Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

Author: Karel Kerezman (Page 1 of 389)

Some Good News

We know that the year twenty twenty delights in beating us down every chance it gets, but sometimes we get to punch back.

Since the diabetes diagnosis in late July I started taking a series of medications, started a daily exercise routine, and modified my diet. This week, the first test results came in to show if those efforts paid off or if I need to take more drastic measures.

Not only are the numbers good, but the key metric (called “A1C”) is actually in the normal range. I’m not even in “we’re still concerned” territory anymore, thanks to the last few months of changes and work.

Mind you, this means I need to keep at it. The medicines are part of my life now, as are the exercise regimen and dietary changes. But at least I have the chance of staying alive longer now, and even in this hellyear that counts for something.

End of October Update

Just some rapid-fire stuff…

  • I built the LEGO Ghostbusters “Ecto-1”, the box for which I’ve had tucked away in my closet for years now, finally, to join the holiday-season LEGO display in the library (what’s supposed to be the dining “room” in this little apartment of ours), but my attempts to photograph the build process turned out poorly.
  • Related to that, I’ve learned that I really need to avoid the “auto” modes on my new camera or it’s going to give me very grainy pictures. Ah well.
  • The previous webserver is now shut down, I moved everything over, and it looks like we’re stable on the new server. Huzzah, and thanks again to Linode for making such a great VPS environment.
  • I burned my first M-Disc archival Blu-Ray disc filled with music videos, mostly saved & converted materials from various DVDs on the shelf. It certainly took a while, but so far it seems to have worked. Check back with me in 1000 years to find out if the claims of lifespan for M-Disc media are proved by real-world experience!
  • My main game right now is Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I finished my first run through a few days ago (I backed Edelgard, which… from a storytelling perspective is very questionable, admittedly) and now I’m in “new game plus” mode with all the advantages that entails, working with the Golden Deer faction. Archery everywhere.
  • Summer is over. Thank all the deities.

De-Junking: A Neverending Process

Out of sight out of mind, the saying goes, and with a mind as dull as mine the saying is doubly true. A few days ago we unearthed some bins from the big closet in the master bedroom, and I realized that one of them had several old notebooks and 3-ring binders from my high school years.

Note that I’m not far from turning fifty, y’all.

This afternoon I finally turned most of that material into recycling. (And the rest into actual trash.) Old lyrics sheets and song timings and doodles and (ugh) poetry and (uggghhhh) story ideas, gone at last. It’s about time, really.

The other items in the bin with the old notebooks I decided to keep: A stack of old VHS tapes, stuff like Pet Shop Boys music video collections and Pink Floyd concert videos (the official releases, mind you), that I’ll need to track down on DVD before junking for good. I hope I can, because have you seen the price of a VHS deck lately… provided you can even source one? Yikes. I should’ve digitized those tapes a decade ago. Sigh.

I also found a whole mess o’ ducks I’d forgotten about. So, some day in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be doing another round of glamour shots…

Server Migration Time

Considering that the Linode VPS known as “node2” started out several years ago as an Ubuntu 14.04 LTS system (the “14” part indicating it was built five or six years ago now) and I upgraded that in-place to 16.04 (which mostly taught me to never again do an in-place Ubuntu LTS upgrade) and seeing as how 20.04 is available now… I decided it’s time for “node3” to take over.

Yesterday I built node3 with the same “hardware” specs as node2, performed the necessary steps to make it a LAMP rig, and migrated over two of the non-database-driven websites (the PmWiki sites in the frell.co domain) successfully. Then I set up backups, because you always prioritize backups, y’all.

Today I migrated one of the WordPress sites (the mostly-defunct myduckonstuff.com) without notable drama, which is certainly encouraging.

My goal is to have this all done by month-end so I can turn off node2 and not pay full rate for both servers. Wish me luck…

A Cavalcade Of Duckies

As noted, I have my new camera (and it’s great). I have a bin full o’ duckies. I have a tripod. And now, as of this afternoon, I have a light tent (or whatever it’s supposed to be called, I dunno, I’m not a pro photographer or anything like that).

So how about some duck pics?

Tolo makes a great “test” duck for photo shoots. It’s so iconic in shape and color, and so very photogenic.

The “tent” is… larger than I originally wanted, but the size I wanted wasn’t in stock and I didn’t feel like waiting even longer to start this project, so here we are. It’s a 60x60x60cm cube with a big ring of tiny bright white LEDs up top for illumination and reflective surfaces on two sides. It gets bright in there, is what I’m saying.

Yes, this is a big improvement over the rickety setup from the last photo shoot attempt.

During the process of figuring out this test shoot I discovered that my camera has an aspect ratio setting. Hooray for the 16:9 option, but this means I need to be more careful about vertical composition since I won’t be slicing selected bits off the top & bottom anymore. A new learning curve to ascend, I suppose.

Those LEDs might be just a skosh too bright, actually…

I figured out how to lock the camera to an ISO of 100 to keep the graininess to the absolute minimum that I can with this rig. The aperture’s set to give me just a wee bit more than the minimum available depth of field as well. What I might need to do before embarking on the final photo shoot is to find a way to account for just how dingdanged bright it is inside the light tent. We’ll see, I suppose.

It’s so nice to get some of the Quacked Panes stalwarts out for some fresh air. Hello, Rei!

At first I wanted set dressing that wouldn’t distract or detract from the look of the ducks, but as I went through a variety of test shots I noticed something: While the gray blanket works great for the more traditionally (and less-traditionally) colorful ducks, the monochromatic ones have a harder time, like so:

I know it looks like Score, but this is the evil (?) twin, the one without the damaged beak.

We have a polyester throw blanket similar to the gray one you see in these pictures but in purple, and I think that might do the trick. Otherwise, we’ll figure something else out.

Poe manages to stand out while also nearly blending in. Neat trick there, pal.

Of course, the perennial problem of taking high-resolution pictures of plastic toys is that they get so dusty and dingy so very easily. And some of them are rather hard to clean due to the specific formulation of the plastic. I’ll do the best I can with what I have, I suppose.

I couldn’t leave Rusty out of this session, now could I?

There’s a long vacation-like stretch coming up next week, and that’s when I’ll try to get this project done properly. Wish me luck!

Bethany Lake Park Hike & Picnic

It’s a beautiful day, the last of those we’re likely to get for a while since the weather’s supposed to turn hot again after Monday. We decided to go on a hike up at Bethany Lake Park, and I figured I’d take the new camera along. There’s not a whole lot to interest your average shutterbug there but why pass up the chance to put the new gear through its paces?

Neither of us had ever walked much past the shaded part of the pathway, so this time we pushed onward to the top of the hill where the path goes right through, apparently, a whole entire golf course. Yes, it’s quite possible to get beaned with a golf ball while on a summer afternoon hike. (Neither of us were harmed, but there were a couple of close calls.)

Turns out that testing the panorama mode on the camera on a whim while standing under a whole bunch of power lines is not necessarily the greatest idea ever.

Having seen what was there to see (mostly dry grass and golf balls all over the place), we headed back down and found a shaded place to spread out a blanket and eat some snacks. Afterward, of course, I took more pictures.

I don’t know what these berries/fruits/whatever are but they photographed fairly well, and that’s all I care about at this point.

It really was a marvelous time. Quiet, sunny but not too hot out, people generally behaving themselves (to varying degrees), and enough exercise to make my doctor happy.

Are these snowberries? I have no idea. Dang, the new camera is doing great though.

On the way back toward the bus stop we paused at an unoccupied bench for a rest since our bus was some time off yet, and after looking around in the lake a bit I had to grab my camera because look at this marvelous bird:

Not bad for a handheld picture from 15 meters or so away at a substantial percentage of the camera’s zoom capability.

I then noticed a mallard swimming nearby and decided to push the camera’s zoom to the maximum and see how that turned out. The results were… better than the old camera would have done, but still, I think it’s best if I don’t try that again any time soon:

Please enjoy this very grainy picture of a mallard duck in a lake as best you can.

The best part, though, was when the mallard swam right by the heron:

“Hey, Herrie.” “Hey, Mallie.”

All in all, a good time out and a great validation of my new camera purchase.

Next time: More ducks! (Of one sort or another…)

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