Spider-Man is joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe →

February 10, 2015 |

Anthony Breznican, Entertainment Weekly:

In a deal long-sought by Marvel Studios, Spider-Man—the character licensed to Sony Pictures years before the comic book company got into the filmmaking business—will be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe alongside Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Evans’ Captain America, and the rest of the Avengers team.

The deal means Spider-Man will appear in one of Marvel’s upcoming movies next, the studio said in its announcement late Monday. That will most likely be Captain America: Civil War, which is set for release May 6, 2016. Neither Sony nor Marvel specified a project, but Spider-Man was a key component in the comic book story line that inspired this movie—a clash between Cap and Iron Man over whether superheroes should be registered and monitored by the government. Spider-Man makes a critical decision about which side to take in the Mark Millar 2006-07 crossover series that pitted hero against hero.

Can’t wait. The next Captain America movie just got a whole lot more interesting. Also, here’s Marvel’s official statement announcing the deal.

Via Mike Bates.

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Shawn Blanc announces ‘The Power of a Focused Life’ →

February 09, 2015 |

I’ve been waiting for this book to be announced since this past Summer, when Shawn started talking about it on his members-only podcast, Shawn Today. It’s a topic I’m incredibly interested in, and I don’t think there’s anyone better than Shawn to guide us through it. In his own words:

In short, The Power of a Focused Life is about living without regret in the Age of Distraction. I’ll admit, it sounds a bit melodramatic — but I’m serious. I’ve been working on this book for over a year. I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading and doing research (with much more to do still). And I’ve been applying these principles and ideas to my own life for over a decade.

Shawn has always been one to walk the talk, and it shows. His previous book, Delight is in the Details, literally changed my life and was one of my main inspirations when I decided to take my chances with Analog Senses. I trust Shawn, and usually share his views on life, work and the relationship between them. I couldn’t be more excited to read what he has to say about this.

Also, whatever you do, don’t miss that introductory video. Now that’s how you announce a product.

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Josh Ginter on why the E-M10 is still the way to go →

February 09, 2015 |

Josh Ginter:

Do most people find themselves outdoors in temperatures lower than -20 Celsius for extended periods of time? I’m willing to bet not. So why spend almost twice the money for weather sealing? For the person in the market for a mainstream Micro 4/3 camera, the E-M5 Mark II’s weather sealing (in my opinion) doesn’t warrant the extra $500. If you recognize that you need a more robust camera body, then you’ve probably already made up your mind on the E-M5 Mark II.

Agreed. In my mind both cameras are excellent, but the E-M10 is clearly the mainstream model of the two and factoring in price, the better model for most people.

It’s actually a bit like the difference between Apple’s 13” MacBook Air and 13” Retina MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro is clearly the better machine, but it’s also clear that the Air offers more than enough to meet the needs of the vast majority of users. If you really need or want a MacBook Pro, chances are you already know it and are prepared to pay for it.

Now imagine if instead of being only $300 more (or a 30% premium over the Air’s price), the MacBook Pro cost almost twice as much as the Air. Imagine if it started at $1,850 instead of $1,299. It’d still be the better machine, but it’d be a lot more difficult to recommend to anyone but the most specific subset of users.

Similarly, the E-M5 Mk II is clearly the better camera, but a $500 premium is a heck of a lot to command these days, when most cameras are excellent.

The E-M10 is an absolutely incredible camera for the money and to me, by far the better pick when factoring in everything and budgeting for the entire system, which of course also includes the lenses. As ever, your mileage may vary — and that’s ok, too.

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Patreon will not be handling #VATMOSS in EU, passes burden on to creators →

February 09, 2015 |

Quite the eye opener by Heather Burns on Patreon’s official stance on the handling of digital VAT for their EU creators:

On the surface this would suggest that Patreon is effectively off limits for digital creators within Europe. Those who choose to use it will have to personally query each European patron for their tax status, VAT number, IP address, and/or any of the information required to substantiate the proof of supply. They will be responsible for issuing their own tax invoices to their patrons. They will have to supply the invoice and proof of supply data with their VATMOSS return. They will also, of course, have to store this information in a secure format on an EU-based and data protection compliant server for ten years.

If Patreon doesn’t modify their stance, EU-based creators will effectively be forced away from using the service. Via Matt Gemmell.

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The Village Idiot of Urban Innovation →

February 06, 2015 |

Mikael Colville-Andersen, Copenhagenize Design Co.:

I meet amazing, inspiring people when I travel the world with my work. I see a lot of things. Many of the things are good. Many are, however, strange and frustrating. Especially regarding infrastructure. It boggles my mind every time I [see] - or worse, ride on - bike lanes on the wrong side of parked cars in between the door zone of primarily single-occupant vehicles and moving traffic in North American cities and I thumb my nose at every sharrow I see. That fakest of all fake bicycle infrastructure. That sheep in wolf’s clothing.

Despite a century of Best Practice in bicycle infrastructure and tried and tested networks occupied by tens of thousands of daily cyclists in cities that “get it”, there are still so many mistakes being made elsewhere. I see stuff slapped lazily into place by engineers and planners who don’t ride bicycles in their city and who haven’t even tried it. Mutant Frankeninfrastructure from the lab of a Marvel Comics nemesis’ laboratory.

The Madrid Mayor has led a city-wide campaign to fill the streets with those infamous sharrows, and so far the results have been pretty underwhelming. No matter how nice you paint them, sharrows are not real bike lanes, and people don’t trust them.

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Batman Visits Sacramento →

February 06, 2015 |

What a hilarious — and strangely gorgeous — take on travel photography. I love it.

As a side comment, that Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens is an absolute beast. I’d love to get me one of those for my “new” Canon EOS 3 film camera.

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“God is in the details” →

February 06, 2015 |

Buzz Usborne, founder of Prevue, writes a mind-numbingly thorough article on the importance of details in design:

But let’s be honest; using a product over-and-over, re-building functionality, and obsessing about the little things takes a lot of time — perhaps a luxury afforded to side-projects like Prevue, or products with too much money. They’re usually too hard to justify, and they’re definitely the first thing to be sacrificed when push comes to shove. That’s probably why Ludwig Mies van der Rohe only designed a handful of buildings that weren’t ugly skyscrapers — or why Prevue doesn’t ship features very often.

Having spent the last 7 years polishing my own side-project, I’ve learned where to look for “quick wins” when it comes to building detail-oriented design into larger, fast-moving commercial products. So instead of professing to knowing the perfect solution for forcing “detail-mining” into your release schedule, I thought I’d share a few places where you can start looking for improvement in your own projects, and why those details can make all the difference.

I came across this piece via my friend Chris Gonzales just when I was about to go to bed, and now I blame him for my insomnia.

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MirrorLessons reviews the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II Micro Four Thirds camera →

February 05, 2015 |

Great review by Mathiew of MirrorLessons. The E-M5 Mk II has many people excited, and with good reason. It’s a spectacular camera and it’s sure to be another home run for Olympus. The main benefits compared to the original E-M5 are the improved control layout, an electronic shutter which goes up to 1/16,000 and is completely silent, the improved 5-axis IBIS, freeze-proof weather sealing and the new high-resolution mode which is capable of shooting 40 MP images by slightly shifting the sensor and stitching multiple shots together. All in all, it sounds like a pretty cool refresh and if you’re in the market for a new camera, it’s a no-brainer.

That being said, if you already own one of the other OM-D bodies, I don’t think the new features add enough functionality to justify the upgrade cost. Sure, new features are always nice to have but deep down, all OM-D cameras share the same sensor and all except the old E-M5 share even the same image processor, so there’s not a whole lot of improvement to be had in the image quality department.

Once you own a relatively nice camera body like the E-M10, the E-M1 or even the old E-M5, you have everything your need to take amazing images. I’m super happy with my E-M10 and I don’t feel like I’ve come close to outgrowing it yet, so I have no plans to upgrade to this new E-M5. And to be perfectly honest, I also don’t want to get into a habit of upgrading my camera every year. In my opinion, and these are just my two cents, it makes a lot more sense to buy additional lenses instead, which is where the real benefits are.

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David Pogue on Apple’s new Photos for Mac app →

February 05, 2015 |

David Pogue:

Photos is meant to look, feel, and work exactly like Photos on the iPhone and iPad. It is yet another attempt by Apple to both unify the learning curve across devices and to put velvet handcuffs on you. The more benefits you get from sticking to an all-Apple ecosystem, the more likely you are to stay in it.

If it works without hiccups — and that’s a big if — it looks like most iOS users are going to feel right at home in the new Photos for Mac app. I’m definitely curious to try it, although most of my photos live in Lightroom these days.

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It’s funny how some of the best things in life happen entirely by chance.

On paper, I shouldn’t be writing this article right now. This single malt didn’t make my initial list of candidates, mostly because I didn’t even know of its existence when I placed my original 11-dram order with Master of Malt. I only learned of it later that day, when I asked Matt Gemmell on Twitter to recommend a nice young single malt for, ahem, research purposes.

The following morning though, I received a very polite phone call from Master of Malt. As luck would have it, there had been a problem with my order — the PayPal payment didn’t go through — and so I was able to add Matt’s recommendations to the list at the very last minute. Those recommendations were the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 Year Old, which I reviewed here a few weeks ago, and of course The Balvenie DoubleWood Aged 12 Years, which we have here today.

The Balvenie DoubleWood Aged 12 Years comes in a fancy box. Photo Credit: Michael Bentley.

If you recall, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the Quinta Ruban. Don’t get me wrong, it’s clearly a very fine whisky, just not to my particular taste. This Balvenie, on the other hand, has won me over completely, and I’d go as far as to say it has become my new social drink of choice.

The Balvenie distillery

In another happy coincidence, today I received my much-awaited copy of Mark Bylok’s excellent book, The Whisky Cabinet. I had been hoping to lay my dirty hands on this book since before I even started this article series, back in October. It’s been a while but I’m happy to say, it’s been well worth the wait.

The Whisky Cabinet, by Mark Bylok. A perfect coffee-table book if I ever saw one.

I haven’t had enough time to dive deep into it, but I’m really loving what I’ve seen so far. Great photography, an amazing selection of whiskies from all over the world and the clear, precise writing Mark is so good at. You can expect some more in-depth comments about the book in a few weeks but for now, suffice it to say it’s very, very good.

Thanks to Mark’s book, for example, I found out that the Balvenie distillery, located in the Speyside region, was built by the Grant family — of Glenfiddich fame — and that it started operating just six years after Glenfiddich began producing their world-famous whisky. Their idea was for Balvenie to help meet some of Glenfiddich’s demand, but it quickly found a character of its own.

Unlike Glenfiddich, Balvenie uses primarily American oak casks to age their whiskies, while using European oak casks only for the finishing years. This is true for the majority of their denominations. Balvenie was actually the distillery that pioneered wood finishing, a practice now considered standard and widely used by the rest of the whisky industry.

The Balvenie distillery in Speyside. Photo Credit: Martyn Jenkins.

The DoubleWood Aged 12 Years

As its name implies and like many of Balvenie’s denominations, the DoubleWood 12 is a wood-finished whisky. In this case, the whisky is first aged in ex-bourbon American oak casks for ten years and then finished in ex-sherry European oak casks for another two years, giving it that extra bit of character DoubleWood is known for.

The DoubleWood 12 bottle sports a classically elegant design. Photo Credit: Marc Gélinas.

The DoubleWood 12 has a slightly darker, warmer color than most whiskies its age due to its sherry finish. I’d rate it between a 1.3 (russetmuscat) and a 1.5 (auburn, polished mahogany) on the Whisky Magazine color chart:

Click or tap on the chart to view it full-size.

The DoubleWood Aged 12 Years is the spiritual successor to the Balvenie Classic of the 1980’s. For a little more on the story behind this, let’s take a look at what Balvenie’s Malt Master David Stewart has to say:

The nose

This is clearly the most easygoing whisky I have nosed so far. It’s very pleasant on the nose, with plenty of vanilla and caramel notes. It’s not a terribly complex whisky like the Quinta Ruban, and I mean that in a good way. Instead, this one gives you everything right away, but in a subtle, almost delicate way. A very balanced aroma that you’ll never find dull, that’s for sure.

The palate

This is where the DoubleWood shines. It’s just the right amount of spice and the right amount of toffee, both playing together in perfect harmony. I also detect some very faint hints of fruit, perhaps red berries or something along those lines. It has a very elegant sweetness that is not too bold, and adds to the overall experience. All in all, there’s really nothing bad to say about it, except it’s extremely difficult to stop after only one drink. Be advised.

The DoubleWood is bottled at 40% alcohol, so burn is naturally kept to a minimum due to its moderate strength. Add water at your discretion, but be careful not to drown it. I’ve found that just a splash of water works best, but I won’t go out of my way to get it. And of course, don’t ever use tap water. If you can get some mineral water great but if not, just drink it neat. Have smaller sips and your saliva will naturally dilute the drink. That’s another excellent tip I learned from The Whisky Cabinet and in this case, it works like a charm.

The finish

I’d rate it as medium. It lingers on just long enough to make you want more. It’s a diabolically well-engineered drink, at that. The aftertaste is mellow and pleasant, with plenty of caramel notes and perhaps some vanilla undertones lingering as an afterthought.

Perfect for

Like I said in the introduction, the Balvenie DoubleWood Aged 12 Years has become my new favorite single malt, and also my new social drink of choice. It’s one of the few quality single malts that are easy to find in most bars around these peat-forsaken parts, and it deftly hits that elusive sweetspot of being a perfectly enjoyable drink without being overly expensive. I’ve spent the better part of last month and even much of the holidays getting well acquainted with this one, and I just can’t get enough of it.

Therefore, I’d recommend it for any social situation in which you feel like kicking back and relaxing in good company. Leave the deep conversations and worrying thoughts for another day, this is no moment for trouble. And if you’re anything like me, you may end up asking the barkeep to just leave the bottle.

Final words

There’s not much more to say about this single malt, except I really, really like it. As usual, Matt Gemmell was right, and all I have for him is gratitude for encouraging me to discover such an excellent whisky. In the immortal words of Lt. Archie Hicox:

“I must say, damn good stuff, Sir.”

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