Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How My Internet Works

One of the computer comebacks that has always stuck in my head was, "They call them personal computers for a reason." I suspect younger people can move from machine to machine with ease. Even looking at my wife's computer (supposedly identical to mine) confuses me. (How does she see those little, tiny, program icons in the dock?)

Anyway, I recently had an internet experience that only an older person can have -- the sheer wonder of how far we've come. I was wasting time on Flickr (as usual) and came across this picture.

Old Man of Storr

I had no idea where it was so I typed in into Google Maps.

Google Maps: Old Man of Storr

I love Google Maps. I find all sorts of interesting places just by scouting for photo locations on it. Between it and Flickr, I can waste hours. And in Twitter and Facebook and it's a wonder anybody gets anything done. But I digress. While I was checking out the Old Man of Storr on Google Maps, I decided to search for a hotel nearby. You never know, I might actually get there one day. That's when I found this place.

Glenview Hotel and Skye Pie cafe

I'd go there for the food alone. I think savory (sorry) savoury pies are one of the United Kingdom's best-kept secrets. I have no idea why you can't buy them on every street corner in America. I mean, look at this menu. Beef & Gravy in a pie crust? How can anybody resist that? Crab & Cheese? Yes please.

Best of all, when I showed it to our regular traveling companions, I got back, "I told you I wanted to go to the Isle of Skye." That increases the chances that I might actually get to go by at least 90%. And to think, it all started with a picture from some guy I don't even know, halfway around the world. And now, thanks to the internet, it will probably be booked solid. And some inn keeper in Scotland will be writing a blog saying, "It all started with some guy in a cowboy hat from Georgia. Next thing you know we're overrun with "rednecks" wanting savoury pies".

Don Brown
August 26, 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015

Obama's Iran Deal Will Destroy the World

Catchy headline right? All my normal readers know I'm a big Obama supporter and the rest of you will just have to read along to figure out what I'm talking about. Once again, I've been doing yard work, listening to podcasts and thinking. It seems like it's becoming a habit.

This time, I was listening to Voice of America's "Encounter" -- just because I'm strange like that. You have to listen real close when the program starts, otherwise you don't know which side to root for and it's half the program before you can figure out which guest is the hired gun from the Heritage Foundation (et al.).

Anyway, I don't even remember which episode it was (I'm catching up on six weeks worth) but two guys were going on about when it's best to go to war with Iran (that's really what the argument is about) -- now or later. I choose "never" but what do I know? (One thought too's interesting, listening to a "timely" news program six weeks late. An interesting perspective that you should try sometime.) That's when it hit me. This Iranian "agreement" will destroy the world. But the Right Wing is too ideologically blinded to recognize the argument. Here you go guys (because I know you're reading.)

Oil is currently $42 a barrel. Cheap, cheap, cheap. Saudi Arabia opened the tap and has kept it open. I don't know if it was to frak the US frakers, to cripple Russia or for some other purpose ("market share", yeah right) but whatever the reason, it has driven the price of oil down. And if the Iranians come out from under their sanctions, you know they'll be pumping. Oil will become cheaper. And cheaper. And the world will use more and more of it, warming up the planet and WE WILL ALL DIE! (It's okay, right wingers. You can click on the link. It's a John Bolton-approved ad.)

I wondered why no one on the pro-Israeli-right-wing side had made this argument and (of course) 2 seconds later it hit me -- they can't. I mean, you can't claim that Global Warming is a hoax and then claim it's going to destroy the world (or at least the human-inhabitable climate). Nope, it's far saner to provoke a war that can go nuclear and destroy the world that way.

In other news, Al Gore's guys are thinking (out load) that he should run for President. If I was him, I'd do it just so I could say "I Told You So". But y'all know how I like saying that.

If you've made it this far, go listen to someone that has a clue about foreign affairs: Fareed Zakaria. See what he has to say. (Evidently, embedding videos is no longer an option.)

Don Brown
August 14, 2015

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Thinking in the Yard

I was doing some yard work and -- as is my wont -- listening to podcasts. This one from the RSA inspired some bigger thoughts.

Designing a World Where People Come First

It starts out with your typical civilian-aviation story (it's irrelevant to my thoughts) and quickly heads into an odd blend of liberal/conservative thought on "reimagining" (the whole talk is full of buzz words) schools. It occurred to me (again) that we really do become our professions. Our work defines us in ways I don't think many young people are prepared for. As this guy went joyfully from topic to topic he got virtually everything wrong -- from a controller's view of the world.

(Pardon the lack of quotes. If I don't get this done in a hurry I won't get it done.)

Entrepreneurs -- We don't need any entrepreneurs in Air Traffic Control. Okay, that's not quite right. We do need to have experimentation. We just don't need for it to happen on the floor of the control room. The FAA's use of simulators was abysmal in my day. Has it improved? Is anybody actually using them to experiment? Humans being humans, don't encourage experimenting in the general controller population. But it does need to happen somewhere. As long as it is somewhere safe.

Non-Standardization -- This guy is basically talking mass experimentation (and local control) of schooling. It would be totally and utterly wrong for air traffic control. Does anybody talk about continuity of service anymore? Are you thinking about it? A pilot can talk to a controller in south Georgia for breakfast and be talking to a controller that lives in Brooklyn before lunch. He shouldn't have to adjust to "how New York does it" from the way it's done in Albany, Georgia. ATC should be done the same way in Albany -- whether the one in Georgia or the one in New York. Ideally, a pilot shouldn't have to adjust his "hearing" to follow ATC instructions. That is "ideally" in terms of safety. We might not ever solve that one but it doesn't mean we should give up trying. Anybody can work on speaking carefully and distinctly -- and every controller should.

"Parents understand what makes a good school." That's like saying pilots understand what makes a good air traffic control system. And to all the pilots (and parents) nodding their heads...that sounds like controllers know what makes a good airplane. We don't. Understanding pilot's needs and the demands that their profession imposes on them is important. The ATC system is here to get airplanes (and their passengers) where they need to go. Safely. We might all recognize good outcomes in all these areas but that doesn't mean we can design a system to produce those outcomes.

I encourage you to think some big thoughts about your profession. Listen to something totally out of your sphere and see if the ideas might work in your field. Or not. However you do it, set aside some time to think. Find the others in your profession that are also thinking. There won't be enough of them, but there will be some. Those are the people you want to meet.

Don Brown
August 8, 2015

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Little America

When I first drove into the Great State of Maine, I stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts shop in some town I don't remember. The guy in front of me had a beard about 6 inches long. The next guy to walk in behind me had a beard about 12 inches long. I was sort of taken aback. I come from down South, in a place so rural that we joke that camouflage is a fashion statement. People here actually know the difference between ™Realtree and ™Mossy Oak. Guys with "that look" are a dime a dozen down here and they're usually carrying a gun. I just didn't expect it up North. Walking out the door, I whispered to my wife, "I think we've stumbled on Duck Dynasty North."

I thought about this -- and other things I saw -- throughout my drive to Maine and back. In short, America looks beat up. We look run down. It's not about Civil-War-style whiskers. If that's the look you want, have at it. It's about what is under it. The unkempt clothes. The paunchy bodies. The slovenly habits. It's the beautiful, cute and wonderful houses I saw that needed a coat of paint. The yard needs mowing, the bushes trimmed, the garden tended and the front porch mended.

There were exceptions to this unruly rule. After driving through the bone-rattling despair of Troy, New York, we entered the beautiful town of Bennington, Vermont and went out for dinner. It wasn't a fancy dinner -- pizza and beer -- but it was a memorable one. Nice, friendly people in a very local joint (Ramuntos Pizza). Young people were playing corn hole (tailgate toss) in the side yard and -- I swear -- kids were riding bicycles down the sidewalks of Main Street. It was almost perfect. Close enough that you tried not to notice a couple of empty storefronts smudging the Norman Rockwell painting. And that the magic faded away to modern Americana just a block or two off of Main Street.

©Don Brown 2015

There were the Big Money exceptions of course. Shore Drive in Cape Elizabeth, Maine is doing just fine, thank-you-very-much. No problems with the lawns or painting the houses there. The residents can hire all the help they need. That isn't the problem in America. It's the people that don't have the time and wherewithal to take care of their homes -- should they be lucky enough to even own one. (Or pay the mortgage on one.) It's the people that are piecing together two and three jobs trying to make a full-time living. The families where living on a single income is no longer even a dream. They have no benefits, no retirement and -- seemingly -- no future. Or maybe, it's just that they have no hope.

America can do better. We can still do Big Things. I drove across the Tappan Zee Bridge on the way back home. Thankfully, we are building a new one before (hopefully) the old one falls down. It's a multi-billion dollar project. You can create a lot of jobs for a billion dollars. You can create a lot of full-time, union-wage jobs with good benefits if you put your mind and politics to it.

©Don Brown 2015

But it's not the big things that were bugging me on this trip. It was the little things. The important little things. Maybe it was because I heard the most interesting story on This American Life while I was waiting for the Sun to rise on the Blue Ridge Parkway one morning. It's a story about something that seems so small. It's so small I'm not sure I know how to name it. But I have the feeling that we need more of it. Gumption? Resilience? Standards? Hope? I don't know. Maybe I'm just getting old and sappy. But this story makes our current troubles seem trivial. It shows that if we have even the tiniest of things -- the right things -- to cling to, just what the human spirit is capable of. Have a listen. Stick with it until the end.

This American Life -- Episode 559 -- Act One

Don Brown
August 4, 2015

Monday, June 01, 2015

Can I Join the Rodeo?

I'm thinking of running away and joining the circus...I mean rodeo. Here I am -- almost 9 years into retirement and I still haven't moved to the mountains. It's funny how it all works out. I understand ERAM is up and running at ZTL (I might have to go see that), I've quit smoking, lost 65 lbs. and can do things (like hiking up a mountain) that I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to do again.

It's a good life I lead, even if I'm not living in the mountains. I want this life for you too. Make your union strong. A-number-1 on the list ought to be getting controllers (and all Federal employees) back on a regular pension. It is absolutely vital that government once again becomes the "check" that balances the power of Big Business. Big Business won't create decent jobs so Government should. It is just as vital that a strong electorate keeps both -- Government and Big Business in check. Work on that will you? It's your future. Take charge of it. Unions, Guilds, Associations -- call them what you will -- are a crucial piece of the puzzle.

Me? I'll help. I'll share what I know. But it takes youth to change the world. It takes fire, energy and idealism. Me? I just want to move to the mountains and take pictures. They have rodeo in the mountains. I know they do.

Don Brown
June 1, 2015

Monday, May 04, 2015

Cloudland Canyon -- East Rim

Yes, I'm still working on the Photography Park project.  If you can call going to pretty parks and taking pictures working.

I say again: Retirement is a wonderful thing.  Get ready for it.

Don Brown
May 4, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Beast

I had to log into the blog to fix a post (Blogger has let me bust most of the links to my pictures) so I figured I put something up while I'm logged in.  I wrote this (on Twitter) about a week ago and it didn't get a single comment.  I should probably take that as a sign, but I'm stubborn.

Oh well.  Might as well see how the picture thingy works now.

If you can read a Twitter conversation (personally, they make me a little nuts), it's been an interesting day.  Well, for an old, retired guy.

Did you know this blog -- Get the Flick -- has 2,351 posts?  Me either.  And I'm still amazed when one of them becomes relevant again, after all these years

Don Brown
April 20, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Who's Your Lobby(ist)?

Now, before we get started, let me make two things perfectly clear:

I like ranchers just fine. I live in the country, wear a cowboy hat and drive a pickup truck.

I love beef. It's what's for dinner. Every night if I get a say.

Having said that, you should have a listen to this podcast on Southeast AgNet. It's a pain to get to (for me) so I'm not going to bother trying to quote it (I listen to these things on my phone). But if you listen, you'll hear the beef industry lobbyist whine about the weight limitations the Department of Transportation has placed on cattle trucks and the rest requirement it has placed on drivers of said trucks. They won an exemption last year from the rest requirement for drivers and they need ranchers to call their Congressmen and win them another exemption from the rules this year.

Those poor cows (headed for slaughter) might get hot sitting in the sunshine while their driver is forced (forced mind you) to take a silly nap for 30 minutes before he can continue driving an 80,000+ (+++???) pound truck down the highway that you and I share. We want our cows to be healthy don't-cha-know. Damn gov'ment don't know nothin'.

You can trust me, it was as silly as I'm trying to make it sound. But when you're a cattleman trying to make a living and the guy in your earphone sounds like he's on your side, I bet you're a little more sympathetic to the argument. You might even call your Congressman.

Make no mistake about it, cattle country is Republican country. So it's sort of ironic to hear that they want to bust up the interstates with even heavier trucks. In that Republicans don't believe in infrastructure spending. Especially the kind that's called stimulus. It is not at all ironic to hear them rail against a government-required rest period for a worker. But you have to ask yourself, how did anyone ever get a government-required rest period put into regulations?

Sleepy Truckers Linked to Many Deaths

(Totally unplanned. That article was written by our old friend Matthew Wald who covered aviation for the NYTimes when I was working.)

I tell non-union people this all the time -- every Big Business out there has lawyers and lobbyists fighting for them. Who is fighting for you? You can't afford either one. But you and hundreds of your buddies joined together can. Do you understand why Big Business doesn't want you to do that?

And I give ordinary citizens the same message: Who is your lobbyist? It's supposed to be your Congressman. Here's a question: How much do you pay your lobbyist? How much do you reckon the beef industry pays theirs? Any questions?

Oh well, here comes the sun so I have to run. Give yourself a gold star if at any point in time you were reading this and wondering just how far you'd have to haul a bunch of cows so that you would need a nap. I have cows all around me. You probably do too. At least within a couple of hours of you. How we are raising cows might be the root problem. Just a thought.

Don Brown
March 18, 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

Lies Are Easier To Tell

For God's sake, read this testimony given to the United States Senate Committee on the Budget by Professor Mark Blyth. You remember Professor Blyth. I told you about him almost two years ago. Try to grasp what he is saying. I know it isn't that easy. But I also know that if I can understand it, you can too.

But most importantly, anytime you hear anybody say:

"It is irresponsible and immoral to kick the can down the road.
We cannot saddle our grandchildren with a crushing burden of debt.
We need a budget that is painful to all (today) in order to protect future generations.
Future generations are going to have an inferior standard of living because of our fiscally irresponsible behavior."

You can send this this link: Statement of Mark Blyth, Eastman Professor of Political Economy, The Watson Institute for International Studies and Brown University, as a response.

Lies are easier to tell than the truth. The truth is usually more complicated and harder to hear than a lie. But it's worth telling.

"Third, unlike households, the United States issues its own cash, owes itself money, borrows other people’s savings with its own paper, and brings new people into the household so that it can tax them across the next several generations. National governments can do all that, families and firms cannot and US states cannot. And no one can do that better than the United States national government since its debt is backed up by the world’s most dynamic economy, 14 aircraft carriers, and positive intergenerational capacity to tax. Let me unpack this."

If your brain just isn't wired for the economic stuff, then try the story Professor Blyth tells on the personal level.

"I was born in 1967 in a working class family on the East Coast of Scotland. My mother died when I was three weeks old and I was given up to my paternal grandmother for my care. Our income was her state retirement pension (an entitlement). I went to school (paid by taxes) and ate free meals at school (an entitlement). I went to university for free (an entitlement) and now I am a professor at an Ivy League school. As such, I will pay more in taxes over my lifetime to the US government at a much higher rate, and for longer, than I would have ever done if these entitlements had not been there. They made me what I am today and I am a fiscal net positive long asset.

So when people say “we cannot saddle our grandchildren with a crushing burden of debt,” or that “we need a budget that is painful to all (today) in order to protect future generations,” they are really saying “lets shrink the economy today so that the parents of today earn less money and pay more for services. That will make sure that their grandchildren grow up poorer, with a smaller economy, and a worse education.” Quite how that is supposed to keep America great going forward is a mystery to me (unless it’s the magic of tax cuts themselves, but they keep failing to show up too)."

Read. Share. Engage. Send it to your Congressional Representatives.

Don Brown
March 13, 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Searching for Sponsors

This is a picture of me this morning, after completing my usual 3-mile walk. As you can see, it's raining. What you can't see is that it's 32.1ºF. I actually have a plan -- I have a photo in mind that will require hiking in the rain -- in case you think I'm nuts for walking in the close-to-freezing rain. Of course, I'd be walking in it anyway -- even without a plan -- so maybe I am nuts.

Anyway, for anyone that still checks on this blog, I'm alive and well and still enjoying retirement. Most of my "work" time is spent on the Photography Park project. The rest of the time I'm "working" on doing exactly what I want to do. At the risk of repeating myself, I highly recommend retirement. Make sure yours is a good one.

My colleague on the Photography Park project wanted me to give him some ideas about possible sponsors. We all know how I avoid commercialism so this is a struggle for me. But, I recognize that a project of this magnitude will take money. A lot of money. And it will have to come from somewhere. We could do the Rockefeller/Acadia thing -- any billionaire could take care of the project alone. A single corporate sponsor could do it too. I hear Apple is doing really well these days. But I figure it will be a combination of efforts like most projects. A little money here, a little money there. So, let's jump in.

In order to commit outdoor photography, you have to get outdoors. And you have to stay outdoors. Usually at sunrise and sunset. Let's see what we have so far. I drove my 2000 Chevy Silverado to the lake this morning. It could have been a 2015 Toyota or Land Rover. My truck has a Leer camper shell on it. You wouldn't believe how much junk (props, tools, rafts) I haul around in the bed. Don't tell anybody but I have a pair of Leatherman pruners I carry around on occasion to cut off a small limb that might be ruining my picture. Okay, I've got a vehicle, camper top and pruners. (Admit it, you didn't think about pruner manufacturers as a sponsor for outdoor photography.)

I arrived at my usual photography location this morning at my usual time -- one hour before sunrise. Cue the flashlight sponsors. I have this cool piece of swag from Browning I got when I bought the Leer camper top (Browning Edition) for the truck. It's a rechargable flashlight with a car charger. It still works after 15 years. That's what I call a nice piece of swag. (By the way, I still use the fleece vest Browning gave away with the camper top too.) But back to the flashlights. My favorite one is a giveaway my wife bought for her charity organization. It's one of those little keychain LED flashlights. In that she had a lot of them, I keep one in the pocket of every outdoor jacket I own. Another piece of swag might be the best flashlight yet. It's a ink pen with a small LED flashlight built into the end. It's perfect for shining on the camera in the dark when I'm trying to find a seldom-used button. It's bright enough to see by but doesn't blast away your night vision. Hmmm, three freebies. Not many sponsors there. But I do have an Energizer headlamp in the truck. I just haven't gotten around to testing it yet.

I think I mentioned it was cold this morning. There has to be a wealth of sponsors there. I was wearing FoxRiver sock liners with Wigwam Ultimax socks. Today's thermals were from Duofold. I have more long underwear than is seemly for a Southerner. I've got silkies from GearGuide, Capilene from Patagonia and even a pair of expedition-weight thermals from somebody-or-other. (REI?) What can I say? I like winter in the South. My daily working uniform always includes Propper BDU pants (military-type cargo pants) and a t-shirt; short sleeve in the summer and long sleeve in winter. Yes, I am aware of the dangers of cotton in the cold. I'm not headed for the backcountry, I live in the South and I need a shirt pocket for glasses and a flashlight pen. (Hmmm, eye glasses sponsor for photography. I almost missed that one.) Believe it or not, on most days, I wear an old zip-up hoodie from Old Navy. I don't know how I wound up with an Old Navy anything but I've had it long enough that all the edges are frayed. It has to get seriously cold (teens) before I'll consider wearing a true winter coat. Because when it comes to staying warm, really, it's all about that base (layer). (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Staying dry is another thing. That's an L.L. Bean rain outfit I was wearing this morning. I keep it in my camera bag (I use LowePro bags) for the obvious reason but also because it blocks the wind and provides warmth. It's become one of my favorite pieces of gear (despite the problematic zippers.) Today's hiking boots are from Irish Setter. So far I've worn out a pair of L. L. Bean's, Wolverine's and Merrill's. I have a pair of Danner's already for the summer. I'm hoping they will be "the one". I don't really like trying new stuff but I wear out a pair of boots every 6 months walking on asphalt and there seems to be some law that says you can't make an affordable, size-14 (sometimes 15) walking boot.

I guess by now you've noticed the fingerless wool gloves. When all else fails, wool works. I've been researching this problem for the last few weeks: When you're walking in the cold rain, there doesn't seem to be a good solution for gloves. I normally wear a pair of LowePro photographer's gloves but they're knit gloves (with little nubs for gripping) and they aren't water (or wind) proof. If you stick your hands in the pockets of the rain suit, water drips down your sleeves into the pockets and the next thing you know, you're getting wet. (Yes, that cotton t-shirt does act like a wick and draws water into places you'd rather not get wet.)

I decided to put wool to the test today and just let it get wet. In the picture you'll see I'm carrying a stick (no sponsors for a dog-deterrent-dirt-scratching-exercise stick) I like to swing around to keep my arms moving while I walk. Keep in mind, I've had these wool gloves for ages. The gloves are soaked. They're so soaked I could literally wring water out of them. My fingertips aren't protected in any way and I'm swinging this stick around for an hour or two in the 32º weather. I was never uncomfortable. I was shocked at how warm my hands stayed. Here's why I was shocked.

As soon as I was finished walking, I decided to make this picture. That involves getting a wet, metal tripod set up with an umbrella attached and putting a metal camera on top of it, fiddling around with the switches and taking the picture(s). Everything is fine still. But while the camera is out, I figured I'd try to get a decent picture or two. In 10 minutes, my fingers that operate the camera are numb. That's what I am used to. Evidently, bare metal has the ability to suck the warmth out of your fingers beyond that of wood, water and cold air. Which makes me very, very interested in this product:

SealSkinz Ultra Grip Gloves

As you can see (if you click on the link), these gloves are made in the United Kingdom (where they know a few things about being cold and wet). If they really have cracked the code and have made a waterproof, windproof, stretch-knit glove that's thin enough to operate a camera with them on, I'll buy a pair. Even if they are 50 bucks (or so). And I bet a bunch of other photographers would too. Until then, I'll keep carrying around a couple of packs of HotHands.

Well, that should cover enough sponsor opportunities for today. We'll probably save the actual camera gear advice for the Photography Park's web site. (Coming Soon!) I suspect I'll still blog here from time. I might even tell you about the bluetooth headset I'm listening to while I took this picture, the iPhone I'm using, the ap I use for podcasts and even the playlist I was listening to this morning. (One of which was MarketPlace with this union story.) Y'all be careful out there.

Don Brown
February 24, 2015

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Photography Park Project Begun

Just as an update, I have begun my photography park project. The web site will be up shortly. I was in downtown Atlanta twice last week, learning about non-profit organizations, how to find grants and write proposals. The Twitter account is up. As is the Flickr account. I'm still trying to puzzle out how I'm going to arrange all the pieces and whether or not I have to come up with yet another email address. Or two. I've got ThePhotographyPark at gmail and at yahoo but I hope to have a single address at our own domain name so don't worry about updating your address book just yet.

If any of you care to "follow" us on Flickr or Twitter, your support would be most welcome. But more than anything, just mention the idea to your photographer friends at the next cocktail party. I'm sure this is going to be a years-long project so we have time for word-of-mouth to work its magic.

I still hesitate to close the door on this blog. Perhaps I should. But for now I won't. I had a friend, just last night, trying to lure me back into the mix by telling me what the Operational Error rate was these days. I admit, I was sorely tempted, but I've resisted and here I am writing about a photography park. And I was out this morning, taking ugly pictures to make my point.

I'm searching for a way to make people understand that pictures like this are never taken by serious photographers (both amateur and professional). It's a perfectly beautiful moment, but with the utility wires and street lights, most photographers (including me) would never pull the camera out of the bag. There's only so much you can fix with Photoshop. I want a place where you can capture these moments. The fact that it would generate a lot of economic activity (I believe) just makes it easier for me to sell the idea. (If you want to get an idea about the economic side, take a look the the "favorites" I'm collecting on Flickr. Add up the cost of the photography equipment you see in each picture and see if you think this is a demographic worth pursuing.)

Y'all be careful out there.

Don Brown
January 17, 2015