In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog August 28th, 2010

Mothers & Daughters/www.shipito.com A Shipment Forwarding Service

Thailand Hotel Guide
• Evason Hua Hin Resort & Spa
• Lawana Beach Resort
• Pattawia Resort & Spa Hua Hin
• Praseban Resort Hua Hin

I have some unfortunate news to report on this project and total 100% transparency is how I feel this should be handled. My planned beneficiaries of this project, innocent very much in need children at a certain orphanage, have fallen victim to their local manager who we have found cannot currently be trusted and I doubt this is likely to change. Decisions need to be made if we're going to carry this project forward and if so who the new beneficiaries will be. I do expect this project to generate significant revenue so I take it very seriously. As you read this I'll be back in the Mae Sot area investigating further. I'll keep you informed. For now I'll still collect images with the intention of making the best most meaningful mosaics possible and as always, I'm asking for and will greatly appreciate your help with the images.

We are still accepting (and pleading for) images of children from SEA. No matter how terrible you think they are, please send them in anyway. These images will be used to complete a set of 3 high quality mosaics which will be sold to benefit the Karen and Burmese Orphans living in the orphanages and refugee camps. The more images the better, I can use all you have. Please take the time to go through your images for anything you think might help. If you missed the "No Place to Call Home" special, you can click on the link and read more about this. Thank you! [email protected]


Quick Click Links

Feature Photograph Adult Daughters & Mothers, Ayuttaya Floating Market www.Shipito,com A Shipment Forwarding Service Photography News of Interest

Readers Submissions Readers Questions A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review Infocus Blog, How Things Change..T


Feature Photograph *menu

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F4 1/200th 200mm ISO 200

During a recent visit to Ayutthaya’s new Floating Market I noticed a pretty young lady sitting with her mother. We were there for a workshop and I’m always trying to increase the awareness of my clients so they learn to see, to notice their surroundings, in the hope it helps create more and better compositions. In this particular case I noticed the very nice lighting hitting this pretty face.

You see, our eyes being human eyes normally see about 15-17 stops of light. This means from the darkest to the brightest lights in a scene, we see 15-17 stops. Our cameras only see 5-7 stops maximum. There are all kinds of techniques we can use to help expand this range, from bracketing our shots for careful Photoshop layering and blending to automated HDR with hand tone-mapping. But the point I was trying to make, was that our eyes seeing such a wide range, fails to notice the subtle nuances in light such as in this case. However, the camera in a way condenses the stops, or rather it ‘exposes’ out a 5-7 stop slice of the range our eyes are seeing, and we then see a much more profound effect on the captured image. We can train ourselves to see these differences.

This image is significant because it gives us a chance to talk about these subtleties and provides a visual example. In addition this is a pretty girl with a look of concentration framing her face with delicate hands involved in the very feminine gesture of primping her hair. The contrasts between the delicate hands and pretty face is significant, but more they work together to create a more compelling image than if she was just sitting there with her hands by her sides displaying her face only.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F4 1/1000th 153mm ISO 800

This image shows essentially the same elements, the nice lighting, a contrast between his face and the food he’s eating, and he’s approximately the same age and perhaps the same level of attractiveness. But see how the food while interesting, in no way compares to the young lady’s hands? Her hands frame her face while imparting a feeling of femininity and beauty. Here the food, while adding interest, gives the image a totally different feel.

What would have made the male’s face seem more masculine in the same vein as the females hands made her appear more feminine? Perhaps if he was wearing a ball cap, and he lifted up the brim with one hand while wiping his brow with the other, a distinct male gesture? How about if he was looking over the top of his sunglasses while holding the down with one hand? Or if he brought his hands up to his religious amulet and held it while appearing to say a small prayer?

These small differences help denote profound shifts in the ‘feeling’ of an environmental portrait or even a candid. When observing what’s going on around you, try to take advantage of such opportunities. As you observe the scene ask yourself what a subject ‘might’ do to enhance the image, and then try to anticipate that action. We can in effect, go from passive observers, to active photographers. Give it a try!

Mothers & Daughters, Ayutthaya’s Floating Market *menu

Canon 5d Mark II, 85mm F1.2L @F1.6 1/8000th ISO 200

A few weeks ago I visited Ayuttaya’s new Floating Market during a stormy weekday and the place was mostly empty. Still, it had many of the necessary ingredients for a successful workshop and it just so happened a client I’d been in contact with was describing this place in his list of desires so I forwarded him a link to the feature I did on my visit and soon I heard back that he was keen to visit. We scheduled for last Saturday.

Saturday morning found us trying desperately to make it there. On the way my six month old vehicle developed an engine warning light and we found ourselves pulled over in a service station pretending we could fix the problem by checking all the fluids and looking for parts ready to fall off. We must have done a good job of pretending because ten minutes later we restarted the vehicle and the engine light was out.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F5.6 1/30th 24mm ISO 200

We continued on our way guided by my mia noi, my Garmin 885T GPS. I distinctly remembered saying to Stick “while we’re here in the parking lot I’m going to make sure to enter our location so we can easily find this place again.” The problem was, the GPS map set didn’t have the floating market on it, so it was only a location with no connecting roads. We ended up in a small neighborhood less than 150 meters from where I entered the location in the floating markets car park, yet we had no way to get to the floating market from there without turning the vehicle into a submersible. 6-7 km and many turns later we found a sign pointing at the new floating market. It said (in Thai) to turn in 100 meters. There was nowhere to turn for 300-400 meters.

We eventually found the place and queued up behind a few hundred cars also looking to park. This place went from the empty place we saw on the weekday, to being as crowded as JJ Market on its busiest day. The character and feel of Ayutthaya’s Floating Market totally changed. For the better! In several hours there we were, the only farangs we saw, the visitors were mostly working class Thai families, and there were many theme skits and other historical displays going on everywhere we looked. The car park attendant was dressed as an ancient soldier and looked plenty scary! For the life of me I can’t reason why I didn’t take his picture. Next time.

Canon 5d Mark II, 85mm F1.2L @F1.4 1/1600th ISO 200

After a brief walk around we found a place to work from and settled into a table and ordered some drinks. As we worked I discovered my biggest challenge was to get him to slow down a bit and really observe our new environment. Soon we were on track and he was doing great. It was then that I decided to challenge myself. While he was working behind his viewfinder, I decided to look for and photograph as many adult daughter/mother pairs I could find during the next ten minutes.

Canon 5d Mark II, 85mm F1.2L @F1.4 1/1600th ISO 200

It didn’t take long to notice the old adage “if you want to know what the young girl will look like in a few years, you need look no further than her mother” was indeed true. In some cases scary true.

Canon 5d Mark II, 85mm F1.2L @F1.4 1/1600th ISO 200

In the ten minutes I found no less than ten adult daughter/mother pairs covering a wide age range. In some cases their relationships were immediately obvious, and in others you had to take a cloth look at features and mannerisms.

Canon 5d Mark II, 85mm F1.2L @F4 1/1000th ISO 200

In other cases a close look at chins, noses, and even dental structure gave them away. I started to get a good feeling about this location because of the families. These weren’t the “predator” locals you normally encounter in tourist areas of Bangkok, instead they were everyday families doing what Thai families do best. Family outings on the weekends and holidays.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F4 1/2500th 190mm ISO 200

Some of the more obvious matches had the most difference in the ‘before/after’ effect. Looking at this daughter I’d guess a good many men would find the daughter quite attractive. A nice build, great smile, confident posture, and a modern style. The mother, while obviously the mother, didn’t even have a hint of her daughter's attractiveness left in her.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5 1/30th 150mm ISO 400

Suddenly I noticed the young girl making coffee nearby was working with her mother. Looking at them in this image it’s not immediately obvious.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F4 1/40th 150mm ISO 400

But as soon as they both smiled in unison, the way they tucked in their mouths when smiling, held their eyes and chins, it became clear. Another mother and daughter pair!

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5 1/60th 153mm ISO 800

This was the first time I noticed her. To me she was interesting before I started thinking daughter/mother pairs. She quietly worked and seemed very aware of everything around her. She was almost anticipating her customers.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F6.3 1/200th 24mm ISO 200

This was a very friendly place. People were coming up to us and asking us to take their photographs! The client I was working with was surprised at this, but really once you get away from ‘tourist Thailand’ this is pretty normal behavior. If you have professional looking gear and you’re using it in a professional manner, people will come up to you hoping to be put in the newspaper or whoever they think you’re working for. Others are just friendly or curious.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F8 1/40th 170mm ISO 400

In between capturing daughter/mother pairs I found other captures I enjoyed. This young lady carefully counting her change looked quite serious. Already very attractive I wondered what she would look like at 20, and then 40, and finally 60? Time stands still for no one, we’re constantly performers in a very large time lapse movie and photographs are merely a ‘slice’ of time depicting our individual performance at a particular place and time.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F4 1/100th 200mm ISO 200

This was one of my favorite images of the day. The boy was really enjoying his ice cream and as his father took his photograph he put on a face that was really precious. I felt bad, usually I have a card that I’ll hand off to the parent for such captures so they can contact me later for a copy of the image. Today I forgot to replenish my cards.

Overall I was satisfied with our days shoot and what we accomplished during our workshop visit of Ayutthaya’s Floating Market. The difference between a slow weekday and a busy weekend was profound. The people were great and there were tons of interesting photographic opportunities everywhere you looked, from interesting people to traditional period correct skits/performances. Many boats and scenery shots, food, markets, landscaping, and more. The first time I visited I was left feeling less than thrilled, this time I can’t wait to go back!

www.Shipito.com, A Shipment Forwarding Service *menu

Introduction

Whether you’re an expat living the good life in Thailand, or a citizen of the EU or even perhaps Russia, I’ll bet there are many times you’ve looked at the websites of B&H Photo , Amazon, Buy.com, or one of the many other major shopping sites based in the USA and wished they allowed you to order at USA prices and ship the product to you in your own country. Or maybe there’s a product available in the USA you can’t find in your own country. Whatever your reason, there can be many advantages to being able to access the world’s largest marketplace.

With credit card fraud and other scams at all time highs most of these companies have either denied shipping products out of the country altogether, or severely limited what they allow. Using your credit card from another country can become an issue, and then there’s the sticky issue of duties and customs as you import products into your country.

Shipito has solved most of these issues for you. They’re a mail and/or package forwarding service which at the most basic level provides you with a USA mailing address to receive and then forward your mail, magazines, and/or packages. At more advanced levels they’ll even act as a broker to find the product you want, make the purchase, and then arrange for delivery. Their fees and shipping rates are very reasonable.


Accounts and Services

Before writing this review I had contact with the President of the company and learned quite a bit about their services and business philosophy. With fraud and scams at all time highs I wanted to be sure they were legit as well. Many websites you find online offering such services are fraud/scam sites. Shipito is the real deal. Since my chats with the President of the company I’ve shipped roughly 35 packages from various stores such as B&H Photo, Amazon, and Buy.com, which they then consolidated into 5 packages in total and shipped them to me here in Thailand. I’m 100% confident they’re not only legit, but a very good value with excellent service.

You can choose to pay a flat rate fee of $8.50 per package plus shipping using their free account. I upgraded to a $50 per year premium account which allowed package consolidations and I saved that much on shipping with my very first shipment. There are several options available and I encourage you to read each one carefully before choosing the right one for your needs.


Shipping Fees

High volume shippers in the States receive discounted shipping rates from FedEx and the USPS (United States Postal Service), significantly cheaper than if you walked into either place as a private citizen to ship a single box. Shipito receives and then passes on this discount to you.

If you’re curious use their shipping calculator to estimate shipping costs, and then go to FedEx or the USPS and use their shipping calculators to compare. This is what their shipping calculator looks like.

Notice it lets you choose the Shipito warehouse you’re using with the address they provide, fill in your destination country and postal code, and then the box weight and size. In this example I’m asking how much it will cost to ship a 9 pound box that measures 16x18x16 inches.

The shipping calculator returns two FedEx rates, showing two different speeds of shipment. I chose this weight and box size because I recently shipped such a box and selected the USPS Express option which for some reason wasn’t showing in their shipping fee calculator results. The USPS Express rate for the same package was $90.31 fully insured with a tracking number.

I find the USPS Express service the most economical and so far 5 packages have taken between 4 and 6 days to arrive in Thailand. When they arrive, they arrive via Thailand’s postal EMS service. If there are duties/vat to be paid you’ll need to go into your local post office and pay the fees to pick up your package. This is convenient for me.

If you pay a bit more for FedEx shipping, then the FedEx guy will deliver to your home and collect any fees at this time.


Advantages of Consolidation

When you place an order with an online marketplace they’ll often ship the order in multiple boxes. As an example my last order was in five boxes. Separate fees/shipping on the five boxes were $70.26, $52.44, $36.44, $45.30, and $38.22. The final shipping charges and fees totaled $90.31.

Consolidation allows several advantages. You’ll have the choice of placing the received boxes in a new big single box (expensive as it takes a lot of space and increases the size of your box), removing the items from the original packing boxes and placing them in a new single bigger box in their original packaging (a good option if you think the items need the protection of their original packaging), or they can strip all the original boxes and packaging and then wrap them in one single box (the most economical).

So far I’ve tried the last two options, but am the most comfortable with them leaving the item in its original packaging and then consolidating the items in a single box. Either way the items came professionally packed with no small items lost. There is even an option for removing the original invoices which would have obviously advantages.

Custom Forms and Declarations

I would never recommend anyone cheat their government, but sometimes an item is a returned item you’ve already paid duties and taxes on, or perhaps it’s a repaired item from a factory service center. Either way, you MUST fill out the customs information online. There is no one checking the accuracy of what you fill out. I believe it might be best to avoid keywords that someone using English as a second language might cue on as something of high value or requiring duty vs. just the VAT. Perhaps be a bit vague, but accurate. Below is an example customs form I filled out as an example for this article. It does not represent a real shipment but I’ll explain to you how it could.

The first box is a cell phone battery. The straight price and quantity is entered. The second box is two computer keyboards, one wireless and one illuminated, but in this sample I kept them more generic sounding. As few words as possible to be accurate. The third item was a fogless shower mirror and pretty straightforward. The fourth box a bottle of Eclipse Sensor cleaner. Anything marked “cleaner” might flag your shipment for special handling which could include surface (read by slow boat) shipment due to its chemical properties. The last item was a mini-dp to HDMI active adapter. I kept it generic. Five received boxes to my shipping address, consolidated into one larger box. Customs will get a copy showing what’s on the form above.

So far with five separate shipments customs didn’t once question the items or open a box. Three boxes required me to go to the local post office and pay fees to pick it up, two were delivered with no fees. The contents or value were all about the same. I noticed when a package arrived near the weekend or a holiday they pushed it out for delivery with no charges. It appears Thai customs has a great amount of leeway.

You can also claim the item as either merchandise or a gift. I’m not sure what difference it makes to Thai customs.


Tracking Your Package

FedEx, UPS, and DHL have some of the best tracking services available, showing the package at each place on its journey as it stops at each airport and handling center. If you require this sort of tracking they’re the services to use.

The USPS provides somewhat less information but I find it entirely useful. It shows when it leaves the Shipito warehouse, when it leaves the country, when it arrives in Thailand, and when it’s available for pickup or out for delivery.

As you can see from this real example my package left the Shipito warehouse on August 4th, and arrived in Thailand and was delivered with fee/charges five days later on August 9th. I think this is a very reasonable shipping speed and overall I’m very impressed.

Problems?

Initially I had a few moments of confusion and some issues with a less than helpful accounts clerk that took some clearing up. You see, you’ll need to verify your account. Until you do there are limits places on how much of their service you can use each month. The automatically generated notifications kept telling me my account was fine, then being verified, then being investigated, and back again several times. It was unnecessarily confusing and I had to be quite harsh with the accounts clerk to get her to notice just what was going on. They don’t see their website from your ‘angle’, so she had to quit assuming the customer was a moron and start assuming there was a real issue. She didn’t, so a quick email to the company President rectified that little problem.

There are different ways to “verify” your account including sending in copies of your identification cards, passport, or signing and notarizing some forms. I found this scrutiny understandable, but at the same time I felt uneasy providing this type of information to a company not verified by someone I trust. Hopefully this review will help alleviate some of the concerns I had.

Payment Method(s)

Another country’s credit card can often be a problem. Shipito will accept any credit card with an account properly verified, but you might still have a problem with the original marketplace such as Amazon or B&H Photo.

In such cases and with Shipito I used PayPal to pay for my products and shipping fees and authorization was immediate. Setting up your PayPal account is easy and a great way to make payments, but know you lose the protections a credit card company may offer and it’s extremely important you safeguard your PayPal account information. Otherwise someone armed with your information can max out whatever account you’ve signed up to use. Be very careful with phishing scams and to safeguard your login information.

Summary

This part is easy. I love this service! Once set up it's fast, easy, and very economical. As someone who orders a lot of high-tech devices for work and enjoyment it’s fast become an essential service.

I don’t think I’ll often have need for their brokerage services, but perhaps for some special items. With their brokerage services they do the buying and paying in your name, with you paying them through an established account, and this may very well save some major complications.

The site can be used in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Polish, Chinese, Dutch, and other languages, but the customs forms must always be in the international language. English.

I hope this review helped alleviate most of your questions and any fears you have that Shipito may not be legit. They are legitimate and I think you’ll quickly find their services indispensible. I would guess I’ll be using them for one or two consolidated shipments per month.

I’ve always been blessed with good friends in the states willing to receive and forward my packages, but I’ve always hesitated to impose. Now I don’t need to.

Photography News of Interest *menu

PC Magazine builds a budget CS5 Photoshop workstation. What’s interesting is this article made it to print with some really poor recommendations. Ah well..

Nikon announces the new D3100. This new entry level Nikon DSLR comes with a 14.2mp sensor, high ISO to 3200, and Nikon’s first 1080p video mode in a DSLR and the industry’s first fully autofocus mode for the movie mode, in a DSLR. I suspect this will compete very well with Canon’s popular T2i.

Nikon’s 85mm F1.4 AFD lens has always been a pro's favorite for portraits and weddings, and nowNikon has FINALLY updated this lens to include much faster AF-S focusing motors. Something Canon has had for the last 14 years. What they didn’t do was change this older design to include VR which would have put them one up on Canon. Still, I predict this will be a very popular lens and if it’s as good as the AFD model it will be spectacular!

Nikon announces an update to their dog of a 24-120mm F/4G ED VR lens. All I can say is I hope it’s a LOT better than the original. The original was a well known dud of a lens that couldn’t compete favorably in any way to Canon’s popular 24-105mm F4L IS. We’ll see when the reviews come out. If anyone gets their hands on one of these and doesn’t mind letting me test it, please shoot me an email.

The 28-300mm lens for a full frame camera has always been something of an unaccomplished dream, in that none of them have been well executed always resulting in a lens you really didn’t want to use at any focal range. Now, Nikon takes a stab at a 28-300mm F3.5-5.6G ED VR lens. I hope they’ve cracked the puzzle and turned out a great wide range zoom for general use. We’ll know soon.

Perhaps the highest rated P&S by professionals looking for a personal P&S, recently, has been the Canon S90 Powershot. With it’s F2 lens and large 3 inch LCD and touch body it was a combination we’d long hoped for. That it outputted raw files was a real bonus. Now Canon announces the S95 Powershot which adds a 720p movie mode, hybrid AF, and a few other small improvements. It’s not worth upgrading if you have a S90, but if you don’t you’ll want to look at this new S95.

Readers Submissions *menu

Steve –

Last Sunday in Azusa

A little town near the foothills.

About 40 miles from Long Beach.

Small ride like the good ole' days.

A REAL wet T shirt contest.

Fund raiser for the kids.

Bart

Bart – Thanks for the fun pictures!

Steve

I suspect the readers submissions will be a highly anticipated section of this column and I encourage anyone with photographs and travel accounts they'd like to share to please send them to me at: [email protected]

Readers Questions *menu

Steve –

Hi Steve, I have to buy a new tripod as I had to leave mine in Thailand due to having too much luggage when I left. Although it was getting old and I was wanting a better one.

Could you tell me if no. 1 or no. 2 is better in your opinion.

Charles

Charles –

I wish I knew these models but I don’t. I can comment that ‘generally’ ballheads are superior for our uses than pan and tilt heads which were designed with video cameras, but a good pan&tilt head is better than a crappy ballhead.

What is your budget? That might be a better space to work from. Most of the time I only recommend two brands, Gitzo and Manafrotto. Gitzo’s are expensive and are for legs only.. about $500 USD for a set of legs and another $500 or so for a good ball head like the Acra-Swiss B1 or the RSS BH series. These are lifetime tripods. I’ve even backed my truck over mine (twice!) by accident, leaving the bag on the ground, and they’re fine.

Manafrotto, a decent one, isn’t ‘cheap’, but they’re the minimum that will work properly..

The issue with tripods..

  • They need to work right and be used right or it’s not worth using one at all.
  • Generally, the less expensive, the tripod the more care needs to go into using them to make them effective. In other words, the more difficult they are to use properly, the more time needed to set them up, etc.
  • Ballheads are better for most photography uses than any other, pan&tilt being the least useful and gimbels being superior for wildlife and moving sports/cars/objects.
  • There are definite techniques which really help use these correctly. A tripod by itself can actually make things worse if not used correctly. Think ‘tuning fork effect’ and you’ll be close.

Have you considered a good monopod? They’re often available at a lower price point, for instance you can use a swivel attachment for $19 vs. a $500 head.. and they actually fit some uses better.

Steve

Please submit your questions to [email protected] All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.

A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review *menu

This week we had two workshops and not much else. We’ve continued to test and review many new pieces of equipment.

The“What’s New” area of our site continues to grow in popularity. We try to update it 4-5 times a week with the latest information and sneak peeks of our latest images. Check it out to keep track of Bangkok Images exploits and commentary throughout the week.

Still a ton of hardware and software reviews being formed, and admittedly I’ve been taking my time with some of this gear. Some, like our new monitors, is just too important to rush. Before someone takes my recommendation to purchase a baht 50,000 monitor I’ll be making sure it’s a very solid recommendation. The same with some of the other gear we have in the pipeline. Please be patient, we have a lot coming and only so much space in the column each week to post it.

Infocus Blog, How Things Change *menu

I was chatting with a friend today who was replacing his mother’s point and shoot camera. I couldn’t help but think if my own mother would have enjoyed using the modern conveniences we have available today at such accessible prices. My mother died about eight years ago. Much has happened in the tech world in eight years.

Phones. Like most mothers, mine spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone talking with her children, her friends, and I’d guess her phone conversations represented her primary social outlet. I remember as a teenager finding her a long 50-foot extension cord for her old Bakelite dial phone and carefully connecting the wires. Now she had freedom! She’d drag that phone from the hallway phone nook to the kitchen table where’d she’d pour her coke, light her cigarettes, and look out over Lincoln Park in Santa Monica while she’d chat on the phone for hours.

Remember the pushbutton phones? She loved this, it was lighter to carry around and it had a modular extension cord she could replace herself. Eventually a new cord would get all ‘twisty’ and then start having issues. Replacing cords was always on my list of chores to do when visiting home on leave, but now she could do it herself.

Cordless phones came on the scene in the 80’s and she didn’t want anything to do with them. She saw them as overpriced, poor quality, and let’s not forget she was very ‘attached’ to her old corded phone. I suggested a cordless phone many times, but in the end I had to agree the quality was poor and the comfort of the handset wasn’t nearly as good as her cordless phone.

And then I bought an AT&T cordless phone for myself and immediately realized it would fit her needs perfectly. The handset was designed to transition people from the old corded style phones to the newer cordless models and the quality was quite good. It operated on the old 6 meter band, roughly 50mhz. This means it had an antenna that needed to be extended. The next time I visited on leave I brought one with me.

When she first saw it she started lecturing me on wasting money, she didn’t want that thing in her house, and the radio waves would fry my brain. Unperturbed I hooked it up next to her old corded phone and she watched me use it to make a few calls. It was easy to use which I think was key. Extend the antenna, hit the “phone on” button, dial the number, and when finished hit the “phone off” key. As soon as I went to bed I could hear her picking it up and playing with it and finally making calls. She loved it. The quality is still the highest I’ve heard from any modern cordless phone and the comfort factor for her hours long conversation was quite high as well. Before my leave ended I’d made sure to hook up an extended antenna high up in a cabinet to the base station so she could make it all the way down to the laundry room while yapping away on the phone.

Soon muscle memory set in. The phone would ring, you’d grab the cordless, automatically extend the antenna, and bring it to her ear. A common site indeed! And yes, I had to replace a fair number of NiCad batteries aerials on the handset.

Years later on my next leave I brought a newer AT&T model with a ‘flex’ stubby antenna and lighter weight with greater range, and she lived with that phone for the next decade until she died.

During this decade cell phones became common. They’d went from the $2000 ‘suitcase phones’, to the $1000 ‘bag phone’ to the first $500 fully self-contained handset.

Of course she wouldn’t have one of these and even when small purse sized mobile phones became available she wasn’t interested. By this time in her life her habits were set in stone, and her phone was her social network tool and her routine of coke, cigarettes, and view of the park were the ‘right way’ to use the phone.

It always struck me as funny the contrast between her work and her home. At work she worked the graveyard shift at the local hospital which was a combination admitting, phone operator, receptionist position during the wee hours of the night. Her switchboard and computers at work where always high-tech devices and she used them with a quiet confidence born from the training classes provided by her employer and many years of use. But to her, these high tech devices were great for work and businesses, but not her home.

There was just no way I could get her to use a mobile phone. I consider it a small victory that my 95 year old grandma started carrying a mobile phone over the last years of her life before passing away early this year. But she was the one I received the Two Boxes of History from, so there was no way she’d want a digital camera either.

Today very competent point and shoot cameras can be found on clearance for under $100.00, and smart phones incorporate cameras, video cameras, the internet, and mobile phone technology. In just a few short decades our communication devices and personal electronics have undergone historical changes on a grand scale.

I can’t help but smile inside thinking of my mom sitting at her kitchen table, pouring her coke, lighting up her cigarettes, looking out over the park, and then opening her laptop and pounding away on the keyboard reading my new website, chatting on forums, having video chats, and sending me a ton of emails reminding me just how certain things should be done. Had it not been for her lifelong cigarette habit she’d probably be sitting at the same kitchen table as I write this.. pounding away on her new laptop.

The last picture of my mother before she passed showing the effects of aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. The kitchen table behind her was now not comfortable for her, so she found a new chair to look out her window and watch 'life' going on in the park. Did you know the band "Linkin Park" was named after Lincoln Park in Santa Monica ?

I always wondered what she was thinking in all the hours she sat viewing Lincoln Park. Living right across the street from the park for nearly four decades she saw it go from a place of high society with community theater and all kinds of sports and recreational facilities, to a last refuge for bands of the homeless, and then back again reconditioned to its original state and function.

Was she thinking of all the times she’d take my three sons across the street to swing on the swings or play basketball at the different stages of their lives.. or was she thinking of the times she took me or my brother right before our teens. Maybe she just enjoyed replaying her personal “best of” list of memories over the years. None of them involving mobile phones or laptop computers. I’ll never know. But then I didn’t need to know, or she would have told me.

Until next time..