Tag Archives: Journal

What Are You Doing New Years Eve?

A slight departure from my usual for the holidays, this Frank Loesser standard is all about New Years Eve. Backing tracks (as usual) by Band In A Box. I’m playing my Heritage H-575 direct into GarageBand.

Working on this led to some unintentional Dad joking, by the way. Twice when I was asked what I was recording I replied “What are you doing New Years Eve?” and both times it was assumed I was actually asking that question!

Why I left Flickr for 500px

This is one of the answers to questions no one has asked but I imagine someone would if I had readers.

I’ve been a member of Flickr since 2004 and I have over 6700 photos there. But this year I made the decision to switch photo hosting over to 500px. It wasn’t something I did lightly.

A number of my photos are linked to by other websites (though I haven’t recently checked to see if those links still exist) so by dropping my Flickr Pro membership it’s likely those links will go 404. It’s a chance I’m willing to take. I’m still keeping my Flickr account so the photos aren’t going away totally and I can always convert back to Pro if I want.

So why the change? It’s mostly about presentation. Flickr has been through a lot over the years. It was one of the few photo hosting/sharing sites early on and had a certain cachet as a result. But nothing lasts forever.

When Flickr started it had almost no competition and could do whatever it wanted. But that didn’t last. Making things worse was its acquisition by Yahoo. After an early flurry of activity due to the integration of Yahoo photos and profiles, Flickr was left alone. This stagnation made it easier for the competition to catchup and eventually pass Flickr. Like so many early market leaders it became an als0-ran in a market it essentially created.

Eventually, though, Yahoo woke up and realized they needed to do something about Flickr. What followed was a seemingly never-ending stream of changes. Every time you logged into Flickr the interface was different, features added or removed, and so on. This sort of thing is tolerable in a startup but felt out of place on a mature site like Flickr.

It got me to thinking about what I really wanted to do with my photos. Despite my half-hearted aspirations, I am not nor will I ever be a professional. Nevertheless, I would like to showcase my photos with some style. Flickr couldn’t make up its mind whether it wanted to be a photo site or a social media platform. Both are valid choices, but I was looking more towards the former. I just spewed photos at Flickr, without much thought about quality. That was fine, I guess, but I’m no longer of the opinion that’s what I want to do.

I want better presentation now more than I want quantity. For instance, compare a photo on 500px with a photo on Flickr (Flickr is down right now, which says more than I can about their service). I will never post as many photos on 500px but that’s not the point; the ones I do post will be what I consider my best.

There are many other choices out there, this is mine. It may be for you as well or may not be. Find the one you like, the one that does what you want the best, and have fun.

What’s Behind Stagefright?

As the article says, stagefright has not been extensively studied despite affecting nearly everyone to some degree. Including some famous people you wouldn’t imagine.

I have feared speaking in front of an audience since I can remember. In grade school I would simply accept a failing grade rather than go in front of the class. I did better in high school and college but still hated it. At work, I avoid it whenever possible. But it never goes away. Since I practice karate I have to be evaluated from time to time and I fall apart, losing track of katas I know down pat. I play guitar but almost never with anyone but my teacher and maybe one of his other students.

Here’s a perfect example of how it affects me. A few years back a friend, who is active in the local music scene, organized a jam session at a local place and invited a bunch of players he knew which included me. I hesitated but I did eventually pack up my guitar and headed down. I was scheduled to go up on stage a bit late so I had the opportunity to observe the others. It was obvious I was the only one with no stage or band experience. The guitarist up before me had just led a long jazz funk fusion number when I was called up. But I realized that I was both way in over my head and scared to death. I made a lame excuse about it being late and having to go to work in the morning, packed my guitar and ran from the building.

I’m a grown man with over 30 years as a volunteer firefighter. I walked into burning buildings and pried broken cars apart to free people and yet I ran from the opportunity to play guitar on stage. That, my friends, is how powerful stagefright can be.

Finally Leaving Flickr

I’ve been posting photos to Flickr for over a decade now but I think that’s going to come to an end. It’s not for any particular reason. After years of neglect Yahoo has done a lot to evolve the platform towards more social photo sharing, which is nice if that’s what you’re looking for. But if you’re looking to really showcase photos, it’s not the best choice.

It started when I realized that the vast majority of my uploads were via Instagram, which meant that for the most part I was using Flickr as backup rather than the primary location for photos. Plus I hadn’t posted a photo to a group in ages nor had I bothered to view any groups in about as long. The things Flickr was working to improve were things I was no longer interested in.

My plan in the short term is to not renew my paid account and delete the majority of my photos not linked to by external parties. I have a set of photos of the collapse of the South Avenue parking garage and a set of the old Eastman Dental Dispensary that are linked by the city and the U of R respectively that will remain. Other than those, everything else is likely to go. It will break thousands of links here, which is unfortunate but hardly worth worrying about given my low readership.

What I haven’t decided is what I’m going to move to. I’ve been looking at 500px for a while without committing to it. There are others that I might consider as well as setting up my own site. I’ve identified a large set of my photos that I really like that are candidates so whatever I do there’s no shortage of material. Whether I will offer any of them for sale depends on whether or not I decide to overcome my longstanding objection to doing so. I guess we’ll see.

A valuable lesson in economics

This is one of my infrequent personal stories, feel free to skip.

When I was 12 or so I wanted to buy a 35 mm camera. My parents told me I’d have to earn money to pay for half of it and at that age a paper route was the only legal means of doing so. We got Newsday “Long Island’s Picture Newspaper” and our paperboy was getting too old for that. A few short conversations later I took over for him.

Our paperboy, it would turn out, was in possession of knowledge I was not. Within two weeks of my starting, the price per week went from 30 cents to 60 cents. Yes, each paper was now going to be a dime instead of a nickle (it was 1969 or so). Within a week of that price increase almost half my customers dropped the paper. My income, which was based entirely on tips, was cut by even more as many of those who kept it punished me by cutting back on their gratuity. I was devastated.

But I still had customers and I kept going. As it turned out, almost all of those customers eventually came back. At the time Newsday competed with The Long Island Post as the afternoon paper and as their byline said, they had a lot of pictures in every edition. People just liked it better and that helped a lot. Even better, signing up those returning customers allowed me to win prizes for new subscriptions. It almost made up for the lowered tip income (which lasted much longer). And I learned a valuable lesson in elasticity of demand, which I didn’t realize I had learned until I was in college.

I did buy that camera, a Nikkormat FTN by Nikon, and it served me well in the photo club in high school. I used it to take the last photos of my mom before she passed away. I still have it and it still works.

The improbability of my dad’s life

Today would have been my dad’s 93rd birthday. As I was thinking about him I couldn’t help but wonder about how unlikely it was that he became my dad.

When we look back at our lives there’s a good likelihood we can identify some points where things could have been completely different had even a seemingly minor detail been changed. For me and my dad, there are actually a bunch of them, and some weren’t minor at all.

My father’s father was born in what was then called Russia, but it was really the part of Poland that had been taken over by the Russians (the other part was taken over by the Prussians). He had been “drafted” into the Tsar’s army at age 16 but managed to escape (or desert, depending on your point of view). Although he had managed to elude capture, marry and  start a family he never felt secure and in 1912 left his wife and two children to sail to America (including a voyage on the Lusitania to Liverpool). When he had made enough money he paid for my grandmother and two aunts to come as well. There were more children until my dad was born in 1921, the youngest.

Dad didn’t want to be dependent on his parents for anything and joined the US Navy in 1939. Thus he was already serving when the war began in Europe and when the US joined it in 1941. He was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) as an aviation ordnanceman, responsible for loading ammunition and bombs on the various planes.

The Wasp‘s first assignment was supporting England against the Nazis but following Pearl Harbor, the bulk of the US Navy’s offensive forces were redirected to the Pacific. Wasp was assigned to the group that attacked the Japanese on Guadalcanal. During a lull in the fighting Wasp was hit by a torpedo from a lone Japanese submarine and despite a tenacious effort by the crew the captain ordered abandon ship.

Since this was an aircraft carrier, that meant jumping into the ocean from the flight deck, and distance of approximately 50 feet. My dad was ready to jump when he noticed two other sailors near him who were afraid to make the jump. He told them he would jump with them, linked arms and all three went into the water. All three survived, as did almost all of the crew save those lost in the initial explosions and fire.

Following rescue, my dad was assigned to one of the islands that we had captured from the Japanese to build landing facilities. During this period, the island was heavily bombed by Japanese planes. My dad had hid in a fox hole while everything around him burned. When it was finally over, he thought he was the sole survivor but it turned out that everyone else had fled to the sea to escape the explosions and flames.

Once the war ended, Dad was discharged and returned to the NYC area. He took a course in electronics on the GI Bill and prepared to enter the workforce, eventually taking a job with the Bell System’s Western Electric division as an installer for telephone switching offices. He dated, apparently a lot, but hadn’t found anyone he wanted to get serious with.

Somewhere along the line, his niece (who he had grown up with) introduced him to her best friend from high school. They hit it off and were eventually married. After living in a number of apartments in the city, they bought a house on Long Island in a small village called Floral Park.

Things were going well except for one little detail: children. After years of trying the doctors told them my mother had a “twisted uterus” and would never have children. Resigned to this unhappy fate they adopted a dog and settled into what they thought would be a childless life. My mom became pregnant with me in less than a year.

I’m not a statistician but you can probably imagine the odds of my dad living to 92 and my being here to write this are both incredibly low. But life has a way of thumbing its nose and laughing at the odds. All I know is that it gave me 56 years with him and that’s all that matters.