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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Hello from Bonaire

We got into Bonaire this evening just past sunset. It’s been a long day. I was up at 1:55 to get to Logan by 3:30; it was a good thing I was early because the line to check in was enormous; I didn’t have my boarding pass in hand until close til 4:30. Thankfully, the flight, which had been scheduled for 5:30, didn’t leave until close to 6; It was a good thing, because Jack, who’d been trapped in the check in line, just barely made the flight. Even better, they made up for the delay in transit, and we arrived in Houston nearly on time. 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.