The Penny Dreadful Crowd

Posted: 1st January 2017 by Cheap in Fiction, Philosophy

(or, relatively well-off first-world people borrowing trouble from others because their own suffering is insufficient to justify how sorry they want to feel for themselves.)

The Danse Macabre, as ritualized by so-called goths, was once described to me as, “mourning death.”  Not any particular person’s death, but simply the existence of death as a fact of life (no irony intended).  Most goths at the time were teenagers or immature twenty-somethingers, most of whom didn’t even known anyone who had died.  Goth culture was often criticized as having no substance and being merely a fashion identity.  Indeed, looking back, I can see that most goths probably dressed that way so they could feel they were sharing in whatever fantasy world they had imagined after reading so many Anne Bishop novels (the characters of which also engaging in ridiculous amounts of self-pity).

Teen angst has been a real thing among the last few generations, but few mature adults believe in it because it has no cause.  It seems that teenagers invent emotional pain for themselves simply because having such pain elevates them from ordinary to a status of having more depth and meaning uniqueness than would otherwise be true of an unremarkable middle class kid in America.

Most people grow out of this just as soon as life throws real problems their way.  When you work your ass off and you can’t pay your bills, afford health insurance, or pay off your student loans, and your car breaks down, and you have to go to the doctor, you tend to forget all about mourning death.  But some people don’t.  I don’t know, maybe they are immune to maturity.  Because even with all of that going on, they still need to feel less mundane about themselves.  So their high school music, dress, and claimed values cling to them like a stain.  They persist in their Victorian sensibilities (which have evolved into steampunk and comics by now), and they continue to think and behave like children into their thirties.

Enter Penny Dreadful, a wet dream for people who need to put on angst like a cloak.  19th century fashion?  Check.  Characters who endure extraordinary emotional suffering?  Check.  Vampires, werewolves, demonic possession, and people brought back from the dead?  Check.  Monsters who adore poetry and appreciate the beauty in life?  The show is a veritable menagerie of angsty characters who have good reason to be angsty.  They don’t do much, but they sure do feel bad and dress lovely.

In one scene, Vanessa Ives is asked by a stranger about her relationship with God and the church.  She chuckles and responds that she and God are lately not on such good terms.  This is a legitimate response from her: she has been the victim of demonic possession and psychic visitations, and she has sinned greatly.  However, her line of dialog is exactly the sort of thing you hear all the time from kids who have turned away from religion because God didn’t save them from their imaginary suffering.

Other unhealthy platitudes and attitudes are reinforced.  One pivotal statement is that the past cannot be escaped, “It’s who we are.”  Miss Ives continually withdraws within herself, refusing help from others, insisting that no one can help her, that she must go it alone.  It’s as if she is talking about depression rather than being hunted by witches.  She tells people that she is not like anyone else; her burden is uniquely terrible.

These characters are designed to resonate with this group of people.  The characters demonstrate the emotional pain that these people want to feel, and they justify it by having real (though supernatural and fictitious) causes behind their suffering.  They identify with the characters, yet at no point does it occur to them that their life is nothing like those of the characters, that their own troubles are the boring, ordinary sort, and that they have no business mourning the non-existent tribulations of their life.

Edit: I keep adding to this, and the structure of my thought has been lost to a flood of further epiphany.  I may have to re-write this post as, “What Penny Dreadful has taught me about teen angst.”  The more I think about it, the more this show seems to confirm that many teens feign dramatic emotional suffering because it makes them unique and brings them attention.  The show repeatedly reinforces the notion that emotional suffering will draw people to love you, care for you, and seek to save you even against your protests.  It reinforces the fallacy that your quiet anguish will not go unnoticed by those around you, that there is no need to cry for help, and that in the end your needs will be satisfied even if you resist help or fight it.

The most fascinating thing about Penny Dreadful is the question of whether it was written by someone with clinical depression, intensely low self-esteem, and suicidal tendencies, or if it was coldly calculated to appeal to such people.

I am also beginning to wonder how much Penny Dreadful will contribute to teen suicide over the next few years.  Not only does it promote unhealthy attitudes about safeguarding one’s emotional health, but it is clearly setting the central character on the path to suicide.  She is not just someone with difficulties.  She has been marked from birth for her struggle, specially singled out as a victim by powers beyond this world, destined and “meant” to suffer.  This is exactly how many people suffering from clinical depression feel, and it seems to those people that there is no way out but death.  Penny Dreadful seems to confirm that, yes, some people really are preordained to suffer, and there is no escaping it.

I am only beginning the second season, but I am making a prediction: at some point before the end of the second season, Miss Ives will attempt to take her own life, but the attempt will fail, and everyone else will rush to help her, and they will successfully defeat or stave off her enemy.

Smart Watches pt. 1

Posted: 29th December 2016 by Cheap in Hunting, Technology

Exploring Android development has sparked my interest in smart watches.  I see I have a lot to learn.

Until now, I have ignored the smart watch market.  This is mainly because I’ve stopped wearing a watch.  I used to wear one all the time, but I’ve noticed that they have become somewhat unfashionable.  Among the generation of people with whom I socialize, almost no one wears a watch.  Everyone has a phone that tells time, and that’s what people use.  Sure, digging in your pocket or searching for your phone is less convenient than simply turning your wrist.  However, wearing a watch today marks me out as some kind of geek or old person.

I do have a watch band for an iPod nano.  However, I’ve never worn that on a regular basis.  I’ve only used it when biking, and even then, I only bike with it when I have podcasts to which to listen, because the iPod lets me back up easily, while my MP3 headset does not.

However, I noticed that Android Studio has an option for creating an Android Wear app.  And I realized that I have a killer app I would like to develop.

I’m a hunter, and I’ve long wished for a hunting watch.  What’s a hunting watch?  Well, it doesn’t exist.  But if it did, a hunting watch would be a time piece with an alarm to notify the user about the beginning and end of shooting times.  In Missouri, and in many states, deer hunting is allowed between a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset.  Sunrise and sunset vary with the time of year and the latitude and longitude.  A device with a clock and a GPS can calculate it, and I use an app on my phone to do that.  Every day, I set or adjust an alarm on my phone.  And then in the morning and the evening, when I am trying to be silent and stealthy, I compulsively fumble with my phone to check the time.  It would be so much better to have all of this in a watch (or better yet, a carabiner clip).  As a timepiece, it would need to adjust to a very dim display that can be read in darkness without being a light source that calls the attention of game.

One thing I’ve learned is that I have to be careful to find out what OS the watch runs.  It’s not the same thing as what operating systems it is compatible with.

I was in the store looking at smart watches for the first time.  The Samsung watches are most prominently on display, and they currently have a piece of hardware that is absolutely gorgeous, the Samsung Gear S3 frontier.  It is a perfect balance of elegant sophistication and rugged manliness.  It has a great display and an excellent feel.  It has GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi, and if I wanted to pay for it, direct connectivity to the mobile data network.  I nearly bought one then and there, but I’m glad I did a little research on it first, because it doesn’t run Android.  It runs a completely different OS called Tizen.  Evidently, all the Samsung smart watches do.  Anything I learned about Android development would be completely useless for this watch.

I have not researched Tizen development extensively.  From what I gather, development is done in HTML5 and JavaScript.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Tizen apps are evidently web pages.  I am intrigued, but maybe not $350 worth, and not enough to delay my development path on Android.

Fortunately, there are genuine Android watches out there.  I just need to research them.

There were a few at the store.  One that caught my eye was the Nixon Mission.  It’s even more rugged and manly than the S3 frontier, designed for use during extreme sports like surfing and snowboarding.  It’s actually kind of obnoxiously huge, and the water resistance is excessive.  And it costs even more.  This is probably not the watch I will start with, but it’s nice to know that there is at least one example of something that will fulfill my needs.

My system monitoring UI app would also be great on a watch.  I will certainly have to make that happen.

Premiere Pro CS6 vs. CC 2017

Posted: 29th December 2016 by Cheap in Technology, Videography

Last month, I was forced* to upgrade my Adobe CS6 Production Premium to CC.  I have been fighting with it ever since.  If anyone asks me, it is a downgrade.

The most debilitating problem with Premiere Pro CC is that the new playback engine under CC didn’t like my video card.  Playback was extremely choppy, and even when paused, the wrong frame was usually displayed.  This wasn’t simply inconvenient; it was so bad and so unusable I couldn’t edit anything until I got this resolved.  I dropped a bunch of cash to buy a video card that the Mercury Playback Engine likes (an MSI NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G†), and that has basically resolved the problem.  However, playback is still not quite as responsive as it was under CS6.

The Dynamics audio effect has been made obsolete.  I rely on this for most of the video I edit.  I just drag it onto the audio track, and the default settings are just what I want: a little compression and a little amplification that gives a subtle and consistent result, but a definite improvement.  When opening an old CS6 project, Premiere will complain that Dynamics no longer exists, and it will drop it from my project.  Fortunately, I found that it does still exist, under the Obsolete Audio Effects category.  For older projects, I’ll have to manually put the effect back in place.  There is a new replacement effect, called Dynamics Processing, but it is not the same.  The default settings evidently do nothing, and none of the presets are exactly like the old Dynamics effect.  Specifically, they are … well, dynamic.  The levels change during playback based on what was just played, which results in something that sounds awful, because it is inconsistent through the playback.  A boomy sound is followed by momentarily muted audio, and the fact that the timing differs between the left and right channels makes it very noticeable.  I suspect I can find a way to customize the settings to be more consistent, and then save that as a custom preset, but it is going to take some time.  Also, I may have damaged my hearing trying all the presets, because some of them are just dangerous.

The most offensive problem is that Adobe has dropped support for Encore, the DVD/Blu-ray authoring tool.  There is no replacement.  I realize that physical video media is on the way out, but it isn’t dead yet.  Many of my customers still ask for DVDs, and they aren’t swayed by my explanations of easier and better ways to access and play their video.  So I accommodate them, even though it’s more work for me.  What am I supposed to do now?  A quick search for answers has suggested that I can re-install and use Encore CS6 and use it with Premiere Pro CC.  However, my old work-flow will no longer work, because Dynamic Link doesn’t work between CS6 and CC.  So instead of letting Encore transcode a Premiere Pro sequence directly using the amount of compression that it calculates is necessary to fit the video on the disk, it appears that I will have to render an intermediate video file and import that into Encore.  I haven’t tried this yet, so I don’t know what frustration I will encounter.  Will I lose chapter markers set in Premiere?  Will I have to use a giant lossless format to avoid degradation due to double compression?  Will I spend hours of trial and error to get the compression right?

So far, I have not enjoyed a single “upgrade” benefit from CC.  There have been a handful of features I had heard about in CC that weren’t available to me in CS6, but now I don’t remember what any of them were.  There’s a cartoony new user-interface, and I get free and easy upgrades, but that’s all.  My experiences with Photoshop and Audition are basically unchanged.  I haven’t even cracked open After Effects or Illustrator yet, and frankly I dread doing so.  The bottom line is that Adobe comes out ahead, financially, and I’m the loser.

Update: Alright, I spoke too soon.  I have discovered a couple of improvements that are useful to me.  One is that many of the video effects have a built-in mechanism to create a shape mask for them.  Maybe this existed in CS6, but in CC, this is right there in the effect controls, and it is real obvious.  This greatly simplifies a task I frequently need to perform: obscuring a portion of the video with a mosaic or gaussian blur.  The other is rendering speed.  It is now rendering about 1.92 seconds of (5.5 Mb/s 720p) video per second, which is about a 75-100% improvement over my old render times.  This is actually not an improvement in CC, but my graphics card, because all those CUDA cores are being used to assist in the rendering.

(* I bought a new still camera, and Photoshop CS6 didn’t support it.  When I shoot stills, I shoot in RAW.  Every camera has specific variations that must be accounted for when processing RAW files.  Adobe has stopped providing updates for new cameras for the CS6 Camera Raw plugin.  Therefore, the only way to process RAW images from this camera in Photoshop was to upgrade to CC.)

(† I chose that graphics card for two reasons.  Most importantly, because of its silent, 0 RPM idle mode.  Quiet components are very important to me.  The other reason is because of the large number of CUDA cores.  I dabble in photorealistic 3D modeling, and I understand that CUDA cores are the workhorse for GPU accelerated rendering.  I guess a third reason is that I got a good deal on an open box item.)

Decembery Stuff

Posted: 27th December 2016 by Cheap in Camping, Fiction, Fitness, Hunting, Travel, Uncategorized
  • Flannel bed sheets are pretty awesome in the winter, but now there are little fuzz balls everywhere.
  • I finally got my car put back together after having replaced the broken engine valve.  I still had to have the catalytic converter replaced, which was damaged by all the unburned fuel that was dumped into it.  However, it is back to running the way it was a month ago.
  • There was a heavy round of layoffs at the company I work for, and somehow I am still employed.  We lost some key people, however.  I really don’t understand what people are thinking when they make these decisions.
  • I have watched the first few episode of Penny Dreadful.  I’m probably going to watch more.  Combining every classic horror figure in one show seems a little gimmicky, and it relies heavily on visual drama, but it is holding my interest.   So far, I have counted three actors from Bond films.
  • I am beginning to take a serious look at backpacking.  This is, in part, due to no longer having a truck.  A have a small car, and I have doubts about whether I can fit my full complement of car camping gear in my car.  Whereas backpacking is, by definition, much more compact.  There are a number of places around here I could camp.  The Irish Wilderness comes to mind, but there are several wilderness areas in Missouri, some of which are closer.  There is also the Ozark Trail.  The optimist in me thinks I can eventually explore all of them.  However, the weather is probably only warm enough for four or five months.  If I camp one weekend each month, that won’t get me through all of the possible destinations very quickly.
  • Never again will I allow myself to be suckered by a Clif bar.  They look good, and they sound good, but they always taste funny.  Then, when I’m trying to figure out why, I find something ridiculous.  Prunes in a chocolate brownie bar or something.  Fortunately, I have found sensible alternatives to Clif bars, but I find their ubiquity to be rather predatory.
  • After nearly a year, I have gotten my mother moved out of the house.  She is now living with my sister and her family, which is intended to be a permanent situation.  For several years, it has been her plan, more or less, to live near her grandchildren.  This has involved eleven days off of work, and a long drive in a moving truck.  I need to adjust to having space again: my office, my fridge, and my basement.  And privacy.
  • I have visited South Carolina for the first time.  Also, driving through the Great Smoky Mountains again has renewed my desire to camp or backpack there.  I went through there more than a decade ago, and it was just beautiful.  Who knows if I’ll ever make it happen.
  • I finished reading The Operator, the second (and possibly last) installment in Kim Harrison’s Peri Reed Chronicles.  It was a bit better than The Drafter, probably because (spoiler) Peri didn’t lose her memory and start over in this one.  Still, the amount of manipulation and unfairness was difficult to swallow.  I am quite eager to read The Turn when it is released in January February.
  • My New Year’s tradition for the past several years has evidently come to an end.  It used to be that I would go to a party at a certain friend’s home, and then hunt rabbits on opening day at Busch Wildlife.  However, my friend moved to California this year, and the rabbit population at Busch has gotten so slim that we’ve decided it’s no longer worth it.  I wonder what I’ll do this year.
  • After my success in nursing my P.O.S. car back to health, I am giving serious consideration to buying a good vehicle in need of serious work, such as an engine rebuild.  It might be a good way to acquire a car that will give back many years of service.  I really miss my Ranger, and I would like to get back into one soon, or something similar.

Android Development

Posted: 14th December 2016 by Cheap in Technology

It was circa 1999 when I bought a Palm V, my first PDA.  I learned how to develop applications for Palm OS, which was done in C.  I wrote a few useful little applications, and I was even paid by a client to develop a simple application.  Later, I acquired a Treo 650, my first smartphone, also based on Palm OS.  While this opened the door for internet-enabled applications, I never did anything with it.  Still later, I upgraded the Treo to an iPhone 3G.  A new development platform, I was initially excited to develop apps for IOS, but I barely cracked the book.  A few years later, I dumped the iPhone and upgraded to a Galaxy SII, my first Android device.  Again, I had intentions of developing apps for it, but I never got around to it, apart from experimenting a little with Adobe Air.  Since then, I’ve acquired an Android tablet and upgraded to a newer Android phone.  Android has been in my life for five years, and though I consider myself a developer, I have not made the leap into Android development.

However, I now have a need for an application.  A simple app, but one which will be very helpful to me.  I am finally getting around to learning Android development.

I also have a need to improve my Java skills.  I “learned” Java when it was new, which is to say that I read a book about it.  I put it on my resume.  I understand Java conceptually, but I’ve hardly used it.  I’ve examined code and made minor modifications to existing Java applications, but I have very little practical experience with Java.  Java has evolved and grown significantly since then.  Meanwhile, my own skill set has stagnated.  Prior to learning Ruby, I hadn’t learned a significant programming language for over a decade.  My fluency with other development technologies, such as .NET, has not kept up with their evolution.  I am still fresh with C and PHP, but neither of those can sustain a high-paying career today.  Jobs utilizing Java are now the most numerous among development positions, and they are the highest paying.  If I want to compete in the development job market, I must become a better and more experienced Java developer.

Near the beginning of this year, I resolved to begin actively learning new technologies and escape my stagnation.  However, I allowed the needs of my employer to drive the technology choices.  That is what led to the choice of Ruby, as well as Puppet, Sensu, and PowerShell.  However, my employer jumps around too fast, shifting priorities almost weekly.  Consequently, my progress has been unsatisfactory with all four of those technologies.

So I am eager to pursue a useful Java application, especially one of my own choosing.  Android development is a good way to do that, and this application I intend to write is a good start.

There are various counter movements to feminism.  One of them even has the ridiculous name of “Meninism”.  They aren’t very large, or organized, and there’s not a section of the book store devoted to them.  Their aims are all over the map, some more noble than others, and this is obviously a reflection of the varying attitudes of their adherents.

I doubt there is a single woman on the planet who takes them seriously.

But perhaps they should.  The premise of feminism is that we live in a patriarchy, a world run by men and according to men’s rules, and as a result women are mistreated by men, and they suffer emotionally, materially, and even physically.  None of these things are untrue.  However, mistreatment of one gender by another is hardly unilateral.  The rules of our world are also in fact shaped heavily by the needs and desires of women, and women continually reinforce the matriarchal constructs of our society.  Men also suffer, yet their suffering is of no interest to anyone.  Men are taught to hide, ignore, and bury their feelings.  A man is a joke if he insists that his hurt feelings regarding women are relevant.  Hurting men emotionally is fair game.  Hurting men materially is accepted and encouraged, and even supported by law.  Attempting to hurt men physically isn’t taken seriously, even when it succeeds.

And the actions of feminism bring additional harm to men.  Most feminists, when they are thinking philosophically, believe that this is not the aim of feminism.  Yet in actual situations where gender inequality is at issue, when the conflict is no longer theoretical, equality tends to take a back seat to victory, and men who are seen as obstructions are run over.  Those same feminists, when they aren’t thinking so critically, will sign on to anti-male ideas and propositions.  And then there are many feminists who are quite overtly anti-male, who seek explicitly to hurt men in some kind of emotional and material fight for dominance.

Is it any wonder that men feel threatened by feminism?  It is not mere anxiety or insecurity.

In the end, it may not be such a useful idea to blame men for the problems of women, any more than women should be blamed for the problems of men.  Men and women are simply different, and it is those differences, and our inability to understand them from the other perspective, that creates all of the gender conflict.  Blame evolution, or blame the Creator, and then be done with the blame and the fighting.  In the end, equality will be attained by convincing everyone, men and women, to treat each other equally.

November Minutiae

Posted: 19th November 2016 by Cheap in Camping, Fiction, Hunting, Photography, Racism, Videography
  • Anyone who tells you that Cat’s Cradle is science-fiction is fucking with you.  Or else they don’t know what science-fiction is.  Yes, it contains a bit of science-fiction as a plot element.  Yes, the science is reasonably sound.  It also contains a made-up religion, but no one categorizes it as a religious text.  It is very much the kind of fiction I would expect from Kurt Vonnegut, and it is definitely out there, but it is not science-fiction.
  • Reading If He Hollers Let Him Go was quite an experience.  From start to finish, it is about racism.  Unlike other books I have read, it is not simply a story in which race figures as a factor.  The whole story is about racism, driven almost completely by racism, and is dripping with the emotional impact of racism.  I found myself wondering (as a white guy born in the 70’s) whether racism in the 40’s was as intense and blatant as it was depicted here, or whether the situation was intensified for the sake of making the point.  Certainly the character is not realistic: a man with the potential of becoming a lawyer but who acts immediately on every momentary stimulus and emotion he encounters.  Regardless, it does a good job of showing how it feels to live in such a world.  This is the second Chester Himes novel I’ve read, and I plan to continue reading others.
  • The car I just bought has already developed a serious problem.  A broken engine valve.  I am attempting to do the repair myself.  It is by far the most involved car repair I have ever done.  It took me days to remove the head from the engine, because of all the other parts that must be removed first.  There was no other damage aside from the valve, so I was able to replace it myself without any machining.  Now I’m trying to put it all back together again, and already I have screws that I don’t know where they belong.  This whole thing has given me a great deal of anxiety, because if I fail, it is going to cost me a lot of money.  And that has caused me to be depressed about it and to procrastinate.  Meanwhile, I will have gone three weeks or so without transportation of my own, and it’s getting really old borrowing other people’s cars, not to mention a certain amount of cabin fever.
  • I went deer hunting with my brother for two and a half days.  Then my brother came to the realization that he doesn’t like hunting and that he is not an outdoors sort of person.  Between that and the un-neighborly hunters around us, we decided to come home early.  I used the rest of my vacation time working on my car.  From now on, it seems I will plan my hunting trips without him.  I’m still coming to grips with all of the changes that effects; even one of the guns I own was purchased with the intent to have him hunt with it.  I guess I should get out my bow and practice with it.  There are still almost two months left in the bow season.
  • Cold-weather camping was a success.  It only got down to 32° at night, which isn’t very cold.  However, I had comfort to spare.  Having gained some experience at different temperatures, I will be more confident about trying to camp at lower temperatures.  However, there is probably no good time to do it again until about March.
  • The Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II worked out quite well this week.  I didn’t have a lot of opportunity for artistic photos, but I am happy with the quality of the photos I did get.  I need to get more practice controlling the focus, but I am quite satisfied with this purchase.
  • To process RAW image files from the new camera, I was forced into finally upgrading to Adobe CC.  This means Premiere and everything else is upgraded, as well.  I’m having some trouble with choppy playback.  Also, some of the effects I use are no longer available (evidently replaced with very similar effects with new names).  Somewhat more alarming is that Adobe seems to have dropped support for Encore, believing somehow that no one authors discs anymore.  Well, I do, and now I have to figure out how.  Brief research into the topic suggests that it involves installing Encore CS6 and using a different workflow, since Dynamic Link no longer works.
  • I am current reading Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge for the book club.  I really don’t like it, and that’s making it a chore to read.  The author’s style is good, the dialog is good, the protagonist’s voice is good.  However, I’m finding that I just cannot properly suspend my disbelief because the whole premise is just so ridiculous: properly mixed cocktails imbue magical powers, there are evil creatures preying on all of us, and the world’s bartenders are all working diligently to protect us from these dangers and to keep it all a big secret.  Even if I was a connoisseur of spirits, I don’t think I could enjoy it.  Perhaps worse, the deepest thing going on in the story is that the protagonist has a crush on a guy.  The important characters are all very vanilla and nearly two-dimensional.  I would skip this book and this book club meeting, except that I am looking forward to the return of a specific member.

Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II

Posted: 11th November 2016 by Cheap in Photography

I finally came around to the idea that I need a high-quality point-n-shoot camera.  The reason?  None of my cameras are compact enough, and my phone’s camera doesn’t produce art-quality photos.

Up until now, my most compact camera has been my Canon EOS M.  The body of the EOS M is quite compact, for a system camera.  With the 22mm pancake lens, it makes a great, unintimidating camera to take to parties.  It has an APS-C sized sensor, so it is capable of some fairly shallow depth-of-field and performs reasonably well in low light.  However, it is not a pocket camera.  With the lens attached, it just doesn’t go into a pocket.  It doesn’t pack conveniently in the pocket of a backpack, either.  It’s even more awkwardly shaped with the zoom lens, and the zoom lens is not a fast lens, so you lose a lot of the shallow depth-of-field anyway.

I have been using the camera on my phone much more.  I upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy S6 active almost a year ago, which has a surprisingly good camera.  It is capable of sharp and detailed photos and has good tonality characteristics.  And of course it is compact and convenient, always at hand and fits in any pocket.  However, the photographs it produces are not quite art-quality.  The primary problem is that there is just far too much JPEG compression.  However, the totally flat depth-of-field is also an issue.  I used it quite heavily during my summer vacation, and I captured many good photos.  However, I found myself wanting to display some of those photos in ways that reveal the quality limitations of the camera, and that has left me disappointed.

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Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II

I settled on the Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II.  It is an “advanced” or “enthusiast” point-n-shoot camera.  The feature that makes it so is the 1.0″ sensor.  That’s quite large for a point-n-shoot, and it provides an appreciable amount of shallow depth-of-field, as well as better performance in low light.  The camera is only slightly smaller than the EOS M body, but the lens retracts, making it a truly pocket-size camera.  Furthermore, the lens is faster than the EOS M lenses and offers a longer zoom range.

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PowerShot G7X vs. EOS M

This camera has WiFi and NFC, as well as an Android app.  This offers me a workflow that is great for use in the field.  Without using a computer or a card reader, I can transfer photos from the camera (even if they were shot RAW) and post them online using my smart phone.  I am looking forward to using this feature during my upcoming hunting/camping trip.  Another feature that makes this camera road worthy is the ability to charge the battery internally via USB.  I can charge the camera in my car or from a big USB powerbank without purchasing an expensive car charger.

EOS M with APS-C Sensor

EOS M with APS-C Sensor

The size of a “one inch” sensor is an interesting matter of discussion.  It isn’t one inch.  In fact, the size of any sensor expressed in inches, including the four-thirds sensor, is a lie misleading.  See “optical format“.  Basically, the real size is about two-thirds of what is actually stated.  The actual size of a 1″ sensor is 13.2 × 8.8 mm, which is obviously nowhere near an inch in any direction.  In the photo above, the red outline represents the size of a 1” sensor in comparison to an APS-C sensor (the sensor format used in the majority of Canon DSLRs).  It is about 59% of the size of an APS-C sensor.  This smaller sensor results in deeper depth-of-field than an APS-C camera, but it is still much larger than a typical point-n-shoot and certainly larger than the sensors found in phones.

One of the interesting features is the internal ND filter.  It has a 1/8 (3-stop) ND filter that can be enabled, disabled, or set to auto.  At first, I was thinking of this as a way to improve shallow depth-of-field, since it allows the aperture can be opened up while leaving all the other exposure parameters unchanged.  I use screw-on ND filters on my DSLRs for this purpose, especially when using studio strobes.  However after thinking about it more, I realize that the ND filter mostly just makes up for the shutter speed limitations, which only go down to 1/2000, as opposed to the 1/8000 shutter speed I am accustomed to on DSLRs.  Still, to maximize shallow depth-of-field, I find that I can use aperture priority on the maximum aperture and set the ND filter to auto, letting the camera figure out how best to accomplish the exposure.

GX7Bags-2650x1024

Update: I am always looking for just the right bag or case for any equipment I am likely to carry into the field.  Here’s what I came up with.  The Lowepro Tahoe 25 II is just the right size for the camera.  It is padded on all sides, and has a rigid wall between the main compartment and the front pocket, which I figure provides extra protection for the lens.  The pocket has room for spare batteries, cards, even a Joby Micro Tripod.  There is a belt loop in back.  I feel confident tossing the camera in this case into my backpack with all my other gear.  The other case is a Lowepro Adventura SH 100 II, which Crutchfield sent free when I ordered the camera from them.  It’s a little big for the camera, but it turns out to be ideal for storing the camera with the charger and whatever other accessories I have for it (the micro-USB cable, for example, though I never use it).  The smaller case fits into the larger case just perfectly.

Update: I took the camera hunting with me this past week.  Everything worked out as planned.  In the little case, it was no problem carrying it my backpack.  Battery life, USB charging, and transferring images to my phone all made me happy.  I am finding that shallow depth-of-field, especially with closer shots, is even better than I had anticipated.  I did sometimes struggle with getting the focus I wanted, but there are multiple ways to control focus, and it was mostly an exercise in trying different methods (touch-to-focus and using the control ring for manual focus were the usual solutions).  Also, it is not possible to get Adobe CS6 to process RAW images from this camera, and I finally gave in and upgraded to CC, which has upset my world notably.

Octobery Stuff

Posted: 30th October 2016 by Cheap in Camping, Hunting
  • I spent a weekend in the Mark Twain National Forest, in the Doniphan and Eleven Point ranger districts.  My primary goal was to scout for good deer hunting spots.  However, I didn’t get to explore all the places on my list, and most of those did not turn out to be good spots.  My secondary goal was to get a little experience sleeping outside in cooler weather.  The low was 46°, which isn’t that cold, but that gives me a data point on the weather spectrum.  The more experience I have, the better I’ll know my limits.
  • I ended up doing some of the most extreme off-roading I’ve ever done.  I followed an unmaintained track down a slope that was much steeper than I realized, culminating in a drop off a big boulder.  When I returned, I decided I must have been out of my mind.  Yet my truck (a Ford Ranger) clambered back up that rock and the slope without any trouble.  It was very satisfying.  Little did I know, that would be my last off-road experience with my truck.
  • On the way home, I blew the motor in my truck.  Out in the middle of Missouri on a Sunday night.  I got it towed to a repair shop, and the diagnosis was made quickly.  The value of the vehicle was completely cancelled out by the cost of the repair, so I left it there.  I agreed to sign over the title in compensation for the tow.  I’ve been wanting to replace the truck for years, but the money hasn’t been handy, so I’ve kept putting it off.
  • I purchased a Toyota Corolla, the same age as my Ranger, but with fewer miles.  It had a very bad wheel bearing and some other suspension problems, but I have fixed all those.  Now it’s mostly down to cosmetic problems (of which there are many).  It’s not a nice car by any stretch, but it should be reasonably reliable, at least for a couple of years.  Long enough, I hope, to save up for a better car.

Still More Things

Posted: 30th September 2016 by Cheap in Fiction, Firearms, History, Philosophy, Politics
  • I have rather suddenly developed an interest in local history.  Most specifically, I’ve decided I want to know all there is to know about Flamm City, a place that was probably never actually any kind of a city, but which has intrigued me for many years.  I’ve discovered a ton of historical resources at the libraries, mainly catering now to the increasingly popular study of genealogy.  When I started, I figured I would be the only one looking into such subjects, but in fact the rural suburban city I live in actually has a historical society.  I am finding the research to be fascinating, even if it is taking up a lot of my time.
  • I made it to a second meeting of the science-fiction book club.  The book this month was The Three-Body Problem, which included a rather unusual selection of science.  (I liked the book alright, but now that I know it’s the first of a trilogy, I don’t think I’m interested in reading the rest.)  There were some familiar faces, and I’m starting to form opinions about them.  The largest reason for participating in the book club is for the social experience, so the quality of the people I meet there will have a lot to do with whether I continue.
  • My foray into local history has suggested to me a possible interest in photographing cemeteries, the photos to be used by genealogists.  Photographing each individual headstone and cataloging the photographs online would make the information available to those who are not local to the area but are searching for it.  This is well within my skill-set.  Though perhaps I should make sure someone else hasn’t already done it.
  • I read The Thousand Names, which I picked up recently at the used book store for no other reason than that I liked the name.  Even though many of the characters were a tiny bit two-dimensional and the story’s obstacles were too easily and too consistently overcome, I did enjoy it overall, and I plan to read more of the series.
  • I bought a sewing machine.  My grandmother’s machine has been in my possession basically since her death.  However, it has become non-functional, and I cannot easily repair it.  Sewing is a skill I possess, but without a machine, projects have been passed over or stacked up for quite a while.  I bought a Singer Heavy Duty mechanical sewing machine with just the features I need.  It works well enough, though it’s not as nice as my grandmother’s 1960’s Kenmore.  I look forward to doing more with it.
  • I have started building my hardcover library – a library of books I intend to re-read.  I’ve started with C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series, unearthing what hardcover editions I already had and buying a gently used hardcover edition of the first book.  I have several to go just in that series, and there are several other things I would like in the collection.
  • The Missouri General Assembly voted to override the Governor’s veto of SB 656.  This makes Missouri the 11th “constitutional carry” state.  When the law goes into effect, concealed carry of firearms will be legal without a permit, with the same restrictions that apply to permit holders (but not quite the same protections).  The law also upgrades Missouri from a “Castle Doctrine” state to a “Stand Your Ground” state.
  • When I was thinking about media’s complete mischaracterization of Stand Your Ground during the Zimmerman trial, I realized that those protesting against the incident were making paradoxical demands.  They wanted Zimmerman to be found guilty of breaking the law, and they also wanted to demonize the law that made the shooting legal (which they erroneously referred to as “Stand Your Ground”).  If there’s a bad law that makes it legal, then how can he be found guilty?
  • Gearing up for cold weather camping, I have come to realize that my understanding of sleeping bag temperature ratings has been flawed.  I buy a 0° sleeping bag, and taking nothing else into consideration I assume I will be comfortable in 0° weather.  When that proves to be untrue, I chalk it up to exaggerated claims.  However, the sleeping bag can only do its part when combined with a good insulating mattress underneath.  A simple air mattress won’t cut it, and that’s what I have always slept on when camping.  I have been daunted by cold weather camping for many years, and it’s because of my early failures camping in cool weather.  Now that I am researching and understanding the whole system together, I am hopeful that I can succeed.
  • I have finished watching the original television series Twin Peaks.  The only thing I expected was that it would be weird, and it certainly was – right down to and especially including the finale.  It was also really corny and campy, mostly in a good way.  The most difficult part of watching it was the extremely slow pace.  David Lynch clearly wanted to portray moods more than a story.  I’m surprised audiences of the time had the patience for it, especially when he got side-tracked.  Ultimately, I guess they didn’t, since it ended after a season-and-a-half.  It started out great, but then devolved into uninspired stories, and the unique style of presentation wasn’t enough to make up for it.  Initially, I had assumed I wasn’t interested in watching the prequel, Fire Walk with Me nor the recent continuation of this series, but now I’m reconsidering.