A Christmas Present

As the day winds down, I turn the TV on and sit transfixed. Mesmerized by the colors and the beauty of the latest Pixar movie – Soul. What can I say. This is another masterpiece from the geniuses at Pixar. This film has so many levels that I think it will take dozens of viewings before I even begin to digest the messages that the movie has to say. The most important thing that it brings to my mind, however, is that we as people waste so much time thinking that things can be so much better that we forget how to live life. It isn’t the glories, the heights of fame and success that defines a person. It’s how we live with our family, how we live in our community. How we touch the ones we love and the people around us. We live a life and we forget that every moment is special. I needed this reminder today. I need to remember this message every day. We obsess and work hard to get somewhere and then when we get there, it often feels like a disappointment. There is an emptiness, a feeling that we must have missed something. What we miss is the part of life that makes it worth living. Being alive means looking around, taking a breath, and watching the world around us. Whether it is in the company of others or in our quiet corner of the house, life is around us. In the warmth of the early morning sun. In the cold stare of Orion as he marches in the winter sky. Life is everywhere. Each step forward, backward, sideways takes us somewhere new. Each step is an opportunity to give meaning to the lives of others. And in so doing, give meaning to our own lives.

A Christmas Message

After listening to Carter Rubin sing Lauren Daigle’s great song, “You Say”, there is nothing that I can say that can be more eloquent than the words in the song. All of us, in our lives, will experience loss; we will hurt. We will have our triumphs. And we will experience happiness. Today is Christmas and it is a celebration not only of the birth of Our Savior, but it really is a reminder that there is no Greater Love than what the Father has for all His Creation. No matter who you are, no matter what your circumstance, you are loved. You are created in the image of God. Loved by Him before you were born unto Earth. Before you drew your first breathe, He knew you. And loved You. We should always remember that God gave us the freedom to love. And be loved. For who we are. Each of us is a gift to each other. From a Creator who loves us all. Equally. Though each of us are different, we are all God’s children.

It was 1985

The year was certainly something to remember. Ronald Reagan started his second term. Atari launched the ST series of computers. Commodore launched the Amiga. And Apple got rid of Steve Jobs. For business reasons. For the Pepsi guy. Nothing against Scully, but Apple lost something when it lost jobs. It’s soul. He was mercurial. He was ruthless. He was imperfect. And Apple was lost without him. It’s a lesson for us all. We all have things that encumber us. We all have strengths. We are imperfect. When we try to remove the imperfection, we lose our balance. Perhaps, it is better to understand the imperfections and strive to do better. Instead of denying, accept. Work harder. And do better.

And Microsoft was just getting started. Windows 1.0, then Windows 2.0 and THEN. Windows 3.0. Not this year, but sooner than later. And that changed the world of computing as we know it. Still, Windows may have looked and worked differently had the Mac, the Atari ST and the Commodore Amiga not seen the light of day. You don’t have to be first. Though it often helps. You don’t have to get it right the first time. Or the second time. But if you stop trying, you will never know what you can accomplish.

Do not deny your identity. Be yourself. Be a better version of yourself. Accept who you are. Be willing to work hard and change for the better. It is through the acknowledgement of failures and weaknesses that true strength is found. As Brandon Sanderson said, the most important step a man can take is always the next one.

A Referral Bonus – Topaz Labs

Just something different. Topaz Labs has been running a special sale on their products (a complete bundle) for a large discount. The sale is ending today. I don’t use all the products in their catalog, but the two that I use, I use all the time. Two of the best Photoshop plugins that I have ever used are Sharpen AI and De Noise AI from Topaz Labs. The link below will give you a discount if you choose to purchase any of the products. And give me a little bit in return.

http://topazlabs.refr.cc/winstonl

I can’t vouch for the other products I don’t use, but I can heartily recommend the two products that I do use. Topaz Sharpen AI and De Noise AI are indispensable tools in my workflow. They are class leading.

I did try Mask AI but I didn’t purchase it – I don’t do a lot of masking so I can use other tools to do that task, if I need to. I don’t upscale often, so I don’t use GigaPixel AI. JPEG to Raw AI? Never used it. I’d like to try their video enhancer product, but it takes a lot of compute power to work. In the end, you buy the tools that you use.

Topaz gives you a lifetime license to use their products but you only have a one year window where you can get upgrades for the product. While your license to use the product does not expire, your ability to download and install updates to the product you purchase expires after a year. I was upset when they changed their pricing model, but at least it is not subscription based and you get to use their product for perpetuity. I ended up buying an additional license to use the two products for another year. The upgrades are worth it, even though the version of the products that I had before renewing were already good. In the end, software companies should sell good products at a good price. Topaz, in my use case, sells products that are invaluable to the work I do. Of course, as with everything else, YMMV.

A very quiet day (birdwise)

A nice Saturday morning – sunny and cool. A typical mid Atlantic November day. Huntley Meadows beckoned. It’s never a good sign when you get there a half hour after sunrise and people are leaving. And truth be told, it was three hours of looking for something other than a red winged blackbird. You can hear the kingfisher, but it was far away. You can see the mergansers but they were far away. A blue heron flew in but it was far away. Heck, I probably should have stayed far away from Huntley as well, and catch a few more ZZZs. Oh well, at least there was a collection of water on the ground over some leaves. You just go with the flow. Even if the water is at a standstill (or nearly so).

Fall is Here

Can it be? It’s autumn in the northern hemisphere? Where did summer go? Heck, where did the year go? It has been a rather challenging year for almost everyone. With a scant three months before the page turns and 2020 becomes a memory, it is probably a good time to remember that the hardships and challenges we have endured are what life is about. It is not about jetting to some far off destination. Experiencing the delight of other places or tasting yet another new dish. Life is about living each day the best we can. To be kind and respectful. To watch and listen and learn. We don’t have to agree with what everyone says. Or what everyone does. We must do our part to not harm others. And this means respecting each other as if we are all borne of the same Father. That we are brothers and sisters in the most basic thing that defines each of us. Our DNA says so. Our RNA says so. Does our heart tell the same tale, or do we insist that enlightenment is only for the few? I tend to think it’s for the few. Oh. Check that. That kind of thinking, of allowing ourselves to think that we are better than the other only brings ruin to a community. If this pandemic wracked world has something left to teach us, let it be a simple reminder. A smile, even beneath a mask, still radiates warmth within. We cannot love everyone, but we can respect everyone. And in doing so, perhaps, that respect will become something greater. Something better. Perhaps.

What Galileo Saw

At the limits of what a longish zoom on an APS-C camera can capture. I probably should have set up the camera on the gimbal mount instead of a ballhead to make locating the object easier. This is Jupiter, with the four Galilean moons. Roughly what Galileo saw when he trained his telescope on the largest planet in our solar system.

The moons from left to right are Callisto, Europa, Io and Ganymede

Callisto is barely visible in this picture. It’s the second largest moon in the Jovian system but it has very low reflectivity (albedo), which makes it rather difficult to see with binoculars.