tools Archives

Handy city info for your address 2010

I was checking to confirm who my city supervisor is when I found this handy dandy service from the San Francisco government. Just type in your address (or a cross street) and you'll find out

  • Your parcel information (block & lot, zoning, lot area)
  • Elected officials with links to their home pages (Board of Supervisors, U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate, State Assembly, BART Board of Directors)
  • Street information with – woo hoo! – street sweeping info for both sides of your block
  • Nearest school and public library

Hooray for public information!

Posted on June 29, 2010 at 01:48 PM in linky goodness, San Francisco, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Away From *A* Keyboard 2010

For the first time that I recall in many years I am at home without my computer. That is to say without all my memorized logins, auto-complete entries, documents and other files, and my full music collection. My MacBook is with the geniuses for a few days having two problems repaired which are not uncommon in white Macbooks: cracked keyboard surface along front edge and bulging battery. The latter was a new problem and prompted my finally letting it out of my hot little hands for the service period. That and Joe setting up a marvelous improved backup setup which improved my confidence.

But part of the reason I love the web and living in a geek household is that this is not really slowing me down. Using one of our other computers, I'm listening to music on Pandora and since most of what I do takes place in a browser anyhow, I haven't run up against any "oh, that has to wait for me to get my machine back" roadblocks.

Only one dumb mistake: should have sync'd OmniFocus with my phone so I'd have all my projects and to-do's. But really, am I going to run out of the obvious stuff so fast? Actually, this could be a benefit; it will steer me towards working on the most physically obvious tasks and that might mean our house and my desk are going to be a lot nicer by the end of the week.

Ahh, then Pandora pulls out of the aether a favorite song from an old album I only had on vinyl – "Rab's Last Woolen Testament" by Robin Williamson & His Merry Band – and I know everything will be just fine.

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Update: Apple called back in four hours to say my computer was ready. !!! New battery, new keyboard, not just fixed but cleaned, and all no charge. Sometimes being a fangrrrl really does feel justified.

And then today I was dismissed from jury service immediately because they already had enough people. Woo! (Though I'm kind of disappointed because for the first time I actually have a flexible enough schedule to do it. Ah well, next year, perhaps.)

Posted on May 31, 2010 at 02:22 PM in tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Great power, great responsibility, and unsolved challenges 2010

Here I am once again pulling back in frustration and anger from my use of Facebook.

I don't want to have to do this. I want there to be an easy way for me to keep up with people I like, to promote things I like and help them succeed, and to engage in good conversations about what's happening in the world. I want the web to be smart and save me redundant effort. I want it to be easier for information and reactions to it to flow throughout multiple sites. I want people to be able to use the tools they are most comfortable with and for that choice to be independent from the content encountered through the tools.

But I don't want my or my friends' demographic information and details of our activity to be continually and pervasively leveraged for corporate marketing purposes. I want it to be possible to share and participate without providing a neatly packaged commodity that can be used to alter our perception of the online world.

What Facebook's new Instant Personalization feature reminds me of is that manipulation of our online reality. Certainly the list of wants I gave above would be a change to my online reality of great power, but such a change demands great responsibility. It demands transparency – what is being changed, by whom, and what other ways might it be presented to someone else? – and it demands control – opt in, not opt out. Facebook is not demonstrating that responsibility, nor does its history or the statements of its CEO suggest it is likely to.

In many specifics this is a design problem. My experience with the feature so far is that it's very hard to see what is happening or why. I want to give permission before a site can use my data or my friends'; that's something I should decide, not Facebook's business partnerships team. I want a way to lift the hood and see just what's being done underneath. I want a way to have a certain thing not done – and I want that way to be very obvious and easy.

Think about the difference between visiting an Instant Personalization site (e.g. the surprise of seeing my contacts from Facebook's list of articles they commented on when I visit a site I didn't even know they were reading and then trying to figure out how to stop that sharing of data with this site) vs. visiting a site and having Firefox ask if I want to allow this site to open pop-up windows. The former is confusing and opaque, the latter clear and easily controlled. I don't want to have to fumble around trying to figure out how to prohibit the undesired action after the fact, I want to be asked first and be given the option to set a policy for this site henceforth.

Why does this matter? I am very confident that Facebook's marketing and business growth aims do not map exactly to a map of my trust. Just because they might think a particular company should be allowed to receive a package of social data (me, my demographics, who my friends are, and all their demographics, for instance) doesn't mean I would ever choose to package up all that info for the site myself.

"But it's public information!" you might say. Perhaps – though my confidence over what will and won't be shared is shaky given Facebook's company culture  – but the information wasn't shared by me (or my friends) for this purpose or context. It wasn't packaged by us for use across the web. There's a difference between me saying to Facebook "my friends can know when my birthday is" and Facebook saying to an online store "this user falls into this demographic group by age, gender, and location" so that they can adjust their pricing based on market research of what that particular group is willing to pay for their products. That's a hypothetical example off the top of my head, but it certainly seems to fit within the existing capabilities of the feature.

What compounds all these concerns is the fact that Facebook friends can share your data. User A can go to Site X and by not blocking the feature tell them all kinds of things about his friend User B. Maybe User B never goes to Site X because she does not trust them with her information, but it's passed out of her control now.

In the course of removing all my "friends" on Facebook (and letting each know we're still friends in non-Facebook contexts), I was chatting about these concerns with my friend Glenda Bautista and she brought up a great analogy:

When you add a friend on Facebook or allow someone to add you as a friend, you end up being responsible for each other in your actions. As she said, it's messed up logic to have to treat a tool like this as an STD, but that's just what it is: socially transmitted.

Play safe, gang.

Posted on April 24, 2010 at 11:19 PM in tools, warnings & kvetches, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (4)

I am opting out of sharing so much through Facebook 2010

There is just not enough control over interrelated data re: my social network, what we find interesting, and what we look at on the web. My relationship with Joe Gratz or with any of my friends or with products I recommend has not changed. It's just you, Facebook, that I now find too much work to maintain a close relationship with.

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Posted on April 24, 2010 at 08:41 PM in The Web, tools, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

Facebook questions on day one (updated) 2010

(a.k.a. "Oh gawd, I hate you, Facebook; why doesn't anything make sense? At least the Devil gives you a deal when you sell your soul!")

((Update: a.k.a. "Yay! The Discardians are gathering! And, omigawd, I haven't connected with this person in years. This is really cool!"))

I've been online almost more than sleeping for the past 11 years... this should not be so hard and it shouldn't take hours and hours.

I had to create a personal profile in order to create what I wanted, a Page for Discardia where fans can congregate & have discussions, etc. Fine. That part was fairly easy (credit where credit is due), but I've spent the last three hours banging on integration problems.

1) Why don't I see a big ol' link to my Page (Discardia) from my Profile (Dinah Sanders)?
Can't even figure out how to add one. The little blurb box under my picture doesn't accept HTML. Currently only able to get to the Discardia page by going back in my wall to when I became a fan of Discardia and clicking on it. (After I have 25 fans I'll be able to apply for a nice short URL, but only halfway there.)

((Update: Apparently because the integration of Pages with Profiles is still pretty weak. Ya can't do that without custom FBML effort.))

Only thing I've been able to do so far is add the Favorite Pages app which adds a new tab that lists them in reverse chronological order, so Discardia – the one I thought of adding first because it's most important – is under all the others. Why is this even an app instead of part of Facebook's own functionality? Surely there must be a better option.

2) Why isn't Twitter integration doing what I keep telling it to do: show Discardia tweets on the Discardia Page Wall and not on the Dinah Sanders Profile Wall?
I did realize that to avoid redundancy - a very undiscardian trait - I should syndicate Tumblr only to Twitter and then Twitter to Facebook, but that last piece of the puzzle isn't falling into place.
(Tumblr, big kisses to you; your syndication process to Twitter was easy and worked quickly.)

((Update: Apparently because the official integration doesn't include it. Facebook, come on; I thought you were out to crush MySpace.))

3) Why am I not getting email notifications of new fans of Discardia?
Can't even find controls for this from the Page. (The whole Page vs. Profile thing is a rough road indeed.)

((Update: Apparently there's a weekly email. That'd be a great thing for Facebook to send the owners of newly created pages after they get their first fan. "Not much info for you this time, but here's what your weekly update will include..."))

Posted on March 18, 2010 at 05:58 PM in tools, warnings & kvetches, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2)

Intellectual property, the online life, and physical death 2010

The recent loss of my dear friend Brad Graham and the memories it brought up of another wonderful person we lost too soon, Leslie Harpold, has me thinking about what might happen to my online presence when I die.

In remembering Brad, many of us began to worry that his wonderful voice online as expressed in his Bradlands.com website might be lost to us as Leslie's was.

I'm fortunate to have a family that understands and celebrates the important role the Web plays in my life. My mother – who could, as my principal emergency contact on all documents calling for such a thing and beneficiary on any life insurance policies I've ever had, argue persuasively that she is my primary heir – has a thriving online life herself, primarily through Flickr. She's also, like me, a writer and would, I think, understand my desire that my works be preserved.

However, the legal position is unclear. My websites have always had copyright statements - either explicitly or implicitly "All Rights Reserved". Some of my Flickr content is Creative Commons licensed, but I have not taken the time to review and update all of my public creative output and its stated license terms.

And why is the legal position unclear? Because I do not have a will. Because of course I'm not going to die anytime soon. Of course. Never mind that Brad was younger than I.

So, yes. I should make a will. But I'd also like to find a way to make it easier for people to declare their intentions without that step.

We in the United States have CC0, which is basically a "No Rights Reserved" license. We have traditional copyright which protects our work for 70 years after our death. But we don't have an easy way to say "While I'm alive, this belongs to me, but after I die, I want to give it to the public domain."

Evan Roth has suggested an "Intellectual Property Donor" sticker for the back of your driver's license, just like an organ donor sticker, but it's unclear that this would be binding since it does not appear on the works to which it applies. It seems to me that a succinct statement which could appear on the work itself, much as a copyright statement does, would be easy to use and legally stronger.

I've got some homework ahead of me, learning more about this topic. I'll be looking at sites like The Digital Beyond and, in particular, their list of service providers in this space. I will also be attending the session "Become Immortal: Understanding the Digital After Life" at SXSW Interactive in March.

Please share your thoughts in the comments and let me know if there are other resources I should be checking out.


The clever Lillian Chow remembered the details of what I only had a vague echo of in my head: Neil Gaiman wrote a great post about this concern and provided, with assistance from lawyer Les Klinger, a tool – a simple will – to help address it. This takes the approach of naming trustees rather than turning things over to the public domain, but it does provide a model we could start from.

Any estate, copyright or other lawyers want to weigh in in the comments on that idea and/or on a phrase which could be used on the bottom of a website to reference it. Something like "Copyright © John Doe during my lifetime, transferred to public domain upon my death, per my will."

Posted on January 26, 2010 at 03:26 PM in creativity, The Web, tools, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (7)

Experimenting with movies 2009

Here's a little diary post which I whipped together mostly thinking about the pecha-kucha ideas.

Warning: It's a two minute diary not a one minute diary as titled, oops, and the audio came out a trifle louder than I expected thanks to a better microphone than I'm used to.

My process was to record the slideshow in Keynote, then export to Quicktime, then upload that to Vimeo. Ideas on improved approaches are appreciated in the comments; I decided to go for "imperfect and up today" rather than making it a big project that might get bogged down.

Posted on October 19, 2009 at 09:52 PM in Discardia, movies & tv, mundania, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Improving your style in a few easy steps 2009

Even if you once were on top of the image you projected through your clothes every day, it's easy to get stuck in a rut and stop noticing changes in yourself, perceptions, and the condition of those old favorite clothes.

For a lot of us, though, we've never been on top of fashion at all. Maybe like me you grew up comfy without a lot of pressure to worry about your appearance. That's ideal when you're a kid, but tough when you're trying to make a good impression professionally. Certainly like everyone you're carrying around some baggage from your past. Maybe it's a color or kind of clothing you're convinced you shouldn't wear because of something someone said long ago. Perhaps an urge to hide some part of your anatomy that you've built up embarrassment about - I see the early bloomers nodding here, remembering being the tallest kid in the class or the girl who first needed a bra, and hunching their shoulders forward. Or maybe you've just been following along with the trends as they pass through the stores and your closets, never having devoted the time to find and celebrate your own personal style.

I'm not suggesting we all suddenly need to be studying fashion magazines and spending all our money on the latest clothes. I'm working from a simple thesis:

Each of us looks better in some things than others.

So why not wear more of those things and less of the others?


Step One: Figure out what you like.
Start paying attention to what draws your positive attention. It's fine to also keep track of what you don't like, but the goal here is to begin collecting images that please you, especially those relating to fabric, color, silhouettes, but really anything can act as inspiration. Yes, certainly you can paste into a scrapbook, but I'd be wary of too much of that lest you focus on what's in current magazines only. You want to draw from a larger pool of ideas. Learn how to take screenshots on your computer (on Macs shift-control-command-4 is your friend!) and start grabbing those details for a journal kept in a word processing file. It's easy to copy an image to your clipboard and then paste it in with a comment of what you like about it.

Look through picture blogs like Nerd Boyfriend and Fashionist to attune yourself to people who are really shining out as individuals beyond as well as through their clothes and accessories. Take a look at this entry from Nerd Boyfriend about Michael Caine for a good example of how perfectly normal clothes can amplify a personality.

Be sure your explorations include things you're passionate about and explorations in unfamiliar environments. Expose yourself to new experiences and old things viewed anew.


Step Two: Figure out what you're like
You can do this in parallel with step one. What are your best qualities, both physical and otherwise? A great guide to this is the book 10 Steps to Fashion Freedom: Discover Your Personal Style from the Inside Out by Levene & Mayfield. Your local library probably has a copy. Give yourself credit for your great smile, beautiful skin, expressive hands, or whatever your best physical assets are. Accept and embrace your other strengths - are you reliable, funny, kind, resilient, patient, forthright, charming, sensitive, vibrant?

Decide what 2 or 3 things are the impression you most want to create. A few example personal style statements (taken from 10 Steps to Fashion Freedom) are "I project a substantial and meaningful presence", "I present a confident and sophisticated image", and "My personal style exudes quality and individuality." Your personal style statement needn't be completely reflected in your current best qualities, but should be supported by them. Make sure it works for who you are as well as who you're heading into being


Step Three: Take Inventory
What clothes do you have and how do they interact with your body? This can be a big project so you may want to take it in stages. Pick a category of clothes which are important to you either through frequent use or because you'll need them for an upcoming event. Don't pick the category which makes up the majority of your clothes; you want to get a quick sense of this step without exhausting yourself. Ideally do this with a camera with a self-timer in front of a full-length mirror with lots of good lighting. Bring in extra lights, especially if you have a lot of dark clothing or your pictures won't capture the details which will be useful later.

Do this when you have time to relax and are in a good mood. Do not let yourself bog down in emotional baggage or bad internal talk as you look at yourself. Remind yourself of your best qualities and stay on track. Personally I find staring in the mirror can be tough - I weigh more than I want to - so taking photos was a great way to get enough distance to assess what works and what doesn't in my wardrobe.

The big advantage of the self-timer is that you can get pictures of yourself from the back and the sides. I found a few surprises among my clothes where things which are very flattering in front have details which makes the bad fit strangely.

Work your way through this category - suits or formal dress can be a good place to start - and then take a look at your photos. What new things do you learn about your best features? I found my hands appeared far more graceful than I'd expected. What negative patterns in your existing wardrobe do you uncover which you'll want to avoid in future? When I looked at my outfits as others see them, I realized how many things I have which are way too big for me and are unflattering as a result.

As you look through your pictures, watch for colors which make you look great. It's amazing the difference a color which complements your skin and hair can make.
Picture 7 Picture 9
I wouldn't have guessed a charcoal grey would make the color of my lips, hair and, though you can't see them in this photo, my eyes more appealing, but it turns out to be a far more flattering color for me than pale pink.

Don't count on your photos as the best way to document your colors; like me, you'll probably find your lighting isn't good enough for that. A great resource in identifying them is to compare the good looking garments to Wikipedia's "shades of" pages which include samples and color names. So handy! Just take a little detailed screenshot of the color you need and start to build up your palette in your style journal.


Step Four: Cut out the bad choices
Life is too short to wear stuff that makes you look crappy. Friends & family, charity, or trash, just get the worst stuff out. Better to have fewer choices than constantly have to route around the bad ones, especially when you're tired or feeling low.

I found it helpful to think about the clothes I'm keeping as belonging to two main categories: best and casual/adequate. The latter includes not only very informal clothes, but also ones which show too much wear to remain in the "best" group. There are also some in this group which are in good condition, but in a less flattering cut or color than I'd ideally like. Note that anything out-and-out unflattering hit the donation bags, these are just the ones that are "okay for now".

In future, I want to buy primarily into the "best" group with the idea that most if not all of my informal clothes should be of such good quality that they could migrate over to loosen up an otherwise dressy ensemble. Think about the impact, for example, of a really good pair of jeans worn with fancy shoes and a stylish blazer and shirt. That same pair of jeans could be worn with hip sneakers, a plain silk blend t-shirt, and a cool hoodie from an indie designer to create a fully casual outfit. Or any of the other parts of that casual outfit could be pulled in with more formal pieces to add ease and character.

If it's all good stuff and it looks great on you, mornings get a lot easier.


Step Five: Take opportunities to upgrade
As you eliminate garments or relegate them to your "merely adequate" group, start a wishlist of replacement pieces which will be more flattering in fit, color, and in reflecting your personal style statement. As I write this there are three pieces in my physical inbox awaiting addition to my shopping wishlist with notes "get this style in one of my colors", "too large! replace with a medium petite, ideally in a more coral pink & less salmon color", and "too long in body & sleeves, too loose in waist; need petite?".

Unless you're blessed with a huge budget or were fortunate enough to have a great collection of clothes already, pick out one to three pieces on your wishlist which you most need and which will be most versatile and just get those for now.

Don't forget to be creative with how you turn bad clothes into good; consider trading your clothes at a second-hand store you like that has regular buying days and use that credit to shop their shelves for your wishlist items.

As with most of life, just start leaning each of your choices in the direction of the future you want to have and you'll be amazed at the progress you'll make in six months or a year.

Posted on September 4, 2009 at 11:00 AM in creativity, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

keeping Grandma connected 2009

Photo and caption by Uncle Larry
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Photo notes from me:
- Clever Joe used masking tape to cover the irritating blue light on the corner of the printer. :)
- USB hub into which are plugged the keyboard and printer.

Posted on February 26, 2009 at 12:00 PM in friends & family, relationships, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

OMG it's the archive.org Bookmobile! 2008

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Photo by Joe.

Posted on August 17, 2008 at 12:00 PM in Books, San Francisco, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

bubbles on lemon peel 2007

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Wanted to try out my new Zyliss channel knife but didn't feel like a cocktail tonight, so I just put a tightly wound twist in my glass of water. Over an hour or so it unwound and ended up like this. Love those air bubbles! They remind me of these silver sugar balls my Mum had for cookie decorating when I was a kid.

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Posted on December 1, 2007 at 11:48 PM in Food and Drink, mundania, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

A is for Aperol 2007

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New camera is swell, but not so super-amazing as to be able to take pictures of just one letter on bottles, except when the letters are very large. This is about as close a shot as seems to work. Then again, I haven't finished reading the manual...

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Posted on November 30, 2007 at 09:14 PM in creativity, tools, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ferry Building 2007

a good mushroom array at Far West

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blurry because there was little time to catch the shot due to people coming up to look at the 'shrooms


from Cowgirl Creamery: a bit of cheese

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Bellweather Farms Pepato


from Acme Bakery: a loaf of bread

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rounded out with a sausage with mustard and the view

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zoom zoom, baby

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Yes, the new camera rocks.

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Posted on November 28, 2007 at 01:36 PM in the big room with the blue ceiling, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Evening light 2007

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from the old camera phone en route back to San Francisco from work

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Posted on November 27, 2007 at 05:18 PM in San Francisco, the big room with the blue ceiling, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Things are about to change around here 2007

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Posted on November 27, 2007 at 07:39 AM in tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

screwing around with the new camera 2007

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Joe has some really nice new shirts.

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Ape!

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continued messing about with the new camera

[pics uploaded to Flickr on 11/27/2007]

Posted on November 26, 2007 at 09:41 PM in mundania, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

spirits 2007

A is for...

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It's getting too hard to find my place in my cocktail set when adding new drinks alphabetically, so I needed to do something to identify where each letter begins.

Looking at the A in Aperol, though, I think I may just use a distinctive piece of typography.

But what the hell, might as well finish documenting the state of my spirits collection as of Nov 2007 since I've taken half the photos already.

 

B is for...

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Well, and beer too of course, but that's for Joe & guests.


C is for...

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Oops, and forgot the champagne, cider, and Clamato in the fridge.

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D is for...

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F is for...

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G is for...

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H is for...

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K is for...

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L is for...

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M is for...

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O is for...

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P is for...

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R is for...

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S is for...

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And joining this *should* be a proper bottle of sloe gin but I have only just now remembered it and am kicking myself about it. Gerry's in Soho, London, probably had 5 kinds. Gah! Ah well, gotta go back to London again then... ;)


T is for...

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V is for...

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Yes, so I have 5 different vermouths with twice that on the wishlist; ya wanna make something of it?

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W is for...

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Well, and wine too, of course.


why I need a real camera

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this is probably try number 5 or 6 to get just the A from the Aperol bottle, but no such luck. Focus bad up close and can't preview the framing enough to know I'm not getting the other letters too. Bah!

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Posted on November 25, 2007 at 02:18 PM in Food and Drink, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

A random desktop image would like to inform me of how many hours left 2007

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Posted on November 9, 2007 at 11:27 AM in tools, work | Permalink | Comments (0)

The new Chumby has arrived 2007

(photo by Joe)

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Posted on November 1, 2007 at 12:01 PM in tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

View from Alamo Square, walking home from Nopa 2007

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(photo by Joe)

Striatic photographs the Seven Sisters

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Also from Striatic that night:

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Posted on October 20, 2007 at 12:02 PM in friends & family, San Francisco, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Big Four 2007

old Hotalings ad at The Big Four

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$1! For a bottle of Hotalings whiskey! shakes fist at inflation


Mark with his reflected Manhattan at the bar at the Big Four after work

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He's blurry and the drink isn't. Not sure quite how I manage to achieve some of these strange effects with this silly little phonecam...

Posted on October 12, 2007 at 12:00 PM in Food and Drink, friends & family, San Francisco, tools, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

share and enjoy 2007

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one of my favorite LaLa envelopes received so far

Posted on September 16, 2007 at 12:00 PM in creativity, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Juxtaposition 2007

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It never would have occurred to me otherwise to tie these two together, but here's my mum napping as a kid with the somewhat foxish family dog and a fairly recent picture of a fox in her yard.

One thing I really enjoy about the Mac's native support for changing desktop images and dual-monitor mode is opportunities for pairings like this.

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Posted on September 13, 2007 at 12:00 PM in friends & family, random synaptic firing, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Odd phone cam color behavior 2007

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My Samsung freaks out a bit at the BART station's shuttle waiting area.

Posted on September 12, 2007 at 12:00 PM in tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Flickr in the wild 2007

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Given that I did just that from my Samsung indicates Treo doesn't have the lock on this, but the sentiment is pleasing, as is the flower photo being uploaded.

 

Posted on August 22, 2007 at 12:00 PM in tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

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