Friday, January 30, 2009

Another snap from Peet's

Hello, Picasaweb... where's my photo? Why isn't Blogger better integrated with Picassaweb?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Snapped this photo a few minutes ago, in Peet's Coffee in Menlo Park. It's just a quiet moment - I'm toying with the idea of a Menlo documentary project. Leica M8 with Zeiss 50mm... blogged 'live' via Netbook and Peet's WiFi...
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Good (fully transparent) morning

I see my (klutz) adventures with a plastic tub of Whole Foods soup, have sparked a lot of comments. I don't mind being open about misadventures (think: Homer Simpson's 'Doh' moments). I'm a klutz and a geek. My friends know it, and I'm probably doing a wider audience a favor by letting them in on the secret. If you see me coming with a plastic container of soup, run. You've been warned...

Random stuff:

Thomas Keller's Slow-Cooker Cassoulet. Yum...

Speaking of working with dinosaur photo gear: Nikon Rangefinder SP Black 2005. I had a Nikon S when I was 19 and trying to break into the London photo scene...

n_judah_fog_225.jpgThe N Judah project is back on my radar. Made some good progress yesterday - news TK. I documented my 3-times-a-week journey on the blog. These are pictures I took on the eponymous streetcar while commuting to radiation therapy and slowly becoming half-paralyzed, in November and December of 2006 It was good to have something to do while coping with the 'new me'...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The lens as therapy

693_shadow_2.jpgWe're really having fun with the new Zeiss Planar, carrying it on either an M8 (digital) or M4 (film) body pretty much everywhere we go. I like the saturation, as well as the sharpness: this snap taken in the back hallway of the local Starbucks succeeds because of the richness of color and detail in the blond wood.

Working with a rangefinder again reminds me of how touchy the focus is - rangefinders were never as good as reflex cameras for normal and telephoto shots (the 50mm Planar is the equivalent of a 70mm on the digital M8). But, with instant viewing of the photo on the M8, I can correct static situations like this one if the first try is a bit off.

Working with the rangefinder is good therapy for my recovering left arm and hand, which really need work to get the fine motor skills back (I'm typing this with the left hand, also good exercise). THe new Zeiss has a stiff focusing ring - common in new manual focus lenses. While it should loosen a bit with use, the extra oomph is a good exercise for my week hand.

So, we're back to full-dinosaur snapping with the M4 which has no battery or exposure meter - the shutter spring and film advance require the photographer to flip a lever with the right thumb - which lever was itself a much-hailed advance when it debuted in the 1950s (I think). Heh, like the McDonald's jingle, 'I'm lovin it'...

Monday, January 26, 2009

The new lens


tin_cup.jpgA week ago, Scott and I made a Saturday morning run to Keeble & Shuchat, one of the Bay Area's best camera stores. Scott was looking for a tripod and I was just looking (honest, dear). While Scott perused the very lightweight (and expensive) Manfrotto carbon-fiber tripods I gazed at the Leica shelf. I have been half-way looking for a 50mm lens for my Leica rangefinders.

In the old days, I used the Leica as a wide angle camera. My Nikons had normal and telephoto lenses mounted as I made my rounds, working mostly for daily newspapers. The Leica 21mm was very sharp and distortion free, and gave me an edge over the 24mm Nikkor then used by most photojournalists. The 35mm was a great 'normal' lens, and very useful shooting groups at social events. People on the ends didn't get that fat look that lesser wide angles produce.

Nowadays I'm using my Leicas as much as possible - in part to make my left arm and hand work by focusing the Leica (using rangefinder technology invented early in the last century). So a 'normal' angle lens was on the wish list. At the store, a new Leitz 50mm f2 lens was $2000. A beat demo lens was $1700. No thanks.

However, a Zeiss Ikon camera was sitting on the shelf, with a 50mm Zeiss Planar T* - my old film Contax camera had a Planar, as did my Hasselblad - I had always loved the images from both. The salesman quoted a price for the Zeiss lens that was a third of the Leitz 50mm. I made the command decision, and ordered one in black, to match my Leica bodies.

The lens arrived last Thursday - the pictures above were made with the new lens. The picture at top is a crop from the picture at left, and shows the Planar's crisp resolution and very nice saturation. This new Planar does not disappoint...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Cook Doctrine at Apple - Go West

The Cook Doctrine at Apple - Go West: ""

We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.

(Via Scott Loftesness.)...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Stacked interrupts


Thanks to Scott's evangelism I'm running friendfeed (now via FriendDeck) and Twitter via Tweetdeck, as I mentioned a couple days ago. A whole bunch of old colleagues suddenly surfaced: it reminded me of the heady old days of constant chatter and cross-linking on the then-nascent blogs.

But my day yesterday basically went to hell schedule-wise as I dealt with the data torrent. Something would catch my eye: when I explored that link something else would divert me to yet another location.

The whole process reminded me of the computer concept of interrupts, whereby a higher-priority process can interrupt lower priority code. Interrupts can be interrupted up to the ability of the processor's memory registers or 'stacks' to hold the interrupted code.

Yesterday's chain of interrupts waaaay overloaded my 'stack.' Spouse came home to find mail not sorted, wash not moved over and recycling bins still on curb. She was sweet about it, though. Nevertheless, this morning she looked at a half-dozen parallel waterfalls of posts, links, photos and other data pouring down the screen like the opening scenes from The Matrix trilogy and asked me if I thought I'd have time to shop and make dinner. Either I'm getting slower or the net is running a whole lot faster...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

As good as I'm ever going to look


With all these new social media sites on my radar, I decided I needed a more atmospheric portrait. I have always relied on Anne Knudsen, a very talented Silicon Valley photographer, to render me as well as this old mug will allow.

Previously Anne has photographed me in the very flattering style that most corporate publications favor - appropriate for the large corporations I've worked for, as well as the startups where we were trying to look bigger than we were.

Today, between dropping off her daughter and an assignment in Menlo, she shot me - in about 15 minutes - after very carefully setting a single strobe. And, boy, did she nail it - I am one very happy 'client.' It really pays to work with a pro. Wow, and many thanks, Annie...

Too many feeds?

Scott and I cancelled our walk this morning: it was pouring. So I took the opportunity to take the leap into Twitter, which Scott has been discussing on our last couple of walks (yeah, sure... I've been a tech hermit the last 18 months or so).

Now I've got Tweetdeck running on one monitor, friendfeed realtime on another. Windows 7 beta is downloading in the background as is a Flickr upload utility. Sheesh... all these feeds create constant distraction. Dave Weiner posted an iPhoto snap that just had to be fixed. Scott tipped me to a French photographer, a couple old colleagues found me on Twitter, another on Facebook and, oh yeah, we have some blogging to do, and on it goes. And I still have brain exercise to do... I'm going to need it...

Too many feeds?

Scott and I cancelled our walk this morning: it was pouring. So I took the opportunity to take the leap into Twitter, which Scott has been discussing on our last couple of walks (yeah, sure... I've been a tech hermit the last 18 months or so).

Now I've got Tweetdeck running on one monitor, friendfeed realtime on another. Windows 7 beta is downloading in the background as is a Flickr upload utility. Sheesh... all these feeds create constant distraction. Dave Weiner posted an iPhoto snap that just had to be fixed. Scott tipped me to a French photographer, a couple old colleagues found me on Twitter, another on Facebook and, oh yeah, we have some blogging to do, and on it goes. And I still have brain exercise to do... I'm going to need it...

My NetBook

Here, btw, is my Netbook... not as tricked-out as Dave's (yet)...

Quick fix for an iPhoto snap...

daves_netbook.jpgHere's a quick fix for this Dave Weiner iPhoto snap. The halo around the screen is annoying, but the shadow detail picks up a bit.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The has-been

Holed up in's World HQ against today's gray and chilly weather, we found ourselves thinking about our past career moves (helped, no doubt, by a colleague's invitattion to join her LinkedIn network). We have been:

  • a dishwasher
  • a merchant mariner
  • a cab driver
  • a tow-truck operator
  • a freelance photographer
  • a daily newspaper staff photographer
  • a photo editor (and color page makeup person)
  • a columnist
  • director of marketing at a large computer company
  • VP of marketing at a couple of startups
  • product manager at a large software company
  • blogger

Nowadays we're on disability (not our idea) and focusing on physical and cortical rehab of this currently half-broken body. We are certainly not averse to working, but the market for 57-year-olds who need to spend 3 hours a day on rehab and who disappear for various treatments a couple of times a month is a bit slow at the moment. We continue as blogger-in-cheif, cook and bottle-washer at

Friday, January 16, 2009

The 'emergent newsroom'

plane_hudson_krums.jpg This iPhone picture was taken by Janis Krum, a man who happened to be aboard one of the New York ferries that diverted to the scene of yesterday's U.S. Airways crash (or splash) landing in the Hudson River. He published it to Twitter within minutes, in the process scooping every outlet in New York, media center of the universe.

Snapped and published in seconds, Krum's effort is a prime example of citizen journalism, a topic long espoused and delineated by Dan Gillmor. Dan, then a columnist at the San Jose Mercury News, and I had an email exchange on the topic of what I called 'emergent newsrooms' or 'self-assembling media' in the aftermath of the Columbia space shuttle disaster in 2003.

In that case, shuttle-savvy bloggers contacted retired NASA engineers, did frame-by-frame analysis of video of the launch and came up with the theory - which turned out to be correct - that foam falling from the external tank had been the root cause of Columbia's breakup during reentry - hours or even days ahead of major media. Indeed, many major-media space correspondents were unaware of what had already been researched, written and thoughtfully analyzed on the 'net.

Nowadays, major media rely on citizen Internet resources for coverage of major breaking events. Regard the coverage of a New Year's day shooting by a transit policeman of a man during a scuffle at a Bay Area Rapid Transit station. Both major outlets - KTVU and the San Francisco Chronicle pulled video and frame grabs from cellphone videos posted by bystanders on YouTube.

Amazingly, the web of sites and commentary that springs up around these events tends to find errors and correct them, usually with no central authority. The importance of this mechanism is no small thing: it's pretty clear that old structures like print and broadcast newsrooms are going to disappear sooner than later. Many decry the void that this will leave, but I wonder if the transparency and immediacy of the networked world might not provide a viable, possibly better alternative.

Scott Loftesness posited using the rooms feature in friendfeed to quickly assemble related feeds, blog posts, photo and video, allowing skilled editors (or observant, skeptical readers of any stripe) to provide coverage - there are many other Internet mechanisms available as well.

It remains to be seen if a web of people with day jobs will suffice to do things like track corruption and lawbreaking in government, corporate excess and perform other other truth-sniffing services that have been vital to the survival of democracy for the past two centuries. Self-assembling news works well for events like plane crashes... but could there be a Watergate-style investigation in this brave, new, non-centralized world?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More Pescadero B&W

We're still experimenting, learning the ropes of Blogger... here we add an image from my main blog.

The pic below is from Picasa - I'm surprised I can't more easily snag a photo from Picasaweb to incorporate into this blog. Or are we missing something...?

Pescadero B&W

Scott and I took a drive over to Pescadero this past weekend. Scott was trying out his new Canon, and I brought along my Leica - here's one of the pix. You can see more, here.

We'll be checking out Picassa for Mac in a bit - it's still in Google Labs. I use Picasa for Linux on my Asus netbook - been a great tool for putting vacation pix on Picassaweb.

Losing it if not using it

handwriting_crop.jpgA thread on one of my email lists was started by the observation of one correspondent, a writer, that his ability to read from paper media seemed to be declining - he, half-kidding, wondered if he should scan his paper documents so he could read them from a screen.

His thought to scan the book reminded me of an experience I had 13 (?) years ago... I was working at Apple and was introduced to Gary Starkweather in Apple's Advanced Technology Group. Apple was flush in those days and ATG was a group of 'mad computer scientists' who could write themselves pretty much any size check they wished.

Gary, the legend who had invented the LaserWriter concept when he was at Xerox Park, could especially do pretty much anything he wanted. That year ('95 I think) he contended, magnetic storage would become exactly the same price as paper storage, and would thereafter become much cheaper. To better learn to deal withe the coming paperless future, Gary had a small army of recent MIT and Carnegie Mellon grads scan in *everything* he read - his bills, his daily newspaper, magazines, books, mail, you name it - for the whole year.

He read everything on a Duo laptop or his home or work desktop Macs. I asked him if it was tedious and he answered that it wasn't as bad as it sounded. He challenged me to read a book-length document on a computer, so I bought (in the employee store) the Voyager (remember them?) hypercard (remember that technology?) edition of William Gibson's cyberpunk trilogy, which I read on my PowerBook Duo (remember the 25 MHz 68030-based Duo?) while on vacation, sitting on the porch of an old ranch house in the Anderson Valley.

He was right, it wasn't that bad. These days, as I read most books on a Kindle and almost everything shorter on my netbook or desktop, I see the prescience of Gary's experiment.

To my colleague's point about losing paper skills (he note his handwriting was getting bad, too), I've noted the same phenomenon. Norman Doidge addresses this in his book on neuroplasticity "The Brain that Heals Itself" - it really is 'use it or lose it.' When using some skill less often, the brain diverts resources to those things that are done more often - we really do get 'rusty' you can see in my handwritten to-do list...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The boy's wild weekend


So, both Scott and I found ourselves without spouse on Saturday and we decided to get together. I sent Scott an email suggesting we go drinking in topless bars - Scott didn't even bother to reply: you know you're getting old when it's just understood that behavior involving alcohol and unclad females is off the table... waaay off the table.

Scott has a new Canon 5D he wanted to check out, so I grabbed my Leica and piled into Scott's hybrid Honda with him and Tiger Lily. We just headed out, and eventually found ourselves in Pescadero, on the coast side of Skyline. There are a couple of picturesque, weathered buildings just outside of 'downtown' on North Street that Scott is fond of photographing - unfortunately, both were blocked by parked cars.

I found my own picturesque building - St. Anthony's Iglesia Catolica (seen above) and fumbled with the auxiliary viewfinder for the Leica's 16-21mm zoom, before realizing it was calibrated for a film Leica, not my digital M8 (I should have packed the M4, loaded with Tri-X).

North Street is also home to Harley Farms, makers of excellent goat cheese. Scott likes cooking as much as I do so we made a small raid on the farm store, coming away with chevre, goat ricotta and chevre buttons in herbed olive oil (num). After that it was take-out barbecue sandwiches from the market on Stage Road (with Lily, we couldn't eat at the celebrated Duarte's or the locals' fave, the Mexican restaurant in the Alliance gas station). We ate at a picnic table in Pescadero State Beach before cruising home the slow way...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Cross post from my other blog

[I'm playing around with MarsEdit, a blog editor, that makes it easy, among other things to crosspost...]

After Scott, Lily and I completed our morning marathon (actually a 1.5 mile loop walk) and ensuing coffee chat (I'm threatening to bring a mic and/or webcam to this twice weekly event), I was evicted from World HQ by our incredibly efficient cleaning crew.

There's a maelstrom of vacuum cleaners and dust mops rattling the house, and I'm holed up in the back bedroom while the rest of the house is mopped, vacuumed, dusted, polished and scrubbed into submission. My tiny Asus Netbook is on my lap, and we're logged in to World HQ's secure WiFi (got to keep those Russian spies and hacker riffraff from reading my posts before they're public). The WordPress interface works flawlessly in Firefox on Linux.

As usual Scott and I had conversed, rambling over a dozen topics as we walked or, afterwards, sipped Peet's coffee.  Scott, who is an expert in electronic payments, made the point that all the innovation in his field seemed to be coming from scammers who were constantly looking for ways to game big payment systems. 

Scott also showed me a Virgin Atlantic ad video on his iPhone that's running in Britain, featuring a bunch of sexy female flight attendants (remember when?) - the ad is set in the 1980s in commemoration  of Virgin's 25th anniversary. He figures it might not be PC enough for the U.S. - but Linda liked it.

We also discussed the tech feeds aggregator I built on Blogger, using a 'recipe' from Elise Bauer. Im currently waging a battle with my CSS template to incorporate the feed legibly into