age of Stupid or even Wall-E. Its portrayal of White House dysfunction no worse than the science fiction farce Iron Sky.
As allegory about climate change, I think it stumbles a bit. But I don't think it's strictly about climate change. I think the movie's really about all the ways government has become detached from serving the public, to serving itself and its corporate and billionaire masters.
We see that at every level of government, especially here in Florida, where even city government in Jacksonville is focused on burnishing (or, trying and failing to) the résumés of majority city council members and the mayor. State government has been in the hands of the Republican Party for over two decades and the public suffers the consequences today; because there are no consequences for bad government in a state gerrymandered to keep one party in power. It's a political monoculture, vulnerable to internal corruption and widely experiencing it today.
Plus climate change will likely only end civilization, not kill everyone in a brief, violent cataclysm. With climate catastrophe, billions will die over many years, and the eventual survivors will be reduced to something like a feudal, agrarian existence; but I think humanity will go on. And I'm certain there are many people who are aware of that and who kind of welcome the idea. I'm not among them. It's the prolonged period of horrific spasms of violence and deprivation that will occur in the process of collapse that should frighten, offend and repulse anyone, and in a saner world, compel action to prevent it.
I'm not confident that a movie will move anyone, least of all those in power.
But it was entertaining.
06:11 Sunday, 26 December 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 59.25°F Pressure: 1014hPa Humidity: 95% Wind: 1.01mph
From time to time, the "issue" of distraction-free writing comes up on the internet. It is nearly always almost exclusively a critique of application user interfaces, and the affordances offered by the application. Too much "chrome" or too many features are deemed "distractions" to the effort of writing.
I think this is a misunderstanding, or a lack of discipline on the part of the writer. To me, distractions are intrusions by the OS in the form of "notifications," which I have mostly silenced thanks to the "Focus" setting. Distractions also include interruptions by my wife, or the pain in my left shoulder, or the landscapers with their 2-cycle engines and leaf-blowers.
When I'm writing in Tinderbox, the UI disappears, even though it's by no means "spare," or "minimalist." The only thing I see is the flashing cursor and the words as I type them on the screen. I'm writing in rich text, which causes me no difficulty. I don't need to recall Markdown syntax to apply styling to my text. If I want to link to something, that's a separate process that involves switching between Safari and Tinderbox, but isn't especially "distracting." I can't say it's ever interrupted my "flow."
I think people looking for distraction-free writing environments need to do as Heraclitus advised seekers of wisdom: Inquire within.
Somehow, some part of their attention is directed toward the possibility that their application environment isn't "ideal." They have this notion there's some perfect writing environment that will make them more productive or better writers by eliminating this thing called "distraction." There's some anxiety about the tool they're using.
You see this a lot in photography, particularly by "gear-heads." They're constantly finding fault with their cameras, as if their equipment is what's holding them back from achieving their artistic vision, or technical perfection. Their focus isn't on "photography," it's on themselves, and their insecurity about their art.
To paraphrase the Bard, "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our software applications (or cameras), but in ourselves."
I can write in pretty much any environment that has a keyboard. Handwriting is possible, but because I'm so out of practice it would be physically painful at some point, and seeing my own atrocious penmanship would be a distraction! I suppose if I did it long enough, my penmanship would improve, or I'd get used to how bad it was and just focus on the writing.
Stop worrying about the software and just focus on the writing. The software will disappear. Well, until you try to print. But that's not writing.
Anyway, one minor redeeming virtue of getting old is that, like Farmers Insurance, you know a thing or two because you've seen a thing or two.
Just write. Just take pictures. Use what you have and do your best with it. It's okay to try new things, but they're not what's holding you back.
Naughty or Nice
06:32 Saturday, 25 December 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 51.94°F Pressure: 1011hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 0mph
It's Christmas, so what should the Marmot offer on this freighted day? Sentiment or cynicism?
Which form of abuse do I inflict on my guests?
Perhaps it's best to offer sentiment, a moment of respite from a reality that is far removed from "the reason for the season." A year from now we may be looking at an incoming Congress that is openly hostile to democracy, the truth and the very idea of "liberty and justice for all."
I've started reading The German War A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945 Citizens and Soldiers by Nicholas Stargardt. I'm only just halfway through the Introduction and it's already depressing. The book examines how German society viewed the war, and why it fought to the bitter end. In some measure, it seems, it internalized all of the "big lies" and Nazi propaganda. Allied bombing campaigns against civilian populations were part of a Jewish effort to punish the German people for their treatment of the Jews. They were more frightened of the Russians.
But the introduction also deals with how National Socialism thoroughly remade the social order in Germany, and how institutions like the Protestant and Catholic churches accommodated themselves to it. It reminded me of something I've often heard in recent years, "I can't stand the guy, but I like a lot of his policies." An over-simplification perhaps, but not unfairly so.
Anyway, this may very well be the last Christmas that isn't abjectly horrifying, so enjoy that eggnog.
To the extent that our nation's military parallels society in general, I'm surprised that this op-ed doesn't seem to be getting more attention than it has. And I'm not sure an all-volunteer force necessarily parallels society, but if thirty percent of Republicans believe violence may be necessary to "save" the U.S., you can apply whatever measure you wish to the active duty military population, reserves and National Guard and gauge for yourself the degree of risk it represents.
One thing about the rise of National Socialism and the feckless response of the liberal democracies makes clear, is that a small group of determined people, unconstrained by respect for the rule of law or the truth, can achieve their aims against a much larger opposition that is constrained by law, ethics and custom, and divided by a lack of trust and disparate, often conflicting interests.
So, I hope Santa left you something nice under the tree.
All is calm, all is bright.
07:11 Friday, 24 December 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 49.41°F Pressure: 1024hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 0mph
I'm not a very good astrophotographer, but there's a comet in the sky so I figured I should try to see it and photograph it, if I could.
It turns out that the camera was able to see it, I'm not sure I ever saw it with my binoculars. It shows up much "better" in the photos.
This is just after sunset, so there's a certain amount of skyglow in the background. I was using the Olympus E-M1 Mk3 and its "Starry Sky" auto-focus setting. I tried manual focus, but I couldn't make out a star against the sky. I think the results might have been better if it had been a bit darker. Anyway, enough with the excuses, the pics suck but I can say I did manage to get it. I may try again in the pre-dawn hours if I can make it to the beach tomorrow. We'll see. Anyway, here's one straight from the camera, and one where I tried to increase the contrast to make the tail more visible. (I also suck at astro-photography post-processing.)
Here's an effort to make it more visible:
Eve of Christmas
06:29 Friday, 24 December 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 49.59°F Pressure: 1023hPa Humidity: 96% Wind: 0mph
My enjoyment or appreciation of the "holiday season" has diminished markedly in the last several years. I suppose part of that is not having kids around, since it seems mostly oriented toward children. The religious aspect hasn't been a factor for decades. I think Catholics and Christians in general should teach their children that December 25th has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus, it was just a way for the church to appropriate a pagan holiday in order to recruit more pagans; and that "peace on earth, good will to men" is just a marketing slogan, nobody really believes in it.
I think it would be a lot more enjoyable for everyone if it was just a pagan holiday again, like Groundhog Day, and we could still do the Santa Claus thing and presents and egg nog and what not. Clearly, nobody is interested in "peace on earth, good will to men," so we could just leave that part out entirely and avoid a certain amount of cognitive dissonance for a couple weeks out of the year.
Moving right along...
Took the E-500 out on a couple of walks when the weather cleared and the sun returned. The Zuiko Digital 14-42mm/f3.5-5.6 arrived. Excellent shape, and a bargain for $34. Haven't posted a pic here in a while, but I've been putting some of them up on my Flickr account. Let's see if I remember how to do this...
04:20 Tuesday, 21 December 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 58.64°F Pressure: 1010hPa Humidity: 96% Wind: 10mph
Since I can't sleep, and it's another wet, gray day I figured I might as well just get up and spend a little time here.
A couple of other E-500 notes I didn't think of yesterday. I was certain I had a compact flash card reader around here somewhere. I couldn't find it, but I did find two more batteries that'll work in the E-500. As if I'll ever need them! But when or if I ever get rid of the camera, I'll have to remember to pass them along.
I wasn't particularly worried about the card reader, since I could just plug the camera into a USB port in the iMac.
Well, that was a disappointment. The E-500 runs on the old USB spec. I think it's notionally USB 2.0, but it doesn't use the 400mb/s high speed protocol. Downloading JPEG+RAW images took a very long time. Like, "Go find something else to do for a while," long. Not a big deal, I just bought another card reader. As these things go, I'm sure I'll stumble on the old one somewhere eventually.
Earlier this year I bought a used E-P3 on ebay. While I'm not a "completist," I do have a lot of Olympus PEN cameras. The E-P3 intrigued me as it was the last PEN with the Panasonic 12MP LiveMOS sensor. The one I bought on ebay came with the Lumix 12-32mm zoom, a kit lens with a good reputation for image quality. I already had two, now I have three. Yeesh! Bought the first one by itself. The second came with a Panasonic GF-1 I bought some time after.
Got the E-P3 and 12-32mm for $180, which is a pretty good deal. Camera looked brand new and only had about 700 shutter activations. Checked it out when it arrived and verified the shutter count and checked for dead pixels. Body was in excellent condition, no blemishes, everything worked. Put it on the shelf and kind of forgot about it.
The E-500 made me think of the E-P3, so I took it out the other day on one of my walks. It was a flagship body when it was released ten years ago, so it's very well made and feels good in the hand. It's also the last model to include a dial on the back of the camera that's like a knurled vertical cylinder, which first appeared on the E-P1. It has two dials, the other being a flat disk that makes up the four-way controller also on the back of the camera. Subsequent PEN flagships have the conventional two dials on the top plate.
I was looking at the images last night on the TV from the Photos app on Apple TV and noticed something I hadn't noticed on the computer. There were two spots, which were only visible when there was little else going on in the frame, like sky. Uh-oh.
So I grabbed the camera, dialed in f16 and shot the wall. Yep, three(!) spots. That's something on the sensor. (Why not the lens? Why f16? Well, I changed lenses to rule the lens out. Same spots. Here's why they show up better at small apertures.) Olympus pioneered the ultrasonic dust filter, so I'm seldom troubled by these things. The only time I had an issue like this before was with an E-PM1, and I tried cleaning that sensor and never got the smudge out. I have a sensor brush from back then, but I need to find my Rocket Blower which is around here someplace. (Probably where the old card reader is.) The idea is to blow air on the brush and impart a bit of a static charge to the bristles so that they collect whatever may be on the sensor. Failing that, I'll have to think about buying a sensor cleaning kit.
It's little work to clean up these spots in an editor, now that I know where they are; but, you know, it bugs me. We'll see. In the grand scheme of things, it's no big deal. If I can't brush them off, maybe I'll just live with them and deal with them if they show up in an image. It surprised me that the leapt right out at me on the TV, but I didn't notice them on the 27" iMac.
Well, that's about it for this insomnia update. Thanks for dropping by.
A Winter's Day
08:27 Monday, 20 December 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 57.72°F Pressure: 1016hPa Humidity: 89% Wind: 11.01mph
"In a deep and dark December."
It's Florida, how dark can it get?
Pretty dark, actually. In ways both meteorological and metaphorical.
So a good time to drop by the burrow and unburden myself upon my long suffering readers, whoever you may be.
The E-500 arrived. It was nicer than I expected. KEH.COM's condition ratings are fairly conservative, this was rated as "Excellent," and I'd say it's better than that. Unblemished entirely, doors and hinges all work, buttons and switches feel good, battery came charged, worked right out of the box. Checked the maintenance menu, there were only about 6200 shutter activations, so it's still in its relative youth if we credit a shutter lifetime with roughly 50,000 activations on a consumer DSLR.
It had been a sunny day right up until the Fedex truck pulled up, but I've had some opportunities to play with it since. It's been quite a few years since I've peered through an optical viewfinder, and though many people sing their praises I definitely prefer the electronic version. I do enjoy the sound of the shutter and the mirror slap, and the servo motor focusing mechanism of the Zuiko 25mm/f2.8 pancake makes up in retro vibe what it lacks in speed.
This camera lacks any sort of "live view," so all composition is made in the EVF not the LCD. It does have a generous LCD (for the time), which displays all the most commonly used settings and affords easy access to them without menu-diving. The size and resolution do allow you to get a look at the image if you care to do any "chimping."
As I intimated, I did buy the Zuiko Digital 40-150mm/f3.5-4.5 zoom. Initial impression is that it's unremarkable. It doesn't have any close-focusing ability, so no butterfly or bee closeups. I was surprised to discover how dependent I've become on in-body images stabilization (IBIS). I need to pay close attention to shutter speed and hand-holding technique to get sharp (relatively speaking) images. It wasn't a significant expenditure, so I'm not disappointed. I'll play with it some more and try to discover how to get the best from it.
I've got a 14-42mm/f3.5-5.6 zoom coming in. This was the replacement kit lens Olympus introduced with the E-520 as I recall. It's a decent lens, although it has a plastic mount. It was cheap, $35 shipped I think. If I wanted to get fancy, I'd buy the Panasonic Lumix 14-50mm/f2.8-3.5 with image stabilization. It's available at KEH.COM for $255, which is more than I'll have spent on the E-500, 14-42 and 40-150 put together. By all accounts, it's an excellent lens; but I don't think there's any chance of going much deeper into investing in this camera.
So, is the Kodak 8MP CCD "magic"? Maybe? Probably not? I need to shoot some more with it in various light conditions. I recall the E-1 seemed to impress me from time to time. But I'd have to say right now that if it is, it's not something that jumps right out at me. But for the time being, it's an entertaining distraction for not much cost.
In other news, I finished reading Appeasement, Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill and the Road to War, by Tim Bouverie. Fascinating book, well worth reading if you're interested in that period of history. I may do a longer review later, but I'll offer some brief thoughts now.
First, assuming civilization survives, what are historians going to do about the "digital age?" So much of Chamberlain's and the other players' thoughts were documented in diaries and letters that were preserved, that today we have some remarkable insights into their private views as they contrasted with their public ones. I think that sort of resource has vanished as far as contemporary events go.
Churchill doesn't figure much in the book, certainly not enough to merit mention in the title. Chamberlain, Hitler and Halifax dominate, with Chamberlain getting the lion's share of even those three. Halifax and Anthony Eden were more interesting figures. If all you saw was the recent movie, Darkest Hour, you would come away with an inaccurate view of Halifax. While Halifax did advocate seeking terms as France fell, he had previously parted ways with Chamberlain on the utility of appeasement, much to Chamberlain's disappointment.
Chamberlain does not fare well in the book. Although I think the portrait presented is fair to him, the ultimate judgment is harsh and deservedly so.
The single clearest lesson I took away I would characterize as a "blinding glimpse of the obvious," which is that it is foolish and futile to bargain with faithless actors. When someone shows bad faith even once, they've destroyed their utility as a partner in negotiations. The applicability today is plain to see, I hope. I suspect that students of game theory may have a more nuanced view of how to deal with faithless actors, but that's not something I've studied.
The final impression I wish to mention is the speed with which this crisis unfolded. It's only been in the latter portion of my life that my perception of the Second World War in terms of its chronological length has changed. I suppose that's partly because I'm so much older now that five years seems like a much "shorter" length of time. It was such an enormous event in the lives of my father and the country that its relative brevity is obscured. The Cold War, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, the "war against terror," have all been much longer episodes.
The speed with which events can spiral into cataclysm is frightening; and is profoundly unsettling given the current state of affairs in America and around the world.
Dark thoughts on a appropriately dark morning in December.
It's All Just Numbers
10:20 Wednesday, 15 December 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 71.8°F Pressure: 1024hPa Humidity: 76% Wind: 8.01mph
Fedex should be here today with a box of illusions for me to play with, because I am a dumbass sometimes. The good thing about "community" in any area of interest is that you can enjoy shared experiences. It's not the only thing, but it's one of the best things. Sometimes it's only about validating your choices and feelings, and that's okay. Who can get through the day feeling invalid all the time?
But community is also a source of inspiration, or influence. Sometimes that can be a negative, especially in areas of consumer technology where the tech is changing rapidly and today's new hotness is tomorrow's old and busted. I lived through that in computing, audio, mobile phones and photography. I'm less enamored with the "new hotness," these days, though the M1 MacBook Pros have diminished my esteem for my 2019 iMac with its 3.6GHz 8-core i9 processor, 8GB Radeon Pro Vega GPU and 64GB of RAM. Sigh. It's not quite "old and busted," but it's definitely in its twilight of technological relevance. Its predecessor, my 2012 13" MacBook Pro Retina, together with the 27" Thunderbolt display, lasted me 7 years. I'm not sure this iMac will last half of that before I succumb to the foolish pangs of desire.
The impetus for today's meditation isn't new hotness, it's emphatically the reverse. While all the cool kids are returning to vinyl and film, I'm too lazy for either of those. But I do enjoy looking back sometimes, at the devices and technologies we've abandoned in our race to whatever nirvana receded from us even as we raced ever harder to pursue it.
So it wasn't particularly surprising that I found myself watching this video the other day. The presenter is pleasant and charming and I enjoyed how she seemed to dismiss the debate I'm about to mention and which I ultimately yielded to. The video, if you don't care to click through, is about the Olympus Evolt E-300 DSLR.
I'm familiar with the Oly DSLRs, the E-520 being my first interchangeable lens digital camera. And I recall seeing the E-300 and the E-330 in the Navy Exchanges and marveling at their very "advanced" design. But I wasn't ready to make the leap into DSLRs back then, though it was only a few years later that I did, with the aforementioned E-520.
So what makes this particular camera the source of my most recent foolishness? It's the sensor. The E-300 has a Kodak 8MP CCD sensor, which was the last Kodak sensor, to my knowledge, to appear in a consumer DSLR. And, shooting Olympus and being a member of that community for thirteen years now, I'm quite familiar with the regard that's held for that sensor. In fact, I once owned a used E-1, Olympus's first DSLR, which had a 5MP Kodak sensor, which established the reputation for Kodak's CCD sensors and, in particular, its color rendering. If you click on the link, jump to the 10 minute mark to hear her describe the appeal of the sensor.
So, is Fedex bringing me an E-300? No! It's bringing me the Olympus Evolt E-500! Same sensor, newer body, more modern image processor.
I happened to be browsing KEH.COM the other day. They had a 10% off holiday promo running, I checked for any micro four thirds deals and looked for a couple of compact digitals I've thinking of acquiring. Nothing there. On a whim, I searched on four-thirds gear and there was an "excellent" condition (KEH condition ratings are reliable) E-500 with battery and charger. (This year I got rid of all my old Oly "prosumer" compacts that used the same battery as the E-500. Great images, but quite tedious to shoot.) So, for less than $70, I figured, why not? Of course, I forgot I also got rid of all my compact flash cards. Should be getting one of those too.
What about lenses, you ask? Well, that's the funny thing.
I have a Zuiko four thirds 25mm/f2.8 pancake. I had one with my E-410, which had been my smallest ILC until I went to m43. Loved taking that little camera with me everywhere with that pancake lens. I also just loved how that lens rendered images. At some point, I read another online debate about how some lenses render images with a greater sense or appearance of depth or dimensionality. The argument was that fewer lens elements offered better dimensionality, that more elements tended to "flatten" images. I don't know if that's true, I suspect it's not. But it's like a lot of things, it gets in your head and takes up residence there.
So, even though I sold my first 25mm/f2.8 to KEH.COM, I bought another one back from them a couple years later, along with a third-party 43-m43 adapter, so I could shoot with it on my E-M1. So, I have a lens, and one I really like.
Really, this is just kind of a diversion, something fun to add to my enjoyment of "taking pictures." My daughter is doing some very nice work with old film cameras my ex-wife and I gave her. She's young and in LA and so that sort of thing is appealing and relatively easy for her. The E-500 will be my "retro" experience, and I shall wax rhapsodic singing the praises of the 8MP Kodak CCD, coupled with the very dimensional rendering of the 25mm/f2.8 pancake. It will likely be all in my head, but I don't expect that'll diminish the experience since that's all in my head anyway.
The key thing will be to withstand the impulse to buy the 40-150mm zoom. Pretty sure I don't need a wide angle on this guy, I can live with the normal field of view. But having some reach to do some interesting things with flowers might be nice. Of course, dear reader, you know I'm kidding myself. I'll probably have that 40-150 before the new year. Sigh.
Anyway, it's all just numbers. A smart person could feed a large sample of Olympus Kodak CCD images into a machine learning algorithm, figure out the "secret sauce," and churn out a lookup table (LUT) that anyone can apply in an app and, voila! The Kodak CCD "look."
But I'll still enjoy holding a piece of technology from Rochester, NY, doing the things with it that it was intended to do and deriving some pleasure in the process. The image, in the final analysis, is all just numbers. But, as in so many things, the journey is the reward.
(If you care to learn anything about the E-500, here's a very thorough technical review.)
Dept of Pointless Gestures
13:37 Saturday, 11 December 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 81.73°F Pressure: 1017hPa Humidity: 61% Wind: 3mph
This morning, Mitzi and I went to T-Mobile to add my phone to her account. She's wanted me to join her on T-Mobile for cost savings for a couple of years now. I declined because I thought it was more advantageous for us to have two carriers when we traveled to improve the likelihood of having good coverage. Then we learned about OANN and AT&T, and I didn't feel as though I wanted to be an AT&T customer anymore.
So now I'm on T-Mobile, and I'm saving about $24 a month on my wireless bill.
That said, the whole process was something of an ordeal, and it felt a lot like the unpleasant experience one has buying a new car at a dealership. A lot of double-talk and no way to get a straightforward answer to any question. Mitzi's been on the phone since we returned from the T-Mobile store, talking to T-Mobile customer service, trying to understand exactly what she's being charged and why, and it's quite confusing. I expect at the end of all this, things will mostly work out. She'll save some money on her bill, less than I will because she bought a new iPhone 13 mini at the same time, but she will have a new phone.
And AT&T will have one less customer. I've been with AT&T since 2008, when I bought the iPhone 3G and, coincidentally, I switched from T-Mobile because AT&T was the only carrier with the iPhone at that time. Were it not for the revelation about OANN, I probably wouldn't have made the switch.
In other news, I watched the season finale of Invasion last night. Meh. Such a disappointment. If there's a second season, I won't watch it. Characters I didn't care about. Lethargic pacing. Not mysterious enough to make it interesting. Frankly, I'm disappointed in myself for continuing to watch it after the first episode. It seems like they were going for some kind of high-concept, but it failed to connect in any meaningful way.
On a more positive note, the final season of The Expanse started Thursday night, and I did enjoy that.
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. I don't know if you noticed the temperature above, but it's over 80 degrees here. Not unheard of, but rather infrequent.
07:16 Friday, 10 December 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 56.32°F Pressure: 1020hPa Humidity: 97% Wind: 0mph
Meant to post something several times this week, but never progressed beyond an intention. Had several ideas but nothing really compelled me to play with them. So, here's kind of a data-dump of unexplored notions that passed before my flickering consciousness.
I'm reading Appeasement, Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill and the Road to War by Tim Bouverie, and it has prompted several thoughts.
First, I need to find a better way to read books. I think all books, especially digital ones, should come with a timeline view of all the major events and figures. Lacking that, I need a way to make a note for each significant individual, and each event. Right now, that sounds terribly labor-intensive. But authors have a tendency to be a bit fluid, shall we say, in how they relate the story. That's fine, I understand why it's done, it can just be somewhat confusing to me when there are so many individuals interacting over a somewhat compressed timeline.
So this is a project to add to all the other projects that likely won't be realized.
Second, it's a good book. I've been reading a lot of history, trying to understand how Germany embraced Hitler because, well, it's happening here. (Spare me the Godwin, please.) This is the first book I've read that looks at the failed international response to Hitler and it's illuminating. Suffice to say that a determined bad actor with significant resources has an advantage over a loose coalition of actors that are less determined. Hello, Putin, Xi, Trump and DeSantis.
It's not that people don't recognize the danger, it's just that they have other, competing, priorities, different constraints and greater uncertainty.
A positive take-away: Public sentiment is volatile. The bad guys will go too far and the public mood will swing violently against them. Japan, meet Pearl Harbor. South Carolina, say hello to Fort Sumter.
Then, violent conflict occurs and the outcome is uncertain. So far, the "good guys" have carried the day.
As suggested in the Fort Sumter reference, it's also a take-away from watching The Abolitionists on American Experience. It was remarkable how impotent moral persuasion was in trying to end slavery in the south, because economics and identity trump morality (pun not intended). After some of their greatest successes, the Dred Scott decision seemed to be a fatal blow to the movement. John Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry may have been the event that crystalized public sentiment for secession in the south; but it was the attack on Fort Sumter that did it for the north.
In any event, it seems to me that more violence is in our future, both at home and abroad. This gets worse before it gets better.
Turning to more mundane, less depressing matters, I've been thinking about photography, at least, the thing that I do that seems to resemble the somewhat precious idea of "photography." (I used to disclaim that I wasn't a photographer, "I'm just a guy who takes pictures.") I enjoy taking pictures. I'm not sure I enjoy "photography." Certainly, I find it tedious to read about photography sometimes. In any event, I have a lot of pictures. I think I need to go through the collection and pick some out and make books about people and events that I can share with people in my family. All this digital "legacy" stuff seems like a recipe for disaster.
Mitzi and I have been going through boxes of our parents' photos and trying to figure out what to do with them. I gathered all the pictures of my kids and divided them up by which kid was in the picture and gave them all to the kids so they have some pictures of themselves as children with their grandparents.
I think I need to do the same thing with all my pictures, and turn them into something physical that they can put on a shelf and never look at until their kids get old enough to ask questions or be interested.
Anyway, another project.
There was some more stuff, but this seems to have scratched this particular itch and the day is underway and I have stuff to do. I promise to be back soon.
Thanks for dropping by.
08:04 Sunday, 5 December 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 54.66°F Pressure: 1016hPa Humidity: 97% Wind: 0mph
My interest in history has grown significantly in recent years. As a kid in school, it never appealed to me very much. I was interested in certain topics like WW II, but even then, mostly in things like the air war or submarine warfare. It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I appreciated how much history had to say about the present. That came about because of the non-resident program offered by the Naval War College. We had to read Thucydides (nothing has changed in thousands of years), Clausewitz, histories of WW I, WW II and the Cold War.
It was when we studied WW I that I first learned that nearly all of the geopolitical challenges we were facing in the Balkans and the Middle East were the result of the how the winning imperial powers divided up the empires of the losers, and the subsequent collapse of the colonial empires of Britain and France. I had never had any prior appreciation for that reality. We were still dealing with the consequences of WW I and the age of European imperialism (to include the Ottoman Empire) that preceded it.
But still, I didn't go much out of my way to read history. Again, certain topics appealed to me, especially the history of technology. The only paper I remember from the non-resident program was something to do with the rise of air power. That was my first introduction to the seductive power of technology to make people think, "This changes everything!" I've since come to believe that it changes far less than people think; that technology mostly just expands what we do in space, and compresses it in time. We do all the same things we always did, we just do it faster, to greater numbers of people over a wider area.
So my exposure to history as a subject for study was almost exclusively geo-political or technological, never social. I suppose as a career naval officer, that may have made sense; but as a supposedly "educated" person, it left me with a profound degree of ignorance. It's only been in recent years, since perhaps the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, that I've been looking more closely at the history of social movements and the politics they shaped. And it truly has been an "awakening."
This could be a much longer post, but I'll spare you. The point of this post is to commend the PBS program American Experience. If there ever really was a "History Channel," American Experience is it, at least for American history. While I enjoy reading history, I'm a very "visual" person, so watching a good documentary is an enjoyable experience and I think I retain as much or more than I do when reading text.
Some of their library is available for streaming, and some is available for purchase as a digital download. The online interface leaves a great deal to be desired, but with careful study I think you can figure it out. It's a mess, but here are a few strong recommendations.
Last week we watched two stories dealing with America and Germany before WW II, and I think it's worthwhile to watch them back-to-back. The first is the biography of Jesse Owens (Season 24, Episode 9). All I knew about Owens was that he won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics. It's an important story that's still relevant today with regard to race and to the way America treats athletes.
The second one is America and the Holocaust (Season 6, Episode 7). It's a troubling history, and one that isn't well known. Together, I think they give a revealing look at how America confronted Nazi Germany in the years before it entered the war, and it isn't especially flattering.
Next we watched The Abolitionists (Season 25, Episodes 1-3). You'll want to purchase the "season," which is only episodes 1-3 and is a savings over buying the three episodes individually. This documentary includes a lot of dramatic reenactment, and the first episode opens with a fair amount of it. It put me off at the beginning, but they dial it back as the episodes progress and what is there is well done and I think it works. Once again, it seems remarkable to me how resonant those events are with today's.
Right now we're enjoying The Great War (Season 29, Episodes 8-10). Again, you'll want to buy the "season." We've just watched parts 1 and 2, but it's very well done. Like other recent documentaries of WW I, the producers have taken the motion picture footage from the period and digitally smoothed the "old-timey," hand-cranked frame rate, which gives it a much more contemporary feel, making it seem more immediate and relatable. Race and women's rights factor heavily into the account, as well as some things that surprised me regarding Americans' willingness to inform on their neighbors. I knew about Creely and the invention of propaganda, and Wilson essentially re-instituting Jim Crow in the federal government, but some of the other aspects of Americans' conduct were genuinely revelations to me.
I think if I were to do it over again, I'd start with The Abolitionists, then watch The Great War and follow that with Jesse Owens and finally, America and the Holocaust.
There are a number of other series dealing with indigenous people, FDR and more that I'll likely enjoy as well.
I guess my point is that with things like Critical Race Theory and Confederate Monuments and rising anti-semitism being so much in the news today, it's worthwhile to explore these resources and become better informed about the issues and the history behind them that we all seem so passionate about. So much of the criticism of liberals and progressives seems to be about hurting white people's feelings. I think if people feel hurt, it's because they haven't learned their own history. That's not necessarily their fault, it was very much the intention of our educational system to hide our faults and failings, but they were never hidden from the people they hurt and we need to understand their experience of our shared history.
Time Once Again
08:44 Friday, 3 December 2021
Current Wx: Temp: 56.52°F Pressure: 1017hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 1.01mph
It's the time of the year when many people, bloggers especially, kind of look back and reflect on the year that was, and resolve to do different things in the next trip around the sun.
It's said that making a practice of expressing gratitude is good for one's mental health, and I think all of us could use all the help we can get with our state of mind. So perhaps I'll open with some expressions of gratitude, because there was much in this year for which I'm really grateful. (Is "never end a sentence with a preposition" still a thing? Because it's a pain in the ass.)
I'm grateful that I didn't get COVID, and I did get vaccinated, and boosted. While that's probably not the most important thing about 2021, it's definitely among the top five. Likewise, I feel the same about my wife, Mitzi and all my children and grandchildren. For the most part, we've enjoyed pretty good health all year. My son-in-law and one of my granddaughters had COVID, but don't seem to have any long-term effects plaguing them.
There are things we take for granted every day, like public sanitation, clean drinking water, indoor plumbing, reliable communications and other accoutrements of an advanced civilization that I appreciate now in a way I never have before. Including, for now, the rule of law, which appears to be teetering on a knife's edge. One or more of them comes to mind every day, when I'm flushing the toilet or taking out the trash (Who am I kidding? Mitzi will tell you I never take out the trash. So, okay, when I'm bringing the trash can back into the garage.) or even going grocery shopping. All of those things are at risk, and grow more so every day. For now, I'm grateful we all can take advantage of them.
Mitzi has a new granddaughter this year, and we're very thankful for that, even if she is all the way on the other side of the country. We're also cautiously grateful for what may be more good news on that score on this side of the country. Turns out that having babies is probably another thing one shouldn't take for granted.
I'm thankful that things reached a point where we can begin to take manageable, informed risks for things like travel. We made a trip to the west coast, Mitzi made two, and I flew to New York to visit family and friends.
We should all be grateful that the January 6th insurrection failed and democracy prevailed, at least this time. We all should be grateful, it must be noted that there is a sizable number of people are emphatically not happy that the coup failed, and we can be certain that they will try again.
There's certainly more I could mention, but that'll do for now. I hope you all have something to look back on and experience gratitude in the process.
The normal bitching and moaning will resume tomorrow, perhaps to be interrupted by periodic expressions of gratitude in the days and weeks to come.