Make Me Pulse

Screengrab of Make Me Pulse's 2016 Microsite with text reading "Make Me ..." followed by empty box and surrounded by geometric shapes

Occasionally, Stumbleupon delivers something totally unexpected and awesome. It’s why I still get the service’s weekly emails years after ever actively using the… app? Extension? Whatever, today it brought me Make Me Pulse, a fantastic design studio (well, at least a fantastic website for a design studio, though a brief review of their work means I’m relatively confident giving them the thumbs up as well) with some very clever interactivity on their site. I’d recommend checking out their homepage purely for the geometric, virtual “drum skin” you can play with, but tucked away in a semi-hidden corner is a very fun, quirky and captivating little ‘happy new year’ microsite. Definitely worth a check out.

Lightroom Resource List

My new PC is up and running and starting to be “just right” (we’ll get to further details later, I promise), so one of the big “new” things I’ve got for the new year is a subscription to Adobe CC – specifically the “Photographer” plan. I have previously mentioned worries regarding this plan; the insecurities of relying so much on software that you never truly own, but only “rent” for a given period. Ultimately though, I caved. Adobe still produces the best image editing software in the world, as far as I’m concerned, and although it’s been many years since I last truly used Lightroom I remain impressed by its suite of features.

That said, referring to myself as “rusty” is probably so overly-polite it’s borderline fictional when it comes to using both Lightroom and Photoshop. Not only have I taken a several-year absence, I haven’t had an “up-to-date” version of either program since CS3, so there are a lot of new features and “enhanced” (read: totally different) navigation options. As a result, I’m regarding myself as a total beginner and slowly compiling an Adobe 101. I’m also continuing my war against the easily forgotten, losable “bookmark”, so I figured I would just keep a rolling list going on here. With that said, here’s some links to tips/advice I’ve found useful so far:

7 Steps to Getting Organised in Lightroom ~ Layers Magazine

And of course Adobe’s own tutorials page, which is really very impressive in both scope and detail: Official Lightroom Details

Gouty-Stem Trees For All

19th Century pencil illustration of an Australian Baobab tree, titled Gouty-Stem Tree

Ah, the good old “Gouty-Stem Tree” of Australia! Actually, I honestly had no idea that Baobab’s had reached the Great Land of Oz; I have (mistakenly) always assumed they were endemic to Africa, but apparently not. But, apologies tree-lovers, this is not a post about these wondrous, bulbous monsters of the savannah but rather how I came to learn about them in the first place and, importantly, why I can share the above image without any worries of reprisal.

The “Gouty-Stem Tree” (the image, not the plant) is an illustration taken from John Stoke’s book “Discoveries in Australia; with an account of the coasts and rivers explored and surveyed during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, in the years 1837-43“*. Not a book I’ve ever read (or actually seen), sadly, but one of hundreds that have been archived and “digitised” by the British Library to help preserve and catalogue their huge collection, which is all available to the public. Better still, this particular image, alongside hundreds of similar engravings, etchings, drawings, maps etc., has been released as part of a side project of copyright free pictures (due to the age of the books), all made accessible and shareable via Flickr. You can check out the full, ever expanding collection over here (its definitely worth it).

A friend pointed this out to me, largely for use in world-building, writing and LARPing exercises (more her forte, sadly) but personally I can also see a very valuable resource for designers, with some fantastic wildlife imagery that I’m itching to incorporate into some future projects. Happy hunting!

* I have no idea if this refers to the H.M.S. Beagle, of Darwinian fame.

Take Two

This isn’t defeat, the challenge is still rolling on!

But it was defeat and the challenge limped into an early grave, where it has now gathered a substantial coat of moss. There’s really no another way to say it: my “100 words” challenge failed. The server issues escalated (then abated, then escalated, then went away, then came back seemingly indefinitely… frustrating does not begin to cut it) and ground away what was left of my resolve*. I still have absolutely no idea what caused the issues, nor indeed whether they’re still a problem, but I felt it was about time I dusted off this blog and started using it again.

Does this mean 100 words are back? No. What I learnt from that 1.5 months was that a 100 word limit was more frustrating than it was liberating. Yes, it forced me to write succinctly and, yes, it allowed me to feel justified writing on a large variety of topics, but no, it was not “simple” or “easy”. Previous writing challenges had failed because the text became too unwieldy, too cumbersome under my own self-imposed requirements and quality control. The 100 word limit was intended to force me to be short and snappy, rather than extrapolating and expanding on my posts, yet the end result was frustration. Posts were not quick to write, as I had predicted; ideas that could fill 100 words were plentiful but often needed more than 100 words to articulate. Where time was saved in overly verbose essays and fretting over formatting it was lost – by the bucket-load! – in micro-managing phraseology and re-editing perfectly usable paragraphs to scrape off a couple of words. Ideas had to be scrapped, dumbed down or cut off at the knees; they were rarely allowed to grow and take shape.

I think this can be seen most clearly in the fact that all my 100 words posts were exactly that: 100 words long. I had envisaged that most would come in around the 80-90 word mark, but in reality 100 words is simply too little. Right now, brushing over details and cutting out huge chunks of why the challenge grew stale I’m at 350+ words (and growing). Trying to write this in 100 words would have been painful. In attempting to free myself I had only imposed tighter restraints.

That said, had it not been for the server issues, I would have continued drudging along and posting my 100 words – I may have even completed the challenge! But it would have marred an otherwise fantastic trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where 10 minutes of downtime was a luxury, let alone the hour or more an average 100 words had come to require. Ultimately, I would have become bitter about the process, and would likely have simply stopped posting as soon as it was done – a fact I feel is self-evident given the amount of time that has elapsed between that post and this one!

Still, for better or worse (that phrase again), here I am: posting once more. This time, I’m making no promises. I’m setting no limits. I want to see if the server is usable; if the desire to be here waxes or wanes. But, for now, I want to post again, just little thoughts, tips, ideas or tidbits. Nothing fancy, no goals. So welcome, I guess, to my digital notebook (take two).

* TBC: I did manage a couple more days on WorkFlowy, but the whole website crashing so vehemently definitely took the wind out of my sails and then we went on holiday and I thought “sod it, I’m just going to enjoy this”. I guess I’ve been in the doldrums ever since…

From the ashes… maybe?

Last night had no 100 words. Today, who knows. I did write them, they exist and are “published” on my Workflowy account, but website is currently barely accessible.

The database error is back with a vengeance. My tricks aren’t working, even the new and improved ones. I’ve been defeated.

Which is great timing, because I’m also super busy. We have guests on/off this week, then we’re travelling to Edinburgh/Carlisle for some de-stress time – not server debugging.

So screw it. If WordPress plays ball, I’ll publish, if not I’ll post to Workflowy for now. This isn’t defeat, the challenge is still rolling on!

Delivering frustration

It (was) 11:45, we (had) just returned from a very pleasant evening with some family/friends last seen whilst travelling through New Zealand… and I (was) arranging parcel re-deliveries. Not the perfect ending, really.

We live in a flat that can be accessed during trading hours. Our local postman knows to use the postbox or leave large items outside our front door. Parcelforce et al. would rather repeatedly attempt delivery during working hours, before getting us to drive to them an hour away. This is both tiresome and frustrating, which a delivery note section during checkout online would entirely solve. How very annoying!

Cloud nerves

Yesterday I finally filled my camera’s memory. Painfully, that means I haven’t downloaded (or edited) a single photo this year.

My problem: I can’t find a decent photo manager! Everything I’ve tried either has rudimentary tagging options or creates industrial-strength tedium. Picasa looked decent, but seems bound for the Google graveyard. I’d also like simpler HDR/panoramic editing, as CS3 is feeling increasingly clunky.

The Adobe CC Photographer package is perfect, right? Lightroom and Photoshop for <£10 a month is a great deal. I’m nervous though, because if I’m ever forced to cancel, I lose my archive. That’s a tough sell.

Journey through time

Today we boated from Exmouth to West Bay, whilst a(nother) geologist talked us through 200 million years of geological history. Apparently, the South Coast of Britain is one of the only places in the world where such a long, unbroken geological record is visible. I can honestly say I’ve never been so intrigued by cliffs (nor fully noticed their complexity/variety). The National Trust excursion was definitely successful!

However, despite the consistently varied rock type, the wildlife was notable only for its absence. Considering this coastline is predominantly managed by conservation-oriented charities, the ghosts of Mr. Monbiot’s recent lecture were definitely present.

Close call

Yesterday’s 100 words almost didn’t happen. I wasn’t too busy, disinterested or forgetful; I had a database corruption.

Scarily, despite uncovering the root cause, I seemed helpless. I removed compromised cells, entire rows, reverted everything I could think of… no change!

Just before accepting defeat I found a forum thread containing the answer. Installing WP-DBManager enabled a full database repair, which fixed whatever my overtired brain couldn’t find.

Those two hours were awful, but educational. Firstly, I don’t understand the Wordpress backend, which is problematic when debugging. Secondly, I have no contingency/backup plan. Failing this challenge due to technical issues seems wrong.

Common sense overturned

For nine months common sense prevailed, but once again it’s illegal to rip a CD in iTunes. I just can’t even…

How people hope to enforce this law is unknown, but with current proposals to make file sharing a jail-able offence, holding maximum sentences greater than intentional GBH, it’s a worrying result.

It truly baffles me that any court could uphold the argument for “fair compensation” for copied media. What is the compensation for? Lost profits? The public isn’t covered for lost value when media platforms become obsolete. Instead, they’re forced to become criminals or re-purchase goods. That’s not fair.