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general

Random Life, Data Hoarding, Pictures

The Random Life project is running out of steam, which is fine. I have posted 100 videos, and I’m about out of footage. They’re scheduled to come out one a day for the next month. 81 are live as of this second. I might get bored and post all of them in one big deluge. I’ve pretty much scoured all of my old tapes and what’s come out of my digital cameras. Maybe a second pass through the old Hi8 would reveal more, but I think doing more on this involves me leaving the house, which won’t happen any time soon.

I had some vague idea that I’d take all of the footage — I’m not sure how long it is, maybe an hour? — and glue it all together and make one long “movie” out of it. There are a few problems with that, most notably that that aspect ratios of things differ. The other is that iDVD was the perfect software for making a nice version of this, and it died a few years ago. Also, I thought it would be neat to list it using CreateSpace, and I could order DVDs on demand, but they stopped doing that a while ago. And I don’t know how I would even play a DVD anymore, without digging out an old external drive. The other issue is that with no plot or linear story, people wouldn’t “get it,” which is probably why the project has mostly gone nowhere. But I’m sure in a year or two when this is completely out of my head, this will seem interesting again.

* * *

So, I’ve had FreeNAS installed on my data hoarding server since maybe 2014, and never updated it. The machine itself is a Lenovo TS-140, which is great because it’s low-power but also supports server-type stuff like ECC memory. I threw FreeNAS on it and set up a ZFS pool with three drives in it, which gave me something like three or four terabytes of redundant storage. I run Plex on it and it can transcode videos on-the-fly, which is good because every time I have an AVI or something and I need to watch it on a real TV, I don’t want to have to google the entire history of video compression to figure out how to view it. The server is also a black hole of large PDFs I will never read. There’s about a half-terabyte of government PDFs about UFOs, and I now have zero interest in that, but I can’t just delete them.

Anyway, I had a drive fail in that pool in 2019? or so, and it was an easy and fun process to replace it. No data loss, because of the redundancy. I bought a larger drive, swapped it out, and it “resilvered” it with the stripes of redundant data from the other ones and magically healed itself. The pool size is calculated based on the smallest drive in the pool, and that thing had two 3TB drives and I replaced the dead one with a 4TB, but didn’t have the cash or will to buy three new drives. I replaced the 3TB with a 6TB, and that expanded the pool to 5TB. If I was smart, I’d do the math and come up with some schedule where I rotated out the oldest drive with the biggest I could afford at some regular interval, but I’m too lazy to figure this out.

Felt a need to upgrade this thing, because I’m sure it’s full of security holes, and my TV started complaining it needed a newer version of Plex, and the NAS wouldn’t upgrade it anymore until I upgraded the OS. I thought maybe I’d do incremental upgrades, like go from 9.0 to 9.1 to 10.0, etc etc. I did the first minor upgrade and it bricked the machine. So I needed a different plan.

I’d heard the new versions of TrueNAS (they changed the name from FreeNAS for some damn reason, probably money-related) kill USB thumb drives, which I was using to boot for the last 7 years. I’m surprised that one lasted as long as it did. So I bought a small SSD drive (120GB) for thirty bucks, and installed that in the box as a boot drive. Then I got the latest TrueNAS installer, booted from that, and did a fresh install. Imported the old pool, installed a fresh Plex install, added an AFP share so my Macs see it, and done. I ran into zero kinks in the install, and the web dashboard looks all shiny and new.

I just realized nobody will care about the last few paragraphs. I run into that a lot. Why do I even do this anymore? I think someone famous said “I write things down so I won’t forget them.” Or maybe that was the marketing slogan for a hipster notebook. I didn’t write it down, so I forgot.

* * *

Oh yeah, Shuttle photos from the trip are on Flickr: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmWub6uW

Also, I have a ton of pictures of NAS Alameda that need to be sorted and labelled and organized, but here’s a raw dump of all of them: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmWwqwem

I don’t know who still uses Flickr, if anyone. I noticed my last photo dump was my Vegas trip right before the pandemic started. I’m not sure if that’s because of the lack of travel, or my general apathy about sorting and organizing photos.

* * *

I have to drive to the dentist in a minute. I’ve already covered this earlier, but I still go to the dentist I had in 2008 when I lived in South San Francisco. The drive stinks, but he’s a good dentist, and he’s open Saturdays. His practice is attached to a rapidly dying mall, and there are all of the usual ghosts from living there way back when. Oh, and he’s got to drill up two teeth, and I have to pay for it.

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general

KQED Article, other photo appearances

I had some pictures used in an article on KQED on Hilltop Mall. Check it out here. It’s a great overview of the mall, from someone who was actually around for the mall’s heyday, which I unfortunately missed. (See my last post on that.)

The reason these pictures got used is because I have everything on my Flickr account under a Creative Commons license. That means anyone can use my photos, as long as they give me credit. (It’s nice, but not required, for them to drop me a line, because then I’ll gladly link to their stuff, like I am here.)

I’ve mentioned this before, but if you ever need an image for a book cover, feel free to dig through my Flickr account. If you find something and ping me, I’ll even give you a high-res original if you need one. All I ask is that you credit me. (I did this for Ben Ditmars and his book Haiku in the Night. Who knew that me playing on my phone while waiting on my breakfast order in a Berlin hotel would be immortalized on the cover of a book.)

One weird result of this is that my photography pops up in weird places and I never find out about it unless I google my name, which I never like to do. Here’s a short list of some other oddball places where I have a photo credit:

Anyway, there’s more, but I’m bored of searching.

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general

Winehaven

It was unusually nice outside this weekend, like in the low 70s, so I took the drone out yesterday in search of a new place to fly. I ended up in a weird little area called Winehaven.

Flying drones is tough out here. You have to find a wide open area (rare) that isn’t a state or federal park or protected area, a county park, a regional park, or a city park that’s particularly paranoid about drones. Then you need to be in uncontrolled airspace, not near an airport. And then you need to not be around people. There are message boards to scour through, but it’s mostly a lot of detective work.

Winehaven (here) is a weird little protuberance in Richmond, right before you hit the Richmond bridge on the way to Marin. All I really knew was there’s a small park named Point Molate right on the water, and it’s in redevelopment hell, so it’s not part of the regional park system. I read up more on this later — it used to be the world’s largest winery, from right after the big earthquake (1907) until prohibition. The main building at Winehaven is a giant castle, which is bizarre. Also lots of other small worker’s houses pepper the area, all boarded up and fenced off now.

Winehaven went bankrupt during prohibition and sat unused until the Navy scooped it up and turned it into the Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot. From the start of WWII up until the late 90s, they ran a big tank farm on the top of the hill. The castle building became either fuel barrel storage or a barracks (not sure which) and there was a small village of cottages for officers, which still stands but is a ghost town. (See this article for some great pictures.)

Like most BRACed military land around the bay, Winehaven and Point Molate has gone through the usual development rumors and attempts and failures. As expected, the Navy dumped anything and everything into the groundwater and kicked the can on later remediation. The Pomo Indians wanted to build a multi-billion dollar casino there, and spent a decade in the court system before it was stopped. (I’m simplifying this; the history is more involved. Don’t sue me, wikipedia is your friend, etc.) In 2019, stuff started moving again with SunCal to redevelop the area. The usual catch phrases were thrown around: adaptive reuse, live/work space, pedestrian-friendly, open space areas, mixed-use retail, blah blah blah. Not the best time to start work on this, but maybe they’ll do something in the next economic cycle.

Anyway. Drove out to the Point Molate beach park, and it was 200% full, some super-spreader event going on and no parking whatsoever. I decided to drive around just to see what else was up, and found the castle and the ghost village. About a mile past that, I found a bunch of dirt turn-offs where fishermen usually park to fish the shore there, but only one guy was out that day.

I made my first mistake by taking off from the dirt. Once I got over the water, I started getting gimbal errors and the drone was violently shaking, or looked like it was. I immediately returned, and after a very panicked landing, I took a look at the gimbal and camera. The gimbal is the motorized thing in the nose that holds the camera and can rotate, turn, and raise/lower in three dimensions. It’s a very touchy piece of precision mechanics, and it looked like when I took off on the dirt, some sand went into the gimbal. I blew it out and very carefully rotated it by hand, and that was definitely the problem.

Round two, and I mostly flew over the water. The former tank farm, now a fenced-off remediation dirt pile, was behind me. I wasn’t terribly interested in exploring that, because I wasn’t sure of the power line situation. (Those kind of construction sites are notorious for temporary power lines in odd locations that aren’t on Google Maps.) That little bay is framed by the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on the horizon, the castle further down the coast, and some bits of ruined pier. I wish I would have hiked further south, past the castle, because there are a few shipwrecks down there.

Aside from my nervousness about the gimbal and flying over water, this was the first time I’d flown with any amount of wind. It was mostly still, but I’d get occasional 5-10 mph gusts coming in toward the shore. The Mavic Air 2 is more powerful than some base-level drones, and it’s constantly auto-adjusting the four props to keep it steady, but there were times it got a bit wobbly, which scared me. It was also the afternoon, so I had the sun to the west and in my eyes, and bringing the drone above about 40 feet made it vanish into the sun, which wasn’t great.

I did some speed runs across the bay, which was fun. Got some nice camera footage zooming over the water towards the shore at an altitude of twenty or thirty feet for that Miami Vice intro look. The MA 2 has a top horizontal speed of about 42 MPH in sport mode, which is three or four times faster than the toy drones you get at the mall. I had it locked in normal mode, which is capped at 12 m/s, or about 26 MPH, which was still fun.

Here’s my shot of the castle. I didn’t get too close, so I’m going to have to go back soon, maybe either in the early morning when the sun’s behind it, or catch it during the golden hour, if I can ever time that.

 

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general

One second every day, 2019

You’ve probably already seen this if you follow me on some of the other dumb social media sites, but one of my projects this year was to take a second of video every day, to make one big video of the whole mess.

Here’s the link on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iURF0m4MEQg

I did this with the app 1 Second Everyday (sic, that should be “every day”) which enables you to shoot the video on your phone and mash them all together. More about the history of the app is here. I saw someone else use the app back in 2018, and started late in the year. I also posted my results monthly, but then did one giant nine-minute video on the last day of 2019.

The name is a bit of a misnomer. The app actually allows you to use two videos per day, and they can be a second and a half long. I may have missed a day or two, but I often did two videos a day.

A few observations about this project:

  • I spend a lot of time in malls.
  • A lot of my video was shot on my daily walks. I tend to walk in the same half-dozen places, so there’s some repetition there.
  • You do see some slight change in season in the app, but we don’t really have seasons in California, so there’s that.
  • One of the things I noticed is a lot of things in the video are already gone or changed. One of the most striking is that the new townhouses across the street from my condo were roughly framed in at the start of the video, and by October, they were done and people are moved in.
  • There’s also a lot of retail in the background that has already died.
  • If you watch really closely, you can tell the point where I replaced my phone, because the video quality improves. I got a replacement of the same exact phone, but you can really tell the difference. Maybe reinstalling the app changed something.
  • Vacations and trips are over very quick in the video. Like I spent a week in Vegas, and it’s only a few seconds in this trip. You have to choose wisely to represent the entire vacation in the video, and I probably could have given this more thought.
  • I didn’t shoot people in general, and did more landscape and nature stuff. (And malls.)
  • Lots of cats, though.
  • The sudden volume changes are a bit of an issue. I think you can buy an in-app purchase to add your own music, but that would be silly.
  • I think my favorite non-cat shot is the ice cream truck driving by on the abandoned military base.

Anyway, I don’t expect many people to sit through the whole thing, and I probably don’t have the patience to do this in 2020, but it’s there if you’re curious. There’s some other junk on my YouTube channel that might be fun (like the December 2018 video), although I don’t do much other video stuff. Maybe I should at some point.

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general

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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general

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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general

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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general reviews

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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general

Mendocino, Fort Bragg, Glass Beach, etc.

I’ve been back almost a week, but here’s a quick trip report on the tail end of what I wrote about last time.

So I stayed just south of Little River. They have a town hall and post office that are in the same building as a two-pump gas station. So the whole town is basically a Marathon quick-mart, which isn’t unusual in this part of the state. I drove down to Albion, a few miles south, and it’s sort of the same thing.

If you follow the 1 north along the shore of the Pacific, it winds about three miles until you get to Mendocino. It’s a little square peninsula hanging off the highway, with about 800 people living there, and made up mostly of small galleries and shops in buildings that are from the late 1800s. The whole thing has a very New England feel to it; I don’t know if it’s the open sky, the architecture, the whaling and mermaid stuff in all the gift shops, or something about the small feel of the town. Or maybe the way the drag on Main Street only has buildings on one side, and the other faces off to a bunch of cliffs and a headland that dumps right out into a bay off the ocean.

Mendocino was a nice place to walk and look around, and my cell phone worked there, but it wasn’t entirely my trip. There’s one good non-chain grocery store, and a lot of cafes that made me nervous. I was looking at one gluten-free coffee place with sandwiches, and got sketched out by the healthiness of it, so I went outside and found a sign for a taqueria which was on the back of a building, in a space about as big as my home office. I went in and everyone eating there was a construction worker, and nobody spoke English. This was more my speed, and I got a plate of nachos with like ten pounds of carne asada and cheese, plus a bottle of Mexican Coke for like ten bucks, including tip. That was a good find.

Photography was good. (It’s mostly on Flickr, https://flic.kr/s/aHsm7woRAX) It was hard to take a bad photo, although the sun wasn’t out much, and there was a lot of fog. The fog had a certain Twin Peaks feel to it, especially when I was in the cabin, surrounded with evergreens. But for a person with bad Seasonal Affective Disorder, it wasn’t entirely ideal. It wasn’t a hundred degrees, though, which I missed this weekend as I was broiling in Oakland.

Fort Bragg is about ten miles up from Mendocino. It has nothing to do with the Army base, which is confusing at first. There’s about 7,000 people there, and a bit more of a downtown, with that midwestern street layout grid that made me think of places like Goshen or North Liberty or whatever, tree names from left to right, dead presidents or generals from top to bottom. There were a few chain places on the outskirts, like a Safeway, CVS, McDonald’s, and so forth, but the town was more local places. It still had that New England feel to me, and a lot of quirkiness. Like there was a Radio Shack, but inside a Tru-Value hardware that sold everything, and reminded me of a store in the Catskills. Or the brunch place that was inexplicably covered in Wizard of Oz memorabilia.

I reached a point where I normally do when I get incredibly bored and need to go to a big city or a large museum or something. I’m not a social person, and can’t meet strangers on a vacation, so I fall into an isolation funk when I’m on a trip alone. And in a big city, my defense is to lose myself in the masses of people. It’s why Vegas is ideal for me. But here, there was none of that, which caused a real problem for me.

One day I got the idea to take the US 20 inland and go to Willits, which is about four or five thousand people. That drive, from the 1 on the shore to the 101 running through the meat of the state, is brutal. It’s about thirty miles, but with no traffic, it takes at least an hour. It’s all switchback turns and quick elevation changes in a deep forest of redwoods, which is beautiful, but not the place you want to be when weekend warriors are tooling around in RVs. Also, temperature changes galore: I left the house when it was 55 degrees. By the time I got to Fort Bragg and took a right, it was 75. In Willits, it was just about 100. I thought Willits might be interesting, but it was a bit of a bust. There was a pretty walkable downtown that looked desolated, and a cluster of chain fast food right off the highway on-ramps. I went to a McDonald’s and sat at a table next to a woman about fifteen years younger than me who was with her grandchildren, and was pregnant. So, yeah.

Point Cabrillo lighthouse was a nice walk in the middle of nowhere — went on a day when the sky was almost black with rain, a sheet of dark gray overhead, but the desolation in the park was amazing. I also went to Glass Beach a few times. It had magnificent cliffs and coves, great walking alone there. It used to be a garbage dump, and now the waves have turned the broken bottles into pebbles of bright colored glass over the last century. It sits next to what used to be a large lumber yard that went bust a decade or two ago. It’s amazing to see nature taking back the entire area, reversing the years of damage done to it.

So, it was a nice break. Didn’t write as much as I’d thought, but that happens. I think I got a dozen pictures I really liked, and didn’t buy any books I didn’t need. Also didn’t get badly sunburned, which is a first for an ocean stay, so I’ll take it.

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general

New Camera

I finally upgraded DSLRs last week. This was a nagging thing with a convoluted thought process, something like this:

  • I should save a ton of money and get a full-frame DSLR / that’s too much money to blow on someone who doesn’t take a thousand pictures a day.
  • I should upgrade to the newer version of the Rebel camera / that’s not that much of an upgrade, and I don’t use my DSLR that much, because of weight/size/fear of getting it damaged or stolen.
  • I should look into these mirrorless cameras like the Fuji or Sony, because so many people are ditching DSLRs for these / I can’t deal with an LCD screen viewfinder in the sun and with my eyesight, and I have a lot of Canon lenses I’d be junking.
  • I could buy the Canon EOS-M3 mirrorless with an eyepiece viewfinder, and it can use my lenses with an adaptor / I bought an EOS-M1 and it’s a huge regret.
  • I should just use my fucking iPhone and realize I’m not a photographer and nobody looks at this shit anyway.
  • Maybe I’d be a photographer if I bought a full-frame DSLR.
  • etc.

Pressing the issue: a bunch of amazon credit card points, an upcoming trip to London. So I gave up and bought the Canon Rebel T6i. My previous DSLR was the Canon Rebel XS, which I got on my birthday in 2010, and took about 11,000 pictures with in six years, which either seems insanely high or pretty low, depending your experience level. I got in at exactly the wrong time with the Rebel, right before they got high megapixel counts, fold-out screens, really good autofocus, and video. So the new camera is a pretty big step up.

Interesting things about this one: the new STM kit lens seems much faster autofocusing, and is way quieter. There is a flip-out video screen, which makes live-view shooting much easier. The screen is a capacitive-touch, so you can swipe and touch focus points, which is neat. There is built-in wifi, which I will never use. And there’s video, which is actually pretty decent, especially the autofocus.

Minor nits: the battery is a new, proprietary Canon one, with a chip in it, so third-party clone batteries don’t work properly. It will complain, and then the battery level gauge won’t work. This would be less of an issue if Canon batteries were not sixty bucks each.

I think the biggest thing is that despite the wiz-bang features, this feels like an incremental upgrade, like the pictures aren’t astounding; they’re just pictures of whatever I point it at. A new camera doesn’t change what’s around me, or my skill level. It’s still collecting light through the same lenses (and one new one) and aside from the various future-proofing stuff, it’s still my responsibility to put something interesting in front of the lens.

I brought the new gear to the Rockies-Giants game last week, shot a few hundred snaps, but wasn’t happy with any of it. I’ve taken so many pictures at AT&T that I’m bored of it, and although I had suite tickets and could get down to the dugout area, I was too late for batting practice. Weather was too cloudy too. I did like the game (Rockies won, ate a lot) but not a good photo op. I’m hoping to get some good work in while I’m in the UK, though.