Last Day

Today was the last day of diving. My flight leaves tomorrow at 3:30, so I wanted to be out of the water by 3.

Most of us had not yet taken all of our boat dives, so Paul was able to reserve a boat for two tanks this morning. The first site was Country Garden, to the north of the resort. Country Garden has a number of large coral outcroppings. Under one of them, the guide pointed out a very large sea lobster that put most of our New England lobsters to shame.

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Karpata, Knife, and Oil Slick Leap

Fourteen years ago, near the end of my first trip here, we visited Karpata, a shore dive on the northern end of the island. You go down a number of concrete steps to the shoreline, and there’s an abandoned building up above. I remember liking the dive, and have been wanting to do it ever since, but for one reason or another, never have.

Today, I finally made it happen. We had an open morning, so after checking to see if anyone else was interested, I headed up there by myself. We were scheduled for boat dives at one, so I made sure to leave early enough to get up there, do a dive, and get back  by 11:30.

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Shore Diving

We had no boat dives booked today, so today was shore diving day.

The initial plan was to go to Salt Pier in the morning, do one dive there, and another dive also at the southern end of the island, and then figure out what to do in the afternoon. Mike and I were talking about doing Karpata, despite the fact that Paul had mentioned doing it Thursday morning.

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Diving Begins

Today was the first day of diving for the half of the group that arrived through Houston yesterday. We had a brief re-orientation from Augusto, the manager of dive operations here; everyone in the group had been here before, so he just highlighted a couple of changes, and reminded us of the park rules. Then it was time to get in the water. Continue reading

This Year’s Tree

2017 Christmas tree

2017 Christmas tree

I got this year’s Christmas tree relatively early. We were expecting rain and snow later in the week, and I figured most of the trees for sale this year had already been cut anyway. So one day in the first week of December, I went over to  the garden center to pick up a tree. I found this one, well shaped and thick, and brought it home, and set it in a pan of water out in the garage for a couple of days. The person at the garden center put a fresh cut on the end. Continue reading

Upgrading my Laptop

When I first bought this laptop three years ago, I really wanted to buy it with a one terabyte Solid State Drive (SSD). It was replacing a laptop with a nearly full 500 GB hard drive. I was buying it in a hurry, because the old laptop died, and I thought long and hard about ordering one with a larger SSD. I finally decided I couldn’t wait to order one custom-built, and I couldn’t afford the nearly $3000 price tag at that time. I’d been out of work for a couple of months in the summer, and it was nearly Christmas. I decided I’d go with a 500GB SSD.

As it turned out, when I migrated my data, I picked up about 50 GB of space, probably from deleting unneeded logs. Still, my photo collection continued to grow, and I offloaded my iTunes library to an external hard drive. This helped for a while, but once again space was getting tight. I’d already removed everything I easily could.

I did a little looking, and found that I could swap out my factory 500 GB SSD for a one terabyte model. I ordered the OWC Aura Pro X Complete SSD from MacSales. There was a video showing the upgrade procedure and it looked straightforward and something I could handle. The kit came with the special pentalobe and  Torx screwdrivers needed to open the laptop case and remove the old SSD, and an enclosure to put the factory SSD into, to make it easy to transfer over my data.

The physical upgrade was the easy part. You have to use the five-pointed pentalobe screwdriver to remove the 10 tiny little screws holding the bottom of the computer in place. Then the battery has to be disconnected, the old SSD removed, and the new one slid into place and screwed down. While I had the computer open, I noticed a thick layer of dust clinging to the fans, and blew them out with some canned air.

The next step was to put the original SSD in the enclosure that came with the kit, so that it could be used as an external drive. Easy-peasy.

Getting the computer back up and running was the hard part. I plugged in the now-external hard drive and started it up, and nothing happened. Fortunately, I had the iPad, and was able to do a re-read the data transfer instructions. The next step was to try to start the computer in Recovery Mode, by starting up while holding down Command (⌘)-R. It connected to the internet, downloaded what it needed, and then showed the OS X Utilities. Unfortunately, neither the new internal SSD or the old external SSD showed up in the disk list. Fortunately, I tried reinstalling the OS, and when it did, it became clear: Recovery Mode was set up for Yosemite, and both SSDs were formatted in the new APFS (Apple File System) format, which Yosemite doesn’t recognize.

Back to the web. I had to figure out how to get the High Sierra version of Recovery Mode. Fortunately I found this support document on Apple’s site. With a computer like mine, that’s been upgraded, macOS Recovery will recover different versions of macOS depending on which keys you hold down when starting up. When you hold down Command (⌘)-R, as I’d done before, you get the version that originally came with the computer. This is why I’d gotten the Yosemite installer. What I wanted was Option-Command-R, which upgrades the computer to the most recent version of the OS available for the computer.

Once I did that, I got the High Sierra version of the macOS Utilities, which recognized both SSDs. I reformatted the new SSD, installed High Sierra on it, and checked permissions. Then I rebooted the computer and ran Migration Assistant on it to transfer the data from the old SSD to the new one. It was interesting to see how much faster Migration Assistant ran this time, copying data between two SSDs rather the Time Capsule and an SSD. When it first started up, it said it would take about an hour and a half to transfer the data, but the estimates quickly dropped. I’m not sure exactly how long it took because I had to go out and get the ice off the driveway.

So far, so good. The process was bumpier than I anticipated, but once I got to the High Sierra installer, I was pretty much able to run through the steps MacSales outlined on their website. It seems to have copied everything successfully, including my Keychain with my stored passwords, and now I don’t need to worry about filling up the computer when I import pictures.

For now.

Making of a Christmas Card, 2017

I’m not exactly sure where the idea for this year’s Christmas card came from. I started mulling it over in late November. Last year’s Snow Globe was easy and successful, but I wanted something more than just a picture of a Christmas decoration. I wasn’t sure if I wanted a scenic, but I couldn’t think of anything in my library that would suit. Finally, I remembered the tradition of leaving a snack out for Santa, and everything fell into place. I’d imply a scene of Santa relaxing, taking off his hat, having a sip of his milk, and taking a bite out of his cookies. The actual scene would be the hat, the milk, and the cookies. Once I had the idea, it simply became a matter of shooting it.

I tried two different approaches. The first was on a small table from the living room, shot in the arch between the dining and living rooms, with the dark living room behind the scene. I chose that spot because I could bounce flash off the white dining room ceiling. The second approach was to use the same table top studio that I used for the snow globe last year.

I placed the table and scene in the arch, and then started shooting without the flash, to just get a sense of how to frame the scene, and place the items in it. Then I put some milk in the glass, added some cookies to the plate, attached the flash, and started shooting. Once I finished, I set up the table top studio, placed the scene inside it, and took some more pictures.  After a few shots, I decided the hat needed to be a little “peakier” and placed a can inside to make it stand up some. After shooting some more scenes, it was time to see what I’d gotten.

They weren’t good.

Truth be told, I actually liked the very first, test shot I took best.

The very first shot

I liked the clean look of this frame, and the “Old Master” feel of the existing light and dark background. In addition, I decided I liked the original placement of the hat best. Unfortunately, this frame was handheld, so there is motion blur, and it’s a test shot, so I hadn’t placed the milk or cookies yet.

I reshot it the next night. This time, I didn’t bother with the flash; instead, I used the tripod. I tried to replicate the look of the hat, used a nicer glass for the milk, (after taking a sip of it) and a more festive plate. This time, I came up with a shot I was happy with:

I then took the picture into Photoshop for some relatively minor modifications. Because of the existing light, the milk and plate were kind of yellowy-green. The inner part of the hat needed to be lightened up. And finally, I noticed that the top of the table had some scratches in it; after all the dust and scratches I’ve retouched out of slides, fixing the table was a piece of cake. Finally, I added a rough, deckle edged mask to the edges of the picture.

I then took the picture into Pages. I made a copy of last year’s card layout, placed the picture into it; and experimented with the placement and font of the text.

For some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me before to see if this printer supported two-sided printing, so I’d been in the habit of using two layouts, and running them in batches. This year, the light bulb went off; I checked, and sure enough, the printer supports it. So I changed the card layout to two pages and ran them off two-sided. When I think of all the years I spent feeding card stock sheet by sheet into a balky printer, this was so quick and easy.

2017 Christmas Card

Merry Christmas everyone.

M*A*S*H Main Titles

One thing I left out of the last post was a little game I play with myself — how quickly can I figure out “Which season an episode is from?” Although a lot of the footage from M*A*S*H’s main title was shot for the pilot, changes in cast required periodic alterations.

Pilot

Unlike the rest of the series, the pilot does not begin with the main title; instead, it begins with a montage of off-duty scenes of hijinks, which ends when Radar hears some incoming choppers. The main title then begins, a more extended version of what was used for the rest of the series. There are “funny” scenes of people leaving their tents, and the process of getting wounded off the helicopters is shown in more detail.

Seasons 1 – 3

The series uses the same main title for the first three years. Jamie Farr and William Christopher are not listed. You can spot this version as soon as Alan Alda’s credit appears — cast member names are in a much smaller font than the title “M*A*S*H”.

Season 4

The cast changes in Season 4 required revisions to the main title. Mike Farrell replaces Wayne Rogers in second spot, and Harry Morgan replaces McLean Stevenson. Jamie Farr was added to the main title in this season.

You can tell this is a post-original cast episode as soon as Alan Alda’s credit appears; cast member names are now only slightly smaller than “M*A*S*H”.

The two things that make this season unique are the shot of BJ, and the absence of William Christopher’s credit. In this season, they use a straight on shot of Mike Farrell running straight toward the camera.

Season 5

In this season, they replace the running shot of BJ with one of him by the side of the helicopter, saying “He’s OK”. This shot would be used for both seasons 5 and 6.

In this season, William Christopher gains his name in the title; in addition, Executive Producer Gene Reynolds gets a credit — the only year a non-cast member’s name would be shown.

Season 6

This season replaces Larry Linville’s credit with David Ogden Stiers.

Season 7

Season 7 is the year BJ grew his mustache, so they replaced his season 5 shot with a new one of him with the mustache, kind of popping up into the frame.

This season is the last one with Radar, so this the last year the main title begins with a shot over his shoulders looking out toward the mountains toward the incoming choppers; this version is the only one with this shot and BJ’s mustache.

Season 8 and Beyond

With Gary Burghoff gone, the main title now starts with a newer, aerial shot of helicopters flying over the mountains. There are a few season 8 episodes with inserted shots of Radar on R & R, plus his farewell episodes; these have an additional credit added, “with Gary Burghoff as Radar”.

I’m not sure if visually, the main title changed beyond that for seasons 9, 10 and 11; I have noticed that different seasons do seem to have slightly different arrangements of the theme. It would not surprise me if there were minor differences in some of the shots as well.