February 2021

Why time management is ruining our lives

DeMarco points out that any increase in efficiency, in an organisation or an individual life, necessitates a trade-off: you get rid of unused expanses of time, but you also get rid of the benefits of that extra time.

In the accident and emergency department, by contrast, remaining “inefficient” in this sense is a matter of life and death. If there is an exclusive focus on using the staff’s time as efficiently as possible, the result will be a department too busy to accommodate unpredictable arrivals, which are the whole reason it exists.

A similar problem afflicts any corporate cost-cutting exercise that focuses on maximising employees’ efficiency: the more of their hours that are put to productive use, the less available they will be to respond, on the spur of the moment, to critical new demands. For that kind of responsiveness, idle time must be built into the system.

January 2021

Hugo, I want to like you

I really really want to like Hugo. I like the elegance of having a single binary, not having to worry about Python versions and dependencies, and most importantly not being responsible for maintaining the codebase. I’ve tried migrating my site to Hugo over the last couple of years, but I always run into some issues or major annoyances.

The Lab-Leak Hypothesis

What happened was fairly simple, I’ve come to believe. It was an accident. A virus spent some time in a laboratory, and eventually it got out. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, began its existence inside a bat, then it learned how to infect people in a claustrophobic mine shaft, and then it was made more infectious in one or more laboratories, perhaps as part of a scientist’s well-intentioned but risky effort to create a broad-spectrum vaccine. SARS-2 was not designed as a biological weapon. But it was, I think, designed.

February 2020
March 2019
February 2019

RIP Opportunity

The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive Opportunity Tuesday, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10.

Fifteen years and more than 45 kilometers… That’s pretty good for a rover that was designed to operate for about 90 days and travel one kilometer. A very fitting XKCD comic to say goodbye.

Thanks for bringing us along
Thanks for bringing us along

Thanks for bringing us along, indeed!

January 2019

2018 Photo Picks

2018 Photo Picks
2018 Photo Picks

At the beginning of this year, I ran across Alex Burke’s blog, while researching about film scanning. Among loads of other useful posts, I noticed Alex’ “The Bets Of …” posts, where he picks of 9(ish) of his best shots of the year.

I really like this idea. It’s a great opportunity to go through all the photos I’ve taken over the year, remember and re-live some of the memories, as well as take a more critical look at the photos and make purposeful choices.

I like the format of nine shots. It’s enough to capture the year, make a concise presentation, yet it’s small enough to force some contention and force critical look for the picks. Albeit, I took a slightly different angle and my picks aren’t necessarily the best picks, but they are the ones that mean most to me, be it because they are some of the best, or because they recall the best memories.

Alpaca in a field
Alpaca in a field

We took our dog for a walk while visiting relatives, and found this lone alpaca in the field. The alpaca was sensing our dog, so I didn’t have much time to grab a shot. It’s a little oddly framed, but that’s partially why I like it.

Sunset at Rathtrevor Beach
Sunset at Rathtrevor Beach

It poured for two days straight, but eventually we were rewarded by a beautiful sunset.

The British Columbia Sugar Refining Company, Ltd
The British Columbia Sugar Refining Company, Ltd

Experimenting with my Kiev 80 camera and scanning film.

Collection of ropes. Cannery museum near Prince Rupert, BC.
Collection of ropes. Cannery museum near Prince Rupert, BC.

Onward and upward
Onward and upward

Hiking steep trails on Haida Gwaii, BC.

Views around Smithers, BC
Views around Smithers, BC

A fall hike at Mt. Shuksan, Wa
A fall hike at Mt. Shuksan, Wa

Fall in Vancouver
Fall in Vancouver

Goat on a roof. Coombs, BC
Goat on a roof. Coombs, BC

These goats are so much fun. I love their fuzzy beards and behinds. Shot on Fuji Pro 400H with Kiev 80.

The Real Story Behind The Havana Embassy Mystery

If you view what happened to the diplomats in Havana as an “attack,” you must look for something capable of producing such an assault. It would have to emit a sound that varied widely from listener to listener. It would have to strike only people who worked at the embassy. It would have to assail them wherever they happened to be, whether in their homes or staying at a hotel. It would have to produce a wide range of symptoms that seemed to bear no relation to one another. And it would have to start off small, with one or two victims, before spreading rapidly to everyone in the group.

As it happens, there is and always has been one mechanism that produces precisely this effect in humans. Today it’s referred to in the medical literature as conversion disorder—that is, the conversion of stress and fear into actual physical illness. But most people know it by an older, creakier term: mass hysteria. […]

December 2018

It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves. We are tiny, trembling clusters of atoms subsumed within grief’s awesome presence. It occupies the core of our being and extends through our fingers to the limits of the universe. Within that whirling gyre all manner of madnesses exist; ghosts and spirits and dream visitations, and everything else that we, in our anguish, will into existence. These are precious gifts that are as valid and as real as we need them to be. They are the spirit guides that lead us out of the darkness.

I feel the presence of my son, all around, but he may not be there. I hear him talk to me, parent me, guide me, though he may not be there. He visits Susie in her sleep regularly, speaks to her, comforts her, but he may not be there. Dread grief trails bright phantoms in its wake. These spirits are ideas, essentially. They are our stunned imaginations reawakening after the calamity. Like ideas, these spirits speak of possibility. Follow your ideas, because on the other side of the idea is change and growth and redemption. Create your spirits. Call to them. Will them alive. Speak to them. It is their impossible and ghostly hands that draw us back to the world from which we were jettisoned; better now and unimaginably changed.

— Nick Cave


Imagine a horizontal line, with 0 on the left and 20 on the right. I want to be in the middle, at 10. But I’m at 17.

No amount of adding will get me where I want to be.

The adding mindset is deeply ingrained. It’s easy to think I need something else. It’s hard to look instead at what to remove.


Where I had expertise before, I don’t necessarily now. People ask my advice on things I knew well years ago. It’s tempting to think I still know the answer, but instead I have to admit, “Sorry. I don’t know.”

Big tech has your kid’s data -- and you probably gave it to them

A big culprit: “sharenting,” or parents willingly giving away their children’s information, like name and date of birth. Those Facebook birth announcements may be posted with innocent intentions, but they can come with serious consequences. According to security experts at Barclays consulted for the children’s commissioner report, this leaves the door open to identity theft. The experts cited criminal reports where kids’ data was stashed away until they turned 18, upon which fraudulent credit card and loans applications were created in their names.

November 2018

Degrees of Freedom is an amazing article by Raffi Khatchadourian from The New Yorker covering some of neuroscience history and what it took to enable paralyzed people move robotic arms with their brains.

For eighteen years, Jan Scheuermann has been paralyzed from the neck down. She is six feet tall, and she spends all day and all night in a sophisticated, battery-powered wheelchair that cradles her—half sitting, half reclining—from head to toe.

In the following days, her performance improved further. As the researchers were correcting their algorithms, her brain was correcting its responses to them. She began to refer to Hector as “my arm,” a slip of the tongue that soon became habit. “It happened without me realizing it,” she told me. “I just said, ‘Let me see if I can get my arm to do that.’ Or, ‘My arm’s not going that way.’ ”

October 2018
September 2018


As the success of design has become measurable, it has transformed a handicraft into an engineering job. Not the master designer but the user is the arbitrator of good design. The key performance indicator is not beauty but profit. As financial and technical performance was gained, beauty left the stage. Now it feels like something is missing.

August 2018
July 2018

Bye, Bye, GitTower 3.x

June 2018

The real Frank Abegnale tells his tale in a talk at Google, and it’s ever as gripping as the movie. Surprisingly, the movie was pretty close and decently done. Make sure to watch the QA session at the end, he provides some interesting and unexpected answers.

May 2018

The crooked timber of humanity

In 1834, to get upper hand in trading bonds, the Blanc brothers bribed telegraph operators to introduce errors into the usual broadcast without affecting the message: a character with market direction followed by a “backspace”. They then observed one of the telegraph towers to learn how to trade faster than any other available means.

Explaining the ‘Mystery’ of Numbers Stations

Too often, [number stations] are described as “spooky,” “creepy,” or “mysterious,” and the discussion stops there. It may be disappointing to some, but these stations are not […] relics of the Cold War — rather, these stations are part of the sophisticated work of intelligence agencies and militaries, and they are very much still on the air.

NotePlan is another note taking app, but it integrates your calendar into markdown with notes and todos. You can create links between your notes and even create calendar events within markdown. Everything get stored in your iCloud drive as plain text files.

April 2018

Photography saved my life: Photography as therapy

It turns out that what I was doing was searching for calm. At the time, my head was like a badly tuned radio – I wasn’t really able to listen to what people were saying, but what they said hit home. When I was out taking pictures, concentrating purely on the creation of an image, my head started to unravel.

What smartphone photography is doing to our memories

It means paying closer attention to our surroundings. It means using our cameras mindfully to focus on the details we truly want to remember. It means putting down the camera for a few moments to notice what the air feels like, what the streets smell like, and writing down our feelings about being there.

March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
July 2017
June 2017

Triggertrap apps open sourced

In addition to the news of the Triggertrap hardware dongle getting open sourced, today we get the apps as well:

Earlier this year, I released the Triggertrap Mobile Dongle hardware as open source, and today, the apps join the fray as well, with the source code for both our Triggertrap iOS app and our Triggertrap Android app now available for download from GitHub.

Relevant links: * Official announcement * GitHub repo for hardware * GitHub repo for iOS app

May 2017

Triggertrap mobile dongle open sourced!

Updated June 7, 2017: added ADA link

Exciting news for people who still own Triggertrap hardware and rely on it for taking photos:

We want to open-source the hardware we have been creating for a long time, so the design files are now available on GitHub.

Relevant links: * Official announcemnt * GitHub repo * DIYPhotography Guide * SLR camera remote control sockets * Triggertrap ADA

April 2017
February 2017

— Rosamunde Pilcher, September

December 2016

The Important Places

Child of Mine, come
as you grow in youth
you will learn
the secret places
the cave behind the waterfall
the arms of the oak
that hold you high
the stars so near
on a desert ledge
…the important places.

And, as with age, you choose
your own way
among the many faces
of a busy world
may you always remember
the path that leads back.
…back to the important places.

— Dad to Forest, 1986

October 2016
May 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015

The Stories We Tell

Maybe you are like I am and the clicking sound of the camera’s shutter is a familiar symphony. Maybe you look for a photograph in everything – pairing every sunset with 144 photos, chasing good light and pausing at every vista. Or maybe you’ve shied away from fancy titles like ‘artist’ or ‘photographer’ – defaulting instead to a simple love for your iPhone and the experiences you find. Wherever you land on the spectrum makes no difference. We are all storytellers with an eye and experiences uniquely our own.

And then – after all the photos have been taken – put the camera down. Let the last photo you didn’t take live on in the quiet place of your memory.

Return there often.

Mobile Publishing Workflow with Metalsmith and Travis CI

November 2015

Why 'Mom' and 'Dad' Sound So Similar in So Many Languages

Is there anything inherently “doggy” about the word “dog”? Obviously not—to the French, a dog is a chien, to Russians a sobaka, to Mandarin Chinese-speakers a gǒu. These words have nothing in common, and none seem any more connected to the canine essence than any other. One runs up against that wall with pretty much any word.

Except some. The word for “mother” seems often either to be mama or have a nasal sound similar to m, like nana. The word for “father” seems often either to be papa or have a sound similar to p, like b, in it—such that you get something like baba. The word for “dad” may also have either d or t, which is a variation on saying d, just as p is on b. People say mama or nana, and then papa, baba, dada, or tata, worldwide.

October 2015

— Bill Waterson

September 2015

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

Sherry Turkle’s contribution to NY Times Sunday Review, adapted from her book “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age”

In solitude we find ourselves; we prepare ourselves to come to conversation with something to say that is authentic, ours. If we can’t gather ourselves, we can’t recognize other people for who they are. If we are not content to be alone, we turn others into the people we need them to be. If we don’t know how to be alone, we’ll only know how to be lonely.

Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.

COLLEGE students tell me they know how to look someone in the eye and type on their phones at the same time, their split attention undetected. They say it’s a skill they mastered in middle school when they wanted to text in class without getting caught. Now they use it when they want to be both with their friends and, as some put it, “elsewhere.”

August 2015
July 2015
June 2015

Gear Review: Altra Superior 2.0

May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015

How much do you stand out in a crowd of a million?

Quite a bit, apparently. Data anonymizing doesn’t necessarily guarantee your privacy.

When the authors mapped locations, dates, and prices of someone’s non-anonymous purchases against the whole database, it was usually easy to find a single, unique pattern. With three points or more, it was virtually a certainty. […] There’s a 94 percent chance that you’re the only person who did so. Taking away price altogether made these matches harder to find. But with four purchases, it was back up to 90 percent.

December 2014

iOS HealthKit: Misunderstood

November 2014
October 2014

Aperture Importer for Lightroom

September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
January 2014
November 2013

I don't have any connections

Nathan Kontny’s take on the opinion that one needs to have good contacts in order to start a successful business.

When I wanted a better job, I emailed random people at work trying to help them make the corporation better until I got noticed and promoted. And when I wanted contacts for my business, I emailed Mark Cuban, Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks), Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon), Marc Benioff (CEO of, and on and on. No intros. Just cold emails.

October 2013
September 2013
August 2013

Frame by Frame

After decades of war and an oppressive Taliban regime, four Afghan photojournalists face the realities of building a free press in a country left to stand on its own – reframing Afghanistan for the world and for themselves.

If a country is without photography, that country is without identity

May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012

One of the most striking things about New York City is the fall colors and there’s no better place to view this then Central Park. I chose 15 locations in the park…


November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012

— Gordy Ainsleigh

July 2012
May 2012

180° South: Conquerors of the Useless

180° South is a documentary about Jeff Johnson’s inspiring adventure to Patagonia, Chile, following in the footsteps of Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins. Instead of driving down south, though, Jeff sets out on a set of adventures, including becoming a crew on sail boat and ship wrecking off Easter Island and surfing the longest wave of his life. Along the way he meets interesting people, tells inspiring stories, and shows breathtaking images from places others only wish they could visit.

April 2012
February 2012
November 2011

Broken WAN Miniports

September 2011
August 2011
June 2011

— Daniel Burnham, Chicago architect. (1846-1912)

May 2011
March 2011
February 2011
December 2010
November 2010

From Simplenote to Jekyll

Does Mr. Jekyll have a new twin? Jekyll and statically generated pages are nice, but it would be nice to create some posts while on the road without the laptop. SSHing to the server is an option, but typing up a post in vim on phone is not exactly enjoyable. I use Simplenote all the time, and I figured it would be nice to write posts in Simplenote. Using Simplenote’s API, I wrote a quick and dirty script that pulls notes with a blog tag and writes a file that Jekyll can process.

September 2010
August 2010
June 2010
May 2010

Google Maps: "Kayak across the Pacific Ocean ... 6243km"

Trying to figure out the flight distance between Shenzhen, China and Vancouver, BC, I plugged the two cities into Google Maps (not realizing there are no flight paths there, at the time). I did not get what I wanted, but the outcome was interesting: They give me driving directions to a port, and from tell I’m supposed to “Kayak across the Pacific Ocean”, about 6243km to Hawaii, and then kayak another 4463km to Seattle, and drive up to Vancouver. Ok then, I’m right on it, see you in couple of years.

I wonder though, is the kayaking part something they are working on or part of the biking maps?

January 2010
January 2008