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Unaffordable

Posted on Friday, August 1st, 2014

Dave!Originally, I was going to stay in Maine over the weekend so I could bum around the coast and see cool stuff. But then I consulted my calendar only to be reminded that my 30th High School Class Reunion was happening, so I flew back last night. I had thought that I'd just drive the 2-1/2 hours back home when I landed at midnight, but that would have been impossible after 26 hours of work.

So the solution was easy, right? Grab a hotel at SeaTac International Airport and head home this morning.

Except hotels in Seattle have been escalating in price at a jaw-dropping rate. Every time I try to get a decent room at a decent price, I fail miserably. Just two years ago I was able to Priceline an airport hotel for $89. Last year it was tough, but hotels could be found for $119. This year?

Portland Head Light State Park

Yes. You are seeing that right... $533 (AT DISCOUNT!) for a 1-1/2 star property.

Going with my AAA discount, my best bet for a 3-Diamond property was the Crowne Plaza for $309...

Portland Head Light State Park

Horrified at the thought of paying $309 for a three-star property, I decided to wait until the last minute in the hopes that something would open up on Hotwire or Priceline.

When I landed for my layover in Atlanta, I lucked out... The Courtyard Marriott dropped their AAA rate to $218. Yes, it was $100 more than I was paying for a superior three-star hotel last year, but it's the best I could do.

I know I've written about this before, but the cost of traveling is quickly becoming unaffordable for the average traveler. Sure, special events in Seattle (like Seafair) are going to drive up prices... but there seem to be "special events" going on all the time. Or it's cruise ship season. Or there's show opening. Or there's a conference in town. Unless you're incredibly flexible on timing and able to spend a huge amount of time searching for calendar pricing, it's a game you can't win.

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Reunion

Posted on Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Dave!In many ways, high school seems like a lot longer than 30 years ago.

Probably because the ordeal wasn't this amazing thrill-ride of awesomeness for me that it seems to be for so many people. Not because I didn't have friends, good times, or memorable experiences... I did... it's just that I didn't want to live there. Everything I wanted in life was nowhere to be found during "the best years of your life," and so I didn't just walk away after graduation... I ran.

I put high school behind me.

Then I started over.

And at no time did I have any kind of longing for going back.

But this weekend I did go back and it was okay.

A surprising number of people showed up. A surprising number of people didn't. Most people ended up exactly as I imagined they would. A few surprised me. But everybody was nice to everybody, which is what happens when your high school days are 30 years past.

And everybody had a story to tell... that story being the story of their life.

Which is what made the whole thing worthwhile, I suppose.

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Bullet Sunday 392

Posted on Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Dave!Don't worry about the temperature... because it's a dry heat and Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Ghibli. From the "News So Horrible You Want to Scream" department... Studio Ghibli announced that they will be closing down their animation studio. Later this was changed to "evaluating closing down their animation studio." Either way, the production company responsible for some of my favorite films of all time is not going to be making another animated feature any time soon...

My Neighbor Totoro, copyright Studio Ghibli

To say I am absolutely gutted is an understatement. Mainly an outlet for animation god Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli has produced some of the most stunning animated works of all time. Even with the retirement of Miyazaki-san, I was still looking forward to new movies by the team responsible for such cinematic genius as My Neighbor Totoro, Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away, and Kiki's Delivery Service.

Kiki's Delivery Service

I'm very sad for a world where Studio Ghibli isn't in the animation business.

   
• Black. And speaking of black cats (like Jiji, the cat from Kiki's Delivery Service), I was shocked to read an article about how black cats are being rejected at animal shelters because they don't take good selfie photos. This is a horrifying prospect given that black fur is really common on a cat, and there's always going to be plenty to go around.

   
• School. We support religious freedom! You are free to be any flavor of Christian you want to be! Holy crap what a repugnant dumbass.

   
• Bouncy. Hey, kids! Jump on my crotch!

Tiger Bouncy House

   
• Berlin. When I was in Maine, I saw that they had yet another piece of the Berlin Wall on display in Portland. I remember thinking at the time that every major city in the world must have a piece, because I see them quite a lot when I travel...

Berlin Wall in Portland, Maine

And now I'm really regretting that I didn't make a point of photographing all the pieces I've seen. So many of them offer a fascinating insight into those Cold War days.

   
• Chocolate. This video of cocoa farmers getting to taste chocolate for the first time is one of the best things I've seen all week!

I find it fascinating how the farmers had no clue as to why foreigners wanted to buy cocoa beans... and had never been given the opportunity to share in the fruits of their labor. Just the way the world works, I guess.

   
• Whoopie. And speaking of chocolate... while visiting Maine I had my first "Whoopie Pie" which is nothing like the "Moon Pies" I'm used to. They're massively huge and very, very sweet...

Eating a Whoopie Pie in Maine

I wasn't able to eat but half of it over the course of a day. My teeth were shaking with each bite. The gift shop at Portland Light Head had a Whoopie Pie book...

Whoopie Pie Book in Maine

   
And... I'm out of bullets. Guess I'll have to shoot ya next week.

   

Goat

Posted on Monday, August 4th, 2014

Dave!My brain feels mooshy.

Which would be a lot more fun if it was alcohol induced instead of exhaustion.

I was supposed to drive to Spokane tonight, but Fate intervened and moved my work a day forward.I don't know if I'm supposed to repay this kindness by sacrificing a goat or what, but I sure am grateful.

A night of sleeping-pill-induced slumber awaits.

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THE Davenport

Posted on Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Dave!Cannot. Seem. To. Catch. Up. On. Sleep.

No matter how tired I am, I lay down to try and get some rest only to have my brain explode all over the place with every thought imaginable racing through my head. You'd think at some point my mind would give up and pass out but, alas, no.

And so I drove across the state for work... three hours of pretty much this...

Columbia Basin Drive

All while fighting nausea and exhaustion. Thank heavens for Coke and Slayer.

After arriving in Spokane, I dropped by Pita Pit to get my falafel on...

It's Pita Pete!

I love you, Pita Pete!

Well, that's kind of a lie... I actually checked into my hotel before heading to The Pit. Which was not exactly the experience I had hoped for.

As always, I Pricelined hotels when looking for a place to stay. After searching "Express Deals" for a property downtown, there was a 3-star for $105 and, much to my delight, a 4-star available for $120. Normally I'd just take the 3-star, which would have been perfectly fine... but there's only one 4-star hotel in all of Spokane, and it's well worth the $15 extra per night... The Davenport.

The Davenport Hotel Spokane

It's a hotel with a history. And it's absolutely beautiful. Truly a grand dame of an old hotel that was pretty much condemned back in 1985... but eventually sold, rennovated, and re-opened in 2000.

So I accepted the $120 price, got my reservation at The Davenport, and drove to Spokane happy.

Three hours later, there I was waltzing up to the receiption desk when I am told that my room is not in The Davenport... but instead in The Davenport Tower, which is an entirely different building across the street. Apparently riffraff who arrive via Priceline are not allowed in the "real" hotel, but are instead shunted off-property. This pissed me off more than a little bit, because it's akin to a bait-and-switch operation. They lump two different hotels together, trade off the 4-star reputation of the original, then send you to a different hotel when you get there. Don't get me wrong... the Davenport Tower is a very nice hotel and well-worth the $120 price I paid... it's just not THE Davenport. Had I known this would happen, I would have taken the 3-star option and saved the $30 (total).

I really don't understand how travel sites allow this. These are TWO SEPARATE HOTELS, and should be treated that way.

Anyway, I loaded my luggage back into my car, drove around four blocks of one-way confusion, then checked into Davenport Tower... which has a bizarre kind of "safari" theme throughout.

I guess this shows that anytime something is "too good to be true," it probably is.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to attempt to fall asleep while paintings of zebras and leopards stare down at me.

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Guardians

Posted on Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Dave!I have to wonder if JJ Abrams has seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet... and, if he has, did he shit his pants at the thought of his Star Wars installment having to follow it? Because Guardians of the Galaxy is quite possibly my favorite sci-fi film since The Empire Strikes Back. It's that good.

And I just can’t quite wrap my head around that statement, because there have been some really good sci-fi films since Empire. Alien, Aliens, Blade Runner, The Terminator, Terminator 2, The Matrix, Stargate, Serenity… even the recent Star Trek remakes and cartoons like WALL-E… all great films. So how is this possible?

Guardians of the Galaxy Poster

I think it’s a combination of two things.

First of all, it’s a fantastic film. Surprisingly awesome in almost every way. Really funny when it needs to be. Story, cast, special effects, direction, cinematography, characters, music, score... all great.

But mainly I think it’s because I’ve been living with The Marvel Universe comics for what seems like forever. There’s something about seeing The Nova Corps... Thanos... Ronan & Nebula... Drax the Destroyer... all these cosmic comic characters... each come to life on-screen in a way that has completely captivated me. Not an easy task, I assure you, but Marvel seems to be making it look easy as they keep knocking it out of the park in comic book movie after comic book movie. And, I fully admit that I was a doubter when Guardians was announced because it just seemed like such an unlikely property to make into a good film. It’s got a talking raccoon, for heavens sake! But writer/director James Gunn (along with co-writer Nicole Perlman) figured out how to make it work. Actually... no... they not only “figured it out,” they completely and totally nailed it in a movie so near perfection that I am still having trouble believing it exists...

Guardians of the Galaxy Rocket & Groot

And sooooo...

Twenty-six years ago a young Peter Quill watches in horror as his mother dies, then runs away from the hospital in a futile attempt at escaping the trauma life has thrown at him. At which point he’s abducted by aliens. So far as openers go, it’s kind of lame, right? What are the odds? But, of course, there’s much more to it than all that… you just need to have patience to get there.

Fortunately, James Gunn makes the wait easy.

Now a grown man, Peter lives his life as a rogue thief. His time spent roaming the galaxy, breaking hearts, and trying to stay out of trouble. But trouble always seems to find him, and when he steals an artifact that some Very Powerful People are after, his life becomes a lot more complicated. Action, adventure, and hilarity ensues...

Guardians of the Galaxy Rocket & Groot

To discuss the plot is to spoil the film, and I'm just not willing to do that. This is a movie you must see on the big screen. Don't wait for DVD... see it BIG. The eye-popping visuals demand it.

I will, however, discuss the cast. Which is flawless. Chris Pratt as Star-Lord is note-perfect. He encapsulates everything you could possibly want Peter Quill to be. He headlines the movie so effortlessly that even the most unbelievable parts of the film seem anchored and believable. And it's all gravy from there. Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace... just amazing performances all the way around. And Bradley Cooper (the last person I envisioned as the voice of Rocket Raccoon) owns the role and steals every scene he's in.

If I have one quibble, it would be that the ending is over-the-top schmaltzy, predictable, and cheesy. But I don't think the film suffers too much for it, and I think Gunn explained it away in a way that kinda works.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a beautiful-looking film with a great story... and funny! It gets an easy A+ from me, which means it's time to update the score card...

The Avengers... A+
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Batman Dark Knight Rises... A
Blade... B
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Captain America: The Winter Soldier... A+
Catwoman... F
Daredevil... B-
Daredevil (Director's Cut)... B+
Elektra... D
Fantastic Four... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Guardians of the Galaxy... A+
Ghost Rider... C
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance... D
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy... A
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Hulk... C-
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A-
Iron Man 3... A+
Jonah Hex... F
Kick-Ass... B+
Kick-Ass 2... B-
Man of Steel... F-
Punisher... C+
Punisher War Zone... C
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World... C
Spider-Man... B+
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Amazing Spider-Man... B
Amazing Spider-Man 2... B-
Superman Returns... C+
Thor... B+
Thor: The Dark World... A
Watchmen... B
The Wolverine... B
X-Men... C
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: Days of Future Past... B-
X-Men: First Class... B

   

Homeagain

Posted on Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Dave!Last night was not a good night.

I decided to "play it safe" and have a veggie burger for dinner at Robin Robin instead of eating someplace more exotic. This resulted in four hours of food poisoning so bad that it had me wondering if I had contracted the ebola virus. I think my spleen liquified and blew out my butt at hour three. Not surprisingly, sleep was very tough to come by, and having to go to work in a zombie-like state was no fun at all.

Driving the three hours home in a zombie-like state was even worse.

But the trip was worth it for two reasons.

1) Yokes Grocery carries Yoo-Hoo...

Yoo-Hoo at Yokes
Nectar of the gods!

   
2) You can still get David's DaVinci Pizza at Famous Ed's...

Road Pizza from Famous Ed's Spokane... David's DaVinci Pizza
Best road pizza ever!

   
And then it was time to head home, though the urge to go car shopping was strong...

Spokane Auto Sales
Hey dawg, WE FINANCE!!! Thanks, Poochie!

   
The drive home was agonizing, because I was never able to go the speed limit. There was always somebody driving slow in the passing lane who wasn't passing anybody...

Car Window Sticker: This is My Final Answer: JESUS!
I'm glad that you've found your "final answer" in Jesus... really I am... maybe if you pray hard enough,
JESUS WILL ANSWER AND TELL YOU TO STAY OUT OF THE PASSING LANE IF YOU'RE NOT PASSING SOMEBODY!

   
Then you've got trucks passing somebody, but not fast enough to keep the cars from piling up...

Car Window Sticker: This is My Final Answer: JESUS!
Can't say I blame him... the motorhome WAS GOING 52 IN A 70MPH ZONE!!!

   
Driving frustrations and ebola aside, I made it home in one piece, so I guess that's all that really matters. And now I've got leftover pizza for breakfast. Life is good.

   

Fryed

Posted on Friday, August 8th, 2014

Dave!Well this day definitely did not go as planned.

All I need now is to have my hard drive crash and my car explode and I think I'm pretty much done. Sometimes you have to know when to just give up.

Oh well.

The weekend's coming up. I guess that's something to look forward to.

Jiji the Cat from Kiki's Delivery Service

Sure I have to go to the office... but at least I can play music as loud as I want.

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Mid-Season

Posted on Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Dave!Usually I avoid mid-season television because it sucks copious amounts of ass. Customarily, it's the time of the year where shows that are too terrible for the New Fall Season are dumped. But that hasn't been true for years now. Plenty of good shows end up in the mid-season, as networks are finding out they can flourish when the competition is low...

Extant (Wednesdays 10pm on CBS)
Halle Berry plays an astronaut who arrives back on earth pregnant after 13 months in space. Alone. On a solo mission. As if that weren't enough intrigue... she is married to a robot scientist who has created them a robot son that's starting to act strangely. Not enough freaky for you? Halle's dead first husband keeps showing up. The show is well-written and acted, but the reason I am compelled to watch is that I'm dying to know how all this crazy shit is going to fit together. Is it going to be brilliant? Or is it going to be a steaming pile of crap like Lost?

   
Satisfaction (Thursdays 10pm on USA)
I don't even know why I tuned into this show because it's absolutely not the type of thing I'm interested in. But the previews looked unique, so I decided to give it a shot. Wow. What happens when a man with the perfect life finds out his wife is hiring a guy for sex? Surprisingly, the answer to his problems and the solution to his dissatisfaction with how things have turned out in his idyllic life. Satisfaction caught me completely by surprise, and I have high hopes they'll be able to push the premise in interesting directions.

   
The Strain (Sundays 10pm on FX)
Leave it to Guliermo Del Toro to create a modern vampire epic so good that it's hard to believe that it's on television. Blending just the right amount of horror and suspense with thrills and breakneck pacing, The Strain is an entertaining show that relies on using predictable elements in unpredictable ways. The result is well worth your valuable time, though it's hard to tell how long they're going to keep the premise feeling fresh.

   
Outlander (Saturdays 9pm on Starz)
Thanks to the unprecedented success of Game of Thrones on HBO, it only seems to reason that other premium-priced networks would be investigating fantasy dramas of their own. And Starz has landed on a series based on the very popular Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon. It's 1945 and a World War II nurse named Claire Randall has been transported back to Scotland in the year 1743. Though already married in 1945, she ends up forced to marry Jamie Fraser... a Scottish warrior fighting a war and traversing a dangerous world. Though the romance angle isn't really my thing, I have to admit the series in really well done. Here's hoping show-runner Ronald D. Moore doesn't fuck it up like he did Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica.

   
And that's it so far. I'm still trying to decide on shows like Welcome to Sweden, Finding Carter, The Divide, and a few others.

Life is way too short to spend on bad television.

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Bullet Sunday 393

Posted on Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Dave!Downgrade that hurricane... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• DC LEGO! This November, all of DC Comics' covers will feature LEGO characters in celebration of the release of LEGO Batman 3!

They look pretty great...

LEGO Batman Cover

LEGO Batman Cover

LEGO Batman Cover

You can see a completely list of the upcoming covers here.

   
• Bats Three. And, speaking of LEGO Batman 3... footage has been everywhere since ComicCon. IGN, for example, has a look at the many playable characters in the game...

Can. Not. Wait.

   
• Global. Well, it was good while it lasted.

   
• Daily. This video so perfectly sums up my day...

I'm the cat in this scenario, obviously.

   
• I am GROOT! Hey! It's baby dancing Groot!

Baby Dancing Groot!

Yeah. You just know a toy version of THAT is coming...

   
Annnnd... I'm off. That weekend was way too short.

   

Robin

Posted on Monday, August 11th, 2014

Dave!I was very, very sad to hear that Robin Williams died today.

I first became obsessed with his comedic antics on Mork and Mindy... then followed his career right up through The Crazy Ones, a fantastic television show that had the good sense to reign him in a bit, which is always when he's at his best.

But there's one role that will forever cement Robin Williams as a favorite performer of mine... The Genie on Alladin...

   

You will most definitely be missed, sir.

   

Depression

Posted on Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Dave!If you've never suffered from severe depression... if you've never stood by helplessly as somebody you care about battles depression... if you've never made an effort to understand what depression is or what it does to you... then please, for the love of God, shut the fuck up about it. Your ignorant commentary adds nothing to the conversation and only serves to make things worse for people living with this drastically misunderstood mental disorder.

Because if I hear one more asshole like Shep Smith (who obviously knows jack-shit about depression) call Robin Williams "a coward" for killing himself, I'm going to lose it.

With depression you don't kill yourself because you're selfish or weak or a coward... you kill yourself because a non-stop feeling of utter desolation means you can't muster any self-worth and feel as if everybody you care about would be better off without you. That's the opposite of selfishness... the opposite of weakness... the opposite of cowardice. It's having the strength to choose ending your life in order to give those you love a better one.

Which is crap, of course, but that's the way your brain works when you have severe depression.

So comparing this disorder to "being sad" is ludicrous. It's not sad. Everybody gets sad from time to time because they're given a reason to feel sad. Depression is feeling sad to the point of despair for no reason and every reason with no end in sight. It's feeling completely lost without knowing why. It's feeling utterly alone when surrounded by people who care about you. It's the agonizing feeling of not being able to justify your very existence. And it is unrelenting. It simply does not stop. It overwhelms your every thought every minute of every damn day.

And unless you've been through it... or had to watch somebody endure it... your mind just can't comprehend what it's like. So stop it. Stop acting like you have a fucking clue.

"How could Robin Williams be depressed when he had millions of dollars?" — Money can't buy your way out of depression when nothing you can buy will bring you happiness.

"How could Robin Williams be depressed when everybody loved him?" — All the love in the world can't make you feel loved if you don't feel deserving of it.

"How could Robin Williams commit suicide and make his family suffer like this?" — When you feel that your depression is a burden to ones you love, suicide seems like the greatest kindness you can offer them.

Again. This is a mental disorder... you can't apply logic or rational thinking to explain it away.

And if you don't want to sound like a complete and total bastard, you'll stop trying.

   

Do-Over

Posted on Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Dave!What's it gonna take?


DAVETOON: Anarchy Monkey

   

   

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Baggage

Posted on Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Dave!I loathe shopping.

I've never enjoyed it. If given the choice between going to the mall or getting water-boarded, I'd probably take the water-boarding. Especially during the holidays (at least the first time... as I've read that being water-boarded is seriously no fun at all). Now-a-days I rarely go to a mall or physical store to shop, I buy everything on the internet. And while I still loathe shopping, at least with online shopping I don't have to put pants on.

But that's not the only difference.

The biggest difference to me is that online shopping comes with customer reviews. When shopping at Amazon (my online store of choice) I have immediate access to the opinions of other people who have purchased the item I'm looking at. This can be a big plus. Except sometimes the reviews are paid or planted to make a product sound better than it is, in which case it's a huge detriment. They can also be sabotaged by people with nothing better to do than trash perfectly good products for petty reasons. But, overall, I trust reviews to even out and paint an accurate picture of what you'll be getting.

And, for the most part, this trust is not misplaced.

But what happens when it does?

I really like my current camera bag, a Tamrac Velocity 7x, but it's now too small to hold all my equipment and it screams "I'M A CAMERA BAG!!!" which probably acts like a beacon to thieves looking for an easy score. So I decided to buy something new. Which isn't an easy feat because no photographer I know has found the perfect bag. But this doesn't stop them from battling to the death in promoting the bag they prefer while brutally cutting up bags they don't. As you can imagine, this makes researching which bag to buy incredibly difficult. But I put in the time anyway and eventually landed on one which looked perfect for me.

Enter "The Brixton" by Ona Bags...

The Brixton Camera Bag by Ona
Photo from Ona Bags featuring photographer Colin Hughes

First of all, it's one of the best-looking camera bags I've ever seen. It looks like a high-end messenger bag and doesn't say "I'm a camera bag" at all. Sure, for the sake of the cows that died to make it, I wish it didn't have leather accents, but at least those poor animals can rest in peace knowing that their hide was used to make something so beautiful.

But, when it comes to baggage, I'll take functionality over beauty any day, so how well does it work as a camera bag?

Well, according to all the reviews I read, it was the most amazing thing since sliced bread. Honestly, I had a hard time finding anything bad that was said about it. Photographers loved the thing. So I did my best to ignore the TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-NINE DOLLAR PRICE TAG, and placed my order with B&H Photo.

I was so thrilled to have finally found the most perfect camera bag ever made that I was walking on air for days.

And then it arrived.

Yes, it is indeed beautiful... but holy shit is it a cluster-fuck of disasters...

  • The wax coating on the canvas scratches very easily. Just removing my bag from the box resulted in some hefty crease marks on every surface. This isn't necessarily a deal-breaker for me... I'm sure eventually it will have an old weathered look I'll like... but, seriously, why couldn't they just use a standard spray coating? The thing looks beat to shit and I've had it for two days. Two days of doing practically nothing! Heaven only know what it will look like after two weeks of travel!
  • The Brixton has an unremovable strap(!) with very little padding on a shoulder piece that slides all over. It doesn't even have a rubberized coating to keep it from sliding on YOU. This is pathetic and unforgivable for a bag that costs TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-NINE DOLLARS!
  • The handle on top is off-center and off-balance, making it uncomfortable and pretty useless. Why they couldn't have gone dual-handle to make it carry well is a mystery.
  • There is a pocket in the back that's kept closed by magnets, which is nifty. What's not so nifty is that it has no cover-flap and doesn't seal tight, which means water and dust are just going to pour into the thing when you're trekking into nature's wild abandon. The smart thing to do would be to seal it shut with silicone... but... well, it's a pocket. I do love my pockets. There are also two wide-open, unprotected pockets on each side. =sigh=
  • There are two pockets in the front right under the bag's cover flap. They are roomy and deep, which is great... BUT THAT'S ALL THE INTERNAL POCKETS YOU GET?!? Absolutely no provision whatsoever for organizing all the tiny crap that photographers seem to accumulate. This is a horrible problem. My Tamrac spoiled the crap out of me with all the useful little places to organize things. This is awful. I mean, holy crap... NOT EVEN A PENCIL POCKET?!?
  • There is a divider inside so that you can slide in a small (13-inch or less) laptop. This is a welcome addition, but it's attached FLAT with velcro so it's more of a slot than a pocket. That's great for a very thin computer (like the MacBook Air) but just plain wacky for anything else because it distorts the back wall of the main compartment. Why not at least attempt to add some depth there... especially if the whole thing is removable if the customer doesn't want it taking up space! And would it kill Ona to put a piece of rigid plastic at the back of the bag to keep your computer from bending in half as it bends around your body?
  • The internal dividers are way too short. Sure you can stick them higher in the bag, but then small lenses and other items aren't contained as they should be.
  • The brass latches Ona uses to keep the bag closed are kind of a hassle. They slide latched so easily sometimes, but require multiple tries to latch other times. I don't know why... maybe it's because you have to have them lined up perfectly straight? Regardless, anything this finicky has NO place on a camera bag, and they really should have used an alternative.
  • The adjustable buckles on the closure straps are UP-SIDE DOWN and probably the stupidest fucking design flaw I've seen on any piece of luggage. Ever.

That last bullet requires some explanation...

The Brixton Camera Bag Buckle FAIL!!!

As you can see, instead of pointing down, the buckle prong faces upwards. This means the damn thing is pointing out ALL THE TIME! The first time I noticed this, it was because I squeezed by a $1000 wood filing cabinet only to see that The Brixton left an ugly gash in the finish. The next time I noticed it, I dropped my arm to my side where the bag was resting and got punctured (no blood, but it left a mark and hurt like a m#th@f#c%er).

This is a huge, major, massive design flaw.

BUT IT WAS NOT MENTIONED ONCE IN ANY REVIEW I READ! NOT ONCE! What the fuck?!?

Did I perhaps get a defective product or something? I jumped to Ona's own website to see if I could find out. Sure enough, right there in their own marketing photos, the little buckle prong is sticking out all over the place!

The Brixton Camera Bag Buckle FAIL!!!
Photo from Ona Bags

Did nobody at any point during product testing notice this problem? Nobody?! I'm the only one who has been poked and left gashes in furniture? Seriously?!

I just don't get it.

There's a lot of things to like about this bag, but it's so deeply flawed that I just can't comprehend the universal praise it's getting. In order to make it work for me, I'm going to have to...

  • Use some shrink-tubing over the buckles so they're not poking people and fucking up the furniture. This will also (hopefully) dampen the "CLACK! CLACK! CLACK!" you hear when you're walking along with the bag unlatched.
  • Use some kind of small plastic box with dividers for all the small stuff so there's a way to keep it organized and not just sitting in the bottom of a deep pocket in a lump.
  • Pull the velcro dividers out of my other camera bags so I have useable-height dividers in the Ona bag.
  • Wrap anything kept in exterior pockets in plastic bags to keep them clean and dry.
  • Cut off the shoulder strap and replace it with something that's worth a shit.
  • Consider adding a rigid piece of plastic with a felt cover to the back of the bag to better protect my MacBook Air from bending.

My regret is not that I have to modify this bag so that I can use it effectively. That's bound to happen with something as varied and subjective as photography gear. It's that I paid TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-NINE DOLLARS for something that didn't have a lot of thought put into it. Or maybe it did, and the designers made bad choices. I dunno. It's just maddening that no reviewer mentioned any of the shortcomings that come with owning Ona's "The Brixton."

Oh well. Eventually, with modification, it should be a good bag for me. I sure like the way it looks. And it could have been worse.

I could have paid $430 for the all-leather version.

I hate shopping.

   

Kindness

Posted on Friday, August 15th, 2014

Dave!"Please calm down."

So there I was fueling up at the mini-mart when I see a woman drop a can of soda as she's fiddling with her keys. This causes the guy sitting in the car next to her to scream "YOU ALMOST HIT MY CAR YOU DUMB BITCH!"... and I'm left wondering two things...

  1. What if the can had ruptured and sprayed soda on that guy's car? How mad would he have been then?
  2. Is the woman going to be okay? She understandably looks upset. What if she's struggling with more than her keys, and being called a "dumb bitch" over something that was clearly an accident is all it takes to break her? What if this was the last straw? She looks so sad. Do I yell something? What can I say? Would I just make things worse? Should I try to follow her to make sure she's alright?

This had me wondering two more things as I watched the woman drive away...

  1. Will this gas hose reach far enough to douse that asshole's car in gasoline?
  2. Do I have any matches or a lighter somewhere in my car?

And this had me further wondering...

  1. Since the can didn't hit his car... how hard would it have been for the guy to ask "Do you need any help there?" or just ignore the situation entirely? Nothing was damaged... nobody was hurt... how does screaming over something so unintentional help anything?
  2. Accidents happen to all of us. Are we really such angry creatures that we can't try to treat people who have an accident like we would want to be treated when we make one?

   

This didn't happen today. It happened years ago.

But I still think about it often. Mostly as I struggle to stay positive and be sure I have a kind word for everyone when things go wrong.

I also think about it when I see things like this...

The guy made a mistake. But he didn't drive off and abandon the other driver... he admitted his error and stopped to be sure the person that he ran off the road was okay. And even when faced with her anger, he didn't shy away... he tried to calm her down so she wouldn't be driving in such a crazy, rage-fueled state of mind.

What a decent human being he is.

Which has to be tough in the face of a racist piece of shit like this psychotic bigot. I mean, I know she's angry, but really?

If this gentleman can keep his cool and maintain kindness while enduring this kind of crap, there's no excuse for me... her... or anyone... to act that way. No matter how upsetting the situation may be. Nobody should have to endure that kind of abuse.

Even you.

Especially you.

So try to hold on to kindness in a world that's anything but kind and maybe somebody will do the same for you.

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Wisdom

Posted on Saturday, August 16th, 2014

Dave!Nothing quite like having something horrible replaced with something even more horrible. But isn't that the way it always goes?

About the only thing keeping me sane right now is the volumes of incredible wisdom that's been accumulated in our world's philosophies and religions. I always thought that studying "religion" over the years was just a hobby. Something to supplement my travels and better understand the people I meet on this earth. But after decades of reading, discussing, and debating the material, I've come to realize that it's all become a part of me. And my life is so mud richer because of it.

Dealing with hardship is nothing new.

People far smarter than I have been writing on how to deal with hardships for centuries, and all that knowledge is out there... free for the taking.

Sadly, most people will never take advantage of it. Maybe they don't have the time. Maybe they think it's all crap. Maybe they are told that any texts outside their own faith are evil. Maybe they feel that anything tied to a religion is stupid. Maybe they're not open-minded to foreign culture and philosophy. Whatever the case, it's a real shame.

There's just so much beautiful wisdom out there waiting to be shared.

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Bullet Sunday 394

Posted on Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Dave!Time to find some shade... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Theif! If I were going to be a master criminal. This would be my jam.

   
• Change.
You can't change the world
But you can change the facts
And when you change the facts
You change points of view
If you change points of view
You may change a vote
When you change a vote
You may change the world

The media controls us. It's what they do. Sadly, nobody seems to care... they're too busy feeling what they're told. But the ones we should really be worrying about is not the media... it's who controls them.

   
• Baddies?! Comedy is at its best when it has some harsh truth to it. This bit from Mitchell and Webb has been in my mind a lot lately...

Doesn't hurt to stop from time to time and evaluate your situation. You might not be where you think you are.

   
• Yossi! As I was digging through Netflix for background noise while I worked, I was shocked to find that there is sequel to the Israeli film Yossi & Jager (which I talked about here). Titled Yossi, it picks up ten years later. Shattered after watching his boyfriend die in his arms, Yossi Gutmann has buried his life as a gay man and put all his energy into becoming a cardiologist. Depressed, lonely, and with no social life to speak of, everything changes one day when the mother of his former lover appears at the hospital...

Yossi Movie Poster

So rarely does a sequel live up to its predecessor. This is an exception. I was really glad a reader had recommended the original film, and even gladder to have come across the followup. In many ways it not only provides closure for Yossi... but also the audiences who came to care about the character. Since this is a foreign film with subtitles... AND gay cinema... it hasn't gotten much exposure in its two years of release here in the States. That's a shame, because it's a good story regardless of your nationality or sexuality.

   
• Sunny! Wow. Be safe out there. And carry SPF 50...

The sun is your friend. So long as you're wearing protection.

   
• MMMMMEEEEEAT! According to Popular Science, there's a tick whose bite can make you severely allergic to meat. Obviously a sign from God that we're all meant to be vegetarians. Why else would something like this exist? No confirmation from Pat Robertson on that yet though...

Meat Allergy Tick
Photo from the Center for Disease Control

If this becomes an epidemic, it's good news for cows. And pigs. Maybe chickens and turkeys... I don't know about birds. Bad news for fish and sea creatures who'll have to take up the slack. Really terrible news for carrots, I suppose.

   
Annnnd... I need to reload.

   

Twins

Posted on Monday, August 18th, 2014

Dave!I never thought I would see The Thompson Twins perform live again. Since they are one of my favorite bands of all time, that's kind of a bummer.

But now, miracle of miracles, Tom Bailey (the lead singer and primary songwriter behind the band) is going on tour. Where he will be performing some of my most favorite songs. It seems too good to be true. It's all going to go all wrong, isn't it?

But then a video was posted of his pre-tour warm-up show...

Yes.

That'll do.

I Can't wait to see the Retro Futura tour next month. And who knows? Maybe next time he tours, Joe Leeway and Alannah Currie will join him. Wouldn't that be something.

That's not a question. It would totally be something.

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THRICE 11.1

Posted on Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Dave!Another summer. Another issue of THRICE Fiction Magazine!

As usual, I'll be discussing the artwork that went into our latest issue. This may or may not include spoilers for the stories, so I urge you to download your FREE copy of Issue No. 11 and give it a read before continuing.

Alright? Alright!

This time around we are very fortunate to feature another beautiful cover by Katelin Kinney...

THRICE Fiction No. 11

Even though I do composite photo work like this for a living, Katelin has a way of making it seem like magic to me. I've stopped asking her how she constructs these images for us because the magic is more fun.

   

For a look at the first half of the art included in this issue, read onward in an extended entry...

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
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THRICE 11.2

Posted on Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Dave!Welcome to PART TWO of a discussion about the art that's running in the latest issue of THRICE Fiction Magazine!

If you haven't read PART ONE yet, you should do that first.

And if you haven't downloaded a FREE copy of our August 2014 issue... then you should definitely do that first because, WARNING... SPOILERS MAY ENSUE!

THRICE Fiction No. 11

Okey dokey then.

I've said before that laying out an issue of THRICE Fiction is like trying to put a puzzle together where you don't have a box lid to see how it's supposed to end up looking when you're done. Not once have I just dumped all the stories into Adobe InDesign and said "Perfect! I'm done!" Not even close. I move things around over and over and over again... trying to come up with a "flow" between stories that makes for a cohesive reading experience from cover to cover. At least once every issue I'll wake up in the middle of the night and freak out because I suddenly realized I've got the page order all wrong. This issue took a little longer to figure out than most, but I was fairly confident in the layout when it was "finalized" back in June.

It didn't last, of course. Right before release I had a couple of discussions that convinced me I needed to move things around... again. Which wouldn't be a big deal if I wasn't so obsessive about having some symmetry between pages on a spread. Getting that sorted out takes a serious amount of time.

And even though it delayed our release by a few days, I think it was time well-spent. We hope you'll agree.

To read PART TWO of my ramblings about the art of THRICE Fiction Magazine No. 11, read onward in an extended entry!

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
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Bailey

Posted on Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Dave!It's a good time to be a Thompson Twins fan.

Frontman Tom Bailey is touring with some other terrific 80's acts (including Howard Jones and Ultra Vox's Midge Ure) on the Retro Futura Tour. And a Thompson Twins 2-disc set Remixes and Rarities is due to be released in September.

As if that wasn't enough, he sat in with The Roots on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon this evening...

Tom Bailey on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show

Tom Bailey on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show

Please... please... please... let Tom be inspired to release some new Thompson Twins material after the tour is over. And then tour again.

And again.

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Akihabara

Posted on Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Dave!To mourn the passage of Apple's Aperture photography cataloging and editing software, there was a discussion thread where people are posting the first photo they ever imported into the program.

Aperture was released in 2005, but the first photos I imported were those I took after having gone 100% digital in 2000. Up until that point, I always took a film camera with me on my travels because I wanted to make sure I had a reliable fallback in case the digital photos turned out horrible (which they often did back then).

But then the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-D700 camera was released. Suddenly I had an unbelievable 2.8 megapixel sensor that could produce dazzling 2048 × 1360 pixel images. Sure that's less than half of what you can get out of a good DSLR today and the quality wasn't that great... but, for the time, it was pretty remarkable. Suddenly I didn't feel the need to drag my film camera around with me. On a trip to Asia I took in October 2000, I was digital only.

And here's the first photo from that batch to be imported into Aperture...

Tom Bailey on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show

That's a picture of Akihabara Denki Gai ("Akihabara Electric Town") in Tokyo, Japan.

Today I shoot in RAW format and take three bracketed exposures for every image. That eats up a hefty chunk of memory but, with 32GB and 64GB SD cards so common (and getting cheaper every day), it's not a big deal. Back in 2000, however, I was constantly switching between Medium Quality (1600 × 1200 or 1.9 MP) and High Quality (2048 × 1360 or 2.8 MP) to save precious space on my 8MB Sony Memory Stick. The above image was shot as 1600 × 1200. Looking back, that was a bad choice because all the straight lines in the image are pixelating quite badly at such low resolution. I should have taken a second to analyze the scene and then selected High Quality mode. But, who knows what I was thinking when I shot it? Maybe I thought that a random street scene wasn't important enough to merit the extra space.

As for Aperture?

Now that it's been discontinued, I've resigned myself to the fact that my last import into the program will be my upcoming trip to Salt Lake City. After that I'll be switching to Adobe Lightroom.

If I'm feeling nostalgic, maybe I'll be sure that the first image I import into Lightroom will be the same first image I imported into Aperture.

   

Retroinsertion

Posted on Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Dave!And so it begins.

For years now, I've been debating whether or not I should pull entries from my first two blogs (DaveWorld/DaveSpot and DaveBlog) and fold them into my third (and current) blog... Blogography. There's also a chunk of entries I saved from the first go-round of Blogography before it got rebooted in April 2003.

The problem is two-fold.

1) All my entries from "back in the day" were written at a time when I never even considered strangers wanting to read my crap. Entries were created for my friends and family only, and contained a lot of personal information I wouldn't dream of putting on the internet today. Obviously anything I re-post now would have to either be heavily edited or rewritten.

2) For the longest time I couldn't get it out of my head that posting old entries to my current blog was "cheating." I'm the first to admit that doesn't make much sense... but George Lucas fucking around with the Star Wars films over the years has freaked me out on the idea of mucking with the past. HAN SHOT FIRSTBLOGOGRAPHY BEGAN IN APRIL 2003!

But now, thanks to some encouragement from y'all, I'm over it.

The first entry I've decided to retro-post is from December 2000 when I visited Rome for the first time. It pretty much had to be re-written from scratch, because a lot of the original text was written through the perspective of a recent break-up with my then-ex-girlfriend. It was not a happy time, and the trip to Italy was a fortunately-timed escape from heartache.

You can read the entry by clicking here.

After all is said and done, I'm liking the idea of retro-posting more and more. I'll definitely be doing more as time permits.

   

Bullet Sunday 395

Posted on Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Dave!Pull up a seat to the campfire... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Doctor! While I felt Peter Capaldi did a great job as the new Doctor Who, I was a bit disappointed in his debut episode. I'd like to blame it on all the build-up, hype, and anticipation pushing my expectations too high... but I honestly feel that had nothing to do with it. I was just bored. Bored. Bored. Bored. It was a boring episode.

Dr. Who Capaldi Edition

I'd have thought they would start this series out with a bang, but that didn't happen... at least in my humble opinion. I don't know what they're waiting for, but here's hoping next episode ramps things up to where they need to be.

   
• Thrice! Did I mention that the latest FREE issue of Thrice Fiction has been released? Well it has! And you can download it at absolutely no charge from our website!

Thrice Fiction No. 12 Artwork

Plenty of good stuff to be found within. Hurry up and get your copy before we come to our senses and start charging thousands of dollars for it!

   
• Star-Lord! My man-crush on Chris Pratt continues. I love it when famous people use their celebrity as a force for good instead of being self-centered assholes like so many seem to be. And kudos to Marvel for not starting up a lawsuit when Chris visited a children's hospital in-character as Star-Lord...

Chris Pratt as Star-Lord
Photo from @Twitter

What an awesome guy.

   
• Bunga! If you've got an upcoming journey to or through Europe, be forewarned that Iceland is ripe for yet another volcanic eruption. Mt. Bardarbunga is poised to blow. The potential for disaster being even larger than the previous explosion of Mt. Eyjafjallajokul that messed up travel plans for millions of passengers as flights were delayed and canceled left and right due to unsafe ash content in the air.

It's always something.

   
• Tom! I hate to be the All Thompson Twins All The Time Channel, but I'm a huge fan. And this is a really good interview...

Tom Bailey
Original Photo Uncredited

Can't. Wait.

   
• Human! And lastly... this video is titled Restore Your Faith in Humanity. It's aptly named...

   
Annnnnd... no more bullets for you. See you next week!

   

Groot!

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014

Dave!After what I can only describe as "Shitty Monday," it's the little things that make me want to keep going.

Like the news that Funko will indeed be making a dancing Groot Bobble Head toy from the amazing, must-see-in-theaters Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

Sadly, he's not available until January, but he is coming...

Funko Pop! Dancing Baby Groot!

You can pre-order one of your vey own at ToyWiz.

In the meanwhile, you can just watch this over and over and over again...

All I need now is a LEGO Guardians of the Galaxy video game for my life to be complete.

Dang. Now I want to see Guardians again.

   

Sony FE 70-200

Posted on Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Dave!I've never been much of a "telephoto guy." My favorite photography has always been landscapes and architecture, and these subjects have dominated my photos since Day One. With this in mind, I only rarely invest in telephoto lenses... often preferring to sink my money into the best wide-angle glass I can afford. Any lenses I've ever bought with any reach to them have been the cheapest of the cheap. While I may need a long lens one day... I know full-well that it will probably sit in my camera bag unused. They always do.

But with Sony's newer full-frame sensor mirrorless cameras reawakening my love of photography, I've found myself wanting to explore telephoto shooting for some reason. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to get a seriously expensive lens (for me anyway) in the hopes that I'll actually want to use it.

Enter the $1,500 Sony FE 70-200mm...

Sony FE 70-200 Lens Test: Mountains Closeup
You know it's serious when it's painted white to dissipate the heat it generates with such big glass!

   
Now, let me preface the rest of this entry by saying "I know."

I absolutely know that 200mm seems like a pathetic amount of zoom in an age when even cheap hand-helds are sporting 60× lenses that blow in to a remarkable 1200mm. I mean, shit, 200mm can barely be considered "telephoto" any more, right?

Except...

These handhelds get their astounding reach because they have tiny sensors. A telephoto lens doesn't have to be very big at all to fill them up. Couple that with the slow, cheap optics these cameras use to get to 1200mm, and the quality of photos you're going to see may be decent enough for a hobbyist... but I wanted something more.

And with a full-size sensor, "more" and "quality" translates into a big, big lens. If you've ever watched a pro sports game, you occasionally see the photo-journalists covering the event as they stand behind these massive $10,000+ lenses that are so big and heavy that a tripod is required. And just look at what my little Sony NEX-6 looks like with the 70-200mm zoom...

Sony FE 70-200 on a Sony NEX-6 Body

Can you imagine what a quality 400mm or 600mm lens would be like... assuming Sony ever bothered to build one for these cameras?

Anyway...

Over the past couple days I've been goofing around with my new FE 70-200mm and have been loving every minute of it. Yes, the 200mm seems a little short on my Sony A7-S with its full-frame sensor... but on my NEX-6 with its smaller sensor I get 105-300mm, which is actually a pretty good range for a telephoto lens. Even at the low-end...

Sony FE 70-200 Lens Test: Motel Sign

Sony FE 70-200 Lens Test: Forest Light

But it's the high-end that really matters, right? Zooming in to the full 200mm (which is 300mm on my NEX-6) can get me fairly close. Close enough that a good-quality crop is available for 8×10" prints...

Sony FE 70-200 Lens Test: Mountains Closeup

Sony FE 70-200 Lens Test: Mountains Closeup

And you might need to crop in some cases because the corners can get a little soft at 200mm. Not so much that you're going to balk... or possibly even notice (this lens has amazing-quality optics, after all)... but it's worth noting.

As expected, the FE 70-200mm comes with Optical SteadyShot (image stabilization) built-in. Hand-held shooting would be really tough if it didn't. Overall, I'm happy with the quality of the OSS in this lens, and most of my shots were rock-steady despite my not being a very steady shooter.

Auto-focusing is generally fast and accurate, but can be frustrating at times. In some cases when I was getting close, the lens was simply incapable of pulling focus, even though what I was aiming at had no obstructions to confuse the contrast sensor... and I was outside the minimum the focusing distance of the lens (1m). I honestly don't know what that's all about, but it's something I'll be keeping an eye on.

The aperture runs f/4.0-22, which is fairly respectable. Though I admit I would've be happier with a maximum of f/2.8, which seems to be standard for this zoom range in other brands. I can't complain too much though... overall I find it plenty bright enough for daylight shoots.

And you can still get a nicely narrow depth of field, if you're into that kind of thing...

Sony FE 70-200 Lens Test: Mountains Closeup

Sony FE 70-200 Lens Test: Mountains Closeup

Sony FE 70-200 Lens Test: Mountains Closeup

Sony FE 70-200 Lens Test: Mountains Closeup

These were all hand-held with no shake and very good sharpness. Which is pretty darn cool, if you ask me.

You have to be careful though. In full-auto, my NEX-6 made some poor choices that resulted in occasional depth-of-field wackiness...

Sony FE 70-200 Lens Test: Mountains Closeup

Which sometimes ended up being a good thing...

Sony FE 70-200 Lens Test: Mountains Closeup

Something I was not expecting was the bokeh you get with this lens. It's round! And really beautiful. The specs say that Sony used a 9-blade rounded aperture, which looks more natural to my eye than the typical polygonal patterns I'm used to seeing.

The size/weight of this lens is either really good or really bad, depending on your perspective. At 29.63 ounces (1.85 pounds) it's pretty light when compared to other zooms. But on a small mirrorless camera like my NEX-6, it feels absurdly heavy and positively massive (see photo above).

Other than that, there's not much to tell. I've noticed no chromatic aberration at all. Naturally, it comes with a lens hood and tripod collar. The build quality is very nice, and the lens is sealed to help keep out dust and moisture. Filter size is 72mm, which doesn't seem very common, but I don't have an inventory of anything that large, so it's not a big deal to me. There are four focus-hold buttons around the lens which is always good. You can limit the focal range to increase auto-focus speed at a touch of a switch. Lastly, there's a "panning mode" switch that adjusts the image stabilization to accommodate horizontal movement/tracking (a nice feature, but I honestly couldn't tell the difference when I tried it?).

Given the whopping $1500 price tag, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. How could it be worth that kind of money? But now that I have the Sony FE 70-200mm in my camera bag, I'm not underwhelmed at all. This is a quality lens that shoots beautiful images and provides good value for the money on both Sony's full-size and cropped-sensor cameras. It's also the only choice you have without going with an adapter, as native FE lenses are pretty rare at the moment.

Now I just need to get out there and take some pictures with it.

   

Kitty!

Posted on Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Dave!Everything you know is a lie.

Newsflash: Hello Kitty has never been a cat!

Rest assured, however, that Bad Monkey is most definitely a monkey...

Bad Monkey

And he's bad.

He's bad.

You know it.

   

And, speaking as a close personal friend of Hello Kitty...

Davedon: Dave and Hello Kitty

Dave VD Greetings

Davehellokitty

... SHE'S A FUCKING CAT, OKAY?!?

   

UPDATE: Annnnnnd... Kotaku brings some much-needed sense to the discussion.

   

Yosemite Beta

Posted on Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Dave!I've had more that a couple people ask me if I've joined the Apple Mac OS X Yosemite Beta program. Of course I have, which always leads to the question "Well? What do you think?

The answer is not so easy to pin down... mostly because the beta is very much work in progress. And a lot of the more compelling features, such as all the nifty new iPhone integration, can't be tested because I don't have iOS 8 installed on any of my devices. So about all there is for me to comment on is A) How it runs with my existing stuff, and B) What it looks like. Those answers are as follows...

A) Seems to run fine, though I've noticed there is some lag when typing with a few apps.

B) I think it looks like shit. Garish, dated, and inexplicably messy on anything less than a Retina Display... which is a lot of people still have.

First of all, the new "flat" icon aesthetic isn't bad... it's the ugly day-glow color pallet that makes it appear that way. Even worse, the "flatness" is applied inconsistently. The icon for Mail, for example, isn't truly "flat" at all. It's got a lot of photo detail on it plus a watermark, which looks inconsistent next to all the other Apple icons that are so minimalistic...

Yosemite Beta

The Mail icon is new, so I'm guessing that's pretty much what it will look like when Yosemite is released. Unfortunate.

Even putting the garish app icons aside, there's an even bigger problem with folders. No longer a subtle element that recedes into the background so you can focus on what you need to, folders are now about as subtle as a slap in the face. They're like a plague of distraction...

Yosemite Beta

Get a grouping of them and it's almost worse...

Yosemite Beta

Compare and contrast to the much classier presentation of the older folders...

Yosemite Beta

Also note the trash can, which no longer looks like an actual trash can... but instead like a frosted shot-glass filled with cigarette butts. Far more Windows-like than Mac-like in my opinion.

And it doesn't stop there... every single control element has been flooded in 80's day-glow colors which looks almost manic in it's distraction...

Yosemite Beta

YES! WE FUCKING GET IT! WE CAN CLICK ON THOSE CONTROLS!! Praise be to Jobs that you can tone it down by switching the appearance controls to "Graphite"...

Yosemite Beta

Unfortunately, there's no way to do that with the folders and icons. And, this being Apple, it's not like they're going to offer any skinning options so you can replace their shitty 1980's color scheme with something more sensible.

I haven't played much with the Apple apps that come with the system. Notepad and Contacts have been updated, but not noticeably so. The Calendar app looks a little different, but is still the same flaming pile of shit when it comes to usability. The only difference is that they've moved the laughably absurd and confusing month labels from the right to the left...

Yosemite Beta

For the life of me, I don't understand Apple's new design mantra. It used to be that design was functional first... then that functionality was made beautiful. Now it's apparently design over function... which is made a hundred times worse because it's shitty design that's being painted over shitty functionality. Exactly the opposite of what Apple is supposed to be about. At least it's consistently shitty, which means they're still ahead of Microsoft. But for how long?

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the gimmicky transparency crap they've injected everywhere is much more subtle than I feared it would be. I still think it's entirely unnecessary, but at least it's not distracting me from getting things done. Even so...

John Hammond: I don't think you're giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody's ever done before...
   
Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.

That classic quote from Jurassic Park pretty much sums up my feelings about how Apple is operating now. Yes... yes... it's cool that the QuickDraw engine of Mac OS X allows effortless transparency to be added to any element... but just because you can do a thing doesn't mean you should do a thing.

One thing I rather like about Yosemite is iCloud Drive. It's basically DropBox integrated into the operating system. I am hoping... hoping with all my might... that this will make data sharing with iPhone have some semblance of sanity. If not, then DropBox it is. DropBox is not only dead-simple to configure and use... they just upped everybody who pays for their pro service to a whopping 1 terabyte at no extra charge. That's probably cheaper than what Apple will offer, which means the iPhone quackery you have to put up with is suddenly not the deal breaker it once was.

More random things to like...

  • Lest you think the user interface is 100% shitty in Yosemite... the dock, which is more streamline and elegant than it's ever been... doesn't suck as much as it used to.
  • The "stoplight" window controls are SO much nicer in "Flatland."
  • The ability to put the menu bar and dock into "Dark Mode" is very nice for working in "pro" apps.
  • The Notification Center is a bit more functional now that it has widgets you can add... though I can't figure out how to remove the ones I don't want... like the Stock Market widget. Sure you can remove all the company listings, but the "Stocks" section is still there taking up space for no reason.
  • Spotlight got new search abilities added (including Wikipedia!) and has suddenly become vastly more useful. I think it will be 3rd party upgradable too, which takes me back to Apple's "Sherlock" technology days.
  • Adding voice to messaging is seamless and much more useful than I thought.
  • iTunes, which now has one of the most sparse interfaces I've ever seen, feels a bit more intuitive to use... though the new list view is very difficult to read. Sadly, you still have to drop to the iTunes Store in able to see your movie purchases, which is buckets-full of stupid.
  • The new system typeface (Helvetica Neue) took some getting used to, but I now prefer it to the old system font (Lucida Grande). There was a lot of complaining about readability at small sizes, but I'm not seeing that... even on a non-Retina Display.

And that's about all I have to say, really. Everything else is pretty much as it's being reported on every Mac website in existence.

While I think Yosemite has some interesting things going for it, ultimately it feels as if Mac OS X is taking a step backwards in functionality and design. Whether these things will be fine-tuned and improved before release is anybody's guess. I certainly hope so.

   

Exception

Posted on Friday, August 29th, 2014

Dave!For many people in the US, there is a three-day weekend coming up.

Not for me, of course, but for many people.

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Categories: DaveLife 2014Click To It: Permalink  2 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Belieber

Posted on Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Dave!


Bad Monkey is a Belieber

   

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Categories: DaveToons 2014Click To It: Permalink  2 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Bullet Sunday 396

Posted on Sunday, August 31st, 2014

Dave!Don't you dare despair... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• The Ramones! HOLY CRAP! If this is true... IF THIS IS TRUE... wow.

   
• Fun! Funko Pop! finally announced that they are releasing some Firefly characters in their line of vinyl pop culture figures...

Funko Pop! Does Firefly

I, of course, was compelled to pre-order my favorite character, Hoban Washburne, complete with one of his toy dinosaurs...

Funko Pop! Does Firefly

You can get your own over at ToyWiz.

   
• Dreamy! The entire Skyer album by the Swedish dream-pop group Postiljonen is achingly beautiful... but this song is just... beyond. How they managed to create such a lovely song around Whitney Houston's How Will I Know? is a mystery...

Though if forced to pick a favorite off the album, Plastic Panorama is absolute magic...

Of course, I'm a sucker for anything that quotes The Princess Bride.

   
• Cancelation. With quality television being a rare thing indeed now-a-days, I was disturbed to see that the A&E series Longmire has been canceled...

Longmire Poster

What's interesting in this case is that the show is being canceled despite pulling big ratings. The studio is shopping the show around to try and keep it on the air, which is encouraging, but it's hard to take news like this given the overwhelming amount of crap clogging network schedules.

   
• Roofs! If you have a head for heights, Vadim Makhorov and Vitaliy Raskalov have posted a stunning set of sphincter-puckering photos from Hong Kong on their website...

On the Roofs Hong Kong

Actually, "stunning" is under-selling it.

   
• Diane! A big thank you to Diane Sawyer for five years anchoring ABC's World News Tonight. I've been tuning in throughout her run and have become a fan. I look forward to future appearances as a "special correspondent"...

Diane Sawyer

The diversity was nice while it lasted. Now the "Big Three" networks are all once again being safely anchored by white guys.

   
And... my six-shooter has done ran out of Bullets.

   

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