The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

I really wanted to like this book. Neal Stephenson has written some of the best stories I’ve ever read and I’ve read most of them two or three times. And how can I say I read 740 pages and didn’t enjoy the book? At least a little.

But it just did not work for me. Maybe it was the witches and time travel. Maybe it was writing with a co-author (Nicole Galland). I don’t think I’ve ever read a book written by two people that I really enjoyed. Wait! Not true! James S. A. Corey, the pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. I love the Expanse series. But I can’t think of any others off the top of my head.

I struggle with the paradoxes inherent in stories about time travel. I appreciated the premise of Memento and Loopers but my mind kept drifting as I tried to work out the time stuff. No such problem, however, with William Gibson’s The Peripheral.

On a scale of 1 to 5 (with Cryptonomicon and REAMDE being 5’s), I’d rate this latest book a 3. Maybe. I do hope you enjoy(ed) it more than I.

Photo descriptions

I’m still thinking about photos. Specifically, the story behind photos. The ease of taking, sharing and storing photos has created a tsunami of digital photos. The moment (and the photo that captures it) passes through our hands so quickly, there’s no time to consider the story behind the photo (if there is one). Besides, I know who’s in the photo and where it was taken and I’ll be around forever so why bother with descriptions and such. And there’s something to that. I have dozens of photos of the beach near our place in Destin, FL. There might be a story but there might not. Sometimes the photo IS the story.

Our relationship with photos was very different when cameras used film. Days (weeks?) might pass between the time you took the photo and and when you held the print in your hands. It took some commitment to sit down with a stack of photos and make notes on the back about the people, the place, the event. Perhaps it comes down to who the photo is for. If it’s just for me, well, I know all that and when I’m gone, who cares. If you think of the photo as having a life longer than yours, the back story is priceless.

The photo of my mother and father kissing on a park bench (on their honeymoon) is a good example. What if my mom had written a few lines (on the back) describing where they were and what they had been doing?

I’m not going to write descriptions for the 1,900 photos in my collection. At least not all of them. But I have hit on a way to connect to the story behind the photos. My blog. I’ve been blogging for fifteen years and and have written (and tagged) 30 posts about Destin. I’ve added a link to those posts to the descriptions of the photos in my collection. I have a couple of hundred photos of KBOA and I’ll add http://www.kboa830.com to the description field of those photos. And so on. (If you’re a half-empty type, you’re thinking, “Yeah, but your blog will be gone when you die.” I’m working on that.)

This is all well and good if you’re retired with lots of time to manage your photos. True. But I think the case can be made that a photo that’s not worthy of a brief description might not be worth keeping. And a lot of them aren’t, in my opinion. Folks are fire-hosing photos to the cloud with little or no thought. Google Photos is an attempt to address this.

Fez pics from Gnomedex 2008

The Order of the Fez was in full blossom in 2008 so my pal Jamie Nelson and I agreed to bring the sacred headgear to the Gnomedex geekfest that year. One of the attendees was a professional photographer and we have him to thank for these fine image.

If you could only keep 2,000 photos

I’ve been collecting digital photos for years. Since photos became digital, in fact. Along the way I scanned a few thousand photos. More than once. In the early days of the web I wanted to keep images small so they could be uploaded to the web and viewed with molasses-slow dial-up connections. 72 dpi, 640×480. Shitty little things. As the online world improved and I realized my mistake, I scanned many prints again at nice high (600 dpi) resolution.

When I got my first Mac I started managing all my photos in iPhoto (now Apple Photo). I titled every photo and put them in albums and added keywords and then forgot about them. At one point I guess I had about 5,000 photos. That’s nothing compared to most users. Lot of folks have ten, twenty thousand photos. More.

I’ve tended to be a little obsessive compulsive about my photos. If I had 20 shots of the pond at the bottom of our hill and they were all so similar I couldn’t tell one from the other, I’d delete all but the best. In time, my collection was down to about 2,000 photos. But I’d made a conscious decision regarding each one.

I trimmed a few hundred more photos in the past week. Why, for example, did I need photos of the Golden Gate Bridge? The Chrysler Building. The Space Needle. If the photo featured friends or family, I kept it. If there was some personal connection to the subject of the photo, sure. But if the only reason I was keeping the photo was I took it… not a sufficient reason (for me).

Why bother, you ask. Tossing the chaff makes the remaining wheat more valuable. And a couple thousand photos are manageable. While going through my photos I saw that many could be improved. I tweaked and cropped and added meta data where needed. You just can’t do that with 10,000 photos.

I think this is part of the “a place for everything” itch I’ve been scratching for a few years. Keeping only thing things I really care about and getting rid of the rest. Even if I have room to keep it.

Now that I have my collection down to a manageable size, I’m more picky about what gets added. And I’m a little more careful about how I take photos. I went through a similar process with my books a few years ago. When I finish a book that was just so-so, it doesn’t make it to the shelf. It goes to the county library book sale.

I’d call this a zen thing but anything you call a zen thing is definitely not a zen thing.

Mastodon is a federation

This is the best explainer of Mastodon I’ve found. Aptly, it’s by the creator, Eugen Rochko. Here’s an excerpt:

One of Mastodon’s fundamental differences to Twitter is federation. To bring that word into context, the United States of America are a federation. In a more technical context: E-mail is federation. It means that users are spread throughout different, independent communities, yet remain unified in their ability to interact with each other. You can send an e-mail from GMail to Outlook, from Outlook to someone’s private e-mail inbox. Mastodon’s federation is similar: users from different sites (let’s call them “instances”) establish connections between these sites by following each other and sending each other messages like on any other social network.

What does federation mean for the user?

  • You can have the username your desire, as long as you can find an instance where it is available
  • You can pick an instance run by someone you trust and whose content policies you agree with, or run one yourself with some technical knowledge
  • Users are spread out, so individual instances are smaller, and as such communities are easier to build and moderate
  • No monopolies, if one instance ever shuts down, you don’t have to convince your friends to switch to a different social network, you just let them know to follow your new account on a different instance

I’ve never used Facebook and stopped using Twitter six months ago. Still cruise by Google+ a couple of times a day but spending more time at Mastodon.Technology these days. You can search for @smays@mastodon.technology

Meditation can ‘reverse’ DNA reactions

“Lead investigator Ivana Buric from the Brain, Belief and Behaviour Lab in Coventry University’s Centre for Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement said: “Millions of people around the world already enjoy the health benefits of mind-body interventions like yoga or meditation, but what they perhaps don’t realise is that these benefits begin at a molecular level and can change the way our genetic code goes about its business.

The research, published today in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, reviews over a decade of studies analysing how the behaviour of our genes is affected by different MBIs including mindfulness and yoga. […] When examined together, the 18 studies — featuring 846 participants over 11 years — reveal a pattern in the molecular changes which happen to the body as a result of MBIs, and how those changes benefit our mental and physical health.

“Texas Ed” Pinner (WSLM)

I have a lot of photos of radio folk but this might be my favorite. “Texas Ed” Pinner, WSLM, Salem, IN. There’s all this ancient tech jammed into every corner. Reel-to-reel deck; Fidelipac carts; CD players (alas, I don’t see any turntables) and propped up in front of the controls… almost too small to see… an early iPod. Texas Slip is playing the hits from his iPod. Sigh. (Photo by Mike Cady)

“Notification gratification”

“Social media was serving, at least for me, as a sponge that wicks up any stray attention—and with it, time—and then keeps drawing more of both until you consciously break away from it. And of course it does — unlike reading, working, physical activity, or real-life socializing, social media is an activity that takes no effort. It doesn’t require any confidence, resolve, or intention, and doesn’t entail any risk.”

The only social media apps on my phone were Google+ and tumblr, with the former getting the lion’s share of attention. Both gone now. I can still check in but I have to be “intentional” about it, as David Cain says in his thoughtful post. Sit down. Open up the MacBook. And a browser. He said the mindless scrolling was eating up 45 minutes to an hour a day. Easy to believe.