Duff O'Melia

A Photography Novice

It’s been a few short days since the photography experiment began. I’m a complete novice, which is probably one of the reasons I’m finding it so enjoyable. I’ve learned that having a decent camera allows you to take photographs that just aren’t possible with an iPhone, even if you don’t know what you’re doing yet.

I’ve been learning about RAW versus JPG. I’ve been learning to delete most of the pictures I take because if I don’t, I’ll be buying more hard drives. I’ve been learning about how to really use manual mode on the camera.

A Study of Photography

It all started back in 2009 at LessConf when Brandon Mathis showed me an amazing picture he had taken of his son Caleb. The twitpic version of the picture doesn’t do it justice. Brandon had showed me the real image on his laptop. One of the dangers of hanging out at a conference with creative folks who make things is that their enthusiasm can be quite contagious. In this case, Brandon answered all of my questions and made some recommendations as to how I might learn some of the basics. His passion and excitement for the art of photography certainly piqued my interest in the subject.

Fast forward a few years to meeting Alex Kohlhofer who explained how having a DSLR camera was great but challenging, since its unwieldy size means you rarely have it with you. He then showed me his new Lumix LX3 which was much smaller and easier to carry. Even though it was small, it was clearly made for enthusiasts since it so easily allowed the most important settings to be adjusted without having to go 3 levels deep into an LCD menu screen. It also took much better pictures than a run-of-the mill point and shoot. Alex was thrilled with it.

Leaning Globally

This article by Derek Sivers sure has me thinking.

If you’re local, then you’re probably social, doing a lot of things in-person, and being a part of your community. But this means you’ll have less time to focus on creating things for the world.

If you’re global, then you want to focus on creating things that can reach out through distribution to the whole world. But this means you’ll have less time to be part of your local community.

My programmer brain can often lead me to seek a black and white answer for things. Am I global or local? Choose. This, like most things, ends up being much more gray than that.

When you have children, there’s some level of local that just seems necessary. If leaving a legacy of some kind is important to you, “locally” investing time and energy into your kids will likely affect many generations of your family. At the same time, I’m convinced that “global” blog posts, app.net posts, and tweets may be read by generations of your family and many others to give them a real glimpse into what your life was like.

For me, life would be pretty rough without a heavy emphasis of time spent on “local” family and church community. That being said, I’d like most of my professional work to be global without feeling pressured to have too many in-person meetings.

Pimping Skitch

Skitch was acquired by Evernote awhile back and they recently published their 2.0 upgrade. The internets were abuzz with discontent about some of the changes. Personally, I’m fond of a number of the improvements. The only “improvement” that’s been a bit hurtful is that the uploading of images goes to the Evernote server and it’s not very cinchy to get the direct url of the image that was uploaded.

All I really want is the ability to hit a keyboard shortcut, take a quick screenshot, add a big fat arrow or two and maybe some text, hit another keyboard shortcut and know that the clipboard now has the url of the uploaded image. It’s something I do a number of times a day.

I started with some hackery to use the evernote url but they’re doing some funky things with redirects and permissions such that some people have been unable to see the images. I noticed my friend Brandon was now using CloudApp so I thought I’d give that a shot. Here’s what I came up with:

To Blog or Not to Blog

Marco Arment’s blog post about lasting value caused me to reassess what on earth I’m doing with this site and whether I ought to even have it. I can certainly understand the perspective of shutting down a site if it’s something you’re no longer passionate about.

For me, I’ve never been extremely passionate about blogging; but it is nice to at least have a place to occasionally express a thought that gets captured and remembered. Looking back on the posts over the last few years, I’ve noticed that some of them are pretty pathetic. Others are outdated. Others express a viewpoint I don’t really agree with anyore since my opinions have since changed. But it’s ok. It’s not a reason to eliminate the site. And it’s also ok to have a blog and not update it very frequently.

I’m starting to think that it’s similar to looking back at old code you’ve written. More often than not, if the code is more than a year or two old, it probably looks pretty weak now. This is because you’ve improved as a coder and the way you’re doing things now is so much better. But you keep coding.

So I’m keeping the blog around with no pressure to regularly add posts. I know there will be posts that potentially reveal a lack of intelligence on my part. But that’s ok too.

Perhaps a blog post can simply be a thought or idea that doesn’t fit in an App.net post or a tweet. Perhaps it’s just a glimpse into where I’m at right now.

Using the Latest Octopress

I spent some time over the last few weeks gradually upgrading this site to use the latest Octopress. I’m amazed how much Brandon’s framework has improved over the years. I was still using the version he created about 8 hours after he started working on it at the first LessConf. Thinking about it makes me wonder how many great things have been created in the lobbies of hotels at geeky conferences.

The upgrade also gave me a good chance to move it from Slicehost to Github pages. Another slice goneski!

Ruby Quicktips

I’ve been enjoying the Ruby Quicktips blog. Even if you’ve been using Ruby for years, I’m betting there’s still things there you’ll find useful.

For example, did you know you can pass a number parameter to Array#first and Array#last?

x = [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10]

x.first 5
=> [1,2,3,4,5]

x.last 2
=> [9,10]

Mulling on Spreedly

I just started reading Derek Siver’s book Anything You Want. In it, he lists his utopian dream-come-true distribution deal from his musician’s point of view. He’s basically listing the reasons he’d want to be a customer of his own business.

This got me thinking about why I’d like to be a customer of Spreedly. So here it is - a customer perspective.

  1. Store the credit cards for me. I don’t want to deal with it. I don’t want to have security people on staff to ensure our servers are always locked down and secure. I don’t want to become an expert at storing sensitive information in a secure way.

  2. I can’t stand the hassle of PCI. I want to fill out the simplest form I need since I hate busywork. I’m not in the PCI business and I don’t want to be. I know that PCI compliance could cost a truckload of money if I do it myself. I also know that a security breach could mean the end of my business.

  3. If I want the card numbers, give them to me. They’re my customers, not yours.

  4. Let me switch gateways whenever I’d like. Many of the gateways can be pretty difficult if not hostile to work with. Give me the freedom to avoid the annoyance of lock-in. As the gateway market becomes more competitive both in terms of rates and levels of service, I want to be agile and ready to adjust.

  5. Give me a ridiculously simple, easy-to-understand API. If I’m not successfully talking to your service in the first hour, there’s something wrong. If your docs mention the word SOAP, I think I’ll vomit.

  6. Don’t go down. I need a reliable service that’s up all of the time.

  7. I have some pretty straightforward subscription plans. I’m even willing to adjust them some to fit into your framework because there’s a ton of logic there I don’t want to deal with. And I want the freedom to change my plans and prices whenever I’d like. And please handle the grandfathering. And pro-rating. And renewing at the right time.

  8. I’d like to occasionally add some fees to a customer’s bill knowing they’ll get added to their invoice when they get renewed.

  9. I’d like my customers to not even know that you exist. I don’t want them to see your pages when they checkout and I don’t want them getting emails from you. When I’m first starting a business, I’m happy for my customers to see your pages and your emails because I don’t want to spend the time making them. But eventually, I want the ability to hide you completely. Once again, they’re my customers, not yours.

A Nomadic Adventure

Here are the details of an adventure I’d like to embark on:

  • Sell most of our stuff.
  • Sell our house.
  • Rent a UHaul trailer and hook it up to the back of our 12 passenger van.
  • Rent a furnished house in the mountains of West Virginia for 3 or 4 months.
  • Work from there. Homeschool from there. Live there.
  • Then rent a furnished house in another state for 3 or 4 months.
  • Repeat for about 2 or 3 years.
  • Proposed places: Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, the U.P, Colorado, the Great Woods of New Hampshire, Oregon, California, Maine, and Florida.
  • Come back home.

Why do it?

  • It’s a family adventure.
  • Choose experiences over ‘stuff’.
  • We live during a time that allows us to work from most anywhere with an internet connection. Why wait until we’re 65 to travel?

Open Questions:

  • How will it affect our relationships? Don’t think we’ll know the answer to this one until we do the experiment.
  • Health insurance concerns?