New Camera

I’ve been interested in photography for some time, I remember the first camera I ever received was a high school graduation present from my parents. I spent the summer taking photos nonstop until I lost it sometime during my freshman year. I still have a photo album that basically consists of photos during that time frame.

A few years ago I purchased a Canon Powershot S95, a lovely little device. I posted a review of it on this blog way back in the day. Unfortunately it became a victim of my forgetfulness and intoxication at my friends’ Eric and Kelly’s wedding.

The decision to replace the camera was tough. I loved that thing and had spent $150 getting it repaired last summer. The problem was that I was finding my point and shoot needs being met with my iPhone 5, while not getting the artistic photos I wanted from the S95. It was either do without, or break down and buy a DSLR. If you know me, my decision was no surprise.

I bought the DSLR.

I went with a low-end Canon, the SL1, a very small and light crop-frame DSLR. It came with two lenses, the standard issue Canon 18 – 55 mm “kit” lens, as well as a low-end telephoto 55 – 250 telephoto zoom lens. All for under a grand. I didn’t do the usual amount of research before this purchase, but wanted a Canon for a few reasons: past positive experience and the ability to share lenses with friends that also have Canons.

It’s now been two months, and I’m having a blast with this camera. I think the best part of photography as a hobby is also the worst part: more and more gear. It’s the purchase that never stops needing more. More lenses, a bag, a tripod, more memory cards, more storage at home, better editting software, on and on. Let’s not forget the desire to go to new an interesting places to photograph.

Either way, I’m hoping to stick to this hobby, and maybe combine it with writing and blogging, something I don’t do enough of. So look forward to some more photos and posts on this blog, or you can always check out my Flickr photo screen http://www.flickr.com/photos/jesselynch/.

I’ll leave you with a few photos from my new toy.

Summer Squash

Fountain

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Rationalizations

Most decisions are emotional. We decide to do something or not do something based on our own feelings about the decision rather than weighing the pros and cons.

Rationalizations are facts that we make up post decision to justify that decision. They are the pros of the decision boosted to an absurd degree to justify our emotions and eliminate any creeping feelings of doubt.

Below are a few common rationalizations to decisions:
“I moved because the weather sucks where I used to live.”
“That new _____ has _____. I need to buy it because I need more _______”
“I broke up with her because I didn’t like her taste in music.”
“It was a once and a lifetime opportunity.”

I’m willing to bet that in almost everyone of the situations above the decision was based on an emotion (I want that new iPhone. I’m bored with the city I live in. I wasn’t attracted to her. Etc.).

The problem with rationalizations are exactly that. That they are rationalizations. They often come across thinly veiled and rather trite. It’s fine to make a decision and take an action, but be honest with yourself and others when you do it.

The good and bads news is that research has shown that in general, most decisions barely have an impact on your personal happiness in the long run. Moving for better weather won’t make you any happier long term because it neglects to take into account other aspects of the decision or the new destination. (Higher cost of living, worse traffic, hot summers, etc.).

However, research also shows that you are more likely to regret an inaction than an action. So keep making those decisions and moving forward with life because it really won’t matter in the long run. Just be careful with your rationalizations.

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My Grandpa Darrel Lynch: 1921 – 2013

Yesterday I attended the memorial service for my grandfather, Darrel Lynch. He died last week at the age of 92. It was a touching service, high lighted by my uncle Francis’s recap of his life and sharing of fond memories of the attendees.

In many ways, Darrel lived a remarkable life. He grew up in rural Missouri, without electricity. He earned several degrees, first teaching, then soil science, eventually getting a PHD and teaching all over North America before settling at North Illinois University as a professor of biology.

In the 92 years that Darrel lived, the world has changed greatly. I don’t any generation up until now has seen the world evolve as much as his. I remember him telling a story about his first neighbor that had electricity, and how as a child they would line up in a chain, flip a light switch, and feel the jolt of electricity run through each of them all the way down the line. Compare that to now, when we spend much of our time plugged into an electronic world.

The things that will always stand out to me about my grandfather was his remarkable sense of humor and his great intellect and love of knowledge and learning. He was a man that always saw the lighter side of life, and took great pleasure in joking and witty banter. He was an information sponge, and could engage you on just about any topic, something that I’ve always prided myself in as well. His nickname for me as a young child was “Motor mouth”, and anyone that knows me well would say that hasn’t changed.

He will be missed and not forgotten.

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Why My Life Kicks Ass

I think it’s important to remind ourselves about all the good things in our life. It’s easy to get lost in comparisons with other people’s lives. As they say, sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. I wanted to take a few minutes today to be appreciative and remind myself why I have it so good.

-I live in one of the best neighborhoods in the 3rd largest city in the wealthiest, most powerful nation on the planet. Chicago really is an amazing place. Like any where, it has it’s flaws, but if you want to live in a big city in the U.S. It’s hard to beat. Great culture, nice people, relatively low cost of living, awesome food, lots of job opportunities, there’s a million reason why its great.

-I have a great job. My job is really pretty awesome. Great company, benefits, quality of life, compensation, and super nice coworkers. And we get to travel and have flexibility to work remote and in other offices. Beyond the job itself, there are so many things that my job affords me to do. Like pay rent, buy new gadgets, eat awesome food, travel, etc. It’s the foundation of my own personal pyramid of needs.

-I have great friends. I’m blessed to have great friendships with people all over the country and right here in Chicago. And I’m not just referring to a acquaintances or an urban clique, but life long friendships. There are too many of them to count and too much to say about why they’ve been so important to me throughout my life.

-I have a great family. My family life hasn’t always been perfect. But for the most part, they are all wonderful people and have been incredibly supportive to me.

-I have my health. OK. Cliche, but it’s true. I have no serious medical issue and never have. My family is all really healthy and pretty long lived, even the ones that lived relatively unhealthy lifestyles. I’ve never seriously struggled with weight or food issues and can more or less eat what I want as long as I remain somewhat active.

-I regularly have amazing life experiences. Just over the last year or so I’ve traveled to the Bay Area three times, New York twice, LA, London, Colorado, Miami, and more. I saw a couple of kick ass concerts this year. I played with a baby tiger and went to the BCS National Championship. I rode a horse through Rocky Mountain National Park. I hiked the Hollywood sign in LA. Went wine tasting in Napa. Saw Stonehenge. Walked the Brooklyn Bridge. There are countless other experiences that I’ve had just courtesy of living in Chicago. Too many to name really.

-I have access to more media than I know what to do with. Anybody that knows me well knows that I’m a mediavore. For mediavores we live in an unparalleled time. I have access to more books, magazines, TV shows, film, and information than I know what to do with. Want to read the The Great Gatsby? I only need about 10 seconds to download it.

The list doesn’t stop here. But I’m sure you get the picture.

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Closed-Minded vs. Open-Minded

These terms are often thrown around when describing particularly people. I especially hear it in the dating world. “I’m looking for an open-minded person.” I found myself stewing on this today. What’s the difference?

My friend Chris penned a post similar to this a few years ago.

http://chriscoyier.net/2010/09/02/you-can-like-things/

His idea of liking things as a default is essentially the difference between open vs. close minded people. Closed-minded people’s default is to be negative and suspicious of new things. Open-minded people are open to new things and new ideas but make their judgement after they’ve experienced them. Its OK to hate something. But you need to try it first. And maybe try it again.

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Favorite Albums of All Time

When talking about media, I often throw out “that has to be a top five favorite movie/album/book/tv show of all time.” That statement is usually bullshit, because I’ve never sat down and listed out my top ten/five/two/twenty favorite of anything. So today here’s my attempt.

The Big List
Here’s my brainstorm list of my favorite albums. I’ll use this to rank them.

Coldplay – Parachutes
The Arcade Fire – Funeral
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago,
Pink Floyd – Darkside of the Moon
Pink Floyd – The Wall
RadioHead – OK Computer
RadioHead – The Bends
Nirvana – Unplugged
The Beatles – Let it Be
The Beatles – White Album
Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
Dave Brubeck – Time Out
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
Guns and Roses – Appetite for Destruction
Led Zeppelin – IV
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
Weezer – Blue Album
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Fox Trot
Wilco – A Ghost is Born

Top 5:*
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Coldplay – Parachutes
RadioHead – The Bends
Nirvana – Unplugged
Pink Floyd – The Wall

*This is subject to change and is not in any particular order. Please note, I don’t think these are “the best”, but rather my favorites.

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Jesse’s Best of 2011

So yeah, this took me forever to complete, but all selections, and most of the content was completed in January 2012. Same disclaimer as last year (I’m hardly an expert, blah blah…)

Best Movie

Best – The Artist

I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I thought I would. I was intimidated by the idea of sitting through a silent film. It took me ten minutes to settle in, but once I did I was captivated. In some ways the story was more powerful and better acted without dialogue. It’s an exercise in nonverbal communication.

And for the record, I wrote this opinion before it won best picture.

Runner Up -Drive

Hard for me to choose between Young Adult and Drive, however, I’ll give Drive the slight edge. Dark and captivating, Ryan Gosling delivered a solid performance while saying almost nothing. A must watch for 2011.

Honorable Mentions: Young Adult, Money Ball, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Best TV Show:

The Best: Game of Thrones Season 1- HBO

Did anyone doubt that I would list Game of Thrones? It was quite a year for George R.R. Martin. I’ve been reading this series since I was 17, and was thrilled to see an adaption by the best channel on TV. HBO did a great job of bringing this complex and bulky book to the small screen.

Runner Up – Breaking Bad Season 4 – AMC

Breaking Bad is quickly becoming one of my favorite TV shows of all time. And season 4 did not disappoint.

Honorable Mentions – Portlandia Season 1 and Sons of Anarchy Season 4

Best Album

Best – Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Far and away the best album of 2011 came from my boy from Eau Claire. An incredible follow up to his mind blowing first album, For Emma, Forever Ago. It’s hard to pick favorites on this album, but Holocene and Calgary top my list as best tracks. I also had the privilege of seeing Bon Iver live in concert this summer at the Chicago Theatre. Best concert I’ve seen this year.

Runner Up – Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Another solid album by one of my favorite bands. I also had the chance to see them this summer at The Pitchfork music festival.

Honorable Mentions: The Decemberists – The King is Dead, Wilco – The Whole Love

Best Novel

Best – Dance with Dragons – George R.R. Martin

Finally! This one was six years coming. It was great to have a new book in a series I’ve been reading for 17 years. While not the strongest of the series, I happy about the trajectory that the novels are moving in. I just wish they would move a little faster.

Runner Up – The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

Laugh it up. Yes, I loved the shit out of The Hunger Games. It’s not the most original plot, or the best written novel I’ve ever read. But…it’s entertaining and I loved the characters. I have to give credit to Suzanne Collins for writing a solid novel for young readers. I hope that this series brought the love of reading, just like The Three Investigators, Narnia, and The Hobbit did for me when I was a kid.

Best Non-Fiction Book:

Oops. Pathetically I did not finish one nonfiction book in 2011. I’m already well into one for 2012, so I hope to revive this category next year.

Best Gadget:

Best: iPhone 4 from Verizon

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It’s a little lame to go with something that’s was already 6 months old at the start of 2011, but Verizon’s iPhone 4 marked the first time that you could get an iPhone on a network besides AT&T. I bought this guy the day it came out. I have to admit, it may be the finest piece of hand held technology that I’ve ever owned. I know the 4S may be better, but I’m holding out for the 5th generation.

Runner Up: Sony HT CT-150 Home Theater System

After my old surround sound system died I needed something new. At around $300 this sucker was a deal. The sound is great, in my small apartment it can mimic a full five speaker surround system with sound effects coming from all directions. A great buy, especially in a small room.

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Things Fall Apart

Probably the most frustrating thing in life is when things break. Especially electronics. I spend all this money on a product and suddenly it doesn’t work. Or at least work the way I want it to. Generally this is how it goes:

Step 1: You buy something awesome that you don’t need and is way out of your price range.
Step 2: After two days you completely can’t live with out said product. “OMG. How did a live before I bought an iPod/iPhone/iPad/Macbook Air/AppleTV/Sony Surround Sound System? You complete me.”
Step 3: You drop/break/get wet/discover a stuck button/lose your beloved device.
Step 4: Total melt down.
Step 5: Frantic web search on said problem. That is if you still have a functioning internet capable device.
Step 6: A visit to your local Apple Store or hours on the phone with customer support. “What do you mean this isn’t covered under my warranty? I need to pay $700 for a new iPhone?”
Step 7:Total melt down.
Step 8: Acceptance. This can go several different ways. You either replace it, go without, or try to fix it yourself. I’ve done the fix it yourself approach. It’s almost as maddening as the problem in the first place. It’s not really acceptance. And living it without is no longer a real option for me. So I pony up the $700. There goes another vacation.

Sometimes I think we’d be better off without all this technological crap…Oh fuck it. Who am I kidding? I love this stuff. I just wish it would never break. Or at least wait until I’m eligible for an upgrade and am actively looking for an excuse to upgrade. Then by all means, fall apart.

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Coffee

I notice that my coffee consumption goes up drastically during the winter and fall. My theory is that it’s caused by lack of sunshine. People need the caffeine to stay awake. Ever notice that most cities associated with coffee drinking are in dark/cold/rainy climates? Vienna and Seattle come to mind. Apparently Chicago is not far off the list of heaviest coffee drinking cities in the U.S.

The other reason could be the cold. In the summer I drink more diet sodas for my afternoon pick-me-up. Hot beverages on a hot afternoon don’t make sense. And I don’t do iced coffee.

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My iTunes Match First Impressions

I took the iTunes Match plunge this week. I was anticipating the service as Apple enthusiast and a commuter who listens to music in several different locations. Since the demise/theft of my iPod Classic, I have only been able to access my full music library from home.

I was initially frustrated with the service, but with a few days under my belt I’m warming to it. Pros and Cons below:

Pros

  • Access to your whole iTunes library on up to ten devices. For me that includes my Macbook, iPhone 4, iPad 1G Wifi, Apple TV, and work Windows 7 PC.
  • Inexpensive at only $25 a year
  • Plenty of storage space for my music collection, which is about 6,000 songs
  • High quality audio content
  • Access to Genius Mixes from several locations

Cons

  • iOS Device downloading and streaming can be a huge pain. iTunes Match initially deletes all the music on your iOS device, and forces you to manually re-download each song. There’s really not an easy way to do this. And since 3G speeds can be spotty and slow, it’s too difficult to download as you go. Especially if you listen to your music in the subway or on a plane without access to the cloud. Data limits can be a huge problem as well. My best work around has been to set up a playlist with all the music you want on the iOS device and download all while sleeping. This isn’t full proof either, since your iPhone will occasionally time out and ask for a password. You also have to turn off auto lock. It would have been much better if Match could have just read your current library and filled in the missing songs with the cloud icons.
  • No adding audio files manually. Related to the above, but still annoying.
  • No audio files over 200mbs. Not a huge deal, but I have a couple of home grown audio books with huge files. I need to figure out a way to edit these files myself.
  • iTunes Match is buggy as hell in Windows. It continually timed out and froze while initially communicating with the cloud. I had to let it sit in the “not responding” stage until it finished. I’m blaming both Windows and iTunes equally. But I think it’s something Apple should have figured out prior to launch.
  • Doesn’t store podcasts in the cloud. You still need to manually sinc your device if you are a podcast enthusiast.

I know their seems to be more cons than pros, however, I still think iTunes Match is a worthwhile and overall beneficial service. It just has a few bugs and requires a little more initial set up than I would have expected from Apple.

I think my biggest disappointment is that iTunes Match doesn’t “just work”. Something I’ve gotten spoiled with since my switch to Apple products. It doesn’t quite feel ready for the prime time. This worries me that one of the first major product releases since the passing of Steve Jobs came out this buggy.

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