Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

As far as I know, being the one of the first in my family to be born in the US, no one in my family has served in the US military. Since my extended family is so large, I don't know if any of my relatives have served in the military in the Philippines, either. Growing up, I didn't know what Labor Day, or Memorial Day, or Veterans Day were about. That makes this post a little difficult, since I don't really have a good frame of reference other than the internet. And we all know how impartial and balanced the information is on the 'net, right? Right.

So in doing a bit of very casual research, I found it interesting that there has been some discussion about the fact that Memorial Day is actually May 30, but that in 1971 the observance was moved to the last Monday in May, so as to give us all a three day weekend. I am sure there were more noble reasons than that, but then, we live in a day and age where tourism can dictate the first day of school, so what do I know?

Leading the charge is a distinguished serviceman who looks an awful lot like my late dad or at the very least an uncle of some sort, US Senator Inouye (HI). He's introduced a bill to change Memorial Day back to it's original date. According to, Mr. Inouye has re-introduced the bill every two years since 1989 and more often than not, the bill has faded away without co-sponsorship. What impresses me is that Mr. Inouye is himself a veteran, who lost his right arm in WWII. He was the first American of Japenese descent to serve in either House of Congress. As far as credibility is concerned, I would trust this man to represent how veterans would want their lives commorated by the nation they serve.

I am actually surprised that there isn't more momentum behind this, just in terms of getting another day off. I assume that businesses and schools don't want to deal with the extra time off, but wouldn't that translate in more money being spent somewhere else? My guess is that as a nation, we don't seem to be very comfortable with the idea of death. And the notions of death and sacrifice are even more unsettling. How do you pay your respects to that? What would a national day of mourning like without it being a specific person, like a past president? Look at what happens now with Martin Luther King, Jr. day - it's a day off but that doesn't mean that everyone knows or appreciates why it's a holiday.

I confess to enjoying days off, no matter what the reason. I would like to think of Memorial Day as a sort of Thanksgiving, where the hardships endured by many brave men and women helped shape our country. I may not like the reasons or politics behind why a person would join the military or how their time, talent or effort is utilized, but I can certainly try to honor their memory and to remember their sacrifice as well as the sacrifice made by their family and loved ones.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

RIP, Fuji Finepix Z1

*sigh* I am all for shiny brand new toys and I am not always able to resist the allure of being an early adopter, but I must say, I really did enjoy using my Fuji Finepix Z1, now a technologically ancient 2 years old. I have a fourth gen version on order at Best Buy since they hadn't managed to fix my "zoom error." When we purchased the Z1 back in 2005, we also paid an extra $50 for what the sales person assured us would protect my hefty investment (~ $350) from droppage, plagues of locusts, etc. After the first bump, I immediately took it in and fudged the facts a bit once the Geek Squad person dryly informed me that the Product Service Policy (PSP) did no such thing - it was merely an extension of the manufacturer's warranty, which incidentally, does not cover droppage or other natural occurances.

Thankfully, it was fixed for free, and then it suffered a small fall from my pocket again (on my birthday, no less!) So we took it in again and it got repaired again. Now normally, I would feel guily about supposedly duping Best Buy, but the truth is, the sales person duped me first. The policy never covered what he said it would (he's no longer at that store, by the way, I spoke with a manager who said that he would love to bop the folks who were using that tactic to sell PSPs). At this point, I was trying to use as much of the PSP to my advantage (under a spiffy "No Lemon" clause, if they couldn't fix my camera after three attempts and they deem it unrepairable, a PSP camera may be exchanged for one with comparable features and quality, though not necessarily price), since I am quite certain that I am still paying interest on it or something else that I charged in order to pay for it, somewhere (ah, the credit card/cash/food shell game! But that's another post...)

By the by, I waffle between feeling resentful and sorry for the Geek Squad folks at Best Buy - there are never enough of them, they have to wear what must be a somewhat uncomfortable outfit that I am sure is 50% + polyesther for durability, and clearly they are denied any sort of happiness. It just seems like the epitome of a soul-sucking job. And they have deal with some of the more computer clueless people in this world who know just enough to be not quite dangerous but think they do. On the other hand, there is a certain level of condescension and lack of creative thinking that seems to translate into mediocre customer service. Especially since there is usually no shortage of the blue-shirted Best Buy folk, who clearly have been threatened with having to wear a button down and tie if they so much as greet a person waiting for one of the Geek Squad folk.

Needless to say, Best Buy now has two levels of PSPs, one of which covers routine clumsiness. Good thing too, since the motor for the zoom sits in the same corner as the lens, which means that gravity naturally seems to pull that corner to the ground when it falls. Hence, the constant "Zoom Error." If that baby is even a tiny bit out of whack and not seated properly, the zoom won't go. I spent a good six months or so having to close and reopen the lens cover to get the error to reset and to somehow, magically, coax the lens or whatever, to take a seat and behave. Clearly, when I drop my camera I should either strap a cat or some buttered toast to it so that it drops flat. Now that I've paid extra for the added protection, I am bound not to drop this puppy - ever.

After playing with all of the floor models, the Fuji Finepix Z5 won out. It's got a nice heft, thanks to the all-metal body. As far as cameras go, it's not breaking new ground, as some of the reviews will attest, and it doesn't have the largest number of pixels. However, as I learned with the Z1, it's not just the pixel count, but how it gets used. Many of the shots I have taken on the Z1 were really good and have withstood being cropped or blown up to larger sizes. Geoffrey's been very sweet to encourage me to get my own DSLR (the job allows me to rather freely play with a great Canon Rebel XT), but I wanted something that could be chucked in a bag or used discretely without having to lug out a larger camera.

However, I wasn't going with the in-stock bright pink, no matter how many Hello Kitty totchkes I may own. One of the big reasons I had not replaced my Z1 (other than cost) was because it was the only iteration (one of my favorite words, it just has a satisfying crunch to it, don't you think? iteration) that came in black. Sexy, shiny, spying-for-some-secret-organization, black. I also couldn't bear going with the "Mocha Brown" version. Brown and Pink might be hot now, but what will I wear with it next year? (that's actually a joke, I don't consider myself that fashionable, though the amount I spend yearly on clothes might contradict that).

Best Buy has a great in-store display devoted to the Z5, though oddly enough it's not something that has caught on here in the States as much as it seems to have elsewhere. Perhaps it's because only the pink version is in stock. For all of the other cameras, the pink or red versions are special order only. According to many of the reviews I read, which were primarily from the UK, it's quite the little fashion accessory, and it's low light settings make it perfect for clubbing.

Thankfully, somewhere between the Z1 and Z5 the need for an additional dock was eliminated and a traditional tripod mount can be used on the underside of the camera. Since the Z1 didn't really lock into the dock, the thought of balancing a shallow tray with my camera onto a tripod just seemed silly. This means I can now get one of those Gorilla Pods. I am hoping that many of the things I loved about my Z1 have been carried forward in the Z5 though I am sure with the perverse nature of consumerism being what it is, a black version is just around the corner.

^_^ Liza

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Chicago Trip

IMG 0219
Originally uploaded by Kodamakitty.

I dragged Geoffrey to Chicago last weekend to see Jonathan Coulton with Paul and Storm at Schubas, near Wrigley Park. Parking was a nightmare, but the show was a lot of fun. I've posted pictures on my flickr page. Paul and Storm mentioned me in their blog. The geek crush list keeps growing - I have a soft spot for men who can harmonize intentionally.

But ultmately, my geek love goes to Geoffrey for driving me out there, dealing with vague and mysterious Google maps (that I-41 is odd), not to mention the exhorbitant cost of lodging, gas and meals. In exchange for being my personal chauffeur, I agreed to not bring my laptop - it was truly an almost four day vacation from the internets, with the exception of a short trip to the Miracle Mile Apple Store.

We did manage to spend a day in and around Chicago and it was nice. It makes me believe that Detroit will get back to that someday. I know it sounds naive and there was many many forces against such as thing, but I've just gotta believe, you know?

^_^ Liza

Friday, May 25, 2007

Oh yeah, summer's just around the corner

Hello all;

Here's a little something to get you chair dancing: the new Maroon 5 single, "Makes me wonder." I had heard it on the radio and it took a few times of trying to catch the artist before the connection came through. I don't even really care about the words - it's catchy and very much reminds me of growing up in a house that always seemed to have a radio on. My dad really loved pop radio, so I grew up with whatever was current during the 80's and very early 90's. It reminiscent of so many songs, but most importantly, it's that infectious pop song that you know will be playing all summer long. It just makes me want to dance (which means that it should be a good one for you, Darling24/7!)


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Some of my best work

Marie and Jerry
Originally uploaded by Kodamakitty.

I don't really call myself a photographer. Not yet, anyway - I *think* I am getting there. What I do know is that I love taking pictures, and I am constantly amazed at what turns out and how well.

(By the way, I happen to think of my liking taking photos as a great example of sublimation - my mom would designate me as our family's photographer with the admonition that I had to take at least one shot of each person, preferably solo, and specifically in landscape or portrait, depending on which way the openings went in her album that year. It was very much a "love it or leave it," scenario. After a while, like 10 years or so, it just became a matter of course.)

As some of you may know from Geoffrey's blog, his grandfather, Jerry, is in the nursing home under hospice for liver cancer. Jerry is 87 and by most accounts he's had a good life and has cheated death at least three or four times. He's also infamous for being a tiny bit curmudgeonly and a lot stubborn. So it's no surprise that he's getting through each day, but for his family it's hard to watch him fade away.

Which brings me to this picture. Taken in July of 2006, it's the quintessential Jerry and Marie photo and a rare one where they are both smiling. Marie had cracked up that I had decided to have an indoor picnic, which is where the red and white checkered tablecloth came from, along with a big wicker basket. Given the family's Italian/Irish/European mix, it all just seems so, well, them. Even the wood paneling and the knick knack shelf seem just right.

I gave everyone copies of this photo for Christmas and Geoff's mom lent hers to Jerry to keep at his bedside. I do believe in prayers and providence and a huge helping of luck as well as at the very least, I can make people laugh when I take their picture. Whatever you may call any great big good thing at play in the universe, it's hard to deny that I was blessed to be in the right place, at the right time, with the just right amount of lighting and that I didn't cast a huge shadow (my back is to a large sliding door).

This is how I will always remember Marie and Jerry.