Wrong!

No, I did not kill this snake. I found it at Grimes Point when I stopped for lunch.
On my way east, I stopped at Grimes Point for a break and to make a sandwich. As I sat under the shelter munching a sandwich, drinking a bit of Diet Mellow Yellow, and snacking on some potato chips, I played with the chipmunks begging for bits of my lunch. One of them nearly took a bite of chip from my hand, then shied off. I noticed him creeping up on something a dozen feet away, very carefully. I noticed his attention was focused on a snake. A piece of rebar lay atop the dead animal, the implement of its destruction.

It looked like a Great Basin Rattlesnake to me. Its head was destroyed and the rattles were taken, I suppose as a trophy or souvenir.

This made me a little sad. Yes, rattlesnakes can be dangerous. They do not generally bite unless injured or cornered. They serve a function in the desert ecosystem. They are beautiful animals.

The snake was there because of the rodent population, I’m sure. It was just doing what rattlesnakes do — hunt food. They are where the food is.

It would have been easy to move the snake away from the picnic area without killing it. I would have either left it alone or moved it. They can easily be encouraged to move along without risk. It just takes a long stick and some patience.

There is something wrong with killing an animal needlessly. I have no issue with pest control, hunting for meat, or caring for livestock. But the wanton destruction of this animal was unnecessary and wrong.

What a shame.

Metaphor

This boy is the victim of a couple of bad spinal disks. However, in the water, he’s just a dog — his land-gear left behind.
The Girl and I walk the Carson River often, almost every day. At this time of year, I really prefer to be near the water, particularly on hot days when we don’t leave the house very early.

One day we walked up a couple of women. One sat on the bench at this favorite stop while the other played with her dog in the river. Bench-woman told me that the dog has a couple of bad spinal disks, such that his rear legs are not really functional. However, with the carriage he gets along just fine.

I stopped, knelt in the sand (while the Girl snuffled about, got her feet wet, and got a drink) to get a capture of the carriage and the players in the background. On land, the dog is crippled — not fully able to use his body as intended. However, as I watched him play in the water with his friend, he was just a dog swimming and playing like all the other dogs seen in the river. Had I not known of his infirmity, I would never have guessed that his rear legs don’t work.

This struck me as a metaphor that applies to so many of us. Out of our element, we are crippled and not fully functional as many others are or might be. However, when in our element, we are just like all the others — able to work, play, and live like any other dog.

Social Media

We pulled into the Red Hut parking lot Saturday morning to get some breakfast. In the pickup next to us this puppy watched use carefully through its tongue-licked window. It was worth a pause for the shot.
The dopamine hit we get from interacting with social media is addictive. FB knows this (hence Facebook and Instagram). Google knows this (YouTube anyone?). I suspect many other companies know it and use it.

A favorite IG’er, @NateArizona, posted a chat on IG recently and talked about this. It made me think (or rethink) my use of social media, particularly FB, IG, Twitter, and SnapChat.

I’m not a big user of any of them, with the exception of IG. But I limit my exposure to IG in that I follow only a few posters and they are either family, friends, or a few photographers whose work I admire. I mostly post to IG, but am unsure that results in any additional traffic here, to my weblog.

I do not receive any meaningful feedback from my posts on IG. I am pretty serious about photography and work every year to improve my sight and my skills. I post a few captures on IG because it’s quick and I enjoy it. But I have only a couple hundred followers.

Therefore, I question whether it is worth the effort to continue the IG exercise or to refocus that energy to working here on my personal webspace. Perhaps I should think about my goals for IG and how those goals fit into my goals for this website. If my photographs are print-worthy, then I could generate some income to offset the cost of equipment and travel to make more captures of interesting places, people, and things.

But, I digress in my stream-of-consciousness fashion. I was really thinking about the social media addiction (a dopamine hit addiction) that so many of us suffer. I followed FB pretty closely for awhile, before a writer I admire referred to it as “an exercise in abnormal psychology.” That captured my attention, along with reading about Fear-Of-Missing-Out (AKA FOMO) and I realized that I was really missing very little, with few exceptions. Avoiding FB resulted in an immediate drop in frustration level (and probably blood pressure) from all that mess.

When FB bought IG I was deeply concerned. I loved the way my follows showed up in the feed when I checked in. I could quickly and easily determine what was new and have a look at the work of creatives I enjoy. When FB abandoned the chronological feed for something far more obscure I was deeply disappointed. Now they are becoming more adamant about showing me feeds that I might like and sponsored posts that want me to buy something. It is becoming unbearable.

The last couple of major elections reinforced my thoughts when I saw how nasty people were on FB. It was a moment when I eschewed the platform, for the most part, only visiting now and again after posting something here to see if I had comments that needed response.

(For the record, I also keep track of a few family members and very close friends there.)

So where does this leave my thoughts? Well, I will continue to use the social media platforms on my current list. I might move much of my photographic work here and post less on IG. I will certainly maintain my distance from FB as that problem of psychology I mentioned. Twitter and SnapChat are not big consumers of my time and energy, so there really isn’t much to do there.

And then there is Ello. I have an account there I do not use much. There are many creatives on Ello. But I do not really grok the platform. Perhaps Ello deserves a little more attention as far as posting my images and some supporting text. If one of my goals is to reach a wider audience with my photographs and my words, then that might be an approach. It is clear that neither IG nor FB is a viable solution. They are both crowded spaces and the algorithms are not intended to provide creators with outreach; the algorithms are intended to keep users hooked and increase revenues. That sounds cynical, but it is what I believe.

It seems I have some additional work to do. But perhaps I better get The Girl out and make a capture for today. I am certain I can find something to catch my eye….

A Breath

On evening walkies, Older Son, The Girl, and I paused for a moment as the sun illuminated the clouds.

There are many ways to interpret the title of this entry. There are many stories to tell as well. The image is a capture from this evening’s walkies, up at the old state school where orphans used to live.

A couple of consulting projects buried me for the last couple of months. One of them is finished. The second has its report in review and will be finished next week. A third is ramping up and there will be a push to get it done over the next couple of weeks. It will get done.

I am not complaining; I appreciate the work and there should be enough money to pay my bills for the remainder of the year. I expect the workload will abate and I will have time to go back to my training regimen and be able to spend time reading and making photographs.

So, this week I had a chance to take a breath. I took some time off and took that breath. The break was a respite I desperately needed as the push to get the work done was taking a toll on my inner and outer health. The breath was good.

Five years ago today Wife died. That left a hole in my life that has not been filled. The pain of grief is mostly abated — it still arises now and again and there is a ghost of it in me that I think will never go away. But I am OK with that. That small pain is a reminder of a life together, with all of the good times and all of the warts. It is part of what shaped me.

I recall her last breath vividly. The vigil that preceded her passing was a ramp up of intensity that culminated the moment she left. The gulf that followed was a second intensely emotional period that abated slowly over the next couple of years.

Therefore, today I recall a breath… the few days I took to recover and regroup and the last breath of Wife. Life is breath and each one is precious.

A Bit of Fluff

I came across this bit of fluff on morning walkies.

I have not written much lately. My time has been consumed by exercise (for me and The Girl), work, and playing a little World of Tanks (in the evenings after work and supper).

The energy used in working has not left much for writing of photography. Yet, I carry the camera along with me on walkies and sometimes find interesting things to capture. The pun title is a reflection of my recent thoughts as well as the disintegrating cattail The Girl and I found on recent walkies.

After experimenting with the Wollensak and Kern-Paillard 16mm movie camera lenses, I decided to retire the Panasonic Lumix G3 and replaced it with an Olympus OMD E-M10 I found on FleaBay. The Olympus was a surprising big upgrade in camera. The build quality is quite a bit better than the Panasonic. Both the rear screen and viewfinder are much better. The camera contains in-body image stabilization, which is the real upgrade for shooting legacy manual focus lenses.

The latter was my reason for upgrading this experimental camera. I have no intention of acquiring a lens system for it, although there are many excellent Micro-4/3s lenses. I might change my mind, but for now I prefer the Fuji glass for APS-size sensors and the Nikkor glass for full-frame.

I’ll probably write more about system decisions later. My system evolved substantially over the last couple of years.

I like the vintage image quality that the 16mm movie camera lenses bring. I have an Angenieux 20-80mm zoom that has an excellent reputation and needs to be used with the Olympus. As the opportunity presents, I’ll probably add a few more vintage movie camera lenses to the collection and use them to create some images.

These lenses are less sharp and bring less contrast than modern lenses. They are mostly 50-years old or more. Optical technology changed quite a lot during that period of time. But they bring an interesting quality to the captures. The results are less sharp, contain less (raw) contrast, and are subject to flare. But they are interesting.

So this will be my area of photographic exploration for awhile. I’m looking forward to working a little less in 2018 and having more time to work on personal projects. That will include writing and photography, which I will share here.

The end of the year approaches. With it will come my annual period of reflection and thoughts for the coming year. Even though there is sadness that Wife is no longer here to share the season, I look forward to remembering the birth of the Christ and the celebration of an ending and a beginning.

Life is good.

LaTeX and XML

And now for something completely different…

It is no secret (at least to those who know me) that I use Leslie Lamport’s LaTeX as my principal tool for producing written output. LaTeX is based on (one of my heroes) Donald Knuth’s TeX typesetting system. TeX was developed to support Knuth’s writing of computer science texts. Because of TeX’s beautiful output (especially of maths), others soon took up the tool.

(I despise Microsoft Word… and in general any word-processing software.)

Some time later Lamport wrote a set of macros that make TeX typesetting easier for those of us unfamiliar with the intricacies of TeX, which is decidedly low-level (but provides extreme control over output). I took up LaTeX in the 1990s while working with/on hydraulic models for U.S. Geological Survey. I loved the ease of producing very nice looking text, textbook quality maths, and working in a non-WYSIWIG environment. (Windows was just coming along at the time and I hated it.)

During that time, I actively supported something called Literate Programming, which was another Knuth creation in which both source code and documentation derive from the same file. I used the literate paradigm to produce several programs and maintained the Literate Programming FAQ list for the mailing list associated with users and interested parties of literate programming. Because there was a need to publish the FAQ in a variety of formats, I ultimately cast the source in an XML (eXtensible Markup Language) variant called Docbook. I had tools that converted the source to HTML and LaTeX (and plain text as well).

There are times when I’d like to publish maths here on my site. Yes, topics that involve mathematics still interest me and will continue to do so while I draw breath. But publishing maths in HTML is problematic. There is no standard approach that can produce beautiful mathematics rendering.

I just learned about a project, PreTeXt (http://mathbook.pugetsound.edu/index.html), that is based on XML and can produce EPUB, PDF, and HTML from a single XML source. TeX is used to set mathematics. I have not yet experimented with the work, but the prospect of producing e-reader formatted output, as well as HTML, that contains TeX maths is very interesting to me.

Therefore, once I finish working through my backlog of paying work, I think some experimentation with PreTeXt is needed. It might change the way I approach writing work. It will be interesting.

Red

On our walk along the Carson River Friday, we came upon these red berries or buds. I’m not sure what they are, but they provided an interesting contrast to the white rocks in the background.

We walked later than usual on Friday. I decided to do the strength workout before walking, so after taking care of some work and feeding us, we left the house about 1100h and headed for Silver Saddle Ranch. I really enjoy walking the Mexican Ditch Trail.

We parked at the usual staging area and humped down the hill through the ranch complex. I noticed an North American Kestrel that I first saw a few days ago, sitting in a tree. He flew off down the lane a hundred yards and perched on a fence post. As we continued walking the lane, he spooked and flew off across the hayfield. That made me smile and I spoke to him as he flew away.

I so enjoy seeing birds along the walk. I carry binoculars in my kit so I can watch them. I have an application on my iPhone that helps me identify them. My logging of my sightings is used by the Cornell Ornithology Unit to track populations, I’m certain.

I also identified a Northern Flicker as we walked the trail. I often hear woodpeckers working as we walk, but they are furtive and do not want to be seen. But Friday I spotted one and was able to observe him long enough to get an identification. His call confirmed my identification. He didn’t stay on his perch long, however. But I also spotted a female at the same location, and she was very spooky. She used her camouflage to hide against the bark of a cottonwood tree she occupied. I was amused and thankful for seeing both birds.

There was a lot of flow in the Carson River that afternoon. I supposed we had enough rain and snow in the mountains to raise the flowrate substantially. We paused at the dam to watch and listen to the water flowing over the weir. I noticed some red buds or berries on some scraggly brush along the Mexican Ditch, so we paused a few minutes for me to make an image.

There we met Linda and Austin. Linda is a tall, slender woman about my age. She’s clearly taken care of herself. Austin is her rambunctious black dog. Austin teased and irritated The Girl until she chased him. They were a hoot to watch. We all shared the path back to the ranch buildings and then parted ways, each on their path.

It was a good day. The walk did me good. The birds provided some intellectual stimulation and joy. The exercise is always good. A tired dog is a happy dog. So is a tired old man.

Washoe Valley Panorama

It’s not my best panoramic shot, but it captures the moment the Girl and I were on the Deadman’s Creek Trail.

The weather turned wet and gray yesterday evening. On our last walkies of the day, we drove over to the old orphanage doggie park and walked a circuit. It was spitting rain and the wind blew. While not cold, it wasn’t the best weather.

But The Girl is good so long as she’s moving. She’s hates being wet (but loves the snow), so I heard her shake now and again as she sniffed around. It’s a good sound and I enjoy.

The windproof hoodie I wore was enough to keep me warm. It was dark when we got out, but not bad with a light. So I enjoyed the outing and the time with The Girl.

I had to make a grocery run, so we drove to store, did the necessary reprovisioning to keep us fed, and returned home. It began raining not long after. I was glad to be home and have provisions for the next few days.

This morning is gray and rainy. I need to get out for a walk, so I’ll probably grab the M65 field jacket, put on my base layer bottoms, and get The Girl out for a walk. I really want to go walk the Carson River again today, so I think we will. Maybe there will be a photo-op out there. It will be a very different look from the recent walks.

But I was reminded of the wonderful hike we made up Deadman’s Creek Trail Sunday afternoon. While at the gazebo that overlooks Washoe Valley, I paused to make a panoramic image of the view. The fall colors are so warm and contrast so well with the cool colors of lake and sky. There is more water in Washoe Lake than I recall since we moved here in 2007. It is good to see.

It is a good. It was a good weekend. Now I’m off to go walk before the rains get started again. Life is good.

Willow Leaf

While walking the Riverview Park trail a couple of weeks ago, I spent a little time experimenting with a Wollensak lens.

Well, here is the last of my images from the fall Riverview Park hikes. The leaves are almost gone now and the trees are all dressed in their winter clothes. While there will be many days of hard blue skies and warm sunshine, the warm colors of summer and fall are gone.

But it is good. The change of seasons reminds me of changes of life. There is no constant; it is always dynamic. Sometimes the changes come so fast they take breath away, leaving one aswirl in thoughts and emotions as the changes are absorbed, if not understood or accepted.

At other times there is a slower ebb and flow to life, during which we ride those waves. The seasons remind me of those times as I walk daily the trails and watch the change in the position of the Sun and the change in the living things around me.

The slower times provide opportunity to reflect and process the times of faster change. It is good. Life is good.

Riverview Ruminations

On this beautiful fall morning, the Girl and I walked part of the Riverview Park trail. The sky was so beautiful it took my breath away.

I have second-day DOMS today. I woke late, moved slowly, drank coffee, and fed us. Then we gathered our things (or rather, I gathered our things) and we drove out to Riverview Park, a nice area near the Carson River. I wanted to walk in a rural environment, take in the cool morning air, get a little sun, and give my legs a chance to warm up and work some of the soreness from them.

I listened to a walking meditation while the Girl explored the sagebrush. Then I put on some music to walk by, but I left the isolation setting of my Bose QuietComfort 20s turned off so I could hear the environment around me. I kept the volume low as well. I wanted the music, but I didn’t want to be isolated.

As I walked the trail, I thought about Wife. There remains a little sadness many days that Wife left so early, really just as life was starting to become more interesting again — the kids grown, approaching retirement, and spending some time together traveling. But, it is what it is; she’s gone and my life is completely different now.

I thought about what happened is Las Vegas. The blood isn’t even cleaned up and the left is already screaming. No good tragedy should go unused… It disgusts me. I don’t hate the left and do not want to see them hurt. I just want their ideals and policies to be buried.

I don’t call them liberals anymore. I call them communists because they think the answer to all problems is more government control. They will not be satisfied until there is no private property and no business is run by an individual or corporation; there will only be bureaucrats. We might as well institute the commissars here.

I don’t much care for my frame of mind today. I know I need to give my body time to heal after pushing it so hard. I know I need to give law enforcement time to figure out why what happened in Las Vegas happened. Regardless of that outcome, there remains evil at large in the world. It will strike again, firearms or no firearms.

Sigh… I really enjoyed the view at Riverview Park this morning. There are enough clouds to give the incredibly blue sky texture. The iPhone8 is quite capable at making panoramic shots and this one captures the essence of what I saw. So I have a memory of the morning, beyond the drag of my internal dialogues. I think I’ll focus on the images and let the rest go, at least for now.