July 30, 2020

Cheating with digital

Photographs should not be significantly altered in post. It’s cheating. This is how I feel. I suppose if you consider yourself a digital illustrator” rather than photographer, then sure, but otherwise, it’s cheating.

And oh my how easy it is to cheat these days. Here’s an example. I took the following photo yesterday during a walk at the beach with my daughter.

Ok, I lied, the photo I actually took was this one…

Pretty similar, right? Except that my photo had no birds in it, and the sky was dull and boring, as far as skies go.

It took me about 4 clicks in the latest version of Luminar to replace the sky with something slightly more dramatic and to add a few birds, just for the hell of it. The result is the same” photo but just jazzed up a little, right?

No, it’s not. It’s cheating and it’s not what happened. My goal when taking photographs is to record things I’m interested in or to show how I see things. I realize not everyone feels this way, but cheating like I did here ruins the photo for me. Yes, if I were scrolling through Instagram I’m sure I’d prefer the altered version, but it’s not how I want to do things.

It’s so tempting, though! If it only takes a few clicks to go from decent to Wow!, why wouldn’t I? I’d like to make the slippery slope argument here. I mean, just look at how awesome this sunset photo is!


But, you know, some hard-working photographer somewhere is spending days getting to beautiful places and waiting long hours for just the right moment. Then, finally, the light and sky and everything comes together for the shot. By cheaply and easily altering my images, I diminish the work done by those who are out doing it for real. It feels wrong. It feels like cheating and I want no part of it.

July 27, 2020

Re-retiring the old iPhone SE

I’ve only had it out again for a few weeks, but I’ve already put my beloved iPhone SE back in the drawer. As much as I love its size, shape, and Touch ID, the little SE doesn’t fit as well into my life as well as the X. Its battery only gives me about a half-day of use. It doesn’t fit in my car holder. It’s a lot slower, and the camera is much worse. I could probably take care of most of these if I tried hard enough, but I’d just be swimming upstream.

Apple isn’t going to make another small phone like the SE. I’m better off moving on. It’s disappointing, but fine. It’s just a phone.

Apple Hardware
July 26, 2020

The MyHeritage Photo Enhancer

I ran one of my favorite found negatives through the MyHeritage Photo Enhancer and I have to admit it’s pretty impressive.

Before and afterBefore and after

The photos are enhanced using this specialized technology and are not manually retouched in any way. The technology infers what the original faces may have looked like by bringing blurry low-resolution or low-quality photos into clear focus.

The process focuses on faces in the photos and leaves the rest alone. It’s worked amazingly well on the handful of images I’ve tested. I want this for all of my very old negative and photo scans. Unfortunately, it requires a subscription to MyHeritage, in which I’m not interested.

The technology behind all this is licensed, so it must be available elsewhere. If you know where I might find it, drop me a line.

Photography Analog
July 21, 2020

Cameras I’m using and cameras I want

Here are the cameras I use regularly enough to claim that they are being used”, in order of most-to-least used.


  • Ricoh GRIII
  • Leica Q
  • Fuji X-Pro2
  • Fuji X-T3


  • Leica M6
  • Fuji Instax SQ6
  • Leica M3
  • Hasselblad 500C/M

Obviously, this list is way too long for anyone claiming to be a serious hobby photographer: It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer, blah, blah…”. On the other hand, it’s a fine list for someone—me, for example—who enjoys photography but really likes cameras.

The past few months have seen me shoot very little film, but I must admit that the Leica M film bodies are so wonderful to hold that I pick them up and shoot a frame or two of whatever just for the tactile pleasure of it. They really are more to me than just cameras. They feel astonishing and could be the most beautiful man-made objects I’ve every used.

And yet, I mostly grab the little GRIII. I’m kind of in a digital mood lately.

What if I could have that Leica M feeling, but with digital? Good question! That’s what I’ve been wondering! :). So right now the camera I want is a Leica M10. Or specifically, the M10-P. I don’t want the new M10-R because, well, there’s no used market yet and who needs 40 megapixels? I don’t.

I can’t stop thinking about it. I already have the 35mm Summicron ASPH which is my favorite small-format lens of all time. Wouldn’t that be a wicked combination? I had an M8 years ago and that camera sucked. Chunky, slow, terrible in low light, and needed a filter so the blacks didn’t go all magenta on me. From what I can tell, the M10 is finally there. It’s a true M camera, but digital.

On the other hand, there’s the Leica SL2. In-body IS, wicked-good construction, world’s greatest EVF, damn good video (the M10 doesn’t even have video), and the option of using fantastic auto-focus lenses or my M lenses with an adapter. It’s a huge beast, but I kind of want one.

Then there’s Linhof 4x5 Master Technika. Of course I wouldn’t get a new one, at that price. I still enjoy making 4x5 portraits, but my 1950s Crown Graphic is beat to shit and doesn’t really spark joy”, as they say. I think the Linhof would.

I can only have one of the above, and probably shouldn’t have any, but I’ve found myself trolling eBay and the other usual outlets. I can’t wait to see what I do.

Shopping listShopping list

July 19, 2020

Big Sur beta issues

The macOS Big Sur beta has been stable overall, but hasn’t been without issues for me on the 2017 iMac. I’m keeping a list here.

  • Emacs crashes on launch. I’m using emacs-plus. I’ve tried all the usual fixes but no luck.
  • TiddlyDesktop crashes on launch, which means I’m editing the wiki in Firefox for now
  • Chronosync won’t read it’s own sync files
  • Lightroom Classic works but is so slow that it’s unusable
  • Google Backup and Sync (used for Google Photos) crashes on launch
  • I can’t change my desktop background to the Big Sur default image (acknowledged in release notes)

Some of these are known issues. Some could be just me. Other than Emacs not launching in a GUI, I don’t regret installing the beta, yet.

Added later:

  • My menubar items are all white, making them hard to read in light mode. Had to switch to dark mode, which I dislike.
Apple macOS
July 18, 2020

I miss Ruby on Rails

Me wearing my T-shirt from the first (2006) RailsconfMe wearing my T-shirt from the first (2006) Railsconf

I shipped my first Ruby On Rails app—an ecommerce website—in 2007. I had been writing PHP apps for a few years and working with Rails was a revelation. In fact, I was half finished writing that ecommerce site using PHP when I discovered Rails. I was so sure about Rails that I convinced the CEO to let me trash the PHP version and start over in Rails. It was worth it.

A few years later I drifted from writing code into more of a project management role. Of course I still work with developers every day, and have watched them chase newer, better” technologies for years. They seem to have collectively decided that a full-on JavaScript stack (Node/React/Vue/Nuxt/etc) is where we should be. Is it though?

I’ve been itching to write some code lately and found my chance in a Rails app we’d been working on for years. I wanted a small change to the way something worked in the app, so I cracked my knuckles, ran docker-compose and friends, made the changes, submitted a PR and Bam! my work was in production. Rails worked much the same as it did when I was using it regularly. That was comforting, given the rapid change and deprecation I see everywhere else.

It felt really good. It also made me think about Rails again. It made me think about monoliths vs microservices. I wondered why I became infatuated with microservices along with everyone else a few years back. I think that maybe it’s because splitting apps into a bunch of services provides us the opportunity to play with something new without needing to toss the entire system. As fun as this can be, it probably isn’t the best approach for most teams.

I guess what I’m learning is that I kind of miss Rails. I lament that we were, collectively, so eager to find something new that we forgot how easy and productive it is to build stuff in Rails. I read about the HEY Emal app stack and was reminded how refreshing it would be to work with a stable, (relatively) simple stack like that.

Yes, I know there are a shitload of Rails apps still out there, and more being built all the time, but if you follow current development events, the mindshare has moved on. I wonder if it was a mistake.

This is just me wondering what I should do about my recent urge to build something. I could, as I mentioned recently, go with something crazy like Clojure. Or, I could do what everyone else is doing and dive into JavaScript. Or… I could put on my old, comfortable Ruby on Rails T-shirt and perhaps actually get something done.

RubyOnRails Programming
July 16, 2020

Thinking about learning Clojure

I don’t understand Clojure. After each brief attempt to learn it, I’ve quit in frustration because, honestly, I don’t get it at all. I can’t get my head around any of the Lisp-y variants, but add the requirement of navigating the JVM, words like homoiconic , and functional programming in general and I’m completely lost.

But, I remain fascinated by it. I can’t explain it, but when I read about Clojure, everything sounds right to me. It sounds like something that does things the way I’d want to do them if I were smart enough.

Also, I adore Rich Hickey. Watch any of his talks (such as this one), and you’ll see what I mean.

I haven’t written any real code in years, but would like to ease back into it. If I were smart, I’d dive head first into JavaScript/Node.js and be done with it. After all, that’s what everyone else is doing, right?

Except I want to do the opposite of what everyone” is doing. Sometimes the reason everyone does something is that it’s a low common denominator. It’s usually also boring. Don’t ask me to explain it, but JavaScript bores me.

I want to learn something different. Something unique and fun and interesting. My other choices would be Go, Elixir, or Rust. Those all look fine, but I’ve become inexplicably attracted to Clojure so I’m starting there.

I’ve been here before, and what happens is that it gets hard and I quit trying. This post is just me putting something out there to remind me that I’m serious about it…this time.

Clojure Programming
July 14, 2020

Moving the blog around again (and again)

A funny thing happened recently. I was sitting at my desk one afternoon playing with the new iA Writer updates, and I wanted to test iA Writer’s new style check features, so I opened my Blot folder.

Uh oh, I knew right away that this was a mistake, because it reminded me how nice it is to edit simple Markdown posts in iA Writer (or BBEdit, or Typora, or Ulysses, or Emacs, or…) and have things magically collected and posted to a blog.

WordPress can do anything. It works with all kinds of other tools, and its ecosystem is unmatched. It also bores me and I don’t like using it. Editing with blocks” can be handy, but more often than not they get in the way. To avoid this, I bought the Iceberg editor plugin so editing would feel more like living in text files.

I don’t like writing in Iceberg. It seemed like a great solution at first, but it feels like an editor pretending to be something it’s not. (Or more accurately, it’s pretending not to be something it is). You know what feels like editing a Markdown file? Editing a Markdown file!

My move to WordPress didn’t stick. I can never get comfortable in WordPress for any length of time. There are too many things about it I don’t like.

I don’t like any of WordPress themes I’ve found. They look like they were designed by recent graduates of some SEO-self-branding-professional-development course conducted by a YouTuber coach” fresh out of a real job. If I cared about an audience” or subscriptions I might feel differently, but I don’t, so I don’t.

I don’t like updating plugins and themes on a daily basis, even though it’s easy to do. I don’t like having to host yet another app/stack.

Long story short, while I pretend to have valid reasons” for doing this, they’re really only cover for the fact that I do it because it’s fun.

So yeah, this blog is back to being managed by Blot. Blot is an occasionally fragile but glorious tool made and supported by one person (Is it still just David?) and remains a pleasure to use.

Fun, huh?

Meta Blogging WordPress Blot
July 12, 2020

Lathe Updates: Week Ending July 12, 2020

After moving my daily notes back to the wiki, a couple people mentioned that they missed having the posts available via RSS. Trouble is, one reason I prefer posting those notes on the wiki is because there’s no RSS feed.

So, as a compromise, I thought I’d try posting a weekly summary here and see how that feels.

All 7 days transcluded into a single tiddler: Journals: Week ending July 12, 2020

Or, each day individally.

Monday, July 6, 2020 — About daily notes, Roam, Safari, wiki notes

Tuesday, July 7, 2020 — Buddha Board, Readwise.io, iPhone SE, Roam, Keyboards

Wednesday, July 8, 2020 — Hassles with Fish shell, Keychron K2 update, iPhone SE, Blot, don’t use silly words

Thursday, July 9 2020 — Browser tabs, moral superiority, cameras, wear a mask, Notion.so, window managers

Friday, July 10, 2020 — Driving in the rain

Saturday, July 11, 2020 — Needing Twitter, painting a bedroom

Sunday, July 12, 2020 — Docker, my 1-year anniversary, Safari, free speech thread, nice emails, laptop stickers, Blot, what I should be doing.

July 12, 2020

Reading Long-Form Web Articles By Printing Them First

This tweet by Mike Lee Williams started something:

I look at a lot of articles on the web. And by look at” I mean skim distractedly without actually reading”. What happens is that I click a link and sort of scan the article until becoming distracted or interrupted by something else on the screen. I waste a lot of time this way, with little gain.

Mike’s approach to reading articles makes sense to me, so I’ve adopted a similar process and it’s working well.

I no longer try to read longer-form articles right away. I instead send them to Instapaper and, after a day or two, review the inbox, delete the ones I no longer care about, and print the ones I do. For printing, I use Mike’s user stylesheet for Firefox reader mode. The print layout is compact and readable and I can mark them up with a pencil and highlighter while away from the distractions of a screen.

A few recent articles waiting for reviewA few recent articles waiting for review

I keep recent articles scattered around my desk until I feel I’ve gotten what I need out of them. I then scan the marked up versions into DEVONthink and manually enter the highlights from the most important articles into Roam.

This print-first process is a good way for me to actually learn from things I find on the web.