Summer photos…of the not-so-ordinary kind

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(July 25 7:28 p.m.)

So I’ve been stuck at home, and not getting any real sleep. …Yeah, the heat has gotten to me. …And the nightmare that is the election season, here in the U.S.  (And sorry for inserting politics into a photography post. …Even though it’s true.)

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(July 22 11:46 a.m.)

It’s only been in the 80s Fahrenheit, here in Maine, compared to the 90s around the convention sites—hot enough to deter protesters.  It’s daily heat, though.  Sweating.  Every day.  A tiny fan on an L.L. Bean box doesn’t do much, if you can believe it.

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Some yellow spotting.  Almost like paint. (July 22 11:52 a.m.)

Greens and bird song like a jungle, and flies that are always getting at my ears. …I did see what was presumably the young chipmunk my mother saw.

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(July 20 2:59 p.m.)

One thing I noticed during the season are the birch bark shreds.  I mean, can the winds really do this?  I never really noticed this kind of thing before this summer.

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(July 20 2:59 p.m.)

…And then I noticed the mica in the driveway.

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(Click an image for higher resolution.) (July 22 11:56 a.m.)
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(July 20 2:56 p.m.)

Yeah, this stuff is difficult to capture monoscopically (as opposed to stereoscopic view), with all the reflectivity that makes it clear that it is mica.  My mother said she put gravel/sand in the driveway, so that could be the source.  It was noticeable, nonetheless. …And then there was the fly, situated dead center of an anthill.

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(July 20 6:19 p.m.)

Prior to this shot, I lifted it by its wings to check to see if it was deceased.  (It was.) …I mean, did an ant drag the fly all the way to the hill, or did it…just die there?  I know the ants team up for hauling.

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Anthill in dirt. (July 20 3:07 p.m.)

Plenty of ant action during summer months, of course.  Including ant action in the house, showing up at more unusual places.  Scent trails everywhere, it seems, dealing with them every day.

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(July 22 8:29 p.m.)

To beat the heat, I tried a cup of Luigi’s “Real Italian Ice.”  No High Fructose Corn Syrup, No Gluten… no actual raspberry or watermelon either.  I mean, talk about flavored corn syrup product. …My mother bought another box.  At least the raspberry sorbet has actual raspberry.

Update: the Lemon and Strawberry box contains lemon and strawberry juice concentrate… whereas the Blue Raspberry and Watermelon had unspecified natural and artificial flavors in the list of Ingredients.

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Phone camera messing up colors such that good correction isn’t worth the effort… (July 25 7:19 p.m.)

Well, that’s it for now.  I need to relax.  And drink more water.

For better pics, you can check out the photography tag for the blog.  Or better yet check out the photography of The Bloke, Suzie’s fiancé— a whole Instagram account showcasing his work, and a Meet and Greet post at that.

Of Fear and Trust

Note: This is going to be a controversial post… not that my writing ever draws any attention.

‘We have a problem,’ I read one day, on social media.  ‘The dehumanizing.’ …But the detail of the text was misinformed, as too often generalized posts on twitter are.

It was the first Thursday of the month, the day the Reynolds video went viral.  A video that, as slow and horrific as it was, saddened me.  Philando Castile, 32, was fatally wounded in a traffic stop, and “Diamond” Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, live-streamed the aftermath the previous day.  It was emotional.  News outlets warned viewers before showing the video as it included Reynolds briefly conversing with a child in the back, and Castile’s shirt soaking in blood, the man fading away.  (He was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center, but to the viewer it may appear that he died in the car.)

The recording of the Facebook video was at first taken down, but restored early Thursday.  “GRAPHIC CONTENT” trended on twitter.  (Warning: there are unrelated tweets on the GRAPHIC CONTENT timeline that are seriously graphic.)

I was surprised that the officers allowed Reynolds to cover what she did, considering there have been other, less violent scenes where officers demanded bystanders stop recording, and laws enacted in some states that prohibit recording police at the scene at all.  That seemed unusual to me about the video.

It was obvious that the driver showed no indication of harming the officer.  In Minnesota, a state that allows open-carry (with a license), Reynolds informed the police officer that Castile was carrying a permitted firearm… So the early picture that developed was: a law-abiding man reaching for his wallet, shot multiple times.

“He worked an honest job five days a week,” his mother, Valerie, told CNN Thursday.  He worked as a cafeteria supervisor.

It’s sad news like this that promotes the more valid point of #BlackLivesMatter, that black Americans have the rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness like any other citizen, with more than enough proof that show many police are implicitly trained with a bias that black men are seen and treated as a threat first… Tim Scott, a GOP Senator, had to prove his identity despite wearing a pin that immediately identified himself as a Senator.

Still, there are other parts of the equation that reveal a certain ignorance in this country.  Between the sweat and the news that morning (it was relatively hot in Maine the day prior), I was reminded of California Gov. Brown signing gun bills with retroactive effects, and the comments in social media that show how disconnected we all are, in some way or another.

I was reminded the fact that many of the fears people have are exaggerated.  The officer who shot Castile, who is of Chinese descent (according to Reynolds), was likely terrified.  The probability of anything happening if he hadn’t fired was low; it was after Castile’s death that he was put on paid administrative leave, as standard procedure.

If it wasn’t for the fear, Castile would probably still be alive.  And, supposedly, if his gun rights were respected, he would still be alive.  The same with Alton Sterling, another victim that week.  There is a real problem here.

…But the picture is never as simple as we’re told to believe.

First, Thursday made me see, in terms of race, how skewered gun control is.  The demographics are split, according to a CNN poll.  (The poll also indicates that three out of ten don’t understand law.)  But public perceptions have contributed to saddening articles like “White & Black, A History of Gun Control for Black People.”  (The article also adds more reason to not to trust the NRA, an organization once known for training freed black men in post-Civil War America to defend themselves against pro-slavery remnants like the Klan.)  So, not only did the Clinton administration promote conservative policies that contributed to the twenty-five-fold increase of prison admissions for black Americans for drug offenses between 1983 and 2000, but there’s a whole history of policies promoted with, in mind, the very fear of black men baring arms.  (Apologies if the last link doesn’t work— I’ve been getting an “encoding compression” error trying to load the page I was able to read a while back.)

It was in my further reading that I caught one way of reducing gun violence, one that has actually shown to work.

In the 1990s, there was a program called “Ceasefire,” which targets to help young people, in breaking up feudal violence.  Shown to have an effect on reducing gun violence in inner-cities, in two years Ceasefire apparently reduced the average youth homicide rates by 63%.  That isn’t to say this program is a one-size-fits-all solution, but there’s something remarkable when there’s a community that works, the crime rates are effectively low and the police better know the actual problem areas.

The Rev. Jeff Brown, one of the ministers who worked on the project, remembers people were outside more, barbecuing in the park. At Halloween, kids were able to trick-or-treat on the streets again.

So why don’t we hear about this program today?  Because the conversation is drowned out by the noise and demands of lobbyists and national politics in the media circle, particularly massacres in suburban areas, which represent less than 1% of the gun homicide stats overall.  “The national groups that spend the most money and do the most advocacy related to gun violence have concentrated almost exclusively on passing stricter gun control laws.”  Liberals and conservatives alike tend to oversimplify what Ceasefire addresses as “urban,” effectively reducing what the program targets as “a minority problem.”  Inner-city violence is higher in the stats, so… deliberately do nothing?  The media are no better, with the breakdown of the black family narrative in the Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post sticking its own coverage into the category “Black Voices”… Black Voices written by white progressives.  And so these programs, which tend to actually help, have trouble in getting the necessary funding from Congress to get off the ground.

“Such initiatives … fit into no political camp and thus have few powerful champions.”  Focused deterrence— what academics call Ceasefire and similar approaches— “challenges the orthodoxy on both sides. It makes everybody uncomfortable.”  Boston’s own effort fell apart in 2000 (according to research), and feudal crime crept up again.

…Skip to recent years, where news coverage has become noticeably lacking.

It wasn’t until the following Saturday this July, hours after a cold army reservist retaliated to “the news” in Dallas, that I looked at alternative news sources in the Castile case.  I was missing a big part of the picture.

There were details in the Reynolds video that didn’t add up.  It wasn’t some ordinary traffic stop, as alleged.  (A ‘busted taillight’ added to the emotional outrage.)  A store was robbed approximately four blocks from the traffic stop, and Castile, to a degree, resembled the suspect.  Store camera footage and the police audio for the stop made that clear, and in such cases, an approaching officer may not state the actual reason for pulling a someone over to avoid escalating potential violence should the person be the suspect.  The officer clearly saw himself in danger.  But once a story snowballs, it’s hard to roll back.

The press appeared to take Reynolds at her every word.  And, surprise, the two adults in the car are very flawed people.  Reynolds lied about details on her Facebook page (which isn’t all that uncommon), and photos of a few years back revealed a different Castile giving the finger multiple times and flashing Crip gang signs, among other behaviors.  (Member or not, there’s no way you can flash gang signs without getting into trouble.) …I know you don’t want to tarnish the victim, but… there’s “a man turning his life around,” and then there’s scrubbing a person’s character clean.

Yes, we all have our flaws; believing otherwise is delusional. …And the illusions of the press are exposed every so often with hoaxes.

So we do have a problem: a narrative problem.  A dishonesty problem that has promoted fears on all sides, and has exhausted police departments with protests, not to mention Molotov cocktails.
Continue reading Of Fear and Trust

Summer update

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(June 30 4:13 p.m.)

Well, the flowers are back at USM Portland.

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(June 30 4:12 p.m.)

…Flowers that don’t seem native to Maine. …Not that I would know.

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(June 30 4:13 p.m.)
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(June 30 4:13 p.m.)

Back at home, the ‘wilted’ wild flower bloomed…

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(June 29 1:25 p.m.)

…Before shedding all of its petals.

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(July 3 3:20 p.m.)
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(July 4 12:10 p.m.)
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Now TIQA Café and Bakery. (June 30 4:31 p.m.)

In other things, the 1894 Castle in Deering Oaks Park has now become the operating sight of a new café and bakery.  For the official website, click here.

Continue reading Summer update

That Little Thing Called Representation

Now that the dust has settled with Brexit, people can stand back and look at it without panicking.  Some of the short-term ripple effects of the referendum outcome are past us; many markets have rebounded, but there are still long-term consequences.  The GB pound was set back over thirty years against the U.S. dollar, and has yet to fully recover.  Without certainty, volatility— those are things you want to avoid in the markets.

The word ‘tariff’ came up, in regards to Britain trading with its neighbors.  I don’t remember the last time I heard that word.  Debt is another issue of the times, particularly with Greece.  After all, Brexit was coined after Grexit (Greek exit). …Which reminds me: the Puerto Rico “rescue” bill was passed and signed.  PROMESA, it’s cool… if you don’t look at the reality surrounding it.  Non-English speaking people getting disability for not speaking English, executive orders and 99% underfunded public pension money

…But back to the U.K.

Why did it happen?  Why did the majority of turnout (and a large turnout) vote to leave the E.U.?  You’ve probably already heard answers from news media by now.  And those surprised by what happened, well… It’s easy for narrative-driven publications to be surprised by the events that unfolded— to be surprised by actual news due to distorted views.  Don’t get me wrong, I had no idea which way it was gonna go.  But it’s not hard to figure out why, when it happened.
Continue reading That Little Thing Called Representation

First week of summer… mostly indoors

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Fresh raindrops on fat leaves.  Thunderstorms in the state, yay😐 (June 21 8:11 a.m.)

The first week of the season has been nuts. …Not where I live, of course; I’m talking ’about Brexit… which sounds like a cereal.  (I mean, I try to pronounce the word, and it takes some effort not to say ‘breakfast,’ haha.)  Half of the British population felt it wasn’t being represented (and it wasn’t), so their turnout pushed the vote over 50% for the U.K. to leave the European Union.  Immigration was a key issue, but all that happened so far was that the GB pound got trashed— losing over thirty years against the U.S. dollar, and a loss of 12% on the FTSE 250 in only 15 minutes Friday.  (Now that’s a crash.) …I’m not going to miss David Cameron.

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(June 27 1:42 p.m.)

That isn’t to say nothing happened over here.  You can see the wild flower, pictured above (barely visible in the center of the image), has… wilted.  I’m not sure if it’s the same one as a previously posted one, earlier in the month:

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(June 3 3:48 p.m.)
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(June 27 1:41 p.m.)

The vegetation has filled the path to the back yard.

Unfortunately, that’s all I have for summer photos in the real world.

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(June 8 7:28 p.m.)

It was rather green for all of June.  Not much has changed on the visual, outside, so it would just be more photos of leaves.  So on to the indoors part.

Part of my time away has been that I’ve been working a lot on my own graphics software.  (If you haven’t noticed: I’m a programmer.)  It’s gotten so advanced now that I might actually be able to program my own color-correcting software so I don’t have to use the Mac emulator.  Building on the native platform would seriously speed up the process, as well as accuracy— 10 bits per channel instead of 8, out-of-the-box.  I’m only a handful of steps away.  The ordinary person, of course, would just use Photoshop or something to correct photos, but I I can’t afford that. …Then again, time costs money too… Crap.

Whatever.  My accomplishments stand on their own.  From emulating the math for matching results in rendering, to reading GIF and modern JPEG files… It sounds like already-been-done-before stuff, but I’ve brought classic code to the present.  Ever wanted to port an old game to run on a modern OS?  I did that. …And I missed a lot of sleep in the process.  I’ve said I’m surprised I’m still alive a few times. …Completing adequate PICT and popup drawing, I hit a point of adequacy for my Marathon port, so I can sleep now.

The software isn’t everything, of course.  I may be a hermit, but I still catch up on my TV shows.  I’m caught up on all the previous seasons of Orphan Black, Silicon Valley, The Americans, and just began to get into Vinyl, which, beyond the obvious fiction, is worth trying… even though HBO canceled it.  Go to rehab, kids.

Fans were disappointed when Castle was canceled, back in May.  And so was I, considering I find so much of the content on TV “unwatchable.”  At least Castle was tolerable. …And HBO hasn’t canceled Silicon Valley… yet.  (Some awesome behind-the-scenes DVD commentary for season two.)  Found a few fake websites set up for the show’s website.:)

…Fictional… Yeah, all of these shows, no matter how good, are still very much fiction.  Silicon Valley may have elements based on reality, but it makes me think of Star Trek’s Heisenberg compensator that we still haven’t actually seen any of the magical guts that make Pied Piper’s compression algorithm revolutionary.

In summary, with Richard’s near-deletion of Pied Piper, Breakfast Brexit and my software, it shows that you really don’t want to “bugger all” and “go it alone” without adequate support… not that I had much choice growing up.  (Reaching out is so extraordinarily difficult for me.)  Still, if you want something done right, you may as well do it yourself.  Just don’t make a dramatic exit.

Impressions of Summer

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(Shot through the screened kitchen window.) (May 31 11:10 a.m.)

One month is all it took for the plant life around the house to become thick with leaves, turning the light entering the house green… not to mention the warmer temperatures.

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The flippin’ caterpillars are out.  (A few rainy days, too.) (June 3 3:47 p.m.)

…And the insects were all over the scene.

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Tiny flies, attaching themselves to the leaves… (June 6 7:09 p.m.)

The flowers need pollinating, of course.  Which brings to mind the fact that the bees are out.  Didn’t get any non-blurry images of those.
Continue reading Impressions of Summer

Lessons from the land of Codec

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Codec: short for “compressor/decompressor.”

This post accounts for my efforts with sound compression as of late. …It gets a little technical… just a little.  But a Long Read, nonetheless.  (Also, keep in mind that my advice is not professional; follow it at your own risk.)

It’s always great when I get a new CD— songs I’ve never heard or heard at full quality with good equalization… or never got the chance to analyze… to just… have.  From The Beatles (of course) to Simon & Garfunkel, and even music samplers… to be honest, I don’t have very many albums.  But when it comes to what I have, I would rather have the best quality.
Continue reading Lessons from the land of Codec

A day at Crescent Beach (Part II)

Before I continue, I probably should say a little something about the delay of posting today: I made a promise to get the photos up soon.  And I had most of them up in the library already.  I had the tab open, in an early stage of developing the post… I revisited a few things of last year…of other blogs… and I was cut off. The limited data plan broke my promise. …Or forced me to stretch the meaning of the word ‘soon.’  Either way, I’m here now.  At least there are 31 days in May.

…Now. Back to the 14th.

(May 14 3:43 p.m.)

I took another little walk on the beach…
Continue reading A day at Crescent Beach (Part II)

A day at Crescent Beach (Part I)

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Beach sands. (May 14 3:39 p.m.)

In the middle of May, I took the opportunity to snap photos of Crescent Beach state park. My mother visits the park with some frequency during warmer times of the year, and she’d asked me a few times before to come with. It was a good idea— the sights, the air, the walks that are, say longer than one would think.

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Walkway. (May 14 3:48 p.m.)

Continue reading A day at Crescent Beach (Part I)

Quick update

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(May 19 1:49 p.m.)

The greens are out in full-swing— leaves, in particular.

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(May 21 3:47 p.m.)

The plant that comes up from underneath a porch railing has almost-full leaves now.  It’s interesting how soft immature leaves are.  I was able to capture them in focus a few days ago, but only after the use of a focal trick (passing my finger about the lens, forcing the smartphone camera’s auto-focus closer to the plant).

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(May 22 5:25 p.m.)

Such soft, hair-like edges… fibrous?  (Click the image for the full detail.)  The insects are on the case, looking for the carbs… but not in huge numbers.

It would be senseless, at this point, for the white stuff to fall, weather-wise.  (Snow, I mean.)

…Now… You may have noticed that I have been at a loss for words lately, not to mention my lack of presence. …I assure you, I have been writing… in amounts big and small, here and there.  But it’s been very slow.  I have two drafts that are lacking the right touch.  It’s been difficult— the writing coming out all muddled and… There’s so much material that just can’t be taken seriously.

Long story short, I’ve been kind of losing myself.  Emotional exhaustion is a term that comes to mind trying to begin what I have to say of late.  I’m not doing very well, not sleeping well… and well…

I’ll get back to posting, eventually.  Maybe next year, at the rate things are going, lol.  It’s already May 25, 2016.  On that note, I guess I should say, have a good Memorial Day.😀 I’ll get the beach photos up soon, I promise. …But first, I must sleep. Again. 😔 G’nite.