Weekly Photo Challenge: Weight(less)

Seagulls floating effortlessly over the sands of a beach,
Is this what weightlessness feels like?
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Could weightlessness also be just a sensation created in the mind,
As seen in this photograph of a buttercup floating over a sea of green.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Although weightlessness is what is being promised from the experience below,
I am not sure that this what the person really feels.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

T-Mobile’s Binge On service

I wrote a blog on the subject of Net Neutrality a while back when the FCC was in the process of putting into place rules for the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) with regards to how they manage traffic from different sources within their networks.  Essentially the FCC ruled that all traffic has to be treated the same, i.e., in a fair manner. At that time I noted that this was easy enough to say, but could be difficult to implement, considering the diversity of the data and the kinds of traffic carried on the Internet.  At that time I noted that the FCC should act with a soft touch with regards to enforcement of regulation.

It turns out that we did not have to wait that long to see an implementation of traffic management in a ISP’s system that seems to violate the FCC’s rules.  But this implementation is being presented by the vendor as a feature that benefits the customer.   Witness T-mobile’s Binge On service.

The data service paradigm for most mobile service providers in the US is that you pay the vendor based on the amount of data that you use, or wish to use (if you sign up for monthly quotas).   So anything that reduces the component of the data that you receive that actually counts towards measurement of your usage should be considered a positive for the customer according to T-Mobile.  (Of course, this assumes that the customer has signed up for receiving an amount of data that really matches what he or she needs.)

But what has happened in the recent past is that the mainstream service providers have been trying to force customers into service packages that include a lot more data than they need, with the hope that they get hooked onto new services that will chew up this additional bandwidth resource.  This is what happens when folks start streaming video services on mobile networks.  As usage increases and begins to match what the customer has actually subscribed for, he or she will become more inclined to pay for additional data services on the network.  (This will also serve as justification for the mobile service providers to lobby to buy up more of the nation’s bandwidth resources for their own networks.)

Enter T-mobile.  They say that they will not count the amount of data that a customer who has signed up for Binge On receives for certain video streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, etc..)  against the customer’s data usage limits.  It sounds good, but what they are also doing is controlling the amount of the data in those video streams for people who are signed up.  They are in fact lowering the quality of the video being delivered, i.e., they are treating these video streams differently from how they would treat them normally in their networks.

You might say that this is OK since the customer knows that this happening.   It turns out that the customer really may not know what is going on.  It seems like this service is being offered today as an “opt out” service, i.e., unless you mention anything, you are signed up for it.  Also, it has been observed today that the customer’s video services are throttled even for video service providers that have not signed up with T-mobile for supporting the service.  It is not clear if the customer still pays for the data being received in such circumstances.

What is happening is exactly along the lines of my expectations.  Due to the nature of the Internet today, there are bound to be scenarios that develop to do not meet the notion of net neutrality in a simplistic fashion.  The FCC will have to adapt, and as it does, the set of detailed regulations that need to be considered will tend to change and continue to expand.

When people complain about government and bureaucracy, it is useful to remember that most of this happens a result of people and organizations creating situations where they try to manipulate the system to their own benefit, where simplistic approaches for enforcement will no longer work.  Very often this is done in the pursuit of big money, not necessarily the betterment of man.  After all, who will argue that entertainment, which is the application for most of the streaming video that tends to dominate the bandwidth usage of the Internet today, is most essential for our living, and should dominate the use of our resources.

Its a crazy world we live in!

 

 

Into The Morning

It was still dark when I left home at about 6:30am on Sunday morning to head out for the C&O Canal towpath trail at Brunswick, MD.  The morning star and the crescent moon were still visible above the darkened homes, while a faint glow was beginning to show up in the sky just above the  horizon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was about to get back to doing something that I had not been able to do for over a year.   I was heading out to a distant location on the towpath all by myself for a very early morning run.  And I had not been to Brunswick specifically for a much longer time.  And at this point I was actually missing the experience.  The change from my older weekend routine was made so that others could come out with me for walks in the parks on Sunday mornings. It was all for a good cause and a greater good, and something that I was (and still am) happy to be able to do.

It was 29° Fahrenheit when, following my old habits, I drove out to the nearby Starbucks for a breakfast sandwich and coffee.  Surprisingly, they still served the spinach and egg white sandwich that had been my staple in the past.  I picked up my food and drink and headed back to the car.  It was a familiar routine.

In the distance, from the parking lot, one could see the faint outlines of the sunrise.  The colors were beginning to change on the horizon.  I got into my car and on the road to the highway as the diffused light from the sun began the process of gradually replacing the darkness with light.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The sun was rising behind me as I headed north and west on Interstate 270 towards Frederick.  I had this strange feeling of familiarity, of going back to to an old place in my mind, and it felt good.   I first stopped at the scenic overlook outside of Frederick to observe the colorful sky over the still shaded valley as the sun attempted to climb above the hills behind me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Heading west out of Frederick, I continued to enjoy the experience of the sun rising into the heavens – as it lit up the sides of the houses with a golden light, a light that invited people to wake up and pay homage to a new day. I was lost in a pleasantly blissful state of mind when I made a mistake and took a wrong exit from the highway, and got on the road towards Point of Rocks, another location on the towpath.  Feeling quite unperturbed by this unexpected turn of events, I exited this new road at a random intersection with country road whose name I did not even attempt to read, and then proceeded west along this local byway.  After all, how lost could one get with the Potomac river to one side of me and the original highway that I had been traveling on to the other side.  The winding road took me up a hill from which I got an unexpectedly grand view of a broad valley below me partially lit up the sun.  This was the valley through which the Potomac flowed.  I could see a distant water tower, perhaps at Brunswick, my destination by car; and also a hint of my ultimate destination on the trail,  Harpers Ferry, the place where the Shenandoah river joins the Potomac to become a single flow, cutting though and creating a gap in the ridges of the Appalachian mountain range.  It was an unexpected treat, but I could not stop to take pictures on the narrow road.  Before I knew it the road descended the hill and I had found my way back to the road to Brunswick.

Crossing the railroad tracks at the train station at Brunswick the sun appeared to be struggling to rise above the treeline, but the railroad station was lit up in a weird shade of red.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A coal train stood in the shadows, waiting for clearance to head onward towards Point of Rocks and perhaps the power generating plant at Dickerson.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The view of the Potomac from the parking lot at the boat ramp below the bridge across the river was gorgeous.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I made my way from the parking lot on to the towpath and headed west towards Harper’s Ferry.  The cold and brisk air, and the tall misshapen trunks of the leafless trees reaching for the skies all around me, triggered something in the brain.  I was once again in my happy place.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Before long I heard the lonesome whistle of a freight train from further out west, probably miles away in the area of Harpers Ferry.  I was quite sure it was headed my way.  Within a few minutes the twin engines of the freight train appeared through the trees on my right as the sun lit up the trees beyond the railroad track.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The sun began to light up the trail as it rose, while my body began to react to the exercise by building up a sweat in spite of the cold.  The numb feeling in the extremities began to vanish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After about 3 miles, the lock house at Weverton appeared to my right, still partially in the shadows.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I ran through this section of the trail, I peered through the trees on my left, the side of the trail where the river flowed, searching for the remains of the old town of Weverton  that had been washed away by floods in times past.  I did not see anything remarkable. I then passed through a section of the trail that was still completely shaded by the tall hills that rose across the river in Virginia.  The birds were still waiting for the sunrise.  I eventually broke out into an section of the trail lit up by bright sunshine.  The bridge for the highway across the Potomac appeared in front of me in the distance through the trees.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Approaching Harper’s Ferry, I noticed that the steeple of St. Peters Catholic church was still in the shadows while other parts of the town were beginning to experience the direct rays of the sun.  The Shenandoah river still lay in the shadows of the hills on one side of the town, while the Potomac flowed on its other side in bright sunlight, reflecting the clear blue of the cloudless sky above it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I turned to head back towards Brunswick, the sun had ascended high enough into the sky to be able to light up the entire area, including the trail.  While it was still cold, and I was occasionally passing people who were all bundled up for protection, I was not feeling any of it.  It was time now for me to focus on the “running” aspect of this outing. I needed to try to put my camera away into the backpack and set a more regular pace for the the trip back.

Having not run this kind of distance in quite a while, I was also beginning to feel the effects of the effort on the system.  My heart indicated that it was still fine with the pace I was setting (which for some reason was becoming faster and faster according to my GPS device), but the muscles in my legs were beginning to complain.  “Dude, we need some more oxygen, and why the heck did you leave the water behind in the car?!”  My tracksuit was soaked in sweat. But I was also getting into a rhythm as my feet beat a tattoo on the towpath. I picked up steam heading east.  I was in the zone!

I huffed and puffed my way back into Brunswick where the coal trail was still waiting to depart.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The tiredness did not matter at this point as the mind was in a very different place from the sore muscles.  I got into my car and was soon heading back home after my Sunday morning visit to the Church of the C&O Canal.  Alleluia anybody?!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Circles

I actually had this theme going at another website of mine.  So it was relatively easy for me to respond to this week’s challenge.  It is a fairly straightforward interpretation of the subject.

IMG_0272

IMG_0306

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I suppose some of these items are more recognizable than others.

Happy New Year everybody!  I hope none of these pictures has a hypnotic effect!

A Vacation in Florida

Soft jazz in a quiet corner, a good book to delight,
Bursts of activity in the home occasionally interrupting the quiet,
Screams of happy kids in the pool, the fun continues late into the night.

Older, more “mature”, young adults creating their own space,
Adults catching up, walks around the neighborhood, it is no race,
The mingling of the generations, the constant laughter we all embrace.

Food and conversation, the sound of the washing machine occasionally interrupting the chatter,
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner being prepared, with gatherings around the kitchen table that matter.

A late night at the amusement park, kids still excited, still on their own two feet, the parents still stable,
Warm and humid days, a languorous mood, catching a movie, food and drink around a restaurant table,
A vacation in Florida with siblings and families if you are able.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Gatherings

One is tempted to submit a picture or two of a family gathering in honor of the holiday season for this challenge, but I will stick  with a different and perhaps more conventional interpretation of the theme.

These pictures are from our visit to La Langue de Barbarie near St. Louis in Senegal.

Here is a colony of seagulls.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here is a flight of cormorants.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Finally, here is a squadron of pelicans.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I submit that these pictures of gatherings of birds fits the theme for the week.