Number 5 Dream

Taken with the worst camera I have*.

You are about to enter another dimension. – Rod Serling

Going ’round and ’round the out-of-control whirligig we call “life” …

Concentrate. Focus. Keyword: focus. Nope; got none o’ that.

So I have been looking at things, albeit blurrily of course. Videos, cameras, finances, realities. Yes, plural on that last one as I’m pretty sure I live in a different one from everyone else and mine only sort of intersects with theirs in the same way you can get cross-over frequency interference on an old stereo. (Don’t expect this to make sense. You didn’t expect it to make sense, did you?)

There was this video with a title like “Five Tips From My Five Years Of Photography”. Gee, should I do something like that? It’d have to have a slightly different title. Something like “More Than Fifty Tips From My More Than Fifty Years Of Photography”. Fortunately for everyone I don’t do video.

But it was amusing as were several other of that content provider’s videos, many of which had to do with cameras laughingly labelled as “affordable”. This is where the realities conflict because it seems other people’s “affordable” is my “costs more than the entire photographic arsenal I already have”.

Oh gosh it’s not just cameras either: lots of “affordable” things out there that look like everyone but me has the kind of unlimited disposable income normally only available to governments. Basically I see it as bragging you paid 7 times as much as a thing is worth. Kind of odd, really.

Plenty of examples of another pet peeve of mine to: that companies are in business to make profits, not products. This is why the CEO of, say, a soft drink company can become the CEO of a computer company next week: the product doesn’t matter, only the profit. When the driving force behind design is “what can we get people to buy that we can make huge amounts of money off from?” instead of “let’s make the best [noun] we possibly can” you get a market full of crap, a society of unhappy consumers, and landfills that rival Everest in height.

Also taken with the worst camera I have*.

To camera makers I would say this (if they would listen, which they won’t): There are FIVE things on a camera that need to have dedicated controls: aperture, focus, ISO, shutter, and zoom (if applicable). Oh you can have automatic override for any/all of them, but ultimately these are the things photographers adjust often when making pictures. If you want to go for six add exposure compensation because sometimes cameras don’t get that right (since they think all scenes average out to 18% reflective gray). Everything else you put on a camera is frippery. Most of those wonderful ‘features’ you include never get used.

To photographers I would say: you know what I just said is true. And if you really want to learn photography you should start with film if at all possible, or the closest digital equivalent to film that you can get. Why do I say this? Because I see a lot of professional photographers out there who are making a living by sheer luck with little to no understanding of the technical aspects, and I don’t just mean they failed to learn about infrared and the visible spectrum. These days “pro” seems to mean “obsessed with background blur to the extent that they only shoot wide open and end up disregarding the actual subject of the photo”. Don’t ask me how they get away with it.

Then again this weird reality you people are stuck in contains experts who think taking vodka off the shelf will stop a war. Hmm. Maybe not buying the vodka from an unstable dictatorship in the first place could have prevented the war?

Or people who praise the “science in Futurama” because they fail to recognize it is a cartoon and it is sending up the science in science-fiction; the actual laws of physics dictating that most of the things depicted are not possible. That’s the difference between sci-fi and fantasy; fantasy calls magic magic, not science.

Well I have some ideas for the time ahead to try and keep myself distracted from various horrors like losing further eyesight and not being able to afford food. Something of a long, strange trip which I will include you on if you’re foolish enough to hop on my metaphorical converted school bus.

Ride along. (Kodak V1003)

*Panasonic Lumix ZS60, which really is not a good camera.

Let’s play

While all our governments are spending like drunken sailors in order to mitigate the economic damage they did by not clamping down on a disease outbreak until it became pandemic (because they didn’t want to hurt the economy) …

Let’s pretend money grows on trees and no one is ever going to have to make up the trillions of dollars flowing like molasses in winter while people can’t pay their bills …

So what if future generations have taxes that they’ll never get out from under, at least the rich will still be rich and no one will be taking any of their ill-gotten, economy-strangling hoarded billions from them …

Anyway, here’s some pictures of ice. I don’t know what the connection is: you work it out.

On Billionaire Politicians

I’m not going to name any names here; you know who you are. And to that I think I can say with 100% certainty you are not reading this. Even if you did, it wouldn’t matter. Anyway this is more to enlighten others watching the gong show that politics has become all over the world.

Exactly how much you are worth and by what means it is measured is irrelevant. You have a lot of money. The amounts most of us can’t even fathom well enough to dream about. And for some reason you wish to spend it running for office. Especially, but not limited to, the office of President of the United States of America.

Why?

One would hope it was because you have a sincere desire to make things better for your fellow citizens. No doubt that is the reason espoused to the public. Maybe you’ve even convinced yourself it is true. But a critical analysis of facts shows that is a lie, and in all likelihood you know it. Really you want that office to feed your own ego; to win against a fellow wealthy competitor. It’s all one big board game to you people, and the pawns are just there to be slaughtered as needed in order to advance your goal of winning.

For one thing, despite the delusion to the contrary held by some of the holders of that esteemed office, the President doesn’t wield that much power. Within the confines of the Constitution, everything he does is kept in check by the Congress and the Supreme Court. The most autonomy he has is with Executive Orders, and they apply only to existing legal structure; they are not decrees from an absolute ruler. They can in fact be overturned by the Supreme Court. It has happened. Real changes are voted on by Congress and signed into law by the President, and still subject to constitutional review by the Supreme Court if a challenge is made. No law is made by the President alone, so he can neither take credit nor blame for such alterations to the legal structure.

This assumes that the government follows the Constitution. If any branch ignores it and the other branches do not act to correct it then that venerable document is in abeyance. If Americans still had to pass civics exams they would know that their basis of all law has been abused many times over the years, and it seems with increasing regularity and seriousness of offence. Some people in office treat their branch as a personal kingdom, and rule it with power that the Constitution does not grant them.

If all you billionaires want is a chance to sit in on this Machiavellian game of liar’s poker then that just proves my point that the government is no longer functioning as it should. The truth is you have more power to affect change from outside office than from within. What would a truly benevolent billionaire do?

Well he wouldn’t donate the occasional truckload of money to some momentarily popular cause to get his name in the news again and try to massage his ego and appease his conscience over the obscene quantity of his wealth. He would do something real, something effective, something lasting. He would stop being a billionaire, in fact.

Look, it is not logistically possible for anyone to earn a billion dollars. It would require you to work all your life at an average wage of $10,000 an hour. No one has that kind of skill set. It isn’t humanly possible to be worth that much. The only ways to acquire that amount of money are either criminal, unethical, or morally wrong. Accept that. Admit it. Move on to being a better person.

In fact I can show you how to have a decent life on a fraction of what you spend now. It’s all a matter of adjusting your priorities and realizing that having lots of stuff isn’t making you happy. Money tied up in wealth is taken away from the economy, and every $1 million you have in your bank puts one family out on the street. The reality is you’re not happy, and you are making others miserable. Somewhere in your subconscious you know this, and the guilt of it is part of what makes you unhappy.

So what should you do? Just give it away? No, because free money causes indolence. Anything not earned has no value. The purpose of charity is to overcome need, not to supplant ethics. But there are things you can do that will help.

Fund the Team. If the stated goal of your political campaign is to take the seat from the opposition, then understand that one office alone does not rule. You can contribute to campaigns all over, helping to unseat not just one incumbent but dozens. Instead of just you as president, you can help put your party in power. After all, you aver that its position on issues is the right one that will help all of society, don’t you? If not, fund a party that will. The whole point of any society is to look after all its members, not just an elite few. Otherwise you don’t really have a society, just a gang taking advantage of all the other people.

Refinance the Programs. As a member of the opposition, you should take the view that budget cuts made by the current administration are wrong as it takes spending priority away from what you feel is needed. You have billions. You can set up trust funds to provide income to keep these devastated departments going despite the lack of government dollars flowing in. One billion dollars can reasonably provide $50,000,000 per year income, and that can save a lot of lives.

Start new Initiatives. You can see what’s wrong, develop private programs to correct it. You can get a lot of help from wealthy celebrities who seem to have plenty of time and money to devote to complaining about social problems but do little to make any real advancement. Again this is because they too do not want to give up their lifestyle of excess. It is a paradox that not only do the extremely poor never miss what they haven’t got, but so the ultra-rich do not fathom how much they have – and can’t imagine being without it. You don’t think so? A recent survey showed a majority of people would rather do without food than Internet access. Think about that. Society’s priorities are terribly skewed, and it affects all income levels.

Sue the Bastards. I mentioned the tendency for Constitutional law to be ignored by those whose purposes it does not suit. Ultimately such illegality has to be challenged in court, and that is expensive. How difficult would it be to hire some young lawyers looking to make a difference to do the research on each violation and present the cases? And if it turns out the Supreme Court is politically corrupted then the evidence can be presented to the public. Elected and appointed officials need the occasional reminder that there are three ways they can lose their jobs, and the third one is the least pleasant.

I know this whole article is nothing more than catharsis for myself as it will be seen by few, ignored by all, and never ever noticed by those who need to have it shoved in their faces repeatedly until they learn the lesson. But then I’m having trouble shaking this latest downside cycle I’m in, and the venting may help. Not you or anyone else, just me. For your sake I’m stopping now before I go into extensive details and start getting really snarky about specific people.

The Ghost of Aunt Ada

My Aunt Ada was a very interesting woman. Quite a character in fact, although that didn’t make her unusual in our family. I thought of her this week when I was watching prices on things go up inexplicably. Why? Because she used to go to the local flea market and haggle, and yes I would go too and complain about what people were asking. One time she volunteered to walk up and down the rows banging a pan and shouting “People your prices are all too high!” She didn’t actually do it, but it was a close thing.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned two items I’d found that I was interested in buying but felt they were both a tad expensive yet. One of them sold before I’d finished writing that missive, and now the other one has gone up in price by $40. What’s more, a certain new lens I’ve been watching since before Christmas has gone from “$149” to “$129” to “$179” to “$177”, up and down bouncing between the numbers with no rhyme or reason.

It gets worse. I looked at some used laptops and found that people seem to want as much if not more as you can buy comparable units for new. Did they not get the memo? The moment you buy that latest tech its value drops by half and it’s already superseded by a new model. What you paid for it isn’t relative to its worth, which is why you still have it for sale.

Looking on local and national sales sites (E-Bay Canada is just E-Bay USA with extra charges for shipping, exchange rate, import fees, and taxes) for anything you care to mention and you see it’s all nutso pricing. In addition to the previous mentioned products we have people trying to sell $2 Matchbox cars for $20 (or sometimes a lot more), clothing you can get out of you-know-where being priced on-line for 3X retail, and dollar store goods offered as though they are from Harrod’s. Are people really so foolish as to not shop around?

There are those who say I’m the fool for not grabbing those items when I could because when they’re gone they’re gone. I say “so what?” I’ve seen things “go” for more than half a century and know not only is there another opportunity coming, but you didn’t cease to exist just because you didn’t get that whatsit that you managed to live without before you saw it. So I’ll continue to follow the Zen and wait for the planets to align, or whatever, before making my purchases.

But what we really need is the ghost of Aunt Ada walking up and down the metaphorical aisles of on-line selling banging her pan and shouting “People, you have got to lower your prices!”

Speaking of ghosts, here’s ghost cat (a preliminary experimental photo):

ghostcat

Been shopping?

I went shopping yesterday. We didn’t need much because we’re just two old people and we don’t eat much. In fact the entirety of the purchases fit in one bag you could lift with one hand.

It cost $66 and change.

How the hell is that even possible? There weren’t any cans of caviar in there I assure you. In fact the contents were a couple of cans of beans (on sale), a couple of packages of coffee (on sale), a box of cereal (should have been on sale – more later on this), a package of fresh chicken thighs (on sale), some deli ham (on sale), a pack of M&Ms (on sale), and a litre of 2% milk.

So what happened? Well for one thing the local Safeway closed down, to be reborn as a Freshco (for no sane reason) come January. This has given the only other grocery store in town an excuse to jack up prices on all non-sale items. Yet most of the things I bought were on sale. Hmm. Sales aren’t very good these days, are they? I keep seeing that when I look at the flyers: mostly items we don’t want, and not great deals on anything anyway. An example would be 2 litre pop: Safeway would regularly put them on sale for $1.67 each, whereas this other store’s idea of a sale is $2.59, regularly $2.99.

We did not buy exclusively from Safeway beforehand, because the other place had decent deals and better produce. In fact Safeway allowed us to get things for free via the Air Miles Cash Miles rewards, which are now useless to us. Good thing we only have a few hundred dollars worth of them, eh?

Now let’s look at the other store’s Reward Points program. Hardly ever used it for anything because the items they’d discount with them were rarely anything we wanted. So we had about 9,000 points saved up. That is until they expired without warning. Which is why when I expected to get the cereal on discount there wasn’t any; the points had expired and we didn’t have enough saved up since that reset to zero. Isn’t that nice of them?

The typical consumer response to this kind of bad treatment is to shop elsewhere. This only works when there is an ‘elsewhere’. The next nearest large grocery is in the big city which is over an hour drive each way. That’s a lot of time and gasoline so you’d need a really long shopping list to justify the journey. Remember what I was after: one bag of groceries.

When you’re retired on a fixed income this sort of shenanigans is not welcome. They’ve raised our taxes, and the government services have not improved any. The price of gasoline is quite steep, and there’s no way to shorten the distances (the Hybrid has helped here with its 35 MPG, but the capital expenditure has to be amortized over longer than we will live to make that work out). Electricity has gone up, probably thanks to everyone using less as requested. Also our vehicle insurance (state run) has gone up, yet they still lose millions every day because the agency is so badly operated. It will be interesting to see if the province votes in a new gang of thieves next year to replace the incompetent, bungling morons who are running things now. I should mention that many of these items have 12% sales tax piled on top of the price, on sale or not.

And I have to mention that the bag included my antacid medicine, which had to be replaced with a type that costs double because ranitidine in all forms has been pulled from the shelves. Something to do with microcontamination of it that might cause cancer (as opposed to the reflux it prevents which does cause cancer).

Oh by the way the name of this offending store is, ironically, “Save-On Foods”. I kid you not.

Ready for the war?

Amazingly just as gasoline suppliers switch over to “cheaper to produce” Winter Blend there is suddenly an attack on a Saudi oil installation that knocks out “half production capacity”. Neatly this is blamed on Iran, because certain parties want a war with them.

Couldn’t be anything to do with wanting higher oil profits, could it? Couldn’t be a small bit of explosive barely damaging anything exaggerated to epic destruction, could it? Couldn’t be an excuse for a certain moron to start a war for political gain, could it? Couldn’t be the public being lied to yet again like so many other times in the past re oil and war, could it?

Mmmm … could be.

Could be that a certain president who borrowed tons of money off the Saudis needs to repay them. Could be that a certain president who is controlled by and owes money to Russia needs to give them a further boost (they sell oil too, you know). Could be that a certain president needs to win another election and what better way than to have a war so anyone who stands against him automatically becomes a traitor.

You’re going to get hosed, people. I guarantee it.

The only thing working against this transparent conspiracy to rake in cash and solidify political power is that the ‘man at the top’ is such a stupid, incompetent, bungling moron he can’t possibly pull it off no matter how much foreign help he gets. All of his businesses have gone bankrupt (the reason for borrowing millions from Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China) and all his prior attempts to start a war have failed. This is one of the hallmarks of the true terrorist: being so bad at it they don’t actually succeed at their supposed goals.

Nevertheless we’re all in for an uncontrolled sleigh ride down the frozen slopes of Hell, and we can only hope for the sudden natural deaths of a large number of people to prevent it.

What’s that you say? It would be impossible to keep such a conspiracy secret? What makes you think they’re even trying to? They only have to fool some of the people all of the time to get away with it.

Why do I think this? Because I’ve been around more than half a century and I’ve seen it all before.

And we’re seeing it again: Oil Price Jump