Friday, September 23, 2016

September 2016, where are we then?

Some astonishing scientific news items have been released into my newsfeed this week. Notably,  Titan, Asian hornets in Britain, Aboriginal Australians and my personal favourite this week ...

Tool using Crows
I have slowly begun to fall head over heels in love with crows ... there are hundreds of thousands of them in Britain, you can watch them at any time of the year and they are amazing creatures.

It's been known for some time that New Caledonian crows (native to the South Pacific) could use tools that they form into hooks to fish for food.   New research has discovered that Hawaii crows also use implements.   What's even more poignant, as far as I'm concerned, is there are only 131 Hawaii crows left alive today (according to the article that I link to in the heading above) and it appears that all are in captive breeding centres or zoos. 

I try not to follow the main news feeds anymore and I've completely given up on so-called 'entertainment' news.    More and more I'm finding that my clicking habits are focusing on science based news artices.   I wonder if other people are doing this as well? 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

crash and burn ...

Yeah, so my old Dell vostro decided to give up the ghost last weekend ... rather annoying and couldn't have happened at a worse time.   Any case, aside from now having headaches retrieving some lost data, I got me a new HP yesterday - the Pavilion model.   So far it's okay and is doing the job - have to test with audio and express scribe later on, to make sure I can actually still  continue working!  

I feel a rant coming along ...

I remember back in the Eighties when the music industry had disco-danced so far up its own arsehole that  life as we know it, ceased to exist.   It was a horrible time for people like me who don't fancy wasting any time at all listening to middle-of-the-road schlock.  I hated the disco era.   Radio, particuarly, made those days intolerable.  Absolutely nothing got played that wasn't 'easy listening' and the Eighties was also the period when punk started forming, so there was plenty of new cutting edge musical ideas being formulated.

Fast forward to our present time.  Simon Cowell should actually be shot, or it would be better to hang, draw and quarter him - this accountant has systematically destroyed the music industry and it's to him that I fairly and squarely lay the blame.   R&B, Motown, Rap, Hip Hop, all these styles of musical expression have their place and we wouldn't have had a band like Rage Against The Machine without them.    But for God's sake what about the rest of it?   So-called 'Alternative' music has cowed down to economic pressure and become down right boring and formulaic ... everything it tried to kick in the teeth in the early nineties.   It grew up and became its accountant dad.   Metal and all its offshoots is and alwas will be  just metal, grinding away in the cupboard like a delinquent psychopath chewing on its own foot.  Don't look for anything innovative there, it'll be years before any of that type of stuff evolves into something different and exciting.  

BUT if radio actually got on the game, like it did in the Sixties, Seventies, Nineties and actually gave air time to people who are trying to do something different things might actually change.    Switch on your radio, doesn't matter what channel you listen to, any time of the day and you'll get the same crap force-fed down your ears.   That's why I refuse point blank to listen to any radio - and UK radio stations completely SUCK these days.   Anyone remember Radio Caroline?  I heard Pink Floyd for the first time on pirate radio, that was in 1966!!!  

I used to think South African radio was crap but it was on a local regional radio station where I heard Nirvana's "Polly" ... long before anyone played "Smells like teen spirit" ... I almost had a stroke right then and there, had to pull off the road and just turn it up to listen.  Radical!  Brilliant!   

Radiohead (and many hundreds more absolutely amazing bands of this day and age) have just released a seminal album, with a brilliantly 'radio friendly' tune on it but do you think radio will play "Burn the witch"?   the day I hear that tune playing on local radio, I'll eat my car exhaust. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Public speaking 101

Thank God that’s over with! 

I was asked to do a talk to just over 35 kids at my grandson's school this morning about the differences between life in South Africa and life in Norfolk.   I spoke for just under 50 minutes - thankfully my little grandson stood by my side the whole time for moral support.   I could feel my face going blood red as I started but by the end, my ruddiness had calmed down to just pale panic pink.   My throat kept drying up but otherwise I think I got through it okay.  

The kids all seemed engaged and interested - kept asking questions and interacting with what was on my presentation board or with things I said in my talk.   The three teachers present said they were impressed and that it was most interesting.  I had them laughing a few times (the kids and the teachers) and my grandson's teacher asked me to leave my presentation board behind this morning, so she could show it to the kids who weren't able to see it properly.     

I take bookings.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

God I'm such a plonker

There I go emailing and messaging Canon and SLRHut in my usual hysterial out of control frantic mode, after I received my brand new shiny Canon EOS 1200D with accessory bundle - 'cos the extra lenses they supplied wouldn't fit the body of the camera.  
I was right downpressed.  Disappointed.  Pissed off.  Now I had to find a bloody step up or step down ring adaptor, to fit the lenses to the camera, didn't I? 


I'm lying in bed just now and it hit me ... the fucking lenses screw into the Canon kit lens that came with the body of the camera!    They are EXTENSION type/format lenses.    So I get up, put the lights on wake up the house, try out my new theory and voila the lenses screw in just perfectly fine onto the existing Canon lens!

Bloody hell, I can't believe how much of a newbie twit I am and I'm embarrassed.

But delighted at the same time! 

'Cos now I can get to play with the wide angle and the telephoto lenses ... whoopy dah. 

As you were.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Post-production - exercises - before and after

This course I'm doing includes substantial Adobe Photoshop tutorial and post-production of photos.  I've done a couple of tweaks of some existing photos that were very flat and hadn't come out the way my eye actually saw the scene when I took the photo (a common problem I have with this Nikon of mine).  So here's a few examples of post-production editing of my photos  - one or two are extremely over-edited but I am learning, so leave me alone.

Auto-levels adjustment only and tiny crop:

Straightening, auto-levels adjustment, saturation and hue, substantial crop

Auto-level adjustment, hue and saturation, brightness and contrast, slight crop

Auto level adjustments, brightness and contrast, hue and saturation, save, then more contrast adjustments

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Can't bloody well help myself, can I?

I started my digital photography course and by module two it was quite perfectly clear to me that there ain't anyway I am going to be able to do the projects/assignments/exercises properly without a DSLR camera.  So a ...

Canon EOS 1200D/T5 Digital SLR Camera with 18-55 Lens + Accessory Bundle

is now on its way to me, courtesy of Barclaycard.    Yes, I know it's entry level but I'm entry level, give me a break.    

Oh SHITE, don't tell anyone, I'll get into so much crap!   I have absolutely NO money to my name but if you are dumb enough to give me a credit card, I'll find a pressing need to buy something, sooner or later.  Oh dear, what have I done?!    

Too late.  
I'm supposed to have ordered all this stuff (per below list), although I'm suspicious that I'll get the full Bundle, just seems an awful lot of kit for what I paid :

Manufacturers Box Includes:
Canon EOS Rebel T5 DSLR Camera with EF S 18 55mm IS II Lens
EF S 18 55mm f/3.5 5.6 IS II Lens
Eyecup Ef for Digital Rebel Cameras
RF 3 Camera Cover
LC E10 Battery Charger for EOS Rebel T3
LP E10 Lithium Ion Battery Pack
E 58 II 58mm Lens Cap
Lens Dust Cap E (Rear)
Battery Cover
IFC 130U Interface Cable
Bundle Items Include
0.45X Wide Angle Lens
2X Telephoto Lens
3 Piece Filter Kit (UV CPL FLD)
16GB Memory Card
High Speed Memory Card Reader
Slave Flash
Mini HDMI Cable
Flexible Gripster Tripod
Table Top Tripod
LCD Screen Protectors
Cleaning Kit
Carrying Case

- my order still has to be 'approved' whatever that means 'cos the payment's gone through ??? Grrr.
You never know, maybe Karma will step in and save me from my credit card splurges.   Yikes.   (Shoves credit card in secret hiding place, so's can't find it again for at least six months).  

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Beach hangovers ...

Yep, I'm back - couldn't get rid of me that easy.
Whilst I had to leave landscapes like the one in the above photo behind, I'm glad to be home.  It was worth the long flight and travel hassles but saying 'see you later' to my sons was so unbelievably hard this time - even though I know that there are very good possibilities they will visit me in the UK soon.      It's just one of the prices you pay when you emigrate.

I have discovered ASMR on YouTube ... it's not something new, been around for years and some people say it's a load of old baloney but it works (so far) for me - although I only tried it for the first time last night.  I immersed myself in a few videos to first find my 'trigger', which for me appears to be the sound of paper - i.e. pages being turned in books, newspapers, magazines, even Bibles! and also the sound of paper being crinkled up, folded or used to wrap Christmas presents.    I switched off my tablet at about 10pm last night and was immediately asleep.   I had a good deep sleep, the first in a very long time (although I did sleep well on holiday).  For anyone who suffers from insomnia this is a boon - and I'm not just talking about a couple of sleepless nights here folks, I mean consistent insomnia every night no matter what happens during the day or evening, to the point where you dread going to bed.     I really hope these ASMR things get me out of the insomnia rut.

During my quiet time on holiday at the beach, I decided to focus the next few months on improving my photography and actually do some additional semi-formal learning.  There is so much I don't know or understand and it's hampering my creativity and spoiling my photographs.  I've been interested in photography since I was a teenager (we're talking more than 50 years here) when I got my first Kodak Brownie (what a brilliant little camera).   My 35mm Asahi Pentax was divine and I used it primarily for astronomy shots, with tripod, time-release shutter cable and actual film stock - what a pleasure that was!  I miss using actual film rolls.  I've used various point and shoot cameras, the best was the Sony Cybershot (most reliable rendition of what the eye sees, colour and light wise, with no fiddling about).   My first bridge camera was a FinePix and whilst it wasn't the greatest lens on the planet, it felt like I had come up a notch and was actually doing 'real photography'!     I've had my Nikon Coolpix P510 with the diabolically efficient zoom lens (in its class) for over three years now and I still don't know how it works!

(hand held zoom also)

I was very frustrated on holiday because I really battled with low light shots or trying to capture the essence of a particular scene the way I was seeing it.       It was just too much pushing and shoving, fiddling about and very little of worth coming out at the other end (sound like Shirley Valentine hey?).    So I came home with the best intention of buying a new camera and getting stuck into DSLR right away - SLRHut have a great deal on Canon at the moment.    After a long time trawling the internet and YouTube for camera reviews, I realised it's not the bloody camera's fault, I'm just expecting it to do stuff the lens is not designed for.     If I had more knowledge, I'd get a lot more out of my existing camera, which wasn't cheap at all when I bought it.     It's time to improve my knowledge and actually understand what I'm doing - I'm tired of a hit and miss approach.   I am very interested in low light photography, portraiture and also landscapes and want to get much better at taking those types of shots.

So I've invested in a photography course, which is in hard cover book format - so I can constantly refer to it whilst I practice.   I have tried online courses before but I battled to remember the stuff, 'cos we all know I have the memory of a pea.    This is also one of the reasons why I don't want to attend a person to person course because I can't trust my memory and all the hot shot young dudes and dudettes will think I'm a fossil and should be doing a knitting course, or something like that.   

I'm supposed to get the book today - so for the next 20 weeks (that's how long they reckon it takes to finish the course), I will not be painting or doing other creative things.  I am going to concentrate on my knowledge, so that I can get me an entry level DSLR - I've got my eyes on the Nikon D3300 but I might end up getting a Canon ... going to need unbiased   :) advice on which one to look at.  No, won't be going mirrorless, too many cons.  


Monday, May 23, 2016

Soon come ...

I feel really weird about this upcoming trip to South Africa, I'm happy yes but I'm also incredibly anxious.   It's just such a short trip we're having this time, hardly worth the long haul flight really but it's the best our budget and the UK school holiday calendar would allow. 

This time next week, if all has gone according to plan, we'll be driving down to Durban.   I'll be staying with my eldest son and his boys (including new baby) and wife.  
I'll just have to be content with the 11 full days  - I'm not counting the day we arrive, as we're going to be fucking knackered from the flight and spending most of the day driving backwards and forwards to malls and banks and what not.  I'm also not including the day we're coming back, prior to the evening flight, because we'll just be spending the time packing and saying goodbye to everyone - it's going to be so hard.    

There are going to be a few very hard days on this trip - leaving my eldest son and his new baby plus my almost three year old grandson is going to be one of the worst - I don't know how I'm going to handle that,  not very well I imagine.  I know he's going to cry and that's just going to make me bawl and everyone else in the car too.  Give me strength, Lord to get through that day please!!! 

But then I'll have even more hard stuff to handle, saying goodbye to my youngest son from Jo'burg a couple of days later - that's going to be so traumatic - I almost had a heart attack the last time I said goodbye to him, it broke my heart into a million pieces.   I don't think I'll be able to let go of him.

Oh well ... I'll try to keep my chin up, try not to cry, try to absorb every second so it's never ever forgotten. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Dream on ...

For some reason my family and some friends of mine, seem to think that I have a knack for interpreting dreams.  I don't know where this has come from, perhaps when I was younger I volunteered my oracle-like wisdom after someone said they had a bad dream about spiders, which by the way can mean anyone of a myriad things i.e.: 
  • you are feeling like an outsider in some situation.
  • you want to keep your distance and stay away from an alluring and tempting situation. 
Also, dear folks, spiders are symbolic of female intuition and female influences.   The  interpretations don't stop there however - it's not enough to just see a spider in your dream,  Spidey has to be doing something specific.   So ....
  • if he's spinning a web - you will be rewarded for hard work, promoted in your job or be recognised for an achievement.   Or you just like dreaming about spider's webs.  Ka-ching.
  • My favourite one about seeing webs in a dream, means that you are spending too much time on the Internet and you need to take a break.  
  • spinning webs are also indicative of the creative side of a person. 
  • Webs can also mean that you are entangled or trapped in the webs that you are weaving yourself (ooh, intrigue!) or other people are plotting and you are unawares.
  • Multi-coloured spiders mean a situation that you should avoid.   I agree, many coloured spideys aren't very nice to people.
  • If you kill Charlotte in your dream, then you are going to have a lot of bad luck and misfortune and it damn well serves you right because you Don't Kill Spiders! 
  • If you see dead spiders in your dream (nightmare??), it doesn't mean you are in a movie with Bruce Willis and a little boy with too many teeth, it means you've overcome some temptation (aw, dammit, I love a bit of temptation). 
  • If incy wincy is climbing up a wall, then your desires will be realised very soon ... I want this dream tonight please. 
  • If, however, incy wincy is falling down on you from the ceiling it means that you are unable to escape from some relationship (or you just need to do some spring cleaning). 
  • Baby spideys mean a new relationship.    'Weeee!'  ... baby spiders are so cute  (a la the end of Charlotte's web).
  • Yuchy spider eggs mean you aren't living up to your potential and are emotionally constipated. 
  • Ouch - if spidey bites you, this means you have a conflict with your mother or some other woman in your life - it could also mean that you are shortly going to turn into Spiderwoman.   Coowal.
  • If you eat a spider (gawd, how could you?) or the spider is in your mouth (aargh, I love spiders but even I draw the line at that) then it means that you're in control and not afraid to take charge (or you're insane). 
  • The most stupidest thing I ever read in these dream interpretation things was 'if you see a spider with  multiple eyes, you must trust your gut instinct, you have powerful intuition.' .... Duh, ALL spiders have multiple eyes dumbasses. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

there but for the grace of ...

I went to hand in some documents at the local high school this morning and on the way back to the car, I passed a red car that seemed to be jam packed with very large people.  The door was open and there was a lot of shouting and noise coming from inside. My first thought was, ‘hillbillies’.   There was a strong smell coming from the car, like you get when you pass by a bakers or a pastry shop but it was mixed up with the smell of musty body odour.

I went back to my car and was siting inside with my grandson, waiting to go into his school, when a few seconds later,I noticed a bunch of people walking up the same pavement I’d just walked along, they were arguing and fighting – ‘til they were almost alongside my car.   I couldn’t hear their conversation because my car windows were shut and also my grandson was yacking away ten to the dozen about a funny passage in 'The BFG' which we are now reading every morning in the car before school. 

There was a woman and three boys.  They looked like her sons but I might be wrong on that.  One of the boys was in his late teens or early twenties – he was the one having a big argument with the woman.  One of the boys looked about the same age as my grandson (i.e. about 7) and the other one looked to be of primary school age.  

To say they were all unkempt is a bit of an understatement.  But I’m not making snobby judgements here.   The woman was overweight (so what, there are millions of wealthy overweight people) she was wearing track suit bottoms that didn’t fit her and a top that was too short – so you could see her belly, she had a loose cardigan on over her clothes, everything looked dirty. She had dirty hair, it didn’t look like it had been brushed or washed in a very long time, her face was dirty with ingrained dirt that comes from when a person does not wash regularly.  Her eldest son was also very dishevelled and dirty and his dirty stained clothes didn’t fit him properly either.  He had a wild mop of black curly hair and very bad skin.  

The two younger boys had school jerseys on with unrecognisable school badges – so they may have come from some other area and maybe were going to enrol at the same school where my grandson goes?  I don't know, I couldn't see where they went after they passed my car, so it's possible they entered the school grounds and I didn't see them go in. 
The younger boys looked a bit better off clothes wise but they were also dirty and one of the boys, the youngest one, continually scratched at his head, which made me wonder if he had head lice.   It was the youngest boy that caught my attention the most.  He was walking quietly alongside his family, looking down at the pavement, holding his hands in front of him, trying to hold his hands nicely and not fidget.  He had yellowy blonde hair and such a serious face.   I just wanted to scoop him up and take him home!   

There are many things that went through my mind as I watched these people for those few seconds as they went past my car: 

1.        Why and how did they get to be so poor?  Where had they come from?  Were they ‘gypsies’, ‘travellers’, ‘hobos’?
2.       They weren’t thin, so at least the boys were all getting fed. 
3.       I could see quite clearly that they were very poor but why couldn’t they at least have clean hair, clean clothes?  It doesn’t cost the earth to keep yourselves clean.     I have lived a very long time in South Africa – I often visited friends of mine who lived in African 'townships' and were the poorest of the poor – they did not have money for luxuries.  But they were always clean, their clothes were clean, you could eat off the floor of their huts. Because you’re poor it doesn’t mean you have to lose your human dignity.
4.        I knew that I couldn’t offer any help to the little boy, even if I wanted to.  If the boot was on the other foot, I’m sure I would despise anyone who dared to assume that I needed charity or thought they could care for my child better than me.  But nevertheless, my heart went out to this little boy.