Adventures with my Fujifilm X30 continues

I’m taking the camera more places which is good. Its not a habit though which I would want it to be. I took it to work yesterday and ended up at a 7/11 store and took this. I wanted to try making basic changes to the black and white so darkened it a bit and applied “pop”.

Shooting in black and white creates a completely different reality but applying a few basic post processes brings out more of the photograph which I did not capture in my enthusiasm and complete newbieness.

I also went to a park earlier today to play around with Aperture Priority shooting on the X30. It gives more control over the camera but still the camera sets the ISO and shutter speed so not all the values are up to me.

I need to learn more technique and ability with the aperture. Its one of the triangle of photo shooting. If you are just learning (like me), a few resources come in handy that are not slanted toward any camera in general but more about technology and approach. Easy to find with a google search!

Shooting with a camera is so different. The X30 has different film simulation modes which are fun to play with and explore. The above picture was taken with the Velvia mode. Each one offers some unique combination and a new playground for things to experiment with.

I also went prowling through our backyard and its amazing what I could find to take a picture of if I would remember the camera.

Its truly unlimited out there and I’m glad I bought the camera. I cannot imagine now going back to my smartphone camera no matter how well its rated. Learning photography is not just about taking pictures in some auto mode and letting the camera adjust. Its finding the different modes and learning each one.

I am hoping that by the time I travel to Vancouver and do all the different kinds of photography I am learning now, I’ll be better and more able to judge what I should set the camera to. The real benefit is learning something new. The camera worth has far exceeded what I paid for it already.

Uh Oh. Mike got a new camera…

You know what that means, right?

These were my first photos with the FujiFilm X30. I have a feeling that there will be lots more to come. This camera has a definite funk feeling to it. I wanted to head out to a few local places and shoot on fully automatic where I let the camera decide what it should do.

I also offloaded the photos from the SD card to my chromebook and then uploaded to Google Photos in Starbucks. This will be the way I “harvest” the photos each day when I travel so its like proving out how the workflow will work. Since my chromebook has the android apps as well, I can run Google Photos Android and Instagram. I think it would be easier to share from my android phone using Google Photos after its all uploaded.

Someone asked the key differences and why I would want to move to a camera. There’s lots of reasons. The first thing is a smartphone is just that. Its smart and its a phone. No matter how good the camera, there’s a certain thing to holding a camera. There is also a learning thing for me where the camera and I reach an agreement. That’s to come though after a number of more day trips to various and sundry places where I shoot with the Fuji on fully auto and harvest the pictures.

Reaching Milestones

As a project manager in IT, there’s a satisfaction and sometime joy to reaching milestones. You realize you have crossed over a task and left it at 100% of completion. There’s no doubt when it happens because all the requirements and prerequisites are hit and the plan shows that each subtask or predecessor is marked all the way. It happens in my projects on occasion and it happens in my personal life too.

I’ve been exceedingly lucky with work and having a final job which is rewarding at so many levels. Its let me look at the milestones I’ve reached or am close to reaching.

Financial Milestone. By February next year I will have reached a financial milestone which will free me from “having” to work. There is still wanting to work and finishing up a large project I have but the having to work part will be done. At that point, I’ll be able to move on the next milestone. To reach this milestone, there are bills which matter which I have already paid off and a single recurring debt I will pay off. Recurring debt blocks this milestone so in every possible I must eliminate recurring debt. I may not reach 100% but I’ll be close. Credit card is a blocker to this milestone. I have no credit cards. Owing money to a thing or things will not let me mark this complete. I owe no money to people or institutions that is not managed. So I am close yet not close but the view into getting there just may become less obtuse and cloudy in June when the annual review and bonus cycle is reached and I may receive an annual bonus. This could be very significant for this milestone.

Travel Milestone. This is a big one for me. I cannot see spending the years left in the United States full time. There’s something about it that seems limiting or repressing. The term nomad crosses a lot of boundaries and people have asked me if I will become some kind of nomad. Just to be clear when I reach this milestone, I am not going to be a nomad. The dictionary says a nomad is,

  1. a member of a people or tribe that has no permanent abode but moves about from place to place, usually seasonally and often following a traditional route or circuit according to the state of the pasturage or food supply.
  2. any wanderer; itinerant.

Source: Dictionary Definition

So that is not me or what I will be when I reach this milestone. There is a bigger thing than wandering and being itinerant or joining some roving hunter-gatherer or other band and moving from place to place. Here is what I think this milestone is for me. I think my travel milestone is finding certain places that I can settle in for longer. I have this list of places which are appealing to me:

  1. India. I would settle just about anywhere but the milestone is to spend time in Chennai and venture forth to places I have not been.
  2. Laos and Cambodia. Both of these interest me from a few perspectives.
  3. Vietnam and Malaysia. I’ve been to both and I want to spend more time in each.
  4. Thailand. I have a number of places to reach in Thailand

One of the constants to all this is the idea of not being a nomad but settling down. Each country offers very flexible entry visas and the ability to extend them.

Roaming Milestone. I want to roam. I want to not have a home but a place where a hat can be placed. I want to see the roads and the rails and the airports and have no real schedule. This milestone is ever evolving. Its the moving without a destination in mind. Touching the foot in many ways in different places but leaving no real mark behind.

Minimal Possession Milestone. To achieve most of the milestones above, one needs to minimize their possessions to a point where all can fit in a single bag. The beds and TVs and electronics and rugs and chairs all are left behind and donated. Clothing is pared down to a few significant things. Material possessions are for the most part left behind but there are the things that are needed or wanted. I do not get rid of everything but the things that remain are valued at both the physical and meta-physical levels. I read a few blogs on this and one that is interesting all the time is A Small Wardrobe that I follow and read. I like to find what others view are their purposes to minimizing their lives but I vary a bit in this milestone. To reach the milestone of minimal possessions, I must,

  1. retain possessions that matter to me or have value either at a physical level or mental.
  2. divest possessions which are duplicates of things I already have. I don’t need three laptops or 7 type C USB plugs any longer.
  3. remove clothing that does not matter. I got rid of so many shirts, a dress jacket, docker trousers, a white dress shirt, ties.
  4. retain enjoyment and do not divest so much that the small enjoyments of life are missed. I do not find that life is more enjoyable with having no vices. Just like being completely virtuous would be quite boring. I need my vices. Good coffee made in a chemex, good coffee beans, beer on Fridays.

Creative Milestone. I feel like I would like to try creating something like a book or story while on the road. A saga or a boring journal of things done and seen. Perhaps its this blog which takes that on. It was meant for that. Writing a blog was always meant to be an exploration of my places and the traces I leave behind or not. I mentioned not leaving a mark but a digital mark is something I still want to do. Someone used to tell me,

Talk is cheap. It takes money to buy a car.

So true. But there is the cheap talking and then there is the digital footprint that may end up being so much less than a car but is no less of a vehicle of a voyage.

There are many more milestones that others have which affect my milestones. My daughter driving and finding someone to have a relationship with that matters. Its very important that she have both to me. She cannot live at home much like I could not. Its too much and too little there.

I have a few other things to accomplish. Don’t we all? We all have milestones left. I find little victories and defeats on a daily basis. I do march toward a goal though next year. Each day I work is a day less to work but a day I still really like. I finally like work each day. That has been evolving for so many years doing IT. I could write about a work milestone but its been a means to an end and not the end. Now I’ve reached a thing I admire and enjoy and really am fortunate to have found.

I’ll leave it behind too because my fortunes are on the road. Perhaps I am a nomad.

Bought new Camera!

I decided I wanted to learn more about photography. Rather than just buy some cheap portable thing and charge forward, I started researching and reading articles and blog posts regarding a camera I could buy and learn on. As far as I can see, there are cameras which assume you have no knowledge at all and then there are some which are dedicated to a person who does have the background. I can’t see a crossover camera which is one a rank amateur can own but also learn from.

That is until I found a Fujifilm camera that appears to do that. Enter the Fujifilm X30. While the camera is a bit older it has a mix of technology and use which numerous photographers have said straddle that fence of providing advanced functionality while someone like me the chance to learn.

Image result for fujifilm x30

The X30 has that serious retro look going for it plus an amazing gamut of functionality. Something that I will start practicing with on weekends. I’ll start going to places and taking bad pictures and good pictures on auto and then start learning the customizations and stuff on the camera.

Maybe I will take a introduction to digital photography class at Ohlone College since they have an online class I could take.

The real thing though is learning something. We all trot out the smart phone cameras these days and its an easy out. The phones have it all so we lose sight of a richer and textured method of taking the memories.

Stand by! Photos incoming!

How to do more with less

I embarked on a basic plan to do more with less of late. At one point my closet was filled with clothing. I had this many collared shirts and a dress jacket and two pair of dress pants and a white dress shirt and polo shirts. Enough to last me through another three jobs and interviews. Truth is that this is my last job so I reckoned what do I need all that stuff for? When will I ever wear it or do another job interview at another tech company? Answer is never. I will never work again after this job.

So I donated it all. Now in my closet are two jackets, three pair of jeans and two remaining polo shirts. I still have t-shirts that I wear for work and enough socks and underwear to get me through.

I also went through papers. Old papers and photos and cards from another life. I removed the pictures from frames and put them in document protectors and got rid of the frames. I now have a single box that has the sum total of those things.

The last thing to go through is tech junk and gadgets and gizmos and cables. It will be the last thing I go through.

So where does this take me in preparing for leaving next year? Getting to a single box that is not filled up leaves me with indescribable joy and anticipation! I can see a path now to even have less of a footprint of stuff I have to care about. I think there are a number of paths of lessening or minimizing I’ve worked through.

Physical stuff. Clothing, gear, electronics. Ridding myself of this stuff means I can be more agile and nimble when it comes to the end game. Getting down to a single bag of stuff to carry wherever I go.

Mental stuff. We form attachments to the stuff and breaking those attachments gives us the elation and anticipation of moving forward. Having more perhaps with less. But the less we have is more important to us.

Financial stuff. this is the final thing. The first two don’t really matter if the third thing is not there. I have set the goal to completely remove a final bill that I pay over time this June. Its not that its financially restrictive or demanding. Its not. Its more like the dumping the clothing and paperwork but the reward is not just financial. Its stretches across being able to not only survive but thrive.

Lets face it guys. This country and particularly the Bay area is not meant for thriving unless you are Silicon Valley tycoon or a VC or a founder. Nothing is priced here to keep people thriving. To survive people have to take on several jobs and then I think the combination of rent or mortgage, bills, and all the attendant stuff is hard. I’m probably lucky because I only have a room and the rent there is so much less. It lets me live a better lifestyle and enjoy the moments but I don’t have the attendant worry about making ends meet.

What its really done is create the desire to leave. The Bay area is not compelling and its not a bubble and its not a location I wish to stay in. There’s nothing here that binds me or controls me.

Its been a gradual thing reaching this point and now I know that to reach tomorrow one has to find a way to have less but that less has to be more to the person. Each of us has the path and perhaps for you its family and possessions and cars and a nice home. Good for you. Maybe its this so-called rich texture of living in the Bay area with its cities and counties and places. Again, you may find a compelling reason to stay.

There are those of us disaffected and wanting less though. We don’t need expensive fuel for cars, rent that’s over 3k a month, and struggling to survive in an economy with no scale. For me, its been this process of minimizing things, finding the remaining things of value to hold on to. Building a plan that will let me go. I have to admit after next February, the no work thing will become its own joy. I will have minimized a final thing. Then I can move forward and perhaps forward is different directions. I can travel with no destination really in mind. Much like wandering the streets of Tokyo and Kyoto earlier. I knew the streets met up and perhaps turned left or right or went straight ahead. The direction was mine to choose.

By losing things I gain things. Consider it!

Views from the Big Comfy Chair at Starbucks

Usually Saturdays the daughter force and I go to a Starbucks for our afternoon together and then out for dinner. Sundays is my day so I do a few chores in the morning like laundry and then consider relocating for a few hours with my stalwart Chromebook to another Starbucks.

There are two different Starbucks. One with her which is less busy and then this one where it may be more. Today its not and I have the big comfy chair in the corner with my hardly touched Frappuccino to consider. It has whipping cream on top and its a large and I get to watch the comings and goings. I can sit and watch the people and remember the time in this very Starbucks where I knew all the baristas. They would see me and say,

Mike you want your evening drink?

Then I would settle down and watch the sun waning away and the evening lights would come up and the chess players would arrive and take over this big table. Perhaps 5 games going at a time. And there i would sit and listen and watch. Home life was not so good. A divorce beckoned and a dog that I never wanted demanded attention. But the Starbucks was an escape for a time and place of my choosing. The chess pieces of life would position themselves and move forward and I’d wonder then when life would change around and I would find another chapter.

That time came but the baristas were still not there and the store was remodeled but still the big comfy chairs in the corner persisted. I could still watch the people and surreptitiously note their arrivals.

Big Table

At the big table sit college students I believe studiously studying on their expensive Mac laptops. There’s an older couple studying a paper or tablet and the two groups avoid each other with chairs inbetween. The big table has power. Electrical power outlets let people charge up and amp up and remain for hours still. Gone are the chess boards and players but remaining are those that move the chess pieces of their lives around on invisible boards.

I wonder what the dark haired woman studies as she takes the notes and opens the books and avoids eye contact. Others often cast their gaze around the place perhaps looking out from the big table like those on a flight staring out a window. Longing to stay but knowing it will all end and outside the door and away from the big table are sets of requirements and needs and promises unfulfilled that demand attention.

The big table demands attention and multiple groups can sit and stare at the fantastical internet devices that Starbucks allows with its faster Google WiFi.

Booths and Tables and along the Wall

Along the opposite wall from me are these little tables and booths so to speak where each table has a power connector and people can sit in somewhat different settings. Everything is not shared like at the big table. People study and every so often look up as though to say,

I’m lucky you all. I have a table and I can do what I want, where I want. I’m not really studying like those at the big table. I’m doing my own thing and I like it.

Those people perhaps need more privacy but still want the sense of power that a 110 AC outlet gives them . The tables are big enough for a laptop and a drink. Maybe a salad.

The Smaller Tables Here and There

Then there are the smaller 2 and 4 seater tables. You sit up in the air on these tables and are perched above everyone else. There’s perhaps a sense of privilege but everyone realizes that the big table truly rules and people often sit at the smaller tablets waiting. Waiting for the drinks to come. None are occupied now.

End Game at the Comfy Stuffed Chairs

Its the end game at the big chairs. We’re full now with me and others. The stuffed chairs do not require a previous reservation but you sit there knowing you are at the edge and can spy on all others. Its a heady brew of privilege and responsibility and you have to drink slowly to stay longer. I won’t be leaving soon from here. The chairs rule and my old butt likes the comfort. I can easily watch the ebb and flow of customers and hear the buzz of conversations. People have things. Things to do. This is just a start or a stop for them. There is life outside this Starbucks that awaits.

I don’t have a set of next things so I sit and wait patiently for a new set of people to enter with silently spoken demands of a drink.

Consider it all when you go to a Starbucks. What is it really you see. Its like a small slice of that culture where so many different people gather and leisurely partake or rush through a drink. Starbucks does not mind if you sit longer and share that WiFi. They are good souls and will not time you out. But the there is a limit. Others have places to go and people waiting. I have none of those things.

I have you that read the blog and perhaps wonder why such things would be written. Its because of the comfy chairs dammit.

They forced me.

The next thing

I decided its time to kick off another week off in August this year. I have not done two vacations in a year in awhile. My company uses NPTO so they do not track PTO times but measure the request against projects and deliverables. My boss approved my vacation so I have started booking things because I love to plan trips and travel. I’m going for a week so its all about the place and how I will get there and what I’ll go walking to see once there.

I’ve decided that Vancouver and Victoria BC are the places to go this August. Weather is pristine then for doing touristy things. The plan would be to fly up on a Sunday and spend three nights in Vancouver and go walking around, eating, drinking. Then I’ll catch the Ferry to Victoria and stay there two nights and explore. Finally, I’ll take Amtrak down to Seattle and then catch the Pacific Starlight home. This time though I got a roomette so I can relax and spoil myself. I’ll hop on the train on Saturday and get to see this beautiful country through the day and evening. I’ll eat the above average train food and drink a bit and spend the time in my room doing what I always do. Perhaps its poetic a bit and I remember one of my favorites about journeying forth,

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost

I’ll stop by some woods and will always have miles to go. And this one piece always haunts me and makes me remember other paths not taken and places not gotten.

So perhaps I’ll find yet another one when I venture forth to Vancouver and walk those streets. I did this trip with a backpack years and years ago and wandered the city streets and went to Victoria on the Ferry. I sat on the beach in Victoria camping out and drinking a lot of beer with a friend I met from Germany. We would buy a lot of beer and sit on some beach as the day ended. Nothing was gained but nothing was lost either. And that’s the measure of a lot of things. We don’t have to gain to do a thing. Maybe we find another path that takes us to some new place.

On any ole Sunday

There are 7 days to a week they tell me. Somewhere we got the weekend which counts for usually 2 of the days. That leaves 5 days. Five days of working, commuting to and from work, eating, walking, thinking. Doesn’t this thing ever turn off? No. I guess not.

Then on the weekends things are reversed it seems. There is eating, walking, thinking and no work. Well, there is never no work. Some things about work percolate around. I log into Facebook every so often and I’m reminded that this time 7 years ago I was in Japan. I happened to be walking Tokyo over some days. I remember seeing this.

I also remember at some point seeing Shinjuku and it looked thus.

Ahh. Those were those wandering days in Japan!

In a moment of quiet thought perhaps, there was this

A deserted playground that somehow looked sad for the no children on its swings. It had that careful dilapidated look but most of all that loneliness of the swing teetering back and forth with no children squealing with delight or parent pushing to get that delight.

Perhaps then in some cagey memory on this Sunday in a Starbucks I remember this from those days so many years ago.

Those shopping stalls in the quintessential Japanese street in someplace Tokyo. Perhaps this was Asakusa.

But finally, there is the singularity which I do remember. That moment of delight when the boat takes the human and the human agrees to a moment of careful solitude.

It seems to be a reflection much like this final picture. But the reflection above is of a life spent on a moral direction not the same as those others. The below reflection is stately and graceful and always seems to be favored when they occur in photographs. Something about that reflection of the above and below grace the moment.

Do you know why we are held quiet by the grace of the reflection? Is it because we are but reflections ourselves and we cannot tell the real from the ideal?

There was Tokyo that day in 2010. A Tokyo frozen in time that yielded much but little as I got lost on city streets and gave up my seat to two women on the subway that were flustered but appreciative.

I always think back from the Starbucks of now to the Japan of then. Its a moment of soliloquy to brand the moment and the moment yet to come. Japan has a tie to my emotion and mind and feeling. Its like a cosmic extension that I miss when I cannot go but immediately feel the relief of when there.

Saturday Considerations

Its been an interesting 2017 thus far. I had tried to give notice at work and they will not let me go :-).  My friend Free passed which seemed to cause a short downward spiral in things. I got to talk with my friend DK about life in general and work. There are not so many people any longer I can talk to about work that do not have a bias. My acquaintance HS seems to to think work is only about $$. Of course $$ is important. I’m pretty happy with the $$ I get. I get a nice quality of life and can do what I want while still saving money.

But this is about Saturday considerations. Saturday of beautiful weather. Saturday of waiting for UPS to deliver my new phone. I decided to try out the Samsung Galaxy 8+ with its big ole screen and beautiful looks. We will see. My Pixel phone goes to my daughter. First off though I have to impose on our end point mobility team to help me get my new phone work ready.

Other considerations on the Saturday is the dinner and the daughter. She likes to eat different food and try new places most of the time.

Finally, started thinking about a vacation this August. I will probably take a week off and fly to Vancouver BC, visit Victoria, and then take the Amtrak back down from Seattle to Oakland but I’ll get a roomette. That will be the last walking trip for this year. August seems like a good time to visit BC. Dryer weather, nice temperatures for walking around. I’ll also go visit Victoria for a day or so via the Ferry connections. I think the entire trip will cost me about $750 to $1000. Not bad for a last place on this side of the states I wish to walk in! I will have gone to Santa Barbara and San Diego here. In Oregon to Eugene and Portland. In Washington I had a great walking visit to Seattle. All of these trips had one thing in common. I found great food and beer!

I find myself thinking a lot about previous places I visited or lived in these days. India, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Australia, Vietnam. So many places and time spent flying here and there. Each place had a thing I did and things I got to see which marked them forever. From drinking a beer at the Lion Beer Hall in the Ginza in Tokyo to walking in hushed steps in Kyoto seeing so many temples. Singapore was good for eating and drinking as well Maybe the best. I also liked Sydney but I don’t have a driving desire to get back there. Its a beautiful city but I feel like I’ve seen it. Now India is different. India is a part of the fabric for me. Its like unfinished business I have and I must get back to do more there. Japan is a psychic thing. A connection and I never feel fulfilled unless I can stop there and spend time. Wandering Tokyo was a joy. Getting lost and then found and seeing yet another Metro subway station down a street that I followed for no particular reason.

So this Saturday is spent reminiscing about the times and thinking of the times to come. The places I have to see or the travel of a life is not complete. I will go. It may not be until first part of next year. That’s okay too. I like what I have now. Others don’t and my friend HS seems to continually strive for something else. I think he leaves some wreckage behind on projects and teams though and that’s bad. If I had one thing to tell him it would be that the $$ are needed but are not the end goal. Its the job and the fulfillment and the challenge. I also like the folks I work with and for. That counts for a lot this Saturday.

Have a good one you all!

Talking to a friend in the work parking lot

This is about talking to a friend I have not for awhile. How good it felt to connect with someone who matters and can share some moments of discussion about work, technology, life paths and journeys not yet begun. I think one of the big moments talking to him was about the difficulties finding friends as one gets older. Its a like a wall is slowly erected around you and reaching over it gets more difficult and stressful. We just seem to lose the necessary gears and gadgets to make connections. I don’t have any desire for a relationship with a woman. I’ve outgrown that. What I do want is to have meaningful discussions with the few friends I do have. To be a friend is not just about some person that happens to go to school or work with you. If you are a friend of mine, there is a trading and bartering to be made or what we share is not friendship. Each person has to walk a distance they are comfortable with and the other person does the same.  Perhaps I am demanding in the friend space. I just don’t need dead wood friends that have no real substance to offer besides the same tired refrains.

I don’t often get to talk with friends from any of the days. It seems the walls are higher than ever. What I do know with DK is that we reach different points together and we share the desire to not have technology work be an end to itself. Lets be honest, technology is not that. It really creates a strange relationship for us and makes us strange bedfellows. Then technology is glad to leave us and make our lives stressful. Work and play in technology makes us want more work and play. And that goes on for awhile. Soon though, as we discussed on the phone tonight we reach that end point in the game.

I’m there now. I think of a Amtrak train whistle blowing its refrain and telling me I am traveling from here to there and I don’t care for either place. Its the getting there that counts. Its going from here to Seattle and Seattle to Chicago to go to Austin. Its never having to explain that I only have 4 days on this vacation. DK kinda challenged me to go to Montana and lay on my back and stare up at the sky. I think I may get there. Its not a today or tomorrow or even this week or month thing. But it could be.