Survival Techniques in the Age of Trump

What to do? Here I am at 80, retired, and obsessed by the daily craziness out of Washington. The only sure way to clear my brain is to take my camera out into nature and take photos obsessively. Then I come home and plow through the up-to-2000 photos, cull them back to 40 or so and then lovingly edit them in Adobe Lightroom. I crop, I lighten shadows, sharpen here and there, and then post one or two. That takes up most of my day! But then suddenly it is 3 or 4 in the afternoon and I either turn on the TV or listen to the news on my phone and try to make sense of the craziness. I am astonished daily that the Republican congressmen and women do not ACT. Just when I used to be reading novels and poetry, I am listening increasingly to horrid news. I need an alternative, I must have a better solution.

I turned to Ezra Klein–first off for his deeper look at the news that I am obsessed by. That deeper look at the healthcare debacle, for example, included Ezra’s fascinating debate with  a young Republican healthcare expert. Wow, a full hour of diving into the weeds. I was fascinated! I learned a lot. Then I slowly turned to other topics–the wonderful new Executive Director of Cook County Jail! Wow! I learned a lot about my own attitudes toward drug addicts, punishment, ostracism, and even child rearing! I was lost with Ezra in the weeks, and I’m now reading a book his guest recommended: The New Jim Crow. Brilliant. Not exactly a Dickens novel, but totally absorbing!

Have I found a new way to survive Trump? Or am I fooling myself?

Back to my birds!


Lifting a Hobie Revolution 11 onto a Thule Hullavator Pro

I wrote this to add to a fellow’s blog. All these big smart men can’t figure out how to load a heavy kayak onto the Hullavator without making those expensive arms go sideways. I did it several times this morning!!! Finally!!!!


Hi fellow Hullavator owners. I am 80 years old (5’3″ 125 lbs) and although it took me many hours, I finally figured out how to get my Hobie Revolution up onto my Prius without help and without sliding it in (and thereby pushing the arms awry).

By putting together several tips from several other owners, including the current blog writer, I decided to try loading it upside down (reduces wind noise andmakes it easier to load) and using a pair of Talic Sea Horses to support both ends of the kayak.

I lifted one end and then the other onto the chairs right next to the lowered and locked arms of the Hullavator, centered as closely as possible to how I wanted it on the roof of my car.

I rolled the Hobie onto both arms by pushing the hull until both gunwhales are pressed firmly against the Hullavator saddle.

Then I tie it down and lift it up. Both of these tasks, even I can do without too much effort. I duck my head under and use my shoulders to start it and then it lifts magically by itself (almost).

Once all is in place I tie the front to the underside of my car and off I go.


Follow-up on Walking Desk and a Moment of Geek

In my last post, i mentioned a fitbit addiction which led me to set up a walking desk. (Yes, I must admit, I’m walking as I write). It works splendidly, and my step count has reached new highs. I feel good too, not tired at all. I did iron out a few wrinkles that I think might be helpful to others. Here is my new configuration:

Notice that I now have two monitors and two computers, one below the left monitor, my work system, and one on the right-hand file cabinet, my personal and photography system. I have, however, one keyboard and one mouse. I can switch between the two computers by just moving the mouse from one screen to the other. I can be editing a photo on the right screen and slide the mouse over to the left screen to write a work instant message. Nice!

I put a piece of free software on each computer. It’s called Synergy, and now that I’ve set it up properly, it works like a charm. I plan to donate to the fellow who created it as an open source program that anyone can use for free. What a guy!

You have to set up the software on both computers and set up a local server on the computer with the mouse and keyboard you want to use. You set up the client on the other computer. This video will help.

I am a happy camper/geek. :-) If this configuration interests you, let me know.

Zoom Wins over Prime and My New Walking Desk

The CPS loan lens (400 5.6 no IS) arrived in the evening on a Wed and had to be back by the following Monday. I was a tad upset in that I could try it out for about 5 minutes and then pray that UPS ground (which cost a bit less then a brand new lens –yes,I am kidding but just a little) would get it back on time. Not a good deal. So I called CPS and complained and they let me send it back immediately with a free shipping label. So much for that experiment. I had already decided to keep the zoom anyway. A good thing.

I am writing this at my walking desk. Because I am a fitbit fanatic, I want to make use of my computer time for getting more steps. I wanted to try a cheap way, so I followed this woman’s idea. Here is my version. I love it!  I have already managed to edit the pictures I took yesterday. So that works. Tomorrow I’ll see how it is to actually work for Autodesk while walking.

Is the Canon 400 5.6 (no IS) better than the Canon 100-400 (with IS)? October Quandary . . .

After repairing my Canon 100-400 zoom lens to the tune of $300, I decided to take another look at the prime lens that my pal Don Moseman uses. Impulsively I borrowed a copy of the 400 prime from Canon Professional Services (CPS) and it will arrive next Tues. In the meantime, however, I took my repaired  zoom lens on a kayak ride to see how the autofocus worked, but also to pay close attention to how much I actually zoom. Well, I zoom a lot! I often have to bring it in from 400 mm to 200 or even 100 to properly frame a shot and not just get an eyeball instead of a whole bird. 

Ok, so when the 400 arrives, I’ll see how much sharper or lighter (less than half a pound) it really is. Here is my monster on the left and the one I am borrowing on the right. I have a feeling that I’ll stick with my (now even more expensive) zoom lens.


October 21 About Canon Camera and Lens Autofocus and the Critters at Elkhorn Slough

After Brazil and Montana and many hours of struggling to get sharp photos from my Canon 7D and Canon 100-400 mm lens, I sent both to Canon for checkups. Both had problems: something loose in the camera focus mechanism and a complete chassis replacement on the lens. Not sure what it all meant, but I was lucky to get ANY in-focus shots it would appear. I used Canon Professional Services so that I could get a speedy turnaround. It worked. Sent on a Friday and back again on the following friday.

Went off to Elkhorn Slough on Sunday to make sure the focus was working.

I think all is well. Thank goodness–$400! Now I have a 6-month warranty.  What we did not realize was that it was day one for hunting season.  BANG BANG!!! So much for our peaceful kayak ride.

Back home in Marin and back to Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds

Clear air, warm sunny day, and a lovely Merlin in a tree . . .

At first I thought it was a Prairie Falcon–another small hawk, but it doesn’t have the Kestrel-like stripes. Took the shot with my Canon hs 50 sx, as my Big Mama (Canon 7D plus 100-400 zoom lens) is being cleaned and adjusted. What a relief not to carry all that weight. But not so wonderful when viewing the feather detail an 100% magnification. Trade-offs, always trade-offs with cameras.

I tell myself it’s good exercise to carry and lift 5 plus lbs over and over during a 2 hour walk. Yes. And I do like the tiny hs 50. A compromise would be the Sony Nex-7 if it only had a long lens. Trade-off again.

I will wait until someone designs the perfect light-weight camera that does everything.

Dream on.


October on Flathead Lake in Montana

 Calm and cold, Flathead Lake Montana in the early morning

Calm and cold, Flathead Lake Montana in the early morning

I’ve spent a lot of time here in Montana thinking about Brazil, and the trip I took there in August. I’ve gone through my pictures hundreds of times, posted them in my gallery, and I still I see these eyes staring at me.

 Jaguar, taken from a boat on the Cuiaba River, Pantanal, Brazil.

Jaguar, taken from a boat on the Cuiaba River, Pantanal, Brazil.