Monthly Archives: January 2012

Feeling Fairly Fitful

Placid Patient Repose

Placid Patient Repose

Well, well, well if it isn’t the unlucky side of the house that gets to hear me blather on about nothing.  Like a late-series Seinfeld episode this is likely to be one of those posts that you read all the way through and as you near the end you say to yourself, “What did I just read THAT for?  I could have been gouging my eyes out with chopsticks during that time!”  I’ll try to avoid anything that would bring you to that extremity but I must point out that I’m not likely to be entirely sensical.

So this entry was very nearly devoted to photography watermarking.  I had a couple paragraphs written before I realized that I was so over the idea that I didn’t even care enough to write about how annoyed I was by it.  Suffice to say that the new protection mechanism for my photographic work basically boils down to trusting the great stone wheel of karma to crush any would-be wrong-doers.  So if you steal my work for your own profit-making purposes then I’m just going to laugh when you get crushed by a huge rock.  No sympathy whatsoever.

Moving on, I woke up this morning with a hangover.  That would be a katzenjammer to all you visiting New England types.  Before you cluck your tongue at me both for being hungover and for using the word katzenjammer when hangover would have done perfectly well, let me inform you, oh assiduous reader who has made it 254 words into this post, that it was a hangover NOT caused by alcohol but rather from general dehydration.  In retrospect it has been a rather busy few days.  I traipsed for many, many hours photographing the city Sunday and Monday and apparently took far too little care with my own level of hydration.  Thus the surprise of waking up this morning feeling as if I’d been hit over the head with a tequila bottle despite the fact that I hadn’t actually consumed any fermented agave squeezings at all.  Clearly taking one bottle of water is insufficient for seven hours of hiking over two days.  Who knew?

Being sensitive to my own weariness, I came home tonight intent on relaxing a bit and putting my feet up in front of the television.  True to form, I proceeded instead to sit at the computer and work on personal projects for… five hours.  Ahh, it sure feels good to relax!..?  I really don’t see how people do it.  If I don’t accomplish… well, something that I can vaguely justify as “productive” in an evening then I start to feel rather guilty about it.  The average person, I sense… I suspect… does not have this problem.  My fundamental need seems to be not to relax but simply to do something different.  The last two nights I did the outside thing.  Tonight I planted myself firmly inside, made a simple dinner that hobos would be ashamed of and just wrote, edited, uploaded, and generally fiddled.  Tomorrow I’ll be back out in the crowds and that’ll be good again because it’s different.

In the paragraph above I hint at the need for something “productive” and it’s at about this point in my mental conversation that I ask myself the rather pointed question, “and THIS is what you call productive?”  Much of tonight was wasted.  I hosed about pointlessly with watermarking photos and the decided that was stupid.  So two hours down the crapper.  I did eventually finish two blog posts and start this one.  The first was a short blurb on night photography on the photo side of the house.  This might be somewhat helpful to someone though there are thousands of people better qualified to give this advice than I am.  Despite that, if the stats are to be believed, plenty of people will read it so perhaps it’s some positive contribution to the universe.  The second was a 100-year-old ad for toothpaste on the advertising side.   Traffic over there is pretty light but I tend to amuse myself at least.  Lastly there’s this wandering musing in search of an ending.  All this brings me solidly back to the fundamental question of “what’s the point?”  Why do I, or does anyone, bother?  What exactly has been accomplished by anything I’ve done tonight?

If one takes a few deep breaths and works really hard to put the answer of, “I do this to service my raging narcissism” out of one’s mind, then one can devise a couple reasonably plausible answers.  The first is that putting oneself on public display does have a tendency to improve whatever you happen displaying.  Even if your audience doesn’t offer their direct and helpful feedback, merely the knowledge that whatever you write or paint or photograph will be on display and open for others to see does tend to make one focus a bit.  I hope that I’m a better “photographer/writer/advertising commentator/whatever” because of your collective influence.  It’s also worth noting that you DO offer your direct feedback and are exceptionally helpful.  Not to mention that in consuming your work as I peruse your respective blogs, it fortifies my own and makes me at times absolutely consumed with envy.

So if not this, then what?  I could, I suppose, sit and learn a foreign language or read every book in the Big Box of Books but would that be an improvement over what I’m doing?  The mere act of repeating an activity reinforces the skill it takes to achieve it so even if I write and write and write every day and nobody ever reads it then I am, by force of repetition alone, improving my craft.  So if I can use my raging narcissism to my advantage and motivate myself to actually do something that’s good for my intellectual life in the long run then isn’t that good thing?  It seems a victimless crime unless you count my readership.

And with that, I think I shall close.  Such is the somewhat tattered thread of consciousness that runs through my life.  I find myself having much the same mental dialog over and over and sometimes with vastly different outcomes.


Filed under blogging, personal

The Bane of Expectations

Today I left the apartment with fervor, energy and drive that I haven’t felt in a while (at least a week!).  Motivation is a costly commodity when the temperature is 38 degrees and the wind is gusting at 30 miles per hour.  I like to get out and do the photo thing but let’s face it, I’m a wimp.  If it’s a choice between taking photos or keeping all my appendages intact, I’ll just go pull something out of the big box of books and turn the heat up.  But this afternoon I poured out the door like a bucket of water over Niagra falls; I was ready to take on the day and whatever it happened to bring.

As with weather, I’m also a wimp when it comes to parking.  I’d rather park somewhere a mile or two away than bother with a parking garage.  As I got out of the car at the Indianapolis Zoo and headed across the river on foot towards Lucas Oil Stadium I could feel the wind pushing at my back like an impatient mother trying desperately to give birth to an overly plump child. I knew that the walk back was not going to be a pleasant one.  Regardless, the car was safely parked, I had camera in hand, tripod and other equipment on my back and I had a destination.  Frozen face of the future be damned.  It was now time.

Then I arrived at downtown and saw all the… stuff.  Here was the city I had photographed at least a dozen times and it was all made up for a monumental event.  It’s almost as if the place looked at me and said, “OK, Mr. Smart-guy, I’m waiting.  Take my picture already.”  And, as happens to me anytime that an entire city anthropomorphizes and mocks me, I found myself rather locked up artistically.  Rather than relaxing and just letting the photos come to me in a natural way, I ended up playing a complex three-dimensional game of “where’s Waldo” in which Waldo is that perfect shot that I just have to get and if I don’t get it then I would look back on the day a month from now and be furious with myself.

And really, I think that’s exactly the problem with such events.  If I just show up at some random spot and glide around for three hours I know with absolute certainty that I’m going to find something I really like.  I can summon something from nothing without much forethought or difficulty.  But when you go to an event wherein people EXPECT you to get good shots it’s a much different mindset.  It’s almost as if because I know there’s something to be found I end up impatiently looking for it and missing the more natural or artistic bits that are all around us at all times.  As a result, I always see the photos I come back with after an event as rather disappointing because I never feel that I found that ineffable “it” that was lurking waiting to be captured.

Despite my disappointment, I come home and post my rot online so that at the least I can say that I documented the day.  Inevitably though, somebody will come along and notice something in the album that really does have more to say than I thought.  The hangover of expectations, it seems, not only saturates the act of taking the photos but also finds its way into post-processing and would last forever except for the input of people from outside my own skull.   I’m a terrible judge of my own work in general and the issue of expecting something from a situation seems to make it much, much worse.

Clearly though I need an attitude adjustment.  If I choose a random direction and drive then I see photography as a fun recreation that can turn any locale into hours of fun and produce something I like at the end.  If I go somewhere on purpose then photography becomes a gauntlet of challenge thrown down that must be picked up and accepted at all costs.  I find myself walking faster and faster in an attempt to locate that redeeming photo op that will make the miles of walking all worthwhile.  I won’t deny that I’m often a hopelessly competitive person, but in this case I’m just competing with myself in a pointless and circular way that does more to burn calories and wear out my jeans than it does to advance my art.


Filed under photography

Jack of all Trades – Master of None?

On occasion I’ll see a news story about the myriad ways that potential employers vet out job applicants.  One of the universal first steps is to do a simple Google search and I’m proud to report that if you Google my name then 9 of the first 10 matches have something to do with me.  So I’m certainly easy enough to find.  There’s plenty of me to go around but what does all this “Me-ness” really say about yours truly as a potential employee?  Certainly there are no embarrassing photos of me on Facebook.  I don’t tend to rant on drunkenly about any vast indiscretions in my life because… well, somewhat boring to report, there aren’t any.  So HR directors of the future will have no fun with my online profile.

I realize, as I look through those Google results, that it would be fairly difficult to detect that I’m actually a Computer Science graduate from Purdue.  My online presence is more akin to a liberal arts major than a tech geek.  My personal interests are all over the board from photography to writing to just about everything else.  This leaks over into my work as well.  In this age of razor-sharp specialization I’m the guy who will simply do whatever it takes to get the job done.  I was hired in my current position 8 years ago as a Web Developer and in that time I’ve done plenty of development.  I’ve also spent a lot of my time doing the nuts and bolts work of a software development company that not only aren’t code-based but also aren’t really all that technical.  Let’s look at some of my everyday job duties and maybe you, my wise WordPress collective, can tell me what my job title really is.

  • On a nearly daily basis I interact with the sales department to negotiate new features in the product and set prices for them.  This seems a lot like Product Management.
  • I meet weekly with the implementation team to train them on product features.  In the past I’ve been responsible for product documentation.  This seems like a Technical Documentation and Training role.
  • Every day I conduct detailed code reviews for a team of 5 developers, advise them on implementation details, try to manage the release schedule and generally try to keep everyone’s work in sync.  That’s a Product Architect in my book.
  • Three times a week I sit in meetings with Product Support to work on support cases and bring them to resolution.  That’s Level Three Support.
  • I act as mentor and coach for the same group of 5 developers trying to give career advice and whatever tidbits of wisdom I can.  I’m also in various management meetings and help form departmental policy.  That seems to be a classic Managerial role.
  • And finally, when I get a chance I sit down and actually code things. As time has gone on, this role has gotten smaller and smaller and smaller but I can still match up the curly braces.

In my head, current state is great.  I love having so many inputs and responsibilities and wearing a jaunty selection of job-related hats.  Ya wanna know something about eBusiness?  Anything?  I’m your guy.

But then I start to ponder the future.  I’m not actively seeking work, but I can’t assume that I’ll be able to stay at my current job forever.  In the event that I do have to go elsewhere, what in the hell do I put on my résumé?  There aren’t exactly job postings for Manager/Architect/Support/Product Manager/Programmers on CareerBuilder.  It’s my impression that companies want specialists. If they need someone to do some facet of my job then they go out and hire someone who’s specifically trained to do it, not some guy who can do five different jobs at once.

As I ponder the “what if I were out of work tomorrow” question, three scenarios occur to me.

Firstly, I could go back to just being a programmer.  The difficulty with this is that as programmers go I’m rather antiquated.  While other developers want to play about with all the latest in technologies I just want to write good solid code that’s easy to support and understand.  Personally, I think that if your code isn’t comprehensible by a first-year student in C# then you’ve screwed up.  I think developers tend to forget that eventually somebody else is going to have to read their code.  At any rate, lecture mode off.

Secondly, and perhaps most attractively, I could find myself another small company and try to work my way back into a position like the one I have now.  Sadly, I think those opportunities are fairly rare so my optimism at finding such a thing is rather remote.

Thirdly, I could just storm off into the unknown and squeeze my living from whatever other talents I might possess.  Perhaps I could sell enough photos, writing and eBay trinkets to not go bankrupt?  I don’t know, honestly, but that would be a rather tenuous choice.  It makes for a fairly poor tertiary back-up plan.

The summation of this somewhat winding missive is that I don’t know.  I feel that I could and would be an asset to any company that chose to hire me but I have no clue how to construct a business argument for a concept that runs so contrary to the common wisdom that you hire people for a single job and let them do it.  The good news is that I don’t have to worry about it…. Yet.


Filed under personal, work

On Evolution and Abortion

Wandering through my archives I found this particularly … assertive… post about Evolution and abortion from 2007.  I hope you enjoy it. 

One of the many things that annoyed me last week was one of those ‘This or That’ questions on the mega-popular website. The question this time was ‘Evolution or Abortion’. The question itself was perfectly apropos but I did wonder exactly in what context this was conceived (no pun intended). Anyway, what got me was the first response/comment:

“I’ll take a lie over a murder anyday[sic]…”

It’s not very often that a person manages to irritate me so completely in so few words. Let’s start with the more obvious implication in the poster’s statement: “Evolution is a lie.”

Anyone who denies the mechanism of evolution is either a fool or vastly under informed. Typically, evolution’s detractors labor under the deluded belief that evolution states that monkeys wandering through the jungle suddenly just gave birth to humans one day. This, of course, is a vast oversimplification of the processes involved and fails to relate the real heart of what evolution says about organisms on this planet (or any other for that matter). Let’s review from high school biology…

Premise #1: Animals within a population vary from each other.

If one has doubts of the correctness of this then one need only look as far as the next available human. People, animals, plants, bacteria… anything that reproduces by combining its own genetic material with another of the same species displays variation. Every single one of us is different from the next. Some of us can run faster than others; some are taller; some are shorter; some have dark complexions; some have light complexions. We’re all physically unique from each other. Even twins have distinct physical differences that make them very subtly unique. Even if we can’t see it, we all display variation.

Premise #2: Animals and plants that are better suited to survive in their environments live to have more offspring.

Frankly, this is just common sense. Why are antelope so fast? Because all the slow ones were eaten. Why do giraffes have long necks? Because the ones with shorter necks starved as they couldn’t reach anything to eat. From Darwin to Adam Smith, the strong survive and prosper while the weak die.

That’s it. That’s all the premises there are. Sorry if you thought there was going to be something about monkeys or apes driving Volvos. That’s all there is to it: two simple indisputable premises. To defy those premises is to defy all reasonable logic. The funny thing is that everyone blames Darwin for evolution but it actually existed as an idea long before he came along. He just formalized the idea and put it on firmer scientific ground by citing examples from the world around him. It was the religious zealots of the time who denied anything ever changed because it implied imperfection in God. See, God made everything and he made it perfect the first time. If an animal has to evolve then it wasn’t perfect the first time and therefore God screwed up. At least that’s how the argument went.

Now of course we’re much more sophisticated in our thinking. We see the obvious examples around us such as when man exploited the mechanisms of evolution and turned wolves into poodles over the course of several thousand years of selective breeding. It’s universally acknowledged that bacteria evolve defenses against our medicines making antibiotics of yesteryear ineffective against modern bacteria.  If we can actually see any evidence of evolution whatsoever in the tiny span of time we’ve been watching for it (200 years) then what must those same mechanisms have been able to do in the 5 billion years the Earth has been around when we weren’t watching?

Even my daughter who is only 25 years removed from me is significantly different. In the 500,000,000 years of life on this planet that means even if life only changed as much as my daughter did then it would still show 25,000,000 times more differences than I do from my eldest offspring. Creationists argue that we don’t see any monkeys evolving into humans nowadays but that completely misses the vastness of previous history. A lot can happen in 5 billion years.

Now that we’ve gotten that all out of our system, let’s move on to abortion. Let me start by saying that abortion is a nasty business. It’s very sad to me any time any organism dies but what makes me festeringly and profusely angry is the pedestal on which people place humans and it all begins at the moment of conception. As I’ve said before though, all I ask is that you be consistent. You can happily believe that the sky is green if you like as long as you do so all the times even when it’s to your detriment.

If you draw the line of human life at conception, there are a few of things you should keep in mind.

* If you take birth control pills, you are murdering your children. See, birth control pills don’t stop you from ovulating. Your body is happily pumping out eggs and if you’re having sex then those eggs are still being happily fertilized. However, the egg can’t implant because the pills have caused your uterus to be unable to support the baby. So your delightful little child just goes straight out your cervix with your period and dies. You killed your children with birth control pills.

* Also, just because you don’t want the child doesn’t mean you get to abort it. It’s really easy to point at other people and say, “You shouldn’t have an abortion” but it’s not quite as easy to say that when, for example, your 12-year-old daughter is raped and becomes pregnant by the rapist. Now suddenly the terror of being raped isn’t enough torment for your daughter; because of your beliefs she gets to be reminded of it for 10 months, be removed from regular classes at her school and generally ostracized by her peers. To cap it off, she’ll have the joy of childbirth. Isn’t that nice? Oh, and this also doesn’t change just because it’ll be embarrassing for you to walk into your church with an obviously pregnant pre-teen for six months.

* Finally, remember that you don’t get to decide to kill your baby just because it will save your life. If you’re the victim of an Ectopic Pregnancy then you get to make the supreme sacrifice. As the pregnancy grows and grows within your Fallopian tube you’ll experience months of excruciating pain. The good news is that eventually you’ll pass into oblivion as the tissues of your abdomen rupture and you slowly bleed to death. Now, it may be tempting to try to take matters into your own hands but let’s remember that the fertilized human egg is a life and tampering with it is murder. Anyway, it’s God’s will so don’t feel too bad.


Filed under blogging, religion

Thoughts for 1/23/2012 – The Big Box of Books

I came home tonight with a determined personal goal.  Walking in the door at 5:05, I grabbed the top book from the “Big Box of Books” in the corner, flopped down in the chair, and proceeded to read the whole damn thing.  So tonight I’ve read an entire book on Multiple Personality Disorder and at 10:05 when I flipped on the TV what to my wondering eyes should appear but the Republican debates.  It has certainly been an evening for celebrating the mentally unbalanced.

It occurs to me as I write this that I should probably take a moment to tell you about the “Big Box of Books.”  Throughout my life I’ve been REALLY good at buying books.  I see them in the bookstore and think giddily to myself that I just can’t WAIT to take them home and read them.  With great assiduity and delight I pile them neatly on the shelf and then with unparalleled fervor and gluttony I fail to read any of them and eventually decide to sell them back to the bookstore without even having opened them.   As entertainments go, this is fairly economical.  It’s not as unhealthy as a twice-a-day meth habit – aside from the occasional sprained back getting them up to my third floor apartment.  And it has the added benefit that it does give one a certain aura of erudition.  As if by some quirk of osmosis (with neither the water nor the semi-permeable membrane) all that wonderful knowledge is going to make it from the bookshelf to ones brain without the unpleasant intermediate step of actually reading anything.  After going on like this for the better part of four decades, I finally decided that it was time to use my virtues to combat my vices.

I am by nature a hopelessly inquisitive person.  I’ve been on plenty of 10-mile walks that started out as “short pleasant ambles through the forest” but stretched and stretched and stretched because I just HAD to see what was on the other side of that next hill.  Before you know it, you’re several miles from the car and your fiancée is looking at you with that expression that says, “you’d better damn well be finding some sticks to build a litter to carry me the hell back to civilization.”

The “Big Box of Books” is built to take advantage of that inquisitiveness because you see it’s been almost two years since I started the thing.  The box is about two feet square on the bottom and currently stands about three feet high (overfilled, but not QUITE falling over) and I have absolutely NO recollection what’s at the bottom.  All I know is that Rob-of-the-Past wanted to read it, whatever it was.  One of the fundamental rules of “The Box” is that you can’t move books off the top and you can’t peek.  So the mystery of what’s at the bottom is actually rather compelling.  That’s lucky because the stuff on top of the box isn’t exactly mind-shatteringly interesting: lots of history, some science, that Hawking book on mathematics.  I think though that it seems uninteresting exactly because it’s at the top.  There’s a natural tendency to devalue what you’ve got readily at hand.  However, the draw of the unknown at the bottom is powerfully enticing.

I find myself wishing that I could do this sort of thing more in my life.  The art of self-manipulation, if you can master it, is wonderfully powerful.  If only I could somehow get my parsimony to win out over my gluttony I’d be a much thinner person.  Anyway, I would write more but I have to go pick another book from the box.  After all, how else am I going to get to the bottom?


Filed under blogging, literature and books, personal

Random Thoughts for 1/22/2012

Of the three blogs I maintain I find this one the hardest to post in.  The advertising blog is easy.  I’ve got piles of these damn things all over so it’s literally as simple as sifting through a pile of magazines or papers and finding one that seems amusing.  Easy enough.  The photography blog is easy too for similar reasons.  They’re easy because they’re specific and well-defined.  This blog is just random “whatever” and I’ve been resisting posts that don’t really have a theme which means that there’s an inherent contradiction between this blogs intent and what I’m trying to post in it.  So in the spirit of following my gut and posting what comes naturally, I bring you random thoughts for the 22nd of January in 2012.  (BTW, I’m pretty damn proud of myself that I managed to put 2012 in the subject line rather than putting 2011 as I have for so long.  Please hold your applause.)

To begin the random rot for today, I moved this blog from Blogspot a few months ago and one thing I’ve noticed is that the blogs on WordPress are head and shoulders above their blogger counterparts.  While they are busily and vacuously talking about their day-to-day lives, you guys are creating real and substantial art.  I spend a lot of time surfing around WordPress so it seems only fitting that with each post on The Tattered Thread that I highlight one of the other great blogs I’ve seen during the day.

Today’s featured “Blog that’s a Hell of a Lot Better than Mine” is Rebecca Latson Photography.  Not only does she take astonishingly good photos, but she also has published a couple of books and writes fairly substantially on the topic of photography to help novices improve their work.  Check out her three posts on the unofficial and totally optional rules of photography here, here and here.  She’s on my subscription list and she should be on yours too.

Slipping into the random, I’m in a bit of a quandary.  Starting in 2003 I started writing in a totally different blog.  In the months since I switched to WordPress, I’ve been slowly cannibalizing this other blog but there are a LOT of posts that just don’t… well, just don’t fit.  On one hand, I want to meticulously reedit and refine every post on the old site and reuse it here.  On the other, I want to just mindlessly import it and nuke the previous site.  If I do that though, I feel as if it’s a huge waste since absolutely NOBODY goes back in any blog more than a half dozen posts.  So it’s like I’d be moving boxes from an old house and putting them immediately into the cellar of a new house, never to be seen again.  To me, this writing is incredibly important.  It’s a decade of my innermost thoughts for the love of god!  As I look back, I can see posts that I wrote where I can’t help but think that I was just a small-minded jerk.  If I look at the tag ‘religion’ I can see with great clarity the point at which one of my co-workers said about 200 words that completely changed my view of Christianity.  I remember the post I wrote when a co-worker gave me a Bible (NASB) to read.  All that history and that’s JUST the part related to religion.  Perhaps I need to stop complaining and instead look at this as a HUGE asset waiting to be tapped.

Continuing with the random, I set myself the goal of 5,000 photos in 2012 and 100 books finished.  As of this writing, I’m 173 photos behind the pace and 2 books behind.  The photos I can certainly catch up on since… well, it is winter in the Midwest, so that’s not particularly inspiring for a nature photographer.  I’ve finished four books (which will get their own blog post at the end of the month) but I have pondered at some point whether this purely numerical goal will backfire in some way.  The first four books of the year have been fairly high quality.  I ploughed through the monstrous “1952 Omnibus of Science Fiction”, zipped through “Nickel and Dimed”, yawned my way through “A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad” and was massively entertained by “Half-Broke Horses”.  This is all fairly good stuff but would I be better served to finally just suck it up and finish “Islam: The Straight Path” that I started SO long ago and have summarized with such assiduity.  So the question of the day seems to be: is it better to spend a month reading a stack of random books on 10 different topics or spend an entire month reading one book in intimate and painstaking depth?


Filed under blogging, personal

The Detritus of History

All this talk of art has brought me back to an old thought that I think is in need of revival.  As you may or may not be aware, the other third of this blog is dedicated to old advertising.  It’s an entirely separate blog but made to look like just another part of this one by some menus (so if you want updates on that you’ll have to subscribe to it individually).  On it I try to sift through this rather large pile of advertisements I’ve acquired over the years and provide some random commentary. Basically, they’re just more and different writing prompts.

At some point during all this “collecting”, I sat looking at a large pile of ads and thought that there must be SOMETHING I could do with all these things.  For God’s sake some of these are 100 year old so I’m certainly not going to pitch them. So I scan them and save them off on Picasa and then somewhat sadly put the originals into a box.  Even this fate seemed sad to me though.  It occurred to me that the right and proper place for these was to display them but I certainly don’t have sufficient wall space for all the things.  Thus, for a few months I went on a tear of putting together collages and giving them to people at work.  Some were well received and some… well, not so much.  I tried my utmost to personalize them to the person receiving them so that there would be some connection but it is worth noting that sometimes that’s rather hard to judge.

As I sit here on Saturday morning I think it may be time to revive this little art form.  Anyone wishing to purchase such a thing need merely drop me a line and I’ll cogitate upon the prospect.

Folly"  (Gilbert Radium Clocks)

"Folly" (Gilbert Radium Clocks)

"Smoke" (High Rollers - 1970s)

"Smoke" (High Rollers - 1970s)

Grape-Nuts and Kelloggs (1910s)

Grape-Nuts and Kelloggs (1910s)

Maxwell Motorors (1910s)

Maxwell Motors (1910s)

Calculating Machines - 1910s, 1980s

Calculating Machines - 1910s, 1980s

Columbia Grafonola - 1920s

Columbia Grafonola - 1920s

Colgate Ribbon Dental Cream - 1910s

Colgate Ribbon Dental Cream - 1910s

Univac, Atari and 60s Kodak Movie Cam

Univac, Atari and 60s Kodak Movie Cam

1970s Commodore Calculator

1970s Commodore Calculator


Filed under personal

Response to Reader Comments – 1/19/2012

As I sit here on Thursday the 19th, I realize that I’ve done you all a great injustice.  I’ve procrastinated and procrastinated away several days since answering any reader comments.  It has slowly come to dawn on me that it may very well be impossible to keep up with you.  After all, there are… well, LOTS of you and only one of me.  I can’t help but feel that if I gave every response the attention it rightly deserves, I may very well never write another new entry at all.  Using this notion to my advantage, I have determined that the best course of action is to simply write a post about the comments.  This accomplishes two things in one simple act.  It not only acknowledges your fine contributions to this blog but also allows me to get a free blog post out of the deal.  We all win, so let’s begin.

Can’t Even Give It Away

The main themes of the responses to this post seem to center around the idea that people just don’t appreciate free things and that photography specifically isn’t much of a commodity any longer due to the ubiquity of photographic recording devices.  Clearly, price perception is an issue here but I’d argue that people do still hire photographers.  So while I’m sure the demand has decreased dramatically in the past few years, the market does still exist.

Another reader suggested that perhaps I needed a new hobby on the basis that my current one simply wasn’t in demand.  I can certainly see that as a reasonable point and I have considered branching out into basically any field of artistic or intellectual pursuit that seems to be in demand.  If someone really needed a 10-page summary of the history of Uzbekistan, then I suspect that I’m just crazy enough to write it if they ask for it.  Other readers suggested volunteering at some local organization and I have looked into it but found little publicized opportunity that suited my particular skill sets.  I’d be happy to go spread mulch in some park somewhere for free but it’s not something that’s really going to fill the particular need I’m expressing here.

I think my ultimate plan of action is to simply go with the flow.  If society only values services for which people actually charge money then perhaps, quite simply, I need to devise a simple cost structure and hang out my proverbial shingle.  Based on some anecdotal contributions on this post and others, I’m tempted to post identical ads which vary only by pricepoint just to see which one performs best.  Ultimately, the goal is to find new inputs so who am I to fly so boldly in the face of society’s expressed norms?  Further, I suspect that even if I did somehow contrive to do something for someone at little or no cost, they still wouldn’t appreciate it properly without actually having invested themselves in it by paying for it.  So updates to that line of pursuit pending.  I’ll report back later.

Oh for the Love of Cookies

Response to this bit was brief but amused.  We did learn, however, that they don’t have Girl Scout cookies in Australia and also that they use palm oil rather than butter, much chagrin of orangutans.  Oh, and the final sales tally was 102 boxes.  Girl Scout tshotshke ahoy!

An agnostic view on The Ten(Twelve) Commandments

So looking at the comments from the last week, this is post that generated enough feedback that you can swim around in it for a month.  Some of the individual comments were actually longer than the original post.  To give them their just responses would take me, quite literally, hours.  I will say though that the responses left me with two overriding thoughts.

Firstly, the classic atheist attitude towards religious people tends to be that people are religious because they’re too weak and stupid to be atheists.  If they were only educated then they wouldn’t believe in God.  Or to put it more succinctly, only stupid people believe in Christ.  Threads of discussion like the one on my post from a week ago paint a vastly contrary picture.  There is at least a significant subset of the religious population that is astonishingly erudite.  To slip into the vernacular, collectively, you really know your stuff.  And really, what better motivation for deep and considered study than the knowledge that all of eternity hangs in the balance?

Secondly, the angry atheist type would proclaim that all the religious masses are merely mindless sheep bleating out a tune proscribed by some deific head of the church.  Clearly though, even those who believe have questions and they’re not afraid to raise them up.  They’re also not afraid to defend when it’s just to do so.

All in all, discussions like these solidify my respect for the many religious communities with which we share the world.  Well, except scientologists.  I refuse to respect any religion whose founding documents aren’t at least old enough for the copyright to have expired.


Filed under blogging, personal, photography, religion

Can’t Even Give It Away

So let me begin, by way of introduction, with a bit of a personal tidbit.  I am that sort of person who hates to not be constantly doing something.  During the summer I go out and walk about and photograph things.  During the winter I sit home and randomly blather on, writing about whatever comes to my mind, waiting rather impatiently for the weather to turn.  It’s an epic and constant struggle in my head to figure out how to keep it properly entertained.  When I read I prefer to read things that allow me to then write in response.  I have to do, do, do, do do.  And please don’t take that scatologically.

The only problem with this, however, is that I tend to do, do, do, do, do the same, same, same, same, same shit over and over and over again.  I end up in the same places taking much the same photos (though hopefully better than before) every time.  My writing about any topic, I hope, is more varied but even with the input of an entire book, I tend to focus on the same things and therefore write much the same thing each time.  Read and response is just far too passive.  I’ve felt that I needed input of a more interactive sort.

My response to this, in my typically naïve way, was to advertise for the desired inputs.  I’ve offered my photographic services online, in the classifieds and repeatedly to anyone who would listen, for what seems like forever.  Since I refuse payment, the price certainly isn’t prohibitive.  Even with that, in two years of offering my time for free I’ve been taken up on the offer exactly three times.  Somewhat desperate for results, I’ve recently started offering my writing services on the same terms and with similarly unspectacular results.  Even the unphotogenic, I posit, may have a story to tell that they are disinclined to write themselves.  Rather than choosing to be insulted by the impenetrable wall of cricket noises that has greeted my attempts, I’ve tried to ponder why on Earth anyone might not want something for free.

The first and most psychological theory I have on the topic is that of simple price perception.  If something is free, the human brain reckons, it must be garbage.  Since my services are offered free of charge, they must, ipso facto, be garbage.  Alternatively, humans are a rather suspicious lot so it’s just possible that they believe that there must be some string attached. Perhaps my offer is simply an incredibly complex ruse by which I will capture my next victim.  You cannot get something for nothing, my unwitting victim…er, customer, reasons and therefore declines the offer.  I could, I suppose, start charging for my services but tear up the checks on the way home.

Following directly from the first proposition is the distinct possibility that my work actually IS garbage.  I’m personally not a great fan of this particular position but it’s one that cannot be entirely ignored.  I’m fairly well acquainted with what my work is and what it is not but I would argue that it is very nearly impossible to improve upon any craft without its repeated exercise.  Therefore the recalcitrant masses who do not email me for photo sessions are only making the problem of my photographic mediocrity worse.  Related to this is the distinct sense I’ve gotten of late that everybody already seems to BE a photographer so what possible need could they have for anyone else’s photography?  This ubiquity of adherents to the great Muse Daguerre does give one the distinct desire to take up oil painting or some other hobby a bit less prevalent among the American leisure class.

The third potentiality that occurs to me is that people just don’t think their everyday world worth photographic examination.  People revolve in their own well-worn ruts day in and day out and don’t tend to notice the visual beauty of the things around them that they see and use every day.  To me that’s just epically tragic.  Art and beauty surround us and sometimes it takes an outside eye to see what we’ve taken for granted.  I do acknowledge too though that the request is rather an invasion of privacy.  Perhaps we’ve all become so protective of our internal spaces that we just don’t want to share them with anyone.

After several hundred words I’m really no closer to an answer.  Perhaps the offer is one that’s impossible to accept for all the reasons above?  Perhaps the world is just too busy a place and nobody really cares about art in any form?  Perhaps the offer is just too damn creepy.  Who knows?  Luckily the natural world teems with critters with no appointment necessary.  If only the spring would hurry on its merry way.


Filed under blogging, personal, photography

Oh for the Love of Cookies

Hi!  My name is Izzy and I’m six years old.  I’m writing today to tell you about a great opportunity I recently heard about at one of my Girl Scout meetings.  Oh, and my dad is making me say that he’s “co-authoring” this with me but apparently that means that I get to write the whole blasted thing while he sits on the sofa and watches football.  It’s so unfair being six.

The other day when I went to Girl Scouts there were a bunch of girls talking really excitedly.  Ever curious, I joined in and it seems that this year we’re going to be selling cookies!  I must admit that when I started doing this whole scouting thing I had no idea we were in for something like this.  Can you believe that for the price of just $3.50 a box you’ll get cookies delivered to your home or workplace?  That’s the best thing since the printing press!  (My dad made me put that in.  I’m more of a Kindle girl myself.)  I think it goes without saying that I’m extremely excited about this wonderful opportunity to bring cookies into your life this year.

Now you may, at this point, be saying to yourself, “But I already have plenty of cookies at home already.  Why would I buy more?”  And, as an average American you probably do have plenty of cookies.  Cookies are an endemic and perennially popular part of our culture.  Looking at one type of cookie alone, there have been over 491 billion pounds of Oreos sold in the past century.  Americans love cookies.  However, need I remind you that these aren’t just ANY cookies.  These are Girl Scout cookies.  Accept no substitutes.  Statistics show that Girl Scout cookies are 33 times more satisfying than ordinary cookies.

So in closing, I’d like to ask that when you sit down to calculate your cookie budget for the month that you give careful consideration to the possibility that you might throw a couple simoleons my way.  Order forms are available at my Dad’s work and my Mom’s as well.  Don’t be afraid to put yourself down for 10 or 20 or even 100 boxes.  We have a vast distribution network that will assure rapid and accurate delivery of your order no matter how large.  We guarantee 100% satisfaction and that you’ll enjoy our cookies at least 33 times more** than those ordinary cookies you might buy in the store.

** Guarantee of enjoyment void in Rhode Island.  Consumers should keep in mind that enjoyment is a non-measurable entity and that statistics cited in this advertisement are totally made up.


Filed under personal