I’m Alright Jack!

The last few weeks as a corporate cog have been a bit of a challenge, one way or another. Two phrases come to my mind, one from my British heritage in the form of the classic 1959 Boulting Brother’s comedic film, I’m Alright Jack, and the other from the more well known Kubrick adaptation of the Stephen King novel, The Shining.

It was a close run  thing and although the latter inspired me to create the following artwork, I now feel more in tune with the sentiment of the earlier film’s title…

160830_ImAlrightJack
~Richard

Haiku: Bygone humor

Today Gene Wilder died, at the age of 83. He suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for the final years of his life but didn’t want it to be known for one, amazing reason: he was still regularly recognized by children as Willy Wonka and he wanted them to only be happy when they saw him.

Here is my humble tribute to the late, great actor who made me laugh so much over the years:

 

Haiku: Bygone humor

 

Leo Bloom, Wonka,

the Waco Kid, Frankenstein.

Wilder Days indeed!

 

160829_Gene_Wilder_1970
By Warner Brothers/Tandem Production (eBay) [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons
~Richard

A Century of National Park Service

Today is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, created to protect the wonderful tracts of wilderness, defined by Congress as National Parks, for all time. There are 59 of these sites spread across 27 states, and covering nearly 52 million acres (210,000 km2) and they truly represent something special.

My first introduction to them was many years ago as a teenager in the UK when I stumbled across the amazing work of Ansel Adams, particularly his stunning photography of the mountains in Yosemite, that were sold regularly in shops such as Athena, on the UK High Street. I had a huge poster of Half Dome on my wall for many years.

I would never have believed at that time that 25 years later I would actually be emigrating to the US, visiting Redwood and Yosemite National Parks from my new home in California and be able to take my own photographs.

160825_HalfDome
The National Park Service does a great job of fulfilling their mandate to protect the National Parks  and they also have a really nice website to educate us all on the parks and the other areas that are affiliated to the NPS or managed by them, such as National Historic Sites, Scenic Trails, Recreation Areas, Memorials, Battlefields, Heritage Corridors, and Waterways.

So, next time you or your family want some real quality time why not turn off the TV, check out their site and then leave your technology at home and enjoy some of the beautiful countryside that the United States has to offer?

Happy 100th NPS!

~Richard

Flip Top Head

I admit it, have a problem. When I come home from work I am like some half-starved animal desperate to eat anything that I can my hands on. If I can find an opened bag of chips or some other savory snack then I will attack it and pour it down my throat to satisfy my need for crunchy carbs.

Weird thing is though, if the bags haven’t been opened I am able to resist the urge to do so. It’s almost like there’s a magical charm on them. It’s a bit like inviting a vampire into your house, once the invitation is there it’s a free for all.

This also gives me the excuse to blame other people for my piggish behavior. “If you hadn’t opened the bag, I wouldn’t be eating it,” I cry as a pathetic excuse.

Sometimes I feel as though I may as well have a flip top head…

20160824_fry_guy
~Richard

(*ChipGuy animation by Georgie)

Haiku: First Internaut

Today is Internaut day, the anniversary of the opening of the World Wide Web to the public by CERN on August 23, 1991. We used to consider a generation to be approximately 25 years so, to my thinking, 2016 now means that the web has come of age. There are billions of people now who cannot comprehend a time before the web existed. We live in a time of faster, borderless, communication and more open exchange of ideas. Society may still struggle with this shift in global information flow, but personally I think it has been a positive experience so far.

I take the opportunity acknowledge the world’s first Internaut, Tim Berners-Lee, using the much older medium of haiku:

~ The first interanut ~

Connectivity

Information free flowing

We thank you, Sir Tim.

160823_TBL
Sir Tim Berners-Lee (used under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported License)

 

~Richard

 

Technology updates – a bit of a curate’s egg.

The term “curate’s egg” is one I use occasionally but is almost exclusively unknown by American friends and colleagues, who usually stare back at me with bewilderment. It originated from a cartoon in the British satirical publication, Punch way back in 1895 and subsequently became part of the English language, at least for some.

160821_CuratesEgg
Bishop: “I’m afraid you’ve got a bad egg, Mr Jones”;  Curate: “Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!”

[“True Humility” by George du Maurier, originally published in Punch, 9 November 1895.]

Originally it summed up the old British stereotype of “stiff upper lip” and “carry on” attitude, basically suggesting that, no matter how bad a situation, we should make the best of it, and just get on with it.

Sterling stuff, indeed!

These days I think the meaning has been changed slightly to mean a mixture of good and bad, although mainly bad.

Now, I could think of some deep and meaningful situation to apply this to, perhaps stretching it to to the current US Presidential Race, for example, but instead I am going to be very self-indulgent (as if writing a blog isn’t self-indulgent enough!) I will use this phrase to provide a promised update on the two technical activities I blogged about recently, namely the upgrade to my beloved (?) Asus laptop, and secondly, repair of my daughter’s iPhone 5c.

The laptop upgrade to a solid state drive (SSD) was meant to be “just” a case of cloning my original disk and then swapping it, so I duly procured a named SSD: (Crucial 480GB) and swapped out my second HDD so I could do the business using EaseUS Todo Backup software.

The problems started immediately when Windoze7 wouldn’t recognize the SSD so I had to use disk manager to initialize it for it to be usable. Cloning was fairly straightforward but the next snag came when Windoze wouldn’t boot up from the new drive, even when selecting it in BIOS. A few hours of head scratching and reading on the interweb, and not really wanting to play about in the Registry too much, and I ended up downloading Macrium Reflect to see if this could help.

This natty software, like that from EaseUS, is free to use for 30-days, but unlike the former it comes with a much better 350+ page pdf user guide which is very helpful. Cranking up Macrium Reflect for the first time I was prompted to create a Windows PE bootable rescue disk (or USB in my case as I have no drives!). Rebooting from this USB and I only had to follow a few prompts on the menus to get my newly minted SSD recognised as a bootable drive.

Rebooting again, with fingers crossed and success, my old Asus was flying again!

Now to the iPhone 5c story. An investment of $10 plus shipping for a new battery and $5 for the tool set needed (a tiny screwdriver set, including the infamous “pentalobe” required (designed) by Apple, plastic pry bars and a suction cup) and I was ready to go.

Opening the case was easy but why on earth (yes, I think you can probably guess why) did Apple have to stick the battery to the case with such strong adhesive? After very carefully prodding and pulling I managed to release the old battery and replace with the new one. Reattaching everything I eagerly plugged it into the charger. Nothing. Except for a low hum from the phone there was no sign of life. No combination button presses to reset it! So, ok the “genius” in the store was right after all – it’s broken! It still irks me though that they made no effort to open up the phone and even take a look at it, leaving me to do that. I guess that is genius (or at least cost-effective) customer service from their perspective.

So, all in all a bit of a curate’s egg for my weekend of technology. Good in part!

As a final piece to this story, when Punch Magazine closed in 1992, after 151 years, they re-published their famous cartoon in their final edition. This time they revised the caption to reflect how much modern society had changed over the century between publication:

160821_CuratesEgg

Curate: “This f***ing egg’s off!”

So much for progress?

~Richard

My kind of sushi, at last!

My family love sushi, but I am unenamored by the stuff. I will eat most things and, although have never had the opportunity to try the infamous delicacy of lutefisk, I have consumed grubs, insects, cacti, and many other items that many may consider “off the wall.”

However, sushi and I have never clicked. I just don’t see the fascination in tiny pieces of raw fish wrapped, however beautifully, in sticky rice, even when presented on a conveyor belt. It’s not only the texture but probably the fact that I studied parasitology that also puts me off – a pathological fear of raw meat, perhaps? So, for me it’s usually the teriyaki chicken option whenever I begrudgingly go a Japanese restaurant. Add to this the weird obsession that Americans have with insisting on using chopsticks (which I can use), and I find the whole experience unsatisfying. This latter characteristic always amuses me. When we eat my favorite cuisine, Indian, no one seems to want to use their right hand only and no cutlery to be more authentic so why would we insist on using a couple of wooden sticks for Japanese or Chinese food when we have forks available?

Anyhow, I digress. Today my daughter was attending a friend’s birthday party and decided she wanted to take along some fruit sushi as her contribution to the international food theme. I helped a little bit in preparing the sweet sticky rice by simmering it with sugar and coconut milk, and then let her loose with the creativity.

It didn’t actually take her long to create some great sushi with mango, pineapple, kiwi, peach, strawberries and blackberries. I was fortunate to be allowed some of the leftovers when she was plating it up and they were delicious!

160820_Sushi1

160820_Sushi2

160820_Sushi3

160820_Sushi4

Finally, I have discovered some sushi I actually enjoy!

~Richard

World Photography Day 2016: the camera never lies; except when it does.

I stumbled on the fact that today is World Photography Day, courtesy of Facebook informing me of this odd fact. Given that it is estimated that around 250,000 photos are uploaded to Instagram every minute and around 2 billion (2,000,000,000) are added to the internet each day, I would think that every day is really a photography day, rather then just today! And these numbers are increasing as more and more of the world gets smart phones.

It’s amazing to think how far we have come since the early days of photography in the third decade of the 1800s, when we first managed to capture light directly onto a more permanent medium without going through an artistic representation involving brush strokes.

The truth, in all its glory or horror, could be shared more widely.

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce is credited with the first (surviving) photograph using the technique of heliography, in 1826. The image through an upstairs window is still visible (after enhancement) on the hardened bitumen layer on the glass in which it was captured. There is a great article on PetaPixel from 2013 regarding this that is well worth the read.

We have traveled far with technology since then. And so has our delivery of the truth through this objective medium.

It is an enlightening insight on the human psyche that from early on some photographers sought to mislead the public by clever editing and manipulation in the darkroom. Sometimes  this was for humorous effect, such as the famous giant animal series, an example of which I offer here:

160819_Grasshopper
…but also for propaganda reasons too, such as manipulation of scenes in the famous photos of Abraham Lincoln and his new body,

160819_LincolnCalhoun

Ulysses S. Grant’s battlefront composite shot (nicely done)…

160819_UlyssesGrant1

160819_UlyssesGrant2

…through to the removal of people in official state photographs by Stalin …

160819_Stalin

… Mao Tse Tung…

160819_MaoTseTung

…Adolf Hitler, and many others.

160819_Hitler

These days, with digital images and easy to use software, we are bombarded on social media with photographs that purport to show some bizarre scene. Often they are so well edited that it is difficult to determine if they are fake, without resorting to forensic image analysis.

So, although the old adage “the camera never lies” still hold true, for when the image was actually taken, the same has never been true when processing the image for final viewing – even in the days of the Daguerreotype!

With that in mind, I leave you with a rare shot of the elusive Striped Rhino fish:

160819_Rhinofish
~Richard

When good enough is good enough – when it’s my trusty Asus X54C-BBK7 laptop.

A few days back I ranted on about our obsession with needing to update to the latest technology all the time and how Crapple treated us badly with regards to my daughter’s iPhone 5c. Well, here’s another story to balance it out.

I bought my laptop a few years back and, like all Windoze systems it’s had a few (solvable) problems over the years and is now getting a bit slow, despite the ”amendments” I have made to it (upped the RAM to the max 8GB, and replaced the DVD drive with a 1TB HDD second disk). I do a huge amount of image processing in GIMP and other CPU-hogging software and I was thinking it’s about time that I replaced it, even though it goes against the grain of my psyche to get rid of something that still works.

160818_Asus

I then wondered how long I had had this little workhorse so I went through my records and was stunned to see that I bought it July 2012 as a refurbished model from Groupon for the princely sum of $299 with free shipping!  I had forgotten this, a sign of my impending dotage, I guess.

When I consider the artwork that I have created and sold with this laptop over the last 4 years it surely doesn’t owe me anything at all. Even adding the cost of my upgrades brings it up to about $450 total spend.

It truly amazes me that people doing similar work to me wring their hands and fret about how they are going to pay the $2000-$4000 on computer systems (or double that for a Mac) they “need” for their work when they can often do so with their existing equipment. Sometimes I think people just need to be honest and say they want something because they “want” it, rather than trying to justify a spurious “need” for it.

So, I sat back and thought, no, I am not going to replace it but instead I will pull out the original 320GB HDD with a new 480GB SSD, which I can get on Amazon for about $120 and see how it goes.

If I go quiet for a few days you can assume I may have been wrong…!

~Richard

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