Here is a short summary of our recent Scotland adventure for anyone who may be interested in a synopsis of our trip.
We flew to Edinburgh from Charlotte via Heathrow, then spent 4 nights in Edinburgh, exploring the city and attending the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The Tattoo was the main reason we went to Scotland in the first place, and it completely lived up to our expectations. During the time we were in Edinburgh, the International Festival and the Fringe Festival were taking place, which made for a lot of crowds, but some interesting sights and sounds. We did our best to participate! Besides spending lots of time walking around, we did a bus tour of the city, toured the Royal Yacht Britannia and Edinburgh Castle, ate (and drank) in a number of pubs and restaurants, and generally absorbed the atmosphere of the place. It was quite the spectacle!
After our 4 nights in Edinburgh, we rented a car (yes, I drove!) and set off into the countryside in search of sights and experiences. We stayed at inns in Pitlochry, Inverness, Portree and Luss. We visited The Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies, toured 4 distilleries and a cooperage, drank some whisky, drank some beer, toured castles, drove some narrow single-track roads and saw some incredible scenery. A lot of the scenery was in places where it wasn’t safe to stop the car, so I had to make do with making the best photos I could where I was able to stop! We took boat cruises on Loch Ness, Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine and visited a couple of lighthouses. Once it was all done we were back in Edinburgh for one last night before returning to Charlotte via New York JFK. Flights were all on time, the trip was comfortable and the airline food was surprisingly good. I must say that 8 hours is a long time to be on an airplane!
I’ll continue to post photos and narratives to detail some of the individual highlights of our trip. Overall it was an incredible vacation, but it was also a lot of work for both of us. Our next vacation, someone else may need to do the driving and navigating!
Kathy & I recently returned from a 2-week adventure to Scotland. Wow, what an adventure it was! I have nearly 3,000 photos to go through and that’s going to take me a while. In the meantime, here are a few early winners to whet your appetite!
I haven’t been terribly motivated to process photos lately but forced myself to get a few done for this post. It’s a tough job and no one is going to do it but me! 🙂
Kathy & I spent the Memorial Day weekend at Half Moon, a resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Quiet and laid back, Half Moon was just the answer to a hectic spring and early summer. I went with only my lowly Olympus point & shoot, but still managed to come home with a few photos.
“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
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.
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! 😉
In my Computer Update post I noted that the one remaining item (and unexpected expense) from my recent computer conversion was the decision to replace my aging printer. This past weekend I received and set up my new printer – a Canon Pixma Pro 100. It has a lot going for it – most notably the price. With a $200 rebate the net cost to me was under $200, and it came with $50 worth of free paper. And I sold my old iMac to Gazelle for $150, so the out of pocket cost is practically $0! Of course I immediately reinvested some of that savings in a second set of ink, but at $125 for the new printer instead of $900 for ink for my old printer, it was an expense that is far more easily digested.
Some would say that it was foolish to get rid of a functioning printer just because I didn’t want to spend the money on consumables. In some respects those comments would be correct, and that was something I seriously considered in weighing my decision. The cost of said consumables was substantial, especially for a printer that got only occasional use. Every time I turned that thing on, it had to go through a long startup and cleaning cycle, and it felt like I was replacing an ink cartridge (at $75 each!) every time. Certainly the cost of ink is less per drop (or milliliter or however one chooses to measure ink cost) for a larger printer than a small printer. And the cost of roll paper is less than the cost of sheets. Regardless of those factors, it was hard to ignore the low initial and operating costs of the smaller printer. That, combined with a smaller footprint in my office, the promise of improved technology and a newer generation ink set made it a no-brainer.
The negatives are few, but include the fact that this printer uses die inks instead of pigment inks. Die inks are traditionally thought of as being less archival than pigment inks – they might only last 100 years…gasp! But pigment inks are generally thought of as being more prone to clogging than die inks, and for a printer that doesn’t see daily use, that was somewhat important to me. Importantly, color accuracy is similar between the two ink types as long as they are set up properly, and I think I’ve just about got that nailed.
The ability to use the Soft Proof function in Lightroom has been a welcome addition and has been leading to more accurate results without wasting a lot of paper. Since I wasn’t able to print from my computer when it was impersonating a Mac I never had a chance to use Soft Proofing. But now that I can use it from Windows, that improvement alone was worth the cost and effort of the change.
The fact of the matter is that my needs have changed since I bought the large printer. I rarely need to print anything larger than 13×19, and more often than not I would need to print larger than the old printer could print and would have to send the file to an outside print lab anyway. I have a couple of excellent choices for outside printing, so as long as I know I have an accurate file I have no problem sending the file to someone else to print. The smaller printer gives me a “good enough” proof for those purposes. For my own use, I have a lot less wall space now than I used to have, so I don’t do as much printing for my own use. Most of what I print for myself is for décor purposes, and printed on wood, canvas or metal. So I’m sending that work out anyway.
Probably the biggest challenge was figuring out how to get rid of the old printer. No one wanted it, for the same reasons I didn’t want it. I could take it to the county recycling center, but it weighed 120 pounds and wasn’t something that Kathy & I were going to move ourselves. I could have asked the kids to help me but decided against it. As it turns out I called one of the “Junk Hauling” companies, and two guys and a truck came on Saturday morning and hauled it away for under $100. It probably made our neighbors curious but was well worth the cost. Done and gone!
So there you have it. I think the transition can be called a success, and I am still way ahead of that $3,000 bill that I would have had with a new Mac. And I didn’t have to buy all those dongles!
Kathy & I had occasion to pass through Lake Lure, NC this past weekend. I was interested to see that the lake levels and the supply of resident boats have returned. Some may recall an earlier post in January where the lake levels were lower for the winter. It looks like things are ready for spring at Lake Lure!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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! 🙂
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!
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!
One of the stops on our latest cruise was Tortola, an island in the British Virgin Islands. Kathy & I had been to Tortola only once before, and had forgotten how much we loved the area, the islands, the scenery and the people. The itinerary for this cruise put us in port for only a part of the day, so our options for things to do were limited. I checked with a few private operators for a sailing cruise around the islands, but because of our limited time in port they could not offer us anything that would work. We could have done an island tour in a taxi, but spending 3 hours riding around in a van was not on our list of goals! Fortunately the cruise line offered a catamaran cruise to Jost Van Dyke, specifically to a place called the Soggy Dollar Bar.
The Soggy Dollar Bar is a famous beach bar on the island of Jost Van Dyke and is reputed to be the birthplace of the popular drink known as the Painkiller. The Soggy Dollar Bar is so-named because when it was built there was neither a road nor a dock. To reach the beach where the bar is located, it is a common practice for boaters to anchor off the beach, swim to shore, and pay for their drinks with wet money. Thus the name “Soggy Dollar.”
The only downside of this tour was that it was scheduled to meet at 7:00am! So we set the alarm for an early wake-up, caught a bit of breakfast on the ship, and headed off to meet our tour. Once we got underway it was about an hour’s sail to Jost Van Dyke, and we ended up at the Soggy Dollar about 9:00am. Usually a little early to start drinking, but in the islands…. Besides, you can’t drink all day unless you get an early start.
My dollars weren’t soggy, but they spent just fine and I managed to have a few Painkillers. The Soggy Dollar makes its own rum and Painkiller mix, and it is quite good. Unfortunately they don’t sell it, so you have to enjoy it there. And we did! I suppose how much pain they kill depends on a person’s tolerance. I have a fairly strict training regimen so I didn’t have too much difficulty with two, but there were obviously a few amateurs among the group!
It’s hard to believe, but until a few weeks ago we hadn’t been on a cruise in over 2 years. It’s especially hard to believe when we had previously averaged almost 2 per year for a number of years before that. Our son Kevin recently sailed on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship and liked it so much he did another one late last year and has several more on the calendar. On his advice we decided to give it a try and booked a week on Norwegian Epic out of Port Canaveral, with stops in St. Thomas, Tortola and Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas. This isn’t intended to be a cruise review, so I don’t plan to go into a lot of detail about the cruise other than to say that it was good to be back on a ship, the food was good and we had excellent weather.
While we have friends that live and have lived in Florida, we generally think of Florida as a place to go to get on a cruise ship. But we decided to do this vacation a little differently and check out some towns that we have heard about but hadn’t previously visited. That led us to New Smyrna Beach and to St. Augustine. I’ll have more about those places in another post, but wanted to get something written about the cruise itself and share a few photos.
A couple of our ports involved the possibility of wading in salt water, which of course is not friendly to cameras or other electronics. So I convinced myself that I needed to have a compact waterproof camera in the event we got wet, and purchased an Olympus “Tough TG-4” point & shoot. It got good reviews and had a reasonable pricetag, so I bought one. In fact, these photos are all from that camera. I also took the Fuji, and it managed to make its share of photos too.
Unfortunately, I never had a chance to test the waterproofness of the Olympus. Our catamaran sail to Jost Van Dyke took us practically onto the beach and I barely got my shorts wet getting ashore. And we ended up not going to the private island, preferring instead to enjoy the relative peace and quiet on the ship while most of the other 4,000+ passengers stood in line for drinks and a buffet lunch. It also gave me a chance to take a few photos on board the ship without having to worry about the paranoid and camera shy. I did say it wasn’t our first cruise!