This personal blog on mine was born 22 years ago today on November 25, 2001. Over the years I’ve used a variety of tools to write it including many years on TypePad before moving to WordPress.
As I look ahead where will it be in another 22 years? Where will I even be then? Perhaps an AI partner of mine comes along which is more creative and writes better than me. Your AI partner can read what it creates and respond accordingly! Robot to robot.
Let’s hope there’s more humanity to it than that however. While this blog has seen an amazing evolution in technology around it over these 22 years, my sense is that nothing is slowing down. I hope our world benefits from these changes to actually improve for all and to overcome some of the negative events than seem to continue to emerge around the world. We’re capable of so much better.
On this Thanksgiving Day 2023 we have so much to be thankful for! We look forward to time together and opportunities for reflection about what’s important and matters in our lives. Best wishes to all in the US who celebrate this best of the holidays!
In the late 2000’s I bought my first “big” camera – initially a Canon 30D digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) from Keeble & Schuchat, a large camera store on California Avenue in Palopho Alto which closed back in October 2016.
As I was getting back into photography and learning my way around, I discovered a podcast and blog from a writer and photographer named Derrick Story. At the time I came across him, he was working for O’Reilly Publishing where he wrote books on photography. In parallel he was developing his own business as a commercial photographer, blogger, podcaster – and workshop host.
In 2010, I became interested in one of the fall photography workshops Derrick was offering which was going to include a visit to Safari West, a private wildlife preserve located outside of Santa Rosa, California. I had taken a few other photo workshops earlier that year but this one with Derrick at Safari West was a real highlight. I captured some of the very best wildlife photographs I’ve even taken during that weekend workshop! Here’s my earlier post from 2010 where I wrote about it!
Early this morning I opened an email from Derrick announcing his upcoming 2024 photography workshops. The last one he’s doing next year is going back to Safari West – and reading that and looking at his description of that workshop brought back these memories of mine!
Derrick’s a great teacher. I’ve taken several other workshops with him and recommend them highly!
We’ve all experienced it before – someone makes a comment that doesn’t sit well with us or feels like a personal attack. Our natural reaction is often to get defensive and respond with anger. However, there is a more positive alternative.
Instead of reacting defensively, we can choose to reflect on the situation. By taking a moment to pause and consider the comment, we can find a better way to respond that promotes understanding and empathy. In doing so, we can transform potentially hurtful situations into opportunities for personal growth and connection.
Rather than reacting in the moment when you feel slighted, make a point to capture the comment and reflect on it later. Here are some tips:
Mentally flag it. When the hurtful comment happens, simply make a mental note that you want to revisit this later. Don’t ignore it, but don’t dwell on it in the moment either.
Write it down. As soon as possible after the interaction, write down the comment word-for-word to the best of your recollection. Capture any other key details about the context as well. Getting it out of your head and onto paper can help diffuse the intensity of the emotions.
Ask yourself key questions. When you’re ready to reflect, ask yourself: What was the intent behind this comment? Was it meant to be hurtful or did I interpret it that way? Is my reaction disproportionate to what was actually said? What insecurities or experiences of mine may be getting triggered?
Consider the other perspective. Try to look at it from the other person’s point of view. What were they trying to express? Is there some valid point I’m missing because of my defensiveness?
Examine your part. Could I have said or done something to contribute to the situation? Is there a way I can act differently next time to lead to a more positive outcome?
Let some time pass. Don’t force yourself to analyze the comment within minutes or hours of when it occurred. Let the intensity of the emotions fade so you can reflect calmly and objectively.
Talk to a trusted friend. Getting an outside perspective from someone you trust can be invaluable. Run the comment and context by them to see if they have any insights about the intent or any blind spots you may have.
Consider if any action is needed. After reflecting, decide whether any follow-up action is appropriate – either clarifying the misunderstanding with the other person or making a change in your own behavior going forward.
Practice self-compassion. Remember that everyone makes mistakes and says things they regret. Don’t beat yourself up excessively over the situation. Focus on what you can learn from it.
Forgive and move on. At a certain point, you have to consciously choose to forgive the other person, forgive yourself, and move on constructively rather than staying stuck in resentment.
Taking this reflective approach avoids knee-jerk defensive reactions. It gives you space to process the comment from multiple angles. That said, reflection has its downsides if you overdo it:
Over-analyzing can keep rehashing the pain instead of moving past it.
You may second-guess yourself or wallow in regret over how you handled it initially.
Dwelling negatively affects your self-esteem and crowds out other more positive thoughts.
Keeping mental records of grievances breeds resentment and damages relationships.
It takes time and energy that could be better directed elsewhere.
The healthiest approach is to reflect just long enough to gain some useful perspective, but not so long that you get mired down. Use the insights from reflection to better handle similar situations in the future, then make an intentional decision to shift your focus to something more positive.
Learning to respond thoughtfully rather than react defensively requires dedication and practice. It empowers you to engage in a manner that reflects your values, preserving your own dignity while keeping the lines of communication open with those who hold different perspectives. With time, you will become adept at recognizing and intercepting negative thought patterns, enabling you to remain poised and grounded even when faced with hurtful remarks.
Street photography captures candid, unposed shots of people in public places. Unlike posed portraiture, street photography relies on spontaneity, serendipity, and impulse. The street photographer must have a quick eye to capture fleeting moments. As such, street photography is fundamentally an art of observation.
Henri Cartier-Bresson is often considered the father of modern street photography. His concept of the “decisive moment” emphasizes the photographer capturing the perfect instant within a scene. Famous examples like Behind the Gare St. Lazare show his knack for capturing those transient moments brimming with visual energy. His street photographs play with geometry, reflection, and movement in a lyrical way.
Helen Levitt was a pioneer of street photography in New York starting in the 1930s. She captured the daily life, humor, and grit of the city’s neighborhoods. Levitt often photographed children at play. Her work poetically captures the transitory joys within urban life. She had a gift for uncovering whimsy amid the mundane.
In the 1960s, Robert Frank’s seminal book The Americans cemented street photography as an art form. His work stripped away romantic notions of America through raw, gritty, ironic photographs of real life. Frank traveled across the country and captured strangers, cities, cars, and open roads with an unwavering eye. His photographs reveal underlying emotions through powerful composition.
The work of these photographers matters because they transformed street photography into an artistic medium of observation, social commentary, and subjective expression. Their ability to capture visually arresting moments imparting deeper meaning put street photography on the artistic map.
Importantly, street photography is fundamentally about the eye of the photographer, not the camera itself. Many iconic street photographs were shot on nothing more than compact cameras or even modern smartphone cameras. The key is the photographer’s ability to see and capture meaningful moments in public settings. A great street photograph has more to do with vision and timing than expensive equipment.
Several years ago, I’d go out on the streets of San Francisco with a camera bag filled with a fewo Fujifilm cameras. I enjoyed shooting with those cameras – but, frankly, the gear became a hassle – one more thing to worry about. Increasingly, I found myself just pulling my iPhone out of my shirt pocket and capturing the moment with my iPhone camera. Perfectly adequate for almost any kind of street photography. In fact, shooting bursts is so easy with an iPhone that I might do that and then select one image out of many that I shot in a second or two of shutter time.
One other advantage of street photography compared to, let’s just say, landscape photography, is that you’re usually just steps away from a spot where you can take a break, sit down, have a cup of coffee or lunch, etc. before getting back out on the streets. It’s a much better pursuit for older folks like me, rather than hiking the hills out in some national park somewhere to capture one of the iconic vistas! I’ve attended many photo workshops over the years, and I’ve come to smile at how there’d often be a line of us workshop participants with our cameras on our tripods, shooting essentially the same scene! So, so different from street photography. Both certainly have their place, but I’ve outgrown my early interest in landscape photography and now enjoy street photography much more—at least when we’re not in a pandemic and people are actually out on the streets!
I recently came across this comment which brought back my memories of reading this wonderful book:
“More than any other book I’ve ever read, ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’ helps me understand how to pay attention, which I think is maybe the most important skill or muscle I have as an artist and a human.”
“Pilgrim at Tinker Creek“ by Annie Dillard is a masterpiece of deep attention and insight into the natural world. In the book, Dillard spends a year exploring the woods and waterways near her home in Virginia, observing nature with intense focus and describing her experiences in vivid prose.
The quote says this book helps the reader understand “how to pay attention,” which is “the most important skill or muscle I have as an artist and a human.” This rings very true to me after reading Dillard’s book. Her powers of observation, meditation, and description provide a model for mindful engagement with the world.
Dillard notices the smallest details – the way a moth flutters, how the light filters through the trees, the ripple of creek water over rocks. She sits for hours watching a heron stalk its prey or scanning the treetops for nesting birds. Her senses are fully immersed as she takes in the smells, sounds, textures, and minute movements around her.
As a writer, Dillard’s deep noticing transforms into poetic prose that awakens a sense of wonder and mystery in the everyday. She describes a mockingbird’s song as “a slurred, intricate, continuous invention, a waltz with a hundred steps and no apparent repetitions.” Tiny seeds in the creek water become “pale floating rosaries.” Through metaphor and vivid imagery, she paints our mundane world as fresh and new.
Paying such close attention is difficult. Our default mode is to move quickly through life and tune out the small details around us. The noise and distractions of modern life make sustained focus a struggle. Dillard’s discipline and patience in observation challenges me. She sits still, open, curious – letting the world come to her.
Mindful attention takes effort but brings insight. Noticing the worms, weeds, and algae in the creek, Dillard sees that “the extravagance of the world has no measure.” Observing monarch caterpillars chomping milkweed leaves, she feels awe at the bizarre forms life can take. Immersing herself in a winter snowfall, she senses time itself slowing down. Her attentiveness uncovers magic beneath the surface of ordinary events.
As an artist, deep attention also allows Dillard to capture fleeting moments and preserve their emotional essence. A waking grouse’s burst into flight becomes “a terrible explosion” from its “wringing, furious silence.” Touching a frozen pond, she finds it not solid but “fragile and attenuated … smooth brittle ice shell sensitive as skin itself.” Her imaginative language gives sensory weight to transient experiences.
This quality of attention applies to our interactions with people too. The book recounts Dillard’s talks with neighbors, scientists, and eccentrics, whom she listens to with probing curiosity. Whether describing a passionate lepidopterist or a man building a dam on the creek, she tunes in to the spirit and motivation beneath each personality.
As our world moves faster, cultivating an ability to focus matters more than ever. If I can slow down and pay closer attention – open all my senses, suspend judgment, find poetry in the ordinary – I will not just see more beauty in the world but understand life more deeply. Dillard inspires me to embrace the present moment, seek out what amazing things are happening right under my nose, and appreciate the texture of time passing. Our lives become richer when we fully inhabit each moment.
Note: Claude helped me think about the book again and to write this post.
My friend recently commented that I was taking such short, shuffling steps that I looked like an old man when I walked. While said partly in jest, his words held some truth that stung a bit. My usual brisk stride had slowed to a plodding pace somewhere along the line without me realizing it. Age was creeping up on me gradually, evidenced not just in my slowed gait but my increasingly aching joints and graying hair.
My friend advised me to take longer strides, saying it would make me appear more youthful. After considering his suggestion, I realized he had a point. Length of stride is often an indicator of age and vitality. Elderly people tend to take shorter, slower steps as their energy wanes and bodies become stooped. Younger people naturally move with longer, loping gaits.
Consciously extending my stride did make me feel and look more energetic. It required some concentrated effort at first to break my shuffling habit. But soon my old, longer stride felt natural again. The further reach of each step worked muscles that had become inactive and gave me more power and momentum. I found myself walking faster without even meaning to, no longer plodding along but moving with purpose. My renewed gait made me look more alert and engaged with life.
In addition to taking longer strides, I realized I should also make an effort to smile more when I’m out walking. I tend to wear a worried or intense expression, furrowing my brow without realizing it. But a smile can do wonders to make me appear more upbeat and approachable. Smiling more will not only help me look friendlier to others, but also lift my own mood and outlook.
In the end, I was grateful to my friend for his advice. His playful jab about my aging walk spurred me to reclaim the vigorous stride of my youth. While growing older is inevitable, small adjustments like this can help recapture the vitality we sometimes fear is lost with the passing years. Conscious changes in habits and posture can work wonders to make us feel younger, keeping that youthful spring in our step.
Here’s a little poem on the subject:
The Longer Stride
My steps had become short, My pace slow and tired, But your words sparked in me A passion re-fired.
With just a small tweak To my gait’s length and style, I now walk with the vigor Of youth for a while.
Each long stride propels My body ahead, Renewing my energy That once seemed shed.
My muscles awaken, Joyful and spry, As I take to the roads With new stride in my eye.
No more am I shackled By short shuffling feet. I’m striding with purpose, My vitality replete.
So thank you, my friend, For advising me so. With each lengthened stride, My youthful vigor grows.
In the mid-1970s, an obscure technology called Citizens Band or CB radio exploded in popularity across America. Seemingly overnight, bulky CB radios became standard equipment in millions of cars and trucks across the country. Antennas sprouted up like the shoots of some weird new plants. Obscure codes and nicknames like “10-4 good buddy” entered the national lexicon. But by the early 1980s, the CB craze had largely faded away. What explains this rapid rise and fall of what was arguably one of the biggest fads in American history?
The origins of CB radio stretch back to the 1940s, when the FCC reserved a set of UHF and VHF frequencies for citizens to make personal transmissions. Originally a no-code alternative to amateur radio, CB became a hobbyist craze fueled by very favorable HF propagation conditions during that period of the sun spot cycle. A bit later mobile CB transceivers entered the market which allowed drivers and, in particular, truckers to relay information on road conditions, help monitor emergencies, and provide other communications. But early CB gear was expensive and reception was poor. It wasn’t until the 1970s that CB started gaining wider notice especially with the availability of mobile units from local suppliers like Radio Shack.
Several interrelated forces launched CB into the cultural stratosphere in the mid-1970s. First, in 1973, the oil crisis led to a nationwide 55 mile-per-hour speed limit, forcing new regulations on the trucking industry. Truckers relied heavily on CB radios to share information and coordinate. The second force was the rise of CB’s appeal as an inexpensive hobby. Electronics manufacturers began mass producing easy-to-use CB gear as the price of components dropped in the early 1970s. Sears and others began selling handheld CB ‘walkie talkies.’
CB also gained cultural cachet in the 70s as a form of rebellion against authority. With Watergate and the Vietnam War shaking trust in government, CB presented itself as a decentralized network owned and controlled by the people. Citizens saw CB as a way to monitor police movements and subvert the national 55 mph speed limit. Truckers saw themselves as modern cowboys subverting the law and persevering against adversities. The mystique surrounding coded CB lingo like 10-4 and handles like “Bandit” or “Good Buddy” fed into this outlaw image.
The most critical factor in CB’s rise was probably the 1973 trucker strike that shut highways across the country. Truckers used CB radio to coordinate collective action against high fuel prices. This cemented CB’s association with rebellion in the popular imagination. When trucker country singers like C.W. McCall released CB-themed hits like “Convoy” in 1975, the craze reached critical mass.
The fad accelerated throughout the mid-1970s, fueled by movies like Smokey and the Bandit. Selling CB equipment became so lucrative that Radio Shack’s profits doubled between 1973 and 1976. But CB’s success contained the seeds of its downfall. So many citizens bought CBs that some channels became unusable due to congestion. Moreover, many casual CB users had little interest in the rules or etiquette that governed its operation.
By the late 1970s, many CB conversations devolved into profanity, racism, and anarchy. The association between CBs and reckless behavior on the roads also grew, weakening political support for the hobby. The FCC considered banning CBs entirely before settling on stricter regulations on content. Cultural support for the CB movement faded as concerns over safety and civility grew.
The final nail in the coffin came as prices for CB gear plummeted. New technology like cell phones promised even more freedom and mobility. Over a span of just a few years, millions of CB radios went from prized accessories to unwanted clutter. Like most fads, CB radio was the product of unique cultural forces whose confluence was unlikely to be repeated. It flared up as an exciting new hobby, but this spontaneity proved impossible to control or sustain.
The CB radio craze left its mark on American culture through language, music, film and lore even as its technical legacy faded away. Its rise and fall followed a familiar arc of rapid ascent, eager adoption by the masses, and decline through oversaturation. This pattern seems inevitable when obscure niche technologies suddenly grab the spotlight. But for a brief time in the 1970s, CB radio managed to bring a nation together through the magic of shared airwaves. The rest, as they say, is history.
Note: thanks to Claude for help in writing this post! The idea for this post came into my mind while watching an interview on YouTube of Cultural Tutor by Nick Milo.
I happened to notice a tweet on Twitter a few days ago along the lines of “Neon cubist Chinatown San Francisco” – so I wanted to try out a few of my own. These are generated by DALL-E 3 but I used the Microsoft Image Generator in Bing instead (it uses DALL-E 3 under the covers).
Hinton, in particular, made a point that I’ve not heard elsewhere about how these large language models are architecturally quite different from our human brains – the discussion begins at 53:33 into the video. I clipped that section of his remarks:
“At a later stage in my research, I had a profound realization that greatly heightened my interest in the societal impact of AI. As Fei-Fei mentioned, it’s all about the power of data.
These massive chatbots have been exposed to thousands of times more data than any human could ever hope to see.
The key reason behind this capability is the ability to create numerous copies of the same model, with each copy examining a different subset of the data. They can then derive gradients from this data to optimize their parameters. The remarkable aspect is that they can share these gradients among all the copies. This means that each copy benefits from what all the other copies have extracted from the data.
To put it into perspective, imagine if we had 10,000 individuals, each assigned to read 10,000 different books. After they’ve each read just one book, all of them would instantly know what’s in all of the books.
This is how these AI models operate, and it sets them apart as vastly superior to human capabilities.”
This is a fascinating insight – and more clearly communicates the “learning power” of these LLMs than almost anything else I’ve read or heard. Think about it – brains that can share instantly what they’ve learned but simply exchanging a large quantity of gradients – the values which adjust and tune the neural networks in the models.