Search This Site
Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
You should click on this. Really.
We pay for this site thanks to our sponsors. If you found this page interesting, we ask that you consider clicking through this ad to amazon.com and buying yourself something. It costs you nothing, but Amazon will pay me some money when you buy through this link.
That helps me keep this site free for all to use, and helps fund the time it takes to write and maintain the site. Without the kind people who buy things through my sponsors, this site wouldn't exist. You were going to buy that thing anyway, so why not buy it and help us keep the site up and running and without those nasty ads that get in your face when you go to some of the other sites
More to Read
- Some Thoughts on Lightroom Keywords
- How not to be a doofus with a camera
- Beyond 'Vacation Snaps'
- A teachable moment (or why I love birding, even when I make a fool of myself)
- Sherman, set the wayback machine to…
- An audience of one....
- Talking about 'Stuff'
- What I do for a living…
- 50 reasons Why I Haven’t Been Blogging
Want more? Try this list...
New on the Blog
- Hugh Daniel Memorial info
- Flag Day
- That was Steve, This is Now. And We’re Just Getting Started
- Tales to Inspire A New Generation of Developers
- 2013 Playoffs, stanley cup finals edition
- Calaveras Bald Eagle Nest 2013
- A quick anecdote about life at Palm…
- It was four years ago today….
- Quick note for folks who know Hugh Daniel
- Getting started in bird photography: Choose Your Weapons
Rent Gear at Borrowlenses
Don't buy that gear before trying it out! Renting a lens you're considering buying is a great investment in saving yourself from buyer's remorse!
And if it's a piece or gear you aren't going to use constantly, renting it when you need it is a great way to save money, and I highly recommend Borrowlenses as a place to rent high quality, well-maintained gear.
Category Archives: About Chuq
He was a proud veteran of the Pacific front in WW II, as well as the liberation of the Phillipines. Later he covered the Berlin Air Lift for Stars and Stripes. Later still, as a founder of the Overseas Weekly, he poked sticks at authorities he felt deserved having a stick poked at them, a trait he never lost in his newspaper work and something he was also proud of (being one of the few die-hard liberals to live in Orange County).
But what he was most proud of was the family he built and the life he had with that family. And he was never prouder than the night he celebrated his 50th anniversary with mom and their friends.
It’s been five years, and he’s still never far from my thoughts.
Miss you, dad. And Happy Birthday.
(and now I’m off for a quick weekend behind the Orange Curtain to see mom and help her with stuff. Witty commentary and pictures of feathery things and stuff will resume soon….)
What was the first app you created and what did it do? Back in 1975, the first app I wrote made the LEDs on the front of an IMSAI 8080 blink in fancy patterns.
It was a painstaking process. There was no development environment like Xcode: I had to compile the code by hand and enter it using switches on the front of the computer. There was no debugger and it took me weeks to get it right.
But when I did, there was a sense of accomplishment that I’d never experienced before. There will be many times in the development of an app where you want to give up because it’s just so damn HARD. But don’t: the feeling you get when everything works will make it all worthwhile.
Yes, that. Exactly. Only in my case, it was about 1978. At the time, I was a theater major heading rapidly towards a non-voluntary vacation from college (and a side trip through the local community college), and I took this weird programming class because I could do that and avoid taking real math class.
And I sat down in front of a computer for the first time, and had that “where have you BEEN all my life?” moment.
Got an A in the programming class, flunked every other class that semester (including a PE class. that’s hard to do) and never looked back.
Since it’s the four year anniversary of the Palm Pre being released, a quick anecdote about life at Palm (while I’m eating lunch and trying to figure out a weird CSS thing….)
It’s September, 2009. The Pre had been out for a few months. We hadn’t yet hired an app review team, so somehow, I ended up in charge of pushing apps out to the catalog. Today was a big day, because Ruby was going to have a talk with the analysts and we were going to announce some milestone as to the number of apps that were now in the catalog (100? 1000? 399, discounted from 500? I have no freaking idea at this point). My job was to make sure those apps were in the catalog when he made the announcement, but not shove them out early and blow the surprise.
How hard could THAT be?
I push the first app. The process typically took about 2 minutes. Ten minutes later, it was still pushing. Twenty minutes later it was still pushing. I started getting phone calls about why the apps weren’t there…
I pulled the cord on the air raid siren with Engineering, and basically let them know if this wasn’t fixed two hours ago, Ruby would be killing all of us. Turns out they’d made an enhancement to the process overnight (yes, let’s make code changes to production systems the night before a major announcement. What COULD go wrong?). The push process used rsync in the background, and in an “oops, silly me” moment, they forgot the rsync flag telling it to only push changed content. So every push was repushing every bit in the repository — 35 minutes instead of 2. per push. with 25 pushes to go. And Ruby about to go on stage.
So I got to have the talk with PR, and let them know it wasn’t going to happen. They invented a new story for Ruby to talk about, who went out and pretended he wasn’t pissed off and ready to kill everyone, and the analyst talk went off well. (I think maybe he did the “we just approved out whatever-special-number-this-is app, and they’ll all be in the catalog later this afternoon…”)
Fortunately for me, I wasn’t party to some of the — discussions — that went on about that little technical faux paus, since I was the messenger. The good news, I guess, was that it was one of those rather nasty moments of pain that nobody sees on the outside.
But that’s not the entire story. During that entire sequence I’d been also exchanging emails with my doctor. That morning I’d gone in for the tests, and they were coming back and confirming that I was diabetic. Yup. While all hell was breaking loose and I was trying to hold the fort I was being diagnosed with diabetes — by email — and my doctor and I were arranging my prescriptions and setting up the first round of followup tests, meetings and all of the stuff that goes with that piece of news.
I’d love to say this kind of — creative chaos — was rare in the Palm buildings, but in fact, this was more the normal state than the crisis state, especially early on. It’s one of the base realities when you’ve got a really large, very complex system that is pushed into production because you have to, not because it’s ready. You either get good at tap dancing and finding workarounds, or you die. As it turns out, Palm and webOS did both… What was great was that we had a group of folks that all piled onto problems like this and figured it out. What wasn’t so great was we had so much practice at it…
And once things settled down, I wandered off to the pharmacy, grabbed my drugs and my tester, went home and collapsed. (for the record, at that time, my glucose was well above 400, my triglycerides had gone past 500. But I can honestly say that on the day I was diagnosed, the diagnosis was not the worst thing that happened to me….
I guess that’s something…
It was four years ago today that the Palm Pre, our first WebOS device, was released out into the wild. At that time we had great enthusiasm and hope that this was the start of something that would reshape mobile devices.
It didn’t work out the way we’d hoped.
But you know what? I’d do it again. I’d try to do some things differently in how I handled some things. I doubt that’d make a difference in the final outcome, but we all live and learn. Since you can’t go back in time and try again, what you need to do is learn from it, move forward, and try to apply those lessons to what happens down the road.
Life is too short to waste it making the same mistakes twice. There are more than enough mistakes out there to make to bother repeating one.
It’d be easy to focus on what was broken and screwed up at Palm, and that list could go on for a while. There were days when it wasn’t a lot of fun, because once you’re in that swirling funnel and you can see the drain getting closer, it’s hard to find fun in anything.
But what I prefer to remember are the people. I worked with the best damn group of people there. Fun, fascinating, intelligent, and every one of them working their ass off to make that product succeed. It didn’t work, but not for lack of trying.
And I would go to war again with them, even if I knew up front it was going to fail and we were all going to die at the end, just because they’d make the fight worth fighting.
Happy Birthday, Palm Pre. If only you’d been what we wanted you to be….
I wanted to put out a quick note to people reading my blog who know Hugh Daniel. I just got word that he was found dead in his home this afternoon. All I know right now is that it looks like natural causes.
I feel like I’ve known Hugh forever. He was a neat, hyper-intelligent guy with a distinct worldview that was both fun to learn from and poke hatpins in. Dinner with him was always a fascinating, multi-faceted discussion.
The world’s a bit less interesting tonight.
Update June 5: I’ve been told two services are going to be held, one in California, one in Ann Arbor. I’ll post details as soon as I get them.
Also, a nice piece with a pointer to Hugh’s FGoH tribute at Windycon 38 via File 770.
Update June 17: I’ve now posted on Hugh’s memorial here in the Bay area
Yesterday was an interesting day, overall quite positive. Scoring ten on the “oh boy!” scale, I gave approval for use of three different images, including these two:
Both of those are going to environmental organizations, the Pelican is going to be used by Audubon. Being able to help out groups like that makes my day. The third is a small publication that’s basically in start-up mode. I may talk about it later.
Yes, all three images are comped. Yes, I hear some photographers out there grinding their teeth already. My view? I’m not here to live my life or use my photos to your preferences, not unless you’re willing to reserve the favor. Until then? I’ll continue to comp when it makes sense to me. Besides, at this point in my “career”, such as it is, exposure’s a nice thing for me. I’ll take that as payment.
It’s not my responsibility to hold back inventory to support your lifestyle; if you can’t compete with free, you need to become a better photographer. The basic truth is that the market has re-arranged itself, and bitching about it won’t put it back…
First time I’ve approved usage of three photos in one day. Heck, I think it’s the first time I’ve approved usage of three photos in a month. Nice little milestone, and it made my day.
But the day had some downers, too. I found out Jack Vance died; knew him a teeny bit from my work with SFWA, and he was a great guy as well as a great author. It’s sad to see another of the authors who influenced me growing up fade to black.
Another author I know also popped up to say he’d gone into cardiac arrest and flatlined, but a couple of EMTs, a medi-evac flight and a new pacemaker later, he’s going to be okay.
It just made me realize how far we and social networks have come when someone can pop up on Facebook and say “Hey, almost died, but I have this new pacemaker and I feel great!” in an almost routine way, and have his friends all kick into a conversation about it. Almost surreal. (and somewhere in there is an interesting piece of fiction….). But it’s also a bit of a reminder how tenuous our grasp on this side of the bright line can be, and how we should cherish it while we have it — because you never know when you’re going to roll craps and hand over the dice.
Me, I continue to aspire to my perfect ending: to be killed at the hand of a jealous husband — at the age of 90. Wish me luck.
Back from Yosemite, where over the weekend I spent Saturday assisting in teaching a class on bird photography and an introduction to Lightroom for Yosemite Audubon. We had 11 students, and a good time was had by all. Fun day, I was exhausted at the end, but in a good way. More on that when I have a chance to spend some time writing.
After that, I spent a day and a half in the park proper, driving from Oakhurst to Mono Lake via Tioga Pass and back on Sunday, and then on Monday I split time between the valley floor and a drive out to Hetch Hetchy and then home via the 120.
Lots and lots to talk about and show, as I can get it written. One thing I did for this trip was to rent a Fuji X-Pro-1 mirrorless camera and their 15-55 lens to experiment with and try some new things. I’m just starting to edit out the images from the trip (about 250 shots after the initial ding edit, plus three timelapses totalling about 500 images, and two pieces of video to experiment with). here’s one of the first images I took with the Fuji, up on tioga near Olmsted Point:
There is a surprising amount of detail in the image to my eye, and it needed wonderfully little post processing. I tweaked the luminance on the blue and yellow channels a bit (down in both cases) and dropped the green saturation some. Shot in aperture mode the exposure was literally right on, with a bit of boost to shadows and a bit of reduction in highlights, plus some clarity and vibrance.
Oh, and that image had no filter. Not even a UV, much less a polarizer. Just camera.
I can see the attraction of the mirrorless camera systems, and the images they turn out can be stunning. It’s not a perfect camera, though. There’s a lot to say about that camera, but the image quality is really quite good — but is it a quality you’d want to shoot? We’ll get there soon.
If you had told me before this week started that the North Koreans would threaten us with nuclear weapons and someone would mail Ricin to the president of the united states and a town in Texas would simply blow up with the power of a small nuclear bomb — and none of these would be the story we’re all talking about — I’d have laughed.
What this week has taught me is that CNN is incapable of covering any event that isn’t fully scripted. It’s sad how far that franchise has fallen.
This week has taught me that Fox News only has one script, and it’ll use it for every event, no matter what that event is.
This week has taught me that it’s time to stop laughing at Donald Trump and that we should just stop paying any attention to him instead.
This week has taught me that when elected officials like Senator Graham show such poor knowledge of the Constitution (or maybe just disrespect of it) maybe it’s time for us to band together and have them stop representing us and the document he’s sworn to uphold and protect. (Dear Senator Graham: the constitution isn’t there to only protect that which you are in favor of. Really)
This week taught me that the time of social media is really here, when my twitter feed was a lot more useful and accurate than the news sources that were being paid to report to me.
This week taught me that what people want is a simple answer easily explained quickly. And that real life isn’t like that. it’s complicated, and dirty, and it takes time for reality to play out and the answers to be known.
But mostly this week taught me to remember that bad things happen; a lot of them happened all at once this week. And they will happen next week, and again, and again, because that’s part of real life. And that you really can’t focus on the bad things, or it’ll tear you apart. But look inside the bad things, and you see dozens and hundreds of people doing good things, not because it makes the bad thing go away, but because that’s what they do. When bad things happen, we as a society rally together to minimize the pain and help those around us get life back to normal.
That’s what we should focus on. but good news doesn’t sell newspapers (well, nothing does, these days, but…) so the media tends to focus on what’s screwed up. Look past that a bit, and you see lots of ordinary people doing the extraordinary.
And that, to me, is the sanity point I found this week when for a while I was wondering if we as a species had finally lost it…
Happy Friday, all, if only because this freaking week is freaking over.
I’m numb. It’s happened again. Too many times during this lifetime for me, but that’s just an aspect of humanity. I think it is important to try to notice not the evil act that happened, but the heroic reaction of those who rushed in to help the injured and get the situation under control despite their own personal risk. That is what humanity is about, not about the occasional broken person who does terrible things. Those are the people we need to all strive to rise above and not let them conquer us.
One person in my twitter feed today noted that while it’s tragic we lost some lives to this today that we also lost about 100 lives to auto accidents, and will lose another 100 tomorrow, and again the day after, and the day after. We also have to remember the great cost of cancer. This isn’t to trivialize the deaths that happened in this event but to remind all of us that humans have a strong tendency to over-react to rare but dramatic situations and ignore the larger and more severe but chronic ones.
We need to keep events like this in view within the larger perspective. They want to cause us pain and convince us to crawl into a bunker and hide. If we do, they win. the reality is that you’re no less safe tomorrow in downtown boston than you were yesterday — and much more likely to get run over by a car than ever be in the same timezone as an attack like this.
Which is no solace to those that lost people today. I’m in all honesty numb; I watched the coverage like many of us, thinking “not again”. But yes, again. And the thing that kept wandering through my head today was how glad I was to have made a decision not to bring kids into this world, given the future we seem to have created for them to live in.
Tomorrow begins yet another attempt to return to normalcy for all of us, moving past this and forward in our lives.
Whatever normal is.
To everyone who was affected by this today, I’m so sorry. And as a species, once again so disappointed in ourselves.
Sometime around the turn of the twentieth century, my great grandfather started a printing and publishing business in Philadelphia, which, for many, many years was one of the finest and most successful letterpress shops in that city. Nearly every male descendant of Charles Jefferson Armor, including my great uncle, my grandfather, and my father, worked there for most if not all of their lives. I recall with great fondness the occasional Saturday mornings when I would accompany my dad into work, stopping first at the Horn and Hardart automat at 8th and Market St. for cream donuts and hot chocolate. Incidentally, and an interesting tangent to my story here, H&H (as it was known for nearly a century) closed its doors in Philly forever in the late 70‘s. It was another victim of the fast food craze being led by more ubiquitous, lower cost chains like McDonald’s, whose shiny new franchise quickly occupied the automat’s former space at 8th and Market.
Randall Armor has written a great piece here. It could be about my family and my dad, except then it’d be about Kansas and SoCal, not Philly. My dad ran a newspaper and print shop when I was growing up. I was studying journalism in high school. The death of the newspaper was already in process and accelerating when my dad sold the paper and the print shop in the 70′s. The change in the newspaper industry, the consolidation into fewer-bigger until there were no small things to eat, followed by the long, slow decline into irrelevancy, was in full swing 40 years ago.
Like Randall, I grew up in a print shop. I’ve set type on a hot lead linotype. I’ve sorted type in those old wonderful funky type boxes the size of refrigerators. I’ve been way too close to presses with way too little safety gear for someone my age (shh. nobody tell OSHA. Oh, wait, anyone they could yell at is dead…). Here’s my dad’s press that used to put out the Placentia Courier once a week:
I come from a newspaper family. My dad took over the Courier from his dad. Before that, he founded a publication called Overseas Weekly, which if you know post WW II history, you’ve probably heard of.
My grandfather founded the Courier in Southern California. Before that, they were involved in a newspaper in Kansas, which was founded by my great-grandfather. Both my father and grandfather took terms as president of the California newspaper publisher’s association, and I grew up getting hauled to conventions and conferences and interacting with much of the publishing leaders of the state.
(weird-ass trivia of my life: I was once babysat by a US Senator – Alan Cranston – in our cabin at the Ahwahnee in Yosemite so mom and dad could get to a board meeting of the CNPA. How many people can claim this?)
Interesting that both Randall and I ended up involved with computers; he went through design and pagemaker, I went into programming, although people who remember OtherRealms know I did my side trip back to my roots and spent time with early versions of pagemaker, and before that I was cutting and waxing up page masters like the good old days… But in any event, we’re both refugees from the hot lead and ink gypsies who have integrated off into new societies, because the industries our families grew up in stopped existing.
So I’ve been watching the newspaper industry shrink and collapse for a long time before the internet noticed. the list of newspapers I worked for growing up is scary given how few still exist. I did stringer work for, or delivered papers for the Fullerton News-Tribune, Anaheim Bulletin, Santa Ana Register, the Orange County and LA versions of the Times, and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Of those, only the Times and the Register (now the OC Register) still exist in any real form, and the Times is this sad self-parody of itself that I wish they’d just kill and be done with.
So yeah, what he said. And to those of you who are talking about about how the internet is killing newspapers? Part of me wants to just say “oh, you finally noticed?” but mostly, I ultimately see what the internet did as accelerating what newspapers have been doing to themselves for a long time, and frankly, it’s a bit of a mercy killing. Which, FWIW, I feel no joy in saying, but it doesn’t make it less true.
(and what you see in newspapers is the same thing we’ve seen with on-air radio, and fast food chains, and the book publishing industry, and god knows how many other industries: at some point the growth stops and the markets start stagnating or shrinking. And rather than putting energy and investment into revitalizing the industry and stimulating new customers, the big companies buy the small companies and hide the problems in the industry by eating the smaller fish, until they hit the point where only big fish exist, and then they start trying to swallow each other. At which point some of them choke and die trying, but you continue to see increasingly fewer players trying to figure out how to survive in an increasingly smaller pond. Too bad nobody had the vision to try to fix the leak in the pond when it would have made a difference…)
Over the weekend I rolled in some changes to the site, including an updated front page. I’ve been spending the last few months trying to figure out what this site needed to be about — or whether it was time to just shut it down and do something else.
“Chuqui 3.0″ is retired, thank god. That was then, I stuck with it far too long, mostly because I wasn’t sure what came next.
I’ve felt for a while that the blog has been sort of on idle. I haven’t really committed to writing for it consistently and when I have written, I haven’t felt like I’ve been putting my best effort or content out. The same has been true of my photography. For a while, that was okay; I wasn’t trying to turn this into anything specific or generate an income stream, and honestly, it more or less matched life in general. There are times when you need to just back off and tell yourself it’s okay to coast and not worry about it.
It’s time to start pushing myself again, figuring out what I want to focus on over the next few years, and make it happen. The question was, what?
That turned out to be a difficult question to answer. Over the last year, I’ve been researching whether or not to jump back into my fiction writing, which I’d put on hold “for a while” about 20 years ago. With the ebook revolution going on, there are definitely market opportunities that weren’t there five years ago.
Or do I jump back into the mobile space? It’s sometimes hard to remember that I went to work for Palm because there were apps I wanted to write and things I wanted to explore on mobile devices, but I’ve now been away from that circus for a while and that’s been tugging at my attention again.
A discussion of why I made the choices I did might happen some other time, but at least for now, what I’ve decided to do is put the focus back on my photography and to finally invest the time into the blog and the site to make it do what I’ve always wanted it to do, but never was willing to invest in.
This weekend’s update isn’t “the new blog”, but the new front page. There’s still a lot of work needed, but to get to this point meant making a huge number of decisions, both about design, and content and intent. The two big criticisms I had about the site were that it wasn’t really about anything (it was just a holding place for stuff I stuck on it) and that the design was cluttered and sloppy.
It is time to fix that. Laurie offered to design the logo, and I think she did an awesome job on it. The logo really defines the direction I’m setting out on: at my core, I’m a photographer, and at the core of my photography are birds and nature. The last time I re-did the site, I split the focus of the site between my photography and the blog, and the result was a cluttered mess (toss in affiliate advertising and various other gadgets and things and blocks and toys, and when you end up with is fail).
So, the new front page. It’s all about my imagery. If you come to me site, that’s what you see. I’m working on an updated blog page that will focus on the blog and try to do justice to the words the way I hope the front page sets the stage for the images.
The three pages that will be the foundation for the site will be the front page, the blog page and the portfolio page. One down, one partially done. Just starting to hash out how I want to display images in a non-sucky way. I don’t think I do a bad job of it, but I’b not really doing a great job. I’m tired of okay-for-now-someday. I’ve made a few changes on the blog side — the new text font is Libre Baskerville, which I quite like — but there’s still work to do. I realize some will think I should just hold everything and do a “big splash” update all at once; my view is the iteration over time will let both you and myself benefit as I figure this out, and I expect I’ll be spending time over the next few months working through all of the details.
About the Front Page
The front page of the site sets the tone and style for everything else. It’s got a unique look and feel that won’t be matched by the other pages, but the rest of the site will borrow from the decisions I made building it as I build them out as well. The goals were straightforward: nuke the baby blue for something a lot whiter and neutral (but it’s not white; there’s still the barest touch of blue in it). Clear out the clutter and anything that wasn’t directly about me (like the affiate advertising), and make it very crisp and clear what the site is about.
The blog page will complicate that message again — the blog is not JUST photography, but basically the current content mix — but the front page needs to keep it simple.
The new tag line for the site is “Stories Told Here“. A very simple statement, but you don’t want to know how many hours of my life I spent figuring that out. Photography long ago stopped being about showing up at a place, grabbing a random shot and posting it. It’s about understanding a place, and finding a way through my work to see it and feel it and understand it. It’s one thing for me to take a picture of a flock of geese flying, and it’s another thing altogether to be there as 20,000 geese all take off and fly around and over you, screaming their freaking heads off.
That’s part of where I’m trying to push my work. It’s not just taking that “icon shot” as it is trying to create a context to help all of you understand and appreciate what caused me to photograph it. That is going to involve more than displaying a picture, and I’ve started experimenting with both longer form works (writing and pictures, and collections of pictures) and other techniques such as including audio or video. As my abilities to integrate this stuff mature, hopefully what I’m seeing in my head will make sense to you and help you see things as I saw them (and if not, well, I’ll try something else).
It’s not about taking a picture, or posting it online. It’s about telling a story.
A story of a place, or a thing, or a being.
And that journey — or this leg of that journey — starts now. Enjoy the ride.
One of the fun parts of tearing apart the office was finding the occasional thing that you’d completely forgotten you had. Like this:
I’ve already had a couple of offers for it. I’m keeping it, at least until I decide the best thing to do with it. Or maybe just as a reminder of what could have been. There’s three years of my life buried in that box somewhere. Hiding and twitching, I expect.
The “list of things I’m trying to get done and off the list of things I need to get done so I can get back to blogging” continues. The most recent project has been a complete rebuild of the home office. Here’s how it looked a week ago:
And here’s how it looks now.
I’m still waiting for one final flat-pack set of drawers to arrive, but the major work is done. In the old office was a desk I lovingly call the battleship. I’ve had it for around 15 years. It’s made of 1″ thick oak plywood and solid oak pieces. It’s 6.5 feet long, and 4 feet deep, angling out to almost 5 feet. It has a cubby for a tower PC, which obviously, nobody would consider using for a computer any more so it’s turned into storage cubbies. A keyboard shelf that was huge, but not large enough for a Wacom. And a pull out shelf for a printer, which fits no printers we’d use today, so again, more storage. and all of those are deep shelves, so you use the front 18″, and the rest sits there empty, breeding dust bunnies. It is a dust bunny factory, always has been.
That desk has been a great desk. But in practice? Not very flexible, and in the modern computing age, the desk space is increasingly wasted and unusable. about eight or nine years ago, I added a second mini-desk as a work space, but it’s size — about 18″ deep and 3 feet long — meant in practice it was mostly useful for dumping stuff on, not working on stuff.
One of my — not goals, but determinations — for 2013 was to deal with all of those tasks and projects that had fallen into the “someday I need to do this” file. More and more it became clear that it was time to update the home office.
So I have. Out with the battleship; now in the back yard where it’s going to end up in pieces for the landfill. I’d originally thought of donating it, but to be honest, it’s in pretty tough shape and had a long life. It’s also, from what I can tell, over 300 pounds, and I’d have to rearrange many parts of my house to get it to a place where I could store it until I could get the Salvation Army out here to pick it up, and I just can’t feel it’s worth what it’d take to do so. I feel a bit guilty. But not much. Out went my tiny desk (it will go to SA soon).
And in comes a Geekdesk. I’ve been thinking that getting a sit/stand desk is a smart idea for a while. I’ve been researching them for a while. Laurie picked up a manually adjustable standing desk from Anthrocart a few years back and loves it; she uses a tall chair with it and that works well. I love the quality of the Anthrocarts, but to get the electric model — just more than I wanted to spend. I researched half a dozen other flavors of sit/stand desk, and kept coming back to the Geekdesk. Not the cheapest, but everyone I know who’s picked one up loves them. Mine is the smaller sized max model, which cost about $1200 including shipping.
It is built like a tank. I expected to be impressed by the build quality, but it beat my expectations. It weighs about 250-300 pounds, and arrived in three boxes. Assembly required a Phillips-head screwdriver, and took me under 2 hours. The system that raises and lowers the table works quietly, quickly and smoothly.
This model is about 3 feet deep by about 4 feet. Smaller than my old main desk, but perfectly sized as a computer workstation, which is what I do most of the time. To replace that old mini-desk I used to drop stuff on, I picked up an inexpensive flat-pack desk, which is about 2 feet by 4 feet. Toss in a couple of flat-pack drawer sets and a small vertical file, and that gives me places to stick stuff with more storage space than I had before, plus good surfaces for my printers.
My office space is about 9 foot by 9 foot, part of a larger room where the other half is our media area with a couch and the TV. Effectively it has one wall. The second “wall” is the couch, the third “wall” is the glass door out to the patio (good views. lots of glare if I open the drapes), and the fourth “wall” is the space I have to leave free as access to the patio, with wall space beyond that for bookcases. So building the area out I have limited wall space (but I don’t need bookshelves, since they live “outside” the office). I was trying to make sure I kept the view to the TV and the great outside clear, positioned the monitor to minimize the glare (I’m probably going to build a foam board glare screen on it soon), and had easy access to the computer space and the project desk.
Having just moved in, I’m still figuring out what goes in which drawer where. Adding the drawer space means that much of the stuff that I’ve been sticking in storage crates will move into drawers, and the crates can “go away” and I can stop tripping on them. I’ve over-bought drawer space, knowing a year from know, I’ll wish I’d bought more.. And yes, going through every bit of everything moving it from the old drawer to a temp space to the new drawer has given me a chance to throw out a lot of “why do I have that? Oh yeah, I used that THREE computers ago” stuff.
The computer workspace is now set up for what I use it for most, meaning my photography and and the internet. I’ve added speakers since more and more video and audio is coming out of the computer. Since I had everything torn up, it was a good time to redo the lighting in the room, replace all of the power strips and generally revamp all of those boring details that I hopefully won’t need to worry about again for another decade.
I started doing research on this in December. It’s mid-March. It’s been far from a full-time project during that time, except the last week or so. I probably have another week as I finish moving in and tweaking where stuff lives. But I love the results, and I’m a lot more comfortable working on the new desk, and I’m looking forward to the ability to stand up — all the research shows that it’s a smart change to make. And there’s a lot less dust hiding in the room now, but man, there isn’t enough sedated in the universe right now…
One question I expect to come up in all of this — treadmill desks. I did research them and there’s a lot of interesting possibility here, but….
At this point in my life, I know I’m not ready/able to use a treadmill desk full time, and with my knees, a full-time standup desk isn’t in the plans; that’s why I went with the adjustable Geekdesk, since I want to be able to stand as much as the knees will allow, and I expect as I do it, they’ll let me do more of it. (the reason I spent more on an electric adjustable is because I know if it’s manual, I’ll just set it for the seated position and not stand up. Convenience makes a difference and spending a bit on convenience makes sense here). I also knew I was doing the second desk, so unlike laurie I didn’t want a high chair — she actually has two chairs in her office, a low one for her work desk.
the treadmill desks just didn’t fit what I need right now. but they’re still on my radar; I could see putting one in somewhere else in the house at some point. Maybe. But I didn’t want to build a primary workspace around one, so I decided to leave it until sometime later. I definitely see the trend and advantage of doing something like this down the road.
So for the executive summary — the Geekdesk rocks, and the new office solves all of the things that were annoying me about the old office. It’s going to be fun to figure out what new annoyances exist in the office that I haven’t discovered yet. Interestingly enough, the total amount of desktop space is a bit smaller than the old office, but a lot more usable. And now I’m not constantly rolling the @#$@##$ printer out of the way when I’m trying to do something else…
I am on the road for a few days… Friday saw me head out towards Orange County to spend some time with mom. On the way, I did a side trip off to Merced National Wildlife Refuge, because I wanted to hit it one more time this winter before the season closes, and because there had been reports of Mountain Plovers hanging out nearby.
My original thought was to bird/photo my way through Panoche valley to I5, but the reality is that Panoche has been pretty quiet birding this winter, and one of the bird species normally looked for out there hasn’t been seen — the Mountain Plover. This is a small, rather plain looking brown and white bird, rare and who’s population is threatened. It’s also a species that in three winters of heading out to Panoche to look for them, I’ve successfully missed them every time.
So I drive out to Merced and up Sandy Mush drive towards the entrance, look out into a meadow, and there, hanging out next to the road, is a small flock of about 15 Mountain Plovers. Life birds are rarely that painless.
Merced was about as expected; nice collection of sandhill cranes, all outside of photo range, a large flock of geese (mostly Ross’s, many Snow, a few greater white-fronted). A nice surprise were five tundra swan, a fairly rare visitor to Merced, and some Canvasback ducks, which I can’t remember ever seeing there before. I took some photos (unprocessed), tried to take some audio and video (and botched it massively, need more practice), and just mostly hung out and watched the geese. At one point the flock flew, and when 8-10,000 geese all fly at once, it’s an amazing (and noisy) thing.
And then headed out. On the way out, I stopped to get a better look and some bad pictures of the plovers. The problem with where the plovers are is that they are hanging out in a field literally next door to a juvenile detention center (in other words, a prison). So shortly after I stopped, one of the friendly sheriffs from next door wandered over to say hi.
Friendly he was; he just wanted to make sure I wasn’t one of those stupid people who park next to a prison waiting to pick up a friend who leaves the prison without asking permission first. Yes, it turns out that people DO that (well, people do both parts, he said they’d had a couple of escapes in the last year, so they’re being careful; I’m more amused that people park next to a prison and are evidently surprised when the prison guards notice. I KNEW I was going to get visited, and I was ready to apologize for making them come out and check…)
Of course the plovers found a place to be both easily found and a problem to watch… Count me amused. And the guard was amused that I was there watching these tiny birds…
I kept the stop short, then headed out. Spent a nice day and a half with mom, and today, wandered back up to Morro Bay, where I’ll be spending a few days in a workshop on photo printing techniques. More on that after…
Watching the traffic, all paths exiting Orange County for LA sucked, (okay, sucked even worse than normal — the 405, 5 in downtown, 60 in hacienda heights and the 101 from downtown to venice all had 1+ hour EXTRA delays) except for the 210 and 5 over Tejon. That was fine, since I didn’t need to be anywhere today, I took the scenic route, and drove up to Buttonwillow and then to the coast on HWY58, which runs north of Carrizo Plains and past Bitterwater Road and Shell Creek road, two areas that are big wildflower tracts in the wildflower season.
The critter count for the drive included two coyotes, two golden eagles, a greater roadrunner, a ferruginous hawk, and countable infinities of horned larks, savannah and lark sparrows and an uncountable infinity of western meadowlark. And a few other species, but nothing really special. A quick stop at the Carrisa plain school on 58 where a Williamson sapsucker’s been wintering turned up nothing but a nuthatch (oh well).
But that’s an awesome drive. I can’t claim those parts of the state are stunning the way a place like Yosemite is, but I do feel they can be starkly beautiful, and it’s a fun, somewhat tactical but not scary drive. Something that someone in an SUV can do without feeling like they’re holding up people or about to die…
By the time I was done, it was about 7 hours of driving. Worth it, but it’s nice to be in the room and catching up on being unplugged all day. And in the morning, off to school…
Not a bad weekend…
One of the things that has happened while I was off the blog was that I traded in the Subaru for a new beast. The Subaru was the best car I’ve owned in a long time, but at 120,000 miles, it was clear I had to either invest in it to deal with age-related maintenance, or replace it. my estimate was $2-3000 in 2013 for brakes, struts and shocks and the regular maintenance and fluid changes — at best.
So I decided it was better to put that into a newer car. And then that got on hold when the refi on the house stretched out, because you don’t want to sneeze near anything that might tweak your credit rating. That’s why when the refi closed out on a Friday, I spent Saturday at the Ford dealer, and drove out for Christmas in SoCal on a Sunday in a car I literally hadn’t driven more than 10 miles or filled with gas yet. What’s this button do? Well, we’ll find out as we go…
But it all worked out. The new beast is a 2012 Ford Escape, bought certified with 30,000 miles on it. Buying certified instead of new dropped the price a chunk, plus it got me a 2012 model, which I preferred over the 2013 — the trend with SUVs is to “car-ify” them, soften the ride and give them curvier lines, so they handle the road more comfortably, but don’t go off-road well and generally don’t haul as much. I wanted an SUV that still acted a bit like an SUV, without having to resort to one of the hard core off road vehicles like the Toyota FJ.
The Escape fits the bill. Where the Subaru was “two adults and two kids”, the Escape’s a bit bigger, and I can fit four adults into it without feeling like I have to apologize constantly. it hauls a bit more, although with the seats up, the cargo area is actually close to the Subaru’s. So far, it’s been to LA once, Morro Bay twice (including a stop on the way back from LA) with a day trip into Carrizo Plains, a day trip out to Merced, another day trip out to Colusa and Staten Island, and some short drives around the homeland.
To my surprise, by buying not-quite-new, I was able to get one with 4WD (and a moon roof! woo!); one thing I really liked about my Subaru was the all wheel drive because in bad weather or on unpaved roads it held traction well. I haven’t put the Escape into snowy conditions yet, but even in some of the legendary Carrizo mud, it did okay with just a bit of sliding — I can’t believe the Outback would have handled it better.
So the early results are quite positive. It’s a more comfortable drive for me overall; sometimes the Subaru left my knees stiff and sore, and that hasn’t happened with this beast. The upgrade from 4 to 6 cylinders fixes the feeling that sometimes I was a bit under-powered — but the Escape gas mileage is equivalent to, if not a bit better, then Subaru. that I didn’t expect, but I’m seeing 24MPG real world reliably. The gas tank is about a gallon smaller than the Subaru, which is making me have to relearn my “standard” fill up spots on the trips I take.
As far as I can tell, the Subaru Outback is the standard car for nature photographers who don’t want a truck. I can’t argue, mine got me where I was going without a whimper for years. But this Escape seems to be all that, but a bit better set up for what I want. So far, it’s met all my expectations, and then some.
So if you see me the beast out at one of the refuges, pop on over and say hi.