Fun with Galactica*

*Not the Battlestar

Meta (aka Facebook aka Privacy-Violators, Inc.) recently released a new AI called Galactica that purports to be trained on “humanity’s scientific knowledge”. I thought I’d throw some random prompts at it to see what kind of Wiki articles it generated.

  1. Taco Dollars. I imagined Taco Dollars to be a unit of currency based on tacos with an exchange rate that fluctuated based on the relative holdings of the Federal Taco Reserve (in the US) and the Bolsa de Tacos (in Mexico) combined with the demand for tacos by the public.

  2. Meat Phones. In my head, meat phones were a H.R. Giger-esque abomination that combined meat with the telephone.

  3. MacBook Fever. I thought this was what Foxconn employees in Shenzhen got from exposure to the fine aluminum particles thrown off by the milling machines creating the MacBook chassis. I was wrong.

  4. William Shatner Disease seems like it should be the inability to complete a sentence without taking an unnecessary…dramatic…pause, but it seems that Shatner doesn’t actually suffer from this malady.

  5. Snoochie Boochies. I always wondered what Jay from the View Askewniverse was referring to when saying his catchphrase. Who knew it was in reference to an obscure Porky Pig cartoon?

  6. And, finally, I can assure you that this is not correct.

Remember(ing) the Alamo (City)

 

I recently found an old postcard of the skyline of San Antonio, Texas–home of the Alamo, Whataburger and Rodney Alcala–from 1937.

I thought, of course, it would be interesting to compare the Skyline of 85 years ago to today (during which the population of the city proper–not including the ‘burbs–grew from ~240K to 1.5 million people).

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a free photo from this exact angle, but did find this Creative Commons photo on Wikimedia:

Source and license: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Downtown_San_Antonio_Skyline_Panorama.jpg

That’s a bit big with a lot of sky, so let’s crop and zoom:

More skyscrapers, obviously. And higher urban density. The Tower of the Americas, on the far right, wasn’t built until the late Sixties for the Hemisfair ’68 World’s Fair.

But the Tower Life Building is still standing

And the Alamo National Bank building:

Milam Building:

As well as the Emily Morgan Hotel

 

The rest of the skyline seems to have faded into history–though, unlike, for instance, Dallas or Houston–San Antonio seems to be pretty good about preserving its historical buildings (after all, they did preserve and restore the Alamo); unfortunately, unlike our European friends, we Americans are all-too-often eager to default to a New Years Mindset–”Out with the Old, In with the New”.

To add a bit of further information, this postcard is copyrighted by Summerville Photo, which refers to H.L. Summerville, a photographer local so San Antonio but who otherwise seems to have very little information available online, save for this MySanAntonio article.

Cable Television, 1989

I was rummaging through some old boxes recently and found a cable channel guide from 1989 amongst the other treasures that had been packed away and unseen since the first Bush administration. 

This particular card was United Cable Television’s lineup in the city I grew up in–Tyler, Texas, a somewhat-backwards place in East Texas.

First, a bit of history:

United Cable Television’s roots go back to 1953. Gene Schneider, his brother, Richard, and Bill Daniels built a community antenna[1]incidentally, Community Antenna is where we get the abbreviation for cable TV as CATV system (what we’d later call a cable system) in Casper, Wyoming. It was the first cable system in the country to use microwave to import broadcast signals from a distant city (in this case Denver). Schneider bought out Daniels in 1960 as well as other original investors and continued to expand the company. In 1966, GenCoE was formed with Ben Conroy, Jack Crosby, Glenn Flinn and others. In the late 60’s, GenCoE merged with Livingston Oil Company  and in 1970, the cable company became independent through an IPO and was named LVO Cable; in 1974 it became United Cable Television Corporation (United). In 1979, it merged with United Artists, which later merged with TCI, which branded some of their markets as the New United Cable Television, including the Tyler, Texas, market.

I thought I’d make a quick rundown of what channels were available to watch and if they’re still around today.

2. Local Time, Weather, Message

My memories of channel 2 was that it was a multi-lined feed of character-generator created text showing the time, temperature and other information, each line being a different color, kind of, but not completely like this retro image I found online from Winnipeg:

3. CNN is still going strong

4. KDFW is now a Fox affiliate

5. KXAS is still NBC

6. Cable Value Network was bought-out by QVC in July 1989, so either this card hadn’t been updated or, more-likely, it’s operations hadn’t yet been merged into its new owner’s.

7. KLTV is still the ABC affiliate in East Texas

8. WFAA is still the Dallas-area ABC affiliate

9. WGN’s superstation feed was later converted into a conventional basic cable channel called WGN America, which eventually became NewsNation. However, when it was WGN, we got to watch the local Chicago news, Cubs games and the Illinois lottery drawings!

10. KETK is still the local NBC affiliate.

11. KTVT became the DFW CBS affiliate when KDFW switched to Fox

14. Arts & Entertainment now just goes by A&E and focuses much more on the Entertainment part rather than the Arts, though in the early days, it broadcast classical music performances, plays and other high-brow entertainment.

16. ‘Memba this?

17. TBS was a superstation, carrying local Atlanta-area content, but has now split into a conventional basic cable channel along with a separate Atlanta-only feed.

18. *yawn*

19. FNN was purchased by NBC in 1991, and operations were integrated with rival cable financial news network, CNBC, on May 21, 1991.

21. VISN was the Vision Interfaith Satellite Network, a religious broadcaster. It was eventually bought out and became the Hallmark Channel in 2001.

23. CBN Family Channel started as the Christian Broadcasting Network Satellite Service, which became The Family Channel, then Fox Family, then ABC Family and finally Freeform.

24. Fun fact: MTV used to show music videos.

25. The Nashville Network was originally country music focused. In an attempt to broaden its appeal, it de-emphasized country music and renamed itself to The National Network, followed by a rebranding to Spike TV and finally the Paramount Network in 2018.

26. VH1 was the more-adult companion to MTV, but like that channel, eventually drifted into showing more reality TV than anything else.

29. When I was a kid, KXTX was an independent station that mostly showed old movies, Rockford Files reruns and westerns. Today, it’s the DFW area Telemundo affiliate.

31. KLMG has since changed their callsign to KFXK and is now a Fox affiliate.

35. Movietime changed to E!: Entertainment Television (now just E!) in 1990.

42. American Movie Classics was originally a pay channel that focused on showing classic films. It’s since drifted to original programming (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, etc.), became basic cable and changed its name to just AMC.

43. HSE dropped out of premium cable as Fox Sports Southwest and eventually became Bally Sports Southwest

49. The Playboy Channel is still sort-of around as Playboy TV, but is no longer operated by Playboy; instead, it’s operated by MindGeek, operators of such fine websites as Pornhub, RedTube and Brazzers.

 

References

References
1 incidentally, Community Antenna is where we get the abbreviation for cable TV as CATV

Las Vegas Hooker Cards: A NSFW Gallery

Sorry…not hookers, but rather “Adult Entertainers”, since prostitution is, of course, illegal in Clark County.

At any rate, if you’ve ever been to Las Vegas, you’ve no doubt seen day-laborers passing out cards on the Strip advertising these “adult entertainers”. Maybe you’ve even taken a few–either out of curiosity or politeness or even to hire an entertainer (I’m not judging you). My wife and I used to go to Vegas fairly often, maybe one or two times a year, until 2018, which was the last time we were in Nevada (thanks, pandemic). However, when we’d go, we’d collect as many of these cards as we could…we found them to be hilarious, in that private couples-humor sort of way. 

I recently came across a stack of these cards in a box of random ephemera that I’d collected over the years and thought “why not digitize and share for prosperity?” So, if you’re interested in seeing some of these cards and you’re not at work (or you work at an adult entertainment business), then please enjoy this Not Safe For Work gallery.

Discover America

Among the ephemera I inherited from my grandparents was a 1967 Humble Oil Company Touring Guide. From my understanding, you could contact Humble Oil’s travel division and ask them to prepare a map for your travels with the route from your departure point to your destination marked, including alternatives (if available) for fastest route, a scenic route and a different return route (which would make me happy as I often return a different way than the outbound trip to see different things, much to my wife’s chagrin). Accompanying this map would be the Touring Guide booklet outlining travel tips, how to read maps and other information the intrepid traveler might need. I’ll include a link to a PDF of the entire booklet at the end of this article, but thought I’d point out a few interesting items first.

A sample map showing the three possible permutations of a route that could be provided by the prepared map

 

I, too, often hold a roadmap while fishing for salmon

 

Thanks for clarifying

 

“Hey kids! Let’s plan our vacation and have some Purple Drank!”

 

The current roster of National Parks is 63, so either this list is incomplete or the last 55 years have blessed us with a lot more

Interestingly, this list includes Oklahoma’s long-gone Platt National Park, which I previously wrote a bit about here.

Nothing like going on vacation and touring factories! (Though I’d probably enjoy it, once again to my wife’s chagrin).

 

“…completion by 1972”

 

This seems like too much math for me to do while planning a vacation

 

As a resident of Texas, I can assure you that global warming has ensured there’d be some red on this map if it were from this century

 

“Smile son, for Old Sol is coming to take us to our eternal reward!”

 

That’s about $311 in 2022 money, which seems like you could do better than today (unless you stay in an AirBNB where the owner charges as much as the room for a “cleaning fee”)

 

If you have a station wagon, you can turn the rear into a dangerous playground for your kids!

 

Were they just ignoring the fact that Hawaii also became a state in 1959 after Alaska and would thus be the newest state? Did they refuse to acknowledge it because you can’t get there by car?

 

Canada hadn’t bought into that whole “metric” thing yet

 

Canada was still using Her Majesty’s Gallons

 

Canada didn’t change to the metric system until 1975. The United States didn’t change until never.

 

You can download the complete PDF for your nostalgic enjoyment here.

Old Photo Sleeves, Part 1

I’ve recently been spending some time scanning and archiving the rather-large set of photographic negatives and prints, along with other materials, that I inherited from my grandparents and father. Among the more-interesting items are the sleeves that the prints and negatives were returned to the customer by the photo labs after processing. Below are a few that I’ve archived so far.

Cheetah Photo is a bit of a mystery to me…I can’t seem to find any reference to it online, but my best guess is that it was a local photo lab in East Texas as that’s where the negatives that were in this sleeve were shot (and where I grew up).

 

Many of you might remember Eckerd Drugs. This chain went out of business in 2007, but their photo lab was pretty popular. This sleeve seems to be from when someone ordered new prints from negatives that they already had.

Fox Photo was a chain that was probably best-known for their small photo pick-up/drop-off huts in parking lots across America:

Fox hung on, somehow, until 2001, but I assume that some locations were converted to Taco Huts:

And, as a bonus, here some Fox Photo coupons that are probably no-longer valid:

Semi-Retirement/Sabbatical

(a version of this post originally appeared on 75CentralPhotography.Com)

As many of you probably know, besides architecting/managing software development, I do photography on the side, mainly for fun/relaxation/small source of revenue to fun the hobby itself. 

For over fifteen years, I’ve shared a photo every day on 75CentralPhotography.Com. I’ve never missed a day, despite travels, work, personal things and even being sick with Covid for a couple of weeks during the earlier part of the pandemic. However, I recently decided, after much soul-searching, that I needed to step back a bit and defocus and breathe. Below is the post I shared on that site announcing my change-of-pace.

 

 

Fifteen Years. 5,511 days.

If you’ll recall, back in August, I celebrated the 15th anniversary of posting a new photo every day at 75CentralPhotography.

That’s 5,530 photos, only a small fraction of the 441,751 photos I’ve captured in that time.

Every night, I queue up a new photo for the next day, carefully combing through my Lightroom catalog for a new photo that I hope will delight, inspire and add a little joy to your day.

I started 75CentralPhotography on a whim in 2007. I’d just gotten back into the photography hobby/semi-profession after a long absence because digital SLRs had finally reached the perfect intersection of affordability/quality that made it worth pursuing. No longer constrained by the cost of film and processing, I started shooting. A lot. I’d spend Saturdays and Sundays going on “photo drives” around my home of North Texas. A quick jaunt to Hico or Fort Richardson or Marietta was a great way to spend the day and explore. I soon decided to start sharing my work with others. First on Flickr, then on my own site. I never meant to make it a daily thing, but it soon became one.

Life kept evolving. I got married. Moved a couple of times. Got a dog. Lost a dog. Got more dogs. Did a fair amount of traveling with my wife: our home state of Texas, Canada, Alaska, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, to name a few. In my professional life, I moved up the ranks and changed jobs a few times.

Photographically, I moved from Canon to Panasonic to Sony systems. The site itself moved from a homegrown ASP.Net-based CMS to WordPress (along with a rebranding).

But the constant, daily ritual of posting a new photo was always there. A single thing that I had to do. If we were traveling and I knew I’d be away for a bit, part of my pre-travel duties, beyond packing and planning, was to queue up photos for the duration of our trip. It was a like a constant buzzing in the back of my mind—something that I had to do to feel “complete”. Not unlike, I suppose, and possibly related to, the urges of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

But now I’ve decided that it’s time to step back a bit. I’m not retiring (this has never been more than a serious hobby for me that brings in just enough revenue to pay for itself and a few vacations, so there’s nothing really to retire from), but I am going to start to slow things down a bit. It seems that at some point in the last few months, doing a daily photo has become more of an obligation than a hobby, and I don’t like the way that feels. I want photography to be fresh and exciting to me again.

I won’t make photography the main focus of our travels. Won’t get up early quite-so-often for the perfect sunrise over the lake. Won’t interrupt evenings spending time with my wife and our dogs to make sure I have a new photo queued up. Won’t lug around so much gear on trips.

Instead, starting next week, I’m going to begin to transition this site to more of an “occasionally-updated” state. For a while, I’m going to reduce the number of new photos from daily to at least three per week. Then maybe even less than that. Maybe I’ll eventually just share only the best on rare occasions. My hope is that this will reinvigorate my creativity and passion since it won’t feel like an obligation. Who knows? Maybe at some point in the future, I’ll start posting daily again.

The archives will, of course, stay up on the site—they’re not going anywhere. Clients can still license photos or order prints. I’m still open to commissions. You can still follow me on Twitter and Instagram, where I’ll keep posting—just not as often. And I’ll still keep taking photos—just not quite so many, but maybe more-meaningful photos.

Finally, I want to say thanks to everyone who has supported me over the last fifteen years. Beyond my family, it’s the encouragement of my followers on social media, readers/viewers of 75CentralPhotography.com, and the clients that have purchased prints or licenses over the years that have kept me going this long.

Dispatches from the Blue Ghost

As mentioned in a previous missive, I recently spent several days in South Texas with the extended family. While there, I took a couple of hours to visit the USS Lexington Museum in Corpus Christi, mainly because I’ve never been on an aircraft carrier before and thought this would be a good chance to do so.

A bit of background: The Lexington is an Essex-class aircraft carrier built commissioned in 1943 and, save for eight years after WWII when it was deactivated for a major refit, served until it was decommissioned in 1991, at which point it was converted to a museum ship. If you want to read its full history, Wikipedia has a nice write-up here, though it doesn’t explain how the ship earned the nickname “The Blue Ghost”. 

At any rate, I grabbed some snaps with my trusty iPhone 13 Pro Max and thought I’d share a few here in lieu of a travelogue of our entire trip as I did for Oregon/California earlier this year.

Upon arriving at the Lexington, you’re greeted by this retired Blue Angels A-4F Skyhawk “gate guardian“. The Blue Angels—the US Navy’s flight demonstration squadron—flew the Skyhawk from 1974 until 1986.

The ship is permanently moored with a nice, long, easy-to-walk ramp leading up to the museum entrance on the starboard side of the massive hangar deck.

The hangar deck, of which you can get a sense of the size in this photo of part of it, is somewhat massive, though I don’t believe it contained snack bar when it was in operation 🙂 

One of the guns on the starboard side of the ship. This one is a 3″/50mm anti-aircraft gun.

The antenna mast atop the ship’s island:

Always a good policy to follow

A AH-1 Cobra helicopter was adorned with this piece of advice that pretty much sums up why I don’t exercise 😛

The bridge of the ship was much-more spartan than I imagined. In my head, there were controls and information displays everywhere. Instead, the reality was much more basic:

Speaking of controls, there was no shortage of various valves, gauges and dials around the ship:

Including this mystery gauge:

One of the most-interesting things about the ship was that it featured an escalator:

The escalator was installed during the ship’s post-WW2 refit to allow the carrier air wing pilots to easily and quickly travel from their ready room to the flight deck. 

As a museum ship, there were plenty of recreations of various things from when the carrier was in operation, including this food in the galley/mess that probably looks more-appetizing than the actual food during the ship’s service:

The dental suite featured this uncomfortable-looking mannequin:

Several recreations featured figures with creepy projected faces as illustrated in this quick clip I shot:

Another area featured this war-era aircraft trainer that can best be described as an adult version of those kids’ rides that they used to have outside supermarkets:

All-in-all, it was an interesting, albeit hot, visit to see how WW2-era carriers were operated and laid-out. If you’re in the Corpus Christ area, I recommend taking a couple of hours to visit the museum. 

Introducing: Lightroom Preset Renamer

As you may know, besides software, I do photography. In fact, on my photoblog, I’m approaching 15 years of posting a new photo every day (as of this writing, that’s 5448 days of new photos). My main tool for managing, organizing and processing my photos is Adobe’s Lightroom (Classic), which I’ve used since version 1 when I started my “modern” photography hobby/side-business in 2007 (I’d done photography in the past, but had pretty much stopped after college as I no-longer had access to a darkroom, was too busy/poor/had other priorities/obligations for film and digital wasn’t cheap enough/good enough for what I wanted to do).

One of the key features of Lightroom is the ability to create and use presets, which apply develop settings to the selected image, adjusting exposure, color, crop, etc., without user intervention. Some photographers are adamantly against the idea of presets, as they view each photo to be processed as a clean slate that requires careful finessing of values to process. On the other end of the spectrum, you have lazy people who apply a preset without any additional work, export the photo and call it a day. However, most Lightroom users lie somewhere in the middle—using a preset as a starting point for processing an image, followed by fine-tuning it to perfection. 

I am one of the latter Lightroom users. I’ll often open a photo and scroll through my presets looking for a good starting point for the “look” I want a photo to have. Besides creating my own presets, I like to explore other people’s presets they’ve shared in the Lightoom (Cloud) or Mobile app (note that Adobe has two confusingly-named Lightroom applications…one is the professional version (Classic) that most serious photographers use and the stripped-down, amateur/mobile-focused Lightroom (Cloud) that doesn’t, in my opinion, have a place in a professional’s toolkit). In Lightroom Cloud, there’s a “Discover” section that allows you to browse shared presets and download them to use for yourself:

If you filter by “Preset downloadable”, you can scroll through the photo grid and download the preset for any photo:

Lightroom Cloud will then save it to your account and it can be used on any photo in Lightroom Cloud or Lightroom Mobile (the presets will sync to the Lightroom app on your phone).

At this point, however, you can’t use them in Classic, yet. Since the Lightroom Cloud presets don’t sync to Lightroom Classic, you have to do some work to get them there. 

(Note that the following instructions are for MacOS, but should be similar on Windows)

  1. Find your Lightroom Cloud library (~/Pictures/Lightroom Library.lrlibrary)
  2. Right click and select “Show Package Contents”
  3. In that folder, there are 4 subfolders. One has a bunch of random characters; the others are profiles, TemporaryEdits and user.
  4. Click into the random characters folder.
  5. Find the cr_settings subfolder and click into it.
  6. The .xmp files here are your presets.
  7. Copy these to where your Classic presets are stored (should be something like ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/CameraRaw/Settings
  8. Restart Classic

Voila! Your presets should be there in the Presets pane in Lightroom Classic. The problem with this is that Adobe saves the presets to your local drive as a guid rather than a human-readable name:

If you’re like me, though, this is unacceptable. I want to be able to read the names of the presets while in Finder. So, to solve this, I built a tiny MacOS application I call Lightroom Preset Renamer. This is how I use it:

  1. Copy the .xmp preset files you found in the Lightroom Library.lrlibrary file to a temporary folder.
  2. Run the Preset Renamer application and choose this folder by clicking the “Choose Preset Folder to Process”:
  3. Once you’ve chosen the folder, it will automatically process any .xmp file in that folder, renaming it to it’s “proper name”, while preserving the original file by changing the extension to “xmp_old”:
  4. Now, copy these .xmp files to the CameraRaw/Settings folder as outlined above and then reset Classic.

A couple of notes: 

  1. This app isn’t signed, so you may need to follow the instructions here to run it. Or, if you’re adventurous and have to run unsigned apps often, you can disable Gatekeeper by following these instructions.
  2. If you’re concerned about security, you can inspect the source code and build the app yourself in Visual Studio Mac by going to this Github repository.
  3. Since this is built on .Net, I plan on building a Windows version soon…stay tuned!
  4. You can download the application at the link below:

Download the latest release here