Pondering on Travel Photos

Note: Yes, it’s another post that was written ages ago and never published! Now revel in the glory of it and the questionable quality within!

We’ve all done it: gone on a trip somewhere and then spit out a few hundred snapshots to post online. Except you’ll never look at these again, and nobody else will either.

After years of experimenting and tweaking my editing of vacation photos, I’ve eventually settled on the idea that you should take around 100 photos a day, and aim to publish up to 10 of these. Of these 10/day, perhaps 3 or four should be “you” shots: pictures of yourself or other people you know. This keeps the photo album size manageable, the people shots add a much-needed personal touch, and forces you to only pick photos that add something unique to the album while helping document your trip for (let’s be real here) your own future use.

When I spent a month in Italy, the resulting Flickr album clocked in at a hefty 646 photos. That’s not too bad, as the average is only 20 pictures a day. But remember that most of this time was spent in Rome, so when you factor in these days had much less photos taken, every day spent travelling away from Rome was actually getting much higher shot rates.

The next two European trips saw published photo rates of around 40/day: atrocious! After those episodes I started realizing that you need to make a decision about what photos you take when travelling: are you going to document the entire experience, or instead try to pick the highlights that others may have missed? I realized I actually fell into the latter camp. If a photo wasn’t outstanding, it wasn’t published. After that, I saw my publish rates fall to 15 or 16 photos a day. It wasn’t perfect, but I was starting to like the results: the album was useful and enjoyable (I think) for anyone viewing it who may be interested.

The 10/day formula isn’t set in stone, and open to lots of interpretation. It’s an average overall, and includes travel days between locations. If you’re moving around every day or two, this average may go up a bit to 15/day, and that’s okay! If you’re settling in and relaxing, this number may dip into single digits. 10/day isn’t a hard and fast rule, and I use it as a general guideline when editing photos. If I can say “yes” when I ask myself that it’s one of the top 10% photos I took that day, and if I can say “yes” that I’d be okay with hanging this photo on my wall, then it’s probably worth publishing.

An Ode to the Breda Trolleybus

Let us pause for a moment to pay tribute to the old workhorses of the King County Metro Trolleybus fleet as they slowly trek towards a well-earned retirement. Originally designed as dual-mode, the 60′ Breda DuoBus 350 has seen more-or-less continual service in Seattle since 1990.

Dual mode, you say? Yes! When I was in elementary school, I fondly remember taking one of the 80s-colored Bredas in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) when it was in Trolley mode, and as it left the tunnel converting into diesel power for the remainder of the route. As the DSTT was converted in the mid 2000s for service as a mixed-mode Light Rail and bus tunnel, the electrified wires of the Trolleybuses were removed and as Diesel-Electric buses became cleaner, the Bredas were converted into full-time trolley mode.

While only 59 existed in the fleet, these articulated beasts were well-known sights to residents of the U-District, Capitol Hill, Downtown, South Seattle, Wallingford, and Ballard.

Many bus stories exist about this resilient model. Their routes were heavy with traffic and well-used. They often carried a full load. I’ve never been quite clear if they were air-conditioned or not, but if they were it was frequently ineffective in the summer as the buses got their very noticeable “Breda” scent.

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They were selfless buses of the people

And they sometimes got T-Boned by cars.

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They often, through no fault of their own, ran in convoys.

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Sometimes they came in pairs

And they were, of course, prone to break down as they rapidly aged. The planned replacement of the then 18-year old fleet was delayed by the recession and as they entered their second decade of service, a tow was a common sight.

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As the Purple and Gold clad New Flyer Xcelsior XT60 fleet slowly replaces the Bredas, we look forward to a new low-floor future while fondly, and not so-fondly, remembering the fleet that carried us for countless journeys.

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(Heading image of post taken by Nikkormat FTn. 50mm f/1.4.)

Riding U-Link: Observations

Riding the new ULink extension of Sound Transit’s Central Link Light Rail, I went from petting Minerva the cat in Capitol Hill to standing in the UW’s Red Square in 31 minutes. As many others have already stated, this is a transformative stage in our region’s transit network, so I won’t get into too much about how great this besides what I’ve already stated. But I do have some notes!

Based on the the riders observed mid-afternoon today, there were many users who seemed to be riding Link for the first time ever. ULink extension may bring in more riders, especially weekend riders, to all stops along the line by opening up new transit possibilities. Part of this may be that the destination of Central Link prior to Capitol Hill/University of Washington was Downtown. As one teenager said to their parent on the train, “I don’t think there’s anything interesting about downtown,” and they aren’t wrong.

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Meaning of Light Rail

The opening of Sound Transit’s initial line of Light Rail in 2009 brought plenty of excitement to the transit nerds amongst us, but it also had a large asterisk attached to the service. While travelling from Sea-Tac airport and downtown Seattle was an important milestone in our region’s history, travel north of that area was still largely via unreliable transit lines. The value of Link was proven throughout the initial line with larger than predicted ridership levels, but trains were limited in size: only two trains could be coupled together and sent through the tunnel.

With the impending opening of the expansion to Capitol Hill and the southeast corner of the UW campus, the full power of Link and a unified transit system can be seen. While most of the attention seems to revolve around Capitol Hill, which may be selection bias on my part since I live a few blocks away from the new station, the real and most impactful consequence of these new stations is the current terminus of the line, which is one stop north of the Hill.

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Pictured: Light Rail. Not Seattle’s

University of Washington, my beloved alma mater, is finally reachable quickly and reliability from all of Central and South Seattle: offering a wide array of students a much better experience getting to campus than via multiple bus transfers or driving. With the First Hill Street car and Link, upper campus is much more easily reachable by students living throughout much of Seattle south of campus. No longer will living in the U-District be a virtual necessity for students who want a reliable way to get to campus.

In addition to the student body impacts, UW Medical center, a regional research hospital, will be much more reachable to a large segment of the population. Husky Stadium will be able to facilitate traffic more effectively for home football games, graduation, and all other events held nearby.

Still, we’re again craving more. Connections North of the UW Stadium station are substandard at best. The beginning of the next decade will bring us many more stations along the central spine of the city, and over Lake Washington to the East. Light Rail can turn our city of neighborhoods into a cohesive municipality in ways we can only dream of.

The Worst Words

Disclaimer: I originally wrote this post last summer and never got around to actually publishing it because it seemed like a dumb thing to write. However, it felt like a waste to leave it in the hopper to die a slow unpublished death. And I really do hate the word hubby.

Anyone who has spent more than a modicum of time around me knows that I have lots of strongly held opinions. The English language is no exception to this rule, and three particular phrases draw my particular ire as being universally terrible.

Wanderlust

Wanderlust is what happens when we scour the German language for a foreign word that sounds kinda cool that has the potential to be overused by all 100,000,000 travel bloggers on the internet. Not to stretch the definition a bit, but I totally will. That “wander” part? It doesn’t actually mean what “wander” means in English. It literally means to go hiking. So you the word basically means you want to hike around a lot. Not take lots of poorly-filtered Instagram photos at “luxe” resorts that prevent you from actually experiencing any culture.

Don’t use this word. If you really want a rad-ass foreign-sounding word to use, how about Fernweh. It has some bonus points insofar that nobody can pronounce it, and actually kinda means what we think wanderlust means.

Hubby

Jean Teasdale used the word “hubby” hot and heavy, and much of my dislike of this word comes from her original columns in The Onion. However, hubby is a terrible word for a multitude of equally legitimate reasons.

Hubby is a lazy word. Just say the whole goddamn word. Hubby is still two syllables, only a few letters longer, and doesn’t make you look clingy and co-dependent.

It refers to people by their relationship. This is kind of a more subtle thing, but I’ve always been annoyed when people refer to their spouses as “the wife / wifey” or “the husband / hubby.” That’s not their name. It’s just a random government-sanctioned title that tells us nothing about who they even are. Call people by their name. Come on people.

It sounds dumb. There. I said it. Hubby makes you sound like you shop at Wal*Mart,  and own a lot of guns.

Signal Boost

This is a fairly new phrase that people are using, I guess, but it’s a pretty dumb one. It reads like someone was like “hmm, I want to post about this issue, but I need a cool word to describe my sharing activity.” And instead of “sharing” we’re “signal boosting.” Wow we took a phase, added a word, and made it longer! Whoohoo!

Signal boost mostly makes me think of really shitty amplifiers that just end up making the original signal indecipherable because you’re clipping the audio. Don’t do this. Don’t signal boost.

So I started using a Kindle

For as long as I can remember, I’ve traveled with a book or two. Whether I’m taking the bus to work or spending a few weeks in Europe, there’s always an omnipresent bunch of flattened trees sitting around that I’ll have my eyeballs process. When I was growing up the weekly trip to the library was a highlight, and the discovery that the green phosphor computer monitors allowed me access to even more books via a library hold system was essentially akin to finding the Holy Grail.

I’ve always been somewhat wary of eBooks. I liked the concept that they’re fairly portable, but there was the nagging concern that the kind of books I liked to read were either unavailable in the format, or translated poorly to the smaller format.

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After a bunch of light hearted mocking from my reading friends, I decided to grab a Kindle Paperwhite that was on sale. I figured I’d try it out for a month and if I didn’t like it, I could send it back and consider it a failed experiment.

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Recreational Reader

Six weeks in, most of my initial suspicions were more-or-less confirmed: graphic novels, technical books, and those with more complex graphics failed miserably in the format.

However, the Kindle does excel in allowing recreational reading to be less of a hassle. You all know these books: the kind you’ll read once and that you can finish in a couple of days without having to put much thought behind them.

It’s nice to not be penalized by having to carry around multiple books in case you finish the first one (a common occurrence). Going to the library isn’t required in most cases, as you can simply pick up and return the book online. eBook pricing is sporadic: usually you can find a pretty good deal for a book that you’ll like, but often prices will hover around the same price as a mass-market paperback.

An unexpected side effect of a Kindle is that it makes it a lot harder for strangers on public transit to figure out what you’re reading. Despite the fact I have my headphones on and reading a book, people loved to come up, stare at the book, and then decide to start asking me about it. A Kindle eliminates a lot of those interactions.

I still travel with two books: one more complex tome, and the Kindle. Together they complement each other rather nicely. I’m not entirely sold on the concept as a replacement for all physical books, as my curated print library attests to, but the Kindle has a utilitarian benefit that allows for another tool in the reader’s toolbelt.

A good rule of thumb seems to be is if you think it’ll be a book you’ll read actively by scribbling notes in the margins, highlighting passages, or quickly jumping around to other sections, you’ll want to get a paper copy of it. Otherwise, it may work well on an eBook reader.

Finally, if you’re into this sort of thing, I have a Goodreads profile where I offer all sorts of poorly written literary criticism.

Reviewing Nikky v2015

Some people post year-end summaries on Facebook. Others type up a letter to be included in a Christmas card. I write belated blog posts. Let’s talk about 2015. Specifically, my 2015.

This whole “being an adult” thing continues to largely elude me. Perhaps the thinly cohesive theme to this post is how I’m mostly pretending on this front.

Edit: It appears WordPress has built-in gallery support. It also appears that this support is absolutely terrible and it just kind of randomly stretches images as it sees fit. Hopefully you can forgive me one day.

Livin’ Efficiently

2015 found Tracey and I settling into a new (smaller) apartment. Our previous few residences were fairly large 2-bedroom units that made us pay dearly for space that we were largely underutilizing. After a few rounds of donations, and close scrutinizing of our possessions, we found that maybe being an adult isn’t about owning lots of things, but instead owning a small amount of really useful things that are reliable, used frequently, and utilitarian in nature. To that end, we packed up and went a few blocks north to a brand new 1-bedroom apartment that featured around 560sq. ft. of well-designed space to work with. It’s a new look, but we saved ourselves quite a bit of time spent cleaning and acquiring possessions while staying in our favorite neighborhood. Maybe people were right about location being the most important attribute to housing after all.

Cat Wranglin’

People are having kids and buying houses while I largely stumble through co-owning a single cat. We’ve managed to keep Minerva largely healthy and 100% alive through her second year of being with us, and that seems largely to be the major goal of owning a cat. She keeps the apartment rodent free, although I think that’s largely due to the wonders of modern sanitation rather than her constant vigilance. Making due without live prey, Minerva instead practices on our legs and arms when we’re not paying her enough attention. Continue reading