RECHARGING EVERYTHING

Everything — or nearly everything — runs on batteries. Rechargeable batteries. Laptops, tablets, Kindles, cellphone, headphones, cameras, mouses (mice have fur and make squeaky noises, mouses attach to your computer using USB transmission), GPS, clocks, flashlights, remote controls, electric razors, tooth cleaning machines, and a mind-numbing array of other small electronic devices I can’t remember until I need them. Even our bed has a remote control … and it runs on four rechargeable AAA batteries.

Charge!

To keep the world running, I have to charge things that recharge and keep a stack of AAA and AA rechargeable batteries ready to go.

I have never lived in a house that had enough electrical outlets for things like lamps and televisions, but with all these chargers to accommodate, I own big power strips. Everywhere you look, and in many places you would never think to look, in every room, power strips keep the chargers charging and other electrical devices functioning. The strips range from high-end hubs with surge protection to whatever was on sale at Walmart when I needed a power strip. Every strip is as full as the size and shape the chargers allow.

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Power strips are mostly designed by people who don’t use them. I have come to this conclusion based on the stupid design that presumes you will never have anything larger than a lamp plug that needs a socket. Not even a vacuum cleaner cord fits properly, much less a laptop power supply.

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No room is left on either side that would make it possible to fit more than two or three chargers in a strip theoretically designed for half a dozen plugs. There’s no allowance for odd-shaped power supplies that will use half a strip.

I don’t understand why chargers have to be so inconveniently shaped, or why they can never make a 3-pronged plug that will fit into an outlet without a fight. Why do most chargers require that you insert them at the end of the strip. No one ever seems to consider that there are only two “ends” and only one without a cord in the way. There’s some kind of Murphy’s Law that say if you are going to need two wall outlets, both devices will need to be on top or on the bottom.

I have 2 electrical sockets in the bathroom and 3 devices that require electricity. Fortunately, I never use more than one at a time because only one will fit. The other socket is unusable. One charger blocks both outlets. Always.

black and white wires power lines

I don’t typically notice how dependent we are on batteries until I’m packing for vacation. An entire carry-on is allocated to chargers and batteries and that’s just for stuff we use while we travel: laptops, accessories, Kindles, phone, mouses, etc. I used to pack this stuff carefully. Now I just shove the chargers and wires in a bag and untangle as needed.

If you think our civilization will endure, remember this. In fact, given the scandal of the exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 batteries, it’s surprisingly timely.

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Our world depends on electronics and those gadgets are dependent on batteries. All which need to be recharged. From an electrical outlet. Without electricity and batteries, life as we know it would end in about two weeks. A month maximum. After that?

Our society would disintegrate, becoming a jungle in which every person will fight to the death for a working battery.

RECHARGE | THE DAILY POST

EXPERT ON MYSELF

I know a few things. Along the road of life, I’ve done a bit of reading and studying. Like many writers, I’m a generalist. I know about this, that, and the other thing. A good deal about some stuff, a little something about lots of stuff. Which makes me highly competitive at Trivial Pursuits. All that random knowledge ought to be good for something.

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I’m an expert at just one thing: me. I know my body. The strange way it works. I know what I like. I’m good at knowing what I would like, given an opportunity.

To illustrate my point, this is the story of a lens I bought — and why I’m passing it to another photographer who hopefully will get more use of it than I have. Call this: Photographer, Know Thyself.

In November 2013, I bought the Panasonic Lumix G H-H020 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Pancake Lens for Micro Four Thirds. I used it once, to shoot a “lighting” at a museum the next month of December.

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That set of photographs are among the best night shots I’ve ever taken. The Panny 20, as it is fondly called, is a sharp, fast prime lens. Slightly wide-angle. Perfect for people who like to do street scenes, especially at night. It was the first lens recommended to me after I got my Olympus PEN E-PL1, I think (not sure) in 2011. Close enough. 

The Panny was already available. Everyone who used a 4/3 format camera said I should buy it. It was then (still) quite expensive (it’s not cheap now). Especially for me. I was even more broke five years ago than I am today, which is saying something.

Its praises were sung. I resisted. There were fewer lenses available in 4/3 format back then; this one had a great reputation. Except — I didn’t think I’d use it. At 20mm (effective 40mm), it’s not a perspective of which I’m fond. It’s not flattering as a portrait lens. Not unflattering, but not the lens you’d grab to take some fun candid snaps of your friends or dogs.

Dancing in the dark heritage museum

I don’t do much street shooting. Mostly, I shoot landscapes and casual portraits. I didn’t feel this lens would be the one I’d reach for as I headed out the door. I like longer lenses for portraits and wider ones for landscapes.

Eventually, I gave in. I bought it. Used it once. Since then, it has lived in a padded pouch, ready to go. Always the lens I think I might use, but never do. For “normal,” I use my Olympus f1.8 25mm. If I’m going out and don’t know what I’m going to shoot, I take a camera with a long zoom so I’m ready for whatever pops up. At home, my favorite lenses are the Olympus 12-50mm (macro), the f1.8 45mm, and the f2.8 60mm macro.

What I learned? If I think something won’t suit me, it won’t. No matter what anyone else thinks. I’ve lived long enough to be know what I suits me. I’m not a newbie testing the waters. As a photographer for almost 50 years, I know the types of pictures I take.  I’m not particularly thrilled by “normal” lenses in the 40 to 55mm range. I never was, even back in the dark ages when I was a newbie photographer.

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Unless you’re just starting out in whatever, trust your instincts. Save your money for things you will love. Whether photography equipment, computers, food, clothing, or a vacation … go with your gut. Leroy Jethro Gibbs always does … and we know he is always right.

Where you are concerned, there is no better expert than yourself.

EXPERT | THE DAILY POST

BITS AND PIECES – MUNDANE TUESDAY:

Mundane Monday Challenge #72 : Learn Photography


It has been so ghastly hot outside, I haven’t been going out unless I have no choice. This means I’m finding pictures inside. Surprisingly, there have been quite a few indoor photo ops.

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I’m addicted to pictures of light filtering through things. Leaves, curtains, glass. This isn’t new. I’ve been following light as long as I’ve been taking pictures – 47 years this summer. I got my first “real” camera the summer of 1969, a few weeks after my son was born.

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Today, armed with more than enough cameras and lenses, I’m ready for anything. How come the wrong lens is always on the camera? Why is that?

Is this another Murphy’s Law?

BLACK & WHITE SUNDAY ON MONDAY: OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5

Paula asked us for a black & white picture of a favorite something. There were so many candidates, I wasn’t sure where to start to find a picture to fit this challenge. Then, I found this picture. I forgot I’d taken it a couple of weeks ago. It was just waiting in my files.

This is my Olympus OM-D E-M5 fitted with an Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ Zoom lens with the macro setting.

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I have had many cameras over the years. I also have two other excellent Olympus PEN cameras, but this camera is special. With it, I have had the joy of falling in love with photography again. At first, the camera seemed a bit daunting, but it each time I use it (and I use it often), I love it more.

Why is it my favorite? How can you explain love? It’s ineffable. The way it feels. Its balance. The quality of the pictures. Sometimes, I just hold it because I love having it in my hands.

Love is not entirely rational. I haven’t felt this way about any camera in a many years.


Black & White Sunday: Favourite

WHEN NEWER ISN’T BETTER: PANASONIC LUMIX DMC-FZ200

I bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 12.1 MP Digital Camera with CMOS Sensor and 24x Optical Zoom from Adorama in September 2014. It cost me $457 two years ago and you can buy the same camera on Amazon today for $100 less. Since I bought this camera, it has been a constant companion. It isn’t my only camera, not by far, but it is my most versatile camera. If I’m unsure which camera or lens I may need — or I don’t want to haul a lot of equipment — this is the camera I choose.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

I have a lot of equipment, both cameras and lenses — and I use them. But this particular camera remains a favorite. Simply put, it’s a keeper.

The Leica lens on this camera is spectacular. Not only does it go from moderately wide to amazingly long (in 35mm terms, 24mm to 600mm), but it delivers surprisingly good quality throughout its range.

It’s fast, too … f2.8 all the way, beginning to end. Amazing for a super-zoom. The camera focuses quickly, recycles fast. It has a good  built-in viewfinder and  flexible LCD screen. It has more controls and refinements than I will ever use. Some, I don’t even know what they do and probably will never bother to find out.

In the gallery of birds, most of these were taken from a considerable distance. The herons were on the other side of the river. The birds were a long way away and I was hanging out my bathroom window to take the pictures. Guess which camera I used? You betcha!

Does it give me the same quality as my best Olympus lenses? Not quite, but surprisingly close. In any case, I could never afford a telephoto lens of this quality for my Olympus rig. Not that Olympus makes a comparable lens.

If you need a super-zoom camera and you don’t have megabucks to spend, this is the camera to buy. There are newer models available — but none of the newer ones are better. Some have a longer zoom, but all the longer lenses are slower and not as sharp. This remains best-of-breed. I paid about $100 more for this camera in 2014 than it’s selling for now on Amazon. I have never felt I overpaid. I haven’t checked prices elsewhere, but it isn’t a the latest model, so you won’t find it everywhere.

If I have any criticism to make, it’s that the batteries don’t last as long as I would wish. If you use the zoom a lot, you need to have spare batteries. I have four and more wouldn’t be out of line.

It’s a great camera. If you are trying to decide between this and one of the newer Panasonic super-zoom models? Buy this one. It’s a better camera. It’s a bit big, a bit clunky, and wonderful.

I hope it lasts forever. So far, so good.

NOTE TO FRIENDS: We’re gone for the day. My cousins are in town, so we’ll be away until evening. Catch up with all of you tomorrow or late tonight! Have fun. We’re going to try, too.

SHOULD YOU FORGET THE CAMERA, TRY THE PHONE

A Photo a Week Challenge: Phone-tography


From Nancy Merrill:

“Cell phone photography is so prevalent these days, I figured it was about time I had a challenge where you pull out your phones and take a picture. There’s no theme other than a photo taken with your phone.”


I  am not a fan of cell phones. The sound quality is pathetic and I can barely read the text, with or without glasses.

They aren’t good telephones and aren’t cameras at all, even though you can use it to take pictures. Photography is more than just capturing an image.

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Last weekend, we went to a wedding in Boston and I did not bring a camera. In my defense, I was carrying an evening bag into which a camera would not fit. When we got to the event and I saw the view from the 33rd floor of 60 State Street. I wished I’d brought a camera even if it didn’t go with my dress. I had tucked the phone into my bag, so for the first (only) time, I took some pictures using the phone.

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The quality isn’t fabulous, but it was the what I had available. I’m glad I got pictures because “not great pictures” beats “no pictures.”

BOSTON – TEA PARTY WHARF

As part of our mini-vacation, we decided to shoot some pictures before heading home to little old Uxbridge.

One of the rare times when I didn't have a camera with me. Two strikes agains me -- just a cell phone and shooting through glass at twilight. But the view from the 33rd floor at 60 State Street is breathtaking. Even using a cell phone.

One of the rare times when I didn’t have a camera with me. Using a cell phone shooting through glass at twilight. The view from the 33rd floor at 60 State Street is breathtaking. Even using a phone instead of a camera.

Boston has changed a lot since we lived there. We’ve been gone 16 years during which time nothing much happened in Uxbridge. A couple of restaurants closed. All but one reopened under new management. The Unitarian Church went out of business. CVS built a big store where the ice cream place used to be. The ice cream place moved to Whitinsville. Both local dry cleaners closed and Walmart built a super store in Whitinsville.

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During this same period, Boston finished the Big Dig. They built new roads, tunnels and bridges. Completely redesigned the waterfront, turning what had a been a dark, dirty dumpy area into an attractive, accessible tourist magnet. Lots of young people were there. Singing, dancing, drinking and hanging out which seems to be what young people do when they get together.

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The Beaver

There are easily a dozen new hotels, one of which we stayed in. Very modern. Comfortable. Accommodating. Friendly. From the outside, it looks like it’s built with Lego (it has to be one of the most unattractive pieces of architecture I’ve seen), but inside, it’s delightful. High ceilings. Bright and airy. Well-designed, spacious bathrooms and plenty of closet space. Good cable package and fast, free WiFi. Lots of cool high-tech stuff.

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And they take dogs. We were among the few people who didn’t have a well-groomed, properly trained canine companion. Our dogs are neither well-groomed nor properly trained. I shudder to imagine taking any of them to a hotel.

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We cabbed over to the wedding from the hotel. It is on the waterfront — as was the hotel — but it’s several miles north of the area in which we were staying. As we passed the edge of Charlestown Harbor, I saw a tall ship. I assumed it was the Constitution and suggested we go back the next day. Take some pictures.

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The Eleanor

When we lived in Boston, we used to hike to Charlestown from Beacon Hill or Charles River Park. We were younger. I could hike up the hill to our apartment at full speed with 20 lbs of groceries in each hand. These days, I’d have to stop along the way and take a nap. On the sidewalk. Or call for an ambulance.

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It turned out the ship was not the Constitution. It was The Beaver, a restored schooner that recreates one of the three Boston Tea Party (NO relation to right-wing “Tea Party”) ships. There are two ships, the second being the Eleanor. A third ship is being built. Originally, four ships sailed from England bearing tea. One sank. Three made it to Boston. Then, there was a tea party, a bit of shooting, a declaration, a revolution … and the rest, as they say, is history.

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You can have tea on one of the ships. There’s a cute little “museum” which is really a gift shop and not any kind of museum.

Hi from Sam Adams. He helped start a revolution and is mostly famous for making beer. Perhaps justifiably so.

Hi from Sam Adams. He helped start a revolution and is mostly famous for making beer. Perhaps justifiably so.

We took pictures. We stopped and had crab cakes for lunch. We came home. The dogs were very glad to see us. We were very glad to see them. But mostly, we were unbelievably glad to see our extremely comfortable bed. At our age? There really is no place like home.


Other than the pictures I took with our rarely used cell phone, all the other photos were taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ 200. It’s the camera I grab when I want to keep it simple.

CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE: ALL ABOUT CITIES (SKYLINES TO STREET PHOTOGRAPHY)

cee's fun foto chall