Sunday, January 02, 2005

the smena 35

just get this over with by lee flemingGot the first batch of photos from my Lomo Smena 35. Some of them I like a lot; some, from the front of the roll, I think, were messed up. But I played with one of the messed up ones with PhotoShop and got an interesting picture out of it (the one of Twitch on top of our Hoosier cabinet—where he goes to survey his realm or escape from the commotion). It will be interesting to see the actual prints.

I’m anxious to see the prints from my Holga, which I can’t see digitally because it’s not 35mm film and has to be processed differently.  I should get a batch of them from York Photo maybe by Thursday of Friday. I’m hoping the images aren’t cropped, but if they are I’ll know I have to take it over to Kew Photo and get contact sheets made with the film instead of sending it off to York, which will mean more bucks for processing. I put some black and white film in it today and took some photos up in West Redding, where we went with Helene for brunch.

And, we stopped at our favorite “antique” store, where I got an Agfa Cadet-82 box camera (c. 1937), which I’m anxious to try. First I need to clean off about 60 years worth of grime. It takes 120 film, which I have a stash of since I got some for the Holga. I think Stanley thinks I’ve lost my mind—but he’s indulging my insanity (at least for now).

Anyway, here are some more photos from the Smena:

so cold outside by lee fleming 12/04

dog moping on the threshold (of what?) by lee fleming

twitch in weird image
fooled with this one to get the image to emerge

posted by lee on 01/02/05 at 06:15 PM
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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

poynter online mentions westportnow.com

Steve Outing talked about WestportNow.com in his E-Media Tidbits blog at Poynter Online:

Community News Photography
WestportNow is a “citizen journalism” website (published in blog format) serving a tony Connecticut community of 26,000. Run part-time by Gordon Joseloff, the site puts special emphasis on photography by community members. You can see the work of more than 50 citizen photographers in the site’s “Year In Pictures 2004” feature.

It was fun making this section, and if we’d planned it earlier, rather than doing it as a spur-of-the-moment kind of deal, it would have captions. Gordon wanted a quick and dirty solution in order to get it up quickly since it was such a last-minute wish. We could have used PhotoShop’s automated gallery maker for a fast gallery, but it’s not a very workable solution. So we embedded the gallery in an iframe on the page to keep the look and feel consistent with the rest of the site, and made the gallery with an astonishingly easy-to-use application called Web Album Generator by Mark McIntyre. You can find WAG and another great piece of software, html editor Araneae (for hand-coding websites) at ornj.net. We loaded the pictures into WAG, organized them by date, generated the album, tweaked the stylesheet generated by the program, and there you go. WAG allows you to insert captions while making the gallery but, with 400ish pictures and a need for speed, we decided to forego captions. We will probably build something in to automate the generation of the 2005 year in pics when we implement WestportNow on an ExpressionEngine platform, which we have to so very soon since it’s outgrown its Movable Type platform. As to Outing’s comment, “While most of the images that run on WestportNow.com aren’t professional quality, many are.” I think he misses the whole idea of what the photos are all about. I don’t quite get the point of that remark; it’s patronizing and it isn’t particularly useful. Does the fact that he doesn’t think some of the photos measure up to his standards of what consistutes “professional quality” in any way detract from what’s good about community contributions to their local news source?

posted by lee on 01/05/05 at 11:04 AM
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winter storm allen

Maybe they’ve been naming winter storms all along and I just never noticed it. I just don’t remember ever hearing a snowstorm called a name. “Yesterday, Connectucut felt the full fury of Madge, the 13th winter storm this season ... “ Nope. What are the criteria for naming weather? Weather reporting has gotten so weird: it’s no longer snowing, but is a winter event. I like it when my favorite meteorologist, Geoff Fox on WTNH, gives up all the phony weatherspeak and says stuff like, “See how close together these lines are on this weather map? That means it’s going to be really windy tomorrow.” In weatherspeak, it would be called a “high velocity air movement outcome” or some crap like that.

Anyway, we’re getting wet, sloppy snow right now, which is supposed to turn into “liquid precipitation” by morning—we’ll awake to slush and ice. Yuck. My parents spend the winter in Panama City Beach, where the temperature reached 73 degrees today. I’m jealous.

After the news was over, Ginger and I went out to take some pictures. It was disheartening to see that our huge, old pine tree is losing another big branch. I love that tree and it’s painful to me every time it drops another branch.

I used the Smena for to take some shots, and the Toshiba digital for a couple more. I’ve been experimenting a little with the digital, trying out the limited number of settings. I used the setting “head with star behind it” and got a couple of interesting results. The first shot is looking up into the burning bush and dogwood tree just off the porch. Then there is Ginger, ready to head back in after making sure there is nothing interesting in the mailbox.

snow in the burning bush by l. fleming January 5, 2005

ginger checking out the mailbox by l. fleming January 5, 2005

posted by lee on 01/05/05 at 10:12 PM
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Thursday, January 06, 2005

i am so bummed out

Today, well, yesterday, was one of those days where you’re ahead of the game if you just don’t get out of bed.

I was a little tired because I’d been up very late the night before trying to deal with connecting via ftp to a client’s site on a ValueWeb server so I could do some updates. But the server crashed and somehow I’ve been locked out. I wrote to ValueWeb before I called it a night.

When I came downstairs this morning, I was all set to tackle the ValueWeb problem since I assumed I would have email from them, and then get started on finishing up the last bits and pieces of a humongo site that’s just about ready to launch, and troubleshoot a site that’s displaying a little weird in Firefox. Stanley had gotten back from his echo cardiogram (to check out his heart murmur) and, as soon as I walked into the office, he said, “the server is down again.”

Boy was it ever. Our webserver provider, Netsonic, told us that the kernel was toast, the later told us we’d been hacked and that’s what wrecked stuff. Our server was down almost all day, and they had to restore things from the last good daily backup, which was the January 4th backup. Which sucks, because we lost data and email stored on the server (and I lost two posts I like a lot and will recreate one of these days), but better a day’s worth of data than everything.

This is costing us hundreds of dollars to resolve, and it will be several hours before it’s completely resolved. The main problem, the entryway or what have you, has been fixed (at least for this method of gaining entry for hacking). Using a password that is the same as the user name is an incredibly stupid thing to do—the equivalent of handing out your card and the pin number, and this was done by people who should know better. Maybe the guys at Netsonic can tell us how to disallow this kind of username/password combo at the server level. They’re pretty sharp, and are putting what they can into place. (Oh I how I miss the spam filter!)

So we lost a day dealing with this—it was hard to concentrate on anything but dealing with this. To top it off, ValueWeb has not been able to solve the connection problem—I called, spent 30 minutes doing this and that, and basically was told that it would magically resolve itself in six hours when the server purged its hashes or some such crap like that. Didn’t happen—so it was a waste of time. Maybe it’ll get solved some time this month.

The only good thing in all this is I just discovered that Google cached my lost entries—happy happy joy joy. So I guess I’ll get those back up now. This year hasn’t been a very good start for us—the server frying, health, and a couple of other things. Maybe we’re just getting all the bad stuff over with early. Hah.

posted by lee on 01/06/05 at 10:17 PM
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Saturday, January 08, 2005

more bad than good so far

Friday night, we decided to take a friend out for dinner and a movie. She needed cheering up and we very much needed a break. Oh how we needed a break.

The entire first seven days of 2005 have been horrible. On the health front, we learned that Stanley has this weird congenital condition called a bicuspid aortic valve, which over the half-century-plus of pumping led to aortic valve stenosis. Which means, eventually, he will have to get his aortic valve replaced. Which means he needs a cardiologist. We have to set up the appointment on Monday since we didn’t get the news until late Friday. Stanley is still mad at me for making him go to the doctor’s.

Earlier in the week, we learned that a member of a client’s staff died on the operating table. Then, a couple of days later, we learned that one of our clients has died. Though we never met him in person, we planned to next time he came through Connecticut and we were very fond of him as he was charming and witty; we never minded spending time talking him through tech support calls. It’s so tragic and he was our age so it makes it even worse somehow.

A family member got some bad news at work which stretches months of uncertainty out even longer. And we found out that a legal problem we thought was over isn’t—it’s not a big deal but we still have to pay our attorney for his time. It’s like a tick we can’t seem to get rid of. Oh, and we didn’t win the Powerball this week. Not even $3.

Another friend went into the hospital so the docs could figure out why she feels so terrible; they removed her appendix and did a liver biopsy but still haven’t figured it all out.

And another friend, a lovely woman, was viciously attacked (verbally) by her borderline, bi-polar housemate (who is truly nuts—we’ve been wary of this woman for years). All H wants is to peacefully share the house, but it’s become impossible so she needs to move. Understandably, she’s very upset about it all. She’s had to put up with way too much at that house so, despite the pain of having to leave the house she’s lived in, and accumulated stuff in, for the last eight years or so, it’s really time to move on. The Brazilian lunatic housemate should be sent back to Rio or whatever hole she came from down there.

And all the technological problems we’ve had over the past few days are not completely over. The restored webserver isn’t running webserver-type scripts properly. I still can’t connect to the ValueWeb site via ftp after having no problem doing so for more than a year. And today, another webserver we manage at Netsonic has started to get alzheimer’s—it “lost” a couple of databases and then later “lost” an entire website. It’s just so very odd that they’d both be hit so close together; we suspect they’re victims of that Linux kernel privilege elevation vulnerability. (Sounds like I know what I’m talking about, doesn’t it?) Friday night, the server was fine. Saturday night, the server is a mess. A server that had no problems for months and months. I wept when I discovered the problem. Really I did. If I didn’t, my head would have blown up, Scanners-style. I know the techies at Netsonic will get it all straightened out, but I really wanted to have that site finished by Sunday night so we could finally launch it this week.

But, Friday night was fun. Dinner, at the Fairfield Diner and Vegetarian Enclave (yep, that’s what it’s called), was good (I had the tuna melt, which has become the thing I crave the most lately. I don’t know why.) Then we went to see Oceans Twelve, which was a lot of fun. A good escape movie, even if it wasn’t near as good as 11. Then I did something I never in my whole life had done: I left my handbag in the theater. I’ve never done anything quite that stupid before. Fortunately, I noticed it as soon as we got into the car and we ran like maniacs back to the theater (which was closing for the night), managed to get in, and found it hanging from the armrest where I’d left it. The usherbots hadn’t started to clean that particular theater yet. So that was one sign that the tide might be turning to good things.

Then, we stopped at the bank to make a deposit. I noticed that my bank card had fallen apart again. My Chase card split into two parts. I thought those things were made out of a solid chunk of plastic, but noooo. Stanley glued it back together the first time it happened and I forgot about it. But, fortunately, I held the two sides together just right, so was able to make the deposit. Good sign number two. (Clutching at straws? Me?)

And the apartment H is considering moving in to is really nice—right next door to the house she’s living in now, so the move wouldn’t be too onerous. Between her daughter and son-in-law, her grandchildren, and Stanley and me, it should be a pretty painless move for her, as far as things like that CAN be painless.

So I THINK things might be turning around. It’s rough being a cynical optimist. I can’t sustain a funk for very long so I’m hoping I wake in a better mood because this is just so exhausting. I don’t want anything bad to happen to anyone else. Well, except the tick.

posted by lee on 01/08/05 at 09:16 PM
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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

the least of our brothers (rant warning)

Nicholas Kristof wrote a very interesting column in today’s New York Times: Health Care? Ask Cuba. In it, he writes about how the United States, despite having the most-expensive health care system in the world and, allegedly the best, still has a higher infant mortality rate than Cuba, Canada, Singapore, Sweden, and a lot of other countries, yes, even France.

And, what’s more, the infant mortality rate in the US rose, rather than declined, in 2002 (the latest year where we have reliable statistics). Read that carefully: it ROSE. It means 28,000 babies die each year. It means in this land of the “Compassionate Conservative,” we are killing off our poor. It means Americans elected (mostly) men who care more about supporting an ostentatious display of inauguration pomp in Washington than in spending money to make sure our needy and helpless citizens are taken care of.

Singapore has the best infant mortality rate in the world: 2.3 babies die before the age of 1 for every 1,000 live births. Sweden, Japan and Iceland all have a rate that is less than half of ours.

If we had a rate as good as Singapore’s, we would save 18,900 babies each year. Or to put it another way, our policy failures in Iraq may be killing Americans at a rate of about 800 a year, but our health care failures at home are resulting in incomparably more deaths - of infants. And their mothers, because women are 70 percent more likely to die in childbirth in America than in Europe.

Of course, deaths in maternity wards occur one by one, and don’t generate the national attention, grief and alarm of an explosion in Falluja or a tsunami in Sri Lanka. But they are far more frequent: every day, on average, 77 babies die in the U.S. and one woman dies in childbirth.

If this is what it means to be a Christian nation, which all the pundits and preachers and politicians are blathering about, then I am relieved I am not a Christian. The preachers and the politicians talk the talk, but they’re certainly not walking the walk. Lip service is what we’re getting, this pious, meaningless hypocrisy instead of real action. Ok, Mr. or Ms. Self-proclaimed Christian, I hear your words. Now show me what Christianity really means. Would Jesus let 28,000 babies die because we, as Americans, are too stingy to spend the money it takes to provide health care for everyone? What! Give up our iPod or settle for a non-camera phone in order to save a baby’s life? Yeah, right. Come on you Christians out there: when are you going to rise up and actually BE Christians? Demand universal health care for our poor, make sure every child is fed and has a decent roof over his or her head, on and on. Dump the politicians who make the label “Christian Nation” a lie. Let’s see ... there are about 150 million Christians in the country (according to my 2002 World Almanac). It’s about time 149.9 million of you get off your asses and do something besides showing up at church. What would Jesus do?

posted by lee on 01/12/05 at 09:42 AM
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Thursday, January 13, 2005

network stupidity

Tonight, ER starts at 9:55. Why? It usually starts at 9:59 for some stupid reason unfathomable to me. Does NBC think we’re going to miss the ending of CSI to switch to ER? If people have to choose between CSI and ER, does NBC think ER will win? ER jumped the shark years ago.

It’s pea-soup foggy tonight. Quick trip to take a friend grocery shopping: what a nightmare. Not because of the fog, but because of the idiots who think using their brights makes it easier to see, then consequently veering all over the road because they can’t see. Then there are the superidiots who use fog lights AND brights in their supersize SUVs, blinding themselves and anyone unfortunate enough to encounter them. But other than having to drive in it, I love foggy days and nights. But 24 hours of it is about enough.

Wickedly Perfect is on. It is the stupidest show—but I love it. Total escape, watching the pretentious jerks try to outdo eachother is funny. God forbid they demonstrate any real teamwork. Looks like a case study in what not to do to pull together and win a competition. It will be interesting to see how long Mychel, the cook, lasts—much too controlling and arrogant, jeez!

posted by lee on 01/13/05 at 05:01 PM
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Friday, January 14, 2005

learn from the best

National Press Photographers Association is accepting entries for the 2005 best of still photojournalism awards. You don’t have to be a member of NPPA to enter. Take a look at last year’s results: there are some remarkable photos in this bunch. Then, with some luck and perseverance, you can find even older archives. The photos are worth studying to get an idea of what constitutes the “best.” You can tease out some of the reasons by reading the captions. It will be quite interesting to see the 2005 winners as there were so many newsworthy events—and so many of these so tragic.

A wording of warning: this website is maddeningly ill-organized. Aside from the unobvious navigation, it could greatly benefit from implementation of an organized gallery—it would be a good feature, for example, to be able to see a thumbnail listing of the entire group of winners and the same within individual galleries. Even PhotoShop’s automated gallery function does a better job of presenting images in a coherent structure than this site does. It’s a pity, because there’s a lot here for the patient. I think it does a disservice to the members.

posted by lee on 01/14/05 at 07:45 AM
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Saturday, January 15, 2005

nice stuff, part three: lurid sunsets

Our office, which is in our home, faces west. In the summer we see mostly greenery. But once the leaves are gone, as if to compensate for the view of the traffic speeding by on Strawberry Hill Avenue, we get to see the sunsets. Thursday night, the sunset was more lurid than I’d ever seen it. So I ran out with my Vivitar to try to capture it, then grapped the digital camera to get a few more shots.

The first shot is one through the shrubs—the bright orange in the middle of the shot is the sky. This is the exact color I saw, the color of flame.

sunset, looking west

This next shot I like. It shows more of the sky and the lights of the cars. This was just before rush hour.

 

January 13, 2005 sunset

The sunsets that have been visible the last few days, including today, have been so lurid I’m wondering if there’s something to explain it—the only major geologic activity lately has been the earthquake/tsunami; could that have thrown up particles into the atmosphere to affect the sunsets? Was there a volcanic eruption I didn’t hear about? Something to explore when I have a little more time. Or, as Stanley usually says about stuff like this, “It’s the end of the world!”

posted by lee on 01/15/05 at 02:00 PM
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nice stuff, part two: tulips from a friend

Candy's tulips

I’ve been writing about the horrible start to this year, and have been pretty bummed out about it all. The first week or so of 2005 presented us with an unrelenting series of events and news that was like getting repeatedly sucker punched. It’s been exhausting. But yesterday, the doorbell rang. It was a Fedex guy delivering a box from ProFlowers. We opened it to discover a beautiful bouquet of tulips. They were from Candy, a friend, and I was so touched by her gift that I immediately lost that overwhelming sense of dread that had been tying my stomach into a knot. Thank you, Candy. It’s so easy to lose perspective when you’re in the middle of events, whether they’re good or bad. We didn’t have the time to even stop and think about what was happening, how to cope with it, how to best react, when the next thing hit—it’s hard to roll with the punches when you’ve already been knocked flat on your back. We’re still not completely recovered from the technological disasters, and a client was lost by someone who shares our server, which we feel just awful about. Tulips, cropped
click to enlarge
We found out where the webserver problem lay, besides the hacking, and fixed that problem and hopefully closed all the doors. The techs at Netsonic were great, and if you’re in the market for a webserver of your own, I suggest you go with them. We’ll finish restoring a lost database by tomorrow and will be able to move ahead with that, and should be able to launch two sites this week. The bad thing is we’ll probably never recover the money we lost dealing with it. Our friend is out of the hospital, though they still don’t really know what the problem is. Our other friend has some places to move lined up, so she should be out of her present living situation in a month or so. Stanley sees a cardiologist at the end of the month, which I hope will help us both feel less frightened by what ails him. My psoriasis flare has calmed considerably—and that’s a relief. My family member has some good prospects lined up, so I’m less worried about her. I finally got enough sleep. We still have plenty of worries, but at least they don’t seem so insurmountable. And plenty of good things are shaping up, as well. But I gotta say, Candy’s tulips are what snatched me out of the black place.

posted by lee on 01/15/05 at 02:10 PM
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