Tuesday, November 29, 2011

At Work with Linux: OpenSUSE 12.1 and VMware Player 4.0.1

After the surprising installation failure with Linux Mint 12, I moved on to OpenSUSE 12.1, 64-bit. It turned out to be a straight-forward installation, reminiscent of all the other OpenSUSE installations I've conducted in the past. Whereas Linux Mint (and Ubuntu) now hew to a very simplistic installation experience, OpenSUSE stays with their unique highly detailed and highly refined installation system. Normally I try to stay away from bunches of intermediate screen shots, but I've included these few for those who might be interested.


OpenSUSE has always been professionally oriented, going back to when it was just plain old SuSE. To the novice it may appear to contain a lot of overwhelming information, but it's the kind of information you actually need, and quite frankly should read at least once.


I chose KDE because of it's continuing evolution and because OpenSUSE is primarily a KDE distribution, in spite of Novell's attempts when it first purchased SuSE to convert it to a Gnome-based distribution.


The automatic installation step actually came after I was able to tune the installation parameters, especially what was installed. When I install a distribution I make sure to not install games, LibreOffice/OpenOffice and the distribution's version of Java. Everything else is basically standard.


This is the graphical boot screen after installing the distribution. I found it interesting that the VMware Player nag banner at the bottom disappeared after boot. I'm assuming that this version of OpenSUSE comes stock with the necessary VMware bits, just like it appeared to for VirtualBox.


I left the wallpaper and theme as stock, and will probably not change anything. While I'm not particularly partial to the overall effect, it's not so bad that I feel driven to make immediate changes like I felt after installing Ubuntu. The "My Computer" information give a pretty good idea of the resources provisioned for the virtual machine. You can even see that the binary ISO file is still mounted.



I'm a shell kind of guy. If I can't easily find a shell ("terminal") to work in then I consider that a pretty big mark against the distribution. For whatever reason Gnome has been making the shell harder and harder to get to. For a long time you could right-click on the Gnome desktop and get a menu that included the shell, but that entry eventually disappeared. It would up buried in the accessories part of the main menu. KDE 4 has kept it on the main menu tab for as far back as I can remember. And for that I'm appreciative.

Another minor but important feature to me is that the KDE terminal remembers its window size and position when it exits. I've often wished the Gnome terminal could do this, but it can't. The best I can do is define the geometry command-line variable in the launcher, and then move the terminal when it comes up.

I like the shading and shadow effects of this version of KDE. The KDE 4 desktop environment has now reached a level of polish and capability where any desires of going back to the KDE 3 desktop environment have been pretty much dispelled.

My only problem is with the Firefox browser. It can't reach the outside world because it can't reach the proxy server. Maybe I'm having a senior moment, but I configured Firefox just like I've done so many times before, and every other proxy configuration works. Maybe tomorrow I'll look at it again. Maybe I did misspell the proxy. Right now I'm not too concerned.

Personally speaking I miss not running OpenSUSE, and this version makes me wish I had it on my other notebook instead of Fedora 14 (Fedora 14, to be fair, has done nearly flawless yeoman duty over the past year). It's corporate policy that mandates Fedora. It's just my personal preference and past history that makes me long a bit for OpenSUSE.

OpenSUSE has evolved into a highly polished and well balanced distribution that bridges both the past and the future. It has come a long, long way since 2007 when I felt many of the major distributions had hit a low point quality wise. It is now one of the three I turn to when I need a Linux distribution at home or at work, the other two being Red Hat (RHEL/Fedora) and Ubuntu. It's high quality gives lie to the many Linux detractors and critics who spend their spare cycles critiquing rather than enjoying life.

Update 7 December

Bad case of the stupids. I forgot to define the default gateway (or if I did I forgot to save it). Once defined the network works fine, and I have full connectivity.

At Work with Linux: Linux Mint 12 Installation Failure


This post will be short and sweet. I attempted to install Linux Mint 12, 64-bit, as a virtual machine using VMware's Player, version 4.0.1, on one of the workstations in the lab. The workstation was running Windows 2K8R2 as the host OS.

A very nice feature of Player is the ability to boot directly from the ISO rather than burning the ISO to physical media and then booting the virtual machine from that. I hate having physical media littering the lab, and the ISOs can all be stored on the SAN and accessed if needed at any time without having to hunt down a physical disc.

I had no problems booting Linux Mint 12 in this fashion. It booted and allowed me to begin the installation of Linux Mint on a VM. The problem is that about a third of the way through the installation problem the installer hung. Not once, but twice. Both times I started with a freshly created VM. After the second hang I basically gave up and moved on.

I suspect that the hang was due to a network access problem. I know the network was reachable, as I was able to configure the virtual ethernet controller with a manual IP address and the DNS server addresses. I could basically ping any address in the lab. The problem was trying to figure out how to configure the proxy server we use. Normally I don't worry so much about this as I can add those bits after the initial installation, and they pick up the updates that might be sitting out there. If it wasn't a proxy issue, then I don't know what the problem might have been. In any event I've moved on (see the next posting).

Too bad. I was really looking forward to giving this release a whirl.

Update 2 December

It's been fixed. Read http://blogbeebe.blogspot.com/2011/12/at-work-with-linux-third-times-charm.html

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Back to St. Marks NWR

St. Mark's NWR Lighthouse
It's become something of a tradition with Megs and I. At least one day of a trip is devoted to a photo safari. So we put mom in the car with all our camera gear, then go somewhere Megs and I can photograph together while mom, the non-photographer, can sightsee. Everybody's happy.

Today we went back out to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), which is south of Tallahassee on Apalachee Bay and the Gulf. We'd been there once before in May, and we decided to go again because... because we liked it. That, and the fact it was the off season, and I wanted to see what it looked like in the off season.

And it looked very different for two reasons. The first is this is late fall in Florida.

Yes, we do have seasons, even in Florida. It does get cold, but not as cold as say Detroit. But it gets cold enough, and the life goes through changes that pretty much parallel life changes up north. And so, down here in Florida in late fall, the foliage has turned from vibrant greens (mostly) to browns, tans, and light greens. There's lot's of colorful and falling leaves. There's plenty of plants going to seed. Even the wildlife is changing, with many birds coming through here in flocks on to destinations further south.

The second reason was the weather itself. The day started foggy, then turned cloudy, then as the afternoon turned to evening the fog rolled back in again. As a consequence the light was muted instead of hard, and varied in strength of illumination. With the clouds on the horizon and with the light breaking through the clouds it reminded me of the dramatic lighting I experienced on my last trip to Detroit.

I took all four bodies with me this week; the E-3, E-P2, and both E-1s. And I used all of them in one way or another. I'm not trying to look cool. But if I've got that much hardware, and I've got my car and can lock up it and keep it out of sight until I can use it, then I will. The only time it comes out is out in the tourist areas, one or two bodies at a time, and I fit right in with all other other guys (mostly) carrying much supposedly better hardware (5Dmk2's with white 'L' glass, D-700's with equivalents, you get the picture). I don't have a day job as a photographer, so I take advantage of every opportunity to take it with me and use it where I go. Nothing sits in a bag for very long unless it's being transported from points 'A' to 'B'.

Moving On

At the first stop on the road that winds through St. Marks I got out with an E-1 with the 12-60 and the E-3 with the EC-14 and 50-200mm. While the photo above wasn't the first one I took, it turned out to be one of those moments that mean more to me than just my daughter walking down a sandy path. It summed up all my feelings about watching both girls heading on out into life. I remember when both started toddling to walking and then running, and this one moment seems to telescope all those moments into this particular one. Call me sentimental, but it was a powerful realization that this photo does poor justice in capturing.

Marshes

As I was walking around the filtered sunlight and slight haze muted the fall colors even further. I found St. Marks as beautiful today as I did six months earlier right before the high days of summer.

Hunting in the Reeds

The Gator

This particular bad boy had been lying there for at least three hours. The story on him is he caught a feral pig and enjoyed a gator equivalent of carnitas, but without all the fancy fixings. The E-3 with the EC-14 + 50-200mm gave me plenty of distance between me and him. Not that I thought he was going to get up and come running after me, but I am a cautious kind of guy, especially when dealing with a gator a good deal longer than I am tall.

The Pelicans

Once we got to the lighthouse, the sunlight actually brightened up a bit more, giving a bit more modeling to the landscape and the wildlife. I do like symmetry in nature, and when I saw this group of pelicans on the remains of this peer I couldn't resist.

Low Tide

Horizon Study Black and White

As the afternoon wore on the light began to change again. Fog started rolling in off Apalachee Bay, and a chill began to hang in the air along with the fog. At basically the same spot I fired off a few more photos, one with the E-1 above and the other with the E-3 below, then packed everything back in the car.

Texture and Light Study

On the way back to the motel room we stopped off at La Fiesta for a pretty good Mexican meal. Then back to the hotel room to spend the rest of the evening together before Megs headed back to her place.

Tomorrow we pack up, have an early breakfast at Savannah's, and head back to Orlando.

Technical

I was all over the map with the photos both location wise as well as hardware wise. This is literally the first time I've used all four bodies, and had a chance to really compare how they operate. As much as I love the E-1, there is a noticeable difference between all of them, especially with regards to ergonomics. For shot-to-shot speed nothing matches the E-3, neither the E-1 or the E-P2. The E-3 is a true workhorse. And yes, there is a definite resolution improvement moving from E-1 to E-3 to E-P2. But beyond those two key points, the cameras are different enough depending on what it is you're trying to accomplish you can use any of the three and get excellent results, it just depends on the use case you want to use the camera in.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Quick Tour of Master Craftsman Studio

Plans

Megs has been working a part-time unpaid internship at the Florida State University Master Craftsman Studio on West Gaines Street. The Master Craftsman Studio is an in-house studio to the university. Master Craftsman works with many university departments for the production and installation of art. Master Craftsman has been setup to be a self-subsidizing auxiliary of the university which means they need to generate their own funding through projects they do for the university. As is unfortunately typical for self-funding organizations such as this, the funding is slim, especially in tough economic times as these. And they have to be careful not to charge "too much", which means they're probably not charging as much as they should.

Megan had already established a good reputation with the Master Craftsman staff while an undergraduate, which allowed her to apply for the unpaid internship after she graduated and to be accepted. In return she's allowed to share a corner of the studio with access to studio tools and supplies and the ability to practice and strengthen her natural abilities. It is, in part, a continuation of her undergraduate studies in a more practical environment.

Today she showed one of her projects, glass frames using a firing technique that fuses multiple glass pieces together into a beautiful whole. The designs she's produced lately integrate the university's colors and some of its design motifs. Some of the issues she faces while creating these frames is in carefully measuring and cutting the glass, the cleaning of the cut edges, and making sure that the glass is completely clean of any fingerprints before the firing. Some flaws and mistakes aren't evident until the piece is created, and by then it's too late.

Design

The frames aren't the first project she's worked on. She's been helping the full-time staff since June with a number of different and interesting projects within the studio.

C-clamps

Studio Interior

Winged Victory

I know this is "dad" speak, but I'm very proud of what she's accomplished and continues to accomplish.

Big Red Ugly Truck in Tallahassee

Big Red Ugly TruckI don't normally write something this quickly, but in this case I'm making an exception.

We all met at the Cracker Barrel on Monroe and I-10 for a late breakfast. As I drove into the parking lot I noticed all the handicapped parking spots were taken.

Normally if the lot is full and spilling out into the side parking lot of the close hotel I don't give it much mind. But this morning the lot was lightly filled and there was a big red ugly truck sitting in one of the slots.
License TagWe did find a spot out in the regular lot, and my knee wasn't bothering me too much, so it wasn't much a deal walking in. Fortunately my wife was in pretty good shape this morning as well, so she didn't mind walking either.

As I passed the big red ugly truck I automatically checked the cab to see if it had a handicap hanger.

It didn't.

So I limped around to the back of the big red ugly truck to see if it had a regular handicap license.

It didn't.

So I fired up the Olympus E-P2 (which I always carry with me) and took the two shots you see. While I was taking the back shot of the tag the driver asked if I had "any interest" in the truck. I said yes, it was a big red ugly truck in a handicap spot with no permit. To which he curtly replied he had a "badge" in the cab.

I can only assume he meant he had it sitting on the dash, because it wasn't hanging from the center mirror like it's supposed to. After going into the Cracker Barrel I watched the driver standing and talking with one of his friends, then move with remarkable ease and climb up into the cab of his truck before driving off.

Up until this point I'd never heard of All In 1 Homes. After this, now that I have, I'll make sure to avoid them like the plague. And I intend to pass the same word of avoidance to everyone I know up here as well.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Travel

Labrador Pillow
Max over Ruby (Max/Ruby)
Traveling up to Tallahassee for the next few days to visit daughter #2. She's been out of school since she graduated in late May, working at both the Brogan as well as a free internship at FSU's Master Craftsman studio. It's what she wants to do as an artist.

We're going up to visit her at Thanksgiving, as this will be the first (probably of many) Thanksgivings she won't be coming down to stay with us. I've taken the week and split off the first few days to travel and visit since she'll be busy working.

The Labs are coming along as usual. Max is all of eleven now, and Ruby is a big three-year-old. Still, Max is the alpha male and does as he wills with sweet young Ruby, even using her rump as his pillow on the way up. It looks a little sexist until you realize that Ruby will often sleep next to Max, resting her head on his back. In some ways they both still behave like litter-mates, even though their births are years apart.

I'm still nursing the left knee. The pain has died down and I can get a fair amount of work done even though the overall medical problem hasn't been addressed and won't be until Tuesday of next week. As a consequence it feels good in the morning when, then gets progressively stiffer and sorer as the day progresses. My wife drove part of the way up I-75 to allow me to stretch out my left leg. I drove all the other stretches. I can drive a fair amount since it's my right foot that needs to manage the brake and accelerator pedals, and so far nothing's gone wrong with it.

Supper Time
Late supper in Tallahassee
When we got to Tallahassee it was late and dark. We checked into the motel, dropped off the baggage and the Labs in the room, then headed out to meet our daughter and her current boyfriend for supper.

We met them both at El Tapatío, a small and inexpensive Mexican restaurant on Monroe, right before 319 splits off towards Thomasville. I'd never been there before, but both daughter and boyfriend have been there a number of times. It's one of those affordable places you remember romantically in your later years through rose colored glasses.

Being late at night, tired, and with my knee in a nice throbbing condition, I sat at the table with everyone like a silent bump on a log. Everybody talked animatedly except me. I paid for everyone's meal, and both daughter and friend thanked me for paying for their supper. At least I wasn't a complete jerk.

The next two days are going to be a whirlwind of helping our daughter get some chores done around her place. I'm going to get her two new cheap tires for her Volvo, and I'm also going to get her an electric weed whacker and work a bit on clearing some brush around the back of her rental. And take her out for a few family meals. Then head back down to Orlando on Wednesday. Daughter #1 is house sitting while we're away.

Technical

Once again playing with the KT E-1 with the Sigma 30mm. Same post-processing MO. I don't know why Iv'e fallen so for the E-1. It is the most irrational thing I've ever done with regards to photography equipment.

Friday, November 18, 2011

E-1 Experiment #8

Waiting for Supper

At Night in the Parking Lot

While the left knee is showing signs of progress, it's still no where near normal. And so my wife suggested we go out and get something to eat and take back home rather than have me out cooking over the grill. I love to cook, especially over the grill, but I didn't look forward to standing next to it on crutches. So we drove down to one of our favorites, Chipotle, and ordered our regular burrito bowls to go.

Even though it's still fairly early in the evening the local Chipotle's shares the store frontage and the parking lot with a fairly large World of Beer. I'm not too crazy about that place due to its traffic and patrons swarming over the place once WoB opens. Tonight it was oddly low key with a light crowd and there were multiple empty parking slots open right at the door, and both handicapped parking spots were empty. More often than not I'll drive past them and they'll have drinking patrons parked in both without any handicap tag or hanger showing. It's an accident that both handicap parking slots wound up in front of WoB. When that storefront was first completed it stayed empty for a long time before WoB moved in.

Technical

Out and about with the KT E-1 and the Sigma 30mm. I'd adjusted the saturation level to CS0 (Lo) when I read it was the setting for 'normal' color. I'll run with that a while. I also ran the ISO up to 200 just to see how it behaved in low light. I ran the camera again in full manual, at f/1.8 and 1/30s. Post processing was in Lightroom 3.5 and Silver Efex Pro 2.0.1.

Milestone

This marks my 365th entry for 2011. It's also my 1,059 overall post; I passed 1,000 a while back and didn't slow down. I had started posting this year with the idea of doing a post a day along with shooting a photo a day. The photo-a-day has gone to shooting when I feel like it, which is mostly every day but may have gaps of several days in between photographs.

The post-a-day has been a lot stranger. If I were actually posting just once/day my posts would like up nicely with the days/month, but they don't. Some days I would post twice or three times, depending on what was on my mind. Other times I would go for several days without posting anything. But the extra posts/day overwhelmed the gaps so that on this date I've posted a years worth of posts. Even if I were to just post once/day from here on out, there's still enough days left in 2011 that I would post at least 400 for a year.

I have discovered I like to write. Sometimes it's tough, and I'm sure there's a lot I've written this year that's sub-par. There's no improvement without practice. And I need to do something creative. I refuse to sit around just watching TV or surfing the web. I do a bit of that to be sure, but I need to be doing something active and creative, not just being a passive consumer. Unless something drastic happens I intend to keep this pace up through 2012.

2012 is a presidential election year. For 2012 I want to do more journalism, work at adding more polish to my writing, and do more traveling away from the house around central Florida and beyond. I want do more experimentation with the cameras. Yes, more photo experimenting. For inspiration I'm looking to photographs like these over on The Online Photographer as well as the list of photography blogs on the right. There is such a constant tidal wave of creativity ongoing out there.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

E-1 Experiment #7

Evening Traffic I-4

Power

My wife drove me up to see a hand specialist this afternoon. I've got something else on my body that's failing, and this appointment was set up long before my left knee went all to hell. On the way back I was playing with the E-1 at the shotgun position the way a five-year-old plays with a favorite toy so he'll keep quiet while the grownups drive. Taken through a very dirty front windshield.

The bottom one was taken from the passenger side earlier in the day. I just like the little bit of chrome and white lettering against the broad grays and blacks.

Nothing fancy. Just black and white with with the KT E-1 and the Sigma 30mm. Post processed in Lighroom 3.6 and Special Efex Pro 2.0.1.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Still Gimpy

Good Lunch

Adjusted Crutches

So here it is mid-week and I'm still nursing this wonky left knee. I was having a bit of cabin fever today so I drove out to Lime Fresh Mexican Grill for lunch with my wife. I ate one of their queso burritos and my wife had their fish tacos. I've come to prefer Lime Fresh over Tijuana Flats. It was great to get outside into the really nice weather.

When last we looked, I'd spent an eight-hour stint in the emergency room Sunday at Florida Hospital South near Winter Park. I managed (via my wife's persistence on the phone) to get into an MRI facility late Monday evening (8:30pm) so they could scan my left knee. I managed to get in after my wife went to a physician's office in the area that knew her, and the nurses at that office called back to the charge nurse at the ER I'd been in on Sunday. So for an hour and a half, 45 minutes of which was spent clamped down and stuck in the noisy-as-hell MRI machine (I was wearing ear plugs), I had my old and busted left knee relentlessly scanned for yet another set of images.

Remember that while at Florida Hospital South I was X-rayed, sonogrammed, and CT scanned. Unbeknownst to either my wife or I, Florida Hospital South had an MRI machine on the premises, but due to a recent policy change they would not conduct an MRI out of the emergency room. So I was sent out of the ER without a complete understanding of what was wrong with my knee. I did get a script for a pain killer and an anti-inflammatory, as well as a script to go somewhere else for the MRI. As well as a pair of crutches that weren't adjusted quite right (they were too low).

The MRI has been read and interpreted and I've got an appointment for November the 29th for an orthopedic surgeon to tell me what's definitively wrong, hopefully in words small enough for me to understand. In the mean time I get to gimp and clomp around town on crutches, living on meds, until I can see this guy.

What is sad about this is the process. The current process reminds me of what I went through in 1972 when I broke my right knee in a gymnastics class while attending Ga. Tech. I broke it on a Friday, was taken to the infirmary where I was told my knee was merely sprained, lived through hell until the following Wednesday when I saw an orthopedic specialist, who put me immediately in a hospital and operated on me the next day. When he was finished I had two pins in my femur and a loop of wire around the kneecap, which had also been fractured. Before that my knee had swollen to the size of a grapefruit and nothing outside of morphine could dampen the pain. I wore a plaster cast from crotch to toes for seven weeks. This problem with my left knee isn't nearly as bad, but the process of trying to find relief is just as Kafkaesque today as it was nearly 40 years ago.

Unofficially it looks like a lot of osteoarthritis in the joint and a couple of tears in the meniscus tendons (i.e. torn cartilage). If that's true it means at a minimum more meds and physical therapy.

Ah. My beloved wife just returned with a copy of the MRI report. Here's what the MRI report has to say:
Technique:
An ultra-high resolution MRI scan of the left knee was performed on the new GE short bore whole body 3-Tesla Excite MRI system with coronal fast spin echo T1, coronal, sagittal, and axial fast spin echo T2 with fat saturation, and sagittal fast spin echo proton density sequences.

Findings:
There is degenerative tearing of virtually the entire body and posterior horn of the medial meniscus touching the superior and inferior articular surfaces as well as a small displaced flap tear from the body of the medial meniscus extending towards the intercondylar notch... There is marked degenerative arthrosis of the medial tibiofemoral joint space.
Lovely. Just lovely. Sounds damned impressive though, doesn't it? Especially the technique part. I just wish I knew how I did that much damage. Now I get to wait for two weeks for an Official Opinion and Recommended Course of Action. Stay tuned!

Technical

Photos taken with the KT Olympus E-1 with the Sigma 30mm 1:1.4 lens. I would have walked in with my camera, but my wife insisted on me using the crutches. She does get that way sometimes. She carried the camera in for me. I took the photos.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Wonders of the Internets

A Series of Tubes
A Series of Tubes
After writing about my Twitter encounter earlier in the day with Wil Wheaton I sat back and waited with morbid interest to see if web traffic would increase. Sure enough it did, but in a way that's baffling and a little bit concerning.

I use Google statistics to track site hits. Most of the time the statistics make sense. For example, several of my posts about the Olympus E-P2 and E-P3 generated quite a few hits. But there are times when I look at the statistics Google is generating and they make absolutely no sense at all. Today was one of those head-scratching events.

I've been writing in this blog since May 2005, and at this point it has over 1,000 posts (1,056 including this posting). The subjects range all over the place. And its popularity has varied widely over time. I know, for example, that during 2007 and 2008, when I was writing pretty extensively about Linux, my site was in the hundred thousands as far as popularity was concerned. It's since dropped down to the low millions, which is where it sits today. My site isn't one of those that will make any kind of money based on page views. Consider Kirk Tuck's Visual Science Lab. Kirk's site easily gets more hits in one week than I'll see all year, sometimes more hits in one day than I'll see all year. Kirk deserves that kind of traffic because he's that good of a writer. My little blog isn't an internet powerhouse by any stretch, and I can live with that.

But today was one of those days when the traffic count spiked after publishing said article and the traffic was coming from sites and domains I'd never heard of. What's more, the counts weren't going to any particular post. From what I could tell they weren't going to any post at all, just to the site address itself.

The top-level domains (TLDs) where these hits were coming from were interesting. All of the top ranking sites were coming from .tv (Tuvalu, an island somewhere in the western Pacific due east of Indonesia and Australia) and .tk (Tokelau, another tiny island in the south Pacific that is part of the territory of New Zealand). And they had such interesting site names, such as 777seo (search engine optimization), profitsites, and lethal-commissions. Just out of curiosity I clicked on some of the links in an isolated VM sandbox, and sure enough all those links pointed to a bunch of come-ons for software and services designed to drive traffic to my site and Make Me Rich. It's a funny way to advertise that kind of crap, but it must work enough that it's being used, such as against my site.

What makes this annoying is these kinds of shenanigans, where these sites want to place high enough in my site statistics to get my attention, inflate and distort the traffic numbers. If I had the tools I'd block any site from either of those domains, but Blogger's capabilities are simplistic at best. All I can do right now is ignore it. More's the pity, because I really would like to honestly create the kind of quality content people are genuinely interested in, rather than use gimmicks to attract clicks. And the only way to do that is to pay attention to what generates genuine hits, not something generated by a spammer site trying to sell digital snake oil.

My 15 Seconds of Fame

Via Michelle's Blog
What an interesting 24 hours, in which I've been blocked from following @wilw by @wilw on Twitter.

It all started around midnight of the 14th. While in my alter-ego as a statistically insignificant Usenet weenie, I fired up the aging Multivac down in the basement and logged onto the Internets (I would have been surfing the Information Superhighway sooner but it's getting really hard to find spare tubes for the old beast, and I needed to hunt around town a bit before I found a couple of replacement 12AX7As for the audio input preamp).

Once powered up it took a while to get the old girl to attach to Twitter. Ever since she accidentally discovered Simon Pegg (@simonpegg) on Twitter she's been somewhat erratic, asking spontaneously from time to time for a cricket bat. It was while I was reading the paper tape from @wilw's (Wil Weaton) tweets that I came across this
Me: Here's a post, G+. Google Plus: Hey! I'm going to Randomly Capitalize some Words, for Fun! Me: Um... G+: At Least I'm not Facebook!
To which I responded on the ASR-33
@wilw Google + is the new Wave.
To which he responded back some time later
@wbeebe4 *slow clap*
Now we should at this point bring up Wheaton's Law:
"Don't Be a Dick!"
to which Bill Willingham contributed Wheaton's Law Revised:
"Don't be a dick, but it's okay to play one on TV."
I suppose a further refinement might be
"Don't be a dick, but it's okay to act like one on Twitter, especially if you're Wil Wheaton."
It was at this point that a friend, Jamie McDonald (@sl33stak) got all excited because @wilw deigned to respond to my bad Wave pun/tweet by being a dick. I had to point out the negative significance of @wilw's slow clap tweet. It was about this point that the NYPD started to clean #OWS out of Zuccotti Park. Cries of first amendment violations started streaming across the twitterverse, and @wilw of course jumped right in tweeting and re-tweeting. To which I tweeted:
#ows So let me guess - One group of a$$holes, NYPD, is beating and abusing another group, #OWS. *slow clap* @wilw Where's my popcorn?
Then @wilw tweeted thus
Clearly, the 1% are afraid of the 99%. Good. They should be. Stay strong, everyone. Non-violent protest is our constitutional right. #ows
to which I responded
@wilw Hey old buddy, you're actually a part of that 1% yourself, or pretty close to it. But it all helps, even if it is lip service.
Which is probably the tweet that got me blocked.

Out of nearly two million fawning sycophants following @wilw, I guess the man-boy can't handle serious contrarian points of view. Or perhaps he's got some mighty thin skin. Whatever. It's amusing when One Guy can stand out among millions to generate such a response. After all, I'm just this guy, you know?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Crummy Sunday

A Crummy Sunday

Today was a crummy Sunday. I spent nearly eight hours in an emergency room trying to diagnose what was wrong with my left knee. Sharp pains, inability to take normal weight on it, stiffness to the point of immobility, swelling, joint overly warm to the touch. This is a first time for me. Before I left I was given several prescriptions for an anti-inflammatory and pain med (all generic). Before I broke down and went to the ER I tried self-medication, such as over-the-counter pain meds, an Ace bandage, and lots of ice to try to bring down the swelling and relieve the pain.

While the hospital staff was sympathetic they found nothing definitive. That was after X-rays, a sonogram of my left leg to check for any clotting, and a CT scan which they admitted afterwards didn't need to be run because of all the swelling. Best guess is a hairline fracture of the tibia at the knee joint. Great. Now I get to schedule for an MRI and then I get to see a local orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon is the same surgeon who fixed my wife's left knee replacement. The first time it was replaced, by a different surgeon, it became infected with MRSA. The second time he had to go in, remove the first artificial knee, then put in a temporary full of antibiotics to make sure nothing was growing in the bone, then take it out and put in a second artificial joint. That was two years ago. I have a lot of faith in this surgeon, but I really wish this wasn't happening.

Early in my life I was a runner. Later, I transitioned into hiking and bike riding, later still just walking with the labs and more sedate bike riding. I guess I should have taken up swimming instead. I've been told in the past I have some nasty looking osteoarthritis in both knees, along with some impressive looking bone spurs. Maybe this is the point in my life where my knees go to hell in a hand basket. I sure hope not.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pilgrim Retrievers

John Alden and Priscilla Mullens

Max In His Stubborn ModeGetting Our Costume Fixed

Today was a very mixed experience. The high point was taking the labs to get their six-week grooming, followed by a quick trip to the local vet for a photo session for the vet's clientele. It's always something of an adventure with the Labs and having their formal photographs taken. While the vet had one of the nurses take the "formal" photo, I was there to document the behind-the-scenes efforts to get the Labs to cooperate. That's my long suffering but sainted wife in between the two holy terrors.

John Alden and Priscilla Mullens

The low point was my left knee and Max's right rear leg. I have bone spurs in both knees, and I'm afraid that the one in the left knee might have gotten dislodged (I was crammed into an Air Tran 717 going up and Air Tran 737 coming back) and is now giving me hell. I'm headed to a local emergency room tomorrow morning if the pain and swelling don't go down.

Then, to top it all off, Max decided to favor his hip or his right rear leg. We don't know which, or why. So both Max and I are both gimped out.

All of this was taken with the Olympus E-3 and the ZD 12-60mm SWD lens. Of all the possible combinations those two are the best and fastest all-around picture taking combination.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Playtime

Play?
Ruby Tuesday with Mr. Moo

Today was a holiday for me because my company recognizes Veteran's Day. This one snuck up on me. In all the years I've worked, my current company is the only company to recognize the holiday as a day off. After three years I'm still not used to having it off.

I've been on travel for the majority of the week so I spent it catching up with work around the house. Among other tasks I cleaned up and straightened and took Lucy to the vets to have her annual checkup. That was an interesting little adventure.

Lucy balked a bit going into her carrier, and talked all the way over to the vets. After they started to examine her and give her her shots, she tried desperately to go back into her carrier to be left alone. When the exam was finished she made a bee-line into the safety of her carrier. We heard barely a peep out of her all the way back home.

All the animals missed me. All last night and into today all of them visited me where-ever I happened to be for some sort of interaction. Ruby, for example, loves to come up to me with one of her toys to play retrieve. It's real simple: I toss and she retrieves. She lets me know she's ready to start by dropping a toy on the floor and then sitting next to it, giving me the woeful look. "Would you please play with me? Please?" she seems to be saying. And of course I say "Sure". How can you resist such a look?

Taken with the Olympus E-P2 with the bog-standard M.Zuiko 17mm 1:2.8. Post processed in Lightroom 3.5 and Silver Efex Pro 2.0.1. Special effects by Yellow Dog Effects House, Limited.

The Golden Hour

Landscape 2

Fallen Ginko

Sunlit Grasses

I left the office early on Thursday. I had a few hours to drive around Ann Arbor and enjoy the scenery before heading back to the airport and the flight home. I drove through the University of Michigan and appreciated the campus. It's very nice, with a number of interesting large outdoor modern-art sculptures. I would have parked and taken a few photographs, but everywhere I looked parking was marked as decal only, tow-away zones. So I left the campus, drove across 23, and made my way to the University of Michigan's Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.

With a limited amount of time I spent all of it out doors photographing the scenery. This is the late fall season; winter solstice is 22 December, a little less than six weeks away. And being a bit further north (just a bit), the days are noticeably shorter than even in Orlando. The upshot is that by the time I made it to the gardens it was the golden hour.

And what a golden hour it turned out to be. The weather was cloudy, pretty cloudy, with the clouds scuttling swiftly across the sun. It was the combination of sunlight when the sun was out combined with the clouds as a dark backdrop that lent an even more dramatic tone to the landscapes in front of me.

The light on the trees and rushes around the ponds reminded me of old Renaissance paintings with the large dark regions and brighter portions such as trees overlaid on the darker skies. The top photo in particular with its yellow-leaved trees were literally glowing against the cloudy skies when the sun came out. It was, to me, an emotionally moving sight.

If I were to make another move in my life, I could do a lot worse than move to Ann Arbor. I've only visited there twice, but the region in that part of Michigan is, to me, very beautiful. I could spend the rest of my life just walking around, enjoying, and photographing the region and its distinct four seasons.

All photographs taken with the E-1 and the ZD 50mm 1:2 macro lens. The top photo was lightly touched in Lightroom 3.5. The bottom two went through more extensive post processing, with the bottom photograph processed in Silver Efex Pro 2.0.1.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's Turning Cold. Time to Go Home.

Royal Purple and Red
Bright Leaves
Fall Trees
Berries for the Coming Winter

Last day at the office in Ann Arbor. Wouldn't you know it, the network into the company went down. The regular network to the rest of the world is still up, but I need connectivity with the mothership. So I grabbed the E-1 with the ZD 50mm and went out for some quick shutter therapy.

That's when The Cold really hit me. I'm not cold weather tolerant. I've spent nearly three decades living in Florida. I developed some tolerance while growing up in Georgia because the cold weather would cover Atlanta and surrounding areas for about three to four months in the winter. Cold in Atlanta meant down into the teens on occasion, sometimes for a solid week, as well as the occasional ice storm that snapped tree limbs and power lines, interrupting power to a lot of folks. One of my earliest memories as a child growing up in Atlanta was driving to my Aunt Perl's house one winter from our apartment. The power was off then, and my Aunt Perl had gas heat and a warm house for us to stay until power was restored. I distinctly remember looking up through the front windshield of our black Chevy and seeing icicles hanging from an overhead power line with its non-working traffic signal. Later in my life it was temperatures in the teens that heralded my exit from my attempt at professional photography and back to engineering school. Cold brings up odd memories for me.

But as much as I dislike the cold I love the colors of fall the further north you go. While peak fall colors have passed in the Detroit Michigan area, there's more than enough left to enjoy, especially for a thin-blooded Florida transplant visiting the cold, cold northlands.

Everything taken with the E-1 and ZD 50mm 1:2. All manual, eyeball-o-matic metering and chimpifier real-time in-camera corrections. Post processed with Lightroom 3.5 to suit the photographer's tastes.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Truth About Republicans, by George Carlin

It's been a little over three years since George died (June 22, 2008). In a country heaping praise on The Steve for little more than building lots of expensive widgets and with all the political shenanigans the current crop of Republicans are trying to pull on this nation, I thought it worth while to transcribe this routine George recorded in 1988, some 23 years ago, and in the process heap some well deserved praise on another important contemporary American. What he had to say in this routine is truly worth remembering. And note that while he's ranting about the Reagan administration and the Moral Majority, little has changed in the last 23 years. Especially his observations about Wall Street.

I really haven't seen this many people in one place since they took the group photographs of all the criminals and law breakers in the Ronald Reagan administration. Yeah! Yeah! Oh! Two hundred and twenty five of 'em so far. Two hundred and twenty five different people in the Ronald Reagan administration have either quit, been fired, been arrested, indicted or convicted of either breaking the law or violating the ethics code.

Two hundred and twenty five of 'em.

And Edwin Meese alone... Edwin Meese alone has been investigated by three separate special prosecutors and there's a forth one waitin' for him in Washington right now. Three separate special prosecutors have had to look into the activities of the Attorney General. And the Attorney General is the nation's leading law enforcement officer!

See, that's what you got to remember. This is the Ronald Reagan administration we're talking about. These are the law and order people! These are the people who are against street crime. They want to put street criminals in jail to make life safer for the business criminals. They're against street crime... Yeah! They're against street crime providing that street isn't Wall Street.

And the Supreme Court decided about a year ago that it's all right to put people in jail now if we just think they're gonna commit a crime. It's called preventive detention. All you got to do now is just think they're gonna commit a crime! If we'd of known this shit seven or eight years ago we could of put a bunch of these Republican mother-fuckers directly into prison!

YEAH!!!!

Put 'em in the joint where they belong and we could have saved the money of puttin' these pin-headed country club assholes on trial!

Another thing you gotta remember, this is the group of people who were elected with the help of the Moral Majority. Elected with the help of the Moral Majority and the Teamsters Union! That's a good combination! Organized religion and organized crime, working together to help build a better America!

Another thing... Keep in mind these Regan people are the ones that were going to get government off our backs. Remember that, that was the rhetoric of the 1980 campaign. "We'll get government off your backs and out of your lives." Yeah, but they still want to tell you what magazines you can read and they still want to tell you what rock lyrics you can listen to and they still want to force your kids to pray in school and they still want to tell you can say on the radio! The FCC, the Federal Communications Commission decided all by itself that radio and television were the only two parts of American life not protected by the free speech provisions of the first amendment to the Constitution. I'd like to repeat that because it sounds vaguely important!

The FCC an appointed body not elected answerable only to the President decided on its own that radio and television were the only two parts of American life not protected by the first amendment to the Constitution. Why did they decide that? Because they got a letter from a minister in Mississippi! A Reverend Donald Wildmon in Mississippi heard something on the radio that he didn't like[1]! Well Reverend! Did anyone ever tell you there are two knobs on the radio?

Of course I'm sure the Reverend isn't that comfortable with anything that has two knobs on it... But hey, Reverend, there are two knobs on the radio. One of them turns the radio off and the other one... CHANGES THE STATION!!! Imagine that Reverend you can actually CHANGE THE STATION!!! It's called freedom of choice and it's one of the principals this country was founded upon! Look it up in the library Reverend if you have any of 'em left when you finish burning all the books!

Ehh???

Now I don't know how you feel but I have personally just about had it with these fucking church people! JUST... ABOUT... HAD... IT! YES!!!

You know what I say we should do with these churches? TAX THEM!!! Tax these mother-fuckers! If they're so interested in politics and government and public policy LET 'EM PAY THEIR FUCKIN' ADMISSION PRICE like everybody else. You know what I mean? Tax 'em.

Hey! The Catholic church alone could wipe out the federal budget deficit. If all you did was tax 'em on their real estate holdings. And speaking of real estate holdings let's get back to Ronald Reagan and his criminal gang.

When last we left them, they were going to get government off our backs. Yeah, but when it comes to abortion they don't mind government being in a woman's uterus do they? Yeah, backs are no good but uterus is OK by them. These people call themselves "Right-to-Lifers". Don't you love that phrase? Don't you love the way these kind of people pervert the English language? "Right-to-Lifers"? You realize that most of the "Right-to-Lifers" are in favor of the death penalty? And they support the South American death squads? And they're against gun control and they're against nuclear weapons control? When they say right-to-life they're talkin' about their right to decide which people should live or die!

So these Reagan people, these right wingers in general, these, uh, crypto-fascists, they're against homo-sexuality, they're against pornography, they're against sex education, they're against abortion. Yeah, they're gonna get government off you back but they're going to tell you how to live your sex life. And let me ask you this, how would they know anything about it? Have you ever taken a LOOK at those people?!?!? No wonder their afraid of their bodies! TAKE A LOOK AT 'EM!!!

Doesn't it strike you as mildly ironic that most of the people who are against abortion are people you wouldn't want to fuck in the first place?

Hey, I'm the first one to say it's a great country, but it's a straaaange culture. This is a place where alcohol ruins more lives than cancer and everybody gets upset when some athlete gets hooked on cocaine. You know, Time Magazine and Newsweek, they put cocaine on the cover but they put the liquor advertisements inside the magazine. It's the old American double standard. You know, say one thing, do sumpin' different. And of course the country is founded on the double standard. That's our history. We were founded on a very basic double standard. This country was founded by slave owners who wanted to be free.

Am I right? A group of slave owners who wanted to be free. So they killed a lot of white English people in order to continue owning their black African people so they could wipe out the rest of the red Indian people and move west and steal the rest of the land from the brown Mexican people, givin' them a place to take off and drop their nuclear weapons on the yellow Japanese people. You know what the motto of this country aughta be? "You give us a color, we'll wipe it out!" Got it!

So, anyway, about eighty years after the Constitution is ratified, eighty years later, the slaves are freed. Not so you'd really notice it of course. Just sorta on paper. And that was of course during the Civil War. Now there's another phrase I dearly love. That is a true oxymoron if I've ever heard one. Civil War. Do you think any country could really have a "civil" war? "Say, pardon me..." pft pft pft pft pft "I'm awfully sorry..."

Now, of course, the Civil War has been over for about a hundred and twenty years, but not so you'd really notice it. Cause we still have these people called "Civil War Buffs". People who thought it was a really keen war! And they study the battles carefully and they try to improve the strategies and the tactics to increase the body count. In case we have to go through it again some time. In fact some of these people actually get dressed up in uniform once a year and re-fight these battles. You know what I say? "Use live ammunition ass-holes, will you please?" You might just raise the intelligence level of the American gene pool.

But whataya expect, hey, come on, this is a war-like country, we come from that northern European, basically the northern European genes, the blue eyes, those blue eyes... Boy everybody in the world learned real quick didn't they when those blue eyes sail out of the north you better nail everything down mother-fucker. Nail it down, strap it down, or they'll grab it. If the can't take it home they'll burn it. If they can't burn it they FUCK it. That's what happened to us.

And it's a war-like country. I mean come on. Forget foreign policy, even the domestic rhetoric is war-like. Everything about out domestic policy invokes the thought of war. We don't like somethin' in this country? We declare war on it. The war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on crime, the war on AIDS, the war on cancer. We got the only national anthem that mentions fuckin' rockets and bombs in the God-damned thing! You know what I mean? All right!



[1] Convinced Federal Communications Commission to issue warning to radio personality Howard Stern, 1987.

E-1 Experiment #6

Moonrise behind Sunset

The Last Leaf of Fall

Evening Reds

Up at 6am. Drive from Ann Arbor to Sterling Heights. Get stuck in traffic north-bound on 275 before hte 696 interchange, then get off of 275 at 9 Mile Road and take surface streets to 696 east and finally to Sterling Heights. Total transit time: two hours. Spend a day split between two meetings. At the end of the second meeting drive back to Ann Arbor like "Steve McQueen in his Mustang" to get back to a third meeting (I've got a 2011 Dodge Avenger rental). Fortunately, Michigan between Sterling Heights and Ann Arbor is fairly flat. Total transit time back: 45 minutes.

Once again by the time the day ended and I got back to my hotel it was getting dark. Still, I grabbed the E-1 with the 30mm and fired off a few shots. Then I swapped the 30mm with the 50mm macro. Therapy for the long stressful day. Besides, if I waited for ideal conditions for photography I wouldn't take much of anything. Instead I deal with what I've been given the best way I know how.

Everything done manually and adjusted in post to suit my tastes.