Dear Amazon,

If you have multiple versions of a song, and I say, “Alexa, play $song”, please select the version that I actually purchased from you. Don’t make me say, “Alexa, play $song from my music”, especially when the title is long, like, say, “Keep your eye on the sparrow”.

Also, don’t play the newest cover version of a song, by some random nobody. Ever. Don’t make me spend ten minutes trying to find the right incantation to get you to cough up the real one. If you’re not sure, ask.

And when you can’t find the song at all and start playing something “popular” based on one of the words in the title I gave you, please ask me what you did wrong when I shout, “Alexa, stop!”.

[Sadly, Amazon Music doesn’t have the actual soundtrack for Dark Star, so all the available versions of Benson, Arizona are by some guy who gives it a good shot, but it just doesn’t work.]

Long-term support…

Two weeks before Christmas (my own personal holiday), I picked up a Sony a6500 mirrorless camera with 18-105mm f/4 lens. It came in quite handy over Christmas for getting some good pics of my niece and nephew and my parents’ skittish new puppy, and when I got home again, I was able to play with the adapters that allow it to use all of my old autofocus Minolta lenses (some of them dating back to the mid-Eighties), as well as my handful of old manual-focus Nikon lenses (35/2.8, 50/1.4, 50-135/3.5, 135/2.8).

I also bought the flash adapter, but my little Sony flash (the no-longer-sold HLVF-20AM) kept turning itself off after a few minutes, and my big Metz flash wasn’t entirely compatible. There are no firmware updates for the Sony, but Metz is another story.

Sure, I had to scrounge up a VMware instance of Windows XP or Windows 7, but once I did, I was able to use the six-year-old updater on my Mac through a USB-C dongle. And now the flash isn’t caught in a zoom loop when I attach lenses wider than 70mm. The AF illuminator doesn’t work, but it still beats the pants off of the builtin.

For our next trip to Japan, though (April! April!), I’m thinking of getting one of the tiny shoe-mount LED video lights, which I might be able to use in some “no-flash” locations, and which also solves the AF-illuminator problem. It looks like Litra’s CES announcement has been leaked by Calumet, and perhaps Manfrotto will have an update to the Lumimuse as well (other than just adding Bluetooth). No rush on those, since I’ve got until April (April! April!).

And, no, I’m not planning to buy Sony’s new 400mm f/2.8. That’s a Lottery-Level Event. I’d need to retire just to find things worth pointing it at.

I might take my classic Minolta 70-210mm f/4 (roughly the size and weight of a 23-ounce can of AriZona Iced Tea, not counting the lens adapter), but only for specific outings where I expect to be able to put it to good use. I’ll leave the 18-105 on most of the time, unless I pick up a fast fixed lens for wandering around at night. Or not; honestly, with 24 mumbly-pixels, I can crop quite a bit, and the high-ISO performance is much better than my old body, even before you add in the multi-shot noise-reduction feature, which makes ISO 25600 surprisingly useful.

If I were going to Japan alone for 3+ weeks, I’d take at least a monopod and my footlong Minolta 100-400mm f/4.5-6.7; using only the center of it on an APS-C body improves its quality quite a bit, and if you can’t get close enough to your subject with an effective focal length of 600mm, you need to rethink your strategy (birders will disagree…).

Although I suppose I could break out the old 500mm f/8 Reflex…

(sadly, while I have the 300mm f/2.8 and matched 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, the TCs don’t work with the E-mount adapter)

Oh, and how good is it at delivering 24 mumbly-pixels, especially with a translucent-mirror lens adapter in the middle? Pretty darn good; that’s my old Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro (same lens, different penny), ISO 100, f/11, 4 second exposure, X-Fine JPEG, 2-second timer, cheap video tripod, cropped.

For shooting macro or using the 135mm STF long-distance portrait lens, I really ought to pick up the other Sony A-mount adapter that doesn’t have a mirror, screw drive, and autofocus sensors, but I think I’m okay with this one. Besides, my spare cash needs to go into the vacation fund (April! April!).


The little Sony flash works better now; apparently it’s finicky about batteries, and the ones I had displeased it. Also, I’ve bought the LitraPro LED light, and it’s quite spiffy. Honestly, I’ll be surprised if I ever use it at over 25% power unless I’m trying to light half the temple.

Plug-in Transformer

Wow, that’s gotta be hard to clean…

No, really, ‘I can quit any time’

‘I can quit any time’

Dear Funko,

I am deeply saddened to find no Funko Pop figurines of Pinky, Froppy, or Ruby Roundhouse. How can I keep my office safe without them?


Well, when this comes out, I should be protected from any hostile force. Even idiot managers.

“Alexa, let there be light!”

I bit the bullet and started moving to LED lighting at home. While I’m generally opposed to the Internet of Things, a few people I have reason to trust spoke well of Philips Hue smart lighting (in particular, the fact that it gets updates), so I picked up a starter kit on Amazon and gave it a try.

After playing with it for a while, I picked up some White Ambiance flood lights at Home Depot to start replacing the mix of incandescents and fluorescents in my ceilings, and some more White ones for outside. I also added a wireless dimmer switch (for the stairs) and motion detector (for the garage), and set up the Amazon Alexa integration. I’ll probably add another motion detector and a few more switches before my parents come out in March, since they won’t be used to calling out the names I’ve given to each lighting area.

While planning out the number and type of lights I’d need, I realized I had a way to use my most peculiar Christmas present: an eBay gift card. Sure enough, a number of dealers with good histories have new-in-box Hue lights, so I ordered some floods and A19 bulbs.

The floods arrived yesterday, in new-looking packaging, but the seal on one of the boxes looked like it had been opened and resealed. Sure enough, both boxes contained Hyperikon LED bulbs rather than the promised Philips Hue, and no, they weren’t even smart bulbs.

I have done the seller the courtesy of assuming that this was not an act of deliberate fraud (by them; obviously someone’s a scammer), and requested a “wrong item” return, sending them pictures of the shady seal and the bulbs. If they haven’t responded appropriately in a few days, I’ll post their name and start the dispute process with eBay. Fortunately this only affects the family room, so as long as the other eBay seller doesn’t screw me, the rest of the place will be done.

…except for the bathroom lights, which have these stupid multi-globe-bulb fixtures that will need to be replaced; no way I’m buying 21 LED smartbulbs to light 2.5 baths. In fairness, though, I haven’t had a single one of them burn out in 18 years.

Is there any franchise they’ve missed?

Seriously, Funko: McDuck, Balrog, Blossom, Chibi Sailor Moon, Bulma, Faye, Jack, Joey Ramone, Bob Ross, Ted, Jaws, Kevin, and coming soon, Queen Elizabeth and Kurt Cobain.

I think the Bond Golden Girl figure is in poor taste, but I confess I’m a bit tempted by the Dark Willow.