Status Report

Well Red

Whoops! Yes, the Waste of Bandwidth went away for a day or two. I got a new credit card a month or two ago and I didn’t give my webhost the new digits. But as you can see, I am now off the deadbeat list and the wheels of truth spin and grind once more.

Let’s see. I have also turned off the IFTTT recipes that automatically crossposted stuff I’ve been putting up on Instagram and Flickr. I still wanna do that sort of thing, but maybe in a more deliberate, hand-tooled way. They were cluttering up the feed and I was disappointed that they looked so clumsy, as opposed to the proper embeds I’ve done in this post. We live, we learn.

A few months have passed since I switched to a new WordPress theme, so it’s time for me to switch to another one (the 2016 edition of the official WordPress theme). Please take the subsequent 2,000 word essay on How I’ve Really Solved This Problem For Good, I Mean It as read. It’ll save us both some time.

I now look outside my window and see that the very light drizzle that greeted me when I took an experimental step outside ten minutes ago has blossomed into full-throated rain. And with a sigh of relief, I scritch open the velcro tabs on the bike gloves I’ve been typing in and put ’em next to the keyboard. Sometime tonight, when I’m sprawled on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn on my belly and the new episode of “The Amazing Race” on the TV, I will mutter how I’ve been cheated out of a lovely afternoon of riding but at the moment, I can’t even pretend. Fine, I’ll pedal or walk to the market closeby, just so that I move the dial a little bit towards my Google Fit goal, but even there, it’s mostly to get one of their deli sandwiches and maybe a pie to take home for later, and wouldn’t cheez curls be tastier than popcorn for my viewing party? If I eat them with chopsticks, as the clever folk do, it’ll even add an appropriate international flair to the proceedings.

Besides: I did lots of walking yesterday…and I did it under strongly sub-ideal conditions. I’m thinking back to how I spent Christmas Eve last year: walking all over New York City wearing a thin, short-sleeved shirt. Yesterday, temps were in what might be termed the aggressive mid-Forties. A lifelong New Englander would refer to this as “the air conditioning is a little bit too high.” But the above-freezing cold was amplified by wind and rain, and I only managed to head out for a constitutional after browbeating myself.

(Does God run the weather system the way my school used to handle snow days? Months ago, us kids were all like “Hooray! 70 degree weather in December! 60 degrees in February!” but it means that we’ll only have to perform a makeup week of winter in May.)

I did get two things out of the walk, however — three, if you include the bottle of Coke Zero. I took the photo that begins this blog post. It’s a pip. I’m still not used to just how good phone cameras are. I shot that with my Nexus 5X (and I remind you that it’s a mere moderately-priced phone) in RAW mode with the Adobe Lightroom mobile app, and then edited it on my iPad Pro with the same tool. It’s becoming exceptionally difficult to spot the photos in my Flickr feed that were shot with my pro-quality Olympus. It’d be a different story if the display medium were a published print instead of a screen but that’s hardly relevant. Everyone looks at photos on screens these days, yeah?

And even if I were shooting for print, it’s inevitable that those books or wall art will be burned for fuel in thirty or forty years anyway, because as I’ve noted, the weather systems have all gone crazy and the laughing face of environmental apocalypse is slowly rising in the East, as our mastery of the planet starts to set in the West.

I have one good friend whose life goal seems to be to acquire the learning and equipment required to make just about any useful item you can name. In fact, I’m wearing a jolly wonderful pair of handmade wool socks she gave me for Christmas. I have another who’s taken up archery very recently. Just five years ago, I would have assumed that these two fine people are committed to Personal Growth. Today, I at least have to wonder if they’re preparing for the future and, if so, how I can get invited into their nomadic tribes once the stuff finally hits the fan.

I’m not sure what I, myself could offer as a member of a nomadic post-apocalyptic tribe. Genetically, I’m a good draft pick: I descend from generations of Eastern Europeans, so my body was definitely built with winter warfare and famine survival in mind. I spent most of my childhood helping my father complete various home renovation and repair projects for our immediate and extended family members, but all of that practical experience is only useful if water, heating, and electrical infrastructures remain in place. It might be a good idea if I spend the next ten years sharpening either my card trick skills or my knowledge of mining iron ore and smelting it into useful tools and weapons.

Perhaps I should focus on more immediate kinds of self-improvement. I’m making progress on the first real 100% housecleaning I’ve done in years. Since Obama first took office, I’ve been satisfied with sort of a Sliding Tiles Puzzle approach to the problem. I sort of slide the “scene from ‘Hoarders'” space around from room to room over the course of a year, and periodically clean one room by disaster-ifying another. It’s a brilliant system, but the playbook has started to fray around the edges and now, every room is at least a little messy.

It’s time (oh dear God) for another Big Edit. This is my periodic Life Trauma in which I try to literally lay my hands on every object I own and decide what to do with it. This involves removing every book from every shelf, pulling out every drawer, and dragging every box out of every closet.

It’s a spiritual cleansing as well as a physical one and the ironic thing is that it creates one hell of a damn mess while the process goes on. But it has to be done! The experience of packing for a trip always reminds me of how few things I need to be happy and make my living. During a week of business travel, I’m really not pining away for the boxes of comic books or the bread machine I left at home, am I?

When I’m a little further along in the process, I might try something new: I’ll empty a room completely and, as an organizational mechanism, move in anything I totally can’t get rid of under any circumstances. Obviously, we’re talking about my everyday clothing and my MacBook, but also the paint-spattered hat my Dad used to wear while doing home improvements.

It’s not like at the end of this latest Big Edit, I’d sell or give away everything that isn’t in the Most Important Stuff room. But it feels like it’d be a valuable exercise and help me gain perspective about material comforts.

Most of all, clutter and disorganization — like sweetened sodas, not using the handrail when going down a flight of stairs, and working with total idiots — are things that I’m officially too old for. To my bemusement, I find that I like pulling a boxcutter out of a little cabinet drawer labeled “Lightsabers” more than I hate putting the tool back where it belongs after I’m done breaking down boxes for the recycling bin.

Is it because I’ve crossed the 50 yard line on my lifespan and I’m aware that I don’t have a limitless amount of time to waste? Well, if I were to die in a nursing home 18 minutes before I was able to finish solving a crossword puzzle, I know my last thought would be “I could have made it if only I hadn’t used up so much time on August 17, 2003 looking for a pair of scissors.”

Easy come, easy snow.

A video posted by Andy Ihnatko (@ihnatko) on

Perfect. The rain has subsided to the point where a long walk or bike ride would be foolish, but a short walk to get a sandwich is eminently feasible. Push the button, Frank…

From my Flickr: “The Washington Bureau”

When I’m traveling on my own, I don’t really go out and see the sights until 9 or 10. I was relieved when Mrs. Holstein assured me that they didn’t intend to leave the hotel and start seeing the sights until late in the day.

Of course, dopey me: the Holsteins are very early risers. For me, 6 AM is "wakeup time minus three hours." Whereas Mr. and Mrs. H were already awake, bathed, and had spent two hours catching up on email and other dairy business.

But I won’t complain. During these trips I’m working for them. Plus, I can’t deny that early sunrise really does wonders for an otherwise common tourist photo.

See it here:

This Soviet 1,100mm Lens is Basically a Telescope with a Camera Mount

This Soviet 1,100mm Lens is Basically a Telescope with a Camera Mount:

Ever wanted to strap a portable telescope to the end of your camera and carry it around? With the soviet-made MTO 1000A 1,100mm f/10.5 mirror lens, you can just about do it. A monster of a lens, Christopher Frost Photography put it through its paces for one of his Weird Lens Reviews.

(Via PetaPixel.)

This Soviet lens is heavy, bonkers, and cheap. I want one. I’m certain that it takes “terrible” photos, relative to what a proper modern superzoom lens made in a non-collapsed Communist nation could do. But that’s not really the point, is it? This lens looks like it’s a lot of fun. It’d also encourage me to try some things I can’t do with any of my existing (and sensible) lenses.

Any item that lets you have fun and gets you to try new things has to be worth every penny of its asking price.

(I’m also aware that my micro four thirds camera doubles the focal length of any lens it uses. What in Heaven’s name would it be like to shoot with a 2200mm lens?!?) 

From my Flickr: “Best Airbnb EVER!”

The Gardner Museum has many true international art treasures. And yet, I think I took as many photos of the courtyard as I did of the artwork.

Can you believe that this used to be somebody’s house?! Sure, of course, Ms. Gardner designed and built it to be an "art museum with an apartment up top." But…I mean, imagine every morning, in your socks and flannel pajama bottoms, bowl of Rice Krispies in hand, yawning and padding across this to get to the TV room to watch last night’s Colbert show on the DVR.

See it here:

From my Flickr: “Mars Needs Milkmen”

The bad news is that after walking a distance that seemed extreme even for cattle who are used to long drives, Mrs. Holstein is now reasonably convinced that this is not the way back to the dairy.

The good news is that technically, they have succeeded in claiming Mars for the bovines.

(There was no flag available but if a future NASA mission lands a rover there, soil samples will defnitively prove that the Holsteins planted…something.)

No, no. The Holsteins are well aware that they didn’t walk all the way to Mars. They just wandered a bit too far during a tour of NASA and, after passing through a door that was supposed to be locked, found themselves on the soundstage where they were faking all of the footage from the so-called "Mars rovers."

See it here:

From my Flickr: “Triborough Bridge From The Cheap Seats”

This photo is almost four years old. I shot it from the window of my Amtrak train home one June day in 2012.

I spotted it again when I was doing some housecleaning on an old drive. I just dragged it into Aurora HDR to see what I could do with it.

Digital photography is endlessly interesting because it’s not just the cameras that keep getting better. I probably took this photo as far as I could back in 2012, but a 2016 app let me take it farther.

Sometimes I think about photographers who threw out boxes and boxes of old slides upon pulling them out of storage discovering that the colors had shifted. In 1983 it was unrecoverable damage, but today, even the free app that comes with your phone can fix it.

See it here:

From my Flickr: “Boston Opera House”

"The Sound of Music" was a terrific show with a fab cast. But it was also special because it was my first time inside the Boston Opera House.

When I was growing up, it was only famous for its shameful state of disrepair. Once a jewel, it was considered by many to be unsalvageable, and generally assumed to be demolished as soon as that became a part of the street that anybody had any interest in developing, or if one of the possums living in the shell finally chewed through a critical piece of structural carpeting.

So it was amazing to check out this fully restored palace. It’s the prettiest Boston performance space I’ve ever been in.

See it here:

From my Flickr: “Livestock Exchange”

Mr. Holstein was flattered to be invited to sound the ceremonial opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. He was slightly less-flattered when he learned that their regular bell was on the fritz and they just assumed that he would be bringing one of his own, from home, because he’s, you know, a cow.

See it here:

From my Flickr: “Half-Anseled”

It’s impossible to come home from Yosemite and not instinctively try to make all of your landscapes look like an Ansel Adams print.

Alas, the beard is just the first of many things the master had that I don’t. :)

See it here:

“Religious Liberty”

John Adams  Annie Hall

ALVY: Are you even listening to yourself? And the funny part is…’Religious Liberty’…! You don’t know anything about religious liberty!

MAN IN LINE: Oh, really? Well! I’m a former professor of constitutional law. I’m now a lobbyist with a top firm who’s successfully drafted the language that appears in several religious liberty laws that have either been signed into law by, or are currently on the legislative floor of, many states. So I think my insights on the founding fathers’ principle of religious freedom have a great deal of validity.

ALVY: Do you? That’s funny, because It just so happens that I have one of the Founding Fathers right here. C’mon out, John. Come right on out. Tell him.

JOHN ADAMS: I overheard what you were saying. When we underscored the importance of religious liberty, we were specifically trying to prevent the government from allowing the tenets or agendas of any one religion to restrict the rights of any citizen. If you’re creating laws to limit where Americans can work, shop, live…laws that even dictate where and how a severely mistreated and physically-endangered minority of the citizenry can use the privy, and you’re promoting this as defense of ‘Religious Liberty,’ you’re negating our — nay, everybody’s — entire premise of liberty! How you got into any sort of position of influence in the crafting of laws is totally amazing. And, by God, heart-chilling.

ALVY: Boy…if life were only like this.