Travel Photography, AI, And Photo Editing

“The journey is the reward,” it’s been said.  A sentiment to which I heartily agree.

In April, 2024, I took the longest trip in terms of duration that I’ve taken since I was in college.  It could also have been the longest trip in terms of miles too, but I’m not going to attempt to measure.  I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been able to travel where I’ve wanted to go, and usually when I’ve wanted.  Now that I’m retired, this is truer than ever.

My recent trip lasted four weeks and took me to the lands Down Under:  New Zealand and Australia.  If there is one negative thing to say about the trip it would be that it wasn’t long enough!  I made good use of the Pin Traveler app, and learned how to deal with its quirks and design issues early on.  I created a trip in the app and then logged each (major) stop.  This is a screen shot of the trip as shown in the app:

“Pinned” places on NZ/AUS trip

There are quite a few “pins” on this map!  I counted 21 stops in 28 days.  It was quite a journey.  Well worth the 24 hours flying time it took to get there (28 to return!).

For the second time in as many trips, I opted to leave my Nikon camera at home and to use my iPhone 14 Pro as my only camera.  It was not an easy choice to make, but in my opinion, the camera capabilities of Apple’s smartphones are good for all but the most demanding professional.  I’m not yet ready to forego my DSLR yet, but I’m happy with a number of the photos I took with the phone, so even though a part of me regrets not taking the larger camera, I don’t think I missed getting any shot I wanted to take.

And since taking a “grab shot” with a phone is easier than with a camera slung around one’s neck as one is navigating a rain forest trail or trekking along with a group among city streets, maybe there’s a photo or two I couldn’t have taken otherwise.  We’ll never know.

What makes this whole topic even easier is the current level of astounding technology in the photo editing field.  I’m a bit of a software junkie, so I have purchased subscriptions to what I consider to be the three top photo editing programs available today:  Adobe Photoshop/Lightroom, ON1 Photo RAW 2024, and Luminar NEO.  I wish I could say that one stands head and shoulders above the rest, but this is a red-hot, highly competitive market right now, and each is attempting to outdo the others with features and capabilities.  AI (artificial intelligence, in case you’ve been in a coma for the past decade or so) has found its way into photo editing software and the results are quite remarkable!

Having been in the tech field for the bulk of my career, I have no illusions as to what it is, what it can (or can’t) do, and I don’t fear it becoming self-aware like the HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

After settling in from my trip, I downloaded the photos I took from my phone to my computer and decided to see what I could do with my recently updated apps.  Since ON1 had just released a major update, I thought I would give it a try.  I was impressed!  With just three or four clicks using the built-in AI, I was able to add vibrance and clarity to photos that were otherwise drab and uninteresting.  To accomplish this earlier would have meant making many changes and adjustments.  Since I’m not prepared to go into a major before-and-after comparison, let me just say that this software is making it much easier to achieve standout photos than before.  Of course, there is always the down side:  To say that “Photographs don’t lie” is now a false statement.  Photos can most certainly lie.  That they’ve been able to do this for decades isn’t the issue.  That now almost anyone can make a photo into something it isn’t or wasn’t is.

Well, no article about photography, editing or AI would be complete without some examples, would it?  So, here I present some finished photos from my recent trip.  All taken with my iPhone.

World Famous UNESCO site, the Sydney, Australia Opera House

Sydney, Australia at night.

Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. A UNESCO World Heritage Site

I’m still editing photos — both from this trip and others.  Now that I’m retired, I can take as much time to render passable images as I please.  I may even post some of them here!

Off To OZ And Other Ruminations

Next week I will embark on what I think may be the longest vacation trip I’ve taken since reaching adulthood.  Taking my ninth Road Scholar trip, I am flying to New Zealand for two weeks, and then on to Australia for another two.  This is a trip I’ve long wanted to take, and it will also mark the sixth continent that I’ve stepped foot on.  That leaves only Antarctica, and I’m not highly motivated to visit there, although I hear it’s fascinating.  Well, one trip at a time, yes?

Given my penchant for traveling light, I’m carefully considering what to pack.  I’ll check one bag, carry on another, and keep my laptop and electronic devices close at hand.  It’s just beginning Autumn south of the Equator, so I need to make sure I have appropriate gear for cool, but not cold weather.  It’s mildly warmer in Australia, but I think what works in one locale should work in the other.  Lightweight, easy-dry pants and shirts, with perhaps a parka and a hat will suffice.  Choosing them is the task that I’m facing.

Well, all of this wouldn’t be worthy of a blog post, so I’m adding some additional content.

My father once kept a map of the world on the wall of his home office, and he’d place a pin on every country or city that he’d visited.  It was an impressive display!  I’ve tried to follow suit, but using modern technology, instead.  For a number of years, the travel site Tripadvisor had a feature where you could search the globe and mark every place you’d visited. It would then provide statistics, such as how many countries, states, cities, etc.  I had quite a list, but it’s all but gone now.  If Tripadvisor still has it, they’ve hidden it well.  I couldn’t find it the last time I looked.

Two years ago, during the early stages on my wonderful Greek Island Odyssey (also a Road Scholar adventure) I happened upon an iPhone app called “Pin Traveler.”  I downloaded it and began logging the islands, cities and sites during that trip.  It was such a great replacement for the Tripadvisor online-only experience that I bought the Lifetime Membership!  I don’t recall the actual price, but it was something like $30 US.

Pin Traveler Map of Greek Trip

The pins mark each place in Greece and Turkey I visited.

Recently I was reminded of this app when I received an email from the developers announcing some new features and updates.  I was delighted, as I do not like applications that become “abandon-ware.”

Now for the down side.  I have difficulty at times navigating the user interface.  It’s easy to “drop a pin” and add comments.  The app will locate (using the Google API) the city or place, but I’ve had a very difficult time gathering the locations into “trips.”  The above screen, for example, is in my mind a single trip (my Greek Odyssey), but each element (Pin) seems to appear as a single trip instead of a segment.  I haven’t found a way to back fill these individual pins into a single “Trip” entity.  Perhaps that’s coming in an update?  I’ve written to the developers, so we’ll see what happens.

In any event, I’m hoping for this upcoming trip I can “pre-heat” the journey by creating a trip and then adding the pins as I drop them to it.  Even if isn’t possible (or at least obvious), I will still have a record of the places I’ve been, and more pins and statistics I can share with those who may be interested.

 

It Can’t Happen Here

In 1966 Frank Zappa released his seminal double-LP, Freak Out! by the Mothers of Invention.

Freak Out! Album Cover

Album cover for Freak Out!

While the album was a sardonic and often critical statement on the state of the 1960s, it’s amazing how much the content remains relevant today, in 2024, 58 years later!

I still own the album on vinyl.  And more often these days, I’m reminded of some of the song titles and lyrics:  Who Are The Brain Police?  Trouble Every Day, and the song that inspired this post, It Can’t Happen Here.  Why?

Only a few years after the release of Freak Out!, I found myself the dependent son of an American diplomat posted behind the Iron Curtain, a term coined by Winston Churchill in 1946 to depict the divide between the Soviet Union and Western Europe. This was at the height of the Cold War, when Americans were viewed by communist regimes as “the enemy.” As a long-haired college kid at the time, I found the experience educational and informative.  Better still, I had the luxury of leaving any time I wished (college was in what was then known as West Germany) so I had enormous advantages that the everyday citizens of the country did not.  I drove an American car with diplomatic license plates when citizens had to save up and wait for years to obtain a terrible Trabant, Wartburg or similar examples of soviet “expertise.”

A Trabant (defunct) from East Germany, circa 1966 - 1985

A Trabant P 601

I knew I had privilege.  I was able to go places, buy things and enjoy myself at leisure.  I also knew (and had been apprised of this by embassy personnel) that I was under constant surveillance.  It’s likely my bedroom was bugged, our house staff would certinaly report anything that might compromise my family’s position, and that everywhere I went I was followed by the secret police.  In fact, I enjoyed spotting my “tails” and would sometimes lead them around on wild goose chases as I navigated the cities and countryside.  Despite my youth and privileged status, it was clear to me there was an “us-versus-them” air about my time there.

When the Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989, it signaled the end of the Cold War.  At least as we knew it (my father had a photograph of him chipping away a piece of it, and enclosed the fragment in a block of lucite).  What followed was a period of détente, where if we weren’t “pals” with the Russians, we at least agreed to trade, and generally cooperate.

So, now back to the topic at hand:  It can’t happen here.

For decades, Americans have been schooled on the “evils of communism.”  Until they weren’t!  At some undetermined point, but likely in 1991, when the Soviet Union dissolved, the Soviet threat seemed to have lifted.  But that didn’t end communism; it just took on a new face.  For a few years, Russia struggled internally, and then in 1999 Vladimir Putin climbed the steps of power, becoming the country’s president in 2012, where he continues to this day (having rewritten the Russian constitution to allow him to do so, and by eliminating his political opponents — permanently).

America’s relationship with communism and Russia has been and up-and-down affair for years.  During President Obama’s time in office, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made famous the “RESET” attempt.

Spelling error -

Spelling error – “Reset” translated to “overcharge” on embarrassing attempt to mend US-Russian relations.

When Vladimir Putin assumed the Russian presidency in 2012, the wily former KGB officer began to put his lock on the Russian political scene.  At the same time, the values and practices of the soviets had been hard at work in the U. S.  The educational system was infested with leftist ideologues, and graduates from colleges and universities that had become indoctrination centers began to take up residence in schools, media, law centers and offices of government (local, state and federal).  The quote by former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev rings out:

Gullible Americans according to Nikita Krushchev

Krushchev quote on Americans accepting socialism and communism.

So, when Frank Zappa sang, “It can’t happen here,” he was not only satirizing mainstream middle America, but was also foretelling the direction the country would take when the “Hungry Freaks, Daddy” became mainstream (check the lyrics at the link).  Today, the halls of government, academia, healthcare and technology have upended the Constitution and turned the USA into a mirror of the soviet state.

We have a two-tiered justice system (“laws for thee but not for me”).  where you are protected if you’re a member of the privileged class, but jailed or ruined if you’re not.  The U.S. has become a surveillance state, as former CIA director James Clapper admitted to Congress. There is a secret court (FISC) with unnamed judges conducting investigations into private American citizens’ lives.  Profligate spending to send purported hush-money (and the anticipated kickbacks) has run the country to the brink of ruin, while the borders have become open doors to the world’s underclass.  As Donald Trump once said (and was pilloried for saying it), ““When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you.”  Few of the migrants breaking U. S. immigration law are likely rocket scientists, computer programmers, or brain surgeons.

Russian author Elena Gorokhova wrote in her book, A Mountain of Crumbs, “They lie to us, we know they’re lying, they know we know they’re lying but they keep lying anyway, and we keep pretending to believe them.”  That pretty much describes the current status of USA.

As Walt Kelly’s Pogo once observed, “We have me the enemy and he is us.”

We Have Met The Enemy...

Walt Kelly’s Pogo the Possum, © 1971

It can’t happen here.  Right?

LinkedIn – A Story and a Warning

LinkedIn is one of what I refer to as a second-tier “big tech” company.  By second-tier I mean that it’s not always the first corporate name that springs to mind when that term is used.  In my mind, Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft logos are the ones that seem to appear when the discussion of big tech occurs.

But LinkedIn, which was founded by Reid Hoffman and Eric Ly and which was launched on May 5, 2003, was praised in the past by technologists for its implementation of new, complex “big technologies.”  LinkedIn was acquired by Microsoft in 2016.  Yep, Big Tech.

I created a LinkedIn account during my working career, sometime around 2011.  At the time, LinkedIn was going public, with its initial public offering (IPO).  By the end of the year, LinkedIn had a higher market value than Twitter.

Let’s detour for a moment and consider “social networks.”  Think of an electronic version of a public notice or bulletin board, where anyone is free to post want ads, babysitting services, yard work, junk removal and personal profiles.  That’s the general idea behind behind the likes of Craigslist, MySpace, Facebook and others.  These sites captured the imagination of (mostly) young people and grew accordingly.  I won’t go into the psychology of obsessiveness that developed among a large number of users.

The founders and developers of these sites discovered something television producers had known for decades:  You make money by advertising.  Over-the-air television cost nothing more than the set on which to receive the signal.  It paid for itself many times over by presenting the viewer with advertisements.  This was the model that turned Google into a powerhouse Big Tech company.  Simply put:  Make the usage free and put advertisements in front of the users.

But “Big Tech” is big tech.  The Googles of the world learned that they had the ability to track users, and to target them with ads based on their searches, activities and behaviors.  A rumor floated a few years ago that Facebok (or name your big tech company) was able to read your hard disk and lift personal information from it.  That was never proved, and these days would be extremely difficult to do, but Facebook and every big tech company does read the contents of your web browser’s cache.

Cache.  Ah, a term that’s often not clearly understood.  Having worked in a field where cache is a major component of the technology, I feel qualified to discuss this further.  Cache is an area of a computer’s memory or hard disk that is used to store recently accessed data.  It does this to speed up computer operations by not needing to “go to the well” every time, thereby also reducing resource consumption at the source. EVERY web browser maintains a cache of data.  It’s this data that exists and can be used by big tech.  If you are handing out your personal information (address, driver’s license number, credit card information, etc.) that information exists in cache.  Need I draw the connecting lines?

The good news is that browsers are becoming more security conscious, as are most computer systems developers.  For example, Apple’s latest operating systems offerings continue to add features meant to secure your data from prying technology.  Of course, the cost of doing so makes using a Mac less “user-friendly,” but the trade-off is seen as being worth it.

So, back to LinkedIn.  I chose LinkedIn as the subject of this piece due mostly to my personal experience with it.  As mentioned above, I created a LinkedIn account during the peak of my professional career.  Presented as a “socia networking system for professionals,” the concept of LinkedIn was to enable professionals to post their résumés , connect with others, search for job openings, preview job candidates, and enable peer-to-peer evaluations.

On the surface, the concept sounded appealing.  After all, why not connect to a world of your peers?  It wasn’t until I’d had my account for a couple of years that the cracks began to appear.  Like other social networks, LinkedIn would propose connections.  Often, these would be people employed in your organization, in similar job fields, alumni of your college(s) and linkages (hence the name, LinkedIn) it deemed appropriate.  Fair enough, it’s how the system works.

But when I started receiving praise and recommendations for capabilities I don’t have, for experience I’ve never had,  by people I barely know, my eyebrows began to raise.  This started happening with regular frequency.  It made me question the entire veracity of the system.

Feeling that LinkedIn was more a waste of my time than a benefit to my career or productivity, I decided to close my account.  This is where the hammer dropped.  In short:  You can’t.

Oh sure, you can “close” your account, but LinkedIn’s Terms of Service (TOS) state (in my English translation of lawyerspeak) that all data you send to LinkedIn becomes THEIR data. The effect of “closing” my account meant that my data was not accessible to ME, but it was still there for everyone else to see!  Hey – check your TOS on Facebook, Google and the others.  I’d be willing to wager they all say the same thing:  Your data is THEIR data.  That gives rise to the saying, “If a service is free, YOU are the product.” 

So, I re-opened my account.  Yes, I was able to re-link (sorry!) to my data.  As I have now moved into the realm of the retired, I clearly put that as my status, and changed my profile photo to that of a milk carton with “Missing” displayed on the face.

And today, I still get recommendations and offers.  It’s a good thing Big Technology has provided a way to detect this nonsense as junk, and to send it to my trash bin unread. LinkedIn no longer exists to me, and neither do Twitter (“X”), Facebook and other “social” networks.  I use technology daily, but my searches aren’t done through Google, and I share only my AppleID account information with Apple.  My data isn’t for sale.

(The opinions in this article are those of the author only.  As the saying goes, “Your mileage may vary.”)

A Week of Retirement

October 17, 2023 was my last day at work.  Following the end of the normal workday, I was honored with a dinner by my local colleagues (and was presented with gift cards for $500 at Guitar Center!).  And then my retired life began.

It’s now been a week.  There are many books and tales of how people adjust to retirement.  Perhaps the most apparent to me is the ease of not having to adhere to a daily schedule.  Oh, for sure there are places and times that I must still conform to, such as helping pack food for students, church services and activities, and the recovery meetings I attend.  But each morning as I open my eyes, the first thing my eyes alight on is the clock, and my first thought is, “I don’t have to get up just yet.”  I do anyway, because I’m now awake, but there is no pressure to do so.

I must learn to concern myself less with financial issues.  One of the first tasks I undertook without needing to care about the time was to take my Mercedes in for what I thought was going to be a simple five minute fastener replacement.  Nope.  It turns out the loose fastener is due to my front bumper coming loose.  I need a new front bumper.  Sigh.  So now almost immediately I’m faced with an unexpected expense (Mercedeses aren’t cheap to maintain).  The two sides of my mind say, “Oh, boy, this is gonna hurt.” and “You’ve got the money.  Be glad it happened now and not ten years into your retirement.”  These are new thoughts, brought on by the knowledge I do not have a regular paycheck to refill my bank account.

Health coverage is another new facet to my retired life.  My employer paid 100% of my health coverage and now I have to navigate the confusing waters of Medicare and its multiple “parts.”  I have already confirmed my enrollment in Medicare Part A, but I’ve had to request a “replacement” card since I don’t recall ever receiving the original.  And I need that in order to apply for Part B.  The government says I should receive it within the month.  A month!

Still, I have a long-anticipated trip to Peru looming.  I paid for it while I still was earning a paycheck, so I’m not fretting the payment, and simply looking forward to my first adventure without having to set an out-of-office auto-reply on my email.

Finally, I’m making sure I still get my exercise.  The weather recently made it easy to just sit on the couch reading, but my upcoming trip will be physically taxing, and I’m so used to moving my body that I am resuming walking and running.  I went for a nice three mile walk yesterday, once again cognizant that I didn’t have to be anywhere (home) at any specific time.  The weather was early Autumn wonderful, so I explored some new paths in my continuing knowledge of the community in which I live.  I love that we have trails and paths.  One day perhaps, I’ll have walked, run or biked them all!

Being A Social Media Outcast

The title of this piece is slightly misleading.  An outcast is someone who has been literally cast out of a tribe, a community, or an environment.  In my case, it’s a self-inflicted condition.

When the public Internet was young (circa 1993-1995) social networking, as we now refer to it, was largely unknown.  But in the early 2000s, sites like Friendster, LinkedIn and MySpace came online, and social networking began.  MySpace was eclipsed by Facebook and social networking took off.  Soon to follow were the likes of Twitter (now X) and almost everything on the Internet became “social.”  I too, jumped into the pool.

My initial foray into social media came when my daughter left for college.  I had learned she had opened an account on Facebook, and I did so also, as a means of staying in touch.

There was a lot of fascination with the concept at first.  I added “friend” after “friend,” as names were suggested to me, and they were all people I knew in the circles in which I traveled.  Truthfully, not many of them would actually meet my criteria of “friend,” but it was entertaining to see photos of places people visited, accomplishments and awards earned, and other forms of vicarious experience.

But I learned my daughter didn’t really use Facebook.  So, after the freshness wore off, I began to grow tired of the rampant narcissism.  Because after all, Facebook is first and foremost about “me.”  The majority of users, I stipulate, are always putting on their best faces and showing how wonderful and perfect their lives are.  Don’t you wish you were me?

After a while, the tone of social media began to appear shrill and strident.  “Thread drift” became the norm (I maintain that if a topic goes on, by the third “page” it has devolved into a shouting match akin to “I’m right and you’re wrong.”  Except often not as polite.  And no longer on point.

When I began this post, I had a lot of thoughts I felt I could post.  But I tend to want to keep these periodic pieces short, so as to not bore the reader.  Thus, I will wrap this up by saying this:

I’m not a social media outcast.  I’m a social media “hermit.”  And I’m quite happy to be away from the mess.

Writers Writing For Writers

I recently joined Substack.  Then I joined Medium.  Why?  The short answer is that I was thinking of turning to writing once my retirement become final.

But I write here.  Why add new sites when I can write all I want on my own site? The short answer, I think, is exposure.

Yes, I admit that the idea of pulling in a few extra dollars to supplement my retirement is one of the considerations for my choices, but I’m quickly re-thinking that decision.

The research I did suggested that Medium is better suited to writers who simply want to write.  Substack is geared toward writers who want to get paid. However, I’m not sure I fit in to either category.

For starters, the general consensus is that columns, blogs, posts, or whatever you want to call them should all be “topical.”  In other words, the feeling is that readers will want you to focus on a particular subject, otherwise they won’t be interested in reading what you have to say.  I don’t know that I completely subscribe to that belief.  I enjoy reading articles by Victor Davis Hanson, Christopher Chantrill and the like.  True, they tend to speak to modern American society, politics and culture, but part of their appeal to me is that they do vary the topics on which they write.

Lately, I’ve been receiving my daily updates from Medium and the trend seems to be users/authors expressing their disappointment and frustration with the offering.  I’m so new to the site that I haven’t had the experiences others may have had, but it doesn’t speak well when the primary topic discussed is something like, “Why I left Medium.”

Still, there’s some attraction to using a delivery platform that has a built-in readership.  It’s unrealistic to think that one will be an overnight success simply by clicking a few keys and hitting the “publish” button.

I think I’ll continue.  Here, and on Medium and Substack.  At least for now.

The Die Is Cast

According to the Free Dictionary, the term The die is cast “comes from the Latin Iacta alea est, “the dice have been thrown,” which according to Suetonius was said by Julius Caesar when he crossed the Rubicon and invaded Italy in 49 b.c.”

Today I informed my manager of my intention to retire.  I’d already spoken with H.R. about how to go about doing so, and after speaking with the both of them, sent them my official letter of resignation.  We haven’t yet determined the final date, but I made it clear I would not remain longer than six months.  I’m ready to go at any time, but I believe the appropriate and professional thing to do is to allow for my replacement to be found and brought up to speed.

Dice

Dice

Once the dice are face up, there’s no going back.  I’ve been talking about this with my family and friends for a while — and my planning goes back a good four years — and now it’s time.

I find it funny that everyone I’ve spoken to says how wonderful, and great news!  I think I may be the only one who has some trepidation about the whole thing.  I’ll stop receiving a salary.  I won’t have company-paid health care.  I’ll have to learn to live on my savings, investments and social security.  It’s a transition that for me isn’t 100% happy.  I may feel differently a few months from now, but right now I’m trying to get mentally prepared.

But there’s no taking it back now.  And I don’t think I’d want to even if I could!

 

Life In The Real World

It’s hard for me to believe that just over 50 years ago, I departed the campus of the University of Maryland in Munich, Germany to begin my life as an adult.  Sadly, no web sites dedicated to the Munich Campus exists, other than a mention in Wikipedia about McGraw Kaserne.

U. of Md. Munich Campus logo

U. of Md. Munich Campus logo

Yesterday (Sunday, March 26, 2023) I attended a multi-year reunion of Munich Campus attendees.  I thought I might be one of the older ones there, but I was surprised to find most of the folks gathering were students there during the 1960s!  And there were quite a few from the 1980s.  In fact, only one other 1970s-era attendee was there.

There is a sense of shared experience among those who attended the Munich Campus.  I felt right at home with the people (about 40) despite not having attended with any of them.  All of us have Oktoberfest memories, student pranks, dormitory escapades, instructor stories, and the relationships we formed and in many case, retain today.

Having attended a number of high school reunions, I scratch my head at times in wonderment that some people somehow seem to live in the past, considering their high school years the best times of their life.  High school was not that for me, but I do confess that my days in Munich were filled with awe and amazement.  I loved living abroad, learning another language, and, in all honesty, being irresponsible.  The only requirement placed upon me and others was to get passing grades.  We could smoke, drink, stay out all night, sleep in, and carouse in ways only college students are capable. For all intents and purposes, we were adults (there is no drinking age in most European countries) without adult responsibilities.  I have many fond memories of exploring, partying, jamming and sightseeing, all while maintaining a Dean’s List grade point average!

Munich was only a two year experience, sad to say.  In many ways, it almost a dream-like existence.  Having decided I wanted to continue my college studies, I had to find a college that would accept me and let me achieve my baccalaureate.  Some of the colleges I looked into would have required me to add an additional year to my studies, but I was eager to graduate, so I transferred to the University of Maryland’s home campus in College Park, Maryland.  Where the experience was turned on its head.

I won’t delve into how life in or near College Park was 180° different.  My life as and adult started when I arrived and U. of Md. informed me that

  1. They didn’t consider me an in-state student, despite having attended two years at the school.  A remote campus apparently does not qualify as in-state.  Therefore, no dorm room!
  2. It also meant I would have to pay out-of-state tuition.

I needed to establish residency by a) finding and renting an apartment off campus, and b) getting a job.  This helped pay for the apartment as I fulfilled the qualification requirements for in-state tuition.  As a result, I became somewhat of an “outsider” because I didn’t live on campus and have a social experience with other students.  Instead, I now had the responsibilities of working a job, paying rent, buying and cooking my own food, and getting to know my neighbors, most of whom were not students!

Thus it was that I couldn’t wait to receive my degree.  After establishing residency, I re-enrolled and dedicated myself to fulfilling the requirements for graduation.  Once I had diploma in hand, I just continued to work the job I’d taken, and “officially” entered the “real world.”  The reunion yesterday was a pleasant memory bubble, but I can’t relive it, and really don’t want to.  The real world, with all its flaws, is better approached head-on, and with full knowledge it isn’t “days of wine and roses.”

Call This A Placeholder

A few days ago I was thinking of all the spam email I receive, and of posting a snarky comment to the effect, “Why are you welcoming me to something I didn’t ask for, don’t want, and didn’t initiate?” But in the end, I realized there was no real point to be made railing against the characters who mass produce this nonsense.

So it left me thinking that at this current point in my life, I’m somewhat adrift.  I’ve been single again for some thirteen years now, the job I’ve held has lost its luster, and my intention to retire this year fills me both with eagerness and anxiety.

I’ve taken a renewed interest in computer programming (and now I have a category into which to place this post), and have begun looking into Javascript and web technologies — the same technologies that inspired me to creating this web site in the first place.

A few plugs:  I have been using the wonderful, free web server software from Aprelium, called Abyss.  It’s a full-featured web server, and I have been exploring various aspects of server-side includes (SSI) and common gateway interface (CGI).  As mentioned in my previous post, I have also started unpacking and learning Apple’s Shortcuts program.  I also came across a nifty freeware widget called “Plash

Plash icon

Plash icon

that enabled me to fulfill my wish to overlay the name of the image file used on my Mac’s desktop.  Available on the App Store, its author has produced other superb software, and I was delighted to support him in his efforts!  I wound up crafting a solution using a shell script, a Shortcut, and Plash.

Something is pending.  I don’t know what it is, be it a new life experience as a retiree, or something else, but that’s the feeling I’ve been having.  I still exercise daily, play guitar, spend time (productively, or not) on the computer, and enjoy cooking and eating, but right now I feel somewhat in-the-middle.  Call it a placeholder.