4/18/2014

Donut and Coffee


Donut and coffee,
Together again.
I haven't had these two
Since I don't know when.

Oh, wait - just last Friday,
Before the weekend,
I had three or four
(or five) then.

4/02/2014

Advanced Photography: Lesson 1

A friend has begun to learn photography. His journey began, as it usually does, with buying good equipment. That's a great start, but is often overwhelming for beginners as its complexity can result in sub-optimal results, making one wonder why the equipment was so expensive, where all your money went, and why one's wife left.

To alleviate these problems, I thought I would post some lessons in photography, speaking from my vast experience as a hobby photographer myself. I am not a professional, because that means I would be making money on my photographs. This is not the case, since I take and share my pictures and experience simply for the joy of doing so.

There are a myriad of things to know when you first get started, but to avoid swamping you with too much information and making you wish you'd chosen a different hobby, like knitting or smoking, I'll start with one of the simplest, yet most effective principles of Great Photography.

Lesson 1: Take the Lens Cap Off

Many people skip this step entirely and either don't think that it matters or don't even know that it's a thing. But it is: It is a thing. In fact, it's not overstating it to say that taking the lens cap off may be the most important thing you can do for your pictures ever.

The effect of this lesson is so huge, in fact, that it is a bit of an anti-climax to some people, realizing that after they have mastered this lesson, everything else they learn as a photographer pales in comparison. Other critical lessons such as Not Dropping the Camera, Cleaning Mud Off the Lens, and Focusing on Something are all important, to be sure, but once you've mastered Taking the Lens Cap Off, everything else is child's play.

On the other hand, it's gratifying to know that you can do something so simple at the start to put your entire future hobby on a better footing.

The explanation of this lesson is simple:
Whenever you take a picture, first take the lens cap off.

The details are, of course, a bit more complicated. For example, should you take the lens cap off before you turn the camera on? What is the optimal delay between taking the lens cap off and taking a picture? Should you replace the lens cap after taking one picture and then remove it again before taking the next? Where should you put the lens cap when it is not on the camera?

All of these are great questions and worthy of future articles, although it is important to just get the essentials down for now. I'll let you, the reader and (I hope!) the future photographer play with some options here to get a feeling for what works for you. But the most important takeaway is: make sure that the lens cap is off every time you take a picture.

Technical Details:
Complex explanations are beyond the scope of this first lesson, but suffice it to say that the camera depends on light to capture images, and that the lens cap prevents that light from entering the camera.

Since this is a photography article, it is obviously necessary (and more fun!) to teach through pictures.

First, here is the result of taking a picture with the lens cap firmly in place:

I think you'll agree that the picture, while interesting in some respects, doesn't offer the viewer much to look at. This is because the lens cap was on while the picture was captured.

Here is what that same scene looked like immediately after taking the previous picture. First, I Took the Lens Cap Off, and then took the picture:


Hopefully you can see the difference and tell why you, as a budding photographer, should also Take the Lens Cap Off before taking your pictures.

Thanks for reading: come back for future lessons on Advanced Photography.

3/28/2014

My Donut, My Savior

She said something nasty
(Oh, holy moley!):
She said that donuts
Are wholly unholy.

Whether jelly-filled bun,
Or a custard-filled roll,
Or simple and glazed;
They all have a hole.

Why she claimed what she did
Is a sad little riddle;
Each donut is holy,
Right there in its middle.

To each his own God;
Or religion profound.
I place my faith in
The Donut, most round.

3/14/2014

A Month Without Devices: A Diary

After the softball game, as I waited for my daughter to pack up her things, I took out my phone and played a game for those two minutes, because that’s what you do now. There is no dead time anymore. Waiting in line at the store? Check the news. Walking to work? Check the weather. Speaking to a friend? Check your email and calendar. Anything else happening? Play a game.

It’s become a disease, where we are more and more addicted to these things in our pockets. I can almost remember a time when I used to simply not do things instead. I’d look around. Or have a conversation with someone. Or use my imagination. Or just not do anything, because I didn’t have to. But no longer: now I feel compelled to always be doing something, where ‘something’ means looking on my phone for the next communication or the next piece of information, or just playing an addictive game.

Well it’s time to stop this madness; it’s time to reset the system, to reboot me and go back to the way it used to be when life was simpler and there wasn’t this incessant need to keep reaching in my pocket for my Machine of Wonders. Or it’s at least time to find out if I can.

As of today, I’m starting a leave of absence from my phone and all of my many devices. I hereby promise to go a month without my new best friend, and to record my experiences as they happen. In doing this, I hope to learn more about the world around me, and maybe even a little bit about myself.

Day 1
Not much to report so far, since I just woke up. I’d like to check email, but just from habit.

10 am
I feel kind of tingly, like I have this need to keep picking up the device and looking for information, yet excited by the prospect that I don’t have to!

11 am
Feeling pretty good - it’s three hours now and no smartphone. I was late for a meeting at 1030 because I didn’t get a notification, but that’s to be expected as I work into this new system. I’ll just have to remember things better, maybe write things down more.

Noon
Feeling great - this is really enabling. I don’t think I’ve had so much time to just be me since… I’d have to check my calendar for the last time I felt like this. Going out to lunch with some old friends, can’t wait to tell them about my new experiment.

1:30 pm
Lunch didn’t work out so well. I thought I knew where that restaurant was; I wonder if it moved? Or maybe not having been there in a decade worked against me. It would have been easy to check maps on my phone, but that defeats the purpose. Anyway, I didn’t find the place until they were done with lunch and heading out. No time to tell them about my Month Without Devices. I’ll send them email about it instead, when I get back to my desktop machine.
In any case, I really enjoyed walking around the town for an hour. It was like a leisurely stroll, except for the part where I knew I was late meeting friends for that whole time.

3:00
Missed another meeting, but it was a pretty boring one with HR, no big deal. But I should really try to get to the makeup meeting at 4:00.

4:30
Missed the makeup meeting, too. What the hell? Like I can’t remember things for a single hour?

6:00
Forgot to arrange a ride home with my wife; I guess I’m walking. That’s great, it’ll give me more time with my thoughts. Thoughts like, I need to remember to arrange a ride tomorrow.

7:30
Missed dinner. I guess my wife was counting on me being here earlier. Whoops! Apparently she called, texted, and emailed me, but of course I didn’t get those messages. I don’t think she took me seriously last night when I told her about my grand experiment. She doesn’t understand how important this is to me.
She’s pretty mad.

9:00
Watched a pretty good show. I couldn’t place the main actor. I know I’ve seen him in something recently. It's killing me.

10:30
No games in bed tonight: I think I’ll read a book. Man, I used to really enjoy reading books, went through like one or two a week back in the day. Then again, I don’t really have any physical books here that I haven’t read since all of my new books are electronic.
Never mind, I’ll just go to bed. Probably better for me anyway, right?

2 am
Up in the middle of the night, as usual. No games to play, though. Or books to read. I guess I'll just lie here, collecting my thoughts.


Day 2
Jesus, what a stupid idea. What was I thinking?
Screw this.

Friday Donut Poem


It’s not that I needed a donut today.
It’s not like I’d die without it.
It’s just that I know we’d be better that way;
Eat one and then you won’t doubt it.

It’s round and it’s sticky and filled with delight,
Just gushing with goodness and fat.
Was ever there more of a wondrous sight
Than dough boiled in lard in a vat?

So stuff one down; No: two, three, or four!
There’s plenty for everyone here.
We won’t want them later, though there be more;
They’re better with coffee than beer.

3/09/2014

When I am King: Mug Shot



When I am King...

Muggings will be more frequent and more appreciated.

I’ve never been mugged, but mugging seems like a really good deal.

Think about it: someone is offering you a service (not beating you up) in exchange for whatever money you have on you. Unless you’re carrying a huge stash from a recent bank heist, that’s a pretty good deal. The recovery time alone, on top of possible doctor’s visits and downtime, is well worth the few bucks in your wallet. And if you add the actual pain involved in the procedure, it’s worth that much more.

My favorite part about mugging is that it’s a fair system based on the enlightened principle of pay-what-you-can. Instead of the rather heartless capitalist mechanism of charging whatever the market will bear and expecting everyone to pay that price, the average victim is, instead, charged only what he or she has on them at the time, which is imminently more sensible and kind. If I were charged the real price for not getting the crap kicked out of me, it could cost thousands of dollars. As it is, I can walk around the dark places in the city confidently, knowing that I will only owe the twenty bucks that I happen to have in my wallet.

Compare this deal to the price of dinner or a movie, and I think you’ll see that it’s an urban experience that's well worth the price.

Of course, the mugger could always choose to hurt you even after you’ve given them your money. But that’s just not fair and I wouldn’t stand for it (I would choose, instead, to lie in the gutter moaning and bleeding softly).

In future installments, I’ll analyze the financial benefits of being sued, getting divorced, and being jailed for life.

3/07/2014

Halve Your Cake and Eat It, Too

She halved the donuts, citing fat
And calories and such.
It worked for me; I simply helped
Myself to twice as much.

2/17/2014

I Love You: A Valentine Poem

I love the way you brush your hair
While lying in the bed,
So strands of hair and dandruff drift down
On my resting head.

I love the way you look at me,
When outside in the sun,
With squinting eyes that look so mad it
Makes me want to run.

I love the way you call my name
When I am nowhere near.
The piercing shriek kills wildlife
And fills us all with fear.

I love the way you touch me,
Your caress is always kind.
It’s lucky people cannot see the
Bruises left behind.

I love the way you hug me
With embraces hard and fine.
In fact you squeeze so firmly that
I think you cracked my spine.

I love the way you run to me
When I come in the door.
Although I wish you didn’t knock me
Down onto the floor.

I love you with the whole of me,
With all the love I’ve got.
I love you, most of all,
Because I’m terrified to not.

2/14/2014

Valentimes

I wanted to send all of you cards, but I didn't have your addresses. But here's what I would have sent:



Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
So am I
And so are you.



Happy Valentines Day

I'd offer my love,
But you wanted flowers instead.



Happy Valentines Day

I just wanted you to know that my calendar reminded me.



Happy Valentines Day

Here are some dead flowers
And candy hearts that taste like chalk.