Zeitgeist

It's in the air. Or at least it's on the web. This morning I read Are We Doomed? in The New Yorker.

It's an interesting read about a college course that examines the question, and the response of the students taking the course.

I'm encouraged by the response of the students. It's not denial, but it's not defeatism either. It's not cynical, but it's not rose-colored glasses either. So you can read it and not want to open a vein.

I know there are pathways where the human species can go extinct, but I think those are less likely than a general collapse of this global, advanced technological civilization, accompanied by the deaths of billions of people. One key will be avoiding a global nuclear exchange. I can't speak to the risk of bio-weapons as an extinction threat. Possibly, I guess.

I think the more likely path is the one we're on now, a "decline and fall" scenario.

But I also think the most responsible, the most meaningful thing to do in the face of this is to try to avoid it. There is always a tension in life, in existence, between attachment and letting go. To act with intention, but without attachment to the results.

The cathedral metaphor at the end of the piece is perhaps helpful.

Do your best. The rest isn't up to you.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 07:24 Monday, 3 June 2024

And it "ain't what it used to be."

This came up in my feed from Beardy Guy, and it's a good read, albeit a bit long.

Put it this way: If you take a couple of typical undergraduates from the University of Toronto and you drop them in the middle of Beijing with their cell phones, they’re going to be fine. You take them up to Algonquin Park, a few hours’ drive north of Toronto, and you drop them in the park, and they’re dead within 48 hours.

Yes, we live in an advanced technological civilization. All of the eight billion people on this planet depend on it to one degree or another for their survival. That civilization is in overshoot, and it is going to collapse sometime in this century. Indeed, it has already begun.

The linked piece talks about how we might go about preserving some parts of it so that humanity isn't completely reduced to a feudal agrarian existence.

Among the people who see what's coming, there are some who see a "feudal agrarian existence," as the desired end-state, maybe with less emphasis on on the "feudal" and some hope for "communal." I'm pretty sure we won't be that lucky.

But there are some interesting ideas in the linked piece about what people could be doing now. Will they work? Who knows? The more relevant question is "Will people try."

I think they will. I'm somewhat surprised, but even in my brief couple of days up here, there is some acknowledgment, more than I'd expected, from educated people with children that we're in for rough times ahead.

And they're considering plans. Not "prepper" style, AR-15 heavy "survival porn," but relocating to different communities with more advantages and fewer vulnerabilities. Naturally, they are among the privileged class, with the means to contemplate and achieve these things. They may have to pool resources in many cases, but they're beginning to do that work.

The folks who aren't so fortunate are going to have to figure out how to adapt in place. Try to maximize their advantages and reduce their vulnerabilities right where they are. And that work should begin now.

This must be part of that work.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:33 Sunday, 2 June 2024

Touch Trucks

For Mitzi's grandson's birthday, we went to a local DC event that was taking place at the former RFK stadium, in the parking lot. A "touch trucks" event for kids.

It was pretty cool, if a sonic assault. The city departments, some federal agencies and a few private companies had vehicles of all kinds on display for kids to get close to, climb on, sit in or observe. The garbage truck was very popular.

The Secret Service was there with a couple of the black SUVs and we spoke with one of the uniformed agents. Earlier, I'd seen a helicopter fly over in Marine One livery that wasn't an SH-3. I asked the agent about it and he confirmed it was one of the new ones. They haven't been accepted for service yet thought.

The National Park Service had a helicopter on display, but as we were heading for it, they started moving people away from it as it had to leave. So we retreated back to a point where a motorcycle police officer indicated was far enough.

I wasn't sure, but the decks of ships are much smaller. I told Mitzi's son-in-law to make sure his son had his sunglasses on, since we weren't carrying goggles.

The rotors were spinning and a DC PR guy on a Segway came rolling up pushing everyone farther back. So we backed up another 10 feet or so.

Then the pilots increased the rotor pitch and the fun began. Strollers went flying, all the dust and debris on the asphalt went airborne, the cop's motorcycle tipped over. I was filming, but had to turn away. I saw all the other parents had as well. Mitzi was holding on to two or three strollers. I had to brace my legs against the rotor wash, it was pretty impressive.

The helicopter went airborne and the Segway guy came back to see if everyone was all right. Many of the parents were a little distressed, including Mitzi's daughter and son-in-law.

We collected ourselves, and started out to look at some more trucks. Some yards away I spotted a white ball cap on the ground. I pointed it out and said, "Looks like the helicopter blew somebody's hat off!"

Mitzi said, "That's my hat!" She hadn't even realized it had blown off her head, preoccupied, I imagine, by holding onto flying strollers.

We had a good laugh.

The noise, though, was something else. They let the kids blow the horns, turn on the sirens and the lights. It was getting to be a bit stressful as it happened without warning, often when you were right next to a vehicle.

The music from the dj was loud as well, as it had to be, I'm sure.

The funniest thing though was one of the announcements from the dj. Among the "Your car is about to be towed," and "We have another lost child here," was one that made me laugh.

"The Secret Service has two flashlights missing. If everyone could check and see if one of their little ones picked one up and please return it, they'd appreciate it."

I can't imagine those Secret Service agents got their flashlights back, and a couple of kids got a cool story for school, if one of uncertain ethical virtue.

We headed back to the kids' place to recover with a couple of cold beers. The weather remained outstanding.

And I've finished my 67th circuit around the sun.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 07:59 Sunday, 2 June 2024

In DC

Arrived in DC yesterday, very early after a 0300 reveille. The weather here is beautiful! We spent most of the afternoon at the National Portrait Gallery. Fascinating. Unsurprisingly, Trump doesn't have a painting in the gallery, he has a photograph. It's directly across from a portrait of John Lewis in a "justice" gallery, and I have to believe that was intentional (and delightful).

Wanted to get June launched in the marmot and Captain's Log. Mission(s) accomplished.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:14 Saturday, 1 June 2024

Finished

I finally finished The Demon of Unrest last night. I loved it, but I do think it lacked a little of the narrative flow of most of Larson's other books. There was probably the usual amount of back-and-forth in time and space, but it felt "bumpier," this time. It probably didn't help that I started out reading it as an ebook, and then shifted to a hardcopy because that was a better experience for me in terms of reading it more quickly.

I fiddled too much with the ebook version, trying to highlight passages, looking things up and dealing with distractions.

The thing I think I found most revelatory was the degree to which the southern planter class was intensely devoted to this exaggerated sense of "honor." And I wonder to what degree this evolved as a kind of psychological defense in terms of a sense of "moral goodness," or righteousness, while enslaving humans and exploiting them economically and sexually.

There is so much to say about the American south and the effects of slavery and planter class culture. Much of it, I think, still exists today. I see it in Florida, where there are essentially two classes, the privileged and the ignored, divided chiefly by wealth and poverty. Race plays significant a role as well, and poor people of color are doubly damned. Florida has never been among the best half of states in infant mortality, and it's not white babies dying that makes it so. And because it's not white babies dying, the state has never made it a priority to do anything about its abysmal performance.

When I hear or read people opposing the removal of Confederate monuments, or opposing removing the names of Confederate figures from public buildings or public spaces, claim that these things represent "heritage, not hate," I wonder exactly what they believe that heritage is, and why it's worth venerating or memorializing?

Because, from my recent reading of the history, that heritage is chiefly one of hate. Hatred of "the North." Hatred of Blacks.

And probably more than a little bit of self-loathing, that this exaggerated sense of "pride" in "heritage" is intended to soothe.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 11:16 Thursday, 30 May 2024

Travel Plans

We're headed up to DC on Friday and I've been overthinking what I want to bring, camera-wise. I'm pretty much settled on the OM-5 and a few small primes.

The real question I've been going back and forth on is what to carry in the new sling I bought. I was going to carry the Stylus 1s, because it'll fit with the iPad mini (but it's tight), and the long focal length makes for good out the window shots. But the little Stylus XZ-10 weighs just a little over half of what the 1s weighs (7.7oz) and takes up much less space. It has a 5x zoom 26-130mm efl, f1.8-2.7 and I've had good luck with it out of airplane windows before.

But then there's the XZ-1, which I just adore. It's neither as wide nor as long as the XZ-10 at 28-112mm efl, it's a little bigger and weighs a few ounces more than the XZ-10. But I like playing with art filters, and the XZ-10 has more of them with internal variations you can choose from for most of them.

I think it'll be the XZ-10. The tyranny of choice.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:23 Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Pentax MX-1

Closeuop of garden flowers

Brief moment of panic yesterday when I (re-)learned that you can't charge the Pentax MX-1 in camera. Couldn't find the charger in the drawer full of chargers. Spent an hour or so cleaning up my desk (got about a third of the way through), when it dawned on me that it might be in the box. This camera came with the box and all the docs and I hadn't thrown it away. Quick trip to the closet and there it was!

I'd been wasting some time watching YouTube camera videos and decided I wanted to play with the MX-1.

(The real subject of this post should be the wasteland that YouTube has become with regard to camera videos. But what does one do in a wasteland but waste time?)

Mitzi and I biked over to the garden and I brought the MX-1 along. Tough to compose with just an LCD in that much sunshine, but I got a few shots. More up at Flickr.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:04 Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Message

Ray Spicer is a classmate of mine from the Naval Academy. I think he was also an ocean engineering major, but I know we took several classes together because I saw him often and enjoyed his company. Anyway, Ray went much farther in his career than I did, and he's now the CEO of the United States Naval Institute.

Today he posted a Memorial Day message that quotes Lincoln as well.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 09:16 Monday, 27 May 2024

Evolvulus alsinoides

<img src=“https://nice-marmot.net/Archives/2024/Images/P5262350.JPG" alt=“My wife calls these “Blue my mind."">

A couple of moon shots up at Flickr from yesterday and this morning, but I wanted to post something different yesterday. I didn't get around to it, so here it is today. Took the XZ-1 out around the house after my walk. Mitzi calls these "Blue my mind" flowers. ("Blew my mind?" I don't know.)

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 09:11 Monday, 27 May 2024

Honor the Fallen

I heard this report on NPR Morning Edition this morning. It brought to mind my own experience.

“There's this moment at a homecoming and a memorial or burial where the national and a local are entwined in this project of belonging,” said Wagner, the author of What Remains: Bringing America’s Missing Home from the Vietnam War.

Please listen to the audio report, which differs somewhat from the text version. It includes an additional quote from Sarah Wagner that I think is important, which speaks to the role of ceremony and tradition.

In a moment when it seems there is no common thread that unites us, perhaps this does. If only briefly, and episodically.

I'm just past Lincoln's inauguration in Erik Larson's Demon of Unrest, where I learned Seward inspired the better part of the close of Lincoln's first inaugural. It resonates today, perhaps as it did then:

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:28 Monday, 27 May 2024

Another CyberTruck Cyting

I went to the grocery store yesterday on my way home from a medical appointment I bailed on. (They were 45 minutes late for my appointment and the facility looked unprofessional and sketchy.) So I didn't arrive at Publix until about noon.

The parking lot was full, because it was the lunch hour and many of the construction workers go to Publix for lunch. So I had to make a couple of orbits to find an open space. That's where I first spotted it, also appearing to be looking for a parking space. It looked even more absurd in the parking lot where you can see it in close proximity to other vehicles.

When I found an empty spot, I pulled in just as the car in the opposite space (in front of me) was pulling out. So I pulled through, which made for an easier departure when I was ready to leave.

Right behind me, the Cyber-monstrosity pulled into the spot I'd just vacated.

The thing is huge. I tried to get a look inside to see what kind of guy buys (leases?) one of those things. There was too much glare off the windshield to get a clear look inside, and I was trying to be somewhat discreet. (So, no pics.)

I will say it was quiet, which is perhaps it's only redeeming virtue. So many of these conventional ginormous three-quarter ton pickups pretending to be something that they're not have exhausts tuned to make them sound like freight trains.

But it is truly an ugly vehicle. Its slab-sides don't look "stealthy" or "high-tech," it just looks like a bad prop from a low-budget sci-fi flick. I'd be embarrassed to be seen in one.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 15:37 Saturday, 25 May 2024

The Riot Report

Speaking of willful ignorance, I watched this American Experience program the other night.

We lived in Warren, Michigan in 1967. We were in upstate New York at my grandparents' house when the riot occurred.

I've ordered a copy of the report, and Jelani Cobb's edited version.

The film is excellent, even as it is infuriating.

We refuse to learn.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 12:22 Saturday, 25 May 2024

Unreality

Just read this piece in The New Yorker about "forever chemicals."

Add that to what the oil companies knew about CO2 as a greenhouse gas and its effects on climate.

There are probably hundreds, thousands of other examples, Boeing just came to mind, of companies knowing that their products had adverse effects for people and the environment.

The other day I commented on a post over at Kottke.org, where I wrote that I thought technology had disrupted reality, "Blew it to smithereens."

Anne Applebaum has a piece in The Atlantic that democracy is losing the propaganda war. (You can read it in News+.)

I think humanity has always lied to itself. Rather, certain groups of humans lie to other groups of humans, many of whom willingly accept the lie in order to carry on behaving as they wish to behave.

"Reality. What a concept."

And then we feign outrage when we "discover the shocking truth."

As Al Gore observed, the truth is "inconvenient."

"The truth will set you free." We don't desire freedom, we wish for license.

We don't seek the truth, we seek permission.

Justification.

To do as we wish, to whomever we want, for as long as we can, to satisfy our own craving.

We've created AI in our own image, and it's probably as delusional as we are.

Time's almost up.

It's been... interesting.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 10:33 Saturday, 25 May 2024

This Morning’s Moon 5-25-24

Waning gibbous moon, 95.9% illuminated.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 07:34 Saturday, 25 May 2024

Closing the Ring

A pair of flowers

I've been walking in the late afternoon to ensure that I close my move ring. (Current goal: 840 cal.) I don't press in the afternoon, because it's warmer and I just need to close the ring, not work up a sweat.

So this afternoon I brought along the Stylus 1s, just to get familiar with it again. Turned out to be a fairly prolific walk, as far as pics go. I liked this one though.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 17:47 Wednesday, 22 May 2024

A Place For My Stuff

I don't travel often anymore. Certainly not as much as during my working life. Back then, I'd accumulate enough miles to get upgrades. These days, I only wish to fly to maintain relationships with family.

After hearing about the clear air turbulence experienced by Singapore Airlines, I'm even more reluctant to fly.

In any event, I'm flying to DC in a week to spend a long weekend with Mitzi's daughter and son-in-law and her oldest grandson. Last month I flew to Albany to spend a long weekend with my 90-year-old Mom, so my experience with flying is still fresh.

For a weekend trip, I normally pack a carry-on and a camera bag. I use the camera bag to hold, yes, a camera and a lens or two; but also to hold my phone, sunglasses, wallet and keys after I arrive at the airport and get ready to proceed through security.

I have two small bags I normally use. The one I like more is a tan canvas Domke, but it has the least amount of room. I have a green, nylon Lowepro that has a nice, big front pocket and a slim back pocket that will hold my iPad mini perfectly. The front pocket is large enough for my phone, wallet and keys, while my sunglasses will fit on top of the camera and lenses in the main part of the bag.

It's never been quite ideal. I don't like the strap on the Lowepro, it's fixed and I can't swap it. Both bags have the large lid that wraps over the top and down the front to a velcro and clip fastener. They're a bit fussy to get things in and out of quickly. The Domke is better, but again, smaller.

I've made it work with each of them, but it's never been ideal.

So among the hours I wasted watching YouTube videos about EDC kits, I watched a number of videos on travel bags, specifically, slings. Just search on EDC sling bags, hundreds of videos to choose from. I bought a tomtoc Compact EDC Sling (4L) and it arrived yesterday, so I've had a chance to play around with it. (There's a 15% off coupon on my listing, which makes this a pretty good deal)

Construction, fit and finish all outstanding. The strap is long enough to fit my girth. The appeal with a sling is that it slides around onto your back when you're walking, but when it slides around in front it's horizontal, so accessing the contents isn't a hassle.

I put my OMDS OM-5 with the 20mm/f1.7 pancake mounted in it. I can get the iPad mini in there as well, but it has to go into the front part of the main compartment (which is divided into two pockets), and it's a tight fit. Playing around with the E-P7 with the 12-32mm/f3.5-5.6 mounted, and my Olympus Stylus 1s, they both fit along with the iPad. The E-P7 and Stylus 1s are each several ounces lighter than the OM-5.

I considered my options and I'm going to put the Stylus 1s in the sling, vertically, grip facing up. The bag is deep enough to accommodate that, and it makes putting the iPad mini in it much simpler. I like carrying the Stylus 1s on flights because it has a 28-300mm/f2.8 (constant) zoom, which can make for some interesting out the window shots.

There's still plenty of room for my phone, wallet, a small Anker power pank, some USB cords, my Airpods, a micro-fiber cloth, lens pen, sunglasses, keys, tic-tacs, protein bar, pen and maybe a flashlight. (I bought the black one with the black interior. Probably unwise. They make different colors, some with yellow interiors that are easier to look into and identify your stuff. Hence, flashlight.)

So after checking in at the TSA line, everything from my pockets goes into the sling bag and I just toss that onto the belt and carry on through screening. No messing around with the big flappy cover on the camera bags, hoping something doesn't fall out. (Like it did on the trip to Albany last time. Spotted my phone on the floor next to the conveyor after screening.)

Like the camera bags, the sling bag won't take up much space under the seat in front of me, so I can still move my feet around. We've got a (too) brief layover in Atlanta, but we're landing early in the morning, so hopefully we won't have to wait for a gate. The bigger question will be which way we land and how far we have to taxi to the gate. I've been on flights where it's taken 15-20 minutes just to taxi to a gate! I wouldn't have booked the flight this way, but Mitzi made the arrangements and she's using a companion fare.

I don't know how comfortable it'd be to carry all that for an afternoon out sightseeing, but I wouldn't necessarily pack all that stuff either. Certainly not the iPad mini or the power bank.

I'll probably put the OM-5 in my carry-on, wrapped in a t-shirt with a couple of lenses for use in DC. Both cameras use the same battery, and I can charge the OM-5 in camera (micro-USB, alas). That'll give me a larger sensor with some brighter primes for interiors at the Smithsonian (If photography is permitted, I don't even know anymore.), and a faster AF for shots of her grandson. But the Stylus 1s will be a good "walking around" camera if I take the dog out or walk up to the mini-mart, as I often do when we're there.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 13:07 Wednesday, 22 May 2024

The Usual Discontents

You can't get a CSV file of your Apple Card transactions from within Apple Wallet. You must go to the online web site where you can't look at your transactions (That's what Wallet is for?), but you can pay your bill. And you can also download pdfs of your prior months' statements.

Which made me finally pay for a year's worth of PDF Expert. I had a couple of utilities that purportedly could extract tables from pdfs and convert them into Excel spreadsheets, but both failed and have been subsequently deleted.

PDF Expert can do it, but of course, the spreadsheet is ugly as sin, and you have to spend several minutes making it not painful to look at. (I should look into whether there is a kind of saved style I could apply to the whole sheet in one fell swoop. I have a feeling I'll be doing this again.)

You can download a csv file of all your transactions from Amazon. It takes a little time, basically you submit a request and wait for it to be fulfilled. Matter of minutes in my experience.

You get several files, each in its own folder. The one I wanted was Retail.Order.History.1.csv. That isn't a simple matter of applying a style, there are columns of data that aren't useful that must be deleted, useful columns that must be moved to more sensible locations. And then you get to figure out how to group order numbers together, because each item record of a transaction is a row, although you may have ordered several items in a single order. Oddly, the orders aren't grouped together. They mostly are, but you'll find outliers in nearly every order with more than three items. They're usually one or two rows down, inexplicably separated from the rest of the order.

That's important because it's the order total that was charged to the Apple Card, and the number that appears in the order confirmation email you receive from Amazon. That figure never appears in the csv file.

I've been subjecting myself to all of this because I'm having a charge disputed by Goldman Sachs and I want to be absolutely certain that I was in fact correct that the charge that appeared on my card wasn't associated with any order that I made.

So far, I'm fairly certain that I'm correct. I can't find an order confirmation email anywhere near the date of the transaction reported on the card for that amount. There is no order among the record of my orders at the Amazon web site that correlates to that amount. And I downloaded the record of transactions, just to be thorough.

Well... Hold the phone.

(Actually, I just got off the phone.)

Just now, in the middle of writing this post and out of curiosity, I went to the folder of folders of transactions to see if one of those might have been strictly orders, which would have been more helpful. Alas, not the case.

But, there was a Digital Items folder, and so I opened that just to see what it contained. I thought it would be my Kindle book orders, and I haven't bought one recently. There are four .csv files in that Digital Items folder, and a README. The previous folders each contained one .csv file. The only .csv file that contains anything meaningful to me (a human) is Digital Items.csv, the second to the last one in the folder listing, just before the README (which I didn't read).

Sure enough, the first record in the Digital Items.csv is my Amazon Prime renewal, for the amount in question.

Oy!

I seem to recall that I usually received an email from Amazon that Prime would be renewing at such and such a date. All of my Amazon mail went to a single mailbox, and there is no email announcing the upcoming renewal, no email confirmation of renewal, nothing to tell me that they'd charged my card to renew my Prime membership.

So when I got the alert from Apple Card, there was no correspondence from Amazon, no record of a transaction that I could find that explained that charge, and I thought my card must have been skimmed at the movies.

Well...bummer.

"New shit has come to light, man."

So I called Goldman Sachs, didn't have to fuss too much with the automated "assistant" and was able to reach a human being (in a noisy call center) fairly quickly, and withdrew the dispute.

Very frustrating, because I changed my card number too. I still have a couple of recurring charges that have to be updated.

In any event, it also prompted me to change my mailbox setup. I've created separate mailboxes for Amazon Order Confirmation, Amazon Shipping Confirmation and Amazon Delivery Confirmation, and an Amazon Other mailbox.

(All of which suggests I do far too much business with Amazon.)

And now I'm adding Prime renewal to the Calendar, so hopefully this won't happen again.

Yeah, I kinda feel like a dumbass; but I also think Amazon let me down here.

The beat goes on...

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:31 Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Responsive Universe

Church and religion are human artifacts, and fraught with the frailties and failings of human beings. Faith is a something different, and talking about it, or writing about it, invariably butts up against religion and all the human baggage that accompanies it.

I don't begrudge anyone their particular faith practice, but I don't wish to embrace any particular one either. I think they're all wrestling with the same thing, we just get too caught up in our perceptions and prejudices.

Anyway, in my subjective experience, which may be borne out of confirmation bias and other cognitive weakness, I find some comfort in the occasional indication from the divine that I may be on the right track.

The first tip was, oddly enough, from NPR on Saturday morning. I listen to NPR while I'm making breakfast every day, and on Saturdays, Travel With Rick Steves is the show that's on during that time. I usually don't hear the whole thing, but I tuned in just in time to hear a guest, Michael Scott Moore, who has a paperback edition of his book out, The Desert and the Sea, talk about his experience as a Somali captive.

During the interview, Moore talks about essentially abandoning hope, and how that was essential for him. We often talk about "having" hope, and that being "hopeless" is akin to despair. But hope is desire, and desire is a source of suffering. Hope is not faith. I try to have faith, and not to hope.

Anyway, I thought it was cool to hear that, because I agree, even though I still hope. Here's a link to the show. I don't know how long it'll point to this show (It's Program 754, for future reference). It doesn't seem to have a "permalink" anywhere that I can find. Listen to the Program Extra at the bottom too.

The second little nudge came in this morning's email from Nick Cave. You can read the whole thing here, but this is the quote,

This realisation shook me to the core, that the meaning of life - its joy, boundless beauty and love - emerges out of our most devastating losses.

The harmony of binding opposites.

And not long after that, I was going through my feed in NetNewsWire and read Heather Cox Richardson's post about Biden's commencement address at Morehouse College:

Then Biden turned to a speech that centered on faith. Churches talk a lot about Jesus being buried on Friday and rising from the dead on Sunday, he said, “but we don’t talk enough about Saturday, when… his disciples felt all hope was lost. In our lives and the lives of the nation, we have those Saturdays—to bear witness the day before glory, seeing people’s pain and not looking away. But what work is done on Saturday to move pain to purpose? How can faith get a man, get a nation through what was to come?”

"Move pain to purpose." I love alliteration.

Love is faith in action, moving pain to purpose.

It's probably been almost 20 years now, when I had what I suppose I have to call a "spiritual experience."

It was during all the drama of the end of my marriage and the end of my career, during therapy and a lot of meditation. Sandy used to say, "David, just be still."

After one morning's meditation, for no particular reason that I recall, I stepped outside my cheap, shabby apartment and it seemed as though everything within my perception shifted, rotated, it changed somehow. And after that apparent movement, everything within my perception appeared illuminated from within, in a kind of golden hue. Everything glowed. And the feeling that came over me was one of complete peace, and the knowledge, the utter certainty that everything was exactly the way it was supposed to be.

And this perception and feeling wasn't just a flash, it persisted for what I think I recall has hours. At least a couple, because I recall walking around feeling lighter than air.

Anyway, this idea that "everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be," has stayed with me, even if it doesn't feel that way most of the time now. Having had that experience, it's hard to ignore or deny it. It doesn't prevent suffering, it doesn't relieve it, but it does help to remove some of the anger. Some of it.

And I suppose if I spent more time these days being still, it'd probably remove more of it.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 10:21 Monday, 20 May 2024

Lookin' Out My Backdoor

Little blue heron perched on the broken end of a tree trunk

We were making turkey burgers last night when I noticed something perched on this relatively newly broken tree back in the swamp. The E-M1X already had the 100-400mm zoom mounted with the 1.4x teleconverter, so it was a matter of switching modes to try for bird.

Photos informs me this is a little blue heron, perhaps a juvenile transitioning into its adult plumage. It spent most of its time preening its feathers.

This is an uncropped image, lightly sharpened in Topaz SharpenAI. I tried Topaz PhotoAI, but it sharpens the image beyond what I think is acceptable, introducing artifacts and distortions. (Full resolution image available at Flickr.)

Since I've been walking without a camera, I've been taking far fewer pictures. The upside is, I have less "work" to do on them. I was shooting in drive mode on this bird and even with the "slow" setting and shooting in bursts, I still had a ton of images to go through.

Shot the moon last night too. Also up on Flickr.

I've been trying to take advantage of the more reasonable weather to get more exercise. I've been managing to close my Move ring several days in a row now. It'll get hot and humid soon, and I won't be as willing to press as I am now. But this has begun to feel "good," and it recalls some of the feeling I had back when I was running. It's also made me consider trying it again, but that'll be in the pre-dawn hours when it's dark and I'm less likely to encounter people.

We'll be heading up to DC at the end of the month to see Mitzi's daughter and son-in-law, so I'll be bringing a camera or two along then.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 10:03 Monday, 20 May 2024

Last Night’s Moon

Telephoto closeup of waxing gibbous moon approx 75% illuminated

Shot this just before bed last night. The night before last wasn't cloudy, but it was definitely hazy. I like this shot, there's a larger version at Flickr.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 14:41 Sunday, 19 May 2024

The Demon of Unrest

I'm reading Erik Larson's latest, The Demon of Unrest. I owe it to a classmate to hurry up and finish it because he's already read it and wants to discuss it.

Alas, I'm a deliberate (slow) reader, and often distracted. I am making progress though. I'm reading it in Apple's Books app, which was probably a mistake. At least with a paper version, I'd have a clearer idea of how far along I am. I'm only about halfway through Part 2, so maybe a quarter? I keep getting distracted by looking up people and words (Larson does seem to enjoy throwing in the occasional archaic term.)

But I love the book, because it's a Larson book. This is a very detailed look at a short period of history, so it's full of fascinating events and people I'd never heard of before.

Because of it, I've started watching Ken Burns' The Civil War again, and I have a really hard time tolerating Shelby Foote this time. And the limitations of Burns' approach are more manifest as well, but it does give me something additional on the subject.

I'm trying to highlight all the passages with dates, hoping to manufacture my own timeline when I'm finished. We'll see how that project goes. It is very frustrating and disappointing that publishers of ebooks don't take advantage of the format to create a timeline as a supplement to the text and the index. It's also unfathomable.

Anyway, highly recommended, as are any of Larson's books.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:53 Saturday, 18 May 2024

EDC Nerdery

I think I was twelve when I read Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island. There was this little gas station and miniature supermarket, a "superette," in Clockville where Dad would often stop to get ice cream, beer, gas or whatever. It was the closest retail outlet to our house in rural upstate New York.

There was a rack of paperback books with the covers torn off near the front door, and I'd spend time looking through them while Mom or Dad got whatever they needed. They only cost a dime, so I'd get a new book fairly often, and I kept those coverless paperbacks. I don't know or can't recall what happened to them when I left home, but there were a lot of them.

I digress.

The Mysterious Island was my introduction to "survival" lit, if there is such a thing. I was fascinated by the ingenuity and knowledge displayed by the stalwart band of Yankee escapees; and it was probably one of the things that also kind of nudged me toward engineering as a field of study.

I had Bradford Angier's How to Stay Alive In The Woods. I think I read Alas, Babylon around that time. Later, Lucifer's Hammer. Most recently, Andy Weir's The Martian is in the same genre; but long before I read The Martian, I read Welcome to Mars, by James Blish. It was very much of the same genre, figuring out how to survive with limited resources in a hostile environment. Oh, and the kid invented an anti-gravity drive too.

I was also a Boy Scout so, "Be prepared"?

Anyway, I loved that stuff and it's had an influence on me for most of my life. Much of my library, the "keepers," are books that might be useful to "reboot civilization."

I'm pretty certain now there'll be no "rebooting" this civilization. We will have already squandered all the easily recoverable energy and mineral resources, though some regions may do better than others.

I digress. Again.

There is a huge "prepper" community on YouTube, though I probably shouldn't use scare quotes on the term. We're all preppers now. And those who aren't, soon will be. A lot of them are pretty scary people though, very into firearms and violence, er, "personal defense."

I don't know if the "everyday carry" (EDC) people are in the same set as the hardcore preppers, but I think they're at least "prepper adjacent," wanting to have on hand the things they think they may be likely to need during their day to day lives. I'm like that insofar as I always (often to my chagrin) carry a SAK (Swiss Army knife) and a little AAA LED flashlight, in addition to my keys.

The SAK often embarrasses me because so many places and events have security that bars entry with a knife of any kind. I've given at least three to TSA, and on more than one occasion had to trudge back to the car to drop it off before entering a local venue. Most recently at the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, though they checked it for me, which was nice.

It's a Tinker, not something that's going to be terribly useful in personal defense. (Not that I'd carry a knife for personal defense.) Mostly, I use the short blade to open Amazon boxes and then to cut the tape to break them down before they go in the recycling container. But I make frequent use of the screwdrivers and the toothpick as well. I forgot to put my nasal hair trimmers in my kit when we went to my nephew's wedding. SAK scissors FTW! (TMI?)

In any event, I've carried one for years and years, it's what I'm comfortable with, and I feel kind of naked without it.

The flashlight also comes in handy more often than you might expect. Started carrying one when I had Bodhi, and I'd walk him at night and use it to find his feces as a responsible pet owner. Nowadays, I use it to find stuff that's fallen on the floor, or in a crevice in the car, or to find a hole that a screw has to go into.

Yeah, you can use your phone as a flashlight, but try holding it in your mouth sometime.

My keys are a problem though. Most of my shorts have net pockets. The part that is next to my thigh is cloth, but the outer part, down to the bottom, is netting. The keys drop to the bottom of the pocket, and the teeth can rub against my thigh through the netting. I've had these little abrasions there for years, but I'm getting older now and growing tired of them.

So I did a little browsing on YouTube among the EDC channels. What I wanted was some kind of "pocket organizer" that I could put my stuff into that would fit in my pocket and eliminate the scratches, the noise and the top of the flashlight occasionally screwing itself off. (It usually lights up before it comes off, and shines through my shorts. But I guess I miss it occasionally, because more than once I've pulled my keys out to get the mail and a part of the flashlight comes out with them.)

Well, to make a long, probably boring, story shorter, I bought a Maxpedition Micro Pocket Organizer (Says it right on the label!). I got the black one, but now I think I might like the khaki one better. I didn't think I'd like the big web loop on the top of it, but I've found it's perfect for pulling the thing out of my pocket quickly and easily.

My wallet has long been one of those minimalist affairs, little more than a leather card holder. I live in a gated community and we have access control cards to get into the back gate when we're not in a vehicle, or to get into the clubhouse from one of the side doors. I've found that if I place that card as the outermost one, I don't have to remove it from my wallet, I can just put my wallet up to the sensor and it'll unlock the gate or the door. Saves a lot of fumbling around.

So I put my wallet in the little net pocket at the front of the pouch. It's not clear yet if I'll have to pull it out to get the card reader to register the card, but my first attempt wasn't promising. That's the only downside so far. Fortunately, I don't have to do that very often.

The SAK fits snugly in one of the elastic loops. The flashlight is a little too thin and it doesn't have a clip. But it does have a little split-ring, so for the moment I've got a tiny binder clip attached to it, and that clips to the top of the left inner pocket. So there's no chance of the flashlight falling out when I open it to get my keys.

My keys are clipped to a little carabiner through a tiny loop at the top of the right side of the pouch. I stuff the keys into the pocket so they don't rattle around. I've got two of these magnet doohickies coming that I'll use for the keys and the flashlight so I don't have to fuss with clips to get them out.

Since there's more space in there, and it's "organized," I've added a few things that I don't normally carry but sometimes wish I had. One is a microfiber cloth to clean my glasses. I usually resort to my shirt, but unless it's a natural fiber, it mostly just smears the fingerprints and sweat around. I've also stuck a Fisher Space Pen in there. It normally sits in my desk drawer and is seldom used. I'll probably stash a refill in there too.

So now I'm into figuring out what other crap I want to add. I've put a few alcohol wipes in there to clean my iPhone when it gets nasty. A couple of safety pins, and a couple of sanitizing towels. That's probably enough.

I thought it was going to be this big bulge in my pocket (I'm a, "Wild and crazy guy!"), but it's not much worse than just having all that crap lying loose in there.

All of this tickles my inner "survivor," and has inspired me put together a travel kit with the chargers and cables all sorted and set to go. I ordered a Maxpedition Skinny Pocket Organizer (I have no idea why it's considered a "pocket organizer.") This Anker 87W power bank will fit in the left side pocket (without the fabric sleeve Anker ships with it). And it's deep enough to also hold the 65W USB-C charger. I stuck a little Apple 10W charger in there as a backup for my watch. The big cables fit in an elastic loop in the center of the pouch, and there's a zippered pocket that holds a variety of smaller ones. It'll charge everything, my MacBook Pro, iPad, iPhone, Watch and any of my most recent cameras that offer in-camera charging. It's not light, and I wouldn't carry it as an "everyday" accessory; but the next time we travel I'll just be able to grab this, and I shouldn't find myself missing a cable when we get to our destination.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:53 Friday, 17 May 2024

Tonight’s Moon 5-16-24

Telephoto closeup of waxing gibbous moon 65% illuminated

Good seeing tonight. E-M1X, handheld high-res shot, 100-400mm zoom w/MC14 teleconverter. 1120mm effective focal length.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 21:48 Thursday, 16 May 2024

What Is The Meaning of This?

The reality of our present circumstances is seldom far from my awareness. It colors much of what I think about the future and the present. Maybe that's why I like reading history these days. It's a form of escape.

I don't feel depressed, by what I believe the future holds, but I am disappointed and I know that my children and grandchildren will face a vastly more challenging life than I did.

But perhaps all that is relative. My mother's life as a child was more challenging than her children's lives, and her parents' lives were similarly more challenging.

And my childrens' and grandchildrens' lives will merely be the first couple of generations in what is likely to be a long decline, if we're fortunate enough to avoid a precipitously violent one.

Modernity is ending.

In many ways, it reminds me of John Conway's game of Life. I used to play a version of it on my Apple II. You'd start out with a random, low density distribution of cells, and occasionally you'd get this explosive growth of cells and activity across the grid, only to watch it die down to a much lower density of cells at the end.

I think that's what humanity's experience with modernity will likely be. We're at the peak of that activity now. It won't last forever, or even very long.

It may explain the Great Filter, why we haven't encountered other intelligent species in our region of the galaxy. Civilizations develop technology and are propelled into overshoot and collapse, again and again, none surviving long enough to make their existence known to other civilizations.

And Conway's Life may be a reflection of the idea that we live in a simulation.

In any event, faced with the prospect of losing this civilization, many wonder "What is the point?"

I like that blog. It can feel depressing at first, but, yeah, the math is pretty clear.

Now, I don't believe he's necessarily correct on the issue of determinism and free will. I think there's something about consciousness that is non-deterministic. Much of it is, of course. It explains why so much of our behavior is simply habituated, a product of physics and the laws of thermodynamics. Nature expends only enough energy, never more. At least, not for long anyway.

But gravity is the weakest force in the universe, weaker even than irony.

But it holds the whole thing together.

I don't understand the nature of consciousness, but I've come to believe that there is more here than meets the eye. Whether that's a responsive universe, or some hacker running this simulation, I don't know. But I think there's a reality beneath this reality. Maybe "above"? These kinds of abstractions are perhaps unhelpful.

In any event, what is the point? Why are we here?

I recall how I felt when my marriage failed, itself a long process, relatively speaking; and my career as a naval officer, concurrently with my marriage. It felt like, "The end of the world."

It wasn't, of course. But it took a lot of therapy and personal reflection to figure that out.

One of the insights I think I gleaned during those days was that life is meaningless, we bring meaning to life.

We make meaning.

That requires action, and that action can be habituated or "deterministic," or it can be something else.

It can be a choice.

I also learned that the inner voice is an unreliable narrator. An emergent property of a habituated system. An idling loop.

So, be still. Now and then.

And don't get too caught up with the voice inside your head.

Finally, I learned that we are not here to "change the world."

The world is here so that we may learn to change ourselves.

So, what is the point of all this in the face of the collapse of civilization?

The point is that it was never about the external reality of "the world." It has always been about the interior reality of how we wish to be in the world.

We are here to do our best. To interrogate, as much as possible (It's not much, because who has the energy? See "determinism" above.) from time to time, is this the best we can do?

What is "the best"? Another worthwhile question.

Who do we choose to be in the world?

(Everything is contingent. We are in the world. It must shape who we choose to be. If we choose.)

Existence is the tension between binding opposites, being and nothingness. Existence to have any meaning, demands consciousness. An awareness of "something" beyond "nothingness" - being.

Being is the negation of nothingness. An affirmation. A cosmic, universal Yes. Which can only exist against the foundation of nothingness.

Consciousness, awareness of individual existence in a temporal dimension and the awareness of non-existence, of death, may bring about desire. Between "being" and "nothingness," perhaps consciousness desires being over nothingness.

Perhaps desire emerges from a metaphysical tension between binding opposites, faith and fear. Faith affirms, embraces, accepts. Fear denies, retreats and rejects.

The point of our existence is to navigate our timestream, our "lifeline" between being and nothingness, faith and fear.

It's to do our best, and the rest is not up to us.

Faith and fear.

Love is faith in action. The first derivative of faith.

Courage is love in action. The second derivative of faith. Acceleration, an element of force.

Anger is fear in action.

Hate is anger in action. A second derivative of fear. Acceleration, an element of force.

Anyway, we're all in this together. Nobody is getting out of here alive.

Let's do our best, as best we can, and don't worry about the results, except insofar as they may help inform what "our best" might have been, so perhaps we can do better going forward.

As always, I'm an authority on nothing. I make all this shit up. Do your own thinking.

A broken record, I know.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 09:28 Wednesday, 15 May 2024

Tedium

I follow a number of "tech" blogs because I occasionally learn something that might be useful, or get an insight into something that improves my understanding of something. But there's also a lot of noise in tech blogs. Just like in photography forums, especially "gear" ones.

It seems that many of the Mac illuminati are disenchanted with the M4 iPad Pro because, well, it's not a Mac. More specifically, and perhaps fairly, they object to the fact that iPadOS isn't MacOS. And this gets repeated, seemingly everywhere, ad nauseam.

There are folks who appreciate the iPad and iPadOS as a tablet computing platform, but they aren't the dominant voices in the blogosphere.

I don't have to do any "work" on either a Mac or an iPad, so I don't really have a dog in this fight. I also don't need an M4 iPad Pro. But I can appreciate the frustration of those who are satisfied with the features of iPadOS as a tablet computing productivity platform. I can agree that the Mac-first (Make the Mac Great Again?) crowd don't "get it." They view the iPad with a perspective from their formative experience with computing technology.

Just as the CLI crowd sneered at the GUI people back in the day.

The old-school Mac users will seemingly never be satisfied until the iPad is a Mac without a keyboard with some touch features bolted on.

Also reminds me of Ric Ford and Macintouch back in the days when Mac OS X (that's what it was called) was replacing MacOS 9 (or System 7 for some of those guys), and the Aqua UI was an abomination to them. Even GUI nerds can bitch about changes to a GUI.

Which is to say nothing about all the folks at the DPReview micro four-thirds forum who supposedly like Olympus (now OM System) cameras, but know so much more about what products the manufacturer should be making, and keep repeating themselves over and over again.

Broken records. An anachronism. But one you'll find everywhere.

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Originally posted at Nice Marmot 07:04 Wednesday, 15 May 2024