I hate Spiders

if you tried to find me at Office Hours last week, I apologize. I had a last minute conflict (a FedEx guy who needed a signature) that kept me tied to the house. I’ll reschedule Office Hours shortly and try not to do that again, but some days, things out of your control happen. On the plus side, I now have the keypad cover for the 9.7″ iPad Pro, and it is surprisingly good and usable for typing. More on that soon.

Speaking of things out of your control… I got bit by a spider when I went out to do some test shooting with the new Fuji 100-400; of course, I didn’t know it until later when the finger started swelling. Fortunately, it wasn’t one of the nasty spiders, merely a grumpy annoying one, and after some discussions with the advice nurse I got to monitor things and not head into the emergency room in a total panic.

So we can look at last week in terms of “well, it could have been a lot worse”, but, well, yeah. I guess. But in reality, much of last week I spent sitting, feeling a bit grumpy and feeling sort of like I’m thinking of catching the flu, but not really sick with the flu, and feeling sort of like I triggered a food allergy, except not really. And there was some swelling and plenty of use of the ice bags and lots of itching, and not sleeping well, and…

And so productivity last week sucked, and this morning my watch bitched at me for my exercise numbers, and in general I mostly ended up at the computer or in the chair grumpily surfing around for interesting stuff. And found some, which may surface here later.

I did get some useful stuff done — I wrapped up the work on the blog update, getting some back end work finished and setting things up so that the site comes out via SSL by default. So now I can focus on content more than technology.

The Swift project? at a total standstill, but that’s because instead of context switching I decided to focus on the blog revamp and get it done; but it needs to be brought out of hibernation. I did sign up for Cocoaconf San Jose in November, and I plan on using that to try to bootstrap my IOS programming, but that only works if I’m comfortable with the Mac OS side, so I now have a deadline…

The other thing that came out of last week’s wandering is that I found myself tearing apart and rebuilding workflows and processes and evaluating all of the apps and tools I use to see whether they still made sense or whether I wanted to explore different/better ones.

One big change for me is in email. I’ve been auditioning email clients on and off for a while, most recently using Apple Mail on IOS and Kiwi on the Mac, with gmail as the back end service. And I tried Airmail 2 on both IOS and Mac and liked it enough to use it for a bit but not enough to keep it. I’d more or less decided to just stick with what I had when someone suggested I take a look at Inbox, which is, whether it admits it or not, Google’s next generation beyond Gmail. And I’d played with that a bit when it first came out but didn’t really try it, so I hooked it up and started exploring, and I kind of like it. Even better, it has a fairly consistent interface integrated across web, IOS and mac.

And so after a day of working with it, I moved in, spent a couple of hours re-arranging things inside inbox with the archives and generally getting comfortable with the tools. There are a few things I wish I could do with Inbox, but instead of fighting it I’m trying to relearn my habits around how Inbox wants things done, and a few days later, I’m starting to work with the tools instead of fighting with them.

And that, I think, is an important thing to remember — it takes time and energy to change your workflows, and one thing that is nice about the sabbatical is I have given myself the time to do these things without deadlines (my own or my work’s) and that’s allowing me a chance to poke at things that I haven’t done because I know it’d take time I just didn’t want to spend.

For instance… I’m finally committing to Scrivener, and my first big use of it is to completely revamp my blogging setup by stuffing it into Scrivener and shifting my writing to Markdown — I admit to being the last person in the tech universe to adopt Markdown, but in my own defense, I find it trivially easy to write simple HTML on the fly, so I haven’t really had much incentive. Once this settles down, I’ll explain the what and why (and ironically, this article is not being written by the new workflow because expediency…)

Now, the only reason I’m willing to commit to Scrivener is because I know that there’s an IOS beta and that the long-delayed IOS version of Scrivener coming (soon, I think). Today, my requirements are fairly straightforward: most of my work tools must be cross-platform and cloud-synced. So data needs to either live on Dropbox or ICloud (or I need to trust your syncing service), and there needs to be AT LEAST a good Mac and a good IOS app, and preferably a good web app — because I want to be able to work wherever I am and with the device I’m carrying.

And for my basic tools (office suite, email, calendar, contacts, todo, etc) I think I’m there. the three big areas I’m not there and don’t think I’ll be there any time soon are:

Photography: I’m starting to explore Lightroom on the iPad, but I can’t see my image processing going cross-platform any time soon. I mostly hope I can use Lightroom mobile for things like editing/selection, keywording and metadata. But over the next few years, I’m convinced Adobe will make the digital darkroom capabilities work well anywhere.

Video: final cut pro is mac only. For my needs, I’ll need to explore iMovie on IOS to see how well it’ll serve my needs.

Audio: Logic Pro is mac only. there’s Garageband on both platforms, and new tools like Ferrite and some of the explorations going on out there make me think this’ll be the next one that’ll go fully cross platform, but it needs Apple to solve some technical limits for us about audio channels.

One other thing that I kicked off last week was a volunteer project. I’ve been talking with SFBBO (San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory) about doing some volunteer work, and we got that started. It involves some photograph scanning and organizing to help them update and improve their archives, and while I’ve supported the organization financially for years, it’s nice to finally feel like I can add some sweat equity beyond writing the occasional check. I’ve got some other possible opportunities I’m exploring as well although I’m trying to make sure I don’t simply replace my old work time commitments with other things. I have long felt that I wanted to do more to pay forward, and this is a way I can do that.

So, this week? is starting out with my sitting in on a Creative Live class taught by Frans Lanting on shooting macro photography, catching up on some of my writing and trying to wrangle these new apps and workflows especially with Scrivener. Once that’s all under control, I’ll write about what my toolbox looks like. I’m also planning a day or two out in the field shooting beacuse I haven’t done very much of that yet and we’re still in the good days of spring before this area settles down into boring summer.

I’ve also mostly settled on my next trip, which right now looks to be mid-June and I’ll be making a run up to Port Angeles and back so I can make stops at Crater Lake, Mt. St. helens, and a couple of wildlife refuges, plus explore around some areas of Olympic National Park. Dates are times are still flexible but I’m thinking the overnight places will be Medford or perhaps Klamath falls, Portland, Port Angeles and Astori, but really, still subject to change. It’s still a few weeks away..