Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Snow Day

Doo, doo, doo, lookin’ out my back door….

Today we’re having a pretty rare occurrence here in NC – a snow day!  I won’t get into all the hyperbole about how we’re a bunch of weather wimps that don’t know how to drive in the snow, because everyone else has that covered.  For me, I’m just glad I have a job  that allows me to stay home and watch it out the window.  There are few things more frustrating than having to make a decision about going to work.  Although one of them would be being at work and having to make a decision about when to leave!  Fortunately, Kathy & I both have computers that allow us to work from just about anywhere, and managers that are willing to let us.  We have about 5 inches of snow on the ground here, and although the road in front of our house was plowed earlier, it’s going to be dicey going for a few days.

I seldom feel inclined to get out and take pictures in the snow, although once it is finished and the sun comes back out, I might decide to get out for a walk.  I’ll admit to being a wimp when it comes to snow…why freeze my a$$ when I don’t have to! 🙂

To Be Like a Leaf

Fall colors along a trail in the Deep Creek area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Bryson City, North Carolina

One of my favorite things is to sit by a mountain stream, especially in the fall, and watch the leaves falling from the trees overhead then being swept downstream by the current.  Some leaves travel straight down the middle of the steam, tossed gently by the movement of the water.  Many more leaves get caught up in the pools and eddies on the side of the streams, staying there until the current changes then moves them along to the next obstacle.  Occasionally the leaves are swept over rocks and sometimes even swamped by a cascade.  The courses of these leaves are a metaphor for our own lives and represent how little control we have over whether we stick to the center of the stream or get caught up along the sides.  Mostly, I think they reflect how pointless it is to stress and obsess over things that we can’t do anything about and remind us to go with the flow.  One of the many reasons I love to spend time in nature.

Fall colors along a trail in the Deep Creek area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Bryson City, North Carolina
Fall colors along a trail in the Deep Creek area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Bryson City, North Carolina
Fall colors along a trail in the Deep Creek area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Bryson City, North Carolina
Juneywhank Falls in the Deep Creek area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Bryson City, North Carolina

Discretionary Spending

Shelter Cove, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

I just read an article talking about how a well-known shoe retailer missed analysts’ earnings estimates, blamed in part on a “slowdown in processing of tax refunds.”  I’m admittedly naive about how people choose to spend their money, but it seems to me that a tax refund shouldn’t have that much of an impact on shoe sales.  And if it does, would it be possible that people are spending too much money on shoes?

Revisiting some previously unprocessed photos from a year ago, just for fun.  Enjoy, and happy Friday.  TGIF! 🙂

Shelter Cove, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Shelter Cove, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Shelter Cove, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Shelter Cove, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Quitting LinkedIn

“If a LinkedIn account gets deleted in the forest and no one is around to see it, does anyone really care?”  with apologies to George Berkeley

Shore excursion to Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

I recently decided to close out my LinkedIn account.  Like I suspect a lot of folks did, I started on LinkedIn because it was supposed to be a professional networking site.  While it certainly has its devotees and I’m certain that for many people it is a critical part of their business day, I just never found it to be all that useful.  I was getting connection requests from people I don’t know who were just trying to sell me stuff, recommendations from people for skills that I probably have but don’t really care about promoting, and even after shutting off all the notifications, it was just something else I had to do.  And now, since I tend to be trying to minimize my distractions and obligations, it just seemed to be time.  I had planned to close it before the recent change in their terms of service and had already deleted most of my connections, but that email was the catalyst I needed to shut it down.

Light fixtures aboard Norwegian Epic

So I’m still on Facebook, although I rarely look at it and don’t share anything other than my blog posts.  I’m on Instagram but don’t post much and don’t have many followers or follow many people (by design).  I have a Twitter account but have never tweeted, although I think I might have liked or shared a thing or two.  Most importantly, the people who need to reach me know how. and those who matter the most to me are probably reading this blog.  Maybe all the way to the end! 😉

Norwegian Epic in Tortola, BVI

Computer Update

Sunset at the Yacht Basin – Southport, NC

This past weekend I took the final steps on my transition from OSX to Windows that I wrote about in my last post.  I had kept my two external hard drives in OSX format until I was certain that everything was working properly in Windows.  After a couple of weeks of confirmation I made the commitment, purchased the full version of GoodSync, and copied all my files to the newly-formatted-for-Windows external hard drives.

Torrence Creek Greenway, Huntersville, NC

The computer transition came off without a hitch.  The machine is working well, actually better than it was before.  I hadn’t realized it, but my video card had not been working with Lightroom.  Now it is, and everything else seems to be happy and the machine is just plugging along.  Other than the obvious changes in menu choices and settings, it’s not been too hard of a change.

Norfolk Southern Maintenance Shop Building – New Bern, NC

The only problem I’ve had is not related to the computer.  I mentioned in my last post that my printer had not been working with my “Hackintosh” and that I was counting on the move to Windows to resolve that.  In fact, the switch did resolve the issue.  My computer loaded the drivers, found the printer and runs just fine.  My problem now is that the printer – which was already starting to run low on ink (at $900 a set!) – is now demanding a new print head, a $430 investment.  The printer has two such print heads and I replaced the other one about 2 years ago.  So I’ve decided that investing another $1,300+ in a printer that is 10+ years old and way too large for my current needs is not a wise use of funds.  I ordered a brand-new, smaller Canon printer from B&H for less than the cost of the print head  – before a $200 rebate – and will attempt to responsibly dispose of the old hulk.

Southport, NC

If anyone is interested in a “free” Canon imagePROGRAF iPF5100 let me know, but act fast, this offer ends soon! 😉

Helen, Georgia

A Return To Windows

Blackbeard’s Castle in St. Thomas USVI

Long-time readers will recall that a little over 3 years I embarked on a project to build my own computer.  With my son’s expert assistance (as in he did all the hard work) I built a PC from parts and installed Apple’s OSX on it – a “Hackintosh.”  I had been a Mac user for a long time, originally purchasing a Powerbook, then an iMac and more recently a MacBook Pro.  I needed a new computer then and liked the idea of building my own, and was intrigued by the idea of running OSX on it.

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

For those who like messing around with computers, building a computer can be a fun and interesting challenge.  For people like me who mostly just want to have a reliable and reasonably competent tool, the time and effort required to keep up with software updates and the workarounds required to run a non-native program on a computer got to be more than I was interested in doing.  More recently I started running into problems with the App Store telling me that the software was up to date, but the part that Adobe CC looks at to determine if I am able to run the latest version of their software thought it was an older version.  The steps required to fix that problem didn’t seem to work, and I finally decided to make a change.  Also, I was never able to get my Canon printer to run on the Hackintosh.

The Hotel 1829 in St Thomas, USVI

My choices essentially came down to two.  I could shell out the money for a new Mac, but new Macs are quite pricey these days, and the ones that I thought I needed to do the job are several years out of date.  Probably OK for my needs, but I was having a hard time with the idea of spending a bunch of money on a new computer, just to end up with my current box sitting idle and useless.  My second option was to install Windows on my current computer and run the software for which all the parts were intended.  It’s still a very capable computer, with a fast processor, 500GB SSD and two 2TB hard drives, lots of memory and a good video card.  So that was what I decided to do.

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

With my son’s help (gracias, Kevin!) I mapped out the steps required to replace everything I used on the Mac with its equivalent on Windows.  And it actually wasn’t much because I don’t use a lot of stuff – the two biggest challenges were (1) moving my photo files – 4 hard drives in all including backups – from Mac-formatted hard drives to Windows-formatted hard drives, and (2) finding a suitable replacement for my backup software.

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

The Mac vs. Windows arguments have been going on for years, much like the Canon-Nikon-Fuji-Olympus-Sony-Etc. arguments for cameras.  But when it comes right down to it there just isn’t a lot of difference between them these days.  I use a Windows computer at work, so other than having to remember to close or minimize from the right instead of the left, they’re essentially the same.  Lightroom and Photoshop look and act the same, Chrome looks the same, and Office for Windows is pretty much the same as Office for Mac.  A few other odds and ends and I’m pretty well covered.

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

I’m not going to go into a lot of details on how I solved the two problems because I don’t have the expertise to answer questions.  For the transfer of photos I purchased software from Paragon Software called HFS+ for Windows.  That allowed me to see the Mac-formatted (HFS+) hard drives so I could copy the data over to newly-formatted Windows (NTFS) hard drives.  I originally intended to use Paragon’s Backup & Recovery software, but just couldn’t get comfortable with how it worked.  I ended up buying GoodSync, which works more like the SuperDuper that I used on the Mac.  There is no Windows version of SuperDuper, but GoodSync comes pretty close.  I may experiment with other software, but so far it seems to do the job.

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

At this point I’m most of the way finished with the conversion.  My two external backup drives are still in Mac format, as I want to be sure that all the Windows stuff is operating correctly before I wipe out those drives and copy the backups to them.  There is probably a slight risk there, but I think it is wise to be sure before committing.  And I haven’t tried to hook up the printer yet.  Hopefully this weekend will give me time for that project.  Since it involves starting up the printer and wasting a certain amount of ink, I want to be sure I have adequate time to complete the process!

Aboard Norwegian Epic departing St Thomas

So that’s pretty much it!  Over the course of the last 18 months or so I’ve gone from a Canon user to a Fuji user, and from a Mac user to a Windows user.  But I’ll bet you won’t notice any difference in my photos from either move.  And hopefully I’ll be able to forget about the computer for a while and just go take photos!

Time Management

Blackbeard’s Castle in St. Thomas USVI

A very interesting phenomenon happens this time of year in the corporate world, as people try to use up their “carryover” vacation time – time that they weren’t able to use in the previous year when it was allocated.  Most of us get a set allotment of Paid Time Off (“PTO”) each year, and it usually must cover any reason that a person needs to take off, such as vacation, illness, parent-teacher conferences, etc.  In some cases, employers allow unused vacation time to be “carried over” into the next year, and it usually needs to be used by a certain date or it is forfeited.  In my company, that “use it or lose it” date is March 15.

Colorful building in New Smyrna Beach Florida

Kathy & I tend to think of carryover PTO in the same way we think about leftover wine or saving for our kids’ inheritance.  “Why would we do that?” 😉 We use every day our employers give us and would gladly take more if we could, whether paid or unpaid.  And we never have any trouble using it.  The trouble comes when we have to strategize over how to get our travel done in the time we’re allotted.  We’re always coming up short!

Blackbeard’s Castle in St. Thomas USVI
Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

The “phenomenon” I spoke of is that all those people who couldn’t figure out how to use their PTO time during last year are suddenly inspired to use it all up in the first few months of this year.  We’ve got people taking off Fridays and Mondays in January, February and part of March, and a few of them actually manage to take whole weeks off.  In some cases these are the same people who managed to be off for two whole weeks at the end of the year just to get their carryover “down” to the amount that they could actually carry over.  I’ve offered to help people with travel planning but for some reason no one ever takes me up on it! 🙂

Lifeguard station in New Smyrna Beach, Florida

The downside for me is that I often end up being asked to cover for the people who are off.  And since managers are generally among the people who are impacted, the usual limits on the number of people who can be off at any one time are largely waived.  And we’re generally busier this time of year than we are in other parts of the year, so there is more work to do then there is, say, over the Christmas holiday.  But for the most part I don’t mind, because I always feel like I’ve gotten the most out of my time when I’ve taken it.  And I certainly wouldn’t want to be off over the Christmas & New Year holidays – it’s a lousy time to travel, you can’t go anywhere because everyone who is off work is out shopping, and then I wouldn’t have that time to use when I want it!

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI

Now I don’t intend to make fun of or condemn people for this.  In a number of cases there are good reasons and it is completely justified, as in they have to save days for child care, their personal situations (money, health, caring for another, etc.) require that they hold back time or other reasons.  The sad thing is that a lot of people don’t actually manage to do anything with their time off.  They just do whatever it is they usually do on a weekend, they just do it longer.  Maybe I just don’t get it, but like with a lot of things I just like my way better.  And as long as other peoples’ way works for them, it’s nothing for me to get worked up over.  But I do admit to a certain amount of smug satisfaction when I sit at my desk in March and think about all the fun things I’m going to do with my own PTO.  And I have plenty of work to do so the time goes faster!

Wandering the streets of St Thomas, USVI
Blackbeard’s Castle in St. Thomas USVI

About Photos And Words

Sunset over Pantego Creek on the Belhaven North Carolina Waterfront

I’ve gotten a few questions lately asking why all of a sudden I’ve been posting a lot to my blog, and posting photos with no text. Have I been off work, am I traveling, have I suddenly gotten inspired to post more? It’s actually nothing that exciting! Except for the last one, maybe.

Sunset over Pantego Creek on the Belhaven North Carolina Waterfront

First, some background. It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been writing this blog for almost 11 years. My posts have mostly been about things that I’ve had on my mind, usually photography but on occasion I may wander off to other topics. I find that writing helps me clarify my thoughts on a given subject because it forces me to boil things down into their basic components. And once I put that much time and effort into writing something, it seemed like a shame to not share it. Not because I thought it was some extraordinary prose, but because I hoped that someone else might benefit from my efforts. And on occasion it has. And I got in the habit of accompanying my text with photos. Sometimes they illustrate my text, and sometimes they are just photos that I happened to be working on at the time.

Lately I just haven’t been thinking about photography all that much, at least not about the technical and artistic parts of photography. Now that I’ve switched camera systems and have that behind me, I’ve mostly just been having fun traveling and taking pictures. I have a few things on my mind from time to time, but nothing that is so compelling or complex that I have a need to write about it.

Sunset over Pantego Creek on the Belhaven North Carolina Waterfront

Sometimes I just don’t have anything to say! I’ve made a few thinly veiled political comments and other off-topic posts, but they are largely ignored. And that’s fine by me, by the way. I don’t really want to talk politics or anything else. But I do have lots of photos, although I had concluded that I had to write something to go with them, as though there was some rule against posting just photos. At some point it occurred to me that the only rule preventing me from posting only photos was my own, and that is a rule that I can change any time I want!

Sunset over Pantego Creek on the Belhaven North Carolina Waterfront

About the same time as I came upon that realization, I started to get frustrated with the application I was using to send my blog posts to Facebook. Like everyone these days (or so it seems) the free version of the app gave me basic functionality, and unless I was willing to spend money it delayed my posts as much as 3 days, depending on how often I posted. To heck with that I said, there has to be a better way! And thanks to WordPress plug-ins, there is. I downloaded one, figured out how to use it (the reason for all those “Testing” posts for those who use an RSS feed (sorry!) and it works. I also took the time to figure out how to schedule posts for a future date. That is super easy, but at one time the feature didn’t seem to work properly so I abandoned it. But I just tried it again and it works great. So for a few days I processed photos, posted them one at a time and schedule them to post at a future date, one per day.

So there you go. Just a little change in habit, which I think is a good thing. Now I just need to get around to updating my website. That’s a project that is way overdue. I keep waiting for a rainy weekend to get it done, but that doesn’t seem to happen very often around here. And in the meantime we’ve got places to go!

Flight of Tundra Swans over Belhaven North Carolina

Oh, and don’t  get used to this posting every day stuff.  That’s too much like work! 😉

Alien Abduction!

Late afternoon colors and reflections at the Little Glade Mill Pond Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway MP 230
Another pair of mystery shoes

My buddy Paul has been documenting a strange phenomenon regarding shoes – sometimes pairs but occasionally single shoes – left unexplainably in strange locations.  I have had my own sightings from time to time, and here is the latest.  I have no idea what has happened to the owners of these shoes, but Paul’s theory – and I’m a believer – is that these poor folks have been abducted by aliens.  No idea why the aliens don’t want the shoes – that remains a mystery!