An Open Letter to Oliver Letwin MP (Con)

Dear Mr Letwin,

I returned home from shopping this lunchtime to find a poor tree had died partly to fund an election “communication” from you , promoted on behalf of your campaign by a Mr Antony Stanley. My first thoughts were to return to sender with instructions on where one could shove it. However I have decided to respond in more detail.

Your election pamphlet was addressed to me here at the Vicarage. You see my wife is a vicar. In fact Mr Letwin you met my wife during the last election campaign. She was introduced to you in her capacity as a local Church minister in Charlton Down and you completely ignored her. Whatever merits or demerits your party may have I would never vote for someone so rude as to completely ignore and refuse to speak to someone in this way. Manners maketh the man and all that. (more…)

Happy #nondom Day

Every general election has certain days you know will be super important. Even now it only takes a word or two to evoke those memories – such as “Gemma’s Ear”. Today the Labour party gave us #nondom – a promise to stop the unfair system where some rich people can avoid paying tax in this country despite living here and earning money here. Whether this policy makes or loses money for the country seems less important to me than the issue of taxation in a fair and equal society. Labour’s pledge of removing non-dom tax status is a step towards a fairer society.

Why should Lord Rothermere – the owner of racist hate-rag The Daily Mail – spread his bile throughout the nation with his nasty paper, reap the financial rewards but not pay a fair amount of tax? It is unfair. It is that simple. I am not a Labour supporter. The two-faced Blair and his nasty war put an end to that. But for once a party is offering something that goes beyond an election bribe, but instead is about a principle. The principle of fairness is all too rare in today’s political climate. (more…)

Videogame Ghosts

Lack of interactivity is something I’m noticing more and more in games. It’s not that the worlds used to be more interactive – it’s that as the detail in games has increased the level of interactivity has not kept pace. So while the Paris of Assassin’s Creed Unity is a really amazing thing – I’ve spent house exploring it – after a while I felt like a ghost. So many games we move though these amazing worlds without being able to really reach out and touch them.

Perhaps these lonely avatars wandering though Paris or Chicago of Watch Dogs are a metaphor for a lonely generation. Unintended of course. But I want to be able to give money to a beggar in Watch Dogs, or just talk to someone in Unity, tell a busker they are great, hold someone’s hand.

So many games with amazing game worlds and the only time we can touch them is with a blade or a bullet.

Contrasting Days

My twins were eight years old yesterday. Eight. I can hardly believe it. Those eight years have passed so quickly and so slowly. It seems such a short time ago that I held them in my arms for the first time. So short a time since Lanie and I cooed over Patrick as he breathed the open air for the first time. Pat had a slight issue with his breathing for the first few minutes and it sounded like he was saying “ello, ello”. Or as we waited an eternity for Kitty to show signs of life – silent, still, no signs of life for a few seconds. Seconds that seemed an eternity, then she burst into life with a lamb-like cry that had the whole room moved. The struggles of the previous year forgotten as we held our twin babies, our pride and joy. I have never felt as happy as that moment. To see the smile on Lanie’s face, the relief there and the love for our new little family. I shut my eyes right now and picture it. One of life’s most perfect moments.

That was the day we celebrated yesterday. A day very much to celebrate. The day I became a grown up. The day I became a father. A father of twins, no less. I fussed around during the day yesterday. I made them pizzas, I bought a little cake and some other treats. I helped with Lego constructions. I took photos while they opened presents and took in their joy for my own. These children are becoming funny clever people that are wonderful to be around. So today was worthy of celebrating them. I am so very proud of them. (more…)

Lent Sacrifice

I’m not a spiritual person – I don’t give up things for lent as a religious observance. However this year I’ve joined my wife in giving up Twitter and Facebook for lent.

FB is easy. I don’t use it much anyway, there’s only so much bullshit “pass this on” rubbish one can take. “Friends are wonderful, if you have a friend share this to show how much you love them”, “Parents are great, share this if you’re a parent”. You know, that kind of shite.

However I love the discourse of Twitter and already on day one I’m missing it. I’ve had to remove the Tweetdeck icon from my taskbar and from my browser just so I don’t automatically open the program by mistake.

I will likely still post on Twitter/FB without visiting and reading the sites purely because my blog can auto post, I can share links via my browser and I will share links from my Flickr photostream. But the traffic will be one way, it’s just auto stuff, not me getting properly involved in the streams.

I live a long way from my family and have no local friends. I maintain existing friendships via social media – mostly Twitter. So it will be interesting to see how I cope over the next few weeks. It’s an interesting experiment – watch as Harry is shorn of his social contact and slowly goes insane.

Front Element Dust – One Man’s Quest

Maybe others have done this before, but I want to relate a little story of how I solved an issue with my Fujinon 18-55mm and a persistent blob of dust on the inside of the front element.

I had this big piece of dust on the inside front element of the lenses. This didn’t adversely affect the image in any way but was annoying me. I believe it was a dust mite, it even seemed to move around a little and would come towards the edge of the lens when I shone a torch there. But I could not shift it completely, it kept returning to the front element.

I read some advice about killing mites in lenses by freezing. So I sealed the lens in a ziplock bag and put it in the freezer for a few hours. I didn’t release the lens from the bag until it had returned to room temperature. Whatever the dust blob was it didn’t move again after this. But it was still sat there in the middle of the front element. I had killed the beast but not shifted it.

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Camera Gear Forums & Obsession With Sharpness.

It is mad how much stock people put in sharpness. On camera gear forums it seems to be the aim for many people – they’ll post what they think is an amazing shot – because it is sharp, not because of the composition, light, subject etc. People rate lenses and cameras on how sharp they are as the primary factor. I think it’s all bonkers.

Back when I used to have a little film camera and all my prints were 6×4 I don’t remember anyone talking about sharpness. Being in focus yes, but nothing more. But now folks can look at 100% images on large monitors they become obsessed with the pixel sharpness, throwing away images that would make pretty large prints before sharpness was an issue – even if sharpness actually is one.

But that’s gear forums for you. Go somewhere more about the end product and there’s less focus (no pun intended) on sharpness. Go to places that are about the art of photography – sharpness much less of a thing there.

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Bishop David Walker on Poverty

I’ve read an excellent piece in today’s Guardian by Anglican bishop David Walker on the subject of the church’s recent head on collision with the Tories over poverty.

“Most of us would see service provision not just as an end in itself. It is equally the ground on which we stand to challenge and stimulate public sector provision, and our basis for offering a critique of dominant political narratives. Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts this latter in a typically telling phrase: “When you’ve fished enough people out of the river, it’s time to take a walk upstream and see who’s pushing them in.” And what seems to be casting people in ever increasing numbers into the waters is less a matter of specific policies and more about Britain’s scapegoat culture.”

You can read the article on the Guardian website. Obviously don’t read the comments underneath the article. Never read comments on newspaper websites.

Two Weeks With The Fujifilm X-E2 Camera

Two weeks ago I sold my Sony NEX-6 and various lenses and purchased a Fujifilm X-E2. I won’t go over the reasons why again as you can read them in this post. The camera came with the 18-55mm f2.8-4 zoom lens. I also picked up the 35mm f1.4 and 27mm f2.8 thanks to Fujifilm’s current very generous cashback offer that made the 27mm almost free.

Having shot with the new camera for a couple of weeks I’ve some insight to share about the shift over to Fujifilm from the Sony NEX system. Much of my experience is positive, though there are some negative points too. Overall my experience with the X-E2 is very positive so far and my issues with the system are relatively minor. Given Fujifilm’s commitment to offer regular firmware updates for its cameras these issues are also less important than they would be on a Sony system.

The area I’ve struggled most with isn’t software related but one of handling. The NEX-6 felt great in the hand, even more so than the three different Canon DSLRs I’ve owned. The X-E2 is less comfortable due to its rangefinder layout. There’s less to get hold of in the right hand than a DSLR or NEX camera. There is an official grip available but the price is rather obscene. There are some inexpensive unofficial grips available from China on ebay and I may pick one of those up.

My other issue with the handling is the eyecup. It’s just not deep enough to block strong sunlight coming from the right hand side. Switching to using my left eye with the viewfinder solves this but that is my weaker eye so isn’t preferable. I may have to bite the bullet and wear a peaked cap when I go shooting.

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Muddied and Bloodied at Burton Bradstock

Today is the first day of a new week. Our youngest is back at school following his bout of chicken pox. And that meant I could finally get on with some work. I had a lot to think about for a new project I’ve volunteered to complete so I decided to go for a walk to get my thoughts in order. I decided to head to Burton Bradstock for some bracing sea air and to get my thoughts in order.

It didn’t really work out that way. Instead I provided a great subject for an amusing gif – should anyone have been filming me. The wind was howling at Burton Bradstock this morning, the sea was wild and the air was extremely cold. Not a lot of thinking got done initially. I’d brought my camera along and walked up the east path from the beach to get a better view of my surroundings.

I wasn’t feeling inspired, even creatively with the camera nor with my thoughts on the report I had to write. Rejoining the path was where things went wrong. The ground was extremely muddy and stepping down a slope the grass gave way to the mud and I began to fall. During this fall I spun around and landed on my chest and face. (more…)