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

Picture This

05:19 Thursday, 12 May 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 62.51°F Pressure: 1011hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 6.91mph

Doc Searls posted a question about cameras today, I replied briefly in a comment; but I thought I'd expand a bit on it here.

I mentioned last time that technology changes how we do things, it expands them in space, and compresses them in time. (It defies space and time! Woo-hoo!) Never more true than in the case of photography.

Of course, nothing is ever simple, and most of the underlying complexity is located in our emotional relationships to our artifacts. We shape our tools and our tools shape us, often in ways that may be unconscious to us.

Doc often used the example of someone extolling the virtues of a fine knife in explaining his view that "markets are conversations." Someone else, also a marketer, went on to describe products as "social objects." Things that will attract a community around them, which can then be marketed to, leveraged and manipulated to sell more things.

You can see all that in photography, specifically in cameras and lenses; to a lesser extent in accessories, software post-processing applications and social media platforms (IG, Flickr, SmugMug, Glass, Twitter, etc.)

In the complex ecology of cameras and photography, you have photographers (people who make a living taking "professional" photographs), artists, hobbyists, "social influencers" (people who make a living attracting attention, using photography), gear-heads (people who buy and sell equipment endlessly and know every last technical detail of every piece of equipment on the market and who are willing to fight to the death to prove their superior knowledge and insight), and the ubiquitous "fan-boys," people who embrace brands to attach their affections to, often also gear-heads.

I'm probably mostly a hobbyist, a gear-head (minus the online ceaseless online conflict) and somewhat a fanboy. What can I say? It's the water I swim in. At least I'm aware of it.

So, you strip away all that, and come back to the issue Doc was kind of struggling with, what should you use to, you know, take pictures?

Mostly, these days, your phone. Really. But Doc needs more reach ("expands them in space"), which is the one area where phones haven't been able to computationally defy physics. Yet.

So, should he buy the $3K telephoto zoom? Or the $1500 24mm-600mm zoom "bridge" camera. (A bridge camera is more capable than a "compact" superzoom, which often uses a sensor the size of a smart phone.)

Weary, scarred veterans of the online camera wars will state, "Horses for courses."

Doc's not a pro, he doesn't need a pro lens.

He likes the pro lens, it tickles all his tactile/perceptual endorphin receptors. So, naturally, he wants it. Went so far as to order it. But, now he has second thoughts.

Because pro gear carries an opportunity cost. Not just in the money you pay, but also in the amount of effort and pain involved in lugging pro gear around, and at our age, "pain" is the correct word. Otherwise you wouldn't leave the lens in the room, unwilling to lug it around and endure the aches and pains attendant to doing so. So you never get the shot with the camera or lens you didn't carry because it was too heavy.

Doc likes the Sony bridge camera, but it has a 1" sensor, which he doesn't like; and the gear-heads and fan-boys have all convinced us that "size matters" (It's gotta be a guy thing.)

But if you look around any photography site, anywhere, it's quickly apparent that it ain't the size of the sensor that counts, it's the skill of the photographer holding the camera.

Full disclosure: I'm a four-thirds sensor shooter, which is only modestly larger than the 1" sensor in the Sony. The virtue of small sensors is that they require a small image circle, so you can build fantastic lenses with remarkable range with much less glass and consequent weight. So you can (usually) carry them with you anywhere, anytime.

Also consider that much of the new hotness in photography is making images with old gear. Film, fer chrissakes! CCDs are hot now. Digital photography has gotten so capable that it's the limitations of the past that are more interesting creatively than the new technology that makes the impossible easy!

Anyway, as a guy with more cameras than he can possibly use, including the three latest top-tier flagship models from what once was Olympus, I should talk.

Finally, Doc, if you're reading this and you do decide to go with the 70-200 zoom, let me recommend this to you. For those who don't care to click through to Amazon (I'm not an affililate.) it's the Cotton Carrier G3. Yeah, you get some funny looks, but it really makes carrying a big camera/lens combination much easier. I love mine.

Reading

05:48 Monday, 9 May 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 66.25°F Pressure: 1011hPa Humidity: 74% Wind: 14.97mph

I've pretty much completely switched to reading ebooks, though I still have an enormous pile of paper ones I intend to read someday. Mostly history.

I'm currently in the three-volume set, FDR at War, by Nigel Hamilton. I've finished The Mantle of Command (2014) and I'm currently reading Commander in Chief (2016), the last volume being War and Peace (2019). It's fairly revelatory, given how much we think we already know about WW II. Even so, one of the strongest impressions I get is how much else there must be to know to understand what really happened.

I'm older now than Roosevelt was at his death, and I'm just kind of in awe of what he was able to achieve in his lifetime. I expect I'll be reading a great deal more about Roosevelt.

In the queue is another history book, High Tension, FDR's Battle to Power America, by John A. Riggs (2020). I'm looking forward to it, because it scratches several itches, FDR's presidency, the history of technology and how my family's life was changed by rural electrification.

Since I'm a bit scattershot in my attention, I'm also reading Spark, The Life of Electricity and the Electricity of Life, by Timothy J. Jorgensen (2021). It's kind of a history of our understanding of electricity. It's written in a very popular style, so it's an easy read, not academic at all. Lots of little anecdotes, which are interesting and add a lot of color to what might otherwise be a bit dry.

There are a bunch more in the queue, including Richard Rhodes' Energy, A Human History, which doesn't seem to have a copyright page, or a date on the title page in my Kindle edition. Pretty recent though, I'm sure.

A paperback I'm reading before bed is Wireless, From Marconi's Black-Box to the Audion, by Sungook Hong (2010), currently out of print from MIT Press. It's kind of a different take on the history of radio from what I thought was the definitive history, Syntony and Spark, The Origins of Radio (1976), by Hugh G. J. Aitken and his companion volume, The Continuous Wave, Technology and American Radio 1900-1932 (1985). It seems that Hong may have felt that Marconi didn't get all the credit he deserved in Aitken's books. It's interesting. There's a lot of the same Jobs/Gates, Edison/Tesla, dynamic about who gets the "credit" for a significant technological advancement like radio. And there are more than a few in radio alone. Why we seem to care so much is probably an interesting topic for someone to study, and I'm sure someone has. Certainly adds "drama."

I guess the common thread I'm following here is trying to get a better understanding of how we got to now. I've recently read a number of books about Hitler and Nazi Germany, and there are many more in the queue about that subject as well. We're living through the rise of fascism in the United States right now, and it's more than a little frightening. I'm also interested in how technology has played a role in politics and social dynamics. I've got Voices of Protest, Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression (1982) by Alan Brinkley in the queue as well. They were popular demagogues who relied on radio. FDR and his "fireside chats" exploited radio, as did Goebbels in Germany.

We seem to be enamored of technology in our society, given the wonders it has afforded us, a supercomputer in every pocket to share cat pictures and misinformation instantly. The chief effect of most technologies being to expand what we do in space, and compress it in time. I suppose I have to add that it expands memory as well. I'm not certain how that relates to time, except insofar as the past is never really gone, with the caveat that what we think of as history, or the past, is really a flawed and limited reproduction, and what we choose to remember isn't necessarily what we ought to remember.

I'm not sure that having any better insight into how we got ourselves into this mess is helpful in any way. But, I'm curious and I seem to have some time on my hands, so...

Probably better than hanging around on Twitter.

Anyway, have a great Monday, thanks for dropping by!

RSS Spam

08:28 Sunday, 8 May 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 67.32°F Pressure: 1006hPa Humidity: 70% Wind: 6.91mph

Just a comment about "for subscribers only" posts in RSS feeds.

May I suggest that bloggers, or "influencers," or whatever the folks who are monetizing their web presence call themselves, create a separate RSS feed for paid subscription content?

Otherwise, it just feels like you're spamming my feed reader. If I'd wanted to pay for your content, I'd have already done so. Reading the first few paragraphs of a post only to discover that you have to pay to read the rest is a waste of my time.

I'll be deleting those feeds from my reader.

Moving Mom

06:05 Tuesday, 3 May 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 70.03°F Pressure: 1012hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 8.57mph

Got back from New York yesterday. I'd spent the weekend moving my mom into a new apartment. She'll be 89 in September, has Parkinson's, and the COVID regime had left her more deconditioned and isolated than she had been before. She wasn't depressed or anything, she's a very stoic woman, a trait I did not inherit. My brother who lives five minutes away visits twice a week for dinner, and spends those evenings with her. Two of my sisters visit often, and my brother Eric and I FaceTime with her regularly.

But she was on the second floor, and her mobility is impaired to a degree now where she was likely going to be unable to evacuate the building if there was a fire. We learned that first-hand last July when I was staying with her for several days and the fire alarm went off unexpectedly in the building. Not knowing what was going on, I called my brother and he came over and helped me get Mom, and her walker, down two flights of stairs.

She's in a much more suitable place now. It's far more expensive, and there's some question whether her savings will last long enough. But we're fortunate that we can help supplement that now and make it last long enough. She's in a much smaller apartment on the first floor, less than 100 feet from the exit, and the construction of the building is much more robust. It's also a senior living community, and they take their business seriously. They have a buddy system, and the woman across the hall, Harriet, is Mom's buddy.

I think she's going to be much happier there.

But getting her out of the old place and settled into the new one was a challenge. It took five of us, out of seven siblings, and a crew of movers, to get her out of the old place and cleaned up in time for the turnover. Mark let us know yesterday that the management was pleased with the condition of the old apartment and she'd be getting her damage deposit in a couple of weeks.

But, so much stuff! Mom has a sewing machine. She hasn't sewed in years because of Parkinson's. I asked her if we could give it away?

"No."

We were able to dispose of a number of things, and getting her unpacked and settled in the new place gave us an opportunity to go through a lot of things that could be more easily parted with, like her iron, which she hadn't used in seven years. But there were other things too. Like the contents of a lock box.

I've become something of the family historian. I'm not a very good one, hardly worthy of the title, but I'm trying. I maintain an Ancestry.com family tree, and scan a lot of old documents to try to preserve them. Even that can be a little daunting. Well, there was a trove of things I'd never seen or even heard of before. Like, Dad had written to his mom during his WW II enlistment. She kept all of his letters and later he got them. I'd never known this, had never seen them before. I have them now. They're very fragile, being nearly 80 years old, written on flimsies that were intended for service members to use to be flown back to the states Air Mail, and so the paper was very light. I'm going to have to set up my flatbed scanner on the dining room table with the MacBook Pro and create some sort of workflow to archive them all. Some of the text has faded for one reason or another, and is hard to read. But I think it'll be easy to recover with some image adjustments.

And there was more. Documents from my mom's side of the family. My grandfather, Henry, served in WW I in France. There were papers from his service, including documentation of a supplemental payment he received in the '30s. I was aware of some issue with WW I vets protesting not receiving some benefits they were promised. That was the encampment in DC that was shamefully and violently broken up by MacArthur and Patton. So now I have a little more impetus to become more familiar with that episode in history.

Anyway, there's a lot of stuff I want to go through and get scanned and placed in the cloud somewhere for other family members to access.

There were a lot of physical artifacts too. There was a tooth, an adult molar, in the lock box. I asked Mom, "What the hell is this?!"

"It's the only tooth your grandfather ever lost. He saved it."

I threw it a way. Big cavity, for the record. I also didn't inherit his dental resilience, most of my mouth inhabited by crowns.

There were coins, a pair of cuff links, and seemingly every dog license tag they ever had, from like 1931 to 1955. The tags are gone now. Fascinating in a way, but I couldn't see the value in keeping them.

I did pocket a 1918 French franc.

I talked about this with Mitzi when she drove me back from the airport yesterday. She questions the value or utility of having some kind of family history. I wasn't able to make a compelling case to her. For me, it's only been in recent years that I've really become interested. I did do kind of an oral interview with my Uncle Bud in the 90s when he was visiting us in Florida. He was around 80 then, and I wanted to know what life was like for Dad's family in Detroit, where their people came from. I was familiar with Mom's to some extent. We'd spend a couple of weeks each summer on the farm, so I thought I had some idea of what life was like.

I taped that interview, but the tape lost in the chaos of separation and divorce. I recall some of it, the main thing being my father's father was an itinerant saw mill blade sharpener. And in the winter, when the mills were closed, he'd work odd jobs in Detroit. He died when Dad was 10, and Dad always said his father was "a jack of all trades, master of none." He also said he played guitar and sang in bars, which I thought was cool. Dad didn't play guitar, he took lessons when we were kids, but no. He didn't play guitar. I took lessons too. I did inherit his musical talent.

He did like to sing though.

But since I retired in 2013, and Dad's death in 2014, I've been more interested in my family history, and history as a whole, given the seemingly relentless march to catastrophe we're undertaking today.

I've been studying the history of electricity, and asking Mom what it was like before they got power to the farm in 1944, when she was 11. It may be the case that my grandchildren will be living some part of their lives without the benefit of electricity one day.

Anyway, one thing I do know is that we come from humble origins. Farmers and tradespeople, laborers and office workers. No professionals. No politicians. No career military of high rank. I guess we've moved up a bit now. Not a lot, but some. My kids' mom is a lawyer. I was a career naval officer. My kids are tradespeople, office workers, managers. My daughter-in-law is a an APRN with a PhD, working in the intensive care unit at Mayo Clinic. That's quite an achievement, and she's a remarkable young woman. We're all very proud of her.

I don't know that it's important to know where you come from. Certainly it wasn't an aching question demanding an answer during the rush of career and family in the early and middle part of my adulthood. But now, as the hour grows late and I have both more time and less time, it's a question that seems to want an answer.