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Gone New Orleans

Posted on October 9th, 2019

Dave!I had no work yesterday, but my choices were either a very early flight or an early evening flight. I probably should have taken the early one, but I would still be on Pacific Time after only one day in The Big Easy, so I made the easier decision.

Though, if I'm being honest, the real easier decision would be to add an extra day as vacation. But that would have been on my nickel, so there would be none of that.

As an up-side, it was a pretty sunset as we took off... and... there were sweeping views of the causeway which spans the entirety of Lake Pontchartrain!

A pretty sunset in reds, yellows, and oranges out my plane window.

Looking out an airplane window at the bridge which spans Lake Pontchartrain.

I've actually driven it once. It was nice. And buggy. My windshield was entirely covered with dead bugs by the time I got to the other side.

Before takeoff, the plane captain announced that the mountain passes were a mess, so anybody heading East (like me!) might want to check on things before leaving the airport. Well I did, and ultimately decided I'd rather handle the snow and ice in daylight, so I stayed on the westside last night.

Then, early this morning, it was time to brave the mountains.

Except... it wasn't a big deal at all. The roads were completely clear. Just pretty scenery, as usual, for this time of year.

Driving through the mountains with snow-covered trees all around.

Driving through the mountains with snow-covered trees all around.

Driving through the mountains with snow-covered trees all around.

Driving through the mountains with snow-covered trees all around.

Driving through the mountains with snow-covered trees all around.

Driving through the mountains with snow-covered trees all around.

Driving through the mountains with snow-covered trees all around.

And now what I'd really like? Potato salad! Which is why I stopped off at the store to buy some luxury potatoes and sour cream.

My dinner is going to be better than your dinner.

Unless you're in New Orleans having beignets at Cafe du Monde. There's really no topping that, is there?

   

Old New Orleans

Posted on October 8th, 2019

Dave!Having been to The Crescent City many times, I know how crucial it is to pack minimum 2 changes of socks and underwear and 3 changes of shirt every day. When the heat and humidity makes you sweat like I do, anything less is just being irresponsible.

Work yesterday ran me pretty ragged and I had been eating all day long, so my ambitions for dinner were low. I made my run to Cafe du Monde and that was all I needed...

Beignets... square donuts caked with way too much powdered sugar.

When I sat down to eat, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that something was wrong. Something had changed. After a minute I realized that the painting “It seemed like an ordinary day, until I had coffee with Jesus at the Cafe du Monde” which had been hanging on the green-stripes wall was missing. Just a blank spot there now...

Inside the Cafe du Monde where there is indeed a blank spot where the painting used to hang.

I’ve blogged about the painting and how much I like it two or three times now...

A painting of Jesus standing in front of St. Louis Cathedral while people are at the Cafe du Monde.

I asked at the counter and all they would say was that it had “been moved to a new location.” I hope that’s the case, because I will be sorely disappointed if some religious zealot asshole complained and they had to take it down.

Then I just wandered so I could take a few photos with my iPhone 11 Pro to see how it handles things when the light is fading. And to play around with that magnificent wide-angle lens, of course...

A photo of a beautiful New Orleans building with wrought iron railings and massive ferns hanging on the balconies.

This time a wide-angle photo of a beautiful New Orleans building with wrought iron railings and massive ferns hanging on the balconies... with people in the street in front of and around it.

St. Louis Cathedral at dusk.

A wide-angle shot of St. Louis Cathedral at dusk as seen through Jackson Square with its beautifully manicured lawn and greenery. A statue of Jackson on a horse is in the middle of the park.

A beautiful gold-covered statue of Joan of Arc, which was a gift to New Orleans from the people of France. A French flag can be seen on a pole behind it.

Statue of a woman in brass sitting on the edge of a fountain with a painting of New Orleans behind it.

St. Louis Cathedral at dusk sitting behind Jackson Square with beautiful green lawns and a statue of Jackson on a horse in the middle.

Another shot of St. Louis Cathedral at dusk with a lovely green glow on the sides of the building.

An old cement building with a pointed roof which has been converted to a bar (of course) and it awash in a neon glow.

A yellow building with a spooky purple glow coming from the balcony where a skeleton monster is peeking out and there’s a spider in a giant web hanging over.

Alas, I’m old now, so I was headed to my hotel just before 9:00. I was past my limit of sweating for the day and didn’t feel like drinking my way into a coma. Sure it was an early night, but I got a great sleep in, so it’s all good.

This morning was spent in bed working. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to enjoy my air conditioned hotel room until they kicked me out. I am on my last pair of underwear and socks, so going out and having nothing to change into after sweating through my clothes was the last thing I wanted to do (you are welcome, people on the plane sitting next to me).

With three hours to kill, I decided to have a leisurely lunch at Attiki. They have a fantastic falafel wrap, which sounded all kinds of amazeballs. Then I couldn’t resist one last stop at Cafe du Monde for dessert...

Beignets at Cafe du Monde, covered in entirely too much powdered sugar.

This time I had a guest...

A pigeon scrounging around the floor of the Cafe du Monde looking for something to eat, I’m guessing.

A pigeon scrounging around the floor of the Cafe du Monde looking for something to eat, I’m guessing.

After second lunch, I stopped by the Hemmerling Gallery to ask about the painting that used to hang in the Cafe du Monde (which I mentioned above). They told me his painting was moved across the street to a general store owned by Cafe du Monde. They also told me that the painting was inspired from when Bill was sitting at the Cafe du Monde drinking a coffee and a man sat down at his table who looked like Jesus. This scared him, so he got up and moved to another table, finished his coffee, and left. As he was walking away, he started feeling bad about the way he had acted, so he went back to apologize. But the man was gone. As he was walking through the square, he saw the man again sitting on a park bench. He sat down and tapped the man on his shoulder and asked him if people tell him he looks like Jesus. When the man turned around, he had the most beautiful face Bill had ever seen. He went to his preacher and said he thought he met Jesus at the Café du Monde... then painted it.

So I walked back to the store and, here it is. So sad they moved it from its rightful place at Cafe du Monde! Mystery solved though...

The Bill Hemmerling painting about seeing Jesus at the Cafe du Monde.

And now I am waiting for my shuttle to the airport for my flight home. Hopefully we land in Seattle early, because I’ve still got a long drive ahead of me after the flight.

And there are cats at home waiting for me.

   

New New Orleans

Posted on October 7th, 2019

Dave! New Orleans is my favorite American city...

...to visit. I don’t think I could ever live here, because the heat and humidity would do me in. I dunno. Maybe I could eventually get used to it, but I do not handle sweating non-stop very well.

Yesterday on the plane I tried to count up how many times I’ve been to The Big Easy. My first trip was in 1983 for a DECA convention when I was between my junior and senior year in high school. It was my first trip outside of the state by myself. And I mean really by myself, because my chaperoning teacher couldn’t make the trip. New Orleans is probably not the best place to be 17 years old and totally unsupervised, but I lived to tell the tale. And here I am on my 11th... or maybe 12th or 13th... trip to New Orleans. It’s hard for me to remember all the trips I took before I started a record of my travels at Blogography (yet another reason to keep blogging, I suppose).

Dinner last night was at Coop’s Place...

The sign for Coop’s Place which features an Alligator drinking a glass of wine and licking his lips.

This is one of those dining establishments which makes me feel sorry for people eating here who don’t know what to expect. The food is excellent, but everything else is a bit rough around the edges...

The bar at Coop’s Place, which looks pretty much like every other dive bar you’ve ever seen.

You’ll be eating your veggie burger when all of a sudden a group will ask their server if they can split the check. Then you’ve got the server screaming “HEY! DO WE SPLIT CHECKS HERE?” And everybody in the establishment will then scream out “FUCK NO!” or just “NO!” If they’re being nice about it. And you can expect the same treatment any time you ask for anything special or even think about hassling the staff. They are simply not here for it. Which is part of the fun, I guess. I was here to eat, drink too much, and watch The Saints game on Coop’s battered old CRT television...

Looking up at the old television which has The Saints football game on. Everything is a bit grunge-looking.

Every time I eat here, I am shocked that I don’t end up with some kind of food poisoning from eating mayonnaise that’s not refrigerated and has been sitting out in a warm bar all day, but I never have...

A bar top with four kids of hot sauce and other condiments, including a bottle of generic mayonnaise.

My veggie burger at Coop’s Place... looking delicious next to some HEAVILY seasoned fries.

I ate and drank too much considering I had to work this morning, but that didn’t stop me from walking down Bourbon Street as I made my way back to my hotel...

The madness of Bourbon Street at night... people acting crazy and having fun under the neon lights from the signage.

The glowing neon sign for Willie’s Pizza with a glowing Willie’s Chicken sign behind it.

A woman about to fall on her drunk ass as she embraces the madness of Bourbon Street at night.

The madness of Bourbon Street at night... people acting crazy and having fun under the neon lights from the signage.

The Hard Rock Cafe New Orleans, all aglow in neon lights as people walk by.

I then worked on my presentation materials until I fell asleep around midnight.

And today it was a brand new day. I had set my iPhone to wake me at 6:30am so I had time for breakfast before work. I was surprised that the alarm actually woke me until I realized I am still on Pacific Time, so it’s 4:30am to me. Oh well. It was a glorious morning out, so I decided to take a stroll before eating. Jackson Square was beautiful as always...

Looking at St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square which looks a slight creamy yellow in the morning light.

Zooming in with iPhone 11 Pro’s telephoto lens to see the creamy morning light reflecting off St. Louis Cathedral...

Looking at the cathedral of Jackson Square which looks a slight creamy yellow in the morning light.

And here’s using the amazing wide-angle lens...

Looking at the cathedral of Jackson Square which looks a slight creamy yellow in the morning light.

That wide angle lens is just so nice when shooting in a city. Here are some comparisons between what I can capture without it vs. with it...

An artillery canon monument from the standard camera lens.

An artillery canon monument in wide angle.

Cafe du Monde from the standard camera lens.

Cafe du Monde in wide angle.

Interesting to note that new wide angle lens has prompted apple to add planar adjustments to the editor in Photos. It’s very cool, assuming you have enough image to work with. Not so cool if you don’t...

The Apple Photos editor showing a distorted view of St. Peter’s Cathedral due to the wide angle lens.

Unfortunately I don’t have enough image for my desired crop, so the top of the church is cut off.

That could be fixed by switching to a square or vertical crop, however, so still... pretty darn cool.

After 20 minutes of exploring my New Orleans morning, I headed to Restaurant Stanley for my second-favorite Bananas Foster French Toast in the city, which was phenomenal, as expected...

Bananas Foster French Toast with a scoop of ice cream and some banana chips on top.

Alas, then it was time to head to work. But I got to walk down Bourbon Street on my way back, which is a very different scene in the daylight hours...

Bourbon Street in the daylight... looking abandoned and freshly-cleaned.

But it’s nice to see some of the amazing signage there in good light...

A sign for the Olde NOLA Cookery... with a crab chef and fishing boat plus the words AUTHENTIC NEW ORLEANS CUISINE underneath.

Then it was time for work.

And now I’m waiting on two work meet-ups this afternoon before this trip is officially a wrap!

See you on the West Coast next time, sports fans!

   

iPhone 11 Pro

Posted on October 1st, 2019

Dave!Look, I'm just going to say it... if you've got an iPhone X or XS, then the only reason to upgrade to the iPhone 11 Pro is for the camera update, which is significant. Everything else is hardly a revolutionary step up... and, in one case, Apple even takes a step backwards.

And so, I'll just run through everything quickly before getting to the camera, which is why we're all here isn't it?

PRICE
Still $1000 for the 64GB iPhone 11 Pro. It's too much. But that's the price you pay for tech like this. I can barely fill up 2/3 of the smallest memory configuration, so 64GB is plenty for me. If you use tons of apps and store a bunch of movies and stuff in local memory then you'll want more... and pay more. There's the bigger iPhone 11 Pro Max, which wouldn't fit in my pocket (or my budget) so I took a pass. The good news is that my monthly payment in Apple's iPhone upgrade program is unchanged.

PRETTY
Make no mistake, this phone is gorgeous. The new frosted glass back has a nice matte feel (assuming you don't put it in a case) and the overall design is elegant, polished, and feels solid. I went for the new "Forest Green" color, because it's just so pretty. In most light, it looks more grey than green to me, but it picks up the light enough to give a hint of green that looks great. Alas, when paired with my Project (Red) case, the back is covered up, but you can still see a hint of the color in the camera cut-out. Maybe a clear case is a better way to go? But then you lose the matte glass, so I'm good.

STRONG
There's all kinds of videos showing the durability of the iPhone 11 Pro. They are impressively tough. But since I'm on the iPhone Upgrade Program (the only way I can afford these things) and I have to return the phone in pristine condition, I can't risk it. I've got a screen protector and case on at all times.

BATTERY
Apparently I should get (on average) 4 hours more battery life over my old XS. I guess that's awesome, but I barely used much battery on my old phone. Maybe when I travel or use maps for driving, but I'm not going to complain about having more time with my iPhone before charging. And speaking of charging... you get a nice 18 watt charger to fill the battery faster, which is a big improvement over the tiny 5 watt charger we used to get. Alas, Apple is still married to its Lightning connector for charging, but the end of the cable which plugs into the power adapter is USB-C. Go figure. Most of the time I'm using wireless charging so it's not a big issue for me.

DISPLAY
Still has the annoying notch at the top. That being said, the fidelity of the display is stunning. I mean, the old display was beautiful and all, but this is next level stuff. If you download a high quality movie at full resolution, you are in for a treat. The image simply does not fall apart and the color and brightness is phenomenal. Photos look as amazing as you'd think they would. Everything about the display is as good as it gets and worthy of Apple's flagship iPhone.

SOUND
Apparently the iPhone is now rocking Dolby Atmos sound, which is cute when you consider it's still pumping it through two tiny little speakers. To be honest I can't tell much improvement, but I thought the old sound was pretty great for a phone already.

3D TOUCH
Here's the thing about 3D Touch. It's gone. Apple removed it. This is surprising from the standpoint that newer phones should have more features, not less. It's not surprising from the standpoint that Apple rarely promoted or took advantage of the feature. I've read on a few sites that removing 3D Touch helps contribute to better battery life. That (along with the newer, larger battery and more efficient A13 chip) is probably true. But I really, really miss it. I am slowly getting used to Apple's replacement... "Haptic Touch"... which is essentially just a long-pause as opposed to a harder pause... which isn't terrible. But it's not the same. At all.

FASTER
And speaking of that new A13 chip... Apple claims it's up to 20% faster than the previous generation A12. I have no reason to doubt this, but I really don't notice it. My previous phone was plenty fast and day-to-day speed improvements (if they exist) don't really register for me. That being said, the speed boost is undoubtedly crucial to improvements behind the scenes, like the new camera's jaw-dropping abilities. And so... thanks, I guess.

PHOTOGRAPHY
It's not hyperbole to say that the camera in the iPhone 11 Pro is a quantum-leap improvement over the iPhone XS. It's a bit less of an improvement over the camera in the Google Pixel 3 (which I have limited experience with, but really liked) and the camera in the Samsung Galaxy S10 (which I got to use for three months and was underwhelmed with). Regardless, Apple's latest camera in the iPhone 11 Pro is (currently) unmatched. It's an artful symphony of hardware advancements and incredibly smart and clever software which pushes it ahead in (most) all areas. Which is where I'm at now.

PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA
While other cameras are pushing 16 megapixels (and higher!), Apple seems content to stick with 12 megapixels. This is understandable on many levels... primary of which is that they take less storage space. But it's also questionable if we really need more than 12 megapixels on a phone. It's plenty of resolution to print a fairly large hardcopy photo, and way more than enough resolution to look at on a phone screen. Where higher resolution comes in handy is when you want to crop into a photo. THEN it's kinda a big deal. And yet... ideally you'd just want a longer (telephoto) lens so I dunno. Would I like more? Sure. Do I need more? Probably not.

PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA LENSES
The iPhone 11 Pro has cameras lenses (not including selfie cam), as follows...

A photo of the camera array on the back of the new iPhone 11 Pro.

They're all good and have great optical quality. And, thanks to Apple's fantastic Camera App, you zoom between them without even realizing it. You just compose your shot and iPhone picks the correct camera/lens as you zoom in or out. The big news here is the Ultra Wide Angle Camera, which adds a lot of image area. So much area that I have to hold my camera in a new way because my fingers are in the frame if I hold it like I used to. Just look at this comparison... starting with the telephoto...

Seattle skyline as seen from Alki Point across the water.

And here's the wide angle...

Seattle skyline as seen from Alki Point across the water.

And here's the ultra-wide angle...

Seattle skyline as seen from Alki Point across the water.

Granted, where you'll most likely be using the ultra-wide is not shooting things that are far away, it's shooting things closer to you...

Inside the Seattle Public Library.

In which case it's a very big deal...

Inside the Seattle Public Library.

Alas, the Ultra-Wide Angle doesn't have image stabilization and can't use Night Mode (see below), so there are some limitations there, but boy is it a handy thing to have. I find myself using it far more than I thought I would, and quickly realized how critical it is not just for travel, but for everyday use.

PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA NIGHT MODE
The iPhone 11 has decent apertures for its three cameras, which allow you to get pretty spectacular shots without any long exposure trickery...

A shot of kayakers paddling in Elliot Bay at sundown while a bird watched from the top of a pole.

The Ultra-Wide Camera is f/2.4 which is darn good and allows for gorgeous shots as well...

A wide shot of two posts out in the waters of Elliot Bay at sundown.

Color fidelity is epic...

A beautiful shot of the Ray's Boathouse neon sign glowing while intense colors of sundown light up the sky behind it.

There are limits of course. Once things get too dark, everything can be lost in the shadows. This is nice for artistic purposes, but not what we want most of the time...

A photo of my catio encloser at night. The sky is glowing with a deep blue hue, illuminated by the moon, and a yellow light serenely glows inside the catio.

So what happens when there's not enough light for a shot? Glad you asked!

Google's Pixel 3 had a revolutionary "Night Sight" feature which I was extremely jealous of. I was so jealous that I borrowed one from a friend so I could try it out for a day. My iPhone had decent low-light ability, but it was nothing like what I got from the Pixel 3. Night becomes day and it was an incredible thing. Apple being Apple, they've taken the ball and ran with it. iPhone 11 Pro has automatic "Night Mode" which kicks in without you having to do a thing. It's essentially a long exposure which is assisted by image stabilization and some nifty software processing. The results are pretty amazing.

Here's my back yard with Night Mode turned off...

A photo of my back yard, though you can't see it because it's dark out.

And here it is with Night Mode on automatic which, of course, is activated given that it's pitch black out...

A photo of my back yard with far more detail visible, thanks to Night Mode.

Now, before you think "hey, that's still pretty dark," keep in mind that this is what I got straight out of the camera. I can still go in and make adjustments...

A photo of my back yard... which now looks like it was shot in the early evening instead of in near total darkness.

This level of color fidelity and detail would be impossible with any iPhone prior to this one. It looks like early evening instead of the middle of the night! What's surprising is how often Night Mode gets applied. I thought shooting through a bright window in darkness would fail to trigger Night Mode because the subject in the center is illuminated, but it was triggered anyway...

A photo of my cat Jenny who is staring at me intently through a window.

Curious to know why I needed Night Mode for such a shot, I turned it off and shot again...

A photo of my cat Jenny who is staring at me intently through a window, but this time everything is much darker.

Welp, I guess that's why. I'm getting a much, much better shot with a longer exposure. This is Apple's remarkable "machine learning" at work. Diagnosing shots so you don't have to. I dare say that even the most amateur photographer is going to be able to get pretty amazing shots with the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro thanks to Apple helping them out behind the scenes.

"Night Mode" is not magic, however. It's a long exposure. And while image stabilization and camera processing will help keep static scenes in focus, you're fresh out of luck if the subject is in motion. A long exposure of motion is just going to make a blur out of it all. And be careful... the telephoto lens does not support night mode. If you zoom in further than 1× the resulting photo will be shot with the standard wide angle camera and be digitally zoomed.

PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA APP
Apple's new camera app is pretty great. It's still got an "automatic" mode which will even out the lighting and correct the color tone... usually in a way that's better than what you have without it... but it's the new manual controls they've added to the list which makes the new app so compelling...

  • Exposure
  • Brilliance
  • Highlights
  • Shadows
  • Contrast
  • Brightness
  • Black Point
  • Saturation
  • Vibrance
  • Warmth
  • Tint
  • Sharpness
  • Definition
  • Noise Reduction
  • Vignette

And of course all those tools are "live," so even if you don't know what they mean, you can still play around and see what they do. Sharpness and Noise Reduction have been a long time coming, and I'm particularly impressed with how well Sharpness works. It feels like it's more of an "Unsharp Mask," which provides superior results. The Noise Reduction, however, is pretty basic. It's more of a "LET'S BLUR OUT THE NOISE!" tool than anything else. Here's a shot with no noise reduction applied. It may be tough to see here, but there's quite a bit of noise in this image because I turned Night Mode off. You'll just have to trust me, as you will still see the blurry mess that Noise Reduction makes...

My cat Jenny sitting in front of a television with noise all over her.

Here's 50% noise reduction...

My cat Jenny sitting in front of a television with noise a little blurred.

Not bad, but you can see that edge definition is being lost. To see what's really happening you have to turn up Noise Reduction to 100% like this...

My cat Jenny sitting in front of a television, but she's blurred.

Is the noise gone? Sure! But your image is so blurry that even sharpening can't save it. Professional noise reduction tools you can purchase for Photoshop try to eliminate noise while leaving detail. They do a much better job than this, and they do it by not aggressively removing every speck of noise... but finding a way to figure out where noise can be reduced without rendering the image a blur. Since this is Apple's first attempt at the tool, I'm going to give them a pass here... because that they even tried is a good thing... but I sure hope they work on improving it for next time.

PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA VIDEO
I don't shoot a lot of video (which is probably why I can get away with the 64GB model phone), but what little I've shot with iPhone 11 Pro is pretty great. Especially using the Ultra-Wide camera. As if the new lens wasn't enough to make videographers start drooling, you can now edit video in ways you couldn't before... like actually being able to crop it. No idea why this took so long, but editing 4K video in realtime is no small feat, so I guess it was worth the wait. Especially since I can now make adjustments and apply filters in the editor... without having to wait for the results to render. That's pretty crazy.

PHOTOGRAPHY: CAMERA SELFIES
I don't do selfies much. But the new front-facing camera got an upgrade to 12 megapixels and does a better job of getting great-looking shots. The "big new feature" for the selfie-cam is the "slofie" which is a slow-motion video capture. Whee.

PHOTOGRAPHY: DEEP FUSION
Later this year, Apple will push out a camera update which includes "Deep Fusion," a technology which uses machine learning to assemble the best parts of multiple photos shot in rapid succession to pull out detail and color like never before, as demonstrated at Apple's keynote last month...

It's kinda a "smart HDR" technique which uses pixel shifting to enhance detail (I talk about HDR here). Naturally I can't wait to give it a shot. Or a hundred shots.

CONCLUSION
The iPhone 11 Pro is pretty much the iPhone I've been waiting for... and not for the phone part... it's for the camera part. No, it's not going to take the place of my DSLR camera, but it is so vastly improved for photography that I will likely be using my DSLR much less than I already do. This new model is just so incredibly capable of getting fantastic shots that I don't need to be lugging around a big heavy camera everywhere. And it has me wondering what iPhone 12 will bring to the table. Probably more incredible camera features that I can't live without. =sigh= I really would like to be able to skip a year of upgrading... but this was definitely not that year. I will likely be posting more photos as I explore the iPhone 11 Pro's capabilities more, so you've been warned.

   

iPhone 11 Pro, et al.

Posted on September 10th, 2019

Dave!AND LO DID TIM COOK DESCEND FROM ON HIGH TO DELIVER A NEW iPHONE TO THE APPLE FAITHFUL FROM THE SANCTITY OF THE APPLE SPACESHIP HEADQUARTERS!

He dropped some other Apple stuff too, but the only thing I really cared about was the iPhone. And the only reason I cared about a new iPhone was the possibility of an improved camera inside of it.

Apple Event screen showing the Apple logo constructed from transparent pastel-colored ribbons.

And here's all the crap Apple talked about, along with my notes...
   

Apple Arcade

I love video games. I've loved video games since video games were invented. Alas, I never have time to actually play them, which means my Nintendo Switch sits mostly unused and any game I buy for my iPhone is never finished. So when Apple announced "Apple Arcade" I was ready to take a big 'ol pass... but then you find out it's just $4.99 a month (a third less than I was expecting) and a part of me is like Hmmmmmm?!? $5 is (on average) what I pay for a single game. Now I can get hundreds of games for that same price? That's a pretty sweet deal. And every one of the games are exclusive to Apple. So who knows? Maybe a couple times a year I'll pay my $5 and play when I can for a month just to see what's up. Sure beats paying $5 for one game that will never be completed. There's a one-month free trial to check it out on September 19th...

XXXXX.
   

Apple TV+

I already pay far more for television every month than I am comfortable with (or can afford). But looking at the cool shows that Apple has lined up for their streaming service is certainly compelling. And, again, I'm more than a little blown away that Apple is only going to charge $4.99 a month given the money and quality of shows they are producing. This will be yet another case of paying for a month of service a couple times a year so I can binge all their content. And then Apple drops the other shoe... any purchase of a new iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV comes with a FREE year of Apple TV+, which is pretty mind-blowing. Apple developed a streaming service not as a monthly revenue model... BUT TO SELL MORE OF THEIR PRODUCTS! No idea if people like me who are a part of the iPhone Upgrade Program will get a free year every time they trade in their old phone for a new phone, but that would be pretty sweet...

XXXXX.
   

iPad

I have a new-ish model of iPad which I purchased to paint with. And I love it for painting. The Apple Pencil is fast, intuitive, and there's all kinds of apps available to unleash your creativity. But what I need an iPad for is drawing, not painting. I want to be able to draw on the thing, and I have a really hard time with that. I just can't seem to get the precision needed for drawing down, and every time I try I end up reaching for a pencil and paper. What I need to do is just sit down for a week and force myself to learn. But I can never find the time so my iPad sits in a drawer. For that reason, iPad news is kind uninteresting to me... but I do tune in, because nothing would make me happier than to use an iPad for travel instead of lugging my laptop everywhere. And if things keep advancing like they have been, we are closer to that becoming a reality than ever before. Would I buy a new 7th Generation iPad if I could afford one in the first place? Probably not. But I still want one, and that's how Apple gets you. The latest model is sublimely fast, capable, and beautiful to look at and draw on. What's not to want?

XXXXX.
   

Apple Watch

The only way that I would ever buy one of these would be if they made it considerably thinner. Because while I would absolutely love to own one... I would likely never wear it. But, again, I want one anyway because Apple makes such a compelling case as to why I can't live without one. The health features alone are pretty spectacular. But now the display is ALWAYS ON which addresses my other major pet peeve about Apple Watch. The fact that they innovated a way to make this happen without sacrificing battery life is insanely great. All the other new stuff in Series 5... like a compass... is cute, but not compelling enough for me to shell out $500.

XXXXX.
   

iPhone

iPhone 11. This is the new entry model iPhone, which I'll just skip right over, since it doesn't have the cameras I am looking for. Faster, better Face ID, better cameras, blah blah blah... it's dope, we get it. The base model starts at $699.

iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. Here we go...

Durability. They claim that the new iPhone Pro models are constructed with the toughest glass ever created for a mobile phone. Will this preclude giving up a protective case? That would be nice, but I'll have to wait until somebody tests that. Since I am on the iPhone Upgrade Program and have to return my iPhone in pristine condition if I don't want to pay a fine to get a new one, I'll probably end up with a case unless the glass is so tough that it's impossible to scratch. Not likely.

Display. Apparently "Super Retina" displays just aren't good enough now. Apple has leapt forward with Super Retina XDR. It's got better contrast, better color gamut, better brightness... all while being 15% more energy efficient.

A13 Bionic Chip. Apple's line of chips has been fine-tuned specifically for doing exactly what Apple wants their phones to do and nothing more or less. There's no wasted energy going anywhere because Apple designs them that way. This makes them crazy-powerful all while drawing less power from the battery. Nowhere is this more evident than with Apple's dedication to "machine learning" via their "Neural Engine." This is a special set of routines that can analyze massive amounts of data and provide tools to use that data in intelligent ways. Feed it a bunch of images of an object to define an object, for example, and you can ask it to look for the object in new images with very little coding. That's pretty basic scenario, and creative programmers are able to do much, much more. This is a case of Apple providing killer tools so developers can come up with killer apps.

Battery. I don't use my phone a lot, so the battery has barely drained when I charge it each night. Even when I travel and am using my phone constantly, it still lasts me all day. I rarely ever run out of battery (which used to happen all the time with earlier iPhone models). Even so... the new Pro has up to 4 hours more battery life... the new Pro Max has up to 5 hours more battery life. And they are including a more powerful charger, so you can charge your phone quicker as well (assuming you still want to use a cord... ugh!). It was expected that Apple would introduce "reverse wireless charging" so you can use your iPhone battery to charge another phone... or your Apple Watch... or your AirPods... or whatever. This was introduced in the previous version of the Samsung Galaxy phones, but didn't happen this time for the iPhone. Maybe next year.

Haptic Touch. As rumored, Apple has eliminated 3D Touch from its displays, which allowed a "deep touch" to perform different functions from a "touch." This is a real shame, because 3D Touch is a frickin' amazing feature (no wonder it wasn't even mentioned at the event!). So now instead of a display that's pressure-sensitive, we instead get "Haptic Touch" which relies on the length of a touch instead of the hardness of a touch to deliver different functions. This is most decidedly not the same thing, even though Apple is essentially selling it that way. I'm sure it will just be a learning adjustment. But it's weird that Apple would be removing features like this. I guess it makes for cheaper displays... but how is that a consolation in a phone that starts at $1000?!?

Lightning Again. The dream was that Apple finally move to USB C for the cable hookup. They didn't. It's still a Lightning connector, which means you have to continue to pack stupid Lightning cables with you everywhere. I rarely use a cable at home thanks to wireless charging, but I use it all the time when I travel, which is why this sucks.

Sound. Dolby Atmos on a phone is an absurd claim... probably more "Dolby-Atmos-like," but I don't doubt that the spatial sound abilities are much improved.

Camera. I use my iPhone as a camera more than anything else. By a ridiculous margin. To me, it's not a phone at all... it's a camera which happens to be able to use the internet and make phone calls. When I travel now-a-days, I rarely take my actual camera with me. My iPhone is enough. And with each new version that Apple unleashes, my "professional camera" is less necessary. I haven't needed to buy a new mobile phone in years. But I do so anyway because I want a better camera.

Night Mode. Apple has always had pretty good low light capabilities. But with the advent of mobile phones like the Google Pixel with its amazing "night sight," Apple's efforts are downright pitiful. But now they've addressed this shortcoming in a big way to add far better low light photography to the iPhone. This is a pretty big deal...

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Lens Trio. Saying that the iPhone Pro has "three lenses" is actually wrong. It has three cameras, each with a different lens. A 12MP 26mm f/1.8 Wide Camera, a 12MP 52mm f/2.0 Telephoto Camera, and a 12MP 13mm f/2.4 Ultra-Wide Camera...

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Note that we haven't gotten an increase from 12MP in a while now. This is probably smart given the massive storage space needed, but they really need to get to at least 16MP real soon for those who want it... maybe even giving just one of the lenses 24MP or something. Anyway... it's the ultra-wide that's important here...

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Most any time I've taken scenic photos I end up having to take panoramas, which are great but problematic. Far better if I can take a wide photo in one shot, which is going to be much more likely now.

Deep Fusion. And here's where things get interesting! Deep Fusion is a technology which uses the iPhone's machine learning to to build fantastic detail out of multiple shots... automatically. Every time you initiate the shutter, iPhone takes nine photos (four of them happen before you even touch the shutter). It then analyzes every pixel of all the images and builds a finished image which combines the best pixels from each... in less than a second. The demo image is phenomenal, and has me totally sold...

XXXXX.
   

Video. All three cameras can shoot in 4K. New editing tools allow for adjusting attributes like brightness. That's impressive. But it's Mickey Mouse stuff when you consider what it can actually do with these cameras. To demonstrate that, Apple had the CTO from FiLMiC show off the next version of their app which takes full advantage of the fact that the iPhone Pro can record from MULTIPLE CAMERAS AT THE SAME TIME!

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So you can have coverage at the wide and telephoto levels in the same shot. And you can use the selfie cam as one of those cameras.... Which means you can record both sides of a talking heads conversations in one go...

XXXXX.

Insanity. But in the best possible way.

5G. Ain't got it. Which is a bit of a dangerous game to play. As the 5G rollout gains momentum, having a phone with the option of connecting to it seems like something you want to have in a $1000 phone for future-proofing. But Apple, of course, doesn't want to future-proof. They want you to keep buying new phones to get those sweet new features.

Price. No increased retail on the Pro. Still $1000 for the "regular" sized one... which seems absurd, even when considering all it can do. I don't have $1000 to throw around, so I will be upgrading from my current iPhone with the iPhone Upgrade Program I bought into last year...

XXXXX.
   

Artistry. Apple gave some of the new iPhone Pro phones to professional photographers and let them loose. Using the new tech, they created some amazing images...

XXXXX.
   

XXXXX.
   

XXXXX.
   

And that's all she wrote.

My iPhone Upgrade Program renewal date isn't until the 20th, and I'm too cheap for an early buy-out, so I'm fine waiting until then (which, coincidentally, is the actual release date). Of course by that time the waiting list queue for backorders will likely have me getting my new iPhone 11 Pro in October, so I won't get to try out the awesome new camera(s) until then.

Think of all the cat photos I'll be missing out on.

   

Ooh… Upgrades

Posted on July 29th, 2019

Dave!I started publishing regular updates to a website in the mid-90's (first called DaveWorld then DaveSpot then DaveBlog). Back then it was simply an "online journal" that was manually created and updated. By the year 2000 "weblog" (eventually "blog") was an increasingly commonplace term, and online publishing tools became available which made it easier and easier to do. My first blog was started in 2002, but was eventually scrapped in April of 2003 when I started Blogography.

Being a blogger in 2003 was a different world (wide web).

Most people had much slower connections to the internet and there were wild concepts like "bandwidth throttling" which could severely dampen your visitors' online experience (and will likely dampen it again if our pig-fucker politicians kill net neutrality). On top of that, disk space and bandwidth were precious commodities for which your hosting company made you pay dearly. More than once I'd end up with a massive extra fee on my monthly statement when a photo I posted went "viral" (a term than didn't even exist back then) and slaughtered my bandwidth quota. Because of the expense, bloggers had to be really careful about publishing images on their sites. Photos were rare. When you did post them, they were tiny and compressed to death. And back then they were likely scanned from paper photos or shot at really low resolution, so they looked pretty bad.

Looking back, it was a primitive time. But back then it was just they way things were (unless you were made of money) and we accepted it because we didn't know any better. Or have any other option, really.

A couple weeks ago I was searching through my old entries for something and started noticing how bad my early photos were. To save as much disk space and bandwidth as possible they were saved at 210×160 pixels then displayed at 420×320 pixels, like this shot of the Hard Rock Cafe Osaka Universal Studios in 2003...

Lo-lo-res photo of the Hard Rock Cafe Osaka Universal Studios

Once bandwidth costs started dropping and people had faster connections, I upgraded to photos which were actually cropped to the full 420×320 pixels they were being displayed at, like this...

Lo-res photo of the Hard Rock Cafe Osaka Universal Studios

Not a ton better, but a bit easier to look at, which is why I went back through all my old images and "upgraded" them to the 420×320 size.

In 2010, I got a new camera and my images were "widescreen," so I switched to a full resolution of 500×330. This time I didn't go back and upgrade all my old photos because the size ratio was different (and I had so many entries that it seemed like it would be a lot of work).

In 2012-2013 I transitioned to bigger images, this time 600×400. If I linked back to an old entry with smaller images, I would usually "upgrade" the image (again) if I still had the original photo, like this...

Medium-res photo of the Hard Rock Cafe Osaka Universal Studios

Then on June 29th, 2012, everything changed. That's when I got my first "Retina display" MacBook Pro. It had a much higher pixel-density than previous laptops, and photos looked so much better on it. Unless you were looking at a website with standard-resolution images. So on July 10th, 2012 I switched to 1200×800 pixel images, but still defined them as 600×400 pixels so people with high-density screens would have far nicer images to look at. That's been my "default" ever since.

A couple weeks ago I decided to start upgrading my old images (again-again) assuming I still had the original photo available. I wasn't expecting much improvement but, even on those old paper photo scans, the images ended up looking much nicer...

Medium-res photo of the Hard Rock Cafe Osaka Universal Studios

A far cry from what I started with...

Lo-lo-res photo of the Hard Rock Cafe Osaka Universal Studios

A part of me was wondering if I shouldn't go even higher... 2400×1600 pixels... because you just know that eventually we'll have VR displays or direct brain-implants to take us there. But these earliest photos wouldn't benefit from that much, so I've decided to hold off. Odds are some revolutionary new tech will come along to upscale lower-res photos anyway, so 1200×800 is probably good enough. For now. Maybe in the future I'll start uploading dual files for all my new photos. Just to save me time for when the inevitable happens? Worth a thought, anyway.

But image quality isn't the only upgrade I've been working on...

When I was in the "middle-period" of blogging where images were cheaper to host... but could still be expensive if I posted too many of them... I would sometimes host half of the images on an external service to share the load.

As these image hosting services disappeared (or started charging money!), I’d just delete the links to the images they held. This made early entries even skimpier than they already were, so when I started upgrading again-again, I also went back and added some of the missing images. On my post about Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, for example, that meant my photos weren’t just increased to 1200×800 pixels, the count went from two photos back to the five photos I had original posted. Pretty sweet.

I have a LOT of entries left to upgrade. Too many. Which is why I'm not going to kill myself in the attempt, I'm just going to do a couple dozen every week and see where that gets me.

Probably nowhere. Why do I blog again?

   

Bullet Sunday 622

Posted on July 28th, 2019

Dave!The world may be turned up-side-down, but there's at least one thing you can still count on... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Moon! The 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing was July 20th. As a build-up to this amazing event, NASA unleashed a flood of images from their archives. The photos are stunning...

An astronaut descending from the lunar lander on the moon.

An Apollo astronaut on the moon.

The earth as seen from the moon.

The scanned resolution is quite high, so you can zoom in for some great detail...

Closeup of the earth as seen from the moon.

But the real gold here? NASA has also posted some panoramas they've stitched together. They're huge...

Panorama of Apollo astronauts on the moon

Panorama of Apollo astronauts on the moon

To see them in all their glory, you'll need to head over to Flickr. Well worth your time.

   
• Emoji! As I mentioned previously, I question Apple's emoji strategy. Most times what they come up with is beautiful when seen at large sizes... but fall apart at smaller sizes. Which is crazy, because the vast majority of the time emoji are displayed tiny. Google, on the other hand, creates more simple, easily identifiable emoji that read well at small sizes. Their cartoonish style just works SO much better...

Apple's beautifully-detailed emojis for ape and skunk vs. Google's more cartoony take.
   
That's Apple on the left and Google on the right.

With the upcoming emojis for 2019, Apple seems to be shitting the bed. Their emoji for falafel looks like a plate of turds... even at large sizes! Google, on the other hand, has captured the spirit of falafel with their gorgeous, more cartoony take...

But the one that REALLY bothers me? Apple's take on the new waffle emoji...

Arguably, the Apple waffle looks more delicious. But no butter or syrup? Who eats a waffle like that? Google's waffle doesn't look as appetizing, but at least they gave us a little butter! Step it up, Apple!

   
• Hey Boys! And so... Amazon's adaptation of The Boys has been released. It's faithful to the idea of the original comic book series in many ways, has incredible acting by a terrific cast, and is pretty entertaining (assuming you're not opposed to violence and gore)...

An image of The Seven, a super-hero group from the Amazon mini series The Boys

There are some negatives, however. First of all, the editing is weird. Scenes are made confusing by cuts or appear in an order that seems backwards. Second, it ends on a massive cliffhanger (fortunately the show has already been renewed for a second season). And, of course, there have been some massive changes from the comics which I found bothersome. Yeah, I know, that's par for the course, but the changes made were kinda self-defeating. Even so... it's an interesting look at the super-hero genre that might be worth a look if you're into that kind of thing.

   
• Just the Equifax, Ma'am! In case you haven't heard, odds are highly likely that your private information was leaked by Equifax, a consumer credit company. In a hilariously inadequate punishment, they agreed to a direct payout settlement with the FTC for up to $425 million in order for citizens to help clean up the mess they created (when Equifax earns $877 million per quarter... and rising). If you want your part of this absurd slap on the wrist, the FTC has a page for that. But before you go running... you should know that the amount of money they have to pay out is capped. The $125 you think you're applying for is not a guaranteed amount you'll receive. It's the maximum amount you'll receive. If one million people make the request, you'll just get $31. If all 147 million people who were affected make the request, you'll get a whopping 21¢. So when I had to choose between the "$125" and the free credit monitoring, I went with the free credit monitoring. It's pretty much nothing compared to the damage Equifax has done. But I'll take "pretty much nothing" over actually nothing any day. The good news is that I can cancel the $10 a month service I have been using, and that adds up to real money.

UPDATE: Well, that was fast... no more "$125" settlements are offered. Oh yeah, and then there's this from the FTC.

   
• Keyboard Katasrophe! Oh wow. Maybe Apple isn't as stupid as I thought. They're apparently going to finally replace their shitty "butterfly keyboards" with something that (hopefully) won't suck shit through a tube. Except they are pretty damn stupid considering they waited far, far longer than they should have to ditch these crappy, horrendously evil keyboards, didn't they?

   
• Schadenfreude! Mitch McConnell is a festering pile of crap, and I'll take my moments where I can...

Jon Stewart smiles as Piece of FUCKING SHIT Mitch McConnell walks by

This is before the vote where the Senate approved legislation to permanently fund care for 9/11 survivors and first responders who suffered health issues. Something PIECE OF FUCKING SHIT MITCH MCCONNELL has been fighting against since day one. Which is business as usual for a GAPING ASSHOLE LIKE MCCONNELL, who is perfectly fine letting our 2020 elections be hacked, has no problem breaking the law if it means he can make money, and wastes no opportunity to forward the agenda of the lobbyist handlers who have bought and paid for his ass. He is the epitome of corruption in government. He is the best ever example for why we need congressional term limits. He is garbage who profits off of the misery he is elected to relieve. I try my best not to hate people. Hate consumes you. Hate destroys you. But I fucking hate Mitch McConnell to such an extremely illogical degree that it doesn't even register as "hate" on my psyche. When this fucker is finally dead and rotting in hell, I plan on celebrating like I won the lottery. Because his death is apparently the only thing that will keep him out of office given how Kentucky keeps sending his heinous ass back to "represent" them. I guess they like getting fucked, and he's happy to keep fucking them. Over and over and over and over since 1984.

   
• Divine Voice! Because I'd like to end on a positive note today... here's a really cool video of Simu Liu telling the story of how he found out that he was cast as Shang-Chi in Marvel's upcoming movie...

I've only seen Liu in a few things... but he's crazy-talented and I'm sure he's going to do a great job.

   
And that's the end of that. See you next Sunday.

   

Maybe Yesterday

Posted on July 17th, 2019

Dave!I've taken to blogging in the early mornings before I go to work instead of late evenings when I'm done with work. It's not been working out for me. How am I to comment on my day's events when I have barely started the day? And so... I will probably go back to late-night blogging, even though I'm usually so tired that all I want to blog about is how tired I am.

In the meanwhile though? Here was my yesterday!

Last year when I learned I needed to keep my blood sugars intact, I started walking to work so I can still eat bread and pasta. It's a short walk... 7 to 9 minutes... and I've come to really enjoy it. It's a chance to plug and clear my head, which is something that's kinda rare these days. The good news is that switching to Coke Zero and walking has been working for me. I had a great checkup with my doctor, and everything is going well. And so... more bread and pasta.

On yesterday's walk I was assaulted by a rose that was reaching outside its garden fence...

Rose on my Walk

Rose on my Walk

You don't get nice surprises like that driving a car.

But the bigger surprise was later that evening when I made guacamole for the first time. It was Taco Tuesday and a nice chunky guac as a topper was exactly what I needed...

Rose on my Walk

It was phenomenal. And perfectly chunky enough for tacos (and chips!). And easy.

But not as pain-free as I was expecting.

In order to eliminate waste, I've been making a lot of changes in my house. Instead of buying single-use products like plastic wrap, I've been using something more sustainable or learning to live without it. I have one roll of Saran Wrap left and, at the slower rate I'm using the stuff, it should last me the rest of my life. And I've not stopped there. I've bought my last box of plastic straws. I've switched to reusable grocery bags. I'm transitioning from poly to paper wherever I can.

And I've eliminated single-use latex gloves from everywhere except my emergency kits.

The latex gloves I used to wear while chopping jalapeño peppers.

I (foolishly) thought that if I just washed my hands after cutting the peppers for my guac that everything would be fine.

As I found out later that night while falling asleep watching television, things did not turn out fine.

I reached up to rub my eyes and... ZOMG! THE BURNING!!! From the level of pain I was experiencing, you'd have thought that I squeezed a full jalapeño in my face. I can safely say that now I know what it feels like to be doused in pepper spray. It hurt a little bit when my eyes were closed... it was excruciating when my eyes were open. I have no idea why washing my hands didn't prevent this, but now I know better. I had tried some reusable kitchen gloves but they were too thick to work easily, so I guess next time I'll use a towel or a piece of wax paper or something.

Because... yowie.

One other thing that happened yesterday? The 2019 Emmys nominations were announced. For some inexplicable reason Game of Thrones, on its worst season ever, managed to rack up 32. As you can probably tell from the wrap-up I wrote, I totally don't get it. Seven seasons of brilliant set-up that was rushed to a shitty, mind-bogglingly bad conclusion deserves 32 nominations? INCLUDING BEST WRITING?!? Um. No. About the only category I think they should win is Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, because Peter Dinklage was still exceptional. He was making all the stupid be entertaining right up until the very end. He won last year, so I'm not sure he'll get it, but I sure hope so.

There was a pleasant surprise, however. Schitt's Creek, long one of the best shows on television, was nominated for Best Comedy Series. And the awesome Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy were nominated for respective Best Actress and Best Actor in a Comedy Series. Of course I think they should win, even though this season was not as good as the previous two seasons (when they really should have been winning all the awards). Alas, Emmy voters will probably give it to Fleabag (which probably deserves it) or Veep (because it's the final season) or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which I don't like at all). If Schitt's Creek can't win it, I'd hope for Barry or Russian Doll, but those seem like longshots too.

I was happy to see My Dinner with Herve got nominated for Best Television Movie, even if Peter Dinklage wasn't nominated for Lead Actor in it (which he deserves).

If anybody is interested, I've put my picks for the major awards in an extended entry. If you're not interested, I'll see you tomorrow. Probably tomorrow evening.

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...

   

The (Not So) Long Walk Home

Posted on April 22nd, 2019

Dave!People who know stuff have said that in the future most people won't own cars. Instead they'll summon one of a fleet of robot vehicles in their area that will take them where they want to go. Robot cars will be smarter, faster, safer, and cheaper.

I'm fine with it. Partly because I like the idea of not having to maintain a car or buy a new one when the old one dies. But mostly because I love the idea of being able to work or play video games or read a book while traveling somewhere. How great is that?

In the meanwhile...

The weather has been way too nice for me to have any excuses not to walk to work. Not only is the brisk seven-minute exercise good for me... but I like being more environmentally friendly by not firing up my car for such a short drive into town.

And look at all the stuff I would miss if I was driving...

First of all is a rock that's asking for help...

Rock with HELP ME Written on It

Then there were these damn pigeons who have no respect for authority...

Pigeons Ignoring a Sign That Says KEEP OFF!

And just look at these blossoms...

Tree Blossoms!

Who knows what tomorrow's walk will bring?

Hopefully finding money.

   

Photo Wall (Stairwell Edition)

Posted on January 25th, 2019

Dave!As I mentioned a few times (or maybe it was just yesterday), I'm building a photo wall in my stairwell. Originally it was going to be a wall for friends and family, but it became much bigger than that when I realized I wouldn't have enough wall space for everybody. So now I'm going to have a Blogger Friends Wall in the stairwell, another Blogger Friends Wall in the dining room, a Family Wall in the upstairs hall, and a Friends Wall in my entryway.

And figuring out how to go about it all is not as easy as it sounds. There are hundreds of photos to organize and frame which requires some planning. For the sixty-six photos in my stairwell, I measured all the frames I've been collecting over the past two years and drew up a schematic...

Stairwell Photo Wall Plan

   
If you'd like to see a zoomable image, you can go to the project page I made right here. It has a magnifying glass so you can see everybody up-close-and-personal...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
Despite being a huge amount of work and more frustration that I imagined it could be, the results are amazing...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image
My cats don't seem to know what to make of it yet. But they're keeping their paws off. For now.

   
The most important part of the plan was determining how low I could go and still see everything. If I were to put photos too far down on the wall, I'd have to be on my hands and knees to see them. After hanging test photos, I was able to see what photos I could see as I approached the stairs...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

Then what I would see with each new step...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
As I was testing placement I found out that my eye went to a different area depending on whether I was climbing the stairs... descending the stairs... or looking down from the second floor...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
Going up the stairs I tend to look downward so I see the photos along the bottom. But going down the stairs my eyes tend to go down the middle for some reason...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
This is perfect, because I end up seeing all the photos. Even the photos that are too high to be seen from the stairs are perfectly visible from above...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
I couldn't be happier with how it all came together, and I actually look forward to using the stairs now so I can see my friends...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
Even if hanging the photos at the top was a bit precarious thanks to my homemade scaffolding setup...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
And now for my notes on creating this beautiful monstrosity...

  • When planning a collage, I found it's important to not only vary frame placement by size, you also need to be mindful of randomizing the depth of the frames. Otherwise you end up with high spots or low spots that look weird. This was harder than it sounds. I used all black frames, so it was easier than it could have been. I have no idea how insane it would be to add different colors to the mix. I drew out the above template on my computer so I could move things around to try and get a pleasing pattern. Frame depth was shown as different colors so I could more easily come up with something looking random.
  • Finding picture frames I could afford was a lot of work. The only time I went truly crazy was when the local Michaels Crafts store went out of business. The prices (which were already pretty good) were crazy cheap, so I bought as much as I felt comfortable piling up on my credit card. Everything else was purchased from buy-one-get-one sales (Fred Meyer's is great for these), special sales (Pier One is insanely expensive, but their sales are terrific), or clearances (Target flushes out their old stock at great prices to make room for the newer stuff). Some stores (like IKEA) have good quality and decent prices all the time, which was handy for filling in spots where I didn't want to wait for a sale.
  • I tried to be sensitive to people who were friends that had a falling out or couples who are no longer together, but there were a few times I didn't have any choice but to use what I had available. I also tried to avoid shots with people I don't know, but that too was unavoidable a few times. I'm okay with this. I hope the people in question are.
  • There are people I've tried hard to erase from my life, and leaving them off my wall is just another opportunity to remove them. It's tough, however, when they were so prominent in your life that Photoshopping them out of photos you'd otherwise like to use is often times impossible.
  • On the flip-side, running into photos of people you love that are gone is tougher.
  • Few things are more frustrating than trying to find photos you know exist but can't locate. Either because you've lost them or they were taken by somebody else and you don't have the originals to work from (or it's just a low-res image that got posted to your blog). There are people and shots I would have loved to have included, but simply could not find anything workable. I am trying hard to track them down in the hopes that those I missed can go on my second Wall of Bloggers.
  • Originally the smallest frame in my plan was 5x7. I had to change everything when I realized that some of the photos I had were of such low resolution that this was too big for them. So I went down to 2.5x3.5. There's not too many photos that can't go down that small, and even web-resolution images look okay. At first I was blowing them up anyway and trying to paint out some of the JPEG noise, but then everything looks fake. Better to print at a smaller size and have it look good than printing too big and have the problems magnified so the photo looks bad.
  • I was shocked at how many photos I wanted to use were blurry and awful upon closer inspection. Which is to say I'm not shocked that most of my blurry photos were taken at events where I was drinking.
  • On the wall, there's not much difference between a $4 frame and a $20 frame, because people are looking at the photo not the frame.
  • Quality is not governed by price. One of my most expensive frames that I really loved ended up falling apart when I took it apart to put the photo inside. That being said, cheap-cheap frames are going to be exactly that.
  • I found it much easier to work from the top down in strips rather than assembling a collage from side to side. And starting from the middle and working outwards was the smartest decision I made. Check your measurements often, especially if you are centering your photos on a wall.
  • To hang everything, I used 3M Command Strips which I bought in bulk to save money (thanks, Tim Gunn!). I also used a small level, which is essential for getting things to hang straight. There are pluses and minuses to using Command Strips. The plus is that it's very easy to get things placed where you want and they can be easily removed without damaging the wall. The negative is that they are visible on thin frames where you want to use every last bit of frame to attach them to. Also... not as environmentally-friendly as a nail and far, far more expensive. For a project like this though, the pluses far, far outweighed the negatives, and I am happy with the results.
  • Acrylic does not look the same as real glass for some reason. Unless my frame is so big that glass would be dangerous, I've been buying only frames that have real glass because I like the look better.
  • Working those little metal tabs that hold in the picture/backer/glass on most frames got to be painful after a while. Eventually I started using a putty knife to save my nails and fingertips.
  • Manufacturers who staple their corner protectors to the frame should be slapped.
  • I printed all my photos on an old HP printer that I had stored in the garage and hadn't used in years. The printheads were completely plugged and it took many soaks and flushes with cleaning fluid to get them unclogged. The ink cartridges were all dead, which meant I had to track down replacements. When I couldn't find them for a reasonable price, I ended up getting refillable cartridges that worked amazingly well at a fraction of the price. Now that I've printed all my photos, I'm pretty sure the printer is due for recycling, but I'm extremely grateful it lasted long enough to get through what I needed. Not that I am endorsing HP printers, mind you. The company is complete and total shit, and I won't be buying anything from them ever again if I can help it. The paper I had saved was still good, except one corner where moisture or something got to it. No big deal, but it was sealed in a plastic bag so I'm not sure how it happened.

And now on to planning my next wall.

Remember there's a zoomable image here that has a magnifying glass so you can everybody (maybe even yourself!)...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   

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