HOME STRETCH

I’ve managed to simultaneously ignore my blog and crank out my doctoral dissertation in the last 5 months.  The last weekend I just submitted my first draft of my entire doctoral dissertation to my supervisor. Its been one hell of a ride. The pessimist in me notes that there will be a giant plethora of problems, but I’ll let my anxiety do its thing anyways. I spent most of the time leading up to our trip to Portugal (which I havent posted) coding my interviews- 8 of them. I later realized that I didnt need to do 8- I did 2 more than recommended. Yay. This should be good for data saturation. Following September, I had a massive meeting with several department professors, switching my primary supervisor and then gaining a new professor in my doctoral committee. What was really promising was that my new primary supervisor specializes in my research method, qualitative research, so that was a nice plus. Following this, I had some more coding to go- met my primary about 1.5 months later and had everything coded, and a final coding structure. Primary supervisor approved this data, decided I didn’t need anymore data and gave me the go ahead to start writing. This was maybe in November first week- I cranked hard and finished paper 2 of 3 with my research methodologies by the New Years and sent that off- I cranked hard during the holiday week especially. This was maybe a harder paper for me, because I was trying to articulate my actual research behavior in a format that wasn’t just me saying what I was doing in a conversational format. Come New Years, got the paper edits within a week from my amaze prof and the edits were all small things. Started paper 3 of 3. That was tough. I initially wrote my results out, had a bit of a hard time breaking the results in a cohesive format, dropped all my literature review I did back in summer 2019 and that covered maybe 2/3 of the paper. I did the remaining 1/3 of the lit search afterwards- thank goodness for Google Scholar and APA citation for fast citation support. And then after grinding out a little bit each day and missing out on countless things with family and friends, and feeling like I always had something to do, I sent that mother of a paper in. And now I rest. Its really weird not to have this giant thing grinding at me- I’m sure when the edits come I’ll have a task again, but wow.

That was not the only thing I have been up to this last half year. I grabbed some new equipment- namely I grabbed a Sony a700, Sony’s second DSLR and first enthusiast DSLR, and the Sony 16-50 F2.8 lens. Its been AMAZE- the body handles so well- as well as I remember when I was debating DSLR bodies back when I got my first DSLR, the Nikon D90 in 2009 (the a700 was announced in 2007). I’m a huge fan of the grip and button placement- the front and rear dials in particular feel great- even with a moderately jumpy rear dial on exposure compensation. The body is a solid magnesium alloy as well. Buttons are monstrous huge. It definitely could have used a top level LCD but I’ll let it live. The sensor is actually remarkably clean for its time- this was when ISO 800 was an impressive level of sensitivity. The lens also impresses me- it has a unique characteristic that doesn’t immediately scream APSC sized sensor to me, or ultra clean modern sensor- it has a feel to it. The a700 also focuses impressively fast, even compared to modern cameras- on the screw driven Zeiss 16-80mm it focuses well enough. Its generally a good enough body that I am now hunting for an a850 or a900 full frame A-mount body to compliment my a99, rather than an a99 ii for the moment. Another nicety this year was that in the last two months, I figured out a fix for my 70-300 G SSM II a-mount lens. For a bit of a saga, it broke down while I was shooting H in a skating rink. No rough handling, no moisture or water damage. I figured something happened with the cold, but a talk with a local McBain buddy noted it was unlikely that was cold enough to cause issues. I was also careful about transitioning from the cold to the warm. Basically the AF would start to fail after zooming in and out. It has just finished the little warranty it had as a used camera, and credit card warranty wouldn’t cover it. McBain sent it in for niceities on their own dollar to their repair shop for an estimate- it came out to well beyond 1500 CDN as an estimate, and it had to go to Sony Japan, because the Cdn repair shop couldn’t figure out what to do. So it came back, and I used it intermittently. Thankfully, talking to some a-mount shooters gave me some ideas- the likely problem was not a failing AF motor as I suspected, but rather the contact points were likely to blame on the lens and body. Somebody mentioned the shift from the contact points being on the upper end vs bottom end of the lens mount from a to e mount, and that if there was an issue, the weight of the lens may pull the contacts away from each other on a-mount. Low and behold, after a simple push/pressure on the lens towards the upper end, it started to work again! I’ve had the lens on several shoots now and the AF has been reliable and excellent so far. I actually really love this lens- the rendering is very nice, and the tracking is fast , smooth and quiet. Its weird to have a premium 70-300 lens, as they are usually cheapo two kit lens bundles, but this is a solid lens- Canon has an equivalent L lens and DO lens as well in this type. Anyways, I’m happy its working.

Oh and I got an a7 mark I body for half off on clearance! That was fun. I initially managed to make a transaction go through for in store pick up, but after a week of wallowing, I got a cancellation order saying there was no stock. Well, low and behold when I walk into the store, I stumble upon a mint a7 body! The cashier gives me a bit of grief saying there’s no chance to get my camera because the sale is done, and there’s no point talking to the manager. Well the manager walks by, overhears the discussion, sees my email of the pending pick up that was cancelled and here I am with the body. Of course, I would have preferred the mark II which is why I turned down a few tasty sales for the mark i in the past- but the allure at this price point was just too much. Thoughts- the a7 body handles very well- I was surprised that the front/rear control dials have been changed on the mark ii and up- the mark i dials are my preferred versions. Its really nice to have both a rear control dial and an exposure compensation dial built in. Overall, the build and handling is great, but I still prefer the a99 for its larger body and better balance with large lenses. I can’t imagine shooting the 135mm Zeiss on this body a7. Of course, some of the newer FE designs have actually managed to cut the fat somehow- like the 24mm f1.4 GM, and those balance wonderfully on the a7 bodies. Unfortunately, the demand is high on the FE lenses and prices on used equipment are still quite high. I’m likely at some point to build up an FE collection, but for the time being, I’m still focusing on A-mount and will use the adapters on the a7. I am interested in a 24-240mm FE lens though. Having an all in one lens is very nice for convenience, and the low light ability of the a7 despite being quite old, is good enough to compensate for the slower aperture.

Intermittent fasting has generally been pretty good- I’ve been experimenting with skipping lunch on top of breakfast on some days and that’s been really interesting. I definitely get a small kick when I finally get to eat, and thats been a nice endorphin rush for me. Recently in the realm of health, I have been running with Nike Vapor Max shoes- after buying my first pair that was more of a lifestyle shoe with high tops, I grabbed the Run utility version and really enjoyed them more than the typical Air Max I run with. Well, there was a family and friend sale that ended up giving me a significant discount on the Vapor Max and I ended up with three more pairs. It was then I realized that the Run Utility seems to fit better for running on my feet- the Vapor Max Plus pairs and Air Max 720s I bought were fun but they don’t seem to quite click for me with running. Still really enjoy them. I’ve also realized a third type of run I can do in the winter inside- stairs, interval training, slow steady pace and faster steady pace- the latter is running at 6mph for 30 min, ending at 3 mi- about 5.46 km on my watch. Its a nice sweat that is tough, but not quite as tough as interval training. I’ve also been running with an Apple Watch Series 4-44mm and nike Run Club. Its been nice being back on NRC- that was my first run app I used with the Nike plus watch as my first fitness watch. I managed to get a wild discount on this watch on clearance, and so far its been loads better than my Polar M600 Google Wear watch for smart watch capabilites- and it can track distance on treadmill which my old Nike plus watch could do, but not the m600. What is hilarious and BAD is that Apple watch and third party apps have not figured out lap time tracking, after 5 generations of the watch, and Nike a prime partner. I just cannot believe they have not figured that out. So the m600 stays as my stairs/strength training fitness watch, because it helps me track my sets- I absolutely hate messing my sets up and having a watch track that is super helpful (i used to use a pad and paper before, but I’m done with that). I especially like seeing how much rest time has elapsed, how much time per set, time elapsed overall,  and how many reps I’ve done- this helps me keep track if I am slacking too much. I just cannot believe Apple health in all its glory and focus of smart watches (being really just notifications and health) have no freaking laptime management. Anyways, now I’m wearing two smart watches like an idiot. But I really love having the NRC complications showing me my total month run time. Its nice. I also grabbed a pair of Adidas RPT-01- yes that is the very uncatchy name of the headphone, for workouts- I’m not sure what it was- maybe it was marketing showing everyone lifting heavy with big overear cans. Anyways, at some point I got interested in the Rock headphones by JBL, which is a rebrand of their Under Armor JBL headphone collab (marketing going wild here). I was deciding between these JBLs, a pair of Plantronic over ears that were not available in Canada (that had a cool tightening mechanism for harder workouts to stay stable), and the Adidads cans. Actually now that I think about it, it was a review of the Plantronics that got me interested in these types of workout headphones (marketing shifting to review articles vs ads). The Adidas cans were by far the more aesthetic looking pair- especially the mottled cloth color that I love. Being based off the Zound headphone group was a bit of a turn down for me- this is the company that makes the Marshall headphones and Urban Ears headphones- while they havent been reviewed horribly, I am not a fan of simple rebrands. So knowing the Adidas was a rebrand was not a plus for me- but the reviews of decent sound had me interested. I wasn’t looking for an audiophile can either. Just something to help me get hyped during a big lift. Anyways, I found these cans to be generally pretty decent, the clamping force a bit stronger than I would like, but overall fitting the mold of my gym gear getting me hyped. Its part of my psyche walking into a lift I suppose. Or marketing. I think its marketing.

I bought an Asus Zen Pro Duo- I had wanted to upgrade my laptop to a modern machine, and I was pretty stuck on a 15 inch plus model- ideally 17 if I could. I realized that I really love multi tasking on larger screens, and even if the screen was high resolution, a smaller screen was still harder to work with (i.e. 13 inch ultrabook). I was between a few models- the Asus Zephyrus series had a 2080 RTX maxQ GPU that I found quite appealing, an innovative cooling design, premium build quality, and a nice look overall, but was a humbug 1080 IPS screen that was a dime a dozen and on my last new laptop from like 9 years ago, and while the cooling design was nice, there was a lot of shifted real estate that was awkward for just cooling, and a keyboard that has little feedback.  The MAcbook 16 was newly redesigned, generally better cooling (but further reading suggests otherwise regarding thermal throttling) relative to last gen 15 inch Pro, good keyboard (but not amazing- just its old membrane keyboard it used to have before the shite butterfly switches), amazing speakers, a decent screen (but not like mindblowing), decent power, a 16:10 screen that I quite enjoy a lot, but was limited by a ho hum design (I’m pretty tired of the unibody design overall), a GPU that was somewhat forgettable and definitely nowhere near the 2080 GPU, and a feeling that I was overpaying for nothing gained really. The Macbook Pro did not elicit the magic I felt when I got my first mac, the iBook 14 inch G4 back in 2004, where unpacking that thing felt like I was breaking out a new world. This current 16 inch was just …just another OSX machine. I liked the Razer 17 for its 2080, with better cooling, 16:10 aspect ratio screen….but the poor reports of build quality and ho hum screen scared me away. I think the last machine I was eyeing was the HP Spectre 15 x360- the bold gold and brown design really stuck out to me, but the u-processor, ho hum GPU and lack of pizazz besides a good aesthetic also killed it for me. Finally, I liked the dual screen of the Asus Vivobook 15, but the really ho hum design and second screen in the trackpad making it seem more gimmicky seemed like a meh point to me. So then I ended with the Asus Pro Duo Zenbook- the lower contrast/brightness second IPS screen has been totally fine for me in the last while and definitely helps with multi-tasking. I have been using it in particular with my writing, having multiple references open and writing with the New Window feature in Office to work on multiple parts of the same paper at the same time. It also lets me watch my specs while I game- which is the second point about this machine- the RTX 2060 NON-maxQ edition is really amazing. I definitely would have loved a 2080, but the 2080 max Q in the Zephyrus turns out is underclocked enough that in certain games, the 2060 performs on par or better. The cool blue dual screen design of this laptop is definitely a head turner and something I like in my computers. The bottom shifted keyboard actually hasn’t been too bad in use- although I think I would have preferred a straight numeric keyboard instead of teh hybrid touchpad/keypad. Key travel isn’t too bad at all, although it doesn’t compare to my favorite keyboard, the Thinkpad X301 where the travel is far more generous and satisying to type on. I also wish the speakers wouldn’t be some hum drum- they aren’t bad, but for something labeled as Harmon Kardon, and remembering how much I liked the HK speakers on my Toshiba M45 from years ago, this is just meh. And particularly compared to teh six (!) speaker set up on the Macbook Pro 16, these speakers are just meh. It has helped me appreciate my collection of classic sony near field speaker collection though, so thats been nice- i’ve set them up to use my old Creative xmod USB soundcard and its been an enjoyable ride, especially with all the dark techno music I’ve been listening to while typing. The bad thing about this machine is that it absolutely smokes my desktop and now I feel like I want to upgrade that pokey machine.

I’ve been playing a ton of games with H these last few weeks- board games seems to be a right fit for her age right now, and its been a wonderful bonding experience. Were doing a lot of the Nuts and Bolts/at her level/First level of the Incredible Years Parenting Pyramid program together and that’s been nice. For once at night time she is calling out for me instead of mom! That’s been really interesting. I thought Monopoly might be too much, but the junior version actually makes it pretty straight forward to play, although H has already lost the dice. TBH I never actually knew how to play Monopoly- I think E and I would just buy stuff until we got bored going around the board when I was young. I’m interested in grabbing Blockus in particular too. That is a fun game. I’ve debated playing Tekken with H, because I think she would like the controller, but I don’t want too much screen time associated with her play time. I’ve read a few theories on screen time and ADHD symptoms and before I was brushing it off as part of the bah humbug technology attitude, but the reasoning seems to make sense- the nervous system is overwired from stimuli and has less ability to handle stress/stimuli/focus afterwards. When you think of how successful Fortnite has been and how much stimuli/change it has with each season and costumes in comparison to something like Overwatch, its pretty crazy. No wonder kids are getting into massive tantrums after a gaming session. Meanwhile, I’m into Diablo 3 right now because my computer can handle it and I have enjoyed not dealing with real life and doing escapsim here. I’ve really liked the witch doctor- something about using the dark arts against the dark arts really makes me excited. I recall vaguely in my licensing exam that people prefer when the villian comes for good in storylines, or was that in my industrial organizational section where people get buy in when they see somebody who is negative come for good. I don’t remember. I just like throwing jars of spiders and my zombie dogs at my enemies.

W and I have had some time to go to a few places- we went to cibo bistro for the first time in downtown, after enjoying their sister restaurant in SP for some time. The affair is definitely different- its more fine dining in the downtown location, whereas the SP location focuses on street food. I found the three course meal to be generally pretty good- the service was just excellent- very very friendly waitress who made the night very enjoyable. The food was interesting- I thought the appetizer was actually the stand out dish- the beef noodle (yes I don’t remember the finer words for the dish) had two very distinct beef and tomato flavors that came out strongly, as opposed to just spices, while the parmesan ravioli was bursting with cheese flavor (good thing I’m not a food critic). The main dish was a bit forgettable- W had the fish and I had the pork- i honestly can’t remember too much about them. The atmosphere was overall pretty nice- people watching was also interesting- the table across from us had a poor bloke who got there at reservation time around 6, his date didn’t show up until 640 and the double date didn’t show up until 655, and I think they started eating at like 715.

Its getting warmer out there- 8 degrees this weekend. I’m looking forward to a run outside if  the ice is gone.

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