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Thursday, 26 January 2023


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Here’s David Foster Wallace on chess and chess pieces:


I've sparked some thoughts on someone else's blog! Pleased and amazed. Thanks Mike!

The posing thoughts could have springboarded to a much longer comment, but when writing I often mind the adage, "brevity is the soul of wit."

No, I don't think you would be a poser buying that, or any other chess set. Nobody would think you were trying to be a better chess player by buying a fancy chess set. Back in the day I eyed some very fancy chess sets. They would be dust collecting show pieces, because I didn't play that often.

I don't get the collecting bug, but I get that people have it. I ended up with a bit of it completely by accident. Down in the basement there's nearly a full set of Isaac Asimov's SF magazines from inception (late 77) to mid 80's that are of no value to anyone except a collector. Or an old Mac Cube and big Cinema display monitor that is gathering dust. I'm still looking for the keyboard and mouse, and then hope to find a collector. They have their uses...

Back to bikes. Yes, for triathlon, lighter is better, and you'll be happier on a better bike. But there is no substitute for time in the saddle to become a better rider.

We see this with cameras. There's lots of people with cameras that are amazingly good, and they still can't take a good photo to save their lives. Are they posers? I think that's a bit of a grey area. I think it comes down to intent. To me, the key question is, are they pretending to be better than they are?

The anti-pose thought is an interesting one I hadn't considered. I put my hand up. Guilty. I love taking photos with two old film cameras, a Canon 7, and a Fujica GW690. MMM all the way!

And those two golfers? Posers through and through.

I wonder with cameras - does the less skilled photographer benefit more from the “latest and greatest” than the more skilled experienced photographer? That comes to mind because I have lots of friends who are Ironman type age-groupers. For many of them that high end bike can make the difference between meeting the cut-off time or being removed from the race - from finishing or not.

I obsess over gear when I don't get to use it - shopping and comparing feels like you're doing something. So looking at missed shots and wondering if another stop, a newer sensor, or another 100mm would make a difference starts the race of 'what if?'

I bought several older DLSRs for Scouts to use when teaching Photography Merit Badge, and was so blown away by the Rebel SL1 - just a simple, fun camera. I keep wondering if I should teach a retro version of the badge, on film...but having sold many of my film cameras, I'd have to get more...

Oh. Turns out I just enjoy playing with the silly things along with the separate hobby of photography.

Wow - is this analogy good. Even as a mediocre cyclist, you need good stuff. You do not need Shimano XTR, but yes, it should be a relatively high tier component group.
However, if you are really a crappy cyclist, for whom 5 kilometers distance are already a lot, then you can get by with the cheapest stuff.

Watch "Free solo" to see your rock climbing example fall apart.

[I will never, ever watch "Free solo." Except if I have to go to hell. --Scared of Heights Mike]

I am currently in the middle of a project that questions the virtues of "good enough" versus "state of the art".
My 20 year old Sony 400 disc changer just fell over dead. It was great in it's day but it is the size of a microwave and is a horror show to program which does not matter because nobody who repairs audio gear will even return my call when I tell them what I need to have fixed.
So I am sitting here patiently ripping 350 or so discs onto my computer with plans to buy a digital audio player (DAP) and drag them over.
I am getting a lot of advice on how to do this, mostly saying that I need to go loseless with a FLAC codec and then convert to whatever format the player I choose uses.
I took a little time to compare discs ripped using lossless and 320kb MP3 and my 73 year old ears can't tell the difference. Both are fine. I suspect Butters can tell them apart but not me.
So when I get all the discs on to a hard drive I'm going to pick up a DAP and get busy.
I am getting some advice on which player to buy and again the wisdom is trying to empty my bank account. Most likely I will land on a Surfans F20 for about $125. Add a zero to that and you are in the ballpark for the recommendations I am getting.
So here goes, a cheap player full of (gulp) MP3 files.
Will probably have to cancel my subscription to Stereophile but I'm a pensioner with hearing aids who needs to be reunited with Oscar Peterson ASAP.
In this case "good enough" feels, well "good enough".

I now have one of those bikes. It's not triathlon specific. It's an all 'rounder road bike. Which is also kind of too specific for my needs.

I knew I didn't need it. But I wanted it. And that's that. I actually chose a different bike based on an objective analysis of what I needed, and guess what that analysis was right and this cussed insistence that I get what I want was wrong.

(Bike tech doesn't trickle down quite like computers. Today's bike with third-tier components is as good as 15 year ago with top tier. And there are some dimensions where it is better (disc brakes and thru axles are simply better, fight me).)

We live in a world of specialization. One could argue how much that has advanced our capability in their various forms and use. The internet has allowed for research ad nauseam. When I was growing up, I played essentially all sports in the same pair of sneakers until they wore out. The local "shoe" store might have had two choices anyway. Now there is a sneaker for every imaginable activity. I was a good athlete. I am not sure I would have been any better in a "specialized" shoe.

I understand and appreciate the value of light-weight and aerodynamic bicycles when you are racing, but all my bicycles were bought for exercise so I never spent a dime on reduced weight. I enjoyed tinkering with them so I probably overspent on durable frames and nicely made components but added weight was regarded as a feature not a drawback. The bike not the rider.
Mike Plews, I've been down the DAP road (more than once) and i think you'll regret ripping to MP3 vs FLAC. Ripping with EAC (Exact Audio Copy) couldn't be easier. If you are properly fitted with hearing aids, you should appreciate the difference, even if there's a bit of placebo effect in there somewhere. It's tough to get out of your mind that you're listening to a subset of the original signal. The CD sampling frequencies were not chosen arbitrarily. As for good value in a DAP, consider HiBy R3 Pro Sabre. It's around $200 and you'll be delighted.

Many years ago, I decided to try medium format photography. At the time a read a lot about the fact that 35 mm was good enough… not, I look at prints made from medium format and they are better than what I got from 35 mm.

At the time, I could not afford an Hasselblad, so I had a Kiev 80. It looked like an Hasselblad, but was the perfect demonstration of you get what you pay for.

Last year, I finally got a used Hasselblad 500 cm and it’s a pleasure to you use.

Next, maybe I will try a used Leica… are those lenses really so much better than anything else???

It gets back to the old question: want versus need.

If money doesn't matter, and you just want it, then go ahead. If, like me, you're retired and debt free, then OK.

But ask yourself before you buy, do I really need this? Too many times I've bought something and used it for a while, then put it on the shelf. I didn't really need it. Maybe a donation to a worthwhile charity would be a better idea in the long run.

Posers? Its the little red dot syndrome

I can't recall where I heard it or even if I got the wording right: if you own a camera you must be a photographer; if you own a violin---well, you own a violin.

Hi Mike, after reading some of the comments, and your response, I wonder if those who deride someone as a "poser" ("poseur" from the French) are likely more motivated by envy? As with most things, a higher specification instrument will allow better results regardless of ability. Why not get the best one can afford, as long as it relates to the inner nature of the individual and not merely just buying the "best" or stepping on the GAS? ie. Rather than the "best" camera or bicycle (ect.), get the instrument that achieves the results you desire. I think you went through this on your recent journey to finding your Sigma camera.

Well chess, my introduction was early in my college career when a friend asked me to play with him. After a quick run thru the rules we started. He would let me do whatever I was doing for a while then All of a sudden he would make a couple of moves and I would be done. This went on for a few weeks until another friend clued me in that he was the then current Florida state champion! In subsequent years I have played other less skilled opponents with reasonable success, but not for many years.
On to chess sets. On a shelf in my shop with a substantial layer of sawdust on it is a box containing a custom made set of chess pieces. They were given to me by an artist friend as “payment??” For something I did for him. The problem is they are substantially oversized and would require my building a custom table with an appropriately sized grid for these pieces which is not a priority for space allocation in my very small house which I must admit is somewhat overtaken with old film cameras.

Reminds me that I have two beautiful chess sets: one I bought in a souk in Damascus, Syria, and one my wife picked up in Tajikistan. I wouldn't even think of using either of them. When I play chess, I use cheap plastic pieces.

Wish I could be the same with photography...

About 5 years ago I bought a used 40+ MP mirrorless full frame camera from the local camera shop. I got home and discovered an SD card inside it. The jpegs were awfully composed. Photos of a loved one were lifeless and dull. It goes to show that an excellent tool doesn’t substitute for a lack of skill, nor of imagination.

Keith says it right: you can’t be a poser if you’re not posing. I have an Olympus E-M1.3, and I’m a pretty good photographer who uses enough of the features to make it worthwhile. Are my photographs any better because I use that rather than the E-M5.3 I also own? Not at all. Sometimes it’s easier to get the shot, however.

I also drive a Porsche 911 but would never dream of driving it on a track (well maybe dream, but never execute). But I get visceral pleasure out of driving the car, feeling its responsiveness, admiring its lines. Am I posing? I don’t think so; I never brag to anyone about the car, I never race the idiot driver gunning his engine next to me at the stop light. I’m just an old guy who can afford a nice thing and enjoys it.

Well, yes, if you have a nice chess set on display in your home, I believe the most logical assumption is that you play chess, rather than the opposite :)

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