Friday, September 19, 2008

New Canon 5D Mk II

When I moved from film to digital cameras, I also moved from Minolta to Canon, and bought a EOS 5D with five lenses, and have added two more lenses, one to replace one, a 35mm f1.8 instead of the excellent but hefty f1.2, which I still use, just not backpacking, and to add one, a 17-40 f4 zoom, as an everyday or general purpose lens, since with Minolta I carried six lenses from 16mm to 45mm.

And now I'm reading the review of the new Canon EOS 5D Mk II. And I barely have 20,000 shots on my Mk I. Well, reading the reviews of the Mk II, it's obviously an excellent camera, and in some ways better than the MK I, but I have to say, just maybe it's trying to do too much, and maybe Canon included features that don't make it a better camera, but make it a better marketable camera.

Why? To be really honest, does a still frame photographers really need a DSLR with a built-in microphone and a jack for an external one to go with the up to 29 minutes of video capture? Really? Does it really help the camera or just add gadgets to a great camera? Do you really need live view? What happened to the photographer thinking? Now you can set the auto features (program/auto mode with AWB) and then just point and shoot.

Hell, you can fix it in Photoshop or video editor. You don't really need to be a photographer anymore, just have a great camera and call yourself one because you use it.

Too much? Probably, but it makes my point. I love the 5D for its capabilities and features, and 90% of the time I use it as a digital version of a film camera. I may only be an ordinary photographer, but I want to think while using the camera (I have yet it use program and auto modes and only shoot raw format about 10% of the time). And heaven forbid according to some photographers, I actually shoot black and white in the camera.

I make no bones about being a curmudgeon in my photography. It's the photography I like to do, which also includes shooting 4x5 film photography. Old school? Yes, even defiantly.

While I like the new 5D for the larger pixel size sensor (still full frame but 21 mp instead of 12 mp), slightly fast speed (3.9 fps instead of 3 fps), and higer ISO (25,600 instead of 1600), I'll have to balk at it for the junky video gadgets. While it may be nice, it's not what I want in a camera. And since I use a film EOS-1N alongside my 5D, I don't see buying the Mk II anytime soon.

And so sorry Canon, while you have a good customer, you don't have my business to buy the Mk II. Not yet anyway, and probably not until the Mk III or the 5D's successor, something without the video gadgets too. If I want a video camera, I'll go get or buy one, I don't want it an still camera.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

JMO - We're stuck on 9/11

I'm reading Thomas Friedman's book, "Hot, Flat, and Crowded. It's worth the price, and I was struck by one of his comments, which rings true. And that is we're stuck on 9/11 world. and haven't woken up to live in 9/12 world.

We haven't grown up to realize that while 9/11 was a tragic act of terrorism, and over 3,000 people from 95 nations died in the World Trade Center and Pentagon and one of the most horrific acts of terrorism, it was not the start or end of terrorism. Terrorism is as old as man and there are an average of 1,000 terrorists attacks every year, totalling far more dead, disabled and injurired than 9/11.

We have lost our edge of being a leader of hope and good. We haven't figured out how to life with terrorism and show terrorists we're not afraid of being who we are. Instead of challenging terrorists with our way of life and showing the world we're strong and resilent, we're showing them fear and anger. Our politicians have sold us fear and angers, and we have stepped up with our checkbooks (taxes), and have had our own government implement enormously invasive and unnecessary measures to "protect" us.

And that's always been my point. I have advocated going back to 9/10 and making the law enforcement agencies do the job they were supposed to do with the laws they had. They could have intervened if not stopped the attack on 9/11 but they failed the American people. Not by incompetence but by the simple lack of communication and thinking. They had all the information and tools to stop 9/11 and didn't.

But now, reading Mr. Friedman's book, I believe it's time to move on to 9/12. We need a new paradigm about ourselves, our place in the world, our work against terrorists, and our future. Else, we're descending into a miltary-corporate autocracy where we've lost our civil rights and liberties in the name of fear and anger.

And we know that's not us and certainly not America or American.

It's about balance, but it's also about preservation. We must preserve our Constitutional rights and not sacrifice them in the name of something we don't know and can't find. Or we risk becoming a second rate nation like the former Soviet Union and the new Russia where people are subjected to unreasonable invasions of their privacy and life because the government thinks every citizen is not just a threat but a potential enemy or terrorist.

We have and will become our own enemy in the eyes of the government.

We need to do what Americans do best, go through it to redefine ourselves as we have so often. Like the end of WW II we need to define a post-9/11 America where freedoms are the norm and the power still rests with the people. And where our government uses the tools to fight the real fight, with terrorists, not its own citizens.

We know it's doable and it only takes the will, but until we decide to step into the light and challenge terrorists by living as we have and can, we won't win. And until we challenge our government to trust its own citizens and work efficiently and effectively, we won't feel free again. And until we ask our leaders, especially our President, to be a leader in the name of freedom instead of fear and anger, we won't see any more than we've already heard and have now.

It's time America wake up and live in the 9/12 world. Nothing short will save this country, our nation and the people.

NPR - Sleeping

I've lived in my place now for over 20 years. Long ago, folks said I should have bought a house and would now see, minus the market bubble burst, the advantages of owning a home. Well, some experts would argue, "Yeah, right." My Dad bought a home in 1964, his first and only and using the GI Bill. He passed away in 1994 after making the last payment and getting clear title.

When we crunched the numbers, we discovered they, since both Mom and Dad worked and paid the mortage, had paid more over those 30 years in interest, insurance and taxes, even subtracting the tax write-off, than the value of house. And that doesn't include the amount over those years for maintenance and improvements they made to the home. The total turned out to be a huge loss for them. They had a home to live one and not for the money.

It was as one analysist recently of the current housing crisis, "it's debt renting.", meaning you're losing money for the privilege of thinking you're buying something. Anyway, I'm wandering from the topic. You see, I love my place, two bedrooms, two baths, 1100 square feet, etc. with a 44 foot deck overlooking the southeast horizon of the Narrows Strait, the Twin Narrows Bridges and Mt. Rainier. And no neighbor above me (top floor).

The problems is the adjacent neighbors over those two-plus decades. Occasionally I get one who likes to invite friends to party into the wee hours of the night, sometimes all night. And despite a noise curfew, which the current manager seems reluctant to enforce for fear of losing tenants (previous ones had no problem), they won't bat an eye waking everyone around them up. And now I have one of those neighbors, who works swing shift and likes to invite friends over to 2-4 am.

I've worked both graveyard and swing shift and it really messes up your schedule, if you let it. You have to reschedule yourself to have a normal daytime life. Otherwise your whole life is shifted 8 hours from everyone else's. And you can understand the problems when your 5-10 pm (after work time) is everyone else's midnight to 5 am. Especially in an apartment complex.

And so after my neighbor's pattern of time and friends became obvious, I took up sleeping in the living room, on the floor with my air mattress and sleeping bag (from hiking). I don't sleep well in sleeping bags and why I haven't done very much overnight camping or backpacking. It always takes me 3-5 nights to get used to the situation, by which time you're back home in your bed.

And so, in the last month-plus with the new neighbor I've managed to overcome this and sleep fairly well now away from him and his friend's partying, and the noise. I miss my bed and probably won't get to sleep in it (its' too close to the neighbor's apartment) until he leaves, likely in a few months. But it's not a problem of sleeping anymore.

So, sometimes you never know when a bad thing isn't and sleep is relative.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mondays are still cool

About a year ago I wrote why Mondays are cool, and a year later, they're still cool. For the same reasons I wrote then plus a year's worth of appreciation of the time I've had since. Despite the changes our economy is going through and the effects it's had on my income and budget, I wouldn't change the decision I made to retire.

I have had to the time to work on my Mt. Rainier NP photo guide and found a number of new areas to research and explore about the NP, including the first scientific expedition by three geologist and others to summit and circumnavigate Mt. Rainier before there were established trails and summit routes. And the research has expanded into the work of other photographers who were visiting and photographing Mt. Rainier before it was officially a NP.

In addition I've spent the time to learn Google maps and build a series of map-based information Web pages for the different types of activities and information in Mt. Rainier NP, such as day hikes, waterfalls, lakes, bike roads/trails, weather sites, lookouts, and wildflowers. I've found Websites to present information on the sunrise and sunset and moon rise and set for both time and azimuth to aid photographers' work in the NP.

I've had the time to explore the resources and information about Mt. Rainier NP, which is the point, time. While nothing has seemed to change, everything has changed. While I gained a lot personally and professionally, I've also lost a few things. The first is a sense of urgency. I haven't fully realized the costs and benefits of this yet, as with most things, judgement is always done with hindsight.

Not history but hindsight. Not from what has happened and I can relate, but what will be seen later in time looking back to see what I lost and gained. We can plan all we want to maximize the latter and minimize the former, it's more likely the reverse, where you gained a lot of the specific topic or subject, you've lost the rest of the events and world around you and your work.

But that's the reality of anything, you choose the work and the time. Only for me now, it's my choice for much of what I do. The rest of life and the world will find me as events always do (to all of us), but I can see what I'm doing is what I want and love to do, and not what someone else wants me to do or not do, or worse demands (long story about bosses).

And losing the sense of urgency has helped to focus on specific interests, I don't have the mindset anymore about deadlines. I work on incremental milestones and give myself breaks. I don't pressure myself to absolutely get something done by a deadline, which sometimes isn't good as time can just as easily slip away, or by, but it has proven good to give me the flexility to adjust work and interests around life, problems, events, others, etc.

In the end, and why Mondays are still cool, it's about the freedom of time. And the sense of urgency? I don't know, yet anyway, if it's a problem, but then we all die thinking we want to do more and want more time to do it. But alas, urgency isn't important then, is it?

JMO - Useless arguments II

I wrote a post on myblog about useless arguments. That post was originally drafted about 6 months ago and has been sitting going through rereads and rewrites, but mostly staying in tact, sufficiently to post it today. And over the weekend I ran into another variation of that same theme.

I was watching a movie when one of the characters said, "I don't need proof. I don't need the truth. I have my certainty."

Well, that's hard to beat, to say it any better. In the face of truth and reality, everyone does occasionally ignore the facts, but many people do it all the time. It's not hard to see the George Bush did that with Iraq. Besides his staff filtering and manipulating the information, he clearly used his religous view and faith to wage a war we won't and can't win, and the next President will be stuck trying to find the best exit.

This is not unusual. Nixon did it with Vietnam, a war started by Kennedy and exacerbated by Johnson. And it's clear we simply left despite the death of over 50,000 Amiericans and permanently disability of several hundred thousand. Iraq won't be as bad for us, maybe a tenth as severe in terms of deaths and a quarter in terms of disabled. But still it will be a loss, and spun like Vietnam to be a win without victory.

And almost every argument or issue has it's extreme zealots who deny the opposing view. They often like to say they like to hear opposing views, but the truth is they don't listen. Hearing isn't listening. And after hearing they'll reaffirm their view in ways that either dispels the opposing view or simply changes the argument into tangential ones which aren't related.

You can see this with the discussion over Sarah Palin as the Republican Vice Presidential candidate. Despite all the evidence of her experience and record in Alaska supporters either cite her character or criticize opponents as attacking her character. That was seen in the Obama comment about lipstick on a pig. They missed his reason, let alone the fact it wasn't about Palin, not even McCain, but some of McCain's view over the issues.

Almost anything now said against Palin is an attack on her and her character. But this also misses the point they fail to notice. Sometimes it is about her and her character. She is a vindicitive, revengeful woman who uses power to attack opponents and help friends. That's her record. That's not lipstick on history, but the truth and reality.

But her supporters have their certainty she's a good women, wife and mother. That alone doesn't make any qualified to be VP, but they are certain it does. Her experience and record are there for everyone to see, and no matter how you spin it, you can't change the results of what she did as mayor and governor.

And the same can be said for the "Drill, baby Drill" campaign rhetoric, which I wrote this post. It's about changing the argument away from the truth and reality, and hide the facts. Everything is there about drilling in the off-shore lands and in Alaska, especially ANWR is known, which clearly shows it won't help beyond a trickle to the consumer but provide huge public land leases to oil companies for huge profits.

But they can hide that and wrap it around a slogan. But they have their certainty.

It's the same with the creationists. It's always funny to me when these folks cite the Bible, forgetting the Bible has gone through so many translation and interpretations, it's not literal anymore beyond general ideas. I'm not saying it's a bad book, but only as one Biblical scholar called it, "It's the best historical fiction ever written." It's not the end of any idea or issue but simply something saying, "Hey, have you thought of..." and telling a story.

And despite all the arguments by scientists to show evolution is the truth and reality, they still say it's wrong and the Bible is right, and creationism should be taught along side in science classes. But creationism, and they've shown, can't be tested or proven, something every scientific idea can be. You can't verify if God existed and Jesus wasn't more than a really great religous leader with good ideas.

But they have their book and say it's the truth. "Yeah, right", or "Whatever." are often the most appropriate response.

My point? Well, when I begin to listen to someone who talks like the movie statement, I simply finish my coffee and leave. Why ruin a coffee drink with a miserable person who can't see beyond their own faith and values? And while it's fun sometimes to challenge them, to find and show the flaws in their arugment, it's all too often spending energy for nothing. They won't change and you've spent hours spinning your mental and verbal wheels.

In the end the only certainty is their closed mind.

JMO - Useless arguments

In addition to reading the newspapers 3-4 days a week I also view and read several on-line newspapers, search the news for specific subjects and topics, and read forums and newsgroups. I always like to scan the opinions and editorials and look at the blogs. Not a lot of blogs, there's far too many and I think God is wondering now why he gave someone the idea to invent the blog, but enought to see different perspective or see like perspectives differently.

One thing I've learned that isn't new and always known, but blogs have changed the approach and response, and that is the zealot. Those people who unflinchingly espouse a point of view so extreme and so loudly you can't argue with them in any form, manner or way because they'll find a way to turn the argument around to their view. It's common that zealots are blind to the flaws and logic in their arguments, but blogs now allow them to shout it to the world and demand it's right and true.

And in many cases or most of the time, it couldn't be farther from the truth. It may have bits and pieces of truth, even some fact, and see some facet of reality, but for the most part they and their arguments are clueless. And how did I see this obviousness?

Well, there's always the common argument about the war in Iraq, both sides express their view is right when the truth and reality is in the middle elements and facets of both sides. It just depends on what information you use, which I also do, and how you spin it, which I also do. I'm not immune here. The war was wrong and we as a nation were and still are wrong. I won't bend on that view but I will listen and agree to the reality we need to do something for the Iraqis, the US and the world, but we're failing miserably and also doing well.

And there's the corollary argument about terrorism and the balance between national security and civil rights and liberties. I won't go into this one except being a 1960-70's Vietnam-era vet and hippie (never got to becoming a former on the latter) and a often liberal libertarian (try that one) I don't buy the issue of 9/11 changing much except our own fear. We need to stand up to that than our enemies and show them we're for freedom and people, not autocracy and militarism.

And there's women's rights, especially reproductive rights. I won't budge on my view and am adament against the conservative and religious right who want to control women's right to reproductive information and medical help and to abortion. To me there is no compromise that women have the full right to control their bodies including their reproductive rights. Period. No men, no clergy, no one else. Just the woman and her physician.

But I'll listen, negotiate and compromise when I see it's gets more for women that is currently being done. Sometimes you have to surrender something to gain a little or gain in the longterm. Life and reality are like that. But I won't budge on my fundamental view.

And there's something I don't understand. I won't argue I'm probably as much a feminist as many women. It's not about women's rights, but equal rights. And the additional rights women need because they're women, physically different than men. The reality of our world.

And what don't I want to understand?

Well, I like Julia Serano's work. You see, I know some in-transistion and post-transistion women. And I have to say, this is probably the most discriminated class of people in this country. They have been getting better treatment in the media and society, but overall they're stil far behind even lesbian and gay people, some of whom also discriminate against transpeople.

And the useless argument idea, or have a wandered off the logic trail?

No, I haven't because I don't understand what people don't get that post-transistion men and women aren't a threat to anyone or any sense of their values. They're not transgendered, they're as any medical professional would say, "cured" of any gender conflicts or conditions by becoming who they are. So why do feminists, who are the most outspoken advocates for rights, discriminate against this class of people?

That's what I don't get. The feminists are the zealot(s) on the street corner shouting the fears of post-transistion women in the world of women. But they don't see that there are those among women who are and no knows or cares, and they're not instilling or inciting fear in anyone or any group of women. So what's their fear? I don't know, but what bothers me the most in their arugments is the hypocrisy.

Huh? Yeah. While they decide post-transistion women aren't women, they allow butch lesbians, masculine women, and even post-transistion men (transmen) into their world and groups as women. Most of these "women" don't think or behave like women and many don't want to be called women as they live or even transistioned into being and living as men.

So, what's up? Genetics define men and women? While they argue for the gender spectrum and argue against the gender binary, they reinforce it with stereotyping post-transistion women and claiming (trans)men as women? They demand the right to the full expression of being, even to being men but then exclude post-transistion women in that definition.

And so, what's wrong with a post-transistion woman just living as a woman we normally expect and see everyday. They're not reinforcing any gender binary or stereotype. They're just getting through life as they are and know themselves to be, no different than anyone else, including feminists. Do the feminists understand what it takes to go through a transistion? Obviously not.

My only response to the feminists and their inane logic and argument is lighten up. It's about being human. No one is trying to steal or redefine your womanhood. And if you got down off your soapbox and sat in a cafe having a conversation with a post-transistion woman, you just might find a friend and see another woman in the world, just like all the other women.

Anyway, that's my rant against zealots. I'll take up my soapbox and mosey down street quietly.

JMO - Drill Baby Drill

Interesting campaign rhetoric, allow drilling for oil and natural gas in the off-shore lands off the eastern, western and Gulf coast, and in Alaska, specifically the Artic National Wildlife Refure (ANWR). What this phrase doesn't say is the issue and not really about drilling for oil and natural gas. And while there is a good argument that it is about the government's use of public lands, it misses the one point the Democrats haven't exploited and the Republicans don't want you to know.

And that is? Right now, and mean just that, right now, the oil exploration companies have oil and natural gas leases on over 85 million acres and have not yet drilled on those lands, not for years or even decades. They got these leases to sit on them and hold them when the prices of gas and natual gas reaches the point they want. That's the point, we, or really they, can drill baby drill right now and haven't and won't.

Why? Because they want to control the lands, our lands, in the name of private profit which we will pay for in the cost of gas and natural gas. Our land and our money would go for their profit, which are the most profitable companies in the US and in our history. They're rich beyond our imagination. And they're still not drilling on the land they have under lease.

So now they want to own leases for more land, our land, and especially now the off-shore lands of California and the Gulf coast. We know that it would be 3-5 years before they could begin drilling with the process to get the lease and setup all the legal work to begin exploration, and it would be another 3-5 years before any oil gets to the refineries to process into products, gas at the pump. And that's if the refineries have the capacity for the new oil.

We also know there is more natural gas in the existing leased lands in the lower 48 states under lease to the oil companies to relieve the price of natural gas for years upon years. We have a wealth of natural gas. And we also know that there is more oil in some of lands to provides this country in gas for decades to come, but it has a price, both economically to extract, energy to process, and environmentally to turn over much of it to industrial development.

In short, we don't need to drill off-shore and we don't especially need to drill in ANWR. It's time to move the argument from drilling to the real issue of what the oil companies are doing to our public lands. They're trying to control them and own the mineral rights for decades to come. They've had the chance to drill but they decided to import oil instead. And that's the issue which needs to be discussed.

It's not about the use of public lands, it's about oil companies. We can develop natural gas powered cars - it's being done in many countries and by some public agencies here and be energy independent too. That's the issue if we want to be energy independent. We have the ability to be a long way to energy independence and make it affordable for every Americans.

That should be our goal, not drilling, but asking the real questions in search of the best answers. So, will the Presidential candidates do that? Or will they decide it's about confusing the voters with rhetoric and soundbites?

Friday, September 12, 2008

JMO - Can we have some...

Can we have some sanity, reality, truth and honesty in this election? Or am I asking the stupid rhetorical question?

Yeah, I know it's not possible, but I can ask, or really want to hope?

We have a lot more to talk about in the choice for president of this country than the stupid, nit-picky stories, ads and rhetoric I've heard to date. Who really cares about lipstick on a pig? And why did the RNC misplay it as an attack on Sarah Palin when it wasn't? And why did the press drive this story into the ground?

We should be focusing on the issues. Not slogans which have no basis in reality nor any hope of anything beyond inciting people's anger towards the other candidate. In the 2000 campaign I like John McCain, his honesty, integrity, and sense of values about the issues. And now in 2008 he using some of the same people and the same tactics against Obama which Bush used against him then.

And what's with Palin who can't keep a story straight? Or keep the lines clear? On one hand she says her family is off-limits to the press and public, which includes her 17-year old pregnant daughter and baby with downs syndrome, but then touts her son going off to Iraq to serve.

That's a handy double standard, and totally unfair. You opened the door and let the press and public in, so if one member of your family is useable to the campaign, then the rest are too, and all questions are fair. So answer them, or stop being a hypocrite.

Ok, enough said. I want to see some honest, informative discussion between the candidates, talking about the issues. And yes, the complexity of reality and life today. No campaign slogans or soundbites, but in depth explanation of their views. Not absolute things we all know is impossible and won't get through Congress, but understanding and knowledge to make decisions.

I don't wan to hear about your religion and God, I want to hear how you will respect eveyrone else's and how you will keep your religion out of my government.

I don't want to hear about values, I want to hear how you will protect the values of every American to ensure we all have equal rights and liberties.

I don't want to hear about terrorism, I want to hear how you will protect our human and civil rights guarranteed by the Constitution. No hedging your bets about sacrifice, but clear answers why you want to abandon our 200+ year old standard.

I don't want to hear sound bites about immigration, I want to hear you explain the whole picture with all its facets and aspects to the American people so we understand simple answers won't work and have consequences.

I want to hear all of you be Bill Bradley and show you know and understand the issues and you care about every American and this country. It's not about degrees of patriotism, we're all patriots, it's the matter of tolerance and acceptance that counts.

And so, can I have some of this?