Dreary rainy day

I had Friday off of work to get some work done on some personal projects. It’s a rainy and dreary day which means that there’s not much incentive to spend much time outside. The November chill, combined with a constant mist, emphasizes that we’re not going to be getting any warmer. In some ways I wish it would just snow so that we could enjoy that.

Since I’m at home I filled up the bird feeder again and got to watch a bunch of birds fattening themselves to stay warm. I got a great shot of one of them, with a beak full of millet, that I really like and wanted to share here.

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CSS what?

It’s been a long time since I’ve done much of anything with HTML and/or CSS. I used to be a hardcore web developer, and I could spit out code in my sleep. Granted this was all before the days of HTML5 and CSS and I never really made the transition away from table driven layout and development.

Fast forward to this week when I needed to make a quick HTML page with two links on it for an event I’m doing. In the old days I would have simply whipped out a table with two cells and placed the content in different <td>’s in the same row. But, it’s 2017, and I should know better. So, with much angst and continual Googling I managed to create what I needed using standard CSS layout. It’s basic and simple, but it’s all I needed.

As I was working on this it reminded me of how I enjoyed some of this work back in the day. It’s not something I’d want to go back to full-time or anything like that, but it was fun for a bit. It almost made me feel a bit younger, like I had been transported back to my late 20s, cranking out code by hand. And to top it all off, I did it using the Caret text editor on my Chromebook. Nothing like throwing in a little bit extra of a challenge.

Free Bikes 4 Kidz

Wednesday night, my beer and bikes group gave back to the biking community. We signed up to work a shift at an organization called Free Bikes 4 Kidz. This group takes donations of old bikes, and then does some cleanup and repair, before donating them to kids who don’t have bikes. It was started locally by a gentleman who was asked to find a bike for a friend’s child, and ended up with 250 bikes in his driveway. From there it’s grown into an amazing charity that repairs and donates thousands of bikes every year.

23519172_10110952737373440_3613580133446880265_nThis was my first year, and because I know how to change a bike tire I was a “prepper”. This meant that I would take a bike and start some of the basic repairs, such as changing tubes, lubing the seat post and pedals, and replacing damaged seats and handles. I am only a novice when it comes to bike repair so it took me a little bit to get the hang of things, but by the end of the shift I had managed to work on 3-4 bikes to get them ready for the mechanics.

This entire experience was a tons of fun and it makes me want to do more bike work to learn more. My step-son left a cheap bike in the basement, and so I might spend some time this winter fixing it up and learning how to add new components to it. That way I’ll be ready to do some higher level fixing next year when we go back. If you’re in the Twin Cities, I’d encourage you to go check it out. Even if you have no experience you can help with cleaning bikes, and getting them ready for the preppers and mechanics. It’s a great way to give back to the biking community and get kids involved in the lifelong love of biking.

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The annoying Super Bowl

Next year Minneapolis is hosting the Super Bowl. This was one of the perks of sinking hundreds of millions of public dollars into a stadium for a team that only plays a handful of games each year. At least they’ve re-opened US Bank stadium to people who want to run loops around the concourse, giving it some other purpose.

I could get into a long tirade on the horrendous waste of publicly funded stadiums, but the point that I wanted to talk about today is how an event like the Super Bowl disrupts life for people who live there. In particular, public transit. Our public transit organization has agreed to suspend operations of our rail lines around the stadium on game day so that Super Bowl ticket holders can get a special ride, to and from, Mall of America to the game.

That means that anyone south of downtown Minneapolis, who is a resident and is not going to the game, must use replacement bus lines. Thankfully, it’s a Sunday and probably only inconveniencing a handful of people compared to a weekday, but it’s the principle. People who live here are treated like second class citizens because we want to kowtow to the almighty NFL and it’s billionaire owners.

I realize that we want to show off our cool rail lines, and we want to encourage rich people to build businesses here, but really, do we think that a single week of football festivities will really be a 400 millions dollar economic boon to the area? Our transit driver’s union is threatening a strike during this time, which I think is a brilliant move for them. At least they might come out of this with some better job benefits and a decent wage increase. Maybe if that’s the economic boon that we end up with it’s not as bad as it could be. At least a group of hard working and underpaid people may come out a bit ahead in the end.

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Playing with some Panasonic cameras

This weekend my good friend Wes started talking about looking at a mirrorless camera setup. As someone who’s gone through that transition before I was curious about what he was considering. He told me that he was looking at the Panisonice line, specifically the G7 vs the GX85. As luck would have it, I was at a Best Buy for a while, killing time on Sunday night, and decided to see how they stacked up against my Sony.

Originally, my deliberations had been between Olympus and Sony, and I hadn’t really considered Panasonic or Fuji.  I opted for the Sony, after some time with it, comparing it to Olympus. Sunday night, I got to see a bit of what else is out there. I found both of the Panasonic models side-by-side, so I proceeded to see if I could figure them out quickly, and without resorting to Google.

I started with the GX85 and immediately noticed the same issue I had with the Olympus models. Ergonomically, it was just too hard to hold because of the lack of a full size grip for the right hand. I found myself having to contort my hand into a weird shape to not feel like I was going to drop the camera. When I then tried to reach various controls while in shooting stance, it was awkward and uncomfortable. However, the screen on the back was nice and big, and was a touchscreen, which is a nice addition. The EVF was adequate, but not nearly as good as my Sony. I moved around the menus a bit and was able to find most of the settings I was looking for.

I then moved on to the G7, and immediately found it far more comfortable in my hand. It has a nice large grip, and the placement of the controls allows you to quickly reach dials and buttons without feeling like the camera is unstable in your hand. One thing I liked about the Panasonic over my Sony is the placement of the second dial for use in manual mode. I was able to operate both aperture and shutter speed easily with one hand comfortably. The viewfinder was the same in both, and the menus appeared identical.

I messaged my friend Wes and told him my opinion, that the G7 was the way to go if he was going to try the Panasonic line. It was far more comfortable, which can sometimes be a bigger deal that features, when you’re out shooting all day long. Getting a hand cramp in the middle of a photo walk makes you want to leave your camera at home.

Of course, as I was talking to him and comparing it to my Sony, he’s now decided he needs to check them out as well. The downsides to Sony’s (vs. 4:3) is the lack, and expense, of lenses. It’s a slightly more closed system, and so it’s harder to find cheap lenses like you can in the 4:3 world. At the end of the day though, I’m excited to see what he decides to go with, and how much more freedom he finds with a smaller camera body to lug around.