Engineer, traveler, photographer, astronomer. Welcome to my home page on the web.

My work-from-home video camera setup has always been a bit over the top as I couldn't resist geeking out and using my Sony mirrorless camera as a webcam. The intial approach repurposed an old desktop microphone stand as a camera and light mount, which worked but wasn't very adjustable or sturdy. Influenced by some helpful posts and videos, I've upgraded to a much better arrangement that wasn't all that expensive plus was fun to design and put together. If you're curious you can read all about it in my detailed article on the project, complete with the list of parts I used plus some tips on assembly.

#project #streaming 

Today is my birthday. Naturally our plans for a bit of family celebration had to change due to the quarantine, but we made it work thanks to email, text messages, Slack, and good old-fashioned phone calls. Thankfully birthday cake delivery is enough of an essential service for the carrot bundt cake my awesome work colleagues ordered for me to arrive. And I've had unusual birthdays before, none more bizarrely memorable than 1964 when my birthday fell on Good Friday, and was the day of the Great Alaska Earthquake (magnitude 9.2!), and on top of all that I was sick with chickenpox. I still remember that day quite clearly, and am pretty sure I'll long recall this one like that too.

#event 

Lessons from Shelter In Place (Week 1)

After one week of "shelter in place" here's what I've learned:

Also, shout out to Summit Store, our little neigborhood grocery here in the Santa Cruz mountains. My only trips outside the house in the last week have been quick runs to Summit Store to reprovision. They've been an oasis of important supplies, surprise special treats, and safe-distance connection to other folks, all of which are vital these days. We've always been fans, but they've stepped up to be an anchor for our community. (And I'm astonished at how well they've been able to scrounge essential items for us all.)

#covid 

Cuernos del Paine (The Horns), Patagonia
Cuernos del Paine (The Horns), Patagonia

Well, that was an incredible two weeks...

The first seven days of our adventure in Chile, though operating against a backdrop of the growing global COVID-19 pandemic, was simply spectacular. We spent one day laying over in Santiago before heading to the southern end of the country, flying into Punta Arenas and then driving north to Puerto Natales. Two days there let us explore the city and take a boat trip up Ultima Esperanza Sound to see Mount Balmeceda and the two glaciers that enshroud it. From there it was on to Torres del Paine and five days in a very well appointed yurt at Patagonia Camp.

Patagonia Camp offers a variety of daily excursions into the park or just around Camp, and we took advantage of as much as we could physically fit into those five days including glaciers, waterfalls, hikes, lakes, stunning vistas, petroglyphs, guanacos and condors and puma, delicious Chilean food and drink, and lots to learn about Patagonia and Chile from the extraordinarly helpful guides and staff at the Camp. The photo above is one example of the our experiences. If you're interested you'll find lots more in my photo album from the trip.

When not adventuring, though, we were using tiny slices of satellite internet keeping track of the spreading pandemic while talking with other travelers about our increasing concerns and travel implications. Our time at Patagonic Camp came to and end on Sunday the 14th, and we reluctantly but nervously flew back to Santiago with plans to spend a few days there before heading north for our second week of Chilean exploration in the Atacama Desert.

That part of the trip, of course, never happened. We arrived in Santiago to find the airport in disarray as travelers displaced from other countries scrambled to reroute themselves to their next destination, in most cases home. We made a few inquries to see if we could go straight home ourselves, but these days airports are really only set up to help you get on and off your ticketed flights, not help you replan your entire itinerary. Wait times on the phone just to talk to an agent were well over an hour. Best to head for our hotel and continue exploring options from there.

Monday morning was even more anxious. Chilean President Pinera announced the borders would be closing to incoming travel on Wednesday. No specific word about departing travelers, but that was enough for us. Miraculously there was a United office in Santiago so we made haste there and worked with the absolutely marvelous United team to find two open seats on the earliest possible flight -- Wednesday night (the 18th). That left two tense days in Santiago, one discovering just how much of the city (and country) was shutting down and curtailing movement, and one trying to relax at the Santiago airport hoping our plane would arrive and our flight would actually be allowed to depart.

It all went off without a hitch. We flew overnight to Houston, laid over there in a mostly empty airport, and connected onward to San Francisco. By mid afternoon we were at last at home tired, unable to yet comprehend how everything in the world had changed, and thankful beyond words for the extraordinary help we'd gotten and luck we'd had in getting home. (If you ever plan a trip to South America you should work in-country with the folks at Upscape. They were great local guides everywhere and stopped at nothing to help us navigate our way out of the maelstrom and get safely home.)

Now that we are back we begin our search for our new "shelter in place" norm, along with everyone else. We'll also, in quiet moments, reminisce about the magificent week we spent in Chile and anticipate how we might someday go back to see more. Oh, OK, perhaps just a few more pictures from the trip album...

Puerto Natales at sunrise, before sailing
Puerto Natales at sunrise, before sailing
Curious guanacos
Curious guanacos
Serrano Glacier
Serrano Glacier
Torres del Paine (the Towers)
Torres del Paine (the Towers)

#photo #travel 

Travel in the Time of Coronavirus

We flew into Santiago this past weekend as the beginning of our adventure holiday in Chile, and deplaned to see this sign in the arrivals area. The Ministry of Health had quickly established a screening process that checks every arriving passenger's temperature and asks if they had any symptoms of illness as well as what countries they'd visited in the last thirty days. Everyone also gets a bit of paper with a toll-free number to call if you begin to feel sick at any point. The line to be screened was long, adding an extra hour to the arrivals process, but given the Coronavirus outbreak it was both expected and welcome.

It does feel a bit strange to be traveling and we're cautious about everything, but we're well,there are few cases so far in Chile, and we've had this trip planned for almost a year.

#travel #photo 

I love to travel, and want to be able to share photos and stories of my adventures when I do. On the photography side, I long ago learned that capturing my experiences the way I wanted to meant taking a good camera with me everywhere and editing the photos as part of publishing them for friends and family to see online.

I'd like, though, to be able to travel light and in particular not always have to carry a heavy, expensive and fragile laptop. To do that I need to adapt my photo editing workflow (based on Adobe Lightroom and SmugMug) and my blogging workflow (based on Github, Eleventy, and Netlify) to something more mobile than a laptop.

I've also always traveled with an iPad, primarily for easy access to movies and books to help pass the time and inform me about places I'm visiting. Could my iPad adequately replace a laptop in my travel workflows? Apple recently (finally) enabled import of photos from removable SD card media and Adobe added photo import to the iPad version of Lightroom, so my trip is an opportunity to test that combination. Once imported and edited in Lightroom, I can upload photos to SmugMug anywhere I find wifi.

I've also found an app, 'Working Copy', which allows an iPad to be used for software development on Github. I'll be testing its use for posting travel updates here on disquisitioner.com.

Watch this space for the results of those experiments.

#travel #webdev 

RSVP - IndieWeb Summit 2020

I'll be there!

Looking forward to attending IndieWeb Summit 2020 after having such an outstanding experience there in 2019. The frequent local IndieWeb Camps are awesome -- you should definitely attend any that happen near you to learn how to create your own independent home on the web. Each year's overall Summit is icing on the IndieWeb cake, and as it says on the event registration page draws web creators of all kinds from around the world to "to share ideas, create and improve their personal websites, and build upon each other's creations."

This year's Summit is the weekend of June 27th and 28th, and once again is being hosted by Mozilla in their Portland, Oregon office. Come join us!

#rsvp #indieweb 

During our stay in Berlin this past week we had a chance to visit the Berlin Zoo, Germany’s oldest zoological garden and home to the world’s largest variety of species (20,000 animals of around 1,300 species on the zoo grounds). It's also the home to Germany's only Giant Pandas, which were especially popular given the recent arrival of twin cubs.

The weather was rainy and cold so only some of the animals were outside, but we were impressed nonetheless. The Berlin Aquarium is also part of the Zoo experience, with fresh and salt water fish as well as reptiles and amphibians on display. We'll have to come back when we're in Berlin later in the season and the weather is more enjoyable for people and animals alike. In the meantime, you can see a gallery of the photos I took while there (like the pensive chimpanzee above).

#photo #travel 

As part of Mozilla's company wide All Hands meeting in Berlin this past week the Emerging Technologies team of which I am a part gathered everyone for a fun, teambuilding evening. Our creative exercise was learning how to paint street art given Berlin's widespread acclaim for that form of expression, which is the first time I'd ever done anything like that. (I guess you're just going to have to trust me there...) Guided by some patient instructors in a studio surrounded by sections of the old Berlin Wall they'd decorated, this is the wall of art my small group produced.

It was great! Encouraged and inspired, I need to pick up some cans of spray paint when I get back home and find a nice surface upon which to practice.

#photo #travel 

If you've discovered the dark mode preference your operating system enables, you've probably also seen web sites take advantage of it to render in dark or light mode accordingly. Turs out it's easy to do thanks to some nifty CSS magic, which I've just implemented here on disquisitioner.com and documented in an article should you want to give it a try.

#webdev 

A 3.9 magnitude earthquake struck Morgan Hill, California at 11:17pm yesterday (1 Jan 2020). That's only twenty-two miles from our house, so the signal was pretty strong on our home seismometer as you can see in the helicorder output above.

That said, all of us were asleep here and none of us recalled feeling it. Now if it had hit 24 hours earlier it could have been part of our New Year's Eve celebration...

#earthquake 

The Moon and Venus passed close by in the night sky last evening just after sunset. This is the view of that conjunction from our house, through the redwood trees and with a few high clouds.

#photo #nightsky 

2019 is the end of a decade -- the "teens"? -- but it somehow hasn't left much impression on me as the decade of anything in particular. Today's Calvin & Hobbes comic strip captures a bit of how I feel about this past decade, in typical Calvin & Hobbes style.

I read Calvin and Hobbes everyday, thanks to Gocomics.com putting a personalized set of comics in my inbox every morning.

#comics 

Krispy Kreme donuts are a special treat any time, especially for me as I grew up in the heart of Krispy Kreme territory. Naturally they create some special designs for Christmas enjoyment. (The kreme-filled ones are my favorite.)

#donuts #Christmas #photo 

Holidays = Fun + Learning
So how am I spending my time off?

I always have a number of projects underway, but having a solid block of time away from work over the Christmas break means I can be specific about what I want to accomplish. Here's my list as of now:


Christmas is at last upon us, and I'm delighted to have some time to unwind. Thanks to both Christmas and New Years being on a Wednesday I get what amounts to two weeks off as most folks at work are away some combination of Christmas week and New Years week.

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!