Tag Archives: General Nonsense

An Attempt at Night Photography

Comet NEOWISE viewed from Neck Road near Huntersville, North Carolina

If there is something you really want to do, don’t avoid doing it just because things you can’t control make it uncomfortable.  Go! (Me)

We had been waiting for a clear evening to try and see the Comet NEOWISE and finally got it on Sunday.  Unfortunately, our neighbors are afraid of the dark and we have way too many lights around to see the sky.  We had pre-scouted a place out in the country for just such an occasion, and ventured out there after dark on Sunday.

The comet was harder to spot than I thought it would be, but we finally did locate it with binoculars.  I tried to make a decent photograph of it, but between not being able to focus and using a too-long shutter speed for the focal length of my lens, I got mostly junk.  The in-focus shots are sharp but have long star trails, and the out of focus shots have blurry lines.

Most night photography how-tos suggest using a wide-angle lens, but I was using a longer lens because I knew that with a wide-angle lens the comet would be even less visible than it was with the telephoto.

The first shot was taken at 55mm for about 10 seconds, and even it has some blur.  The second one was taken at 200mm, but I made a rookie mistake by using a 12 second exposure when it should have been about 5 seconds or less.  Oh well, it was an interesting outing with or without photos and satisfied my desire to just see the comet.  My philosophy is that there are other people taking night photos far better than mine, so I don’t need to make my own, just look at theirs instead!

One of my sharper blurry shots of Comet NEOWISE

Hangin’ In While Hangin’ Out

Cook Forest State Park in Pennsylvania

My grandfather, a wise man who taught me a lot, always said that we should never complain about birthdays or haircuts.  He didn’t have much hair, so birthdays were a big deal. 😉  My brother and I have carried on the birthday tradition, although we both have much more hair than he did. 🙂

To steal a statistic from Monte – today is my 22,647th day on this planet.

Cupola on a barn near Greenford, Ohio

Celebrating doesn’t have to be a big deal, and this year is no exception.  I’m looking forward to a quiet afternoon with family – as quiet as an afternoon with a 4 1/2 year old can be! – and a nice easy dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, takeout from our favorite Italian restaurant.  With wine!

Hops plants growing in a field near Greenford, Ohio

Kathy and I have been watching the developments in other parts of our country and can’t help but wonder what the outlook for travel will be over the next few months and longer.  We just had a nice road trip to visit a number of our closest friends and family members and are privileged to have our closest family right here in Charlotte with us.

Sunset over Lake Erie from Avon Lake, Ohio

We look forward to our next adventure, but in the meantime we are thankful to have family, friends and memories to carry us through.

Intersection on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois

Some People

Roof of the Riviera Building in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Kathy & I were sitting on a park bench this afternoon and a woman waddles up slurping an ice cream cone and sits down beside me.  Insert your best stupid person voice here: “Don’t worry, I don’t have the virus, no one in my family has the virus.”  I was speechless.  Of course you don’t think of the right comeback until hours later, but what I should have said was, “funny, but I think maybe I do.”  Instead we stood up and walked away.  There really wouldn’t have been anything I could have said.

So Now We Have Covid-19 Waivers

Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Yesterday I received an email from our neighborhood HOA which contained a waiver that anyone using the pool or the clubhouse must sign.  They are also supposedly working on some kind of disclaimer to state that the HOA bears no responsibility for anyone who gets sick.  They paid an attorney to create these documents.  Wouldn’t have been easier, less expensive and no less effective to just say, “Hey look, y’all know about this virus thing, right?  It’s up to you to not do stupid stuff and your own responsibility for anything that happens if you do.  Got it?  Good.”

I was reminded of the above photo from our visit to Nova Scotia in 2013.  A simple warning seemed sufficient for the people there.  Canadians aren’t that much smarter than we are, are they?  Maybe they are.

A New Kid On The Block

My New Fujifilm X-T4

Kathy’s birthday is coming up soon, so of course I did the sensible thing and bought her a camera.  I think she’s going to let me use it. 😉  Actually, I did buy a new camera, but it’s for me.  For her birthday I think we’ll plan to go somewhere fun for me to use it.

When I migrated from Canon cameras to Fuji cameras in 2015, I bought the X-T1, followed by a “backup” X-E2.  When it was all said and done, I had a pretty enviable collection of lenses, both zooms and primes.  The whole kit weighed a fraction of what my literal suitcase of Canon gear weighed, the Fuji cameras and lenses are excellent and I paid for most of the Fuji stuff for what I sold the Canon stuff for.  Wins all around!

Now, 5 years later the camera technology has improved, to the point where when Fuji announced the X-T4 I knew it was time for an upgrade.  The X-T1 & X-E2 are still excellent cameras.  In fact, my youngest son is going to embark on his own photography journey with the bodies and two of my lenses.  So they will go to a good home, and by keeping them “in the family” maybe I can borrow them back at some point! 😉 Not really, but I wrote that for his benefit….

I had looked seriously at the X-T3 when it came out, and it is an excellent camera.  I actually rented one to try out about a year ago.  The timing wasn’t right, I felt like I still needed a second body and it was going to require different batteries, memory cards, etc., and at the time I didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do.  But after all the travel we’ve been doing the last year or so, the more I realized that I was just carrying too much stuff.  I’ve always said – jokingly – that the more lenses I carried with me the more likely it was that I had the wrong one on the camera.  So the idea of having to choose from 2 camera bodies and 8 lenses – or heaven forbid carry all of it with me! – seemed like things were getting out of hand.

Backing up a bit – several years ago we went from a 2003 Acura to a 2016 Honda.  While we thought the Acura was a pretty sophisticated car, the 13 year difference with the Honda was astounding.  The years do (usually) mean an improvement in technology, engineering and performance.  Same thing holds true for cameras , even though in this case we’re talking about a difference of only 5 years!  At the time I am typing this I haven’t even turned the camera on, but reading through the manual (YES, I did!) I am amazed at the improvement in just the custom settings alone.  I can’t wait to see what the photos look like.

I’ll write about my initial impressions once I have had a chance to take it for a spin and see what it will do.  But for now suffice it to say that the X-T4 is a pretty fine looking piece of equipment, I like the silver look instead of the all black of my X-T1, and I can’t wait to see how it performs in real life.  Stay tuned for more thoughts and many more photos!

Minding Our Information Diets

“Trying to Escape”

“You are what you eat.”  Or if you follow nutrition writer Michael Pollan, “You are what you eat eats.”

A quote from a 2011 book titled “The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption” by Clay A. Johnson states “Our bodies are wired to love salt, fat and sugar. … Our minds are really wired to be affirmed and be told that we’re right. … Who wants to hear the truth when they can hear that they’re right? Who wants to be informed when they can be affirmed? What we do is we tell our media that that’s what we want to hear, and our media responds to that by telling us what it is that we want, and sometimes that isn’t what’s best for us.”

Farmer’s Market in downtown Roanoke, Virginia

A recent conversation got me thinking about our information diets and the many parallels there are with our food diets.  If we aren’t careful and mindful about how we eat, we will too easily be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of product choices in grocery stores and restaurants.  The choices we ultimately make are heavily influenced by a number of factors, but not insignificantly we are influenced by marketing.  The food industry is a very powerful force in our lives, whether we realize it or not.  All the advertising we see is just one of the many visible ways we are influenced.  Product placement in stores, packaging and promotion are all marketing.  It is up to each of us individually to sift through all those choices to determine what is best for us.  It takes work and it isn’t easy.  There are a lot of mixed messages out there, and they don’t necessarily point us in the right direction.

It’s no secret that the quality of our food directly influences our physical health.  People who eat a lot of processed foods, regardless of source, tend in general to be less healthy than those who eat less processed food.  Vegetarians and vegans, by some measures, appear to be more healthy than omnivores.  But being an omnivore doesn’t necessarily mean you are unhealthy.  There are nutritional needs that can be met by any kind of diet, but meeting those needs takes some figuring out.

However you care to characterize or categorize eating preferences, all of them have positives and negatives.  The key, it seems, is to do enough research and gather enough information from sources you trust, to (a) figure out what works for you, and (b) find something that is sustainable and that results in a permanent behavior change that will ultimately provide the result you desire.

Farmer’s Market in downtown Roanoke, Virginia

How is an “information diet” similar to a food diet?  Food companies don’t make money promoting spinach, broccoli and carrots.  They make money by promoting high profit items like processed foods and drinks.  And they use all kinds of methods to convince us that it’s OK to spend our money on the stuff that makes them the most money.  And they know what we want because we tell them.  They track sales by all kinds of methods, including those “Frequent Shopper” cards that give us awesome discounts on products and gasoline.  And you thought they were just being nice?

Farmer’s Market in downtown Roanoke, Virginia

Media companies make money by selling us advertising and promoting agendas, which allows them to sell more advertising and promote more agendas.  They know what we want because – knowingly or not – we tell them.  The “Recommended for You” content we see on Facebook is a result of the stuff we look at and interact with on Facebook, plus what Facebook sees us look at when they follow us around the internet (yes, they do).  Google makes their money by tracking the websites we visit, creating a profile of who they think we are and what they think we are interested in, then selling ads and promoting content that their data tells them should appeal to that profile.  Television networks get their information from other sources, but still have a very good idea of who their target audience is.  Want to know who a television show is aimed at?  Pay attention to the advertisements.

Just like large portions of salt, sugar and fat kick up the flavor of food to appeal to diners, loud and confident blowhards in the media (I use ‘media’ to include television, the press and the internet in general) are tailoring their messages to appeal to their audience.  Who is that audience?  It’s the people who their data tells them will tune in.  These media companies and individuals don’t necessarily have to provide factual information as long as they are saying what their audience tells them it wants to hear.  Similarly, restaurants don’t necessarily have to be considered “good” just because they give you a lot of food or season their dishes heavily to cover up the fact that there is otherwise no flavor.  After a while, people don’t know what real food tastes like because they haven’t tasted it.  By the same token, people lose sight of what their own opinions are because their mental taste buds have been dulled by endless loud and confident media tailored to sell them someone else’s opinion or agenda.

Farmer’s Market in downtown Roanoke, Virginia

We have a hard-enough time making informed decisions at the grocery store.  There are way more sources of information available in the media, and the companies that serve up that information have lots of ways to send us to sources they think will appeal to us, even more ways than the food companies do.  It’s up to us to determine what sources will suit our needs the best.  To figure out what goes into our information diet.  And we owe it to ourselves to do the same thing with our information intake that we do for our food intake.  As I stated earlier, we need to do enough research and gather enough information from sources we trust, to (a) figure out what works for each of us, and (b) find something that is sustainable and that results in a permanent behavior change that will ultimately provide the result we each desire.

We need to strike a balance between what appeals to us and what is good for us.  And while those are not necessarily mutually exclusive, there may sometimes be tough choices to make.  Just like our nutritional balance needs to contain the right amount of essential nutrients, I think our informational balance needs to include a healthy connection to reality.  We have to determine what balance is right for us.  Yes, I suppose it’s possible to get by on carrots and water, at least for a short term.  It’s also possible to go completely “off the grid” and eliminate all sources of information.  But I don’t think either approach is healthy long-term.  I do believe that disconnecting from a lot of media is a healthy start.  A second idea would be choosing carefully where our information comes from.  The internet and social media can be a cesspool if allowed to get out of hand.

Farmer’s Market in downtown Roanoke, Virginia

For me personally, Kathy & I haven’t owned a television for years, because at some point we realized that it was running our lives and that we were scheduling things around “our shows.”  I have accounts with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but I use them in a way that makes sense for me – primarily as a source of information that I decide I want.  I mute or unfollow people who share stuff I’m not interested in.  If I want to find out about conditions in a National Park or the status of a particular business, Twitter is often a good place for current information.  I only follow a handful of people and organizations, and add or remove them as my needs require.  My Instagram account is highly curated in terms of who I follow and who I allow to follow me.  I use a browser with appropriate safeguards to keep these people from tracking my search history and to block ads, and use an alternative search engine that doesn’t track my inquiries.  I use a VPN that hopefully keeps my internet provider and others from getting too much information about my habits.  I’m still using Google for some mail and other functions, but one of my current projects involves looking for a suitable replacement.  That is not an easy task!  My ways are not perfect, but I’m pretty comfortable with the level of information I receive and it works for me.

Charlotte Regional Farmer’s Market in Charlotte, NC

This is a long post, but it is important for us all to think about.  I’m not an expert by any means, and since this isn’t a term paper I haven’t filled it with all kinds of footnotes and references.  But I’m confident that most of what I’ve written is true and accurate, because I’ve taken a lot of time to figure it out in a way that works for me.  I look forward to any thoughts you have on the subject, either by comments on this post or an email directly to me.

Grapes growing at Shelton Vineyards, Dobson, North Carolina

Phase 1: Day 5: Out and About

Out and About: Mailboxes

One of our OHMYGAWDTHEWORLDISENDING local “news” websites just published an article with the headline: “Subtropical Storm ‘Arthur’ Could Hit Carolinas Next Week If Bermuda Triangle Disturbance Grows.”  But of course a quick look at the National Hurricane Center website indicates that “A broad area of low pressure is expected to develop late this week or early this weekend a couple of hundred miles north of the Bahamas. Environmental conditions appear conducive for gradual development of this system, and a subtropical depression or storm is likely to form this weekend while it moves northeastward over the western Atlantic.”  So in other words – unless things change dramatically it isn’t coming anywhere near “the Carolinas.”  Besides, how are we going to buy bread, milk and toilet paper when there isn’t any?  Yikes! 🙂

Anything to get our minds off that pesky virus, right? 😉

A Mother’s Day Visit

Edison at the End of the (Brio Train) Tunnel on Mother’s Day 2020

One of the highlights of Sunday was a visit by our son Scott and grandson Edison.  We have an old Brio train set that Edison likes to play with when he comes, so we spent quite a lot of time with that.  He also likes walking  outside – especially on the brick retaining walls – and and running down the sidewalks and driveways.  At 4 years old he’s a bundle of energy, and while we’re always happy to see him come we often take a nap after he leaves!

Edison on Mother’s Day 2020
Edison on Mother’s Day 2020
Edison on Mother’s Day 2020
Edison on Mother’s Day 2020