Chuq Von Rospach

Birds 🦅 Landscapes 📷 Nature

I live in the core of Silicon Valley, about two miles from Apple’s new campus. We’ve lived in this place since 1994 with a variety of cats and birds; our current zoo includes Tatiana, a female Umbrella Cockatoo and Buster and Hunter, feral rescues from Humane Society Silicon Valley. Hunter is a shorthair that could pass as a Russian Blue, and Buster was supposed to be a grey tiger medium hair, but he decided he’d rather be a Maine Coon cat, and so we ended up with 15 pounds of long-haired, fluffy cat instead. We’re not complaining. All three of them are highly intelligent and attitudinal. Coincidentally, this house is never boring.

Professionally I’ve worked at various jobs in high tech since I left college in the 1980’s. I moved to Silicon Valley in 1982, which means I’ve been here longer than I lived in Southern California where I was born. Companies I’ve worked for include a number of startups you’ve never heard of (because they died), National Semiconductor, Sun Microsystems, Apple Computer (17 years, somehow), Palm (the WebOS reboot attempt), Infoblox and Cisco. My current employer is a small Computer Security startup in the DNS space called Farsight Security, founded by Paul Vixie. You may have heard of him.

My current role is as Manager of their Technical Publication group, but in reality, I am their Technical Publication group, so I am also lead writer, documentation editor, publishing system toolsmith, creator of documentation standards and enforcer of company branding and standards.

In previous roles I’ve done technical community management (aka developer evangelist or “speaker to developers”), social media content and administration and webmastering. At Apple I built many of their large email delivery systems. My technical background includes writing Perl, PHP, C and Python, and I’m decent at CSS and pretty rusty in Javascript. I’ve built social systems with WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Confluence, Jive, vBulletin, and a number of other social tools. My first and still love is email and the mailing list, and I was once part of the Mailman open source list server project as a contributor and architect.

When I’m not at the keyboard nerding out over placement of Oxford commas, I’m probably out in the field with binoculars and cameras birding or doing photography, and often both at the same time.

My photography focuses on nature with my main interests being bird photography, landscapes and wildlife, especially Sea Otters and Elephant Seals. My current addition to cameras started in 2001 when I bought a Canon S100 to take on vacation on a whim, and the digital photography bug hit hard. My life intertwining with photography goes back to the 1970s, though, when I shot Tri-X and did my own developing and printing in the high school dark room.

Bird/wildlife and landscape work are very different skill sets and require different gear to work, and often conflict with each other; there’s nothing quite like being out with a 500mm lens chasing a Sandhill Crane when the late afternoon sunlight explodes into the glorious magic sunset dance, and your wide angle gear is 30 minutes away locked in the car.

These days I shoot Fuji gear, and I’m happy to answer questions about it if I can, or to talk incessantly about digital darkroom technique in Lightroom, so if I can be of help, please feel free to ask..

I’m very involved in birding and the environment. I volunteer with the Santa Clara Valley Audubon where I run two committees for them, their Social Media Outreach and Marketing committee, and their Birdathon committee, which organizes their primary fundraiser every year. I’ve also been involved with the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, where I’ve helped them digitize and organize their historical photograph collection and now host that library for them. I also support through donations the Nature Conservancy, International Bird Rescue, the Audubon national organization, and the Marine Mammal Institute. Any and all of these organizations deserve your support as well.

I’m at that point in my life and career where I’m thinking about what I might do when I no longer work full-time. The word “retire” has no relevance to me, although my current plan is to work for another five years, give or take, and then put all of my time into volunteer work, this site and my photography.

If for some reason I disappear and you can’t find me, you should look on the Morro Bay, Oregon Coast, Victoria British Columbia, Vancouver and Portland, in that order. See which shop has recently hired a barista wearing a wig and sunglasses.

We all need to remember to slow down and savor the journey.

I do not believe in regrets, grudges or hidden agendas. They create negativity and hold you back from your goals. Learn, let go, move forward. I believe in embracing the positive. You do not want to be the exception to this. It’s hard to get on my list. It’s a lot harder to get off.

I started writing Science Fiction and Fantasy as a kid, mostly for my own enjoyment. In the early 90’s, I decided to try to write professionally and sold a number of short works. I ended up ‘retiring’ from fiction writing partly due to lack of time and partly because computers were much more lucrative. I was an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and did a lot of work for them, including run the Nebula Awards for about a decade. These days, I keep thinking about starting it up again, but every time I do, there are too few hours in the day to make it worth it. Maybe some day.

In my writing, I really enjoyed exploring the boundaries between SF and Fantasy, and screwing around with that mythical “fourth wall” between the story and the reader. These are tough to do right, easy to do badly, and I’d like to think I more or less succeeded most of the time. I also tended to write off into left field — my first sold work, for the SF anthology Alternate Kennedys, was actually a horror story, not remotely SF. My favorite writing involved a continuing character I was working with, a computer consultant who kept getting involved with fantastic beings (those are Good Intentions and Birds of a Feather) — that series was an attempt to write a hard-SF series about a subject that quickly becomes boring to many readers (stories about working with computers, as opposed to stories with computers in them as gilt and props) — but at the same time, involving purely fantastic and mythological beings.

Here’s a list of the fiction I’ve published. Where I can make it available online, I’ve done so and linked to it for your amusement.

  • ‘Til Death Do Us Part: (Alternate Kennedys, Tor, July 1992, Mike Resnick, Editor). A horror/dark fantasy story involving Marilyn Monroe coming back as a succubus to make Jack Kennedy’s life interesting. (what’s left of it). This book is seriously out of print.
  • Princess and the Dragon: (Pulphouse Magazine, never published). This is your typical soft fantasy with a dragon, a kidnapped princess, and a worthy knight off to rescue here. Except it’s not, well, typical.
  • Going Straight: (co-written with Laurie Sefton, Further Adventures of the Batman, Featuring the Penguin, Bantam, 1992; edited by Martin Harry Greenberg; reprinted in other DC anthologies). The Batman story, the one I wrote in collaboration with Laurie, has it’s own strange story about its creation. We initially submitted an outline for the story to DC that caused mass horror among the editors (it involved the Penguin going back to a high school reunion to get even with all of his peers that made fun of him as a young boy, killing them off in nasty, gruesome and very melodramatic ways — when we had him chop the head off of the teacher-nun with a sharpened metal ruler, the DC people evidently lost it) — but we were given about 24 hours to come up with an alternate story, write and and submit it as an alternate — which was accepted without a single request for modification (go figure). Since we couldn’t kill the nun, we ripped off the church instead, having the Penguin use computer crime to embezzle all of the money from the arch-diocese (a Cardinal, to keep the bird theme alive). it is, we believe, the first time someone was murdered with a Macintosh to the skull…. Somewhere around here we have the original (rejected) outline, which is a real screamer. If I can find it, I’ll post it.
  • Good Intentions: (Deals with the Devil, Daw, 1993, edited by Mike Resnick). A computer consultant gets hired by God to hack Hell’s databases to save souls. Except it ain’t that easy. This was the first appearance of my computer consultant character who keeps getting hired by fantasy beings. The entire premise of the series was to write straight them as straight science fiction pieces, but with key characters that are pure fantasy — but written as if they’re real.
  • Fnord and Gord go to the Zoo: (Xanadu 3, edited by Jane Yolen, Tor Books, January 1995) A Fafhrd and Grey Mouser pastiche, sort of. This is a story where I not only blow up the fourth wall between author and audience, I dance the macarena on the remains — and invariably, people either love it for the humor or hate it for the humor — and in a few cases, both at the same time. Writing stories where the characters overtly know they’re characters and mug for the audience is exceptionally tough, and I think I pulled it off fairly well overall. Probably my favorite piece of published fiction.
  • Birds of a Feather: (WitchFantastic!, Daw books, January, 1995, edited by Mike Resnick and Martin Harry Greenberg). A Science Fiction story using Macintoshes in witchcraft. Co-stars Morgan the cockatoo in a supporting role. Another of my computer consultant stories.
  • Downtime. It’s set in the same universe as Good Intentions and Birds of a Feather, only this time, it’s Christmas Eve, and Santa has a problem…. Personally, I find the prose in this a bit clunky, but I love the premise. I decided to stop actively writing before polishing it to my preferences.

OtherRealms is a Science Fiction Fanzine I put out between 1986 and 1992. It was primarily focussed on reviews and criticism of Science Fiction and Fantasy, but also contained other material that I found interesting. Beyond my own writing, it contained the work of many others, some fans like I was at the time, others authors in the field who were looking for an outlet for informal pieces. Authors who were to be found in OtherRealms included Mike Resnick, Jack Chalker, Charles de Lint, Harry Turtledove, Melissa Scott, Kevin J. Anderson, Michael P. Kube-McDowell, and Lawrence Watt-Evans. I’m proud to admit that at the 1989 World SF convention in Boston (Noreascon Three), OtherRealms was nominated for a Hugo award for Best Fanzine, and I was nominated for Best Fan Writer. I’m even prouder to note that I finished ahead of No Award in both categories, even though there was a voting controversy which affected the Hugos that year.

32 issues have been published. 30 of them were available on the net, while 31 and 32 were paper only. OtherRealms grew out of a wish to find a better way to publish material on the net. You have to realize that back in 1986, things were plain text and distribution was by e-mail and USENET. Even then, USENET was showing signs of strain from growth and popularity, but none of us had a clue how good we had it at the time. USENET today is nothing but a shadow of what it was, quality-wise. A second reason for OtherRealms (other than thinking I had something useful to say) was that I was fighting a serious, nasty writer’s block, and I felt that putting myself on a writing schedule and forcing myself to write (or embarass myself in front of the readers waiting for each issue) would help me break out. It did, but it also took on a life of its own and became a much larger thing than anyone expected.

Of course, in today’s World Wide Web world, OtherRealms looks (and is) horribly primitive. But it was one attempt to find a better way to deliver and distribute information on-line, long before the WWW existed (or was even under consideration).

Please abide by the copyright notices in the issues — people’s lack of concern over copyright protection was one reason I removed the final issues. Don’t screw it up for others.

Visit the OtherRealms Archives.

Before there was blogging, or blogs, or even web browsers, there was e-mail. And while lots of folks like to think the internet started when they created a blog, it was alive and well and busily discussing things long before blogs or social networking. For many years, we hosted mailing lists for many sports teams in both hockey and baseball. Those lists have been retired, but the archives live on. The largest and longest running of them was our Sharks list, which we ran from 1992 until 2005, and which is still going strong under new owners at Yahoo groups.

Some of the lists were large and vibrant, some were small and very much niches. Some did pretty well, some were experiments that never got critical mass. All of them are interesting glimpses into the intersection of the online universe and the sports world and the state of the sport at the time. It’s my long-term plan to make this content more searchable but I don’t know when or if that will happen.

Until then, those of you who are blogging about this stuff and think you invented the form, it’s actually been going on for a long, long time


Visit the Mailing List Archives

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My Policy on Image Location Disclosure

I occasionally get requests for location data on one of my images. I thought I would put my policy on sharing that information on the web site, if only so I can point to it in the future and save myself some typing.

I do not publish any GPS data in any of my images. If ask where I took an image, I will usually be happy to share with you the facility where it was taken, if that facility is open to the public and encourages visitors. For instance, I’ll always disclose that an image was shot at Yosemite National Part, or Merced National Wildlife Refuge. To be honest, when I GPS encode my own images, it is to the facility, not to locations within it, so I may not be able to remember a more specific location within that facility.

Even if I do, though, I won’t disclose it. You are welcome to go there and find your own images within that place. If you’re hoping to find my specific composition, I must suggest instead you buy a print of mine that you like so much and not clone a copy of it, or consider hiring me as a guide to take you there if you want it that badly. I have no interest in encouraging or helping people trophy hunt compositions.

If an image is sensitive and is a location where visitation isn’t encouraged, I will decline disclosing, or give a general answer that’s not terribly useful. I’ve seen too many of these sensitive places damaged and I have no interest in helping that kind of behavior.

I’ve long worried about the impact of sharing sensitive locations, and so I have not shared images with GPS data for a number of years, and in fact, when I encode GPS onto my images,

A group of worried photographers have joined together to form the Nature First Alliance. It’s goal is to educate about how to minimize the impact of their photographer on the locations they love, and to explore ways we can save these locations for future generations.

Nature first has defined 7 key principles photographers should practice:

  1. Prioritize the well-being of nature over photography.
  2. Educate yourself about the places you photograph.
  3. Reflect on the possible impact of your actions.
  4. Use discretion if sharing locations.
  5. Know and follow rules and regulations.
  6. Always follow Leave No Trace principles and strive to leave places better than you found them.
  7. Actively promote and educate others about these principles.

I have signed their pledge and I encourage all photographers to do the same. We need to do what we can to protect these sensitive and fragile locations, and this is a good starting point.

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My first visit to Merced is in about two weeks…

And from the notice, it’s a first stage to simply shuttering it completely. It’s dead, Jim.

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