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I will soon be at 1,000 photos on Instagram. I’m pretty sure that will happen a few days before January 16th, when the world will end and we all have to quit our accounts.

 

You’d have to have been in a cave for the last 24 hours to have not been aware of the furor over Instagram’s proposed new terms of service. I admit that I enthusiastically joined in the hysteria, but I also actually read the document in question. That doesn’t make me better than anybody else for sure, and I also have three and a half weeks to wait and see how it all pans out.

 

Instagram and social media have come up in a few of my last several posts. I’m not going to get up on some soapbox about this. Anybody who ignores the fact that these “services” that we freely join and freely (both literally and figuratively) give our lives away to are actually businesses that want to turn a profit, is living in a delusional dream world. These sites do not exist as a public service. It is our responsibility to actually read the terms of service that we blindly agree to. That we did not read them is not a legitimate reason for outrage when these terms change. And the changes will likely be to our personal detriment, because businesses are out for themselves, not us. They don’t owe us anything.

 

I don’t even remember what my main reason was for starting this post. I think I wanted to say that I will continue to enjoy Instagram, at least until January 16 when the proposed changes (in whatever form they end up) take effect. As with the various changes that Facebook has tried to implement and then quite often had to back peddle on, I’m figuring that the same will likely occur with these updates to Instagram’s policies.

 

Perhaps the most interesting thing I’ve heard on the subject came from CNN this morning. Whoever they were interviewing said that like Facebook had previously, Instagram threw, say, five changes out there. Now they’ve seen which one thing users reacted most strongly to (in this case, the perception that Instagram is saying that they will henceforth sell users’ photos with no notification or compensation to the user) and will modify that one, and the other four will kind of fly under the radar.

 

I guess what I wish is that fine print wasn’t written in legalize. Rather than saying “Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service…,” why can’t they (or anybody else) just say, “We’ll pretend that you own your content, but we’re still going to retain the right to do whatever the hell we want to with it.”?

 

Like I said, I don’t know why I was fired up to write anything tonight. I don’t care that Instagram might start showing me ads, or that they might put my face on self-promotion within the app, just like Facebook tries to do with suggestions or promoted content. We users forget that profitability is the end goal. Regarding Instagram in particular, I’d gladly pay a number of dollars to buy an ad-free version of the app, and I’d most likely also gladly pay a nominal monthly subscription. “Photographers” and “purists” may scoff at one-tap filter apps for the masses, but you know what? It’s fun! And Instagram, unlike other photo-editing apps (such as Camera+ and Snapseed, both of which I also adore, particularly Snapseed (never got into Hipstamatic, I confess to a certain amount of hypocritical snobbery on that front)) has a fantastic social aspect, even prior to their acquisition by Facebook. I have some lovely new friends in London, Munich, and Toowoomba, Australia. Where? Exactly.

 

I hope that I won’t have to quit the amazingly friendly and creative community that is Instagram. I’m confident that willn’t be the case. Please.
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I feel like I might have mentioned this before in my blogging life, but I’m really glad that the desk I sit at for eight hours a day affords me a window view. And I’ve been having lots of fun with that view via my #watertowerweather series on Instagram.

This I know I’ve mentioned, that at one point in college, I was a meteorology major until the actual science got in the way. But my fascination with the weather has never waned. My work window faces the direction from which the weather comes and Instagram has been providing an outlet for the ever changing views that I’m privy to. In addition, a building in that view has a throwback watertower on the roof, and that has become the framing device for my Instagram photos.

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As I am writing this, I have going on the television Part 1 of the new Ken Burns documentary, “The Dust Bowl.” I was going to turn it off because, though the photos are dramatic, I haven’t heard anything in the narration that isn’t depressing or despairing, and that’s depressing and despairing. But then I decided that I should leave it on (even if it is uncomfortable) and perhaps add a crumb to my woefully lacking knowledge of American history, particularly from the last one hundred years. I learn a little about the World Wars from the shows on Masterpiece Theatre, but that’s not from an American perspective.

One of the women interviewed for the program, who was a child at the time, related that they knew that “we were being visited by Oklahoma today or we were being visited by New Mexico today” because the dirt from each place was a different color. (1)

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There was also a “plague of rabbits” when their natural coyote predators were wiped out, The landowners would round up the jackrabbits and cull them, pretty much by grabbing them and clubbing their heads. I perked up when I heard the rabbits part but was rather repulsed by the footage of what happened subsequently. (2)

The Dust Bowl program put in perspective my recreational and harmless views out my office window. The approaching weather is certainly dramatic sometimes, particularly in the summer (especially that one time when a nascent tornado passed across our building), but it will never be the horror of an approaching “black blizzard.”

(1) Dust storm photo is from spydersden’s blog article, which provides a good, short overview of the crisis.

(2) Jackrabbit images are screen captures from the Ken Burns PBS documentary “The Dust Bowl.” I suspect it’s all public domain footage, but I’ll cite it anyway.

Gotham, I miss you

October 31, 2012

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You have probably gotten bored with my Twitter feed recently, because my tweets are likely a link to my latest Instagram photo or my latest Untappd beer check-in. Let’s talk about Instagram. Ooh, and this choice of topic is, I see, a bit serendipitous (if I may stretch the meaning of the word) because in just seven days, on November 6, I will have been using this service for two years. I’m lucky that I have friends in Silicon Valley who cause me to early-adopt many things.

When I started, I do confess that I went into it with the attitude, “oh good, another social network.” I was fully entrenched in Facebook where I did, and do, share photos liberally. I wondered why I needed to participate in a network that was strictly about sharing photos. It took me a while to figure out why it mattered, and even longer to hit my stride and even longer to develop a style. My early photos were, admittedly, nothing special (my very first Instagram photo leads off this post). And yet some of those initial efforts remain some of my favorites in my Instagram career. See the photos below.
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Despite some mediocre at best photos, what Instagram did for me was cause me to take photos with an eye toward art, rather than indiscriminately tapping away because it’s digital and I’m not wasting film. Originally, I was one hundred percent an Instagram purest in that I only used my iPhone to take the photos, I framed the shots within Instagram’s viewfinder, and edited them only within Instagram. My iPhone is my de facto camera and though I have since given up on taking the photo within Instagram, I remain steadfastly adamant that I only edit within Instagram using a built-in filter. It pains me on those rare occasions when I simply must adjust the contrast or highlight/shadow in Snapseed or Camera+ before continuing in Instagram (I don’t count rotating slightly to straighten in Snapseed). It was very difficult recently when the assignment for the photo-a-day list in which I currently participate was “app-crazy.” That’s not to say I didn’t like the results (below), but that’s not how I use Instagram.

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There are three distinct evolutionary periods in my Instagram history. The first was the willy-nilly, do-anything era which, sort of unfortunately, lasted for my first year and a half. The second era was when I ceased using the photo borders that come with the filters. If I could always choose, say, a one-point black rule I might still frame my pictures. But around March 2012 it became evident to me that sometimes the borders didn’t always match what I wanted to accomplish with the image. If you can’t frame anything nice, don’t frame anything at all.

My third Instagram breakthrough came just three months ago in July 2012 when I comprehended the concept of photo series. I can thank @rabbitdan, @andrewdunc, and @mike_n5. They post bunches of photos of escalators, or hallways, or streets, or launderettes, or solo people in front of walls, any sort of similarly themed subject matter. I was a little slow off the blocks but now I, too, am in full series mode.

In a way, I suppose it’s a little bit the easy way out because I don’t have to think about some different “what” to photograph all the time, I just have to find some different one of the same kind that I haven’t previously shown in that way. But I don’t care. I like my series. Every so often a new one creeps in. Below, you will see my favorite photo from each one — parking ramps; my office building which happens to have been built in the late 1800s and is rich with interesting details; my second favorite subject, alleys; looking straight up at buildings, tall or small.

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But my favorite recurring theme is watertower weather. From my desk at work, I look out upon this small watertower atop a nearby building, which happens to be a mostly westerly view, which means the view of approaching weather. I think I’ve mentioned that I would have liked to major in meteorology in college but math and science got in the way. I have long had a fascination with the ever-changing view of the sky and big water, dating back to when I would visit my friend who lives on the south shore of Lake Erie. One winter visit in particular provided scintillating views of heavy weather and heavy waters. Observing the watertower and its sky satisfies some latent, meteorological need inside me.

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I do enjoy participating in a photo-a-day list. Sometimes, that gets me to get out of series mode and find a photo on something completely different. I’ve been finding, though, that with the list I currently follow, I can usually manipulate the topic to work within what I now feel is my “style.” I even was featured recently, which was gratifying.

Whether or not I actually am, I just feel more creative and artsy on Instagram. Please enjoy a few more of my favorites below.

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I interrupt my intended topic for this evening (which was to have been a report on my recent side-by-side comparison of my four favorite India Pale Ales) for a different, though still beer-related, narrative—the in-depth explanation of today’s freaky (in a good way) events which came to light due to the purchasing by two involved parties of Odell Brewing’s new special edition Woodcut No. 5 Belgian-Style Quad Ale.

The story begins innocently enough. I realized that I could follow my favorite businesses on social media to get inside scoops. I followed one of my local booze huts, Zipp’s Liquors, on Twitter. At some point, I must have gotten an @ reply to a comment or question about whether they carried something. My beer friendship with Tyler was born, because he’s very responsive with the tweets.

My California friends (you know, Rob and his circle; Rob, who used to go to Saint Sabrina’s to get pierced with Lauren; Lauren who instigated my actual getting of my rabbit tattoo) turned me on to Instagram. This is the part I really don’t remember—who betweeen Tyler and me found the other on Instagram, but we did.

Instagram plays faster and looser with your associations, because you see what your contacts have liked, and then it’s real easy for you to get carried away and start liking some of the same photos, and the next thing you know you’re following people you’ve never heard of. That’s how I connected with Jason. I began to notice that Tyler frequently liked Jason’s photos and that they usually involved beer. As you know, I love beer. So I began liking Jason’s beer photos and the next thing you know, Jason and I were following each other. And Tyler followed Rob, so I guess we’re even!

Then I got bold and followed Jason on Twitter, keeping my remarks by and large beer-related (though he is a creative like me, and I wish I had the time to start the morning with sketching). Today it transpired that Jason asked Odell Brewing when the Woodcut No. 5 was coming to Minnesota. Odell Todd replied that it should be here, then Tyler said he got it in at Zipp’s today. I said I’d be over after work. Jason said he’d be by after work. I was hoping we’d end up there at the same time so that we could introduce ourselves. No such luck.

I got home with my Woodcut and snapped the requisite self-portrait for proudly posting online—artfully posed in front of my wall of woodcut art that I’ve made myself, but not gotten all framed—though I never got around to uploading it to Facebook because I got distracted by being outside for an hour and a half yardening. At exactly the same time that I tweeted my photo, Jason tweeted that he had arrived home to find that his awesome wife Lisa had a Woodcut waiting for him. I was overcome with excitement for both myself and him, so I tweeted kudos directly to Lisa, who at that point was not a Twitter contact with me in either direction.

That’s when the Beerlight Zone revved up.

Lisa immediately followed me which tickled me because Jason hasn’t yet, which I thought he might by now but which doesn’t bother me that he doesn’t, because I can be stingy about accepting new contacts myself and I totally get it. Nevetheless, it pleased me to reciprocate with Lisa. And then the darnedest thing happened.

When you follow someone new, Twitter helpfully suggests a couple other people who it thinks you might like. Well, damned if one of those people wasn’t Katherine, my former co-worker! I freaked out, in a good way. Katherine left us to move to San Francisco, but we still adore her, and she’s still doing some work for us long-distance.

I immediately got the feeling that I had met Jason and Lisa at a happy hour last summer, in particular, the one that happened after we had an office outing to a Twins game and stopped off afterwards, and Katherine, Karl, and two couples friends of theirs had joined in. But you know what? Anticlimax. In re-envisioning the events just now, I realize that it wasn’t Katherine’s friends but my other co-worker Colleen’s friends and it had nothing to do with a Twins game.

But the freakiness stands. Me -> Tyler -> Jason -> we love beer & Odell -> Lisa -> Katherine -> me.

My parents don’t quite comprehend why I love what they see as impersonally interacting with my online peeps as much as I do. Other people who have rich in-person circles (not all of them, but some of them) don’t quite understand how 92/8 online/IRL (that’s just an estimate) can be just fine by me. Tonight’s occurrence shows part of the reason why. Well, at least it does to me.

 

Incidentally, I did not pop the cork on my Woodcut No. 5 tonight because it was not chilled when I bought it and also because, after yardening in 85F/30C temperatures, the nice, light Southern Tier Hop Sun was just what the doctor ordered. I’ll probably have the Woodcut on a Saturday night when I can make a nice meal to go with it (though not tomorrow because I’m making a curry and I don’t think it would pair well with that, and not next Saturday because I’ll be at the Twins game). Jason said it’s good. It’s Odell, so I assume that much on faith!

Hug a tree, in winter

December 21, 2010

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I am no tree hugger—well, maybe I am more than some people—but there are no fake plastic trees in my neighborhood! I will start you with this gratuitous rabbit shot. I have come to know that a rabbit lives around these outbuildings beside my home train station. As I am leaving the platform, I stop to locate the rabbit. Tonight, it was snowing again and the pine tree was dressed up for a picture postcard, and the rabbit was giving me a nice, rabbity profile.

It is a few days before Christmas and some have been moaning about all the snow we’ve gotten already this season and about how kind of cold it’s mostly been. Well, I say, if it’s going to be cold (which it is), it may as well snow (I realized tonight after posting a different missive that I probably use “might” and “may” incorrectly in the context of statements such as the previous. I shall endeavor to do better). Unfortunately, that tripped me up with regard to getting to bowling tonight.

Last Monday, after the roads were well cleared from the seventeen inches of snow we had over the weekend, it took me an hour to make a drive that usually takes me twenty minutes, tops. So today, as five to eight new inches were predicted, with the accumulation culminating during rush hour, aka drive to bowling time, I made the decision early not to drive my four-cylinder, lightweight, manual-transmission econobox in less than ideal conditions.

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On the other hand, the snow provides for wonderful visions of Mother Nature at her most beautiful, like in the opening photo, or in the photo above, from this year’s first snow in mid-November. For a day, it was a gorgeous winter wonderland. This is the lovely maple tree that’s in my front yard. It’s a beautiful tree, but it does throw a little too much shade on my gardening efforts in the warm season.

Other than the driving of my own car, which I only have to do twice a week for bowling, not commuting to work, you will be hard-pressed to get me to say negative things about winter. I like it.

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I will end by coming full-circle, with what you probably knew would have to creep in at some point. This is one of my two favorite shots I’ve produced so far with Instagram, the latest apply-a-filter app. These are other pine trees next to the train station, taken after the snow we had the first week of December.

Winter is beautiful. Oh, and one time only, I hugged a tree.

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April 2, 2010
June 10, 2010
November 13, 2010