Moods of Longwood Gardens – May 2018
SET: Flowers of Longwood Gardens
I have far too many images to put all into a single set. So I’ll be sharing multiple photosets.
Longwood Gardens in early May is an explosion of bloom. I took hundreds of photos of flowers.
As my own little corner of the web uncermoniously turned ten years old this year, it’s really starting to feel more like a garden than a piece of software. I certainly enjoy tending to it. I can plant what I like and with proper care it can grow into something useful.
First, how cool is his last name?
I like this analogy of comparing a personal web site to tending to your own personal garden.
I’ve long wanted to do a piece on the subject of gardening as violence. Gardening is an extremely violent act. To start a garden you must first kill whatever is already growing in the place you want to garden: cut down trees, tear out vines, rip up or smother sod. Then you break the soil and work it into a condition ready for planting.
I found this bit nestled in a post about a recent poem that Jenkins wrote and even performed. Gardening is a violent act? Fascinating perspective.
Eliza and I planted a few herbs this past weekend.
I’m totally jealous and inspired by this woman’s rooftop garden in South Korea. Simple, great use of space, economical, environmental.
Eliza and I have, for as long as I can remember, always wanted a garden. While we’ve always had flower-boxes, pots, small sections of flowers next to our homes, etc. – we’ve never had a garden proper and so we’re excited that this will be our first year of gardening.
We live in an apartment building that, much to our dismay, doesn’t have a lot of yard area. When our landlord offered a small patch of grass to us for our own use – we were exited. Allow me to quote Eliza on Twitter:
“After living here for 3 years, my landlord told me today I can have a garden. I think I am going to cry.” – @elizard
So, we got to work – and work it was. First we had to prepare the area for our garden. Here is what the area looked like before we got started.
Typically when tilling a garden you can just till the grass over and allow it to die under the soil. A lot of the grass that was growing in this area had some pretty funky root systems and so I didn’t want to deal with the grass if it tried to make a comeback. So I simply got rid of it.
I didn’t have a real spade for this part – which made it all the tougher. I ended up suffering some pretty hefty hand wounds that are still healing now.
Turning the soil over a few times, getting rid of rocks (and there were many, many of these in our garden area), and breaking up any of the large clumps of soil help for plants to take root.
The biggest challenged we faced with our soil was the number of rocks. We’ll be picking rocks out of this area for years to come. But, that’s Pennsylvania – one big rock.
The next day we set out to find some plants. We were starting late in the year so we planted both potted plants and seeds depending on the type of vegetable it was. Lettuce, for instance, will grow from a seed now and be ready in a few months while tomatoes and peppers of all types we started from potted plants.
Here is a list of the vegetables and fruit (since tomatoes are technically fruit) that we planted in the garden (those marked with “seed” means they are starting out as seeds):
We ended up planting, what I think is, quite a lot of plants given the area that we have. I just found a stock pile of bricks that I’m going to use to edge the garden, hopefully in the next day or so. Once I do that I’ll share some photos of what the garden looks like now. I’m really hoping that we have a decent harvest this year, learn a lot about gardening, and have fun spending time together in the garden and outdoors.
Are you enjoying these links? I know I am.
Light week. Mostly because I’ve been very busy both professionally and on my photography.
Nearly a decade ago Eliza and I began to make our own wine and beer. We started out making quick batches in buckets, carboys, or other small containers. It allowed us to get more familiar with the process of fermenting fruit or barley into one of our favorite drinks.
Eventually we graduated to making a more serious batch of wine that started as grapes still on the vine that were shipped by boat from Chile and ending up as 80 gallons of a Cabernet Sauvignon / Carménère blend that – to this day – is the best wine we’ve ever made or had.
When we began to learn this process it gave us a deeper appreciation for other wines and beers we had. We started to understand what each ingredient, what each stage, the temperature, and many other factors played into the end result. We also honed our tastes in so far as to know, without ever having a sip, what beverages we liked and didn’t like.
The process of learning to make wine feels very similar to the process of learning film photography.
I’ve been shooting digital images for many years. I’ve always had an interest in making photographs as memories of our experiences, as well as an outlet for my creativity. But it wasn’t until the iPhone debuted that I began to explore photography as an art medium. Or as a documentary medium for that matter. With the iPhone I would have a camera with me everywhere I went and I ended up taking tons of photographs with my mobile phone for the next decade. Which led to me taking photographs with other digital gadgets like GoPros and drones.
A few years ago though I began to study photography. Looking up its history, looking at examples from the last hundred or so years, and trying to learn different techniques. Prior to this time period I only had very surface knowledge of the photographic process – digital or film. I knew the basics of composition and how an image sensor worked. Apart from that I had no idea.
For whatever reason, the desire to try film – like the desire to make our own wine – became stronger and stronger. I started to follow film photographers on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. People like Dan Rubin, Bijan Sabet and a few others were nearly daily reminders that I should give it a try. Which ate at me for over a year. Then, about 6 months ago or so, I stumbled across Nick Carver on YouTube. What he was doing with film photography was much different than Dan or Bijan – he was trying to create the highest quality digital file and print he could from a scene. This interested me greatly.
My current digital cameras are already over 10 years old (not counting my current iPhone 11 Pro Max). So my ability to create high quality images on digital is non-existent. Looking at film it appeared to me (knowing almost nothing) that I’d be able to get a much higher quality result without the budget needs of upgrading my digital cameras. It turns out I was only part right on this.
So, as you may have listened to in this episode of my podcast, I decided to pick up a few inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras to get my journey started in film. That was four months ago. I figured I’d buy a camera or two, fire a few rolls, see what the results were and learn. Little did I know the rabbit hole or the ride I’d be on over the next several months – and likely for the rest of my life.
Since then I’ve purchased, or been gifted, well over a dozen cameras ranging from point-and-shoot 35mm film cameras to 100-year old medium format cameras that no longer have film compatible with them. I’ve read a few books on the history of photography as well as the complete photographic development process. I’ve shot dozens of rolls of film and developed them on my own, either in my kitchen sink or in my bathroom tub. In fact, I never sent away a single roll to be processed by someone else. I’ve even modified existing film stock to fit into that 100-year old camera.
I went a little off the deep end in an effort to give myself a crash course in film photography.
I still have a long way to go and a lot more to learn. I still haven’t created a high quality result that I’d be happy with for, say, a fine art print like Carver’s work. But I haven’t tried yet either. Most of the film I’ve shot, with the exception of 3 brand-new rolls of inexpensive Kodak Color Gold 400 (or Ultra Max) that I purchased in an Atlanta camera shop, has been film that is well past its expiration date. In fact, some of it didn’t work at all. Also, the cameras I’ve been using all have their little quirks. One doesn’t have a battery (so I have to meter for light using my iPhone or just guess). It also has moisture in the viewfinder so I can’t focus the image so again I’m left guessing. And the rest has been downright bad film.
Why go through all of this? Because it has cost me almost no money so far. All in I’ve spent less than $500 to shoot film for 4 months on many different setups with different speed films and process them all on my own. I consider this a very inexpensive education so far.
But I’m about to level up. I’m ready to move onto the next phase in my education and that is to use the skills I’ve learned so far to create high quality images using both 35mm and medium format film. I need to buy a bunch of brand-new film, which I’ll likely ruin or mess up in some way, and I still need to track down the medium format camera (maybe a Rolleiflex?) that I want at a price I can afford. But all that I’ve learned these last months will hopefully help to cut down on the mistakes I’m about to make. I’m on a budget after all!
I’ll check back in here in a few months time to see if, like the wine Eliza and I made, I’m making photographs that are now my favorite I’ve ever taken.
I’ll be publishing a lot more photos here on my site that I’ve taken over the last few months as well.
At work we picked up an Oculus Go for research and development purposes. But of course I commandeered the device first to put it through its paces and I think I have a good enough feel for it to write up a few observations.
These are, as always, in no particular order.
Many of my observations sound like complaints or feature requests. But I think that is normal when something is so new. The Oculus Go has left me wanting more. Much more. Better quality, more capability, more options, and to be able to use it for more tasks. I could see myself spending hours in VR doing the same things I do on my phone, iPad, or computer throughout the day. And I think this is evidence of how good Oculus Go already is.
If you are interested in VR and are looking for a completely standalone affordable solution; Oculus Go is your best buy right now.
What a weekend! Eliza and I traveled to Longwood Gardens for the weekend and then stopped in Jim Thorpe on the way home. Many images to follow.
Epcot – March 2017
It was great to visit Epcot during the Flower & Garden Festival this year.
These indie apps are often marketed as beautiful, wholesome alternatives to grimy corporate or open source software, but how could I possibly rely on these products for essential tasks like note-taking if they’re just going to disappear out from under me in a few years? The idea that software has a lifespan controlled by the developer is, in my opinion, toxic to the market. It’s just one of the many things pulling the App Store down, and one of the many downsides of living in a walled garden.
I have to agree. More and more I’m inclined to use an open (but not necessarily free) alternative for just about any app or service that I rely on.
I wasn’t a Vesper user, but if I was, I’d be scrambling to find an alternative since it is now being shut down. I’m a happy Simplenote user which is free and open and backed by a company that wants to keep things open and running for as long as possible.
Picturelife’s recent closing, which I called in January of 2015, is also a stark reminder that even if we rely heavily on an app or service, and even if we support it with our money and our word-of-mouth, it doesn’t mean that it will stick around.
If you find yourself relying on an app or service that could disappear tomorrow do yourself a favor and seek out alternatives while you still have plenty of time to make the switch. You don’t have to switch, but knowing what alternatives are out there and having a plan can save you a ton of headaches. If I hadn’t switched from Picturelife to iCloud when I did I’d be hurting right now. Bigtime.
I’ll have more on Picturelife’s shutdown in a future post.
Jason Santa Maria, on The Pastry Box Project:
We talk all the time on our personal and periodical sites about the latest techniques for design, but how often do we break down new designs? I mean really discuss them, not just add them to a gallery of notable sites.
Jason was moved to rethink about this topic of landmark design on the web spurred on by a tweet. He then wrote the aforementioned piece and, since, others have chimed in too.
I saved them (in the quickly-being-updated-daily Nilai) so that I could write about them.
Jeremy Keith, sent this piece he wrote in 2007 to Jason via Twitter:
I’d like to humbly submit my answer. I think there is a website which can be accurately described as an iconic landmark project. That website is the CSS Zen Garden.
We’ve been fortunate enough to see the return of the CSS Zen Garden.
Then, Cennydd Bowles through in his three part Beauty in Web Design series.
That said, I think web designers should appreciate that we can play an important role in society. We’re lucky enough to work on the coalface of the most exciting innovation of modern times. We’re on the brink of wonderful things. So yes, we’ve underachieved, but given the evolution of beauty and the tools now available to us, the web is an ideal vehicle for beautiful design. We’re the generation to turn that promise into action.
I remember discussing a problem with Jason many years ago via Instant Message. The problem was preserving the design of a URL as well as the content. Jason often thought that saving bookmarks to a service like Nilai, or then Magnolia, or Delicious, or Pinboard, would often lose the design of that URL with the passing of time. Saving a URL today may mean the content is the same tomorrow but it doesn’t mean the layout will be.
A poster, or map, or just about anything physical, as Jason refers to in his piece, can be preserved but web design seems to just go away. I know things like the Way Back Machine exist but that does a poor job of preserving a design but a better job of trying to preserve the main content.
A few decades from now, when those of us who remember the beginning of the web are dead, how will the world remember landmark design on the web? It won’t be from a CSS gallery.
Overall a good season in our small garden. We’re trying to keep it small so that it doesn’t get to be too much to maintain. Next year I plan on the garden yielding about double what it did this year without making it any larger than it is.
Everyone has an echo chamber that they’ve unwittingly built up around them. Your interests, friends, environment, and location are all factors in determining what your experiences are, what you know, and what you don’t know. It can be limiting.
How can you tell if you’re in an echo chamber? Ask yourself; Is your experience and knowledge more diverse than it was five years ago? Do you know everything there is to know about a single topic such as Apple or Anime? Do you listen to podcasts, read the blogs of, and follow the tweets of the same few guys? Do you see the same headline (or worse, sponsor) more than four times a day? You get the point. You’ve built up a few walls around yourself and things are beginning to echo a bit.
Shake things up. Tear down the walls. Here’s how:
Travel. Don’t go on vacation and just visit the touristy areas. Sit, eat, chat, and work with the people of the area you travel to. Learn what it is that makes business, marketing, and sales thrive there. Come back with ways you can improve how you do business. (Visit the touristy areas too, though, and Instagram the crap out of them.)
Go to conferences and meet ups. No doubt you’ll hear new perspectives from the presenters but also be sure to intentionally speak to people who don’t do exactly what you do. Ask them questions about how they do business, what lessons they’ve learned, what skills they have, and what their favorite hobbies are.
Work next to someone different. Have you had the same job for more than a few years? That’s great. You should consider yourself fortunate. But you have to mix it up and you don’t have to quit to do it. Work at a coworking space or a cafe a few times a week. Sit next to someone different. Feel their energy when they’re getting stuff done. Teach them how you do things. Bring the lessons you learn from them back into your company. Everyone will benefit.
Periodically delete your RSS subscriptions. Or, perhaps, you use Twitter Lists now instead. Whatever the case, once-and-awhile go through and delete the sites that deliver news and opinion pieces. If you read someone’s opinion long enough their opinions begin to form your own. Break out of that habit. Read the counter arguments. Or ditch them altogether.
Take a break from what you already know and follow something brand-new. Do you know everything about the new iPhone being released next month? Do you have an App.net account? (So do I.) This is OK. It is good to know what’s new. But don’t forget to learn from the past or from something new. Something way out of your “wheelhouse”. What about following something super local but important like the growth of your community, the efforts to build new parks in your town, celebrate the centennial anniversary of a nearby bakery, or help a friend build a new business that you know nothing about? Take a break. Follow something new.
Watch 90% less television. That’s it.
Get offline at least one night a week. The Internet is awesome. But it will be awesome tomorrow, too. Get offline one night a week (meaning, from 5pm until you go to sleep don’t touch the Internet in anyway on computer, phone, TV, nothing) and do something you need to get done. Grocery shop, clean your house, repair something, play a board game with a friend, go to a museum, walk around your town and speak with your neighbors, plant a garden, cook a new recipe (twice). Remember; seeing something on-screen is much different than feeling it with your hands, smelling it, or tasting it. Get out there.
Our echo chambers won’t kill us. But they certainly limit our own perspective. And, in reality, our experiences are what make us different, valuable to a company, and fun to be around. Tear down the walls of your own echo chamber and see what else is out there.
Have more to add? Consider chiming in on Hacker News.
When a recipe works it is generally riffed on by countless cooks. Each riff becoming its own unique dish and, chances are, riffed on once again.
John Gruber’s [Daring Fireball](http://daringfireball.net) is a recipe that is working and the cooks are busy in the kitchen adding a pinch of this, a pinch of that and seeing what works for them.
So far none of these recipes have become better, in this blogger’s opinion, than its master recipe but several have certainly managed to create their own dish that works well enough to feed their own mouths.
What is the Daring Fireball recipe? It consists of the following:
– 1 multiple-times-per-day updated link log.
– 1 not-so-frequently updated blog with longer, well-written posts.
– 1 (or two) audio podcasts (to taste).
– 1 weekly RSS feed sponsorship.
– 1 well-curated image-based ad on each page view.
From outward appearances this recipe nets Daring Fireball a very decent sum – which is why the cooks are in the kitchen. With no inside information here is what one can surmise based on what is public knowledge.
The three main ways Daring Fireball generates revenue is through its weekly RSS feed sponsorship, [The Deck Ad Network](http://decknetwork.net/), and [sponsorship of 5by5 Network’s The Talk Show](http://5by5.tv/advertise). Daring Fireball also uses affiliate links and sells Tshirts from time-to-time but I do not believe these to be major contributors to its profit. They may both contribute to its ability to generate revenue but I believe the bulk of its profit come from the three channels I’m covering here. Without knowing more about how The Deck Ad Network and The 5by5 Network distribute revenue it is impossible to know exactly how much revenue goes to Daring Fireball but we can do exactly what the other cooks are doing; make assumptions and get close.
Daring Fireball currently charges $6,500 USD per week to sponsor the RSS feed. This recently increased from $6,000 within the last few weeks, and increased to that not too long ago from $5,000 USD and so on. So to figure out the yearly revenue generated through this single sponsorship program would depend on where you start and end the year. But, lets jump out on a limb and say that a weekly sponsorship has cost at least $5,000 for the last year. That’d be about $260,000 USD per year from the RSS feed sponsorship. At $6,500, should it maintain or go up higher from here, it’d be $338,000 USD for the next year.
The Deck, of which Daring Fireball is only 1-of-52 members, has a current cost of $8,300 USD per month. Or, sponsors can pay to buy a day, called a “roadblock”, for $8,300 per day. With 27 sponsors in the month of September that is about $224,000 USD generated. (Assuming The Deck had sold absolutely no “roadblock” ads. If they had it’d be significantly more.) I’m assuming that The Deck distributes revenues based on a traffic-based model of sorts (more page views == more moolah) but I don’t know exactly. But even if you were to split this revenue evenly among all parties that’d be nearly $8,300 per month for Daring Fireball. Based on nothing other than my gut Daring Fireball’s 4M page views per month make up a fair amount of The Deck’s overall traffic and so, one could assume, that Daring Fireball gets a slightly larger share than my math suggests.
5by5 is currently charging $3,000 USD a month for its Livestream sponsorship (which The Talk Show does each week) and $3,000 for its bandwidth sponsorship as well as individual show sponsorships which they don’t publicize the price for. It is very difficult to tell how 5by5 would distribute this revenue but, again, I’ll make some assumptions. I assume that a bandwidth sponsorship is all for 5by5. Bandwidth is a bill that goes to 5by5 and not the hosts. Bandwidth for a show as popular as The Talk Show could easily be a few thousand dollars per month (not to mention editing costs, etc.) So if we take the bandwidth sponsorship off the table I can only assume that The Talk Show generates about $9,000 USD per month. $3,000 for the Livestream sponsorship, and $6,000 for the two episode-based sponsorships that are within the show. Plus donations, Tshirts? I think I’m underestimating the revenue-generating power of The Talk Show but I can’t be sure.
Not counting the revenue Daring Fireball generates with its affiliate links and tshirt sales; it is my assumption that Daring Fireball could generate upwards of $550,000 USD per year (going forward). And I believe I’m underestimating because my assumptions are probably low. Again, the affiliate links and tshirt sales are probably fairly good revenue generators but the bulk of Daring Fireball’s profit likely does not come from these two channels.
Why go through all of this to figure out how much revenue Daring Fireball generates? Because it is exactly what wannabe-pro-bloggers are doing every single day. They do this math based on the information they can gather and decide to take a stab at it themselves. And with Daring Fireball’s RSS feed sponsorship increasing every few months why wouldn’t they? And good for them. The more the merrier. I just have one request.
I hope that those that decide to use Daring Fireball’s recipe decide to do whatever they can to make it all their own. Don’t just add a little more salt and pepper – change the main course from fish to beef. Make every ingredient from your own garden and don’t use the same brand ingredients Daring Fireball does. Make something unique that will inspire others to do the same. Be a good cook not a copy cat.
The utility of the iPhone only increased with the iPhone 4. Taking photos on the go was always possible with the iPhone. Remember, I used the first gen iPhone with its 2.1MP digital camera for over 3 years.However, the iPhone 4’s camera quality and speed nearly makes it a digital camera replacement for my use.
If you’re a pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera owner than the iPhone 4 may indeed be a digital camera replacement. If you’re like me though – and you tote around a DSLR – then the iPhone 4 can make the choice of which camera to use frustrating. The iPhone 4 is good enough quality-wise and certainly good enough speed-wise to use it in nearly every situation I’ve come across over the last few months. Does it shoot as well or give you as many options as the DSLR? Not even close. Does it need to? Well, that is up to my now frustrated photographic geek sensibilities.
Good photography has never really been about the tools but about the photographer. Photographs from the early days of photography using silver nitrate and a pinhole camera with 30-minute exposures are oftentimes much better photographs than I’ve ever taken with the most sophisticated gear. So making the choice between the iPhone 4 and the DSLR typically isn’t about art. It usually comes down to how I will use the images. If I’m sharing them on the Web then the iPhone 4 is more than adequate. If I’m going to create a DVD or print the images then the DSLR is a much better choice.
But then there is video. My DSLR doesn’t shoot any video, let alone HD-quality video, while my iPhone 4 does. Capturing quick moments of video for use later is a neat option to have in a pinch. In fact, I still haven’t gotten used to this feature. I often forget it is even there – just waiting for me to press the red button.
Using my DSLR has now become a forced exercise. Something I plan, prepare for and do rather than just allowing it to happen naturally. Before each outing, each trip or any photo op I will have to ask myself – will I use the iPhone 4 or the Canon Digital Rebel XTi?It is a good problem to have but one that I’m regretting having to make.
But I’m a photographic geek of the second order (in an attempt not to peeve the photographic geeks of the first order) and I’d wager no on else would really care nearly as much as I do. So if you’ll excuse me I’ll go back to adding copious amounts of metadata to my 50,000 photo archive for no other reason then to be able to sort them based on the color spectrum. *pushes black-rim glasses up his nose*
Eliza and I have been hard at work on our backyard since spring. Whenever we get the chance, and energy, we work on our backyard to spruce it up and make it a nice place to get outside.
So far we’ve put in a stone patio, planted grass, put in a fire pit, planted a raised garden with rock wall and have gotten rid of an old ‘pond’ that was in the backyard. Eliza has a photoset on Flickr cataloging our progress with the patio. And here is a quick video showing the progress so far.
We’ve got a lot more to do and hopefully we will accomplish some of it this summer and fall.
I can honestly say that I can not remember a time when I was bored. I hear many people say that they get bored, especially younger people, and it baffles me. Let’s face it, we all have a measure of ADD but isn’t the world filled with enough to do to save us from boredom?
I thought I’d take the time to jot down a list of things that you can do if you find yourself bored. I’ve ordered them in what I consider to be the best use of your time if you find yourself with either nothing to do or simply bored with what you’re doing and need a break.
Stop thinking “I’m bored, what am I going to do?” and start thinking “There’s so much do to, what am I going to do next?”.