The scary process of changing something vital to your business. Something which already works "just fine."

 I am not a particularly brave person when it comes to technical "progress." For many years most of us were in the position of being our own I.T. Directors and the experiences seem to have left many psychological scars. Some of my son's early memories of his dad with a computer come from the times that he would venture into the studio only to find me down on the floor, under the desk, with the chassis of some tower-type computer wide open and me muttering and swearing under my breath trying to track down SCSI conflicts or issues with aftermarket memory modules. 

In the earlier days of "computing" there were no real resources to consult on the web because the web didn't really exist for normal people back then. There was no recourse to go online and watch a video on YouTube because.....same. We learned by trial and error and via articles in printed magazines devoted to computing on various platforms. During the pre-historic days of computing the machinery was expensive and there were few people who could clearly claim to have "grown up" with the technology. In fact, there were far, far fewer people around who actually owned personal computers!

In those days new operating systems arrived on multiple floppy disks or, a few years later, on CD-ROMs. The process of updating a dodgy system was anything but straightforward and each upgrade came complete with incredibly frustrating, new incompatibilities. Many days of real work were sacrificed in the pursuit of just having a machine that would turn on and run with acceptable stability for even a day or so. In many more ways even the applications were fraught with perils galore. Imagine trying to figure out layers in PhotoShop for the first time after having used the program for several years before layers were even introduced! And no documentation. The book would come out months later...

Many machines were temporarily or permanently bricked after unsuccessful update attempts and no one was around to revive them. They sat as slowly deteriorating fossils of a time before ... support. 

Damn. Those were bleak times. At various junctures I am amazed that we didn't toss our hands up and decide not to embrace the demonic compromise that was....computerization. It's not as though film didn't work!

But I mention all this so you'll understand that those early memories, like some childhood trauma, haunt me to this day. I've been running an iMacPro for about 1.5 years and it's been remarkably stable. It never crashes. But I try never to give it any reason to crash. I try to make sure than only the most pure electricity is introduced to its power cord, even if that means the children go shoeless and hungry. I never turn the machine on without touching the rabbit foots dangling next to one of the hard drives; just for luck. I talked to one of the product engineers and wrested from him information about optimal performance temperatures and so for the last 1.5 years I've tried to keep the temperature around the computer at 66° Fahrenheit. Plus or minus half a degree. Once a week we burn sage outside the studio door and chant positive mantras to the computer. And all this is part of our effort with an Apple computer product. Can you imagine what we'd have to burn to keep a Windows machine even marginally usable? It boggles the mind. 

At any rate, last Fall Apple announced a big operating system upgrade. You could take your machine from "Catalina" to "Big Sur." Most of the benefits clustered around better security and better rejection of trackers and other forms of unwanted surveillance. Stuff/features that I value. I wanted to update right away but my computer therapist, my analyst and my psycho-therapist and my attorney all dissuaded me from the horror of being an "early adopter." 

Stories were seeping onto the web about updated computers slowing down to a crawl. Or of updates just failing altogether. Most stories recounted what seemed like a dystopian landscape of disappointment. Centers opened up to deal with SUD (system upgrade depression). Expert Counselors from the Windows world could only suggest their favorite remedies to Apple users: Cold Dominos Pizza and Mountain Dew.

Since my wanton attraction to cars tossed my work schedule into a deep fissure and diminished my work reliance on my desktop computer to nearly nothing last week I decided that I'd take the leap. I would either end up renouncing the bane of the 20th century (computers) or be elated by new capabilities and speed. I didn't even want to consider that there might be middle ground. That the update might work fine but there might be no discernible performance differences. 

I backed things up. I ran disk repairs on all hard drives. I pulled tons of trash off my internal SSD. I formatted a new, external SSD to run Time Machine and backed up all my critical files....again. And then, early Saturday when the bandwidth hog family was still slumbering away, dreaming of massive online multi-player games, I snuck out to the office and, making the sign of the cross over my heart many times (even though I am not Catholic) I pushed the right buttons, on screen, to begin the process. The upgrade to Big Sur. AKA: MacOS 11.2.3.

My anxiety was apparent from across the street. Dogs howled in fear. Birds fell dead in the street.  I put down my mug of hot but un-drunk coffee and grabbed a handful of Xanax instead. And then I spent the next two hours blearily watching the little "progress" bar slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, make its way across the center of an otherwise black screen. 

But....it was successful and everything is fine now and even my passwords and junk made it across the void. I'm breathing a sigh of relief and will probably have to take the rest of the week off to recover. 

Maybe a retreat to one of those places where everyone meditates all day and no one speaks for a week.

Naw. I'd never make it.

Around Austin with a comfortable camera and lens.

Stay human. Stay.

I was certainly out of sorts yesterday. Probably not enough high intensity billiard workouts. Or too much pondering about cars. So, when I feel drained and directionless I think the best thing for me to do is to grab a life-affirming camera and lens combination and go for a long walk. Lately my walks have been getting longer and longer. Not the length of time but the distance. I'm averaging about 4 miles now and I blame my Apple Watch for that. It keeps track of my activity and my goals and I'm always trying to beat its expectations. Yesterday I gave up and strapped on a cheap, dumb, Timex. It has three functions. It keeps track of hours passing, minutes passing and seconds ticking by. That's about it. And it's an old one; I have to wind it if I want to use it. 

I brought along an SL2 and a Contax 28mm Zeiss Distagon that works on the L-mount with an adapter. It's such a pleasure using a manual focus lens if there's no pressing schedule or breathless assignment. You can kind of wing it if you want to. I set my manual 28mm to f8.0, focus it to about six feet, and just assume that most of the stuff I point the camera at will be in focus. If it's egregiously mis-focused I might intervene. But sometimes I might not. 

Austin was an odd mix yesterday. Half the people were masked and half were not. There was no really logic or rationale to the distribution of maskers to non-maskers; certainly nothing by age or any other demographic that I could divine. Just a random distribution of human data points. A stochastic mix of lip and non-lip people peppering the urban landscape.

There is a large art work downtown called, Tau Ceti at 2nd St. and Brazos. It attracts photographers and their "models." Today it was busy. People were lining up to photograph their loved ones against Austin's largest piece of outdoor art. I don't have a photo to show of the whole work but it's pretty easy to Google. 

I loved the image of the guy with his dog. And then I looked over to my right and saw that he had a whole pack of very, very obedient dogs just waiting patiently on the side lines waiting their turn on "stage." 

Phone-tography assessment at Tau Ceti art. 

These guys were having a blast photographing each other in front of the soaring, painted mural. I saw them checking stuff out on a phone and went to photograph them. They looked up and smiled but I wanted the shot where everyone is checking out the results of their "shoot." I shot some frames and then asked them to replicate their stance the way I first saw it. They were incredibly cooperative and one took the time to ask, "Is that a Leica?" I should have hung out at Tau Ceti longer because people were getting really creative. And everyone had such a nice vibe. But I like to keep moving so off I went. 

Now that's a tagline you don't see much. 

If you get nervous about the safety of your camera gear, or if you are uncomfortable with combative street people and people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs (and therefore not very predictable...) you might not want to walk down East Sixth St. You will be accosted for money and occasionally you will be the target of some loud and aggressive verbal abuse. But as the story about the Dalai Lama goes, you should run toward the snarling dog. (metaphorically). If fear keeps you from taking your camera somewhere that fear shows and I think it creates a victim persona that actually attracts unwanted attention. My attitude is that if you fear for your gear you probably shouldn't take it to the places that cause you that kind of duress. 

My take is that the camera is part of me and it goes with me everywhere. If keep track of my personal security correctly it's rare that anyone hassles me. If someone asks me a question I always answer. If someone greets me I always return the greeting. It seems more dismissive to ignore someone than to answer them honestly. And directly. 

As the weather warms up more and more people are out on the sidewalks and some small number of them are just relentless about making trouble. But there's a difference between people who unfortunately find themselves temporarily homeless, and people with addiction and/or mental health issues. It's the unpredictable people what you need to keep track of as you glide through the space. Being confident and at ease seems always to be the best strategy. You should always know where everyone is around you. And be alert. Calmly alert.

But East Sixth Street is part of my walking route and I don't plan on changing it. Even if it does get a little uncomfortable from time to time. Dicey areas are a great argument for keeping your gear minimal and portable. No big camera bags (do people still walk around with big camera bags? I don't see people doing that much in Austin now...) and just one camera + lens and you'll be quicker and more agile. But the fear of loss? Naw. That's not really a concern.

Austin has now been officially overtaken by scooters.

By the time I finished my walk I was refreshed and ready to get back to business. Just finishing up some job details here and working through some routine document shredding. Tomorrow the new car gets delivered, swim practice happens, blog writing continues and preparation for a photo job at Esther's Follies (comedy theater) gets done. Wednesday is a "shoot day" with a super talented troupe of actors and I'm so looking forward to it. Something new to think about and write about.