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January 14th, 2023

Loving My Film Cameras…Not Simple Nostalgia

I was out and about with the Hasselblad over at that new rowhouse development nearby that’s been a muse ever since they started building it. I looked outside and checked the sky and it was that good mix of puffy clouds and blue sky that works well with a red filter and my photographic style. I wanted to finish a roll and ended up finishing two. It was more than the creative urge motivating me though. I’d just spent some out of budget money on a previously owned medium format camera of a type I’d own previously and sold perhaps recklessly. And that came about because of a really bad experience with that Canon R mirrorless digital camera I briefly owned that I’m still chewing on all this time later, after I traded it in for a full frame 6D and several good primes. Yes it was that painful.

Supposedly those mirrorless cameras are the latest and greatest but the fact was that camera kept getting in my way. It kept overriding my settings on ISO and shutter speed. I kept having to fumble with every setting on just about every shoot and it kept jolting me out of my zone. One problem was the control set of the R was just different enough from the Canon EOS digitals I own and have had previously that I was constantly getting confused. Always fumbling with the settings when I wanted most to be paying attention to what I was looking at was irritating, but I figured I’d eventually learn how to adjust the settings on the fly. Then, and quickly, something else began happening regularly that made me angry at the camera. That has never happened to me before.

It kept refusing to take the shot when I pressed the button.

I would press the shutter release and nothing happened. So I’d press it harder and still nothing happened. Cursing soon followed.

Many months later, having traded that camera in for one I could work with, I began thinking that part of the problem I was having is these new mirrorless cameras don’t simply meter the light, they analyse the scene and set the exposure accordingly before you even touch the shutter release. Which they can now because they’re not using one or more CDS cells looking at the light coming in from the lens. There is no mirror, so when the camera is turned on the detector is always seeing what you’re pointing the camera at. What you are seeing in the viewfinder is a computer generated image from the signal coming off the detector.

But there have to be many built-in assumptions going on in those real time analysis and those may not always work for every photographer and every scene. Supposedly there are ways of advising the onboard computer as to how to take the shots they way you want them taken, but those I have seen are cumbersome to use while you are working and trying to stay tuned into what you are seeing. Worse, I began to discover that even when going to an entirely manual mode, that is, I set the ISO, aperture and shutter speed, the camera would still insist that it knew better and would randomly refuse to take a shot when I hit the shutter release.

I think some of the problem there is I am almost always shooting into the sun. That’s part of my style. I don’t always do that, but I do it lots. That can be tricky but it often gets me the emotional feel that I am looking for in a scene. This however goes against the grain of most basic photography courses which will tell you to shoot with the sun at your back. And it’s true that you can almost never go wrong that way if the camera has any halfway decent metering system. My hunch is a lot of digital camera scene analysis computers are set up to expect that. Yes you can choose different modes…landscape, portrait, indoors, and so on…but the rule of thumb is the light is shining on the scene, whatever it is, from behind you, and most of the time I am shooting into the light. This may be confusing whatever algorithms are employed by the camera’s software to analyse a scene.

But I have done this since I was a teenager and I know how to work it. What I’ve always loved about my Canon film cameras is that 12 percent gray rectangle in the middle of the viewfinder is actually a beam splitter and a portion of the light hitting it is being deflected to the light meter. It’s precise in a way center weighted metering just isn’t and I need that extra precision when I’m shooting into the sun. I can sweep that 12 percent rectangle across a region and get an average of it, whereas a spot meter makes me take a lot of separate readings which would slow me down. I can find my middle grays and figure the extent of the range of highs to darks and decide where to set my aperture and shutter speed. Typically I always aim for the fastest speed I can since I almost never use a tripod.

The Canon digital SLRs I’ve had tell me what they’re focusing on but what they are metering has always seemed a bit fuzzy to me. The meters are analysing the scene inside the viewfinder, since until the mirror flops up the detector can’t see anything. I don’t actually know what it is they’re judging it by. But those cameras have a meter and hold function I quickly began using. Basically I would decide on a place to focus and meter, point the camera at it and just press lightly on the shutter release. The camera would focus and meter and I could hold that and re-compose the shot. Fine. Whatever. It worked. I was content.

But the R seemed to just throw all that away. Maybe if I’d studied the manual longer I would have got it. But every avenue I could glean from the manual seemed cumbersome…and just plain weird. I was told in one passage to use the touchscreen on the back to specify where to focus and meter, but that meant I’d have to take my eye away from the viewfinder while working which I deeply dislike. But never mind because I ended up having to turn off the touchscreen (there was a setting) because my nose was always hitting it and causing the camera to suddenly do something I didn’t want. There was a joystick like control on the back that supposedly allowed you to set a spot to focus and meter on, but it just seemed awkward and I never tried it.

The camera was a bundle of distractions. I would set the effective ISO to something and discover sometime later the camera had set it elsewhere. There seemed no way to force the camera to use the fastest possible shutter speed in any semi-auto mode other than aperture priority and use the widest aperture possible all the time. But even then the camera would occasionally balk.

And ultimately it was the nothing happening when I pressed the shutter release that really Really ticked me off. I will endure a lot of struggle to learn new things in the name of progress and personal growth, but by god when I press the shutter release all the way you take the damn shot! If I got it wrong I’ll deal with that. But I press the shutter release, you take the damn shot!

As I said, and obviously, I am still chewing on it. I really wanted to like that camera. The new electronic viewfinders are amazing. But if anything, the experience with the R made me so much closer to my old mechanical film cameras. And…so very happy to see film having a renaissance among young and old alike. Even if it means the good equipment is becoming scarce and expensive.

So…this came in the mail today…

I had one of these for years but ended up selling it to KEH when I needed some spare cash and concluded that since I had the Hasselblad I wouldn’t need it. By then I had the metering prism viewfinder for the Hasselblad which made working with it faster. And with it I found working with the Hasselblad much more like working with any of my 35mm film SLRs. The Mamiya has the typical TLR waist level viewfinder which reverses left and right and that made it hard for me to judge a scene. And no through the lens metering. You can get an eye level metering prism viewfinder that corrects right/left but it seems awkward to hold the camera that way. And I have become accustomed to using a handheld with the Leica, and I think I can work with that backwards left/right thing now. 

And having only one good medium format camera in an age when getting them repaired might be hard, was something I decided was not worth the risk. So I bought another C330. I really like these for their solid heavy duty build and that you could swap out lenses. I don’t think there is another twin lens reflex you can do that on. A 55mm wide angle pair came just today and a correct lens hood for the taking lens is coming soon. I still have the red and orange filters for its lenses.

And when I press the shutter release, it takes the shot. The only reason the Hasselblad won’t is if I’m past the last shot on the roll or I still have the dark slide in. That’s completely reasonable.

I’ll take it for a drive when the weather and the sky look good.

by Bruce | Link | React!

September 20th, 2022

Fem Boys Need Representation Too

I wouldn’t exactly say I’m fem, but I’m sure not butch either. That’s okay…

I don’t qualify as androgynous because I’m not pretty enough, but I am definitely not lumberjack material either. I got static nearly all my post puberty life for being more interested in art than sports, for wearing my hair long (hey hippy are you a boy or a girl…HAHAHAHAHA), for being a scrawny little dweeb and not wanting to fight anyone. And it’s taken me decades to finally give myself permission to wear the turquoise jewelry I love, dress a little better, wear more color, and not care how masculine or feminine I appear. But that static can come at you from all directions.

The fact is there are subsets of the gay family that really take a disliking to guys who aren’t anything less than 100 percent manly beefcake. I suppose that’s where their libido goes, which is fine, but do they have to bust on the androgynous guys for being…well…beautiful. I have a very picky libido, and it tends to alert on beautiful androgynous longhaired guys…which unsurprisingly tend to be the subjects of my sexy drawings. One day I showed this sketch to one of my (former) gay friends…

…who immediately snarked that he was one estrogen shot shy of a job at Hooters. Okay…fine…his libido doesn’t go there. Mine does. I don’t object to your fantasy material, kindly don’t object to mine. But I think there is an element of misogyny in this too that needs to be looked at. You’re either a Real Man, or you’re a pussy. A disappointing number of gay males fall for this…trap.

Believe me, I know how it is to be on the receiving end of that static. I know how it eats at you inside, how it makes you stifle yourself. And then how for years how you can find yourself struggling to cut your way out of that blanket of self censorship and just be Yourself, be the person you are. And I’m not really all that fem. Just not lumberjack material. But it’s been hard.

And it seems this mid-term election year, that Not Manly Enough males, and especially transgender kids and adults are in the crosshairs from the usual culture warriors who use hate to harvest votes. So it’s good that they get representation in the popular culture now, more than ever. Especially trans kids, who seem especially vulnerable in the red states now. And especially in any subset of American pop culture where they’re routinely denigrated. Like in video games for instance. I get that. And I approve. Mostly.

But fem and trans are not the same things. This is why you support trans kids with things like counseling specific to their needs, and puberty blockers if that’s necessary, and trans adults with necessary drugs and surgeries, so they’re not always feeling like they’re in the wrong body. But you support little fem boys by letting them wear their dresses if they want, and put on makeup if they want, or however they need to be, just as girlish as they want to be.

I would expect that the Venn Diagram of Androgynous

…and transgender…

…probably has a lot of overlap, as the symbols for each of them suggest. But they are not the same things. And it’s offensive to suggest they are. And fem boys, whether plain faced  (like me) boys next door or beautiful androgynous boys, get enough static from excessively testosteroned males and their Karens. They don’t need it from people who ought to be their natural allies. 

Where I’m going with all this: If there is any hill not worth dying on, it’s arguments about the pronouns of characters in video games. Ultimately it strikes me a lot like arguing about the race of mermaids in Disney movies. So I’ll just put this out here: Fem Boys Need Representation Too.

Please don’t take it from them. And from all of us, even those of us who don’t quite qualify as fem, Because we need to know we are part of the human family too.

And that is all I have to say.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Fem Boys Need Representation Too

December 30th, 2021

Plague Vacation Blues

Holidays are a busy time at the Institute, due to Webb launching on Christmas instead of Halloween like we thought it would at the beginning of the year. I was going to retire tomorrow, but that’s been moved back to the end of February. But the standard Institute holidays are still being observed, even if all of us can’t use them because Webb is busy getting itself ready for science.

My part of Webb testing was completed some weeks ago and now I’m teleworking from home, finishing up some stuff, mostly documentation to hand off when I retire. I’ve another three day weekend starting tomorrow and the thought keeps popping up in my head that I need to pack the car and take an overnight somewhere, even if it isn’t far. Maybe Ocean City NJ again, or just wander somewhere south where it’s warmer.

Then I remember…another highly contagious variant is out and about too. I really shouldn’t be going anywhere until this next wave has passed. This next wave that’s happening because of all the unvaccinated mask opposing MAGA morons travelling for the holidays without care one for the common good. In theory I could just roam about too because I’m vaccinated and I got my booster last October and I’m good. I have N95 and KN95 masks I can take with me, and even some rapid COVID test kits. But I am not tempting the dragon. I’ll just stay home. I have things I need to do around the house anyway.

I think it was Garfield who said it isn’t the valleys in life I mind so much as the dips.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Plague Vacation Blues

January 4th, 2021

Ahhh…First Morning Back To Work After The Holidays…

That morning cup of coffee really wakes a person up. Especially when the first mouthful tells you that you forgot to put the sugar in.

I like my coffee like I like my men. Sweet.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Ahhh…First Morning Back To Work After The Holidays…

December 24th, 2020

Should I Not Have Done That??

Apparently I’ve been misunderstanding the purpose and usage of Mercedes windshield washer fluid ever since I had the ‘C’ class.

It’s winter here in the Free State (that’s a prohibition reference…), and snow, sleet, and rain mixed with road salt means you can barely drive a mile without hitting the wiper blades and a washer squirt. So you use a lot of washer fluid this time of year. Best to stock up and maybe even carry some spare in the trunk.

When I bought the ‘C’ class back in October of 2007 I vowed to give it everything the factory said. This involved not just the usual factory specified servicings, but also using only Daimler approved things like Mercedes anti-freeze (its a weird blue color, I suppose just so you know it’s not the stuff you get at Manny, Moe and Jack’s). As it turns out, this extends to the wiper wash fluid. It’s like buying an Apple computer or smart phone: you aren’t just buying a product, you’re buying into a Culture, a complete Ecology. And it’s not just a specific Mercedes-Benz washer fluid you need to use…there are summer and winter mixes. I could swear I was told initially that they were additives you mixed in with the usual store bought blue washer fluid stuff.

After I’d bought the ‘C’ class I found out about the summer/winter washer stuff and asked the dealer for some. The guy behind the parts counter gave me one a little 40ml flask of “summer”, and told me to just mix it with a gallon of regular washer fluid. So from that moment on I assumed it was an additive you mixed with the usual store bought washer fluid. When winter came around I asked for the winter mix and apparently they just sold me summer flasks and told me it was winter…basically selling me me what they had in stock instead of what I asked for. Last year they even told me that the additive you got was now for both summer and winter.

This year (dealership has since changed hands…) I asked again for the “additive” and was told all they had was summer. I told the guy behind the parts department desk that I’d been told previously that summer and winter were now one and the same. He shrugged and said I could use it that way here in Maryland, but they’re different and if I wanted he could order me the winter stuff instead.

Well I’m a do it the right way kinda guy so I said sure go ahead please order me the winter stuff. How many, he asks. I did a quick mental calculation based on 40ml flasks and asked for six of them. Then I leave a little ticked off and thinking the previous parts guy was just selling me what he had instead of what I wanted and I’d got bamboozled. I got the call this morning that it came. Six 1 litre bottles.

WTF???? So I go home thinking now I have a lifetime supply of winter additive. The bottles are cheerfully international, with pages and pages of safety warnings in every language you can think of and I can’t make heads or tails of how much of this stuff I’m supposed to add to washer fluid. I’m trying to decode the pictogram instructions and they don’t make sense. It almost looks like…wait a minute…is this stuff concentrate instead of additive??

I do some Googling. Sure enough…it’s concentrate, not additive. You mix it with water to make a quantity of washer fluid. Those little 40ml flasks of the summer stuff are enough to make a gallon of summer temperature washer fluid. You mix the winter stuff with water according to a chart for how low you expect the temperatures to drop. I had no idea until just today.

I’ve been doing it wrong this entire time. Well it didn’t damage anything at least. A one litre bottle of winter solution concentrate will make me two liters of working solution that protects the system down to -4. It really never gets that cold here in Maryland so it should be good enough. There are less expensive products out there that claim to work better, and even de-ice better, but a Mercedes-Benz is just different enough from the usual that I’m really very reluctant to use anything but what the factory approves, even in the windshield wash. If that makes me a sucker so be it. I’m still in love with this car.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Should I Not Have Done That??

December 4th, 2020

A Coming Out Story, Episode 30…Real Soon Now…

Final strip for ACOS 30 almost finished. I hope to put the new episode up tonight and make it public tomorrow morning. I’ve discovered I need to let my cartoons simmer overnight before going live.

Notice I’m using GIMP now instead of Photoshop. After Adobe bricked the Windows copy I spent 850 dollars for I vowed to get myself off Adobe products. They claimed I’d somehow bought a “bulk” license that had expired even before I registered it. They’d let me use it for two years after the alleged expiration date. Then one supposes, since their new rental software business model wasn’t such a big hit, the tweaked their license algorithm and remote turned off my copy when it failed the new check.

I called their support number to ask what was going on and that I’d spent serious money for that copy, and their service droid told me to be more concerned about all the money Adobe was loosing to Piracy. But I’d bought a legitimate license. They even let me register this so called expired license that cost me 850 bucks and use it for two years.

The wonderful thing about commercial software is there are so many different directions they can point their fingers to blame for customer abuse. Adobe of course can blame the vendor I bought the license from that they claimed was already expired when they let me register and use it for two years. But of course, after two years the vendor isn’t much likely to refund my money. And more than likely they’ll claim it was a perfectly legitimate license and it’s Adobe that’s fucking with me, not them. And the fact is, buried inside nearly everyone’s licensing terms, is a clause allowing the vendor to change the terms of the license out from under you whenever they feel like it.

Think about that, those of you who think you have a permanent license for an Adobe product. 

So I’ve switched to GIMP, which has turned out to be a nearly perfect replacement for Photoshop. And it’s open source. But there is one small problem.

GIMP has a well known problem with tablet input devices, like my Wacom. It seems there is a bug in GTK2 that they’ve been dallying with fixing for 5+ years (It’s Open Source!), and the only machine that GIMP works properly on with my Wacom is the MacBook Pro you see here. So for the duration, that has become my art room computer.

Allegedly GIMP 3 fixes all that (real soon now!). There is a development release, GIMP 2.99.2, that allegedly has the tablet fix in it. But what you get, apart from a development release they tell you up front might crash on you at any moment, is a tarball that you have to compile.

I don’t have an up to date Linux system (it’s on my todo list) so I’ll just stick with the MacBook Pro for now. I’m actually really happy with GIMP. It does some things I need better than Photoshop, and its quirks are easily adapted to. I have a reference document I’ve been working on that steps me through a How To in GIMP things I did all the time in Photoshop, like ingesting line art onto a transparent layer. (It’s in Google Docs if there are any GIMP users here who want to look at it…message me) Moving and sizing objects on a layer is very odd in GIMP if you’re used to the way Photoshop does it, but once you understand it the process is very straightforward. Likewise copying line art from one image to another. But I can do everything in GIMP that I once did in Photoshop…at least regarding my cartoons…so I’m happy.

At some point I need to work on moving my photography workflow away from Lightroom. They say there are lots of good alternatives, some of which work way better at things like noise reduction and shadow detail.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Coming Out Story, Episode 30…Real Soon Now…

February 15th, 2020

The Tao Of Love And Automobile Maintenance…Not Exactly In Harmony

Mercedes-Benz USA has some advice for the lovelorn this Valentines Day…

Yes…of course! A German boyfriend who is everything I ever wanted, good looking, solid, reliable, goes the distance, and a great ride, but periodically requires me spend thousands of dollars on him for maintenance. 

I don’t think the word for that is boyfriend.

A few days ago the cabin overhead lights in my car, a 2012 E350 Bluetec, went out. The map lights still worked, as did the rear cabin overhead light. But the main overhead light up front, just in front of the rear view mirror went out. The lights (there are two) are inside a ceiling panel with switches for the map lights, the rear cabin light, the sunroof and the emergency call system. Everything else was still working so I figured it was either a bulb or a fuse.

The other day I took the car to the new Mercedes mechanics I’ve been using in Westminster. They’re the folks who did the couple grand DEF tank heater replacement for about 500 bucks less than the dealer quoted and gave me a two year warranty on the repair which the dealer would not. I’ve been using them ever since and regard them highly. Today I was wanting my usual between regular service interval oil change, plus an inspection for the road trip to California I’m taking in March.

I got a call from them shortly after I got back to the office. They were recommending replacing some coolant hoses and a few other simple items. Then they got to the overhead cabin lights. It wasn’t a bulb or a fuse. There was an error code on the entire front ceiling control panel. It would have to be replaced. Cost: about a grand. The part was that expensive, I suppose because it controls all that other stuff too.

Mind you everything else is still working. It’s just the overhead cabin lights that aren’t. So…dig it. One-thousand bucks just to get my overhead cabin lights working again. This is what comes of jamming everything onto a single electric panel that nobody but Daimler can make because of the proprietary firmware embedded into it.

I found a source for one second hand, presumably from an accident car, for $75. This is versus the $750 the part costs from Daimler. For $75 I can take a chance on it working. Installing it is a bit tricky, but not beyond my means. But there is a catch. Having all those other features in it may still make a do it yourself repair impossible. One gotcha could be resynchronizing the sunroof. From what I read in the Mercedes forums some people get the sunroof synced on the first try. The steps for doing that are pretty simple. But other people never get it right. Then it has to go to a certified Mercedes mechanic with the certified Mercedes computer diagnostic and programming equipment. My mechanics have already told me they won’t work on customer supplied second hand parts because of liability issues.

So anyway…about Valentines Day this year…Dear MBUSA, I appreciate the thought…really…however…

The object of my affection and I are going through a rough patch these days. And the car too.  I really need to stop letting Germans get me twitterpated.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Tao Of Love And Automobile Maintenance…Not Exactly In Harmony

February 2nd, 2019

Epson <-> Mac Color Matching Still Eats Toxic Waste

Color matching between the new Epson Inkjet printer and the Mac is still no damn good. I’ve got into a habit now of doing test prints on 8×10 sheets before I print larger because even if the last six came out okay on a particular set of settings that absolutely does not mean they all will. So I end up wasting a lot of paper and ink…both of which are too damn expensive to be wasting but I have no choice.

I’m using Adobe Lightroom. On the screen my images all look to have the same density. The Epson printer, a SureColor P600, seems to just want to make up its own mind about what they should look like. I’ve tried letting the printer manage colors and I’ve tried letting the Mac manage them and I get closer letting the Mac do it but it still gets some of them completely wrong.

Way back in the day I had a version of MacOSX and an Epson printer that got along perfectly. Then I made the mistake of upgrading the OS. Color matching has never worked right since.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Epson <-> Mac Color Matching Still Eats Toxic Waste

November 23rd, 2018

A Minor Advantage To A Gender Nonconforming Life…

Once again I find myself having to go to the women’s side of a shoe store to buy a pair of shoes I wanted on the men’s side. Same style, same everything, just I have small feet for a guy and they don’t usually carry my size on the guy’s side. So I have to wander over to the lady’s side of the store and find the same damn shoe over there. But I can do this because I’m a gay guy and I have no masculinity to be afraid of loosing. Almost always I get the one I wanted over on the guy’s side in the first place. The only time I didn’t was because for some reason the shoe maker decided to put glitter on the women’s shoe and I am not a glitter kinda guy. I’m geek tribe gay, not fabulous peacock tribe.

That conversion charts exist for this calculation tells me that lots of other people, men and women, probably have this difficulty. I take a 7 1/2. That’s a 9 1/2 in a lady’s size. But near as I can tell, if it’s tennis or walking shoes you’re looking for, it’s the same damn shoe. This also works for hiking and snow boots. Ask me how I know. The only issue is width. When they deign to carry a men’s 7 1/2 the default width, which is ‘D’, is always right for me, but the default in women’s is narrower. So I have to ask for a 9 1/2 ‘D’. A women’s 9 1/2 ‘D’ fits me exactly the same as a men’s 7 1/2 ‘D’. 

At least the salesguy at the store I was at didn’t ask me to at least try an 8 this time.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Minor Advantage To A Gender Nonconforming Life…

October 17th, 2016

When Life Gives You Lemons, Get You Some Salt And Tequila And Laugh In Its Face

Feeling at tad abused by Mercedes-Benz USA today. I’ll probably bitch about it later. No…I will almost certainly bitch about it later.

In the meantime…

“Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

“Oh, we use only the finest juicy chunks of fresh Cornish Ram’s bladder, emptied, steamed, flavoured with sesame seeds, whipped into a fondue, and garnished with lark’s vomit.”

Forrest Gump – Monty Python crossover…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on When Life Gives You Lemons, Get You Some Salt And Tequila And Laugh In Its Face

August 17th, 2016

Oh Microsoft…How I Love Your Pretty Little Lies…

Mostly, I do business software. That may seem surprising since I work for the Space Telescope Science Institute and we not only operate Hubble for NASA but we’re also working on the James Webb Space Telescope, which is the project I’m deeply involved in at the moment. So you might think the work I do here is all sciencey and stuff and it mostly is, but not in the flight engineering sense of it. I do business software, and science like everything else has to account for its money  and  time. So  as it turns out, a lot of my work still revolves around Microsoft products, and doing traditional business client-database applications.  The other day I was tweaking something I’d done in Excel VBA (Visual Basic for Applications…a product Microsoft hasn’t upgraded in decades, probably because there is so much legacy stuff out there in their business user base). It was your basic fetch some data from a backend database server and feed it to Excel and let Excel make tables and charts out of it for management to ponder. And I  needed to do something that I figured I could use a custom document property for. Which I could, but not exactly in the way Microsoft’s documentation said I could.

You run into this phenomena quickly in this trade:  The Documentation Lies. Or more charitably, it is out of date. The documentation is buggy. The documentation is written by people who write software and hate writing documentation. If religious fundamentalists had to actually use passages in the bible like we software developers have to use the documentation and example code snippets we’re provided with maybe they’d stop waving that thing at everyone, and try a little figuring things out for themselves like we’re always doing…desperately at times. Oh you’re worried about the second coming are  you? Let me show  you my  project’s  Gantt chart…

See…I hate using Magic Numbers…

In programming, a “magic number” is a value that should be given a symbolic name, but was instead slipped into the code as a literal, usually in more than one place.

It makes the code hard to understand, which makes it hard to maintain. This is something a programmer is wise to avoid, even if it’s code you are nearly certain only  you will be maintaining. Time passes, the universe expands, and you open a code file you haven’t touched in years to make a small change and you’ve forgotten what ThisWorkSheet.CustomProperties.Item(1).Value referred to.  Better to write it  ThisWorkSheet.CustomProperties.Item(“GetsGraph”).Value. And lo and behold the documentation says I can call that property with either a  numeric  value (the property index) or a string value (the property name). But it does not actually work that way.

Let it be said Microsoft is hardly the only culprit here. My first experience with this sort of thing happened right at the starting gate of my career as a software developer  many many moons ago, when I was a youngster doing volunteer work for a gay BBS system (before the Internet Tubes came along) and I was asked to write a system for a local gay activists organization to generate welcome letters and membership funding letters and mailouts and so forth. They had a licensed copy of Ashton-Tate’s dBase IV which back then was the powerhouse database system for PCs. It was working my way through  the dBase documentation while trying out their code snippets I  had the displeasure of finding out that computer documentation will lie  though its teeth at you and laugh at your pain and suffering. In those days I hurled many a programming book across the room. Nowadays I glance at the time and do a quick rough calculation of how many minutes until Happy Hour.  

So I got through my little difficulty the other day by creating a sensibly named numeric constant that I can pass in lieu of actually passing the value of the name of the custom property whose value I want to check. That’s what we call in the business a kludge, because I’m not certain  the property I want will have that index value Every Time. I think it’s likely since I’m the only one maintaining this code, for now, and I only have that one custom property in there. But what happens when someone else gets into this code? Okay…I’ve commented my useage of the property. But maybe the next update to Excel changes the starting index from 1 to 0? Surprise!  

Oh well. So I get things working to a close approximation of my satisfaction. Then I sit back and I ponder the Five Stages of Software Development…

Denial: Oh I probably just forgot to close a parenthesis somewhere.

Anger: Oh F*ck Me…that is a COMPLETELY LEGAL FUNCTION CALL!!!

Bargaining: Maybe if I use single quotes instead of double quotes…

Depression: I should have gone to art school…

Acceptance: My software tools are buggy, the vendor is shady, the next upgrade cycle will probably depreciate my entire code base, but the bar at Rocket To Venus is open late.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Oh Microsoft…How I Love Your Pretty Little Lies…

December 5th, 2015

Apple: The Cutting Edge On Your Throat…

[UPDATE…]  Actually…the Apple “Lightning To Thirty Pin” connector Does  provide full iPod Out integration with accessories after all. I went ahead and spent fifty bucks on one at my local Apple Store because I’d started reading enough positive reviews of it to believe it was at least worth the risk. On the one hand were the initial reviews like this CNET one which flat out says the iPod functionality is missing. On the other were comments in various support forums including Apples, which indicated that at least for some folks it was working just fine. One of these said they had a Mercedes ‘E’ Class of the same year as mine. There were plenty of others though, who said it wasn’t working at all.

So I took a chance, bought one and plugged it and the new iPhone into my Mercedes, and as it turns out, everything works just as I would expect now.  So either Apple had a change of heart, or the initial reviews got it all wrong, or more likely Apple as is its wont gave out rather limited information regarding its hardware and the media just filled it the blanks however they thought best.

So everything is working now with the new iPhone and Spirit. I have all my menus back, my playlists, the alphabetic searching through things using the dashboard keypad. It’s all there, just as it was with the 4s. Fifty bucks for the adaptor, but that’s how it rolls with Apple.

I’ll say this though. I’m noticing a much improved sound quality out of this new iPhone…even through the car stereo. Bluetooth sound is even a little better…at least as far as streaming Pandora and Internet Radio.

So…(ahem)…as to the bitter heated rant I vented below about Apple breaking things and not giving a flying fuck…

never mind

 

Mostly. I’m Still not happy about how Apple likes to break things. It’s a chronic problem with them. But at least this upgrade turned out to be not so disastrous as I’d initially thought. The angry rest of this  post is after the break, if you still want to read it. And I will not this: not one word from Apple in any of the support forums was ever, to my knowledge, heard. They could have made things a lot clearer regarding this adapter and maybe there wouldn’t still be so much angst out there over the new connector. I still stand by my characterization of the Apple Complaint Department. And for any iPhone or iPod accessories that won’t take the Apple  adapters because of form factor or because of other issues…well…you’re still SOL…

Read the rest of this entry »

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Apple: The Cutting Edge On Your Throat…

January 7th, 2013

Ten Movies I Hate

I never make pointless New Year’s resolutions on the grounds that anything you notice that needs changing you really should start changing right then and there.   And…it’s just another randomly designated special position in the Earth’s orbit.   Solstice is actually something worth noting and celebrating; it’s when the days stop getting shorter and start getting longer again. But there are routines we all fall into around now, and most often it’s the annual cleaning out and sorting through last year’s Stuff to make room for this year’s Stuff.

While going through my word processor files I found this list I must have started work on to post here and didn’t for some reason. I’m guessing it was a reaction to all those damn Best Of lists you see around this time of year, but this is my all-time hated it list, not just last year’s hated it list.   And it’s from a few years ago.   If your eyes glaze over at all the lists this time of year, feel free to skip this one.

Anyway…in no particular order…

The Boys in the Band

A play for sympathy, that starts out with a quick shot of a gay bookstore employee casually shoplifting for a friend. Please don’t hate us…we can’t help ourselves. Have pity… Puke…puke…puke…puke…   At the end of it the self absorbed and self loathing Daniel wishes gay people didn’t hate themselves so very much. They say now that it’s a period piece and reflective of the reality of gay men’s lives in that time. But so what. Picasso said art is a lie that makes us see the truth, not that it’s a truth that makes us believe a lie. You just know that a lot of homophobic bigots left the showings feeling entirely justified in their cheapshit prejudices, and lots of young gay men left feeling sorry for themselves and hating what they are.   If Crowley really wanted gay people to stop hating themselves, so very much, then he might have told them they didn’t have to live in the ghetto of other people’s ignorant disgust.

Mad Max (aka The Road Warrior)

When I first learned to hate Mel Gibson movies. Dirtball toddler with a deadly boomerang kills cute teenage loverboy of evil bad guy lieutenant…proving once more that pretty boy faggots have it coming. But then even evil perverted bad guys can have hearts too, sort of, deep down inside of them, somewhere. “Be still my dog of war. I understand your pain. We’ve all lost someone we love.” Oh fuck that noise. When Gibson later came out in a Spanish newspaper as a homophobic nutcase (“they take it in the ass”) I couldn’t have been less surprised.

Lawrence of Arabia

A sexually ambiguous, self absorbed and manipulative British officer befriends two young beggars who, unaccountably, seem to regard him as some sort of deity. Rather liking their attention, he leads them into the desert where he gets one killed in a quicksand, and then later shoots the other. When shopping for a deity to follow, be sure to ask for references.

Loved the musical score and the photography. Hated the movie.

The Detective.

Frank Sinatra playing Frank Sinatra playing a hard boiled film noir detective…a loathsome self hating homosexual killer, who begs for pity on his confession tape… What’s not to like? Besides everything I mean. “I thought maybe just once more….maybe I could get it out of my system…” I get to feeling like a bit of murder myself just remembering William Windom’s pathetic gay confession scenes, and especially where his character takes a stroll through a gay cruising ground by the docks. The camera, followed around by some really cheesy background music, pans across the gay guys there who are all busy either making out or cruising, with such contempt and disgust you’d have thought they were filming a group of cannibals dismembering and eating bodies instead of…well…some guys cruising for sex…just like they do at all the heterosexuals singles bars all over town. The horror. The horror.

Advise and Consent

All American virtuous freshman senator is blackmailed by evil ex homosexual lover. All American virtuous freshman senator confronts evil ex homosexual lover in the bar from Hollywood stereotype hell. Vito Russo nailed it when he described the scene as a vilification of gays who accept what they are, while canonizing the All American virtuous secretly homosexual freshman senator for hating them. And being a virtuous homosexual, he goes back home and kills himself.

The gay bar scene, like the one in The Detective, is a hoot for all it’s piss elegant faggotry. The reality in those days was that gay bars were dank, seedy, hole in the wall places run by mobsters who couldn’t have cared less how the place looked, or what sort of swill they served to their customers. Gays endured them because there was simply no other place to go to socialize and meet other gays but places run by organized crime. In many cities back then, it was illegal for a bar or restraint to serve a known homosexual.

A.I.

Man…Stanley Kubrick really hated the human race, didn’t he? Enough for it to show though even the Steven Spielberg treatment.   Poor Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law were just stunning enacting non-human intelligences.   You really believed they were machines trying to cope with self awareness. But the movie was just a depressing cloud of human self loathing and I really wished film explored more of the other side of the coin presented in the opening moments, where the lady tells Doctor Hobby that the question isn’t whether we can make a machine love us, but can we love them back.   And…there was this really unforgivable missed opportunity here, to really dig into something these human/android stories can talk about. You see it when the executive of the company that makes the Davids pontificates that while God made man in His image, He didn’t make man God.   Well…fine.   We make our machines in our image…we have no choice about that. everything we create is in a sense a kind of art.   Everything we make is an image of ourselves. What does it say about us? Could we love it back? Well Kubrick thought he knew those answers.   I think better answers are out there waiting for a better storyteller.

Death In Venice.

If you just look at the pretty pictures, it’s a sultry visual treat. If you pay attention to what’s going on by the end of the movie you just want to smack them both.

The Business of Fancy Dancing.

Gay Native American has an identity crisis. And his utterly indifferent white guy boyfriend isn’t helping matters any. Whenever these two appear together on the screen (which isn’t very often) you just keep thinking “What the hell do these two see in each other?” There is not a shred of love shown between them. Well…except maybe here:

White Guy Boyfriend: “How can you make love to a white man?”
Seymour: “I just pretend you’re Custer.”

Ah…romance…

I loved Smoke Signals. I love reading Sherman Alexie. This film only made it to my ten most hated list because of Yet Another Shallow and Loveless Same Sex Relationship from a guy I would have thought, especially after all his gay media interviews, could have spared a few frames of insight and thoughtfulness and illumination about same sex couples. I mean…since he bothered to write one into the story. I still don’t think that straight male directors necessarily can’t do films about gay people, but…crap…Alexie shouldn’t have been more evidence against that.

…him and goddamned Oliver Stone. The only reason Stone’s Alexander isn’t on this list, with its DVD Director’s Cut that’s de-fagged even more then the theatrical release, is that I’m not going anywhere near it. Swear to god you’d think he could have shown a little backbone for the home video market. But the director of Platoon decided to cut and run.

Caligula

Proof that big budget porn is still…well…porn. My straight high school buddies (we were all in college then) drug me to see this one. It’s why I am unimpressed whenever someone waves some sexually extreme behavior they’ve heard gays are into in my face. That one movie, made by heterosexuals, for the entertainment of heterosexuals, and the profit of the publisher of one of the nation’s biggest tit and ass magazines, gave me tons of stuff to wave back in Their faces. Not that this was worth the pain of sitting through it. Okay…I’m gay…but this movie made sex look cheesy and boring and gross and that’s unforgivable.

And speaking of which…

Making Love

Self repressed gay man, a young doctor building a practice, who has a completely charming long time girl friend, suddenly takes a trip on the wild side with a handsome party boy, gets his heart broken, but finally comes to terms with his own sexuality. They called it groundbreaking when it first came out, because it was the first reasonably well budgeted film from a major studio with well known actors in it that portrayed same sex love in a positive light. But it only served to reinforce the notion that homosexuality is just about pure lust and that only heterosexual relationships are based on love. The first part of the film treats us to how wonderful the main character’s relationship with his girlfriend is. They seem to be such a sweet, caring, loving couple with so much in common, and who have so much fun together. The first glimpse we get of Mr. Repressed’s true sexuality is when he tries to pick up a guy at a gay cruising ground. All through the film we never see Mr. Repressed love another man, just desire them, and in particular one stereotypical self absorbed urban gay pickup artist.   Sweet.   At the end Mr. Repressed is seen finally settled down with another man, but we have no idea what the two of them saw in each other and the audience is left with the impression that he’s settling for a very distant second best because he’s a homosexual and can’t help himself and both him and the poor woman who was his soul mate are left to glance back wistfully at what might have been.   The only love you saw in Making Love was between the man and the woman.

The mostly gay audience I sat watching it with laughed nearly all the way through it, while I just sat and squirmed.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Ten Movies I Hate

November 28th, 2012

I Suppose Repacking The Bearing Greese Isn’t An Option…

Walking up the front steps to Casa del Garrett I hear the familiar sound of my shoes crunching over spent shells from one of my bird feeders.   Crunch, crunch, crunch…up the steps, then into the house.   Once inside, I start up the steps to the second floor.   I notice the crunching sound is still happening.   I take the steps a little slower and listen carefully.   Crunch, crunch, crunch…

The sound is coming from my right knee, which has been feeling a little stiff lately.   Oh Foo.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Suppose Repacking The Bearing Greese Isn’t An Option…

November 23rd, 2012

Let’s Celebrate The Year End Holidays By Making Ourselves Miserable…

…standing in long lines to get into shopping malls and stores for phantom bargains and dog piling on this year’s must-have gift, getting pissed off at everyone around us, cursing and maybe even take a few swings at complete strangers, driving through massive traffic jams, spending hours hunting for a parking space, tempting traffic accident fate on highways full of drivers too busy worrying about their shopping lists to pay attention to the traffic around them, generally raising blood pressure and sulking angrily at home because you couldn’t find what you were looking for Anywhere, because the holidays are a time of peace on earth good will toward all…

A piston engine…I looked Everywhere and they were all sold out..!

I started seeing people posting on Facebook and Twitter last night about the long lines in shopping malls. Are you people nuts? Never mind the relentless consumerism…how do you plan on enjoying the holiday season when you’re getting wound up tighter than a watch spring fighting crowds and traffic???

Buy your gifts online. That’s what I’ve done for years now because I decline to make myself miserable in holiday feeding frenzies.   I Hate Crowds. And from what I’m reading, everyone else does too.   So I have a question: why do all of you keep doing this to yourselves?   This is Peace On Earth Goodwill Toward Everyone time, not Work Yourself Into A Frustrated Temper Tantrum time.

Relax.   Kick back.   It’s the end of the year.   Time to reflect on life…all the things you have to be thankful for…and all the people you love.   Sit down at your computer…we’ve all got one these days…and browse the online catalogs.   There are tons.   It’s nothing new, just a new twist on an old Christmas tradition…the wish catalog.   When I was a boy there were these big phone book sized catalog things people ordered from by mail.   And every year we got mail ordered stuff from relatives, along with the usual Christmas packages.   What the magical wonderful computer does for us 21st century people is put all those catalogs right at our fingertips!   Think of it…every catalog you ever wanted to browse…there.   And you can fill out your order, specify gift wrapping and a nice card to go with it, pay and you’re done.   All from the comfort an convenience of your own home!   You can shop in your pajamas even!   And things still come in the mail just like they did when you were a kid.   Your loved ones will be just as delighted.

A little less traffic might make the holidays nicer….just saying.   Seriously…this is a time of year to remember how good life is, and how wonderful that we are human beings, and not sharks all piled together in a feeding frenzy.

   

[Update…]   Kevin Drum does a little digging and discovers the origin of the term “Black Friday” really is as dark as you’d expect from just hearing it and not knowing it’s supposed to mean the day retail sales go into the black (profitable) zone.

…all the evidence points in one direction. The term originated in Philadelphia in the 50s or earlier and wasn’t in common use in the rest of the country until decades later. And it did indeed refer to something unpleasant: the gigantic Army-Navy-post-Thanksgiving day crowds and traffic jams, which both retail workers and police officers dreaded. The retail industry originally loathed the term, and the whole “red to black” fairy tale was tacked on sometime in the 80s by an overcaffeinated flack trying to put lipstick on a pig that had gotten a little too embarrassing for America’s shopkeepers.

Another success in the annals of public relations…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Let’s Celebrate The Year End Holidays By Making Ourselves Miserable…

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