Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Technology...

Technology. It’s a marvelous, marvelous thing. I’m reminded of this upon the occasion of purchasing a new laptop computer. How have so many things changed over such a relatively short time span?

Take phones, for instance.

I can still remember dial telephones; the curly cords that allowed you to go about ten feet from the phone hanging on the wall. Invariably, they would get twisted beyond repair. It wasn’t a sad day when those went away, giving way to (can you imagine??) cordless telephones. Yes, indeed, no longer were you tethered to the wall in the kitchen. Now you could walk about freely, so long as you stayed in the kitchen. See, those early cordless phones didn’t work too well when the signal had to pass through a wall. These, or course, were replaced with different models, with different features, to the point where now you can walk down the block with a cordless phone and not lose an iota of signal quality.

How about answering machines? In days of yore, if someone wasn’t home if you called them, the phone just rang. Forever. I remember an Ann Landers column in the Long Island newspaper Newsday that said the appropriate number of times to let the phone ring before you hang up was 10. Really? Can you imagine your average 20-something having the patience to let an unanswered phone ring ten times? In a perfect world, I think they get to five. Probably four.

But maybe five.

I fondly recall getting my first answering machine. It came with a micro-cassette, and the cornucopia of cords and wires going into and out of it was impressive, to say the least. Oh, how we’d revel in coming up with new outgoing messages for callers to hear. It was nice, but the tapes needed to be replaced every so often. Effective, but annoying. It was a grand day when answering machines no longer needed tapes.

Now, if you were out and about, how would you know if someone tried calling you at home? Well, fear not, for a new-fangled device called a “pager” was soon to find its’ way onto your hip. Once upon a time, pagers were reserved for doctors on the golf course. Remember Dr. Beeper in the movie “ Caddyshack”? That’s the kind of guy I’m talkin’ about. Of course, it wasn’t too long before pagers were available to the masses, and the masses bought them in droves. You could even make up little codes to punch in after you punched in your number. I mean, who hasn’t used the code “911” on a pager?

One thing that pagers and answering machines allowed us to do was “screen” our calls. If you didn’t want to talk to the person who paged you, it was easy enough to say “Nope, didn’t get the page”. With an answering machine, especially the early ones which would erase a message if you looked at it wrong), you could claim the same.

Pagers certainly served their purpose. I recall having one until, I’d say, sometime around 1993. It was around this time that the earliest cellular telephones started becoming available to the public. I remember my first one. The company was Air Touch Cellular. That company’s no longer around. Hell, I don’t think the company that bought Air Touch is still around. But it was around back then. My first cellular (no one was using the term “cell” yet) was about the size of a two-slice toaster. It came with a bag and inside the bag was housed the battery. I remember getting it at the local swap meet (flea market for you east coasters). There weren’t any real stores you could go to in order to get one of these; at least not if you wanted to pay a reasonable amount. These stores, after all, had enormous overhead. So, I ended up getting my first cellular phone in between eating a churro I bought on the previous aisle and buying a 40-pair pack of socks.

I seem to remember the battery weighing about what your average car battery weighs today, but probably not. I had the little antenna coming out of the rear window of my 1985 Chrysler Laser. See, that’s how you could tell who the “with it” folks were; they had a phone antennas coming out of the rear windows of their cars. The handset looked, well, like a telephone, albeit it a circa 1984 modern-looking home phone handset with the keypad imbedded in the handset.

Now it was possible for someone to page you, and you could call them back on your cellular phone.

I don’t recall exactly when it happened. All of a sudden, everything got smaller. Pagers got so small they went away almost entirely. Honestly, I don’t know a single person who still uses a pager. No one. They’ve either moved on to a cell phone, or they’ve died.

There’s a Saturday Night Live skit where Bill Hader plays some nouveau clothes designer, and he pulls out a phone that’s about the size of a Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. That’s a gross exaggeration of reality, of course, but the fact is that “cell” phones (no one uses the term “cellular” now) have gotten a lot smaller. I used to keep my cellular phone behind the passenger seat of my car. It was that big. Now, I have two cell phones; one personal and one business, and I can carry them both in the same pocket.

But, really, they’re so much more than “phones”.

Now, you can surf the web, watch movies, send and receive e-mails, play games, and check the weather in Dubuque (you know, if you wanted to). Honestly, it seems as though the ability to actually make or receive a phone call is merely an ancillary benefit.

And, given how we used to use our answering machines and pagers to avoid talking to people years ago, maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing…

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Trip #1 In The Books...

I have to leave my hotel in about four hours. Seeing as it's 11:00pm, this is something I'm not happy with. It's only a 90 minute drive to the airport, though, so I'm not concerned. I can sleep on the flight, and I have plenty of coffee.

My first trip of the year went pretty well. They can always go better, but they can certainly always go worse. This trip fell squarely, and comfortably, in the middle.

I landed about 11:30pm; about an hour late, and went to pick up my rental car. Something told me to go ahead and get the four-wheel drive, and I'm glad I did. Once I got into the nether regions of Ontario, it came in handy.

I wasn't too jazzed with the weather when I landed, though. I'd decided to go with a Jeep Liberty. The nice lady at the Thrifty counter pointed through the doors towards them, and out I went.

Into a blizzard.

Okay, it probably wasn't a "blizzard" by the standards of anyone who sees snow every year but, for someone from San Diego, these were white-out conditions. I was snow blind. And this was my truck:


My Jeep Liberty


I was based out of Chatham, Ontario, which is a small town about four hours west of Toronto. Once you get this far out, the majority of what you see is farmland. Well, unless you go to Sarnia, and then you see chemical plants.

I prefer farmland.

As I dabble in landscape photography, I made sure I had my camera; the trusty Canon G12, on the console next to me. You never know when a photo op will pop up and, hey, you wanna' be ready. As I was doing a lot of driving, I expected a lot of photo ops. I got some, but not nearly what I'd hoped. Then again, the weather wasn't the greatest.Still, I'd be damned if I wasn't going to take some pictures.

As I said, there's a lot of farmland up here and, everywhere you look, there are barns, etc; you know, things that belong on a farm.

So I did some snappin':









Of course, barns and farmland aren't the only things to shoot. One thing that Canada has, and Ontario especially, is police officers. The thought that popped into my min when I saw this scene was "They are out there. They are out there and they will find you and they will catch you":


No one ever successfully outruns a cop in Canada.


Now, sadly, my GPS unit died. It didn't wait for an opportune moment to die, it died while I was on my way to London, and driving unfamiliar roads. As a result, I had to rely on Google Maps (eons better than MapQuest, by the way). The bad part about that is, even though the directions are accurate, they do you no good if you don't read them correctly. What happens then is, well, you get lost.

That can be a blessing in disguise, though. When you get lost, you'll see all kinds of things that weren't on your prescribed route. Today, for example, I ended up driving through a residential neighborhood before coming up on a semi-frozen Thames River in Wallaceburg:


The Thames River.




Of course, I would've preferred that the sun was out, but I made do with what lighting I had, and got a shot of something that I never would've seen had my GPS decided to play nice.
You'll notice that there's snow in these photos. Well, one thing I've learned after surviving this winter extravaganza is that, when you drive your car in the snow, it gets dirty. Here's someone who was surely aware of that; they just didn't care:


Cops can't even run the license plate.

I get a big kick out of some of the road signs in Canada sometimes. They're funny. I especially like any sign that has a moose on it, but I didn't encounter any of those on this trip. I did, however, see a few which made me chuckle.

This one kills two birds with one stone: A funny sign and a farm:

Translation: Fatigue kills. Take a break.


What, exactly, is the reason not to drive 140?

All in all, it was a good trip. I got some problems taken care of, and I laid the foundation for problems in the future.

Hehehehe... Okay, not really.

The farms came and went, the cops wheeled by and the snow fell. I fly back in the morning, including having scored a first class bump to Denver. I'm still waiting to see what happens from Denver to San Diego. My fingers are crossed.

A couple of side notes here:

If you like the photos in this entry, and you're looking to buy a camera that isn't a big DSLR rig, consider the Canon G12. I paid $500.00 for mine, and I'm now travelling without my DSLR rig a lot more often. The G12 just gets the job done. If I didn't need the Canon 40D for my concert work, I might just be satisfied with the G12.

As I typed this, I was sitting in my swanky suite at the Holiday Inn in Chatham, listening to the news. Now, I'm not really a fan of CNN, but it's one of the few choices I have. Anyway, there's been non-stop coverage of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. There's non-stop coverage of the nuclear power plants and their possible meltdown. It just ain't good. Talk about a bad, bad situation.

Anytime I see something like this, I'm reminded of one of my favorite sayings: "Dream like you'll live forever, live like you'll die tomorrow".

In other words, get out there and shoot some barns:





Thursday, March 10, 2011

So, It Was A Little Too Warm In San Diego...

Okay, not really.

But my travel season has descended upon me, so here I sit, in the Aviator's Club in Denver International Airport, on my way to Ontario. Southwest Ontario to be exact; Chatham. Checking the weather on my iPhone4 (bitchin' little gadget that it is), I see that it's 32 degrees there. It's supposed to get down into the high teens on Sunday.

That's cold.

I have steaks that aren't that cold.

But, hey, it's the gig.

Every time I make my first trip of the year, I take notice of the travelling habits of others, specifically where it concerns the security line.

Now, I should preface this by saying, with what could be considered a small amount of humility, that I am an expert traveller. When I get to the security line, I'm ready to go. Sadly, there seems to be far too few travellers who are able to say the same.

What I've noticed is that, as a populace, we don't seem to be getting much smarter when it comes to flying. We still forget to take off our shoes, our belts and watches. We forget that the Venti (whatever the Hell that is) half-caff mocha-latte-frappucino thing we bought at Starbucks needs to be finished before the TSA agent checks our ID and boarding pass. We forget the simple things which, if remembered, would, if I may be frank here, make my travelling life a Helluva' lot easier.

Case in point: body scanners.

I honestly can't think of anything which has collectively riled people's emotions more than these things. "How dare they!" or "I'm being violated!" actually are heard on occasion. Personally, I don't have a problem with it and, honestly, I don't understand why anyone does. Here's the deal: You know those things are there before you ever buy your plane ticket. If you don't, you're probably not smart enough to be buying a plane ticket, so you can go ahead and skip to the end of today's insightful, yet oddly humorous, entry. You know there's a good chance you're going to have to step into one of these machines. So, please, do those of us who A) have no problem with it and B) have travelling dialed in to where it's second nature a favor: Be quiet, stop bitching, and step on through.

Talking to Angelique, the TSA agent who was directing weary travellers into the scanner, I learned that, 50% of the time, whoever is monitoring the images can't even tell if it's a man or a woman in the machine. Now, this isn't due to either "lacking" anything, it's just that the resolution on the images isn't high enough to get a good enough view to determine if either should take up employment in, say, the adult entertainment industry or not. Now, perhaps Angelique was was just trying to allay what she thought were my fears. I just laughed.

I thought it was funny.

She motioned me into the machine.

So, there I stood, in my stocking feet with my hands over my head with my fingertips touching, awaiting the inevitable irradiation which would surely alter cellular make-up forever. And then it was over. "Come on through, sir".

That was it.

It's been like that, literally, every time I've gone through one of those scanners.

Unfortunately, the TSA agents had a far more difficult time convincing the woman behind me that it was safe. She wasn't going to be sterilized by this insidious procedure, she was assured, but she wasn't buyin' it. I collected my carry on, reassembled myself with my shoes, belt, watch, etc, and the woman behind me was still questioning the safety of the procedure. I was just hoping she would've asked them if they would really see a bomb on her, had she been wearing one. Now that would've made for some good television.

So, somehow, I managed to find my way to Denver, where I'll board a flight to Ontario. I don't land until almost 11:00pm, so that means curling up in my hotel room at about 1:00am or so. I'll be up by 6:00am, grab a shower, eat some breakfast, and then head out the door.

So, the fun begins yet again, just as it does every year. It's going to be a year of road trips and tours and rising blood pressure as I deal with travellers who just don't know any better.

And I wouldn't have it any other way...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Shameless Self Promotion...

There's probably an old saying about "self promotion", but I don't know it.

Still, that's what I'm doing.

Over the past several months, I've been working on a number of books and calendars featuring my photography. It may be a bit of an ego boost but, to be honest, even I like having books and calendars featuring my photography. For that reason alone can I only surmise that everyone wants them.

Having recently finished edits and updates of both, I'm now offering them up for sale. The calendars are dated from May 2011 through April 2012, but I can adjust those dates if you'd like. Like the calendar, the book, titled Continental Cuisine: Views Of North America, features photography from my travels in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

I'm happy to sign the book, but that'll add a little more time to the delivery. If you'd like a signed book, let me know, as the book will have to be ordered through me instead of through the order page on the website. Just shoot me an e-mail at steve@steveparrphotography.com and I'll let you know how to go about it.

Okay, so my self-aggrandizement is over. Here's where you'll need to go to order them:

Continental Cuisine: Views Of North America

Steve Parr Photography Calendar: May 2011-April 2012

Enjoy!

Let's Talk Apps...

From time to time, I'll be talking about cell phone apps as I find good ones. Let's face it, it's almost impossible to get thro...