Guardian Angel

For to His angels He’s given the command

To guard you in all of your ways.

Upon their hands they will bear you up

Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

This Monday – October 2 – is Sarah’s birthday. It is also the Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels.

It is entirely appropriate that the two dates coincide. She continues to be the guardian angel for her family as they grow and mature.

She also continues to learn and grow in her religious faith. As a young person, she specialized in science. Later on she was a human resources officer. Now she has completed an M.A. in Pastoral Studies with a focus on teaching young children the elements of Christianity via hands on experience.

As she grew and matured I always told her that how successful she was with her studies and her work wasn’t the key thing. It was all that anyone could ask that she became the best person she could be with the help of divine grace. She has more than exceeded those expectaions already. Her mother and I are very proud of her.

Happy birthday dear Sarah and many more I hope.

Classic Texts

It was September 1966. I was beginning my Chemistry major at Queen’s and I needed a textbook for my Organic Chemistry 280 course.

I was given a choice of three possible reference texts:

A classic volume which first came out in World War 2 – Fieser and Fieser.

A well respected and popular text of general utility – Morrison and Boyd.

A recently published work which featured the burgeoning topics of instrumental analysis and physical organic chemistry – Roberts and Caserio.

The safe choice would have been Morrison and Boyd. But I was a physical chemistry nerd so I took the road less traveled and selected R&C. To this day I have never regretted that decision.

Roberts and Caserio was a go-to book in my library for close to 40 years – as a food scientist, flavor laboratory manager, quality control analyst. When I retired I left it behind to serve future food technologists at Unilever. I suspect it has now vanished into the mists of time.

Imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that the Roberts and Caserio 2nd edition – 1977 – is now online at Libretexts. I suppose the copyright has been assigned there. Jack Roberts passed away in 2016 and Marjorie Caserio also passed away in 2021, so no new edition would be forthcoming.

For those who wish to have real bound textbooks, it’s possible to get copies of both Roberts and Caserio AND Morrison and Boyd from used booksellers like Alibris for as little as $5 plus shipping. So if you’re nostalgic for these classic texts feel free to check it out.

There is a significant difference between the older textbooks and more recent ones. Back in the 60s, organic chemistry had a long history of pot-boiling techniques that went back to the late 1800s. Textbooks concentrated on classical molecular structure, nomenclature, functional groups, wet chemistry and learning a lot of famous “name” reactions. Today we have much more emphasis on instrumentation for structure determination, kinetics and mechanism of reactions, biochemistry and biomedical applications. The old textbooks have their charms though – if only to look good on a bookshelf.

Our Mobile Phone History

It is hard to believe but we have been mobile phone customers since 1991 – the World Wide Web wasn’t even in service back then. I’d like to take a brief look at the history of our mobile phone usage by describing the various types of phones we have used over the years.

Motorola Bag Phone This was the very first cellular phone we ever used. It was a heavy gadget that resided in a nylon satchel and plugged into a car power outlet or cigar lighter as they called it back then. It could only be used in the car, and we had it for emergency voice calls only. The protocol was AMPS analog or what today is called 1G cellular. We used this dinosaur for nearly nine years until I thought maybe we should join the 21st century.

Nokia Candy Bar Phone This classic phone design was a major step up in utility and convenience. It could be taken out of the car, charged up at home and then carried in a purse or small bag. It was a bit too thick and heavy for your pocket. Again it was for emergency voice calls only. The protocol was TDMA – Rogers’ digital 2G signal – but it could be used for analog calls as well if that was the only available service. This phone served us very well. In fact, it was our home phone for a few months after we moved to Almonte. At that time Bell technicians were on strike and we couldn’t get a land line installed at home. We had to retire this one in 2007 after Rogers decided to unplug both their analog and 2G digital networks.

Nokia Flip Phone A lovely little piece of tech. It was a bit better than I would have paid for, but Rogers gave it to us for free since our old phone was now a doorstop. This one was certainly pocket or purse sized, had a nice display and you could send actual messages with it – although that was a painful exercise since you had to type on what was essentially a numeric keypad. The protocol was GSM or what is now known as 3G technology. We had it in service for nearly 10 years, but it wasn’t really all that good for messaging, and certainly not a Smartphone. We thought of it basically as a voice unit.

Smartphones Part 1 By 2017, just about all our friends and family members had Smartphones and Maria wanted to send messages as well as call them. The tiny Nokia had outlived its usefulness and we got a Samsung Android Smartphone. It took us to a whole new level. Mostly we used it to send messages and make phone calls but we could surf the Web – particularly at home where we connected to wifi. This thin slab of silicon also served as a watch, camera, calendar, and much more. We liked it so much I got a similar phone for myself in 2019. Protocol on these was LTE or 4G.

Smartphones Part 2 You may have noticed that we used our earlier mobile phones quite a long time. Unfortunately, Smartphones do not have the same longevity. Battery life goes down over time, and eventually the manufacturer does not support the phone for software updates – a security issue. There was also another upgrade in network technology to 5G. So in 2021 Maria switched to a new 5G Samsung phone, and I recently upgraded my phone to a Pixel 7. That is where we are now. Voice calls I believe are still handled by LTE but data transfer outside the home is now arriving via 5G in most situations. I might add that 5G plans have given us quite a massive increase in data capacity – something we haven’t needed so far, but nice to have I suppose.

So in summary we’ve had 5 levels of technology in the 32 years we have used mobile phones. We have gone from a simple telephone to a pocket computer and camera and much more. The phone apps allow online banking and bill payments, storage of tickets for hockey games, GPS for traveling, and configuration of home wifi as well. It costs a fair bit but hey.. we are worth it.

Having a Rethink

I’ve never been an advocate of using a smartphone instead of a dedicated camera for my photo needs, but maybe – maybe – it is time for a rethink.

The reason for this is that at long last I have a smartphone – a Pixel 7 – that has a truly capable camera. I replaced my old Samsung Galaxy A50 because it was getting creaky and there were excellent deals available on a premium camera smartphone I normally wouldn’t have considered.

The above pic was taken with the Pixel 7, no flash in quite low light. I have to admit that such a photo could not be taken by my normal camera without a flash. The Pixel has computational photography capability that allows me to photograph Mr. Oates without getting that “deer in the headlights” look a flash would obtain.

The feature that does this is called “Night Sight.” It takes several simultaneous exposures, stores them and then stitches them together seamlessly.

The Pixel 7 camera also has image stabilization, good autofocus, wide angle and decent digital zoom – things that I never had in my previous Samsung smartphone cameras.

Here’s another example – no flash, discreet, did not disturb his rest.

Another factor in my rethink is that I recently learned a game-changing technique for using a smartphone as a camera. Instead of struggling to hold a thin slippery soapbar vertically while trying to stab a little white circle on the screen, you can hold the phone horizontally, curling your fingers around it like a real camera. Then you press the volume control as a shutter release. Presto! – a stable platform for a change.

Now, my actual cameras still have advantages over the Pixel 7. The petite Lumix ZS-50 can go out to 30X telephoto with an actual optical zoom, and it has a viewfinder for use in bright sunlight. My Nikon DSLR has multiple lenses, a much bigger sensor, and a satisfying look and feel. I have decades of experience with SLR photography as well.

Up until now, I did not think it was worth it to invest time into learning more about smartphone photography. And I am not ready to pack away my digital photo equipment the way I did with my film stuff 20 years ago. However..hmmmm.

Getting There

On September 12, our son-in-law celebrates another birthday. It isn’t one where you trot out the caviar, champagne and cruises to Tahiti but that one is definitely in sight.

That said, Dave continues to be the kind, helpful, mature, reliable and industrious person he has always been. He’s into the teenage years as a parent, and he is helping Sarah in many ways to bring up kids who were the envy of many participants at the recent wedding we attended.

He is also carving out a very successful career in management with Canada Post. He recently was promoted and has a lot more responsibility, but I am sure he will cope with it in a seamless manner.

He’s still young enough to be in the garden – and other tool – accumulation phase so thankfully he’s easy to buy gifts for.

All the best to you Dave, and I hope you have a great birthday celebration tomorrow with Sarah and the kids.

Wedding Photography

My niece Rachel got married on the weekend. My granddaughters were flower girls.

I took along my tiny Lumix camera (see above,) but for most part I tried to stay out of the way of the wedding photographers and videographer doing their very capable jobs.

I did get to see a lot about how wedding photography (?) has evolved in the past decade or so. Some rather cranky observations follow:

  • The pros stick to real cameras. They are packing mirrorless now. The old SLR is history. The still photogs used Canon and the video guy had a Sony. They all used secondary light sources (i.e. a big powerful flash.)
  • The pro photos tended to be taken with a longer range zoom lens at greater distances than I remember from past weddings. Why this is I don’t know.
  • I was glad I packed my own little Lumix instead of my Nikon SLR kit as I would have looked like an impossible photo nerd otherwise. As it was, I probably had the only amateur camera at the festivities.
  • Which brings me to the other so-called photography – whoa! There was an incredible amount of quantity versus quality going down.
  • Everybody else at the wedding was using Smartphones. Millions of bad photos and videos were recorded. People took stuff during the wedding ceremony which I think is gauche. At least they were polite enough to kill the flashes. Otherwise it would have looked like an Adele concert and driven the real photographers nuts.
  • During the dinner and dancing folks were doing selfies, still photos and videos in bad light without a flash. I am sure the phones’ computational photography might help – but gimme a break. I saw videos taken without even looking – just hold your phone at waist height, point it toward the dance floor, and record. Using a weak flash at a distance of 10 meters in semi darkness used to be a recipe for disaster. Today they just keep on shooting.
  • I also discovered for the zillionth time why I would never want to be a professional wedding photographer. The pressure to be nice, meet all the expectations, take flattering portraits of old folks with the radiant and beautiful bride must be incredible. Spare me.

When the pros called it an evening the snapshot and video frenzy carried on. I hope the happy couple gets the benefit of these additional 100,000 pics. They might get a couple of good ones.

The wedding venue was lovely so I contented myself with a few landscape shots without people. Not many other folks did that. But that is my shtick.

I have often lamented the fact that photography appears to be a dying art today – especially amateur photography. Thank goodness for the pros – at least Rachel and Dan will have something nice to look at when they celebrate their 50th anniversary.

School Daze

Labour Day marks another change of scenery for the grandkids – Teddy is now officially in secondary school, Veronica is finishing up her junior high experience, and Susannah is right behind them in Grade 5.

As for the old folks, Nonna is now starting her 19th year of not returning to the classroom, a fact that is not lost on Grandpa. There were 50 Labour Days that I either returned to school myself or had a family member going back. That adds up to a lot of disruption and chaos – trust me.

In case you were wondering, the photo above was taken in Caledon at the then brand new St. Cornelius elementary school. This was the height of 1980s school architecture.

I figure Sarah was in Grade 4 when this photo was taken. It’s now been 27 years since we took her to the University of Guelph.

The classroom was an Age of Innocence situation compared to today. Maybe it had a single eight-bit green screen Commodore PET computer that nobody knew how to program. No remote learning or Google Educational Suite. No Chromebooks, wifi networks, Smartphones, Snapchat, Instagram or Tik Tok. Schoolyard bullying took place in the schoolyard and was a bit easier to spot and deal with. There were no controversies over cursive writing or times tables.

If you talk about this type of learning with our grandkids, they look at you with a sort of eyeroll disbelief. It’s as if you had to stoke the one room school woodstove and write on a slate back then.

A few years later Maria took courses in “Computers in the Classroom.” A central theme in her courses was an Apple program called Hypercard. Little snippets of information were digitally connected by hyperlinks.

At the time I thought this was one of the dumbest pieces of tech ever. To use it effectively you would need incredibly powerful processors, gobs of memory and storage, and much better graphics than even Apple Macs had at the time.

One of my Unilever colleagues was in Boston learning about how to network all sorts of computers in all sorts of locations. That should have given me a clue as to how wrong I was. Three years later we were on the World Wide Web. Go figure.

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