Film, travel, whatever

I’ve been shooting more and more film. I got back my second batch of 35mm last weekend. I have this Canonet GL17 GIII rangefinder that I bought in 2014 that I haven’t been using, because I have some intangible hang-up about it. Maybe it needs a different strap or it’s too hard for me to focus, or I don’t like having that many manual controls, but I haven’t used it much. I shot a roll in Walnut Creek, and it amazes me how crisp it can look. (See the picture in this post as an example.) I always think of film as having a more blurry or vague quality as compared to the exactness of digital, but that camera is so sharp, it is eerie. I’ll need to sort through these and post the best of them. There’s an album on my flickr for analog stuff here.

And yeah, looks like Flickr is changing. Their free accounts are being limited to 1000 photos, and some other goofy stuff. I’ve always paid for a Pro account, so no change here. I’m old. I have like 12,000 photos on Flickr, and I haven’t even really tried to publish everything I have on Lightroom, which has like three times that. I hope I can keep using Flickr for a while. I’d hate to have to dumb down my collection to fit some new Web 3.0 paradigm or whatever.

I shot a roll of 120 film in my Diana F+, and when I got it back, it was all screwed up. I have an instant back for that camera, and I forgot to take out the little diopter you put in front of the lens inside the camera. So all the pictures were way out of focus and had weird stuff at the edges. I fixed that, and shot a few more rolls. I also, in a fit of stupidity, bought a Holga camera too, which is possibly even worse than the Diana. Shot a roll of B&W in that. We’ll see how it goes.

I think one of the reasons I like film is because when I shoot in digital, I take a picture, and then look at it, and see if it worked, which takes me out of the moment of actually shooting. With film, I can’t see anything, so any incremental improvement I have to take with successive shots is still in the moment, and involves a certain amount of faith in my abilities. It also puts me in the moment with my surroundings, because if I’m walking, I’m looking at everything around me and looking for a perfect shot. I’m not walking and shooting everything around me. That sounds pretentious and precious, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about, especially as I dump more and more money into this.

I booked my winter holiday travel, and will be back in Indiana for a week. I don’t know any details, except that I’m staying in South Bend, and like everyone back there is dying or something. So that will be interesting. Looking forward to taking a few more pictures of Concord Mall before it is imploded or whatever happens there. (There are currently no redevelopment plans. There were, but that’s old news. See also previous post on this.)

Nothing else. Trying to lay low until the election is over, because everything is horrible.

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Death of a Kmart

The news has been out for a bit about the bankruptcy filing of Sears Holdings, and the massive list of Sears and Kmart stores closing. In my area, it’s a bit odd, but the one in Stoneridge mall, an upscale mall that’s doing well, got the axe; the one in Hilltop mall, which is complete devastation, did not get closed. I think all the Sears stores I used to shop last century are gone, but that’s another post.

The closest Kmart to my house, which is in Pinole, is slated for closure. I’ve never shopped there, so I decided to head up there last week. It’s in a little shopping center just east of Hilltop mall, just down from a Target, and sort of hidden away on a lazy stretch of big-box stuff, like a Best Buy, a Lucky grocery, and across from a Sizzler that looks like it’s also circling the drain. (To be fair, most Sizzler restaurants have looked like that for decades, though.)

There are like three eras of Kmart for me. As a little kid, we were there almost every week with my mom. This was the Seventies, before Walmart, back in the days of blue light specials and the K Cafe, the place where I got all my Legos and Star Wars figures. I have very fond memories of that place. I can almost smell what the store in Elkhart smelled like, the mix of tru-green fertilizer in the garden center, syrupy cokes spilled on the floor of the cafe, and the heavy starched denim of Wrangler jeans. And I can still feel the wobble of the wire cart, the one with the broomstick affixed to one corner so you couldn’t push it out of the store.

I worked across the street at Taco Bell, and later just south at the Concord Mall. I bought my first CD player there. And in the days before Target and before Walmart, I bought a lot of stuff there. And that logo is the Kmart logo I always remember, the slanted red K and the minty blue letters for the mart. Those old-school stores all looked the same, too, with the low-slung rectangular marquee, no curves and styling, and the big, all-glass front.

Then there’s the Nineties era of Kmart. By the time I got to college, going to Kmart was not a necessity; it was ironic. I would go late at night with my friends when we wanted to remember childhood, and goof on how crappy things were there. And Icees and corn dogs. Kmart tried to change then, with the big red K and the white mart in script inside the K. Some became a Big Kmart, with the Big in blue, and a yellow swoop under it, in true Nineties graphical style. They also made those marquees big and round and lofty, tried to look less like an early Sixties grocery and more like an actual department store. They added more stuff to compete with Walmart and Target, groceries and drug stores and whatnot. I’d still pop in back when I was back in Elkhart. And when I got to New York, there were magically these Super K stores, which was a weird nostalgic throwback for me to visit. (More stories about those at some point, maybe.)

Then there’s the new Kmart. And I have no connection to this Kmart. None. It’s like brand necrophilia, like someone said, “let’s make a store shittier than Dollar General, and just as a goof, we’ll call it Kmart, and put a monochromatic logo designed by a five-year-old on the front.” A scattering of Craftsman crap, a random layout, and a general feeling that makes the old Seventies redneck Kmart look like a Nieman Marcus. There’s a Kmart out in Concord I occasionally go to on a goof, mostly because it’s a nice drive on the outskirts of Mt. Diablo. But when I’m inside, there’s no connection, nothing that reminds me of childhood, and definitely nothing I’d want to buy.

So, the Pinole store. It was total devastation. There were gaudy clearance signs everywhere, inside and out. It looked like any name-brand merchandise they may have had, was gone. Maybe it was bought up already; maybe it was sent back to the vendors for credit. Entire aisles were closed and taped off. People were throwing stuff on the floor everywhere. Kids were putting on halloween costumes, running through the store, ripping open toys, and throwing them on the ground, while their parents ignored them. The entire store smelled like shit. There were large signs by the layaway department that said ALL SALES FINAL, and others with the Sunday circular, saying WE ARE NOT A PARTICIPATING LOCATION.

I went through the clothes department, and everything was on the floor. It seriously looked worse than when I went to the Astor Place Kmart on the morning of 9/11 and every secretary in lower Manhattan was trying to buy tennis shoes so they could walk home without the subway running. I picked around for any jeans that might fit, and they had no Wranglers left; they had a knockoff brand called “Rustlers” or something. The smallest size was a 50-inch waist.

I took some pictures, and hurried out. Honestly, the whole thing threw me. The entire dead mall, death of retail thing is really getting to me. So many things are shuttering, so many pieces of my childhood are vanishing. And so much of the history will be lost, because it’s only being instagrammed, and in five years, instagram will be cratered and unarchived. It really bugs me, and makes me want to archive more, see more, take more pictures. But the more I do it, the more it depresses me.

The other thing is that the more I dig around in these online dead retail communities, the more I realize I hate 90% of the people in them. Nostalgia groups are the worst. I sometimes creep in this Elkhart group, and it’s nothing but borderline illiterate people bitching about Amazon and technology, and waxing nostalgic about garbage food that will kill them. And maybe I shouldn’t say that. But there’s part of me that thinks that being obsessed about this stuff is only like a degree removed from hoping that coal mining jobs come back, which isn’t going to happen.

There needs to be progress, and there needs to be a future. And in looking back, I feel like we built too many malls because they were a convenient tax dodge, and we bought too much junk that’s now filling our landfills because we were told we needed to buy more plastic from China. And I’m torn, because I can waste so much time looking at pictures of old stores and reading about old malls. It scratches an itch that will always need to be scratched. But it prevents me from doing anything creative, or moving forward with my life.

I’ve had this stupid idea in my head for years, about doing a combination glossary, wiki, and blog about the Nineties, about my experiences and the places I worked and shopped and visited. And I feel some need to do this, before I forget all of it entirely. But I’ve written books that took place in the Nineties, and I did that glossary book, and they were my worst-selling books, and not in my voice. (Not that any of my books are selling anymore. Jesus christ my book sales are morbid these days. Another topic.) So I know I could burn a lot of cycles on this, but I feel it would be wasted time. But here I am, still writing about it.

Also, it hasn’t started raining yet, but when it does, that means lots more time in malls. I’m also going to be in Elkhart in December, so I’ll get one long, last look at Concord before they tear it down. Anyway.

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More Film, and digiFilm

I got my first batch of film back from the shop the other day. I sent in six rolls, 36 exposures each, for a total of $76 for developing and a quick scan to CD.

The shots from this Vivitar I bought are tremendously weird. I mean, they look like they were all shot in like 1994. They have this weird, faded quality to them, a perfect vignetting, and just look old, way more than Hipstamatic or Instagram could make them. Like they all have this dreamlike, lo-fi quality to them, much more so than my old old 35mm gear does. The Vivitar has really good Series 1 glass, but a plastic body. It also has all-auto, no-adjustment shooting, but a modern motorized drive system to it. If it was just slightly smaller, it would be a perfect camera.

I wish I still had the original one. Or I wish I had an exact model number, another copy. This one is very similar, but not exact, which bugs me. But what’s weird is sometimes I forget it isn’t the same camera. I was walking around the Port of Oakland the other day with it, and thought how strange and nostalgic it was that the same camera I had for most of the Nineties was with me now, but then realized, it isn’t the same camera. That old camera went to a lot of strange places with me. It moved from Indiana to Seattle to New York. I have pictures from the Trinity test site where the first atomic explosion happened, from Vegas, from the Empire State Building, the Milwaukee Metalfest, Kent State, Bloomington, New Mexico, Boston, Disneyland, Washington DC, and hundreds of points in between.

Anyway, I dumped a few shots on Flickr here. That album also includes some old 120 film shots taken with a Diana F+.

Another topic: the Yashica digiFilm Y35. So a group in Hong Kong bought the Yashica name and did a kickstarter for a digital version of the old Electro 35 camera. The gimmick was that it was going to have this stuff called digiFilm, which was a little film canister you could swap out and change what kind of pictures it would take. Like you could switch to B&W, 1600, 6×6, whatever. You could also put a switch or button on the camera to do this, but they thought it would be a neat thing to make it “like” film. I thought it might be a fun toy, and the camera looked cool, so on a whim, I backed the Kickstarter.

Ugh, I hate Kickstarter. I’ve backed maybe a dozen things in the past, and maybe two have turned out okay. And I always feel like I get burned, and I always vow to never do it again, and then something comes up. And like clockwork, they met their goal, got their money, and then said, “Ok great! Now we’ll go design it!” and the wait began. There were a few sketchy updates, but it looked like this thing would never come to fruition.

Well, it showed up the other day. My verdict is that the camera is garbage. I think the appeal of the old Electro 35 was that it was metal and compact and had a certain tactile feel to it, like old rangefinders of that era. This camera is all plastic, and very cheap plastic. It’s light, and feels like one of those toy squirt guns in the shape of a camera you’d get from the Archie McPhee catalog. It has a non-operational film wind knob that’s molded into the top of the camera. The viewfinder has no optics, just a clear piece of plastic. The doors feel like they will break off in the next fifteen minutes.

The camera uses two AA batteries (not included) and an SD card (not included), plus the digiFilm thing, of which I received four. You then “wind” each shot with an advance lever, and press and hold a really cheap shutter button, and have to hold it and hold still for like a second and a half. The pictures look roughly like what my Windows Mobile cell phone took back in 2008. The B&W looks okay. The others, just use your iPhone and Hipstagram. It does marginally look okay from a distance. If I ever put my cameras on display on a shelf, it would look okay next to my Trip 35 and Canonet QL17. But, ugh. What a waste of money.

I’ve got another four rolls of film to shoot, and might stock up on more for the holidays. I should probably get some 120 film at some point and try that one again, too.

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More Various Long Reads 9/18

I should probably find a better way to organize these link dumps (see previous), but I’m lazy. Anyway, here’s some more stuff I’ve been reading:

  • Lisp Machinery – A Lisp Machine resurrection blog – Lisp machines are a weird artifact of the Eighties race for AI, purpose-built big computers made just to run lisp programs. Here’s a guy that rescued three refrigerator-sized lisp machines and is trying to get them running again. I don’t know why, but I love stuff like this.
  • Planting a Seed in a Toxic Place with Roger Miret – I had a couple of Agnostic Front albums, and had a poster in my room for a while, but didn’t know much about frontman Roger Miret’s backstory in those pre-wikipedia days. Here’s an interesting read about this, in Psychology Today, of all places.
  • The Unknown Notebooks of Jean-Michel Basquiat – Just watched Sara Driver’s new doc, Boom For Real, which is more about the Lower East Side scene in the late Seventies than Basquiat himself, but was great, except now I’m going to fall down this wormhole for the next week or six. I just wish his estate would do a proper book of his various writing I could buy.
  • Chevy Chase can’t change – I wasn’t a fan of early SNL like others are, so I have no loyalties here, but this is a bittersweet read. Saw him on Norm Macdonald’s show, and was wondering what was up, so here it is.
  • Breathing New Life into Old Cameras – I previously mentioned I fell into this film thing again, and have been reading too much about how to fix old cameras. If you’re in the same boat, here’s a good starting point.
  • Forth: The Hacker’s Language – Forth was a weird language. I always knew about it, but never got into it, because it’s a pretty deep pool to jump into, second only to assembly language. I was reading about the Canon Cat computer, which used Forth, which led to this. Forth is also deeply related to the development of the Macintosh, thanks to the next read.
  • Jef Raskin – The father of the Macintosh computer, sort of. Raskin actually started as a tech writer, the head of Apple’s publications department, but had a lot of radical ideas about the future of the computer-human interface, which eventually led to the genesis of the Macintosh, and many clashes with Steve Jobs. (Two of the biggest things about the Mac, the 68K processor and the mouse, were things he was against.) Raskin later went to Canon and worked on the Canon Cat, which was a Forth-based word processor that never really took off.
  • How Jean Louis Gassée Changed the Mac’s Direction – Sorry for all the Mac archaeology links. My connection to this is I was trying to get a job at Be Incorporated and got into their developer program, but never bought a machine or got the job. (Probably for the best, given the outcome.)
  • The Crash at Sun Valley Mall – Not an economic crash, like most malls are seeing, but an Eastern Airlines puddle-jumper that flew through the roof of Macy’s back in 1985. I mall-walk this place (the other Concord Mall) so it’s interesting to see it in its vintage glory.
  • Too Much Music: A Failed Experiment In Dedicated Listening – I should probably do this. I have way too much music. Luckily, Comcast gave me a DMCA takedown strike for torrenting this week, so I need to quit that, which will help. Everything’s on Apple Music though, and discogs is a problem, too.

Shameless plug: I have a new book. Please check it out.

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New/Old Camera

So, in the “buying old crap I had twenty-five years ago and threw out at some point,” I found another Vivitar camera that is (almost) the same as the one I had from 1993 to about 2000.

I talked a bit about my history with analog film a few years ago, when I last fell down the analog film k-hole. I bought this Vivitar camera during the summer of 1993, after not having a camera at all for about three or four years. I was working at Montgomery Ward that summer (in addition to another full-time factory job) and had an employee discount, so I picked up the most camera I could get for about $100 at the photo counter in their Electric Avenue department at the Concord Mall.

That hundred bucks bought a 35mm point-and-shoot. It had a plastic body, but a decent Series 1 glass auto-focus lens. It was a power zoom, so it could zip from 38 to 70mm focal length with motorized control. The film load/wind was also motorized; you dropped in a film cartridge, closed the door, and the camera automatically sucked the film into the takeup reel. When you hit the end, it automatically rolled it back into the canister. The camera also had blue-teal accents to it, which was Nineties as fuck.

I bought this camera with the intention of documenting shows. It was the height of death metal and the zine scene, and I wanted something I could sneak into concerts. I was going to a lot of shows with Ray, and getting free passes to stuff to interview bands. In practice, I never got to take pictures at shows, because security was always really shitty about it, even when a record label gave me a photo pass. And this was a fairly worthless camera for taking pictures of bands, except maybe candid, backstage stuff at a close range with a lot of light.

Ultimately, I didn’t take that many pictures with this camera. I think maybe two dozen rolls went through it during those seven years. I took a trip across the country in 1995 and shot maybe six pictures total. A Disney trip in 1997 was about two rolls. The 1999 cross-country trip was another three, maybe. Getting a camcorder in 1996 reduced the amount of film I shot. Getting a digital camera at the end of 2000 relegated this thing to the back of the closet. I don’t know when I got rid of it; maybe when I moved in 2005.

Ironically, the most-seen photo from this camera is one you may be familiar with.

I was hunting for this camera online, and found this 5500PZ on eBay for seven bucks, including postage. When I got it, I realized it’s not exactly what I had. Mine was slightly thinner, with the zoom controls on the back, not the front. I’m sure it’s optically the same. But it bugs me that it’s not identical, and scanning through other eBay auctions, I can’t find the model that is exactly like mine. Maybe Vivitar sold some oddball model exclusively to Wards. Anyway, for seven bucks, close enough.

I put a battery in this one to test it. It uses a small lithium battery that was hard to find online. The zoom motor is much louder than I’d expected, and the zoom itself is not smooth and very slow. It’s not exactly the auto-focus that my new Canon has. I didn’t have any film in the house, so I ordered a few rolls, and we’ll see how it goes.

I’ve also gone back and started scanning some of the old photos I didn’t have scanned from this era 25 years ago. It’s a reminder how much of a pain in the ass film was. It also makes me think too much about exactly when and where photos were taken, since EXIF wouldn’t be invented for another half-decade. Trying to not get into too much of a nostalgia backslide, which leads to the regret that I didn’t take more pictures back then. But it’s understandable when I go to pay for film developing. Anyway.

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NyQuil, Cameras, DNA, Writing

NyQuil season has started. Despite my persona, I don’t actually drink the stuff unless I’m sick, and that started last week. I can usually tell when I’m about to get a cold because the bottom completely drops out of writing and I can’t answer three-line emails in under an hour. So trying to update this thing today about anything is a challenge.

The first night I took NyQuil, I had some kind of extremely minor blemish or sore on the side of my nose, like right where the pads of my glasses sit. I don’t know how this happened, but I had some dream related to this, and started digging at this in my sleep. I vaguely remember doing it, but I don’t. When I woke up, I looked like a professional wrestler who got hit in the face with the chair, and there was blood everywhere. I had tore open the side of my nose so I have this half-inch gash there now. It wasn’t that bad after I cleaned it up, but the whole experience was horrific. I’ve quit Ambien and Sonata because of playing with my phone when I’m asleep. I hope I don’t need to start wearing gloves when I’m on cold medicine.

The 360 camera experience is over. I returned that Ricoh Theta V I bought. It wasn’t really ready for prime time. The connectivity between the phone and camera was half-baked, involved too many steps, and the software was mostly garbage. Also, more than anything, it was impossible to take a photo without my fat face being in it, which bothered the hell out of me. I don’t want to be in my pictures. So it went back. Now I’m jonesing to get some other new camera I don’t need. I keep looking at mirrorless cameras, but I don’t want to be walking around the ghetto with a thousand dollars on a neck strap.

I supposedly have another camera on the way to me. Yashica – or a company that bought the Yashica name – did a kickstarter a while ago for a reboot of their classic Electro 35. But this would be digital, and have this gimmicky “DigiFilm” technology, which is where the camera takes these fake “rolls” of “film” which actually contain computer chips that swap out different filters and processing and whatnot. There’s no LCD screen, and you have to flip a “wind” lever between shots. I bid on it a while ago (probably on Ambien) and of course after the Kickstarter was done and no refunds were possible, they announced that the camera was almost invented and would take months to get into prototype stage, then they’d have to actually figure out how to build them, etc etc etc. So I don’t expect it to ever show up, and if it does, I don’t expect it to really work, but maybe it will look nice on a shelf next to my other film cameras.

Still in food jail. I have been fairly strict about it, but very plateaued. I’m managing to lose a fraction of a pound a week. I know, eat less and exercise. Or whatever crazy fad diet is going around. I get it, shut up.

I actually took a DNA test as part of this current program. It was a new offering for them, and only cost fifty bucks, so I figured what the hell. The test looks at certain genetic markers to see if you have a genetic/hereditary predisposition for certain things that might help or hinder weight loss. It said I had average metabolism, normal likelihood of regaining weight I lost, normal carb processing, a normal sweet tooth, and some other average stuff. It said I had an above average predisposition for being obese, which was a test on the FTO gene.

What was most interesting to me is that it said I had a normal ability to process carbs, a lower ability to process fat, and a higher ability to process protein. This makes sense to me because any time I try to eat some fad diet like keto or Atkins, my body clings onto any fat I consume, regardless of what it is. Scream until you’re blue in the face about “good” fats, but to my body, all fats are bad. The only way I lose weight is to eat a lower fat diet, which usually means a higher protein diet. (If you want to deep dive on this, the genes tested for this were PPARG, TCF7L2, APOA5, CRY2, MTNR1B, and PPM1K.)

Since I’ve finished my latest book, I’ve been trying to figure out what’s next. I have this morgue file of writing that I sift through and pick at and eventually pull into new books, and it’s like 406,000 words now. There’s a part of me that feels like I should just not edit it and split it into 100,000 word chunks with some clever name or title and be done with it. But I have a strong need to write the next “real” book, which is problematic, especially when I’m sick. I also have everyone coming out of the woodwork telling me what I “should” write next, which is annoying.

The seasons are starting to shift quickly here. I got a new light box this week to deal with the impending SAD. I think I’ve only got a few more weeks of walking outside before the weather really nose-dives, so I should look into joining a gym. I should probably go walk now, while the temp is still in the low sixties.

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Various Long Reads 9/2018

I love long reads. I remember a time when the web was nothing but long articles, and I wasted a lot of time reading them. I’m finding now that this wasn’t really time wasted, and I’m forcing myself to find more long articles that interest me, which is harder than it sounds.

Anyway, here’s ten articles that crossed my browser recently. Feel free to send me yours. Maybe I should make this a thing.

Shameless plug: I have a new book. Please check it out.

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Book of Dreams – out now!

I have a new book out. It’s available here: https://amzn.to/2ozn9vY

It is called Book of Dreams. It’s a collection of about 125-some dreams, all weird and surreal, all vaguely related. It’s perfect if you have no attention span and you want to flip to some random page. It is pure hell if you’re the kind of person who needs act two to land on page 90 and not a page before or after.

I think this book is slightly less “Konrath” than my last few books. It’s not as manic or as fast-paced. NyQuil and Mariah Carey are not mentioned. It still has the same kind of humor; it just doesn’t lean on the persona as much, if that makes any sense.

And yes, I stole this idea from Jack Kerouac, sort of. Actually, Burroughs had a book called My Education: A Book of Dreams which I liked more. Kerouac’s book was much more free jazz and random, but had a lot of intersection with the characters in his books. WSB’s book had more about his daily life and his slow descent into death. (It came out two years before his passing.) My book isn’t either of those. I think some of these dreams are the backgrounds of stories that later came up in books like Atmospheres. I always end up in dead malls in dreams, so that’s a bit of a broken record here. The living-in-a-post-apocalypse thing is also a common trope, although I guess that’s not fiction anymore.

I really love the cover. It was designed by Casey Babb (www.breakingbabb.com) He also has an etsy store where he is always selling zines, prints, and other weird shit, which I would highly recommend visiting: https://www.etsy.com/shop/breakingbabb

The book is available in print and kindle on the amazon. You can also read the kindle version for free if you are a kindle unlimited member. And if you buy the print book, you get the kindle version for free.

The book is 168 pages, which I felt was a bit light, and I feel bad releasing a 45,000-word book, especially since I haven’t published any books over 50K since 2014. (Vol. 13 was 42K, but it was a collection, and nobody read it.) I wanted to put out a big book first, something 80 or 90 thousand words. But seeing as my most popular book as of late was just shy of 16K words, whatever. The next one will be bigger.

This is my 15th book. It is the 23rd release on Paragraph Line since we started ten years ago. The other big metric is this pushes me above the million-word mark in my published writing. My total published word count is now 1,019,640 words. So there’s that.

Anyway, check it at Amazon. I am also still largely boycotting Goodreads, but if you’re not, it has popped up over there. Tell all your friends. Buy two, they’re small. Etc.

Now, on to the next one.

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360 Photos, Ricoh Theta V

I bought a new camera recently, a Ricoh Theta V. It’s a 360 camera, which uses two fisheye lenses on a small thing about the size of a TV remote, and software inside stitches together the two images into a 360-degree sphere, which can then be hosted on various online things like Facebook or Flickr or whatever, with a viewer where you can drag around your viewpoint.

The camera is neat; it’s a small form factor and easily pocketable. It’s very good at removing them seam from the two images it glues together. It can also do video, and does the stitching on-the-fly, so you could also stream these spherical images to YouTube or some VR app. The camera has no removable battery, no video card, just a USB connector to charge or tether, and a mount for a tripod.

One of the reasons I wanted this camera was to port images into Google Street View. If you look at google maps, and drag the little GSV guy onto a map, all the roads Google has traversed will be blue, but you’ll also sometimes see little blue dots, which are where people have taken a spherical photo and uploaded it to Street View. I like to take these with my phone sometimes, which works but is not optimal; you have to spin around and take a bunch of pictures in each direction, and the stitching is slow and distorted. One of the cameras recommended by Google is the Theta V, so that’s what I got.

The workflow for using the camera is a bit goofy. It tethers to your phone by becoming a WiFi hotspot which you connect to, and then you can use an app to take pictures. Then you transfer the pictures to your phone or PC and post them elsewhere. You can take snapshots or recordings without a phone, but there’s no viewfinder, and the camera doesn’t have a built-in GPS; it only geotags when connected to a phone. The connection process is a bit goofy, and it takes a few seconds, but it mostly works.

The big problem is it’s impossible to take a 360 photo without ending up in it. If you hold the camera, your thumb ends up in the bottom of the shot, and looks gigantic and weird. There are tricks to get around this, like if you put the camera on a tripod and go hide behind something, using your phone as the remote. Or take two pictures and stand in different places, then merge them in Photoshop. You can also just be in the picture, but that’s not an option for me, because I look like a goofy idiot.

The other problem is that I bought this camera with hopes of taking a lot of great outdoor photos in the bay area, and almost immediately, we went into the dark gray sky season where it always looks dreary outside. And we’re getting a hint of the smoke in the air, too. So the light is all wrong and it’s time for seasonal depression to kick in. Time to drag out the light box.

I do think this will be a good camera for vacations. Of course, there are none on the horizon. I wish I would have had it when I was in Alaska last spring. I also would love to get out to the land in Colorado, which is very sparsely mapped – there’s a road about a half-mile from my place that did get captured by Google, but they didn’t turn down the dirt road, so maybe it’s time to get back there (when it’s not freezing out.)

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Food jail, backups, etc.

I miss being able to write here on a daily basis on everyday topics that have nothing to do with my writing, in a style not like my writing. It’s caused a problem in that people read stuff here and assume my books are like this writing, and either say I should write more like this in my books (no) or make this blog all absurd stuff like my books (no). I do like when I look back at a random entry from 1997 and see what existential crisis I was having over buying CDs or something.

I’ve been in food jail for the last few weeks. I should be at about 170-175, but I’ve been just north of 200 for most of the year, and need to get past that. So I’m on plan, and I’m hesitant to say which plan, because everyone is a fucking expert, and I don’t need yet another goddamn person telling me I need to intermittently fast. I know what I need to do and what I need to eat, but it’s a slow process. If I could lose a pound a week, there are only 20 weeks left in the year, so that’s almost my goal. But it’s been slow. When I did this ten years ago, I would eat about 1500 calories a day, keep at a good ratio of protein/fat/carbs, and eat clean(ish) and I’d always lose 1-2 pounds a week, without fail. Now, not so much. There’s certainly something metabolic there — higher cortisol from stress, lower testosterone from being ten years older. And when I get too much into reading this junk, diving into various pseudo-science blogs about insulin response and carbohydrate conversion and whatever else, my ultimate response is to say fuck it and start eating again. So I’m going to have to stick with what I’m doing, keep exercising, and slowly carve away at it.

Went to the GP last week, partly because it’s just time for my annual, partly because everyone is dead and dying and there’s some paranoia there. Everything’s fine. All the blood numbers are fine. Blood pressure is borderline, but between the day job and all the caffeine, that’s understandable. I need to lose weight, although this doctor doesn’t hassle me about it that much. I have mixed feelings about fat acceptance – if you’re into it, whatever, but I know I felt better and my numbers were better when I weighed less, so it definitely has health consequences for me, and it’s something I need to work on. Anyway, why am I telling the world all of this?

Spent yesterday burning too many cycles dealing with my backup solution. I have used CrashPlan for years, and they decided to get out of the home game, and told everyone to switch to their pro/small business plan, or go screw. I stuck with it, and then found out my machine hasn’t been backing itself up for weeks. I futzed with their program for a minute, and it said it had to re-upload everything, which would take a week or two. Or maybe it didn’t – their new UI is very opaque and tells you nothing. I spent all day poking around with alternatives. They gave me a “deal” to switch to Carbonite, but the “deal” was roughly twice as expensive. I looked at rolling my own solution, using a tool like Duplicacy to back up my stuff to an Amazon S3 bucket, and then using Wasabi, which is a cheap-o S3 substitute. I couldn’t really get that to work, so I gave up and switched to BackBlaze. I like the UI and the performance of BackBlaze, and the price is right. I am not entirely into the recovery method – instead of just being able to browse the archives remotely, you either request a monster ZIP of your entire archive, or pay to have them ship you a drive. I suppose that is okay for a full-machine failure, but doesn’t address when I need to go back and grab a single file from backup. I do also back up locally, on an external drive and to a NAS, so that’s okay for now I guess.

I have a book 99% done that I can’t seem to get out the door. It is completely written, has been through like three or four editing passes, and I’m at the point where I can’t even look at it anymore, let alone write a snappy description and tell the world it is the greatest thing ever. I have someone working on a cover for it right now. Maybe that will make me get off my ass and finish it.

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