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by nealf0

Photography Guide: Night Photography

March 27, 2014 in Photography by nealf0

Back in August 2013, the Mile High Wildlife Photography Club (MHWPC) hosted acclaimed photographer and planetary scientist Dr. Roger Clark.  With his presentation on astrophotography tips and the annual Perseid meteor shower taking place on August 10-13, I was really inspired to take night photography more seriously and really see what I can do with my current equipment.  Unfortunately Dr. Clark’s MHWPC meeting was moved a week and I was unable to attend his lecture.  I did have several exchanges with him afterwards, however, and his insight was vital in improving my understanding and learning of nighttime photography.  As a result, it is the intent of this article to share my lessons learned, tips and other less common useful information to assist other photographers with their night photography.  Successful night photography, like most photography, is comprised of preparation, execution and post-processing.

I’ve found myself on many occasions outside at night witnessing a wonderful night sky, wishing I had a camera or alternatively sitting there with my camera and wishing I had a clear sky.  Although you can’t always predict Mother Nature, good preparation can increase your chances that she’ll help you get that perfect shot.  So, here are some useful links to assist you with your pre-night shoot preparation.

  • The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) to determine the Moon rise / set times and relative location in the sky.
  • ClearDarkSky is a really useful website for predicting the cloud cover, transparency, seeing and darkness.
  • Stellarium is a planetarium desktop software, which is great for searching the night sky, seeing where the Milky Way will be, planets, constellations, nebulae, etc.
  • US Navel Observatory provides a searchable moon and sun database, which is handy for researching the moon phase and set to obtain the darkest night possible
  • NOAA Predicted Geomagnetic Index is useful to check on the probability of seeing an aurora.  If the Kp turns up above 5, then there’s a good chance you may see an aurora. (Thanks Dr. Clark for this site)
  • POES Aurora Satellite Image is useful to check on the position of current aurora oval.  (Thanks Dr. Clark for this site)

Taking wonderful night images comes down to the same photography basics as any photograph; aperture, ISO, exposure and focus.  It’s the trade off of these that the photographer is faced with in order to capture their desired image.

Not surprisingly, a fast lens (F2.8 or less) is ideal for enabling the photographer more flexibility in trading off ISO and/or exposure to capture their desired image.  A fast lens is especially required to effectively capture meteors, where you only have a fraction of a second worth of light available for the exposure.

Full frame DSLRs are inherently better at minimizing the noise at high ISO’s when compared to cropped DSLRs because of their large pixel and sensor sizes, however. all exhibit an amazing ability at capturing images with high ISO’s.  Regardless of the DSLR used though, they should be capable of taking good photos at ISO 3200, 6400 or even higher.  With the advances of noise reduction software, such as Lightroom, Topaz DeNoise or Nik Dfine, photographers can really push their ISO settings and still produce really high quality results.  In addition, the built in camera long exposure compensation can be useful for reducing noise.  Using this feature typically doubles the processing time, but can greatly reduce the noise in the recorded image.

I have found that the exposure trade-off is the most important one, with many misconceptions on it.  Too short of exposure, then you aren’t able to acquire enough light to effectively capture all of the stars, stellar dust, airglow, etc.  Too long of an exposure, then your image will have star trails.  This is obviously sometimes a desired effect, but if you are trying to photograph the Milky Way for example, then this may not be desired.  Short star trails just make the stars look blurry since the stars appear larger than they should be.  An example of this is shown below in the following figures.

Milky Way - 36 sec @ F3.5, ISO 3200

Milky Way – 36 sec @ F3.5, ISO 3200

 

 

Milky Way Zoomed 100%  - 36 sec @ F3.5, ISO 3200

Milky Way Zoomed 100% – 36 sec @ F3.5, ISO 3200

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, how long can you expose your image before star trails are visible?  You may have read about recommendations of 30 seconds or the 600x rule, which states that for a full frame camera if you multiple the focal length used times the exposure and the resultant value is less than or equal to 600, then the stars should appear without trails.  This ‘rule’ is misleading however, which after discussing it with Dr. Clark, he clarified that the real limiting factors are the focal length, exposure and camera sensor pixel size, also known as the pixel pitch.  During long exposures, the light received on the sensor from a star will transition from one pixel to the next as Earth rotates relative to the stars.  With a recommended maximum pixel drift of 2-3 pixels, the sensor pixel pitch has a direct impact on the useful exposure duration for images without star trails.  Dr. Clark has a great overview of the impact of pixel sizes on his website.  Astropix has a detailed table of the pixel pitches, sensor sizes, etc. for numerous Canon and Nikon cameras which is available here.  The following table captures the estimated exposure times with respect to sensor pixel pitch and focal lengths for a few common Canon and Nikon cameras.

Camera Pixel Pitch vs Exposure Comparison

Camera Pixel Pitch vs Exposure Comparison

Additionally, unless intended, what good is an out of focus photograph?  Using mirror lock-up, a remote shutter release and a sturdy tripod are essential tools to help mitigate against camera movement impacting the recorded image.  However, focusing on the stars at night can be a bit tricky as well given the limited light available.  Because of the reduced light available; auto-focus really doesn’t work very well.  As a result, using manual focus is recommended.  Switch off auto-focus on the lens and then use live-view to manually focus on a bright object in the distance, such as a star, planet, the Moon, a street lamp or city.  Every lens is a bit different, but generally starting your lens depth of field just outside of infinity is a good place to start.  It’s a good practice to make note of the resultant depth of field setting to quickly focus in the future with that particular lens as well.

If longer exposures are desired, but star trails are not, then additional equipment such as the AstroTrac or another astrophotography stabilization tripod mount may be used for accurate exposures of 5-minutes or more.  Alternatively, star trails can be a very creative lighting technique making for wonderful photos.  Instead of very long exposures of several hours, these long star trail photographs are usually stitched together using 100′s of 30-second exposures with software like Adobe Photoshop, Startrails.exe or Image Stacker.

Finally, post-processing.  This is very subjective, but if you want to keep the photograph white balance accurate then know that the sky is really ‘warm’ because of all of our dust in the atmosphere and that the green air glow really should be there.  If you shoot RAW, then it’s easy to change this after importing your photographs.  If shooting JPEG, then it’s worth spending sometime in the field adjusting the white balance.  Some great examples can be found on Dr. Clark’s website.

Regardless of the photography equipment you have, you can still take exciting nighttime photos.  So go out there, try to capture the night and have fun with it!

Useful Links:

1)  dpBestFlow detailed information on sensors.  Provides a good overview of terms and information relating to sensors.

2)  I encourage the reader to visit Dr. Clark’s website Clarkvision, which is full of detailed photography tips, information and of course his wonderful images.

3)  A couple informative links for How To Photograph Star Trails and from Petapixel, How to Create Star Trails from Start to Finish

4)  A very thorough guide for Astrophotography from Astropix.com

by nealf0

The Johnny Cash Museum, Long Live the Man in Black

March 4, 2014 in Places by nealf0

 Johnny Cash Museum
119 3rd Avenue South, Suite 110
Nashville, TN 37201
 

 

Back in September 2012 during the previous ION GNSS conference, I shared a cab with a friendly lady who lived in downtown Nashville.  Although the drive is only about 15 minutes long, we started talking since I had never been to Nashville before.  After some small talk, she shared a childhood memory of living down the street from Johnny Cash where she would frequently see him on his porch.  She was young and didn’t appreciate who he was at the time, but she said “he doesn’t always wear black.”  I couldn’t help but smile about that.  You could just see the nostalgia on her face and in her voice.  A great memory indeed.  For mostly everyone else, the Nashville, Tennessee Johnny Cash Museum will be the closest that we will ever get to him.

Outside of the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, TN

Outside of the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, TN

The museum wasn’t open in 2012, but when I was back in September 2013 I didn’t miss it.  So, before I flew home, I footed it from my hotel to the museum.  You enter through the strategically placed museum store off 3rd avenue.  Going straight to the counter, I bought one general admission ticket for $14.00, sold by the friendly Sierra.

My Johnny Cash Museum Ticket

My Johnny Cash Museum Ticket

The museum isn’t large, but this collection of memorabilia and interactive exhibits is really impressive.  The flow of the museum starts with his early years, school, start of his music career, etc and continues on through his later years concluding with his fantastic Nine Inch Nails cover, “Hurt”.  There were a few secluded side rooms that focused on his wonderful poem narrative, “Ragged Old Flag” and his extensive movie and television career.  For me, It was a very personal story telling the amazing life of this influential man.

Maintaining the flow of the museum, I tried to capture the atmosphere of the wonderful exhibits, mementos and diverse accomplishments and memories below.  Welcome to the House of Cash….

The museum and exhibits when you first walk in.

The museum and exhibits when you first walk in.

J.R. Cash's Birth Certificate

J.R. Cash’s Birth Certificate

 

Young J.R. Cash

Young J.R. Cash

 

J.R. Cash in High School (Junior) J.R. Cash is Top Row, 2nd from Right

J.R. Cash in High School (Junior)
J.R. Cash is Top Row, 2nd from Right

 

J.R. Cash in High School (Senior) J.R. Cash is Bottom, 3rd from Left.

J.R. Cash in High School (Senior)
J.R. Cash is Bottom, 3rd from Left.

 

Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two Johnny Cash's first band.

Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two
Johnny Cash’s first band.

 

Johnny Cash - 1950's

Johnny Cash – 1950′s

 

Johnny Cash - 1960's

Johnny Cash – 1960′s

 

Johnny Cash - 1970's

Johnny Cash – 1970′s

 

Johnny Cash - 1980's

Johnny Cash – 1980′s

 

Johnny Cash - 1990's

Johnny Cash – 1990′s

 

Johnny Cash - 2000's

Johnny Cash – 2000′s

 

The Million Dollar Quartet, signed photograph

The Million Dollar Quartet, signed photograph

 

Johnny Cash State Shirt, Boots and Photograph

Johnny Cash State Shirt, Boots and Photograph

 

The Folsom Concert Set List

The Folsom Concert Set List

 

Johnny Cash Custom Gibson J-200 Acoustic Guitar (1959)

Johnny Cash Custom Gibson J-200 Acoustic Guitar (1959)

 

The House of Cash

The House of Cash

 

Some of Johnny Cash's Musical Achievements

Some of Johnny Cash’s Musical Achievements

 

Ragged Old Flag Lyrics

Ragged Old Flag Lyrics

 

Ragged Old Flag Video

Ragged Old Flag Video

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

Valentine for June (1998)

Valentine for June (1998)

 

Johnny Cash on the balcony where Lincoln was assassinated in Ford's Theatre

Johnny Cash on the balcony where Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’s Theatre

 

Johnny Cash at the famous lake house on 200 Caudill Drive with stones (not shown) from the Hurt video after it burnt down.

Johnny Cash at the famous lake house on 200 Caudill Drive with stones (not shown) from the Hurt video after it burnt down.

 

 

Johnny Cash and Paul McCartney with the shirt he wore

Johnny Cash and Paul McCartney with the shirt he wore

 

The Moon Man from Mtv Video Music Awards for his Video "Hurt" (2003)

The Moon Man from Mtv Video Music Awards for his Video “Hurt” (2003)

 

Johnny Cash D-42JC Custom Signature Guitar #65 of 200 from the Martin Guitar Company

Johnny Cash D-42JC Custom Signature Guitar #65 of 200 from the Martin Guitar Company

 

A Johnny Cash Original Art

A Johnny Cash Original Art

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

Nashville is a wonderfully vibrant town, with lots of things to see and do.  The live music scene is, not surprisingly, amazing.  You would be hard pressed to visit a bar that did not have very talented, live music playing let alone the big names that continuously tour through Nashville.  While I was there for example, Taylor Swift was on her Red Tour.  Of course they have professional sports, such as the NFL Tennessee Titans and NHL Nashville Predators.  And a plethora of bars, great restaurants and museums such as the famous Merchants Restaurant & Bar and the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Although the Johnny Cash Museum is worth a trip in itself, the rest of Nashville should not be missed either.

Taylor Swift's Red Tour Buses

Taylor Swift’s Red Tour Buses

 

Just one of the many lively bars in Nashville of exciting Broadway

Just one of the many lively bars in Nashville of exciting Broadway

 

The famous Merchants Restaurant off Broadway

The famous Merchants Restaurant off Broadway

Useful Links:

by nealf0

Maximizing our Time, How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

January 20, 2014 in Odds and Sods by nealf0

As 2014 starts, the realization that our 24 hours in a day goes far too fast is once again confirmed.  If you are like me, then before you know it another week has passed that my personal life was far less productive than anticipated.  Oh if there were only 36 hours in a day, or if I didn’t have to sleep, what I could accomplish!  Since neither is possible, we are all faced with the difficulty of managing the time that we have to achieve our personal goals.  For me it’s photography, writing blog articles and other personal ambitions.

We all struggle from this, even very successful photographers like Ken Kaminesky as documented in his recent blog Ken Kaminesky 2014 Motivational Manifesto article.  There’s some useful guidance in this article as well, so it’s worth a read.

A dear friend of mine, Alex Liebold (@alexliebold), sent me an interesting lengthy article appropriately titled How to Live on 24 Hours a Day.  Written over 100 years ago by Arnold Bennett, the guidance is still very applicable today.  Although you may be the model of daily efficiency, parts of it may still be useful in your life.

I included the How to Live on 24 Hours a Day article below for your convenience.  If you have a Kindle or the Kindle app, you can download How to Live on 24 Hours a Day Free Kindle eBook from Amazon.  I ended up doing this so I could bookmark pages, highlight paragraphs, etc. to help me remember some of the guidance.

So, for whatever it’s worth, here’s How to Live on 24 Hours a Day from The Art of Manliness Website.

“Editor’s note: As you look back on the year that has just past, do you feel as though you spent another 12 months merely existing instead of truly living? Do you often go to bed at night with an anxious, sinking feeling that you wasted away another precious day of your limited time here on earth? One of my all-time favorite old books addressed this very concern better than anything else I’ve ever read. Published in 1910 and written by Arnold Bennett, How to Live on Twenty-Fours Hours a Day describes and diagnoses the root of the problem and offers a program for overcoming it. Bennett has some very particular opinions about what should constitute this program, but you need not follow them to a T; the important part is committing to carve out some time each day to do things that will really enrich your life and help you progress as a man.

This little book takes about 30 minutes to read, and is so incisive and clever that it moves along very quickly and enjoyably. It is truly just as relevant today as it was a century ago. As Bennett says, time is the most precious resource you have, and investing a half hour in reading this will prove incredibly worthwhile.”

How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day

By Arnold Bennett

 

I
THE DAILY MIRACLE

“Yes, he’s one of those men that don’t know how to manage. Good situation. Regular income. Quite enough for luxuries as well as needs. Not really extravagant. And yet the fellow’s always in difficulties. Somehow he gets nothing out of his money. Excellent flat—half empty! Always looks as if he’d had the brokers in. New suit—old hat! Magnificent necktie—baggy trousers! Asks you to dinner: cut glass—bad mutton, or Turkish coffee—cracked cup! He can’t understand it. Explanation simply is that he fritters his income away. Wish I had the half of it! I’d show him—”

So we have most of us criticised, at one time or another, in our superior way.

We are nearly all chancellors of the exchequer: it is the pride of the moment. Newspapers are full of articles explaining how to live on such-and-such a sum, and these articles provoke a correspondence whose violence proves the interest they excite. Recently, in a daily organ, a battle raged round the question whether a woman can exist nicely in the country on L85 a year. I have seen an essay, “How to live on eight shillings a week.” But I have never seen an essay, “How to live on twenty-four hours a day.” Yet it has been said that time is money. That proverb understates the case. Time is a great deal more than money. If you have time you can obtain money—usually. But though you have the wealth of a cloak-room attendant at the Carlton Hotel, you cannot buy yourself a minute more time than I have, or the cat by the fire has.

Philosophers have explained space. They have not explained time. It is the inexplicable raw material of everything. With it, all is possible; without it, nothing. The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning, and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions. A highly singular commodity, showered upon you in a manner as singular as the commodity itself!

For remark! No one can take it from you. It is unstealable. And no one receives either more or less than you receive.

Talk about an ideal democracy! In the realm of time there is no aristocracy of wealth, and no aristocracy of intellect. Genius is never rewarded by even an extra hour a day. And there is no punishment. Waste your infinitely precious commodity as much as you will, and the supply will never be withheld from you. No mysterious power will say:—”This man is a fool, if not a knave. He does not deserve time; he shall be cut off at the meter.” It is more certain than consols, and payment of income is not affected by Sundays. Moreover, you cannot draw on the future. Impossible to get into debt! You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste to-morrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you.

I said the affair was a miracle. Is it not?

You have to live on this twenty-four hours of daily time. Out of it you have to spin health, pleasure, money, content, respect, and the evolution of your immortal soul. Its right use, its most effective use, is a matter of the highest urgency and of the most thrilling actuality. All depends on that. Your happiness—the elusive prize that you are all clutching for, my friends!—depends on that. Strange that the newspapers, so enterprising and up-to-date as they are, are not full of “How to live on a given income of time,” instead of “How to live on a given income of money”! Money is far commoner than time. When one reflects, one perceives that money is just about the commonest thing there is. It encumbers the earth in gross heaps.

If one can’t contrive to live on a certain income of money, one earns a little more—or steals it, or advertises for it. One doesn’t necessarily muddle one’s life because one can’t quite manage on a thousand pounds a year; one braces the muscles and makes it guineas, and balances the budget. But if one cannot arrange that an income of twenty-four hours a day shall exactly cover all proper items of expenditure, one does muddle one’s life definitely. The supply of time, though gloriously regular, is cruelly restricted.

Which of us lives on twenty-four hours a day? And when I say “lives,” I do not mean exists, nor “muddles through.” Which of us is free from that uneasy feeling that the “great spending departments” of his daily life are not managed as they ought to be? Which of us is quite sure that his fine suit is not surmounted by a shameful hat, or that in attending to the crockery he has forgotten the quality of the food? Which of us is not saying to himself—which of us has not been saying to himself all his life: “I shall alter that when I have a little more time”?

We never shall have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is. It is the realisation of this profound and neglected truth (which, by the way, I have not discovered) that has led me to the minute practical examination of daily time-expenditure.

II
THE DESIRE TO EXCEED ONE’S PROGRAMME

“But,” someone may remark, with the English disregard of everything except the point, “what is he driving at with his twenty-four hours a day? I have no difficulty in living on twenty-four hours a day. I do all that I want to do, and still find time to go in for newspaper competitions. Surely it is a simple affair, knowing that one has only twenty-four hours a day, to content one’s self with twenty-four hours a day!”

To you, my dear sir, I present my excuses and apologies. You are precisely the man that I have been wishing to meet for about forty years. Will you kindly send me your name and address, and state your charge for telling me how you do it? Instead of me talking to you, you ought to be talking to me. Please come forward. That you exist, I am convinced, and that I have not yet encountered you is my loss. Meanwhile, until you appear, I will continue to chat with my companions in distress—that innumerable band of souls who are haunted, more or less painfully, by the feeling that the years slip by, and slip by, and slip by, and that they have not yet been able to get their lives into proper working order.

If we analyse that feeling, we shall perceive it to be, primarily, one of uneasiness, of expectation, of looking forward, of aspiration. It is a source of constant discomfort, for it behaves like a skeleton at the feast of all our enjoyments. We go to the theatre and laugh; but between the acts it raises a skinny finger at us. We rush violently for the last train, and while we are cooling a long age on the platform waiting for the last train, it promenades its bones up and down by our side and inquires: “O man, what hast thou done with thy youth? What art thou doing with thine age?” You may urge that this feeling of continuous looking forward, of aspiration, is part of life itself, and inseparable from life itself. True!

But there are degrees. A man may desire to go to Mecca. His conscience tells him that he ought to go to Mecca. He fares forth, either by the aid of Cook’s, or unassisted; he may probably never reach Mecca; he may drown before he gets to Port Said; he may perish ingloriously on the coast of the Red Sea; his desire may remain eternally frustrate. Unfulfilled aspiration may always trouble him. But he will not be tormented in the same way as the man who, desiring to reach Mecca, and harried by the desire to reach Mecca, never leaves Brixton.

It is something to have left Brixton. Most of us have not left Brixton. We have not even taken a cab to Ludgate Circus and inquired from Cook’s the price of a conducted tour. And our excuse to ourselves is that there are only twenty-four hours in the day.

If we further analyse our vague, uneasy aspiration, we shall, I think, see that it springs from a fixed idea that we ought to do something in addition to those things which we are loyally and morally obliged to do. We are obliged, by various codes written and unwritten, to maintain ourselves and our families (if any) in health and comfort, to pay our debts, to save, to increase our prosperity by increasing our efficiency. A task sufficiently difficult! A task which very few of us achieve! A task often beyond our skill! Yet, if we succeed in it, as we sometimes do, we are not satisfied; the skeleton is still with us.

And even when we realise that the task is beyond our skill, that our powers cannot cope with it, we feel that we should be less discontented if we gave to our powers, already overtaxed, something still further to do.

And such is, indeed, the fact. The wish to accomplish something outside their formal programme is common to all men who in the course of evolution have risen past a certain level.

Until an effort is made to satisfy that wish, the sense of uneasy waiting for something to start which has not started will remain to disturb the peace of the soul. That wish has been called by many names. It is one form of the universal desire for knowledge. And it is so strong that men whose whole lives have been given to the systematic acquirement of knowledge have been driven by it to overstep the limits of their programme in search of still more knowledge. Even Herbert Spencer, in my opinion the greatest mind that ever lived, was often forced by it into agreeable little backwaters of inquiry.

I imagine that in the majority of people who are conscious of the wish to live—that is to say, people who have intellectual curiosity—the aspiration to exceed formal programmes takes a literary shape. They would like to embark on a course of reading. Decidedly the British people are becoming more and more literary. But I would point out that literature by no means comprises the whole field of knowledge, and that the disturbing thirst to improve one’s self—to increase one’s knowledge—may well be slaked quite apart from literature. With the various ways of slaking I shall deal later. Here I merely point out to those who have no natural sympathy with literature that literature is not the only well.

III
PRECAUTIONS BEFORE BEGINNING

Now that I have succeeded (if succeeded I have) in persuading you to admit to yourself that you are constantly haunted by a suppressed dissatisfaction with your own arrangement of your daily life; and that the primal cause of that inconvenient dissatisfaction is the feeling that you are every day leaving undone something which you would like to do, and which, indeed, you are always hoping to do when you have “more time”; and now that I have drawn your attention to the glaring, dazzling truth that you never will have “more time,” since you already have all the time there is—you expect me to let you into some wonderful secret by which you may at any rate approach the ideal of a perfect arrangement of the day, and by which, therefore, that haunting, unpleasant, daily disappointment of things left undone will be got rid of!

I have found no such wonderful secret. Nor do I expect to find it, nor do I expect that anyone else will ever find it. It is undiscovered. When you first began to gather my drift, perhaps there was a resurrection of hope in your breast. Perhaps you said to yourself, “This man will show me an easy, unfatiguing way of doing what I have so long in vain wished to do.” Alas, no! The fact is that there is no easy way, no royal road. The path to Mecca is extremely hard and stony, and the worst of it is that you never quite get there after all.

The most important preliminary to the task of arranging one’s life so that one may live fully and comfortably within one’s daily budget of twenty-four hours is the calm realisation of the extreme difficulty of the task, of the sacrifices and the endless effort which it demands. I cannot too strongly insist on this.

If you imagine that you will be able to achieve your ideal by ingeniously planning out a time-table with a pen on a piece of paper, you had better give up hope at once. If you are not prepared for discouragements and disillusions; if you will not be content with a small result for a big effort, then do not begin. Lie down again and resume the uneasy doze which you call your existence.

It is very sad, is it not, very depressing and sombre? And yet I think it is rather fine, too, this necessity for the tense bracing of the will before anything worth doing can be done. I rather like it myself. I feel it to be the chief thing that differentiates me from the cat by the fire.

“Well,” you say, “assume that I am braced for the battle. Assume that I have carefully weighed and comprehended your ponderous remarks; how do I begin?” Dear sir, you simply begin. There is no magic method of beginning. If a man standing on the edge of a swimming-bath and wanting to jump into the cold water should ask you, “How do I begin to jump?” you would merely reply, “Just jump. Take hold of your nerves, and jump.”

As I have previously said, the chief beauty about the constant supply of time is that you cannot waste it in advance. The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoilt, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your career. Which fact is very gratifying and reassuring. You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose. Therefore no object is served in waiting till next week, or even until to-morrow. You may fancy that the water will be warmer next week. It won’t. It will be colder.

But before you begin, let me murmur a few words of warning in your private ear.

Let me principally warn you against your own ardour. Ardour in well-doing is a misleading and a treacherous thing. It cries out loudly for employment; you can’t satisfy it at first; it wants more and more; it is eager to move mountains and divert the course of rivers. It isn’t content till it perspires. And then, too often, when it feels the perspiration on its brow, it wearies all of a sudden and dies, without even putting itself to the trouble of saying, “I’ve had enough of this.”

Beware of undertaking too much at the start. Be content with quite a little. Allow for accidents. Allow for human nature, especially your own.

A failure or so, in itself, would not matter, if it did not incur a loss of self-esteem and of self-confidence. But just as nothing succeeds like success, so nothing fails like failure. Most people who are ruined are ruined by attempting too much. Therefore, in setting out on the immense enterprise of living fully and comfortably within the narrow limits of twenty-four hours a day, let us avoid at any cost the risk of an early failure. I will not agree that, in this business at any rate, a glorious failure is better than a petty success. I am all for the petty success. A glorious failure leads to nothing; a petty success may lead to a success that is not petty.

So let us begin to examine the budget of the day’s time. You say your day is already full to overflowing. How? You actually spend in earning your livelihood—how much? Seven hours, on the average? And in actual sleep, seven? I will add two hours, and be generous. And I will defy you to account to me on the spur of the moment for the other eight hours.

IV
THE CAUSE OF THE TROUBLES

In order to come to grips at once with the question of time-expenditure in all its actuality, I must choose an individual case for examination. I can only deal with one case, and that case cannot be the average case, because there is no such case as the average case, just as there is no such man as the average man. Every man and every man’s case is special.

But if I take the case of a Londoner who works in an office, whose office hours are from ten to six, and who spends fifty minutes morning and night in travelling between his house door and his office door, I shall have got as near to the average as facts permit. There are men who have to work longer for a living, but there are others who do not have to work so long.

Fortunately the financial side of existence does not interest us here; for our present purpose the clerk at a pound a week is exactly as well off as the millionaire in Carlton House-terrace.

Now the great and profound mistake which my typical man makes in regard to his day is a mistake of general attitude, a mistake which vitiates and weakens two-thirds of his energies and interests. In the majority of instances he does not precisely feel a passion for his business; at best he does not dislike it. He begins his business functions with reluctance, as late as he can, and he ends them with joy, as early as he can. And his engines while he is engaged in his business are seldom at their full “h.p.” (I know that I shall be accused by angry readers of traducing the city worker; but I am pretty thoroughly acquainted with the City, and I stick to what I say.)

Yet in spite of all this he persists in looking upon those hours from ten to six as “the day,” to which the ten hours preceding them and the six hours following them are nothing but a prologue and epilogue. Such an attitude, unconscious though it be, of course kills his interest in the odd sixteen hours, with the result that, even if he does not waste them, he does not count them; he regards them simply as margin.

This general attitude is utterly illogical and unhealthy, since it formally gives the central prominence to a patch of time and a bunch of activities which the man’s one idea is to “get through” and have “done with.” If a man makes two-thirds of his existence subservient to one-third, for which admittedly he has no absolutely feverish zest, how can he hope to live fully and completely? He cannot.

If my typical man wishes to live fully and completely he must, in his mind, arrange a day within a day. And this inner day, a Chinese box in a larger Chinese box, must begin at 6 p.m. and end at 10 a.m. It is a day of sixteen hours; and during all these sixteen hours he has nothing whatever to do but cultivate his body and his soul and his fellow men. During those sixteen hours he is free; he is not a wage-earner; he is not preoccupied with monetary cares; he is just as good as a man with a private income. This must be his attitude. And his attitude is all important. His success in life (much more important than the amount of estate upon what his executors will have to pay estate duty) depends on it.

What? You say that full energy given to those sixteen hours will lessen the value of the business eight? Not so. On the contrary, it will assuredly increase the value of the business eight. One of the chief things which my typical man has to learn is that the mental faculties are capable of a continuous hard activity; they do not tire like an arm or a leg. All they want is change—not rest, except in sleep.

I shall now examine the typical man’s current method of employing the sixteen hours that are entirely his, beginning with his uprising. I will merely indicate things which he does and which I think he ought not to do, postponing my suggestions for “planting” the times which I shall have cleared—as a settler clears spaces in a forest.

In justice to him I must say that he wastes very little time before he leaves the house in the morning at 9:10. In too many houses he gets up at nine, breakfasts between 9:07 and 9:09.5, and then bolts. But immediately he bangs the front door his mental faculties, which are tireless, become idle. He walks to the station in a condition of mental coma. Arrived there, he usually has to wait for the train. On hundreds of suburban stations every morning you see men calmly strolling up and down platforms while railway companies unblushingly rob them of time, which is more than money. Hundreds of thousands of hours are thus lost every day simply because my typical man thinks so little of time that it has never occurred to him to take quite easy precautions against the risk of its loss.

He has a solid coin of time to spend every day—call it a sovereign. He must get change for it, and in getting change he is content to lose heavily.

Supposing that in selling him a ticket the company said, “We will change you a sovereign, but we shall charge you three halfpence for doing so,” what would my typical man exclaim? Yet that is the equivalent of what the company does when it robs him of five minutes twice a day.

You say I am dealing with minutiae. I am. And later on I will justify myself.

Now will you kindly buy your paper and step into the train?

V
TENNIS AND THE IMMORTAL SOUL

You get into the morning train with your newspaper, and you calmly and majestically give yourself up to your newspaper. You do not hurry. You know you have at least half an hour of security in front of you. As your glance lingers idly at the advertisements of shipping and of songs on the outer pages, your air is the air of a leisured man, wealthy in time, of a man from some planet where there are a hundred and twenty-four hours a day instead of twenty-four. I am an impassioned reader of newspapers. I read five English and two French dailies, and the news-agents alone know how many weeklies, regularly. I am obliged to mention this personal fact lest I should be accused of a prejudice against newspapers when I say that I object to the reading of newspapers in the morning train. Newspapers are produced with rapidity, to be read with rapidity. There is no place in my daily programme for newspapers. I read them as I may in odd moments. But I do read them. The idea of devoting to them thirty or forty consecutive minutes of wonderful solitude (for nowhere can one more perfectly immerse one’s self in one’s self than in a compartment full of silent, withdrawn, smoking males) is to me repugnant. I cannot possibly allow you to scatter priceless pearls of time with such Oriental lavishness. You are not the Shah of time. Let me respectfully remind you that you have no more time than I have. No newspaper reading in trains! I have already “put by” about three-quarters of an hour for use.

Now you reach your office. And I abandon you there till six o’clock. I am aware that you have nominally an hour (often in reality an hour and a half) in the midst of the day, less than half of which time is given to eating. But I will leave you all that to spend as you choose. You may read your newspapers then.

I meet you again as you emerge from your office. You are pale and tired. At any rate, your wife says you are pale, and you give her to understand that you are tired. During the journey home you have been gradually working up the tired feeling. The tired feeling hangs heavy over the mighty suburbs of London like a virtuous and melancholy cloud, particularly in winter. You don’t eat immediately on your arrival home. But in about an hour or so you feel as if you could sit up and take a little nourishment. And you do. Then you smoke, seriously; you see friends; you potter; you play cards; you flirt with a book; you note that old age is creeping on; you take a stroll; you caress the piano…. By Jove! a quarter past eleven. You then devote quite forty minutes to thinking about going to bed; and it is conceivable that you are acquainted with a genuinely good whisky. At last you go to bed, exhausted by the day’s work. Six hours, probably more, have gone since you left the office—gone like a dream, gone like magic, unaccountably gone!

That is a fair sample case. But you say: “It’s all very well for you to talk. A man is tired. A man must see his friends. He can’t always be on the stretch.” Just so. But when you arrange to go to the theatre (especially with a pretty woman) what happens? You rush to the suburbs; you spare no toil to make yourself glorious in fine raiment; you rush back to town in another train; you keep yourself on the stretch for four hours, if not five; you take her home; you take yourself home. You don’t spend three-quarters of an hour in “thinking about” going to bed. You go. Friends and fatigue have equally been forgotten, and the evening has seemed so exquisitely long (or perhaps too short)! And do you remember that time when you were persuaded to sing in the chorus of the amateur operatic society, and slaved two hours every other night for three months? Can you deny that when you have something definite to look forward to at eventide, something that is to employ all your energy—the thought of that something gives a glow and a more intense vitality to the whole day?

What I suggest is that at six o’clock you look facts in the face and admit that you are not tired (because you are not, you know), and that you arrange your evening so that it is not cut in the middle by a meal. By so doing you will have a clear expanse of at least three hours. I do not suggest that you should employ three hours every night of your life in using up your mental energy. But I do suggest that you might, for a commencement, employ an hour and a half every other evening in some important and consecutive cultivation of the mind. You will still be left with three evenings for friends, bridge, tennis, domestic scenes, odd reading, pipes, gardening, pottering, and prize competitions. You will still have the terrific wealth of forty-five hours between 2 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Monday. If you persevere you will soon want to pass four evenings, and perhaps five, in some sustained endeavour to be genuinely alive. And you will fall out of that habit of muttering to yourself at 11.15 p.m., “Time to be thinking about going to bed.” The man who begins to go to bed forty minutes before he opens his bedroom door is bored; that is to say, he is not living.

But remember, at the start, those ninety nocturnal minutes thrice a week must be the most important minutes in the ten thousand and eighty. They must be sacred, quite as sacred as a dramatic rehearsal or a tennis match. Instead of saying, “Sorry I can’t see you, old chap, but I have to run off to the tennis club,” you must say, “…but I have to work.” This, I admit, is intensely difficult to say. Tennis is so much more urgent than the immortal soul.

VI
REMEMBER HUMAN NATURE

I have incidentally mentioned the vast expanse of forty-four hours between leaving business at 2 p.m. on Saturday and returning to business at 10 a.m. on Monday. And here I must touch on the point whether the week should consist of six days or of seven. For many years—in fact, until I was approaching forty—my own week consisted of seven days. I was constantly being informed by older and wiser people that more work, more genuine living, could be got out of six days than out of seven.

And it is certainly true that now, with one day in seven in which I follow no programme and make no effort save what the caprice of the moment dictates, I appreciate intensely the moral value of a weekly rest. Nevertheless, had I my life to arrange over again, I would do again as I have done. Only those who have lived at the full stretch seven days a week for a long time can appreciate the full beauty of a regular recurring idleness. Moreover, I am ageing. And it is a question of age. In cases of abounding youth and exceptional energy and desire for effort I should say unhesitatingly: Keep going, day in, day out.

But in the average case I should say: Confine your formal programme (super-programme, I mean) to six days a week. If you find yourself wishing to extend it, extend it, but only in proportion to your wish; and count the time extra as a windfall, not as regular income, so that you can return to a six-day programme without the sensation of being poorer, of being a backslider.

Let us now see where we stand. So far we have marked for saving out of the waste of days, half an hour at least on six mornings a week, and one hour and a half on three evenings a week. Total, seven hours and a half a week.

I propose to be content with that seven hours and a half for the present. “What?” you cry. “You pretend to show us how to live, and you only deal with seven hours and a half out of a hundred and sixty-eight! Are you going to perform a miracle with your seven hours and a half?” Well, not to mince the matter, I am—if you will kindly let me! That is to say, I am going to ask you to attempt an experience which, while perfectly natural and explicable, has all the air of a miracle. My contention is that the full use of those seven-and-a-half hours will quicken the whole life of the week, add zest to it, and increase the interest which you feel in even the most banal occupations. You practise physical exercises for a mere ten minutes morning and evening, and yet you are not astonished when your physical health and strength are beneficially affected every hour of the day, and your whole physical outlook changed. Why should you be astonished that an average of over an hour a day given to the mind should permanently and completely enliven the whole activity of the mind?

More time might assuredly be given to the cultivation of one’s self. And in proportion as the time was longer the results would be greater. But I prefer to begin with what looks like a trifling effort.

It is not really a trifling effort, as those will discover who have yet to essay it. To “clear” even seven hours and a half from the jungle is passably difficult. For some sacrifice has to be made. One may have spent one’s time badly, but one did spend it; one did do something with it, however ill-advised that something may have been. To do something else means a change of habits.

And habits are the very dickens to change! Further, any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts. If you imagine that you will be able to devote seven hours and a half a week to serious, continuous effort, and still live your old life, you are mistaken. I repeat that some sacrifice, and an immense deal of volition, will be necessary. And it is because I know the difficulty, it is because I know the almost disastrous effect of failure in such an enterprise, that I earnestly advise a very humble beginning. You must safeguard your self-respect. Self-respect is at the root of all purposefulness, and a failure in an enterprise deliberately planned deals a desperate wound at one’s self-respect. Hence I iterate and reiterate: Start quietly, unostentatiously.

When you have conscientiously given seven hours and a half a week to the cultivation of your vitality for three months—then you may begin to sing louder and tell yourself what wondrous things you are capable of doing.

Before coming to the method of using the indicated hours, I have one final suggestion to make. That is, as regards the evenings, to allow much more than an hour and a half in which to do the work of an hour and a half. Remember the chance of accidents. Remember human nature. And give yourself, say, from 9 to 11:30 for your task of ninety minutes.

VII
CONTROLLING THE MIND

People say: “One can’t help one’s thoughts.” But one can. The control of the thinking machine is perfectly possible. And since nothing whatever happens to us outside our own brain; since nothing hurts us or gives us pleasure except within the brain, the supreme importance of being able to control what goes on in that mysterious brain is patent. This idea is one of the oldest platitudes, but it is a platitude whose profound truth and urgency most people live and die without realising. People complain of the lack of power to concentrate, not witting that they may acquire the power, if they choose.

And without the power to concentrate—that is to say, without the power to dictate to the brain its task and to ensure obedience—true life is impossible. Mind control is the first element of a full existence.

Hence, it seems to me, the first business of the day should be to put the mind through its paces. You look after your body, inside and out; you run grave danger in hacking hairs off your skin; you employ a whole army of individuals, from the milkman to the pig-killer, to enable you to bribe your stomach into decent behaviour. Why not devote a little attention to the far more delicate machinery of the mind, especially as you will require no extraneous aid? It is for this portion of the art and craft of living that I have reserved the time from the moment of quitting your door to the moment of arriving at your office.

“What? I am to cultivate my mind in the street, on the platform, in the train, and in the crowded street again?” Precisely. Nothing simpler! No tools required! Not even a book. Nevertheless, the affair is not easy.

When you leave your house, concentrate your mind on a subject (no matter what, to begin with). You will not have gone ten yards before your mind has skipped away under your very eyes and is larking round the corner with another subject.

Bring it back by the scruff of the neck. Ere you have reached the station you will have brought it back about forty times. Do not despair. Continue. Keep it up. You will succeed. You cannot by any chance fail if you persevere. It is idle to pretend that your mind is incapable of concentration. Do you not remember that morning when you received a disquieting letter which demanded a very carefully-worded answer? How you kept your mind steadily on the subject of the answer, without a second’s intermission, until you reached your office; whereupon you instantly sat down and wrote the answer? That was a case in which you were roused by circumstances to such a degree of vitality that you were able to dominate your mind like a tyrant. You would have no trifling. You insisted that its work should be done, and its work was done.

By the regular practice of concentration (as to which there is no secret—save the secret of perseverance) you can tyrannise over your mind (which is not the highest part of you) every hour of the day, and in no matter what place. The exercise is a very convenient one. If you got into your morning train with a pair of dumb-bells for your muscles or an encyclopaedia in ten volumes for your learning, you would probably excite remark. But as you walk in the street, or sit in the corner of the compartment behind a pipe, or “strap-hang” on the Subterranean, who is to know that you are engaged in the most important of daily acts? What asinine boor can laugh at you?

I do not care what you concentrate on, so long as you concentrate. It is the mere disciplining of the thinking machine that counts. But still, you may as well kill two birds with one stone, and concentrate on something useful. I suggest—it is only a suggestion—a little chapter of Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus.

Do not, I beg, shy at their names. For myself, I know nothing more “actual,” more bursting with plain common-sense, applicable to the daily life of plain persons like you and me (who hate airs, pose, and nonsense) than Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus. Read a chapter—and so short they are, the chapters!—in the evening and concentrate on it the next morning. You will see.

Yes, my friend, it is useless for you to try to disguise the fact. I can hear your brain like a telephone at my ear. You are saying to yourself: “This fellow was doing pretty well up to his seventh chapter. He had begun to interest me faintly. But what he says about thinking in trains, and concentration, and so on, is not for me. It may be well enough for some folks, but it isn’t in my line.”

It is for you, I passionately repeat; it is for you. Indeed, you are the very man I am aiming at.

Throw away the suggestion, and you throw away the most precious suggestion that was ever offered to you. It is not my suggestion. It is the suggestion of the most sensible, practical, hard-headed men who have walked the earth. I only give it you at second-hand. Try it. Get your mind in hand. And see how the process cures half the evils of life—especially worry, that miserable, avoidable, shameful disease—worry!

VIII
THE REFLECTIVE MOOD

The exercise of concentrating the mind (to which at least half an hour a day should be given) is a mere preliminary, like scales on the piano. Having acquired power over that most unruly member of one’s complex organism, one has naturally to put it to the yoke. Useless to possess an obedient mind unless one profits to the furthest possible degree by its obedience. A prolonged primary course of study is indicated.

Now as to what this course of study should be there cannot be any question; there never has been any question. All the sensible people of all ages are agreed upon it. And it is not literature, nor is it any other art, nor is it history, nor is it any science. It is the study of one’s self. Man, know thyself. These words are so hackneyed that verily I blush to write them. Yet they must be written, for they need to be written. (I take back my blush, being ashamed of it.) Man, know thyself. I say it out loud. The phrase is one of those phrases with which everyone is familiar, of which everyone acknowledges the value, and which only the most sagacious put into practice. I don’t know why. I am entirely convinced that what is more than anything else lacking in the life of the average well-intentioned man of to-day is the reflective mood.

We do not reflect. I mean that we do not reflect upon genuinely important things; upon the problem of our happiness, upon the main direction in which we are going, upon what life is giving to us, upon the share which reason has (or has not) in determining our actions, and upon the relation between our principles and our conduct.

And yet you are in search of happiness, are you not? Have you discovered it?

The chances are that you have not. The chances are that you have already come to believe that happiness is unattainable. But men have attained it. And they have attained it by realising that happiness does not spring from the procuring of physical or mental pleasure, but from the development of reason and the adjustment of conduct to principles.

I suppose that you will not have the audacity to deny this. And if you admit it, and still devote no part of your day to the deliberate consideration of your reason, principles, and conduct, you admit also that while striving for a certain thing you are regularly leaving undone the one act which is necessary to the attainment of that thing.

Now, shall I blush, or will you?

Do not fear that I mean to thrust certain principles upon your attention. I care not (in this place) what your principles are. Your principles may induce you to believe in the righteousness of burglary. I don’t mind. All I urge is that a life in which conduct does not fairly well accord with principles is a silly life; and that conduct can only be made to accord with principles by means of daily examination, reflection, and resolution. What leads to the permanent sorrowfulness of burglars is that their principles are contrary to burglary. If they genuinely believed in the moral excellence of burglary, penal servitude would simply mean so many happy years for them; all martyrs are happy, because their conduct and their principles agree.

As for reason (which makes conduct, and is not unconnected with the making of principles), it plays a far smaller part in our lives than we fancy. We are supposed to be reasonable but we are much more instinctive than reasonable. And the less we reflect, the less reasonable we shall be. The next time you get cross with the waiter because your steak is over-cooked, ask reason to step into the cabinet-room of your mind, and consult her. She will probably tell you that the waiter did not cook the steak, and had no control over the cooking of the steak; and that even if he alone was to blame, you accomplished nothing good by getting cross; you merely lost your dignity, looked a fool in the eyes of sensible men, and soured the waiter, while producing no effect whatever on the steak.

The result of this consultation with reason (for which she makes no charge) will be that when once more your steak is over-cooked you will treat the waiter as a fellow-creature, remain quite calm in a kindly spirit, and politely insist on having a fresh steak. The gain will be obvious and solid.

In the formation or modification of principles, and the practice of conduct, much help can be derived from printed books (issued at sixpence each and upwards). I mentioned in my last chapter Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus. Certain even more widely known works will occur at once to the memory. I may also mention Pascal, La Bruyere, and Emerson. For myself, you do not catch me travelling without my Marcus Aurelius. Yes, books are valuable. But not reading of books will take the place of a daily, candid, honest examination of what one has recently done, and what one is about to do—of a steady looking at one’s self in the face (disconcerting though the sight may be).

When shall this important business be accomplished? The solitude of the evening journey home appears to me to be suitable for it. A reflective mood naturally follows the exertion of having earned the day’s living. Of course if, instead of attending to an elementary and profoundly important duty, you prefer to read the paper (which you might just as well read while waiting for your dinner) I have nothing to say. But attend to it at some time of the day you must. I now come to the evening hours.

IX
INTEREST IN THE ARTS

Many people pursue a regular and uninterrupted course of idleness in the evenings because they think that there is no alternative to idleness but the study of literature; and they do not happen to have a taste for literature. This is a great mistake.

Of course it is impossible, or at any rate very difficult, properly to study anything whatever without the aid of printed books. But if you desire to understand the deeper depths of bridge or of boat-sailing you would not be deterred by your lack of interest in literature from reading the best books on bridge or boat-sailing. We must, therefore, distinguish between literature, and books treating of subjects not literary. I shall come to literature in due course.

Let me now remark to those who have never read Meredith, and who are capable of being unmoved by a discussion as to whether Mr. Stephen Phillips is or is not a true poet, that they are perfectly within their rights. It is not a crime not to love literature. It is not a sign of imbecility. The mandarins of literature will order out to instant execution the unfortunate individual who does not comprehend, say, the influence of Wordsworth on Tennyson. But that is only their impudence. Where would they be, I wonder, if requested to explain the influences that went to make Tschaikowsky’s “Pathetic Symphony”?

There are enormous fields of knowledge quite outside literature which will yield magnificent results to cultivators. For example (since I have just mentioned the most popular piece of high-class music in England to-day), I am reminded that the Promenade Concerts begin in August. You go to them. You smoke your cigar or cigarette (and I regret to say that you strike your matches during the soft bars of the “Lohengrin” overture), and you enjoy the music. But you say you cannot play the piano or the fiddle, or even the banjo; that you know nothing of music.

What does that matter? That you have a genuine taste for music is proved by the fact that, in order to fill his hall with you and your peers, the conductor is obliged to provide programmes from which bad music is almost entirely excluded (a change from the old Covent Garden days!).

Now surely your inability to perform “The Maiden’s Prayer” on a piano need not prevent you from making yourself familiar with the construction of the orchestra to which you listen a couple of nights a week during a couple of months! As things are, you probably think of the orchestra as a heterogeneous mass of instruments producing a confused agreeable mass of sound. You do not listen for details because you have never trained your ears to listen to details.

If you were asked to name the instruments which play the great theme at the beginning of the C minor symphony you could not name them for your life’s sake. Yet you admire the C minor symphony. It has thrilled you. It will thrill you again. You have even talked about it, in an expansive mood, to that lady—you know whom I mean. And all you can positively state about the C minor symphony is that Beethoven composed it and that it is a “jolly fine thing.”

Now, if you have read, say, Mr. Krehbiel’s “How to Listen to Music” (which can be got at any bookseller’s for less than the price of a stall at the Alhambra, and which contains photographs of all the orchestral instruments and plans of the arrangement of orchestras) you would next go to a promenade concert with an astonishing intensification of interest in it. Instead of a confused mass, the orchestra would appear to you as what it is—a marvellously balanced organism whose various groups of members each have a different and an indispensable function. You would spy out the instruments, and listen for their respective sounds. You would know the gulf that separates a French horn from an English horn, and you would perceive why a player of the hautboy gets higher wages than a fiddler, though the fiddle is the more difficult instrument. You would live at a promenade concert, whereas previously you had merely existed there in a state of beatific coma, like a baby gazing at a bright object.

The foundations of a genuine, systematic knowledge of music might be laid. You might specialise your inquiries either on a particular form of music (such as the symphony), or on the works of a particular composer. At the end of a year of forty-eight weeks of three brief evenings each, combined with a study of programmes and attendances at concerts chosen out of your increasing knowledge, you would really know something about music, even though you were as far off as ever from jangling “The Maiden’s Prayer” on the piano.

“But I hate music!” you say. My dear sir, I respect you.

What applies to music applies to the other arts. I might mention Mr. Clermont Witt’s “How to Look at Pictures,” or Mr. Russell Sturgis’s “How to Judge Architecture,” as beginnings (merely beginnings) of systematic vitalising knowledge in other arts, the materials for whose study abound in London.

“I hate all the arts!” you say. My dear sir, I respect you more and more.

I will deal with your case next, before coming to literature.

X
NOTHING IN LIFE IS HUMDRUM

Art is a great thing. But it is not the greatest. The most important of all perceptions is the continual perception of cause and effect—in other words, the perception of the continuous development of the universe—in still other words, the perception of the course of evolution. When one has thoroughly got imbued into one’s head the leading truth that nothing happens without a cause, one grows not only large-minded, but large-hearted.

It is hard to have one’s watch stolen, but one reflects that the thief of the watch became a thief from causes of heredity and environment which are as interesting as they are scientifically comprehensible; and one buys another watch, if not with joy, at any rate with a philosophy that makes bitterness impossible. One loses, in the study of cause and effect, that absurd air which so many people have of being always shocked and pained by the curiousness of life. Such people live amid human nature as if human nature were a foreign country full of awful foreign customs. But, having reached maturity, one ought surely to be ashamed of being a stranger in a strange land!

The study of cause and effect, while it lessens the painfulness of life, adds to life’s picturesqueness. The man to whom evolution is but a name looks at the sea as a grandiose, monotonous spectacle, which he can witness in August for three shillings third-class return. The man who is imbued with the idea of development, of continuous cause and effect, perceives in the sea an element which in the day-before-yesterday of geology was vapour, which yesterday was boiling, and which to-morrow will inevitably be ice.

He perceives that a liquid is merely something on its way to be solid, and he is penetrated by a sense of the tremendous, changeful picturesqueness of life. Nothing will afford a more durable satisfaction than the constantly cultivated appreciation of this. It is the end of all science.

Cause and effect are to be found everywhere. Rents went up in Shepherd’s Bush. It was painful and shocking that rents should go up in Shepherd’s Bush. But to a certain point we are all scientific students of cause and effect, and there was not a clerk lunching at a Lyons Restaurant who did not scientifically put two and two together and see in the (once) Two-penny Tube the cause of an excessive demand for wigwams in Shepherd’s Bush, and in the excessive demand for wigwams the cause of the increase in the price of wigwams.

“Simple!” you say, disdainfully. Everything—the whole complex movement of the universe—is as simple as that—when you can sufficiently put two and two together. And, my dear sir, perhaps you happen to be an estate agent’s clerk, and you hate the arts, and you want to foster your immortal soul, and you can’t be interested in your business because it’s so humdrum.

Nothing is humdrum.

The tremendous, changeful picturesqueness of life is marvellously shown in an estate agent’s office. What! There was a block of traffic in Oxford Street; to avoid the block people actually began to travel under the cellars and drains, and the result was a rise of rents in Shepherd’s Bush! And you say that isn’t picturesque! Suppose you were to study, in this spirit, the property question in London for an hour and a half every other evening. Would it not give zest to your business, and transform your whole life?

You would arrive at more difficult problems. And you would be able to tell us why, as the natural result of cause and effect, the longest straight street in London is about a yard and a half in length, while the longest absolutely straight street in Paris extends for miles. I think you will admit that in an estate agent’s clerk I have not chosen an example that specially favours my theories.

You are a bank clerk, and you have not read that breathless romance (disguised as a scientific study), Walter Bagehot’s “Lombard Street”? Ah, my dear sir, if you had begun with that, and followed it up for ninety minutes every other evening, how enthralling your business would be to you, and how much more clearly you would understand human nature.

You are “penned in town,” but you love excursions to the country and the observation of wild life—certainly a heart-enlarging diversion. Why don’t you walk out of your house door, in your slippers, to the nearest gas lamp of a night with a butterfly net, and observe the wild life of common and rare moths that is beating about it, and co-ordinate the knowledge thus obtained and build a superstructure on it, and at last get to know something about something?

You need not be devoted to the arts, not to literature, in order to live fully.

The whole field of daily habit and scene is waiting to satisfy that curiosity which means life, and the satisfaction of which means an understanding heart.

I promised to deal with your case, O man who hates art and literature, and I have dealt with it. I now come to the case of the person, happily very common, who does “like reading.”

XI
SERIOUS READING

Novels are excluded from “serious reading,” so that the man who, bent on self-improvement, has been deciding to devote ninety minutes three times a week to a complete study of the works of Charles Dickens will be well advised to alter his plans. The reason is not that novels are not serious—some of the great literature of the world is in the form of prose fiction—the reason is that bad novels ought not to be read, and that good novels never demand any appreciable mental application on the part of the reader. It is only the bad parts of Meredith’s novels that are difficult. A good novel rushes you forward like a skiff down a stream, and you arrive at the end, perhaps breathless, but unexhausted. The best novels involve the least strain. Now in the cultivation of the mind one of the most important factors is precisely the feeling of strain, of difficulty, of a task which one part of you is anxious to achieve and another part of you is anxious to shirk; and that feeling cannot be got in facing a novel. You do not set your teeth in order to read “Anna Karenina.” Therefore, though you should read novels, you should not read them in those ninety minutes.

Imaginative poetry produces a far greater mental strain than novels. It produces probably the severest strain of any form of literature. It is the highest form of literature. It yields the highest form of pleasure, and teaches the highest form of wisdom. In a word, there is nothing to compare with it. I say this with sad consciousness of the fact that the majority of people do not read poetry.

I am persuaded that many excellent persons, if they were confronted with the alternatives of reading “Paradise Lost” and going round Trafalgar Square at noonday on their knees in sack-cloth, would choose the ordeal of public ridicule. Still, I will never cease advising my friends and enemies to read poetry before anything.

If poetry is what is called “a sealed book” to you, begin by reading Hazlitt’s famous essay on the nature of “poetry in general.” It is the best thing of its kind in English, and no one who has read it can possibly be under the misapprehension that poetry is a mediaeval torture, or a mad elephant, or a gun that will go off by itself and kill at forty paces. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine the mental state of the man who, after reading Hazlitt’s essay, is not urgently desirous of reading some poetry before his next meal. If the essay so inspires you I would suggest that you make a commencement with purely narrative poetry.

There is an infinitely finer English novel, written by a woman, than anything by George Eliot or the Brontes, or even Jane Austen, which perhaps you have not read. Its title is “Aurora Leigh,” and its author E.B. Browning. It happens to be written in verse, and to contain a considerable amount of genuinely fine poetry. Decide to read that book through, even if you die for it. Forget that it is fine poetry. Read it simply for the story and the social ideas. And when you have done, ask yourself honestly whether you still dislike poetry. I have known more than one person to whom “Aurora Leigh” has been the means of proving that in assuming they hated poetry they were entirely mistaken.

Of course, if, after Hazlitt, and such an experiment made in the light of Hazlitt, you are finally assured that there is something in you which is antagonistic to poetry, you must be content with history or philosophy. I shall regret it, yet not inconsolably. “The Decline and Fall” is not to be named in the same day with “Paradise Lost,” but it is a vastly pretty thing; and Herbert Spencer’s “First Principles” simply laughs at the claims of poetry and refuses to be accepted as aught but the most majestic product of any human mind. I do not suggest that either of these works is suitable for a tyro in mental strains. But I see no reason why any man of average intelligence should not, after a year of continuous reading, be fit to assault the supreme masterpieces of history or philosophy. The great convenience of masterpieces is that they are so astonishingly lucid.

I suggest no particular work as a start. The attempt would be futile in the space of my command. But I have two general suggestions of a certain importance. The first is to define the direction and scope of your efforts. Choose a limited period, or a limited subject, or a single author. Say to yourself: “I will know something about the French Revolution, or the rise of railways, or the works of John Keats.” And during a given period, to be settled beforehand, confine yourself to your choice. There is much pleasure to be derived from being a specialist.

The second suggestion is to think as well as to read. I know people who read and read, and for all the good it does them they might just as well cut bread-and-butter. They take to reading as better men take to drink. They fly through the shires of literature on a motor-car, their sole object being motion. They will tell you how many books they have read in a year.

Unless you give at least forty-five minutes to careful, fatiguing reflection (it is an awful bore at first) upon what you are reading, your ninety minutes of a night are chiefly wasted. This means that your pace will be slow.

Never mind.

Forget the goal; think only of the surrounding country; and after a period, perhaps when you least expect it, you will suddenly find yourself in a lovely town on a hill.

XII
DANGERS TO AVOID

I cannot terminate these hints, often, I fear, too didactic and abrupt, upon the full use of one’s time to the great end of living (as distinguished from vegetating) without briefly referring to certain dangers which lie in wait for the sincere aspirant towards life. The first is the terrible danger of becoming that most odious and least supportable of persons—a prig. Now a prig is a pert fellow who gives himself airs of superior wisdom. A prig is a pompous fool who has gone out for a ceremonial walk, and without knowing it has lost an important part of his attire, namely, his sense of humour. A prig is a tedious individual who, having made a discovery, is so impressed by his discovery that he is capable of being gravely displeased because the entire world is not also impressed by it. Unconsciously to become a prig is an easy and a fatal thing.

Hence, when one sets forth on the enterprise of using all one’s time, it is just as well to remember that one’s own time, and not other people’s time, is the material with which one has to deal; that the earth rolled on pretty comfortably before one began to balance a budget of the hours, and that it will continue to roll on pretty comfortably whether or not one succeeds in one’s new role of chancellor of the exchequer of time. It is as well not to chatter too much about what one is doing, and not to betray a too-pained sadness at the spectacle of a whole world deliberately wasting so many hours out of every day, and therefore never really living. It will be found, ultimately, that in taking care of one’s self one has quite all one can do.

Another danger is the danger of being tied to a programme like a slave to a chariot. One’s programme must not be allowed to run away with one. It must be respected, but it must not be worshipped as a fetish. A programme of daily employ is not a religion.

This seems obvious. Yet I know men whose lives are a burden to themselves and a distressing burden to their relatives and friends simply because they have failed to appreciate the obvious. “Oh, no,” I have heard the martyred wife exclaim, “Arthur always takes the dog out for exercise at eight o’clock and he always begins to read at a quarter to nine. So it’s quite out of the question that we should…” etc., etc. And the note of absolute finality in that plaintive voice reveals the unsuspected and ridiculous tragedy of a career.

On the other hand, a programme is a programme. And unless it is treated with deference it ceases to be anything but a poor joke. To treat one’s programme with exactly the right amount of deference, to live with not too much and not too little elasticity, is scarcely the simple affair it may appear to the inexperienced.

And still another danger is the danger of developing a policy of rush, of being gradually more and more obsessed by what one has to do next. In this way one may come to exist as in a prison, and one’s life may cease to be one’s own. One may take the dog out for a walk at eight o’clock, and meditate the whole time on the fact that one must begin to read at a quarter to nine, and that one must not be late.

And the occasional deliberate breaking of one’s programme will not help to mend matters. The evil springs not from persisting without elasticity in what one has attempted, but from originally attempting too much, from filling one’s programme till it runs over. The only cure is to reconstitute the programme, and to attempt less.

But the appetite for knowledge grows by what it feeds on, and there are men who come to like a constant breathless hurry of endeavour. Of them it may be said that a constant breathless hurry is better than an eternal doze.

In any case, if the programme exhibits a tendency to be oppressive, and yet one wishes not to modify it, an excellent palliative is to pass with exaggerated deliberation from one portion of it to another; for example, to spend five minutes in perfect mental quiescence between chaining up the St. Bernard and opening the book; in other words, to waste five minutes with the entire consciousness of wasting them.

The last, and chiefest danger which I would indicate, is one to which I have already referred—the risk of a failure at the commencement of the enterprise.

I must insist on it.

A failure at the commencement may easily kill outright the newborn impulse towards a complete vitality, and therefore every precaution should be observed to avoid it. The impulse must not be over-taxed. Let the pace of the first lap be even absurdly slow, but let it be as regular as possible.

And, having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self-confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labour is immense.

Finally, in choosing the first occupations of those evening hours, be guided by nothing whatever but your taste and natural inclination.

It is a fine thing to be a walking encyclopedia of philosophy, but if you happen to have no liking for philosophy, and to have a like for the natural history of street-cries, much better leave philosophy alone, and take to street-cries.

 

by nealf0

Hiking the Inca Trail: Preparation

September 2, 2013 in Places by nealf0

Visiting Machu Picchu from the Inca Trail has been at the top of my list of things to do before I die ever since I saw pictures of Machu Picchu in National Geographic when I was a kid.  So, I figured I would finally stop putting it off and make it happen.  Discussing it with a friend of mine, we made plans to visit Peru in 2012 and hike the Inca Trail.  Accomplishing a lifetime dream of mine 24 years and 9 months later..

We made the decision to go, but that is just the tip of the iceberg for the planning and preparation required to execute a memorable, safe trip.  First, we needed to decide on when to go.  Reviewing the Inca Trail dates for 2012, it was really open except for February when the Inca Trail is commonly closed for maintenance.  No problem, we had too much in our professions going on that month anyway.  So when?  Since Peru is in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are opposite to where we live in the United States.  Machu Picchu has a semi-tropical climate, with warm and humid days and cooler nights and negligible variation from Winter and Summer when compared to where I live in Colorado.  But the rain…I would much rather hike in snow than rain, but preferably neither.  To quote Wikitravel.org, the “rainy season in Machu Picchu is from November to March, so be prepared. The wet months are January to April, when roads are often closed by landslides or flooding.  The best months for visiting Machu Picchu are from April to October.  The High season is June to August (book well in advance).”  Well May it is then!  Now to book it…

Reserving the Inca Trail isn’t as easy as going to some website like ClickHere4IncaTrail2MachuPicchu.com.  The Inca Trail is highly regulated by the Peruvian government.  There are only 500 permits available each day which applies to everyone, including all of the porters, cooks, and guides.  So, that just leaves only about 200 passes that are allocated to tourists each day.  Not a whole lot.  But, we were ready to start booking dates in July, 2011.  So no problem right?  Wrong.  The tickets for 2012 weren’t put on sale by the Peruvian Government until December 2011/January 2012.  Being the planner that I am and worried about not being able to get our reservations for May (we already made our airline reservations), my fun meter was pegged and I was stressing.  It’s important to note that every tour operator will book your Inca Trail passes far in advance, without having the passes confirmed. You can check Inca Trail ticket availability here to confirm for yourselves the dates you are interested in.

My window seat, ready to leave Atlanta.  Next stop, Lima Peru.

My window seat, ready to leave Atlanta. Next stop, Lima Peru.

You have to hike the Inca Trail with a guide, so which tour operator should we go with?  A colleague and friend recommended SAS Travel Peru as they took them back in 2001 and felt that they were professional and had a great time.  Good enough for me, so that’s who we first contacted.  I did say first contacted because the initial impressions were not terribly positive.  Driven by the lack of responses from SAS, we decided to pursue another tour company.  So, we then reached out to Mayuc, Apus Peru, Enigma Peru, Q’enteAventours (aka Ecoinka), Andean Life, Explorandes, Inca ExplorersUnited Mice, Chaska Tours, and Andean Treks.  We received mixed feedback from these tour operators, mostly pretty positive, some mediocre and some not at all.  After going through the responses, we ended up selecting Aventours (aka Ecoinka) as our tour operator based on the cost, their timely, detailed responses from Walter and Rick and the extra night on their Inca Trail tour at their private camping site outside of km 82.  As it turned out, we finally had our Inca Trail permits booked from Aventours on January 31st, 2012 for our hike from May 6-9, 2012.  The cost for the permits to hike the Inca Trail was 254 sol ($95).  In addition to the 4 day/4 night Inca Trail tour with just my friend and I, we added an extra day tour through the Sacred Valley at the beginning of the trip making our tour 5 days and 4 nights.

Airfare booked (way in advance using 70,000 airline miles + $70.74), Aventours (aka Ecoinka) Inca Trail tour operator selected, Inca Trail permits purchased, almost there…  Now, need to book our airfare from Lima to Cusco, hotel in Cusco, hotel near Machu Picchu for the extra day we planned to stay there and the train back to Cusco from Machu Picchu.

Our flights into Lima were really late, so we ended up booking a mid-morning flight out of Lima to Cusco on LAN Airlines for $352.81.  Upon arrival in Cusco, we were promptly picked up by our hotel driver, who took us straight to our hotel.

The in flight meal and free Peruvian beer on LAN airlines (http://www.lan.com/) on our flight from Lima to Cusco.

The in flight meal and free Peruvian beer on LAN airlines (http://www.lan.com/) on our flight from Lima to Cusco.

Aventours was really good about assisting us with our lodging in Cusco.  They referred us to the Torre Dorada Hotel for $110/double room per night.  The hotel is located just a couple miles from the Cusco Plaza de Armas.  They had a driver who was always available, breakfast was cooked to order, rooms great, clean and safe.  Would definitely stay there again.  We ended up staying there both before and after our Inca Trail hike.  If you should expect to leave and return from the same hotel, I recommend finding a hotel to keep some of your personal belongings while you embark on the Inca Trail.  Else, your tour operator will probably do the same for you.  Torre Dorada did this for us and it worked out great being able to leave our dirty clothes and clean clothes for the return home.

Our room and some of our camera gear at the Torre Dorada Hotel (http://www.torredorada.com.pe/en/) in Cusco, Peru.

Our room and some of our camera gear at the Torre Dorada Hotel (http://www.torredorada.com.pe/en/) in Cusco, Peru.

Our driver from the Torre Dorada Hotel driving us to the Plaza de Armas in the center of Cusco, Peru.

Our driver from the Torre Dorada Hotel driving us to the Plaza de Armas in the center of Cusco, Peru.

The breakfast buffet at the Torre Dorada Hotel (http://www.torredorada.com.pe/en/) in Cusco, Peru.  The continental breakfast had some lovely pastries, cereal, tea and coffee.  If you wanted eggs, there was a really nice lady who would cook to order as well in the kitchen to the left.

The breakfast buffet at the Torre Dorada Hotel (http://www.torredorada.com.pe/en/) in Cusco, Peru. The continental breakfast had some lovely pastries, cereal, tea and coffee. If you wanted eggs, there was a really nice lady who would cook to order as well in the kitchen to the left.

Depending upon which Inca Trail tour you take to Machu Picchu, you may or may not be able to spend most of the day at Machu Picchu.  Hikes that come through the famous Machu Picchu Sun Gate (Inti Punku) at sunrise will be able to spend most of the day in and around the magnificent Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.  Our tour lagged most other Inca Trail tours, so we weren’t going to get to Machu Picchu until that afternoon.  As a result, we had planned on staying an extra night near Machu Picchu so we could watch both a sunset and sunrise there.  Most people stay in Aquas Calientes off the Urubamba River down the mountain from Machu Picchu.  There are many lodging options in every price range, in addition to restaurants and shops.  Although you can hike up to Machu Picchu from there, most elect to take the busy bus route to/from Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.  We decided to splurge and split a room at the all inclusive Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge Hotel just outside the gates of Machu Picchu National Park instead though.  And I do mean splurge, at $907.50 (including tax) a night, this place was expensive.  The hotel was nice, but not $907.50 a night nice.  It was fantastic to have a long hot shower, gorge ourselves in the plethora of culinary delights and liquid refreshments though.  A well deserved reward for the end of a journey.  Since there aren’t any other food options at Machu Picchu besides the cafeteria just outside the main gate, it was really nice to be able to have a really nice lunch and cocktail in the Sanctuary Lodge restaurant. In addition, they also held our belongings and arranged our bus to the train station in Aguas Calientes, which was really helpful.  Finally, just being able to roll out of bed, grab a nice breakfast and step out in line (and there was a long line) to get into Machu Picchu was really a great way to start the day.

The front entrance of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge (http://www.sanctuarylodgehotel.com/web/omac/machu_picchu.jsp), outside of Machu Picchu National Park.

The front entrance of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge (http://www.sanctuarylodgehotel.com/web/omac/machu_picchu.jsp), outside of Machu Picchu National Park.

A gorgeous piece of salmon to start our lunch off.

A gorgeous piece of salmon to start our lunch off.

An amazing ceviche to start the lunch off.  The selections of corn and vegetables is worth a trip to Peru in itself.

An amazing ceviche to start the lunch off. The selections of corn and vegetables is worth a trip to Peru in itself.

A lovely local fish with another amazing staple of Peru, potatoes and topped with bacon.  How can you go wrong with that?

A lovely local fish with another amazing staple of Peru, potatoes and topped with bacon. How can you go wrong with that?

I think the picture sums it up nicely....this, combined with a Machu Picchu specialty coffee, delightful.

I think the picture sums it up nicely….this, combined with a Machu Picchu specialty coffee, delightful.

Warm chocolate cake, homemade berry jam/drizzle and sorbet with some fresh oranges.  An amazing desert and lovely combination of flavors and textures.

Warm chocolate cake, homemade berry jam/drizzle and sorbet with some fresh oranges. An amazing desert and lovely combination of flavors and textures.

Baily's, Pisco (Peruvian Brandy), chocolate and coffee....um, yum!

Baily’s, Pisco (Peruvian Brandy), chocolate and coffee….um, yum!

Getting back from Machu Picchu to Cusco requires taking a train from Aquas Calientes to Cusco.  The primary provider for this service is Peru Rail which provides 3 return train services.  The ‘Exhibition’ backpacker service ($75) which only departs at 4:43pm, the ‘Vistadome’ panoramic view service ($86) which departs at 3:20pm, 4:22pm and 5:27pm and the ‘Hiram Bingham’ luxury service ($380) which only departs at 5:50pm.  We had tickets on the Vistadome 604 train, departing at 5:27pm to maximize our time at Machu Picchu.  The train ride is just over 3 hours and doesn’t arrive into Cusco, but nearby Poroy.  Thus, there remains a 20 minute bus ride to get to Cusco.  Instead of taking the bus to Cusco, our tour operator Aventours conveniently arranged for us to be picked up in Poroy and took us to our Torre Dorada Hotel in Cusco.

Getting on the Vistadome train in Aguas Calientes heading to Poroy on our way back to Cusco.   This photo was taken by Lawrence Delp.  All copyrights reserved by Lawrence Delp.

Getting on the Vistadome train in Aguas Calientes heading to Poroy on our way back to Cusco.
This photo was taken by Lawrence Delp. All copyrights reserved by Lawrence Delp.

On the train, enjoying the scenery heading back to Cusco. This photo was taken by Lawrence Delp.  All copyrights reserved by Lawrence Delp.

On the train, enjoying the scenery heading back to Cusco.
This photo was taken by Lawrence Delp. All copyrights reserved by Lawrence Delp.

In addition to all of the planning and preparation for when you arrive to Peru, before any international trip you should always check what the Center for Disease Control (CDC) advisories are for that country.  The CDC advises for Peru several vaccinations, such as the routine ones (measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, polio-virus vaccine, etc.), Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A and B and malaria.  Of course what you actually need is dependent upon where you are going within Peru.  Since Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Inca Trail is high in the Andes, only Hepatitis A and Typhoid were required.

Finally, it’s a good idea to purchase travel insurance as well since you never know what can happen.  There’s two types of insurance worth getting before your trip.  The first is emergency medical and evacuation from International SOS, which we purchased should something occur while on our hike.  The other is basic travel insurance for your reservations.  In the past I have used CSA Travel Protection.  For this trip, I did not take travel insurance since the airfare was purchased with miles and the hotels and tour could be canceled with minimal penalties.

This is the first of three posts on this unforgettable trip that I want to share with you.  I hope you find them informative, helpful, interesting and motivational because you really should make Machu Picchu a must-see destination.

 

by nealf0

Mobile Barbeque in the Miami Wynwood Art District

August 15, 2013 in Restaurants by nealf0

It isn’t everyday that you find good barbeque parked on a side street in an empty part of town.  But on this beautiful Sunday, we stumbled upon proprietor and grill master, Mark Gibson’s BBQ-2-Go mobile barbeque establishment in Miami Florida’s well known Wynwood Art District southeast of I-95 and I-195.

We had been driving around Wynwood for a couple hours , taking pictures of the amazingly colorful and artistic graffiti, when we turned down NW 2nd Avenue and saw a black cage of a trailer that was transmitting smoke infused with sweet carnivorous barbeque smells.  Having already eaten a few hours earlier, eating again wasn’t terribly high on our to-do list.  But, how can you pass up a barbeque stand that you fortuitously stumbled upon in the most unexpected of places?!

So, we pulled over and parked next to The Beetles ‘Abby Road’ mural across the street from Mark’s BBQ-2-Go stand.  We walked up and Mark was socializing with a lovely lady he knew sitting out front under the thoughtful canvas overhang.  After introducing himself, we got right to the ever important discussion about what smokey meaty morsels he has ready to eat.  Mark responded with “I have chicken, pork and ribs shortly.”

Portrait of the BBQ-2-Go proprietor and grill master, Mark Gibson.

The scrumptious meats on the barbeque pit.

Possessing an affinity for pulled pork sandwiches, we elected for pork.  Mark removed a large meaty morsel from under the foil and began chopping it up with his cleaver from the Dexter television show.  He then proceeded to give us a paper bowl, opened the bun up and dumped his surgically chopped pork on top.  We were then faced with the crossroads of selecting which of Mark’s homemade barbeque sauces to complement this pork sandwich.  Posing this quandary to Mark, he quickly responded with “Have the Gangsta Gold.”  Yes, that is correct, Gangsta Gold.  What a fantastic name and tasty mustard based sauce.  It had a sweet, tangy and mild mustard taste to it.

Pulled pork barbeque sandwich covered in “gangsta gold” barbeque sauce.

The seasoned and sauced up ribs cooking on the grill.

Really fantastic.  The pork was tender, not too dry.  Really well done.  Unfortunately we didn’t try any of his other barbeque creations, but the sample that we did have was very well done.  So, if you see a smoking mobile barbeque stand around Miami, Florida and you aren’t vegetarian, stop by and try it out.

After visiting Mark Gibson’s BBQ-2-Go mobile stand, my nephew indulged in the pulled pork sandwich with its “gangsta gold” sauce.

Neal’s Ratings:

  • Atmosphere = A+   (outside, shady tarp, convenient location)
  • Service =  A+    (lively personality who has pride in his food)
  • Food = A    (only tried the pork and sauce, but both were great)
by nealf0

Measuring the Shutter Count

July 1, 2013 in Photography by nealf0

At some point, you may need to know how many times the shutter of your Single-Lens Reflex (SLR) digital camera has been opened and closed.  Sure if you bought your camera new, then you may be able to look at the number of pictures on your PC and guess roughly how many times the shutter has been triggered.  But this method is crude at best.  This information is logged however in the camera and certain utilities can be used to access it.

After having my Canon EOS 7D for over a year, I decided to sell my Canon EOS 40D.  Great camera, but it ended up just sitting on my shelf for too long after having the 7D and I came to the realization that I just didn’t need it now or in the near future.  So, I decided to sell it through Amazon.  As part of that though, I did feel that it was important that I accurately present the usage of the camera, specifically the shutter count as the body was in good shape.  Thus, I sought out a program that could read the shutter count of the Canon EOS 40D (review from DP Review).

After a good deal of research, I found the program EOSInfo which works really well with the older camera bodies, such as the Canon 40D.  The Canon 40D has an estimated shutter life of 100,000 cycles, which is a ton of captures.  My Canon 40D came in at less than 8% of that with a shutter count of 7411.  Sadly, I thought I took more pictures than that.  Here’s a screenshot of the EOSInfo program though.

My Canon EOS 40D Shutter Count from EOSInfo

My Canon EOS 40D Shutter Count from EOSInfo

 

After selling the Canon 40D, I was a bit curious if there was a program that also worked with the Canon EOS 7D.  The DP Review mentioned EOS Count as an online alternative for measuring the shutter count of some of the newer EOS bodies, such as the 60D and 7D.  I have not used it personally at this time, but it may be worth checking it out if you are interested as the reviews did indicate success with them.

You would think that this information would be available through the camera, so hopefully this helps you obtain the shutter counts of your digital SLRs.  Happy shooting friends.

 

 

by nealf0

Canon 7D Firmware Update

September 3, 2012 in Photography by nealf0

The much anticipated Canon EOS 7D firmware 2.00 update is here!  Released on August 6th, 2012 for download, this firmware update delivers several enhancements to the already very capable Canon EOS 7D.  The Canon EOS 7D Update delivers the following new features, improvements and capabilities.

1)   Shooting up to 130 JPEG Large/Fine and 25 RAW images at 8.0 frames per second (fps), which is up from 126 JPEG Large/Fine and 15 RAW images at 8.0 fps.

2)  Compatible with the Canon GPS Receiver GP-E2 for instant geotagging of your photos instead of post-production geotagging using Lightroom or external GPS logs.

3)  Enables manual control of sound recording levels. The recording level can be manually adjusted to one of 64 levels, for full control of your audio recording for your high definition videos.

4)  When using M, P, TV, AV and B modes, users now have a choice of setting the maximum allowable ISO, up to ISO 6400 so that your Canon 7D can optimize your ISO settings to ensure that your exposure ideal for your given user settings.

5)  Improved EOS 7D’s RAW image processing for your P, TV, AV, M and B modes.  The improvements include RAW optimization in the Canon 7D without a computer of White Balance, Picture Style, Auto Lighting Optimizer, High ISO Noise Reduction, JPEG Quality, Color Space, Lens Peripheral Illumination Correction, Distortion Correction and Lens Aberration Corrections.

6)  The Canon EOS 7D can now resize your JPEG “L” and “M” images and save them as separate JPEG “M” and “S” images, thus saving time in post production conversions.

7)  Users can now add 0-5 star ratings to their pictures within the Canon 7D, which again saves time in post production when reviewing and rating your photos after the shoot.

8)  The  Quick Control has been updated as well, so users “can quickly access a number of features during playback via the Quick Control button. Images can be protected, rotated, resized, highlight alert and AF point displays can be accessed, and image jump can be accessed via the main dial, which are significant time-savers.”

9)  Users can now customize their file names by specifying th efirst 4 characters of each file name, replacing the default ‘IMG_’ that we have all grown used to.

10)  Finally, changing the time in your camera is as easy as just selecting the specific timezone that you are shooting out of.  A very useful addition and one that I could have used a few times.

11)  You can now scroll through your magnified photos much quicker.  “This increased speed makes it easier to confirm expressions, details and sharpness, or whether recomposing, refocusing or reshooting is necessary.”

I was thoroughly impressed by the improvements.  It’s an evolutionary transition where the consumer can expect more enhancements than ever before as more features are implemented in software.  So you have the Canon EOS 7D, now how do you update your camera firmware?

First, you need to download the Canon EOS 7D Firmware Update.

Next, you can either copy the firmware to either the Compact Flash (CF) card or install it from the computer using the Canon EOS Utility.  Since I was working on some studio shooting using the tethered Canon EOS Utility, I preferred to install it through this utility instead, which was an easy install with no issues.  Just follow these steps from my install, or take a look at Canon 7D Firmware Update – English.

1)  Start the Canon EOS Utility software.

2)  Go to the ‘Camera settings/Remote shooting’ option.

3)  Select the Setup menu by clicking on the wrench/tool setup tab.

4)  Go down to the firmware, in this case Firmware Ver.1.2.5 below the ‘Live View/Movie func. set.’.  Click on it the Firmware text.  At which time, you will then have an option to update the firmware if your firmware is older.

Confirm the Canon EOS Firmware Load

5)  Select OK and then browse to the firmware you downloaded earlier.  Select the updated firmware version.  The current version is 1.X.X (mine was 1.2.5).  Select the Canon EOS 7D 2.00 firmware 7D000200.FIR from the download folder on the Windows PC.  Select ‘Open’ and start the installation.

Firmware 2.00 Select

6)  Then follow the instructions on the pop-up, as shown below.  Press the ‘Set’ button on the Canon 7D, which is the round middle button on the control disk.  You are then asked if you want to confirm, click ‘OK’.

Start Load from EOS Utility

7)  It then proceeds to update the firmware.  The installation of the firmware from the PC via the USB cable took just over 7-minutes to copy and install the firmware on the Canon EOS 7D.

8)  After the installation, power off your Canon 7D and remove the battery for several seconds.  I left them out for a few minutes just to ensure that any stored capacitance is discharged.

9)  Install the battery and power the camera back on.  In the Canon EOS Utility you can confirm that the firmware has been successfully updated as shown below, which is now Firmware Version 2.0.0.

Canon Firmware 2.00 Updated

10)  You installation is now complete!   Now, just enjoy these great improvements to your already fantastic Canon EOS 7D camera!

[Update on 01 October 2012]   Since the 2.00 Firmware release, Canon has since released a few updates.  The current latest is 2.03, released on 12 September 2012 and contains a few bug fixes only.  There are no new features.  Information on the update can be found on the Canon Rumors Website in the Canon EOS 7D Firmware 2.03 article or Canon’s 2.03 Release Notes Website.  You can download the latest Canon EOS 7D firmware from Canon’s 7D Support Website.

by nealf0

Photography Backup Process

April 26, 2012 in Photography by nealf0

Oh, the devastating scenario of loosing all or even some of your hard work!  I don’t know what I would do if I were to loose all of my pictures and documents.  However, it is a necessary evil when being so dependent upon personal computers (PCs).  As an aspiring photographer, you would think that I would be on top of backing up and protecting my images.  Nope.  I neglected this incredibly important workflow step for far too long.  Thus, I spent a good deal of time in early 2012 researching various processes of backing up your data to find a method that works best for me.  The most important requirements for me were, ease of integration into existing workflow, cost and 100% protection of my files.  I finally settled on one pretty common, simple, reliable backup process that will guarantee file security without breaking the bank.  This article shares my current backup process at home, my backup process in the field and verification plan for verifying the integrity of my data for years to come.

My goal is to ensure that I am protected from loosing my important pictures and documents, as it would be impossible for me to replace them.  So how do I implement a process that is reliable, simple and equally important, affordable?  Let’s discuss what I already had available to start off with:
  • My laptop running Windows 7 64-bit
  • (1) 2TB networked Western Digital external hard drive
  • Read/Write DVDs, which I was burning my original JPEG + RAW files to.

Not a bad setup, had I been using it properly.  I could easily make a simple backup from my laptop to the external hard drive on a routine basis (riskily I wasn’t even doing this).  Using both the (1) external hard drive and DVDs, they would give me potentially (2) layers of backup protection.  However, I was not addressing my operating system backup, nor was I even copying the same files to the external hard drive that I was to the DVDs.  Yes, I know I was setting myself up for failure and I knew it.  Researching both what others are doing and what the recommended ‘best practices’ are, I found one process from American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) that I felt could be manipulated to fit into my workflow and utilizing my existing equipment.

The one consistent recommendation I found was that everyone should practice a backup process with at least (3) layers of protection.  The most common instantiation of this is:

  • (2) External Hard Drives
    • (1) External Hard Drive for local backup
    • (1) External Hard Drive for offsite storage
  • (1) Disc copy (DVD or Blu-Ray)

Made sense to me.  So, all I needed was an extra external hard drive to implement the infrastructure to support a reliable backup process.  I ended up buying a 2TB Western Digital USB 3.0 External Hard Drive so that I could back it up locally and have the option to put it in a safety deposit box or fireproof safe for offsite storage.

Now that I have the (3) layer backup protection hardware infrastructure implemented, how do I make it work in practice?  This is easier said than done because of the variables that I had, which were the fact that I am using a laptop so it’s not always home, no backup software chosen, I was undecided on what exactly to backup, and I had different external hard drive interfaces (1) network drive and (1) USB drive.  Since I travel with my laptop half the time, a regular scheduled backup isn’t really practical.  So, I required software that permits me to schedule backups to both the network and USB external hard drives either on a regular schedule or manually.

I asked Tom Bourdon, a fantastic professional travel photographer, about his travel photography backup process and he uses SyncToy from Microsoft.  ASMP recommended SyncBack for PC users and ChronoSync for Mac users.  Reviewing them, I felt SyncToy (FREE) worked better for my simple process.  Although I am a PC user, ChronoSync is operationally similar to SyncToy.  So, the backup concepts presented herein are synonymous for Windows and Mac users.

Using SyncToy, I created folder pairs to backup specific folders from my laptop to the target external hard drives.  Folder pairs, set as ‘echo’, are used to generate exact copies of my laptop folders on the external hard drives.  This is used for my Working folder, which contains my plethora of images to be edited, and specific folders from my laptop Users folder.  In addition, a ‘contribute‘ folder pair, which only appends files, is used to copy my laptop Transferred folder to an archive folder on the external drives.  The Transferred folder contains finished images that are archived to DVD(s) before removal from my laptop, thus continually maintaining (3) layers of protection.  Presently for offsite storage, the archived DVD(s) are stored in a local fireproof safe; however a safety deposit box or online storage is very effective for addressing this requirement.  The below Figure depicts SyncToy and the folder pairs utilized either individually or all at once.

The Microsoft SyncToy software with the folder pairs used

The Microsoft SyncToy software with the folder pairs used

In addition to SyncToy, I use Windows Backup and Restore (In Windows 7 for under Control Panel -> System and Security -> Backup and Restore) capability for backing up my System Image should my Operating System (OS) experience major problems.  The entire backup process implemented is shown in the below Figure.

This describes the backup process performed at my home office for my System Image, User Files and both Working and Archived Pictures.

 

Equally important is having a process for backing up your images in the field and verifying the integrity of your images years in the future.  On travel, I use a 160GB HyperDrive COLORSPACE UDMA from B&H Photo and Video for backing up my CompactFlash cards.  It can perform some integrity checks as part of the backup process, in addition to quickly downloading your pictures.  As a nicety, you can view your photos as they are downloaded or after they are downloaded on its mediocre screen.  A very handy device for backing up in the field.  My only complaint is that it does not backup video files, only pictures files (RAW, DNG, TIFF, JPG, etc.).  Not that I shoot a lot of video, but that would be useful as I do use video to capture moments.

Finally, how do you verify the integrity of your files for years to come?  If you shoot RAW and convert them to Digital Negatives (DNG), then all you have to do is convert your DNG files through Adobe’s DNG Converter (FREE) and it will automatically check to ensure the integrity of the file by checking that no bits have changed.  The reason for this is that DNG files, besides being 0-20% smaller than proprietary RAW files, it also stores an MD5 hash for the raw image contained in the DNG.  The MD5 algorithm can also be used for validating the integrity of all of your other files and/or folders full of files.  I settled on the MD5 Checksum Verifier utility from FlashPlayerPro ($15) because this program can quickly generate a separate MD5 hash file for an individual file or an entire folder full of files that I can keep with the files and folders.  In addition, you can then at some later date recheck the file(s) for comparison against the MD5 hash stored for verification that nothing has been modified in the file(s).  Because my working pictures are, well, being worked I only use this on my archive pictures.

With a few external hard drives and some free software, you can easily have a reliable, simple backup solution at your home office.  In the field, it can be a bit more costly but there are some very effective solutions such as using your laptop and external hard drives.  Then for future verification, a simple MD5 hash checker and DNG converter works out great for validating the integrity of your backup files.  Here are a few references to assist you.  Hope this helps saves you from loosing your data in the future.

A revision of this article was published in the Mile High Wildlife Photography Club (MHWPC) May 2013 newsletter.
by nealf0

Park’s Barbeque – Los Angeles, California, United States

April 1, 2012 in Restaurants by nealf0

When I am in Los Angeles, California for work, I always try to visit Park’s Barbeque to clog my arteries with their perfectly marinated, tender and fresh Korean barbeque meats.  It’s not a Travel Channel stop by Adam Richman or Anthony Bourdain, but it is an establishment that my colleague thankfully introduced me to and definitely worth a detour to this famous restaurant.  And I do mean famous.  As you walk in, you are greeted on the right with a wall full of celebrity photos.  You have famous Asian sports stars, Olympians (Apolo Anton Ohno) and actors (extremely beautiful Jessica Alba for example).  And how can we leave out an Executive for World of Warcraft who also made the wall of fame?  Yes, all types, sizes and trades have tread their feet through those fish protected doors.  You can find this local, famous establishment at the following address in Koreatown, Los Angeles.

S Vermont Ave # D
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 380-1717

So how about that atmosphere, service and food shall we?

Outside Park’s Korean BBQ restaurant. They always have some nice cars parked out front and have valet parking should you go. I recommend parking on the side streets as it’s free.

Walking in, you enter a small corridor of an entry with the restaurant on the left behind a 5foot half wall and 100 or so photos on the right of the famous personalities who dined at this place.  The restaurant is located in a strip mall and spans two floors.  There’s valet out front, which you’ll have to do if you want to park in the front of the restaurant.  You might have to compete with the expensive sports cars typically parked there though.  You can find parking on the side streets instead, so take advantage of those free spots.  Downstairs is nicer than upstairs (and from my experience you get better service).  But, the restaurant is clean, busy and has great BBQ tables for cooking up those meaty morsels.

This is the view of the main floor right when you come into the restaurant and are greeted by the hostess.

Service is usually very good, with the servers/cooks conscientious to your food and needs.  They are quick to bring out the included Korean side dishes and your main courses.  Usually the servers are all very attentive and take turns throwing your food on the barbeque, cutting it up, flipping the meat and adding the vegetables.  However, during our last trip (which happened to be Valentine’s Day) we had horrible service at our table upstairs.  We usually sit downstairs and have always had great service, so I don’t know if it was the result of being busy, the upstairs service or some other vendetta against us.  But, our water was never filled, food was left to burn and I had to ask for our check instead of them bringing it when we were clearly done for quite some time.  Really disappointing for this type of restaurant.  Again, the service is usually much better, but this did leave a terrible taste in our mouths for sure.  I did not return on that trip, although I am sure I will sometime in the future to give it one more shot.

If not familiar with Korean food, the menu can be a bit daunting.  Thankfully I was introduced to the place by someone much more familiar with Korean barbeques.  Once you get there and sit down, you are greeted by the complimentary spread of various Korean side dishes such as numerous kimchi dishes, rice noodles, sauteed broccoli rabe, sauteed sea plant, marinated radish, Korean coleslaw, wonton wrappers, cabbage and other odds and sods that they decide to bring as it changes some each time you go.

These are the free Korean side dishes you receive prior to your succulent meat gorgefest. They get you started with various kimchi dishes, rice noodles, sauteed broccoli rabe, sauteed sea plant, marinated radish, Korean coleslaw, wonton wrappers, cabbage and other odds and sods that they decide to bring as it changes some each time you go.

Once you get past the party in your mouth Korean side dishes, it’s onto the main courses.  They don’t hesitate to start delivering these in a well oiled assembly line fashion.  Without much delay, the raw beef entrees, Seafood Pancake and Kimchi Stew and sticky rice come out.  The pancake is like a thin, dense (you can use chopsticks to pick up the pieces) seafood frittata filled with rock shrimp, green onions, and asparagus that you dip in a mild soy sauce.  Then the scrumptious Kimchi Stew, full of spicy kimchi seasoning, beef and pork part and cabbage that you scoop over your sticky rice and indulge.

These lovely morsels are the Kimchi Stew on the left, Bulgogi (Seasoned Sliced Beef) top right and Pancake with rock shrimp and green onion on the bottom center.

Then there’s the beef.  Yes, those wonderful marbleized bovine morsels that are flown in daily for as fresh as you can get.  Our staples tend to be the Bulgogi and Gal-Bi.  Bulgogi shown above, is a delicious thinly sliced sirloin/prime cut beef that is marinated to perfection.  Served with some grilled garlic, scallions and enokitake mushroom, quite a delightful combination.  Unless they get fried like our last visit when they neglected our table.  Note, you can grab the utensils yourself and flip them if Park’s employees are attentive to it.  Oh those lovely marinated prime beef short ribs, Gal-Bi (aka Galbi).  Short ribs tend to be tough and difficult to come out tender, but Park’s has it down perfectly.  They thinly cut the spare ribs around the bone so the chef can just unroll the meat on the grill.  In addition, the meat is scored so that the marinade just gets sucked into the meat.  They grill them unrolled for a little while before getting the good o’l kitchen scissors and cut up the meat.  The part of the meat closest to the bone is the toughest though, so focus on the other tender chopstick size pieces first.

This is the scrumptious Bulgogi (marinated sliced sirloin/prime beef).

 

These short ribs (Gal-Bi) are full of flavor, tender and oh so good!

I have also had the fish and special pork belly.  The fish was just alright.  The pork belly was good, but just thick bacon really.  I would stick with the beef.

Neal’s Ratings:

  • Atmosphere = B+   (limited parking, love the famous photos, clean grills, in a strip mall)
  • Service =  C    (normally a B-A grade, but horrible the last time)
  • Food = A    (really fantastic beef, stew, pancake, side dishes and good other entrees)
by nealf0

Group Photo Registration Pilot Project Instructions for Published Photographs

February 13, 2012 in Photography by nealf0

As most photographers do, they submit their photographs to the U.S. Copyright Office. During my most recent submittal, Kathryn, the Registration Specialist with the U.S. Copyright office was kind enough to communicate to me the proposed changes for artists submitting published works. I thought it was interesting and very useful so I wanted to share this information with you. The below text is quoted from her email to me.

The first submission is limited to no more than 250 photographs. Remember for published photographs you can only submit photographs that were published in the same calendar year.

TYPE OF WORK: select Work of the Visual Arts.

TITLE: Title of work being registered should be the collective title for the group – such as “Davis Hawaii Photo 2011.” If the photos are published the alternative title (ALT space) must begin with “Group Registration Photos”, then range of publication dates must be included, as well as how many photographs are in the group. The dates of publication must be complete dates – day, month, and year. EXAMPLE: Group Registration Photos, , published Jan. 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2009; 250 photos. Unpublished groups just need the group or collection title.

CONTENTS TITLES: After you have saved the main title you must enter the contents titles. Click New, then select Contents titles for title type, then add the titles of the photographs. Published photos must include the complete date of publication after each title. It is probably best for a larger group to enter the titles in a string. Separate these titles with a semicolon space. EXAMPLE: Diamond Head, Feb. 14, 2009; Pear Harbor Mar. 2, 2009; etc. For each Contents titles box or line enter no more than 1900 characters (spaces are counted as characters). The system will let you add more than that, but not all titles will show up in the cataloging record and for the pilot we want all titles in the catalog record. You can have multiple boxes/lines of contents titles.

Note: you may want to enter the titles in a word document or similar program that can tell you how many characters you have so you can try to cut and paste.

You can also enter each contents title on a separate line.

PUBLICATION: For published works, enter the earliest date of publication. The date must be complete: day, month, and year. Give the country the photographs were first published in, in the appropriate box. Give the year of completion in the appropriate box.

For unpublished photo collections you will only give the year of completion. The year of completion is for the collection which is the year the last work was completed in.

AUTHOR. All photos must be taken by the same photographer.

Select “Photograph(s)” for Author Created.

CLAIMANT: the claimant must the same for all the photographs.

RIGHTS & PERMISSIONS: optional.

CORRESPONDENT: required.

MAIL CERTIFICATE: required.

SPECIAL HANDLING: not for the pilot program.

CERTIFICATION: required.

REVIEW

DO NOT HIT SUBMIT. Save the information and E-mail me the Service Request number so I can look at it and let you know if changes need to be made before you submit.

DEPOSIT REQUIREMENTS: Be sure the files you wish to upload are on the list of acceptable files. As stated above the first submission is limited to no more than 250 photographs. We are requiring that you include a titles list as the first upload. For published photographs the list must include the complete date of publication for the titles.

For some additional information on copyrights and the law, check out Ken Kaminesky’s Copyright Posts.

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