AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

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Gravitational waves explained →

February 12, 2016 |

Fantastic explanation of gravitational waves — what they are, why they’re so important, and why they’re so, so hard to detect — by Jorge Cham over at PHD Comics. Definitely a must-read.

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February 07, 2016

Hello there, welcome to another issue of Morning Coffee.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been taking an extended look at Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Last week we left off with Rey and BB-8 meeting each other for the first time, and we explored the introduction of Rey as a character.

This week, I want to talk to you about what is perhaps the cornerstone of the entire Star Wars universe: friendship.

Of course, before we begin, a fair spoiler warning is due.

WARNING, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

Issue #32: My friend is out there

Star Wars is traditionally defined as a space opera, a genre where space battles are supposed to be the main driving point of the plot. However, while there are certainly quite a few space battles in the Star Wars movies, I never felt like I was watching a story about war.

Most people say Star Wars is really about Anakin Skywalker. That, at its core, it is a story about family. To me, though, it is a story about friendship.

If we look back at the original Star Wars movie, we see how an unlikely friendship develops between Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. These two characters don’t even like each other much at first, but gradually warm up to each other and by the end of the film, it is thanks to this newly developed bond that our heroes save the day.

Indeed, even though Luke had the Force on his side during the climactic trench run to blow up the Death Star, it took an intervention from Han at the eleventh hour for Luke to be able to fire his proton torpedoes in the first place. Had it not been for Han’s change of heart, the story might have had a very different end.

This change of heart is incredibly powerful because of what it says about Han as a character. By this point in the story, his arc has taken him from being a mostly amoral mercenary who cares about nobody but himself — and Chewie, of course — to being the guy that risks his own life to save his friend’s.

Make no mistake: when the battle to blow up the Death Star ensued, Han wasn’t invested in the Rebellion at all. He had been living happily enough under the Empire’s rule, slipping through the cracks of the system and making a living doing what he did best. I don’t think saving the day for the good guys was the driving force behind his actions, but rather a much simpler, much more powerful impulse: to save his friend from certain death.

To further drive the point home, it is through Luke’s friendship that Han becomes involved with the Rebel Alliance at all. At the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, Han — now General Solo — is still only half-interested in the military aspect of things, but he is fully, unconditionally supporting his friend Luke. And when Luke gets stranded in Hoth after being mauled by a wampa, Han once again doesn’t hesitate for a second to risk his own life in order to rescue his friend.

“Your tauntaun will freeze before you reach the first marker”.
“Then I’ll see you in hell!”

This is, to me, the defining aspect of the Star Wars universe, and the central idea that permeates the entire story: that great things are only accomplished when we act selflessly, and when we are loyal to our friends to the very end. It’s a nice sentiment, and one that was conveyed brilliantly in the original trilogy.

If we then look at The Force Awakens, we see that the same theme is still alive and well. Friendship is, indeed, the driving force that makes everything that happens in the film possible, and it all starts when two strangers in need meet by chance.

When we left him a couple weeks ago, Poe Dameron was being held hostage by the First Order for interrogation. At the same time, Finn, our Stormtrooper with a conscience, was having a full-on panic attack after realizing the truth about the enterprise he works for.

Once Kylo Ren successfully extracts the location of the plans from Poe’s mind using his trademark Force-aided interrogation tricks, it becomes clear that Poe is largely useless to them, and so his life is in grave danger. Finn knows this, but more crucially, he knows Poe is an accomplished pilot who can fly them both out of that horrible place once and for all.

Finn then does the only thing he believes he can do: he decides to set Poe free so that they can both escape together, essentially linking his own fate to Poe’s in the process.

The scene is comical, but definitely powerful, as well. When Poe asks “why are you doing this?” and Finn replies, “it’s the right thing to do”, Poe sees straight through Finn’s BS and immediately realizes what Finn needs is a pilot. That “I need a pilot” line always gets a laugh out of the audience, but there’s something else going on in that scene that I believe is worth mentioning.

Poe is well aware that his pilot skills are needed, but he’s also aware that Finn is risking his life to help him, and so any possible concerns he might have felt towards Finn are immediately brushed aside and replaced by trust.

After their escape attempt takes a turn for the worse, we as an audience continue following Finn’s path and we, too, wonder what happened to Poe when Finn finds his jacket among the remains of their TIE fighter ship. At this point we get to experience Finn’s sense of loss, and it comes as a surprise at first, but then it makes all the sense in the world.

Finn’s face when he picks up Poe’s jacket and starts walking through the desert dunes of Jakku is that of a man who is not only lost, but who has just lost someone.

In the few minutes these two characters have been together, a very real bond has formed, one that hints at much bigger things to come in the future. We are no doubt witnessing the beginning of a remarkable friendship, one that is very much reminiscent of Luke and Han’s. This is the kind of stuff these films are about.

Of course, having seen the film, we know Finn will go on to reunite with Poe, but first he will meet a certain scavenger and a little droid, both of whom will forever change his life.

But that, as they say, is a story for another day.

Now let’s take a look at some of the week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Top Five: Macs, iPads, lenses, managers, and whisky

In this week’s Top Five, we get a tinge of nostalgia for our beloved Macs, followed by a couple of interesting reviews. Then we have a great essay about the importance of setting aside enough time to focus for a manager, and finally, we learn about the details of whisky maturation. Enjoy.

A Mac for all seasons: Why the Mac has so much staying power | Dan Moren →

Great piece by Dan Moren:

I also can’t discount the power of emotion. I love my Macs—always have. And despite the fact that I carry my iPhone with me everywhere I go, I’ve never quite developed the same attachment, in part because I trade in my iPhones nearly every year. By contrast, my iMac, on which I type this, is nearing the five-year mark. There’s an old Blue & White G3 sitting next to my desk. Somewhere in the mess that is my office is my PowerBook G3, one of my favorite Macs of all time—and the first laptop I ever owned.

Nostalgia is a powerful force, and given that I’ve spent the majority of my life using a Mac, it’s no surprise how many memories are tied up with the platform. From typing my first stories as an elementary schooler, to writing papers in high-school, to editing videos in college, the Mac’s been there at every stage of my life.

This is absolutely spot-on. It’s very easy to develop an emotional attachment to your Mac.

If you’ve ever gotten a Mac stolen from you, you know how painful it is, and not only in terms of money. There’s a very real sense of personal loss there, too.

For me, it comes down to the reality of my life’s circumstances when I bought it. For most people, buying a Mac is an expensive investment. It takes effort, and you give up other things for it. That helps a great deal in making it feel significant. You don’t tend to think of them as disposable devices, but rather meaningful additions to your life.

Both my Macs are nearing the end of their life, and I will be sad to see them go when they finally kick the bucket. I haven’t experienced the same feelings with any other Apple devices I’ve ever owned.

iPad Pro review | Marius Masalar →

This is one of the most interesting iPad Pro reviews I’ve seen. And definitely one of the better photographed, too:

Trying to hold it above your head to read your Instapaper queue at night is the beginning of a bedtime story about how noses break. It isn’t that it’s heavy, disproportionate, or imbalanced in any way, it’s just not the same kind of device.

To me, the moment it all clicked was the moment I let go of treating the iPad Pro like just another iPad.

That makes so much sense. I would love to use an iPad Pro as my main computing device, but unfortunately there is still one must-have feature in my workflow that iOS fails to provide: RAW file support. Until it becomes feasible for me to have an iOS-only editing workflow for my pictures, the iPad will remain a close but still unreachable dream for me.

The Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Micro Four Thirds lens review | Josh Ginter →

Josh Ginter reviews what is arguably the best MFT lens you can buy today. There’s not much more to say about this gorgeous lens: it is, quite simply, as good as it gets for the system.

However, I still find it funny that the aperture rings and built-in image stabilization systems found on some Panasonic lenses, including the Nocticron, don’t work on Olympus camera bodies. It’s been a couple years now since we started seeing these features, and it seems like this is something that should just work seamlessly across manufacturers. These small issues, while certainly not deal breakers, do give an overall amateurish impression of the system as a whole, something that is fortunately not mirrored by its technical quality.

The biggest competitive strength of the MFT system is that it has two major manufacturers pushing innovation forward at a tremendous pace. But when these two manufacturers don’t collaborate with each other, the end user experience suffers considerably. Despite being rivals, Panasonic and Olympus should be working together really hard to ensure the MFT system has a bright future. They’re already facing strong competition from other systems, and I don’t think they can afford to fight each other on top of that.

Taking focus time as a manager | Ben Brooks →

Ben Brooks shares some insights on how to stay focused on what matters as a manager:

When I first started managing teams, I would respond to emails as fast as I could. I wanted to get answers back, to keep people going. But soon all I did was respond to emails.

So one day I stopped.

Not forever, but for that day. I did anything but respond to emails. Something interesting happened: people with real fires called me, and those were worked out. And the next day, when I went to look at my email, I started responding with: “Is this issue resolved now?”

This was a great read.

The challenges of “do it yourself” whisky maturation | Mark Bylok →

I’ve always been fascinated by how whisky picks up the character and flavor of the environment it was matured in. This feels like alchemy to me, but of course there is method in this particular madness. Mark’s piece, as always, skillfully explains the intricacies of the process, and even opens the door of experimentation for the brave.

Afterword

This has been a busy week for me. In case you missed it, I published a cool photo story of my recent trip to Paris for New Year’s. This is something I’ve been working on for a pretty long time, and I’m very excited to finally share it here.

I love photo stories, and I think they make for great memories. Hopefully, though, they will also be entertaining for other people to read — at least, that is my intention. This particular trip was different because I really tried to document it as thoroughly as possible, and I do believe the end result was worth the effort.

Other than that, I’m working on my next review for Tools & Toys, and on a couple other projects I hope to be able to share with you soon. It’s going to be an interesting month, no doubt.

Until then, thank you for reading, and have a great end to the weekend.

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February 03, 2016 |

Ah, Paris. The City of Light. So much has been written about this beautiful city that I feel there’s nothing else I could add that would do it justice.

But it’s not just writers that are fascinated by Paris’s unique atmosphere. Au contraire. All kinds of artists have been inspired to produce their best work by this enchanting city: painters, photographers, actors, musicians, you name it. There’s just something special about it that seems to wake our imagination like perhaps no other place on this planet.

Paris is one of a kind, so when Miriam and I decided a few weeks ago that we would be spending New Year’s Eve there, my brain was immediately filled to the brink with wild expectations.

Since a regular article wouldn’t be appropriate for such a wonderful city, I came up with something that’s new for the site: a photo story.

Just follow the title link to get to the beginning. I do hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.

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January 30, 2016

Hello there, welcome to another issue of Morning Coffee.

Last week we embarked upon an epic-length review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We went over the opening scene in great detail, but there’s just so much more to say about the first proper Star Wars movie in over 30 years that I couldn’t possibly fit everything into a standard issue of Morning Coffee. So, here we are.

Today I want to talk to you about the second scene, the one that introduces us to the proper main character in the film. Like I said last week, I didn’t know anything about the plot going in, and I didn’t know anything about the characters, either. I assumed JJ Abrams would try to balance the old cast and the new, and I also assumed the movie would try to focus more on the new cast, as they’re meant to represent the future of the franchise as a whole.

All that was fairly easy to predict, but what I never would have predicted is that I was about to meet my second-favorite character in the entire Star Wars universe.1

That character is first introduced to us as a lonely scavenger, left behind on a forsaken desert planet. However, much to our delight, she soon reveals herself to be so much more than that.

At this point, a fair spoiler warning is due. If you still haven’t watched the film, you may want to jump over to the Top Five section. Everything from that point on is spoiler-free.

WARNING, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

Issue #31: The scavenger and the droid

Last week we left off with BB-8, Poe Dameron’s little droid companion, rolling away quietly into the desert night after narrowly escaping a Stormtrooper raid that resulted in the capture of its master. As we were told, BB-8 is carrying a small device containing a map to Luke Skywalker, the last remaining Jedi. This map is ostensibly revealed as the key to everything that’s going on, and keeping it safe from the bad guys is paramount.

Now the focus changes to a quiet and mysterious figure, roaming inside a vast mechanical structure and gathering a few pieces of machinery. The figure’s movements are swift and precise, and betray a sense of familiarity with the place, and the situation.

By the time our masked figure reaches the outside of the structure, we get a glimpse at her face. She’s young, but strong, and there’s a certain roughness to her gaze. She’s clearly used to living in hardship. She drinks the last remaining drops of water from her bottle, and then slides off a huge sand dune using a metal sheet as an improvised toboggan.

It is at this point that we finally comprehend the reality of the situation. The mechanic structure she was searching is revealed to be a huge fallen Star Destroyer. It appears to have been abandoned for a pretty long time, suggesting it was probably left behind shortly after the Empire’s disastrous fall from power at the end of Return of the Jedi.

The tracking shot that follows her from the top of the dune until she reaches firm ground does a fantastic job of conveying the insane scale of those monstrous ships. Her tiny figure descending with the Destroyer in the background serves as a powerful reminder of the Empire’s former might, and of the incredible odds our heroes faced in the original trilogy.

The girl finally reaches her vehicle, a kind of futuristic motorcycle that glides above the surface, not unlike Luke’s speeder in the original Star Wars. As she glides away, we get another tracking shot, this time panning as she leaves behind the remains of another huge Star Destroyer, similarly abandoned for the desert to claim. Once again, we are reminded of the sheer size of these things, and how crazy our heroes must have been to oppose them.

As the planet’s sun sets, the girl reaches something resembling civilization: a small colony of scattered tents with a flea market that appears to be the only social structure that still functions in the entire planet. As she cleans some of the pieces she found, she observes an old woman, her face and skin badly damaged from too much exposure to the sun. The girl gets lost in contemplation for a moment, no doubt wondering whether she’ll end up like the old woman one day. She then proceeds to sell the pieces in one of the shops, obtaining a measly quarter portion of food in exchange. She appears disappointed, but she clearly has no other choice but to accept.

When she reaches her home, the first thing we see is a small plant. This is a meaningful image that tells us something important about the girl: she cares about other living things enough to grow a plant in a planet where water is so scarce. We also see a doll dressed as a Rebellion fighter pilot, which tells us the girl surely dreams about something beyond what her current life has to offer.

Indeed, as she quickly consumes a frugal meal, she sits outside her tent — which turns out to be the remains of a fallen AT-AT Walker — quietly watching the horizon while she puts on a pilot’s helmet bearing the Alliance Starbird shield. Thus, we know that she prefers to live by herself, away from society. The helmet is another symbol, too: something like that must be worth something in that world, and yet she decided to keep it for herself instead of selling it, despite her precarious living conditions. This is a girl for whom some things are more important than money.

Now is the moment when two of our main characters meet for the first time. The girl suddenly hears a faint alien dialog in the background, and as soon as she realizes what’s going on, she jumps and starts running towards the source, not without picking up her staff first. As she climbs over a small dune, we see our little droid being hauled away by an alien figure riding a mechanical beast. The girl doesn’t hesitate to intervene and rescues the droid, threatening the alien, who promptly releases BB-8 and leaves it with her.

She goes on to explain the alien’s purpose to BB-8 — “he wants you for parts”, she says — and then she proceeds to fix its antenna, which had been bent at some point since the previous night. It’s also apparent that she understands the droid’s beeps and boops, just as she understood the alien’s language. She then points BB-8 in the direction of the nearest outpost, and proceeds to go her own way.

However, BB-8 pleads to come with her, to which she reluctantly agrees. The droid emits a few grateful beeps, and she calmly replies, “you’re welcome”, before they both walk away.

Exposition done right

I’m going over the first few scenes in so much detail because they’re jam-packed with relevant information about our characters and/or the universe we’re in. Just as in the opening scene, there is not a wasted moment in this one: every shot and every word of dialog tells us something important, and lets us understand this new world in a better way.

Think about it: we already know that the girl is physically very fit, that she can survive by herself in a pretty hostile environment but she doesn’t want to waste her entire life in that place, that she’s good with machines and speaks at least three languages — English, BB-8’s language and the alien’s language — that she cares for living things, that she shies away from society but doesn’t shy away from a fight, that she empathizes with others and values some things more than money, and that she dreams of being a pilot in the Rebel Alliance. We’ve also been shown the remains of the fallen Empire, while simultaneously being reminded of its past glory. Finally, we’ve learned that Jakku is a pretty desolate planet where water is scarce and everyone seems to be fighting hard for their mere survival. All of this and more in literally just five minutes. Damn impressive.

This is, of course, exposition, but it’s brilliantly done and it never feels out of place. If this was a lesser movie, we would have gotten a random character whispering to another: “oh yeah, that girl, she’s just a filthy scavenger. Spends all her days looking for scrap parts in those old Destroyers. Don’t go near her!

Instead, we got a few gorgeous tracking shots, some amazing landscapes, and only a few words of dialog. The scene never feels rushed, despite being so densely packed with information, and from the first moment we feel like we understand the girl, and empathize with her. I really have to give it to JJ and his team: this was an impeccable scene, and it shows how much thought and care were put into the film.

The music

As we get to meet the girl we also get to listen to my favorite theme in the entire film’s soundtrack. I’ll be honest, though: generally speaking, the film’s score didn’t blow my mind. I think it’s overall very correct, but it doesn’t reach the heights of other films in the franchise — with one notable exception.

If Star Wars had that wonderful Binary Sunset moment, and Empire had the Imperial March, this film has Rey’s Theme — which, incidentally, is the name of the girl, although we’re not supposed to know that yet.

Rey’s theme, whose main motif we get to hear in this scene for the first time — the track for this scene is called The Scavenger in the album — is whimsical and light-hearted at first, but it also has a sense of wonder and discovery, and a touch of melancholy towards the end… it’s a fantastic piece of music, and it suits the character perfectly.

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for a few weeks and the only theme that’s gotten stuck in my head is Rey’s Theme — and its variations, like The Scavenger. It may take some time, but I suspect it will go on to become every bit as iconic as all the other great themes in the previous films. It is that good.

I think that’s enough Star Wars talk for now. Now let’s take a look at some of the week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Top Five: Windows Phones are dead, Barbie’s got a new body, and the great whiskey heist of our time

This week’s roundup includes a bit of everything. Enjoy.

Where next for Windows Phones? Probably nowhere | Ian Betteridge →

Great piece by Ian Betteridge on the precarious situation of the Windows Phone platform:

There’s an old joke, probably dating back to Roman times, which goes like this: “Never kick a man when he’s down – he may get up.” Following that advice would be the only possible reason right now not to write that Windows Phones are dead and buried, and that Microsoft ought to just quietly forget about them.

This reminded me of Michael Dell’s now infamous 1997 quote on Apple. Sometimes a company manages to turn things around before it’t too late, but those are exceptional cases. Now, if there’s a company capable of creating a successful platform through sheer insistence, it’s definitely Microsoft.

The website obesity crisis | Maciej Cegłowski →

This fantastic presentation on the current issues with website bloat was clearly the highlight of my week. Via Marco Arment:

The Medium team has somehow made this nugget of thought require 1.2 megabytes.

That’s longer than Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky’s psychological thriller about an impoverished student who fills his head with thoughts of Napoleon and talks himself into murdering an elderly money lender.

Racked by guilt, so rattled by his crime that he even forgets to grab the money, Raskolnikov finds himself pursued in a cat-and-mouse game by a clever prosecutor and finds redemption in the unlikely love of a saintly prostitute.

Dostoevski wrote this all by hand, by candlelight, with a goddamned feather.

So great. I’ve always tried to keep Analog Senses as lean as possible, but clearly I still have some room for improvement. If you care about such things, this will definitely give you the motivation to start working on it.

Being a movie set photographer | Alex Pixelle →

Great interview with Alex Pixelle on ilovehatephotography. I love her style, and there are lots of interesting tidbits sprinkled all through the inteview:

To me photographing an actor/artist, is above all, bringing the best out of him/her and sublimate their charisma. The complete opposite of the craziness of the paparazzi. You have to respect them. It is pro to pro relationship, that is how they accept you. This is a very big but also very small world so we meet often with the same people. That allows to create recurrent professional relationships and even friendships. It works a lot with the word of mouth. They like how you work, your punctuality, your motivation, your work etc… then they call you back and they recommend your work to others. Having unexpected and wonderful encounters is one of the best things in this job. Learning again and again from these people, from their life experience and evolve in this job is awesome! That might be funny but “my idols” are behind the cameras, be it film directors, artistic directors, chief of operation and of course directors of photography with whom I love hanging around with.

Barbie’s got a new body | Eliana Dockterman →

In case you haven’t heard, the world’s most iconic doll just got a whole lot more diverse:

Three new bodies, actually: petite, tall and curvy, in Mattel’s exhaustively debated lexicon, and beginning Jan. 28 they will be sold alongside the original busty, thin-waisted form on Barbie.com. They’ll all be called Barbie, but it’s the curvy one — with meat on her thighs and a protruding tummy and behind — that marks the most startling change to the most infamous body in the world.

It’s a massive risk for Mattel. Barbie is more than just a doll. The brand does $1 billion in sales across more than 150 countries annually, and 92% of American girls ages 3 to 12 have owned a Barbie, thanks in part to her affordable $10 price tag. She’s been the global symbol of a certain kind of American beauty for generations, with brand recognition that’s up there with Mickey Mouse. M.G. Lord, a Barbie biographer, once said she was designed “to teach women what—for better or worse—is expected of them in society.”

That last sentence is really scary, mostly because it’s very true. That’s why something seemingly as inconsequential as a doll offering more realistic body shapes is so important.

The great whiskey heist | Reeves Wiedeman →

This story has it all right there in the title: whiskey, and a heist. What more do you need?

Afterword

I hope your week was productive. Mine has been pretty good, actually. The app I submitted for review last week has already been approved by Apple and is now available on Spain’s App Store. Seeing the app released was a great feeling for me, and I’m quite proud of the result.

Other than that, my review of the Manfrotto 209 + 492 Long tripod kit was published on Tools & Toys, and I’m now working on the next one, which is due in a couple weeks.

Other than that, there’s something new about the site that I’m getting ready to show you next week. I don’t want to spoil anything, though, so you’ll have to wait a few more days to find out what it is :)

Until then, thank you for reading, and have a great weekend.


  1. Second only to Han Solo, of course.

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My review of the Manfrotto 209 + 492 Long tabletop tripod kit was published today on Tools & Toys. I’ve owned this little tripod for a few months, and I’m super impressed with it. It’s so tiny that I always have it in my bag, it’s actually useful, and it’s made to last.

As a side note, I made a quick time-lapse video to show what you can do with this little thing:

Not too shabby, is it? If you want to read more about it, head on over to Tools & Toys for the full review.

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When the battery dies →

January 26, 2016 |

Patrick Rhone, on dealing with his iPhone 5’s poor battery life:

Thankfully, I have another option available to me that other might not even consider. One that might be helpful to others as well. One that may help the battery last throughout the day or, at least, longer than it otherwise has been without the battery case… Use the iPhone less. Less “checking in” on Twitter. Less taking photos. Less using it to write. If the battery does die, prematurely, before I’m able to connect it to a power source, learning to be comfortable with that. Let it die.

Sound advice. Your life doesn’t end with your phone’s battery.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get a bit more battery life out of your aging iPhone, either. If that’s your case, you have another option: replace the battery yourself. You can buy an iPhone 5 battery replacement kit on Amazon for just $19, including the battery itself and all the tools you’ll need. Also, this iFixit guide shows you every step of the way. Trust me, it’s not as hard as it looks.

User reviews on this particular battery kit seem to be good on average, but of course, there are the usual scary stories sprinkled in there for good measure. Try it at your own risk, but in my experience, this is usually a very good way to extend the useful life of your devices.

And if you don’t feel like you can do this all by yourself, chances are you can find a shop in your city that offers a battery replacement service. Coincidentally, my dad owns an iPhone 5 just like Patrick’s, and after more than three years of use his battery was almost dead, too. He had it replaced at a local shop a couple weeks ago, and he couldn’t be happier.

My advice is, go for it. The risks are relatively small, and even if everything goes horribly wrong and you end up with a dead phone, you can always take comfort in the fact that it has already lived a long and happy life.

In the wise words of Mr. Lando Calrissian: “Here goes nothing”.

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January 23, 2016

This has been quite the odd week, as I’ve been focusing most of my time on development projects, and not so much on writing.

On Thursday I launched a new design for the site, which I hope is a substantial improvement over the previous one. I’m very happy with it, and feedback so far has been pretty great, too. I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you who took a minute of your time to reach out and comment on the new design.

The rest of my time was spent wrapping up a big milestone in an iOS development project for a client, something I’ve been working on for the past six months or so. We finally reached a release version and I’ve been managing the App Store submission process for the past couple of days. The app is now in review, and I’m really excited to see it released.

Unfortunately, due to the confidential nature of the project, I’m afraid can’t really go into any further details about the app. All I can say is that it provides a way for the Deaf to access mainstream means of communication that have traditionally been unavailable or extremely unaccessible to them, like the phone.

Though I’m not a full-time developer anymore, I still greatly enjoy working on special projects like this one, and I’m so very glad to have had a chance to be involved in something that will have a genuine, positive impact on many people’s lives. That is one of the loftier goals you can have as a developer, and it feels awesome.

Having wrapped up the current version of the app, I’m now back to writing, with plenty of interesting projects in the pipeline. So let’s get started.

Today, I want to talk to you about Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I have a lot to say about this movie, so I’ll be taking the next few issues of Morning Coffee to do it. For starters, I want to focus on the opening scene of the film, which I believe is one of the best introductory scenes I’ve seen in many years.

Issue #30: About a month ago, in a movie theater not very far away…

Like any self-respecting Star Wars fan, I watched The Force Awakens on opening weekend. I did miss the Thursday midnight showings though, as none of my friends could come with me. I could have gone by myself, but the idea of not having anyone to talk to after the movie was too scary — what if I loved it? what if it sucked?! —  so I decided to play it safe and go the next day, as we had originally planned.

We went to a Friday night showing, and boy, am I glad that I waited.

If you still haven’t seen the movie, this is the point where you should stop reading, or you can skip right to the links section. Everything from that point on is safe and spoiler-free. I promise.

WARNING, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

I have a bad feeling about this

The few hours prior to watching the movie were by far the worst. I was so intent on avoiding spoilers that I stopped checking Twitter entirely, even though I had plenty of filters set. I was especially concerned on my way to the theater, as I didn’t want to cross paths with people leaving from earlier showings.

In the end, I managed to go in totally spoiler-free, and I’m convinced that is the best way to go for your first viewing. I didn’t know the names of the characters, I didn’t know the basic gist of the plot, I didn’t know anything other than what was shown in the trailers.

The opening crawl

Luke Skywalker has vanished? Seriously? We’re barely 10 seconds into the movie and already the stakes are sky-high. At the end of RoTJ, Luke is believed to be the only Jedi in existence, and possibly one of only two remaining Force-sensitive people, together with Leia. It doesn’t take a huge leap to assume he would have gone on to play a critical role in the restoration of peace and democracy in the galaxy. And now he’s gone? This doesn’t bode well for the good guys, but I am officially excited.

The first scene

The movie’s first scene after the crawl is amazing. We first see a small planet being obscured by a huge star destroyer, and an army of Stormtroopers descending on a desert planet. They are spotted on the ground by a small droid, who immediately flees the scene, no doubt going to warn its master of their imminent arrival.

Among the movie’s human cast, we’re first introduced to Poe Dameron, who we are told is Leia’s — excuse me, General Organa’s — “most daring pilot”. Oscar Isaac is just perfect as Poe, and does a terrific job in every single one of the remarkably few scenes he’s in.

In his first scene, we see Poe retrieving a small object from an old man — the always imposing Max Von Sydow — with the promise that it “will begin to make things right”. We still don’t know what he’s referring to, but it’s definitely important, and it has something to do with the Jedi. And then the small droid we saw earlier bursts into their tent, announcing that all hell is about to break loose.

Indeed, the army of Stormtroopers suddenly arrives, and they proceed to raid the village searching for something. Dameron attempts to escape, but his X-wing is damaged, and he’s forced to stay on the ground. He then places the mysterious object inside his companion droid, and instructs it to flee the scene and take it to the Resistance.

Amidst the struggle in the village, a Stormtrooper watches as one of his partners is fatally wounded, holding his hand as he dies. He is left with blood marks on his white helmet, which make him instantly recognizable for the rest of the scene.

Once the raid is complete and the villagers are apprehended, a sinister figure clad in black robes and wearing a creepy mask emerges from one of the ships and confronts the old man. It becomes clear he’s been trained in the ways of the Force, and that he and the old man know each other, although we don’t yet understand the specifics of their relationship. Meanwhile, Poe watches from afar, unable to intervene.

At this point, we start getting our first answers. The old man tells us the name of the man in black: Kylo Ren, although that wasn’t always his name. Ren, in exchange, tells us he’s looking for a map to Luke Skywalker. The two exchange a few words, but when Kylo Ren loses his patience — which he admittedly has very little of — he slays the old man with his hilted lightsaber.

This finally shakes Dameron into action, firing his blaster towards Ren. And then the first truly surprising thing in the movie happens.

Kylo Ren senses the shot, and is able to anticipate it. He turns, raises his hand and freezes the blast mid-air using the Force. We haven’t seen anything like this in any of the previous films, and it immediately lets us know this is a formidable opponent.

Kylo Ren is introduced as a powerful character, capable of stopping a laser blast mid-air with the Force.

Poe Dameron is taken into custody and brought in front of Kylo Ren, and after a couple seconds of uncomfortable silence, he breaks the ice with a cheeky line about who’s supposed to talk first.

That’s an awesome way to establish Dameron’s daring nature, as in, “I’ve been in this sort of situation before and I know I’ll get out of it just fine. I just don’t know how I’ll do it yet”. It could also be a way to tell us that he’s prepared to die for the Resistance, or for Leia. Perhaps both.

In any case, Kylo Ren decides to take Dameron with them, and instructs his lieutenant — a huge figure clad in a shiny, chromed Stormtrooper armor and a crimson and black cape — to kill the remaining villagers. Promptly, the rest of the Stromtroopers line the villagers up and proceed to execute them, but the Stormtrooper we saw before, the one with the bloody helmet, is unable to fire his blaster. Ren notices this, and silently stares at the trooper for a few seconds before ultimately boarding his ship.

All of this is watched from afar by Poe’s little droid, who slowly rolls away in the desert night, mourning the loss of his master but determined to fulfill the mission he entrusted it with.

Later, on the army’s main ship, Poe is taken to interrogation holding, and our lone Stormtrooper is interrupted from having a well-deserved panic attack by his chrome-plated superior, who scolds him for, you know, having feelings and all that, and instructs him to report to division.

 Storytelling at its best

This first scene is absolutely brilliant. It throws us straight into the middle of the action, with just the right amount of exposition and character development to make us care about what we’re seeing, but not so much so as to make us roll our eyes. That is how you tell a story.

Everything about that scene, from the pacing to the many questions that are asked, and the few answers that are given, sets the stage for the remaining two hours of the film.

By now we’re roughly ten minutes into the movie, and we’ve already heard of two of the main characters from the original trilogy by name — Luke and Leia — even tough we still haven’t actually seen any of them. Others, like Han & Chewie, haven’t even been mentioned yet.

Everything we’ve actually seen on screen so far is completely new: new Stormtroopers, new ships, new planets, new droids, and new characters. And yet, the film already feels like Star Wars. That was one of my biggest concerns going in, but I’m happy to say they nailed the experience. And the fact that they managed to do it without showing anything from previous movies is even more impressive.

A new world

Once the frantic opening scene concludes, the film clearly switches gears. From a storytelling point of view, we move from stage-setting into world-building and character introduction. This is when we get to understand the new world we’re in, with its tensions and particular struggles, and it’s also when we get to meet the movie’s real protagonist.

However, that’s a story for another day. Now it’s time to take a look at some of the week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Top Five: dropping nukes by accident, the problem with the American school system, and the Fuji X-Pro 2

This week’s top five is a good one. From an unbelievable accident that could have changed world history, to a wonderful review of Fuji’s next big X-series camera, every one of these links features some top-quality writing and photography. Enjoy.

Palomares anniversary: that time the US dropped 4 nukes on Spain | Lee Ferran →

I’m guessing a majority of readers won’t know that this actually happened, but fifty years ago there was this silly accident where the US dropped not one, not two, but four nuclear bombs on a small beach town in Spain. I’m not kidding:

On the morning of Jan. 17, 1966, an American B-52 bomber was flying a secret mission over Cold War Europe when it collided with a refueling tanker. Seven airmen involved, including all four members of the refueling tanker’s crew, were killed. But American officials feared much worse when they learned that the bomber’s payload, four B28 hydrogen bombs, had broken free in the collision and tumbled down towards the small Mediterranean beach town of Palomares, Spain.

The reason you probably haven’t heard about it is that, since the bombs weren’t meant to be dropped, their fail safe systems were active, and they managed to stop a nuclear reaction from being started upon impact. However, not everything was rosy:

But the conventional high explosives on two of the bombs did detonate, essentially turning those weapons into dirty bombs that blasted plutonium radiation across the countryside.

The story took another dramatic turn when hundreds of American soldiers, who rushed to the accident site to search for the bombs, were only able to locate three of four. As the exhausting search on land continued fruitlessly, military officials turned to the Mediterranean and launched what was then the most complex deep-water search and recovery operation in history – all while Russian ships and submarines lingered nearby, threatening to snatch the missing nuke for themselves.

Oops. Next time you screw something up, you can at least take comfort in the fact that you probably didn’t drop four nuclear bombs on a foreign country by accident. Don’t worry though, things are cool now:

A half century later, there is little obvious evidence of the dramatic incident in Palomares, short of a chain link fence and warning signs surrounding an area in which one of the bombs fell and radiation seeped into the ground. Not far away, on the beach, there is nothing to mark where another crashed down intact – and members of a nearby nudist colony stroll by in their natural glory seemingly without a care that they’re walking within feet of a five-decade-old nuclear accident.

Welcome to Spain.

Keeping Up with Tim Cook’s Apple | Rob Rhyne →

Great piece by Rob Rhyne on the incredible scale Apple operates at today, and the absurd pace they’re working at:

In barely three years, design consideration for iOS has gone from two sizes to twelve. When account for orientation, twenty-four distinct layouts are required. Twenty-four to account for devices which support iOS 9. Madness.

And yet, Apple has managed to keep things simple enough for most developers to be able to work in small teams, some even independently. That’s impressive.

Sure, there are some bugs here and there, but considering the insane pace Apple is keeping in their software release cycle, the overall quality is still pretty darn good.

Via Ben Brooks.

Against School | Aaron Swartz →

This is a great previously unpublished essay from the late Aaron Swartz on the most glaring issues with the American school system:

The solution has been to fight the battle through other names. No Child Left Behind was supposed to have the effect of forcing schools to do a better job educating their students. Who could argue with that? But examining its effects on the ground finds it did something rather different. Students, of course, were not tested on how well they actually understood basic concepts but simply on how well they could answer the standard multiple choice tests. And with so much at stake, schools converted even further from teaching kids ideas to teaching them how to perform well on tests.

Fantastic essay.

A companion for architecture and landscapes – Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 Review | Mathieu Gasquet →

I’ve been waiting for the first few in-depth reviews of the upcoming Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 lens to appear on the web, and this one didn’t disappoint. It’s chock-full of gorgeous shots, and plenty of explanations and details about the lens.

The world of manual lenses is a curious one. On one hand, they’re slower to use and seem almost archaic in nature. On the other hand, they are precision instruments of unparalleled build quality, and they can remain a lot smaller than similarly-specced AF-enabled lenses.

Zeiss has always been one of the most important manufacturers of manual lenses, and whatever your personal preference one way or the other, it’s good to see they’re still committed to releasing high-quality optics for modern systems like the Sony E-mount.

Fujifilm X-Pro 2 | Marius Masalar →

Marius Masalar got his hands on a pre-production model of the newly announced Fuji X-Pro 2 camera. This is an incredible review, and the X-Pro 2 appears to be a pretty sweet camera. Also, Marius’ photography throughout the piece, both of the camera and with the camera, is outstanding as usual. Excellent work.

Afterword

Like I said in the introduction, this has been quite an unusual week for me. I’m now back to a more normal writing schedule, but it’s been an interesting change, to be sure.

The rest of the weekend will be spent working on my review of the nifty Manfrotto 209, 492 table top tripod kit, which I’ve owned for a couple months now. It’s a truly useful little tripod, and I took it with me on my recent trip to Paris with great results.

The review should be published later in the week over on Tools & Toys. Until then, thank you for reading, and have a wonderful weekend.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

A new design (sort of)

January 21, 2016

As you may have noticed, things look slightly different around here today.

You’re looking at the first site redesign in almost two years, and though things admittedly haven’t changed much, hopefully they have changed for the better.

You see, after years of making occasional tweaks here and there on the site’s CSS, the entire file had turned into a bloated mess, with many redundant and/or contradictory directives, to the point where making even the most trivial changes had become a challenge.

Good CSS hygiene is very important to the well-being of any site. When you discover a horrible bug in the design — and I do mean when, not if — the ability to fix it quickly and safely can save you a ton of downtime, and quite a few headaches.

With that in mind, a few weeks ago I decided it was finally time to clean up my own mess, and I’ve since been rewriting the site’s entire CSS from scratch. Today, I’m ready to publish the revised design, which you’re seeing right now.

For future reference, this is what Analog Senses looked like up until yesterday:

And this is what it should be looking like right now:

Human beings don’t usually like change, but I have to say the new design has grown on me surprisingly quickly, to the point where I can now barely look at the old one anymore.

I’ve been really looking forward to launching it for the past few days, but I didn’t want to rush things. All it takes is one bug to make the entire launch a disaster, so I wanted to make sure I crossed all my t’s and dotted all my i’s before hitting publish. That ultimately proved to be the right choice, as I had to fix a last-minute issue yesterday that prevented me from launching it, despite that being my original target date. Clearly, you can never be too careful.

Reference style guide

When you’re working on a site redesign, a style guide can be a wonderful resource.

The purpose of a style guide is to show how the most commonly used HTML elements are displayed on the site. Style guides are very useful when working on a site’s CSS, as they allow you to instantly see if anything breaks.

As part of the current redesign, I’ve created a reference style guide for Analog Senses, which you can see here. In order to facilitate your own tweaking and testing — on your own site, that is — I’m also making it available as a standalone document.

Said reference document is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, and it’s available as a .markdown file here.

Analog Senses is written in Markdown, and styled using CSS only. For that reason, the contents of that document may largely apply to other Markdown-based websites. You’ll probably need to make a few changes to account for some custom handling of certain elements, but this should be a good starting point.

It should go without saying, but I’m not obligated to offer support of any kind to go with the file, so use it only if you know what you’re doing, and only at your own risk.

Now, let’s go over the new design in a bit more detail.

Subtle changes on the outside, profound ones on the inside

If I had to describe the new design in just a few words, I’d say it’s the Snow Leopard of site redesigns. At first look, not much seems to have changed from the previous design, but changes on the inside have been profound. As they say, everything needed to change, so things could stay the same.

Colors and typography

The most noticeable change is, of course, the color scheme. Gone are the gray textured background and greenish links, in favor of a clean white design with beautiful teal accents. I’ve always loved teal, and luckily for me, it’s recognized by name by HTML, so that was an easy choice.

An important benefit of the new design over the old one is that it doesn’t rely on any image files except for the tiny favicon. That means loading times should be even faster, and pages should be leaner. It’s a win for me, but also a win for readers, as it should be.

Fonts used throughout the site remain the same, but again, colors, spacings and sizes have been changed in order to enhance the reading experience. The header fonts are Lamplighter Script, Futura PT and Atrament Web, which is also used for the headings. The main body font is Proxima Nova.

Media handling

Perhaps the coolest new feature is that the site now supports full width images and videos up to 1,024-pixels wide (2,048 on Retina displays). This is something I’d been wanting to implement for a long, long time, but I never really got around to it. Now it’s finally done, and the results are pretty cool, if I may say so myself.

Again, for future reference, this is what the widest images looked like in the previous design:

You can clearly see the margins at both sides of the image there. This is what that same image looks like now:

Another detail about this is that images are now borderless, which can yield great results when used with the right type of image. Check this image from my Sony E-Mount lens guide, for example. This is what it looked like before:

And this is what it looks like now:

Again, night and day. I don’t know if you’ll agree, but to my eye things look much better in the new design.

Responsiveness

Without a doubt, the feature I’m most proud of is responsiveness, which has been greatly improved in the new design.1

Ever since I started using Octopress to power Analog Senses, back in 2014, the site’s design has been responsive. However, it was full of small inconsistencies that drove me nuts. Things like margins, lists, blockquotes and footnotes behaved very differently depending on the size of the display you were using. Even font sizes were inconsistent throughout the site.

All of that has been fixed now.2 The new design looks great on displays of any size, and it should support every modern browser out there. Of course, despite my extensive testing, there may still be some ninja-like bugs hidden in there somewhere, so if you see anything wrong with the way the site loads on your particular device, please let me know.

Regarding mobile devices, the site should look great on every iOS device, past or present. This is what it looks like on the current iPhone models, for example:

Analog Senses on the iPhone 5s.

Analog Senses on the iPhone 6/6s.

Analog Senses on the iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus.

I really like how the new full-width images look on the iPhone, especially in portrait orientation, where horizontal space is a very scarce resource. It really didn’t make any sense to waste it with margins.

The site looks great on every iPhone, but I like it even better on the iPad:

Analog Senses on the iPad Air 2.

This looks and behaves exactly the same as the desktop version, although internally there are a million things that are handled differently. Those are the types of things that were terribly inconsistent in the previous design.

In particular, full width images now look awesome in landscape mode on the iPad:

Analog Senses on the iPad Air 2.

That’s how you can get the most out of the iPad’s beautiful display. And since the iPad Pro’s screen has a resolution of precisely 2,732 x 2,048 pixels, images should remain full width even on that device when used in portrait orientation.

Final words

This brief but intense redesign project has been very refreshing, to be honest. I’m quite proud of how the new design turned out, and hopefully it will provide a solid foundation for the future of Analog Senses.

Now, those of you who have read this far probably know that a site’s design is never really finished. Instead, it’s like a living creature with a mind of its own. Even now, on the very day I’m publishing the new design, I can’t help but think about the many features I’d like to add in the future, like support for side-by-side images, a grid-like structure with photos, cool header photos with transparent text, and so on.

Those are all interesting and compelling features, and they’ll probably arrive at some point. For now, though, it really is time to go back to writing.

Thank you for reading.


  1. Excuse the bragging. It’ll only be for today, I promise.

  2. Fingers crossed.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

January 16, 2016

Hello there, welcome to the first edition of Morning Coffee in 2016.

As you may know, I took a couple weeks off at the end of last year and beginning of this year in order to recharge my batteries a bit. If working hard every day is important, so is having enough time to rest. And by rest I mean, properly rest, as in, not-going-anywhere-near-the-Internet rest.

These days it’s so hard to disconnect from the constant stream of news in any meaningful way that staying offline actually requires planning, and effort. Even if all you do is check Twitter every couple hours, you’re still mentally chained to your desk. Unless you move away from the computer for a few days once or twice a year, staying fresh and motivated becomes a real struggle.

I have to admit, I was beginning to feel a little burnt out towards the end of the year, which is why I decided it was time for a break. I used that time to be with my family, enjoy the holidays, and even do a bit of traveling, something I’d missed tremendously. But more on that later.

The best of all is, I actually managed to clear my mind and breathe, and regain some clarity and perspective. Now, I’m happy to say I’m back, ready to tackle the new year and motivated to do great work.

Let’s get started.

Issue #29: The times, they are a-changin’

I’ve been thinking about how to make Morning Coffee better for readers for a while. The current format is fine, but I do believe there’s room for improvement, and that applies not only to Morning Coffee, but to the site as a whole, as well. I’d like to talk to you a bit more about that today.

I feel like I’ve been letting things coast for a while, and it’s time to shake things up a bit. Ever since I started writing online as my primary job, Analog Senses has been steadily growing. That’s fantastic, and I’m super grateful for every single reader who, over the past 18 months or so, stopped by to read some of my work. You’re the reason I do this, and the reason that makes it all worth it.

Unfortunately, we’re in a period when I need to worry about the site’s sustainability, as well as my own. For that reason, I’ll be taking some steps towards helping the site stay in the black in the near future. Up until now, the site’s income has been limited to Amazon affiliate links, which have worked very well — far better than I hoped, actually — but which unfortunately are not enough to keep the site running as it is or, rather, to justify the amount of time and effort I put into it every day.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be introducing some changes to this weekly article, but also to the way the site operates, how content is presented, and how I interact with readers. I can’t promise that all changes will be for the better — the way these things work, I’m certain to screw something up along the way — but I will try to be as careful as possible, and if something doesn’t quite work, I have no problem rolling things back and trying a different way. This is uncharted territory for me, so we’ll see.

Of course, during this process reader feedback will be more important than ever. If you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to get in touch. Anything you feel could improve the experience would be of tremendous help. Thank you.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (turn and face the strange)

As you may have noticed, some small changes have already been rolled out. Let me walk you through them for a moment.

For starters, I have created a new section on the navigation bar called “Guides” where, as its name implies, I’m curating the best how-to guides I’ve published here in the past.

These are historically some of the most popular articles on the site, and every now and then I get email from readers saying how they came across one of these pieces when searching for an answer to a problem, and how it helped them find a solution. These emails usually make my day, but I felt like there was more that I could do to make those articles easier to find.

One of the disadvantages of the traditional blog format is that, once an article is phased out of the homepage, it gets buried far too deep within the archives. Hopefully, by creating a place where important articles can be curated, I’ll be making it easier for people to stumble upon them.

Another thing that has changed is that, starting from now, I’ll be using all three of my Amazon affiliate accounts — the US, UK and Spain — for the links in the articles. For now, the only way I found to implement this is to present all three links at the end of each article, or the relevant section, but I’m working towards finding a seamless way to present readers with just the appropriate link based on location, or maybe a preference setting. I know such a tool used to exist for Wordpress-based blogs, and there’s even a Javascript/PHP plugin that does it. I’m trying to figure out how to implement that feature on this site, but so far that’s still a work in progress. If you have any leads, please let me know. In the meantime, I’ll continue to use my US affiliate account as the default option when embedding links within regular paragraphs.

Content-wise, I’m changing Morning Coffee a little bit, and I’m altering the site’s publishing schedule as well.

I’m trying to put more original writing into Morning Coffee and indeed, the site as a whole, so I’ll be emphasizing that aspect going forward. The links section of Morning Coffee will be limited to five items per week, and I’ll do my best to make them as relevant and interesting as possible. You could think of it as a top-five list of the very best writing on the web, which is actually a lot closer to my original vision for it. I feel that some past issues of Morning Coffee ran far too long, with too many links, and I’m afraid that could have turned off some readers. Hopefully the new format will make things better for everyone.

I will also be changing up the way each issue is structured. Going forward, I will be placing the original writing section at the beginning of each issue, and leaving the links for later. I believe some of my previous writing on Morning Coffee has been diluted by having to get through so many links first. By the time you reached the afterword, chances are you were already exhausted. Call me selfish, but if you’re not going to make it through the entire issue, I’d rather have you read my words first.

Scheduling-wise, I’m going to stick with a Saturday morning publishing time for the next few issues of Morning Coffee, but I’m also considering moving it to a different day. I believe a big problem with the previous format is that it wasn’t that different from the kind of news people had been reading all week. Understandably, some people may not want to keep doing the same kind of reading during their free time, which is why I want to do something about it.

With the above changes, I believe I can keep Morning Coffee interesting enough to stay as weekend-reading material, but if things don’t really work out, perhaps publishing it on a weekday would be a better way to go about it. What do you think? Would you rather see a Friday-published Morning Coffee?

As for site-wide content changes, I’m going to aim at publishing one long-form piece each week, on Wednesdays. I believe committing to a regular publishing schedule will help me stay motivated, and organized. Now, I’m committing to only doing these two weekly updates over at least the next few weeks, so I’ll probably slow down the link posts substantially for a while.

In the past, failing to publish a couple links every single day used to make me feel anxious, and guilty. I’m now giving myself permission to only publish when I want to say something, as opposed to merely echoing what others are saying. It’s an important distinction, and one that hopefully will help improve the site as a whole.

Of course, I still enjoy sharing links to cool things on a daily basis, and I’m not going to completely stop doing it. That said, I will probably just use Twitter for that going forward, so if you’re not following me there, you totally should.

Those are the main changes that are already in place, but of course, there are more to come in the near future. In order to reach sustainability, eventually finding a way to encourage direct support from readers seems inevitable, but let’s take things one step at a time. For now, I’m just trying to keep my eyes on the ball.

My goal is not only to make Analog Senses healthier and sustainable, but to make it better. Above all, I want it to be respectful of my readers’ time and attention, and I want it to provide interesting and useful content. That’s the only way this is going to work, so rest assured, that’s where my focus is.

As I said before, if you have any comments or suggestions for the site, there’s never been a better time than this to share them, so please feel free to get in touch. Thanks!

Now, that’s entirely enough blogging about blogging for today, so let me close this year’s first issue with some of the week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Enjoy.

Top-Five

In 2016’s first edition of the top five links of the week, we learn one key aspect about achieving our goals. We also learn what it’s like to dine in an overrated high-profile restaurant in NYC, and we witness an interview with one of the world’s most wanted drug lords. Then there’s a wonderful review of one of my favorite MFT cameras and, finally, a great piece on the importance of online privacy and freedom.

The great myth about getting in shape (and every other goal) | David Cain →

Like clockwork, David Cain is ready with another inspiring piece to help people conquer their New Year’s resolutions. In this case, the focus is on exercise, but really, this applies to everything in life:

The great myth about goals is that they require us to trade quality of life now for quality of life later. This doesn’t work unless you’re a robot. We’re too interested in keeping our lives enjoyable. You cannot voluntarily make all your days worse for months in the name of optional rewards in the future. A good goal has to improve your life now, and nearly every day between now and the final result. The long-term reward is never going to drive you to keep living a life you don’t like in the short term.

Your friend who is always posting her Crossfit achievements on Facebook—do you think she hates lifting, and is just suffering through it to have that beach body come summertime?

Spot-on, as always.

At Thomas Keller’s Per Se, slips and stumbles | Pete Wells →

The New York Times’ restaurant critic Pete Wells absolutely destroys one of the only six restaurants in NYC that had a 4-star rating.

El Chapo Speaks | Sean Penn →

Hollywood actor Sean Penn pays a secret visit to Mexican drug lord Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, A.K.A. El Chapo, one of the most wanted men in the world:

With Kate translating, I begin to explain my intentions. I felt increasingly that I had arrived as a curiosity to him. The lone gringo among my colleagues, who’d ridden on the coattails of El Chapo’s faith in Kate. I felt his amusement as I put my cards on the table. He asks about my relationship with the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez with what seems to be a probing of my willingness to be vilified through associations.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Review | Josh Ginter →

My friend Josh Ginter wrote a spectacular review of the Olympus E-M5 Mark II over at Tools & Toys. I really liked this one, and I believe it’s some of his finest work yet. The pictures are gorgeous, his insights are useful, and his honesty is incredibly refreshing. This one is absolutely worth your time.

Why privacy is important, and having “nothing to hide” is irrelevant | Robin Doherty →

Great primer on the importance of online privacy and freedom by Robin Doherty:

Our “digital lives” are an accurate reflection of our actual lives. Our phone records expose where we go and who we talk to, and our internet usage can expose almost everything about ourselves and what we care about.

Even if we trust the motives of our current governments, and every person with authorised access to our data, we are taking an incredible risk. The systems of surveillance that we entrench now may be misappropriated and misused at any time by future governments, foreign intelligence agencies, double agents, and opportunistic hackers.

The more data we have, the more devastating its potential.

Food for thought.

Afterword

As I hinted at earlier in the piece, I took a brief trip to Paris with Miriam during the holidays. We flew there on New Year’s Eve and spent four days visiting the city. Paris is an amazing town, even though it was rainy and cold. We didn’t have enough time to see everything, but we did cover quite a bit of ground, and more importantly, we had a terrific time.

I took my Canon EOS 3 film camera and a Canon 35mm f/1.4 L lens that I rented, and shot three rolls of film during the trip. For the first time, I had these developed and scanned by a professional lab, instead of scanning them myself. I’m happy with how they turned out, but I don’t see enough of an improvement to justify the extra cost, so I’ll probably keep scanning my film at home in the future.

Anyway, I shared a Flickr album with a few shots from the trip, both from the EOS 3 and my Sony α7 II. I’m still processing most of them, so I’ll definitely write a proper post about the trip later on. For now though, consider this a teaser.

Have a great weekend, and thank you for reading.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢