Maternity Shots

This past weekend, Erin and I went on our annual pilgrimage to Carter Mountain Orchard to pick apples. This is a tradition Erin and I started 9 years ago when we were living in Charlottesville. Since then, we’ve returned every year without fail, in order to celebrate our year together, and remind ourselves of where things started.

This year, our dear friends the _s came down to visit. Their visit was largely to share in the experience, but also to take a few pictures of in utero, with an actual camera and not a phone, while we still can.

The weather, unfortunately, was awful.

Despite that, Dave took some great pictures both that morning, and the next, at home. I wanted to highlight a couple.

Erin is, as I write this, 36 ½ weeks. It’s crazy how this post seems both so long ago, and also just yesterday. We’re so very, very lucky.

🍎😘🌱 😘🌱

Saddling the Camel

I got a lot of helpful suggestions regarding my post on Camel’s drawbacks. I wanted to highlight them here for both interest’s and posterity’s sake. There tended to be themes around what was recommended, so where possible I lumped responses together. Those that would require a serious rewrite to Camel are not shown.

I also got a lot of recommendations that I am not interested in. Unsurprisingly, the most popular was “grow up and get a VPS”.

I haven’t decided how I’m going to move forward, but this has definitely given me lots of excellent ideas to think over.

It's Uncomfortable Riding This Camel

As prompted by Brent Simmons’ investigation into alternative blogging engines, I started thinking about some of Camel‘s pain points. This includes both what bothers me, as well as what would bother others. As it often turns out, what bothers me is what bothers others.

One of Camel’s biggest benefits is that it uses the filesystem as its data store. Camel does not use a database; it does not (knowingly) use Dropbox. All the posts in Camel are simply in an expected directory structure within the project. Convention over configuration, you see.

This reliance on the file system, however, is also Camel’s biggest drawback.

There is no native way to upload a new post, say, by way of an iOS device. Since I’m currently hosting this blog on Heroku, I must commit and push a new post using Git in order to see it on the web. That’s not possible using any iOS app I’ve come across, and doesn’t strike me as something terribly enjoyable to code myself.

The obvious and easier answer is to have some sort of API within Camel to accept Markdown file uploads. This, too, runs into a snag. Heroku has an ephemeral filesystem, so even if I can get a file to Heroku, there is no guarantee it will stay there.

Which begs the question, how do I upload a post from iOS?

I see no obvious answer.

This does, however, give me an excuse to start digging into Azure. Perhaps there are options there that aren’t available on Heroku? Perhaps Azure doesn’t have an ephemeral filesystem; can I easily point it to some “external” filesystem that isn’t ephemeral? At a glance, this doesn’t seem to be the case — I see no obvious indication that Azure is any different.

I know Azure has a robust web interface; I’ll have to investigate and see if that interface would be allow me to add or edit posts in a pinch.

Am I missing any other obvious answers? Specifically, ones that don’t require me to rewrite Camel to use a different data store? I know I can go the virtual private server / self-hosted route, but I have zero interest in taking that on. What’s left?

Analog(ue) 8

While I don’t think it necessary to call attention to every Analog(ue) or ATP that is released, I do like to call out when we record particularly great ones. With Analog(ue), that generally means when we have a guest joining us. They really tend to, well, class the place up a bit.

On this week’s Analog(ue), Myke and I were joined by the internet’s own Faith Korpi, of IRL Talk fame. She joins us to talk about her side-side project, how to make an existing audience aware of new work, and why Myke and I really need to exercise more.

Myke and I had a lot of fun with this one. I’d love it if you had a listen.

Appearance: Clockwise 56

This week I was asked by Jason Snell and Dan Moren to guest on their fun, time-limited podcast, Clockwise. On the episode, my co-host Myke Hurley joined me as we discussed Apple Pay, beloved and long-forgotten tech, the iPhone 6+, and Apple’s quality assurance woes of late.

I had a blast; it was both refreshing, but really challenging, to have a time limit for once.

You can also hear some of the fun things that didn’t make the show on the B-Side.


I’ve talked before about how it can be challenging to quickly and effectively use Emoji on the iPhone. It doesn’t help that the stock iOS Emoji keyboard is really kludgey and sorts things in really odd ways.

My dear friend _David Smith has solved this problem. Today he introduced Emoji++ (App Store link). It’s $0.99, and if you’re serious about Emoji like I am, it’s well worth it. You’d be nuts not to, in fact.

The best way to sum up Emoji++ is to show you the GIF that Dave created:

Demo GIF

As with all of _David’s apps, Emoji++ is simple, but hugely effective. Some advantages:

  • Rather than pages, all Emoji are in a single scrolling list. The “jump bar” allows you to jump to the right section immediately, or even swipe vertically between sections.
  • The categories highlighted in the jump bar actually make a lot of sense.
  • The Emoji are larger and much easier to see
  • You can see recently used Emoji easily (as marked by the 🕘 Emoji, naturally)
  • You can long-press to invest in a list of curated favorite Emoji (as marked by the ❤️ Emoji, obviously)
  • There is no request for expanded access

I’ve beta tested Emoji++, and it’s wonderful. If you care even the smallest bit about professional Emoji usage, you should go to the app store right now.

Apple Watch

Jony Ive was recently interviewed by Vogue. This passage, in particular, seemed like a fine summary of the purpose of the Apple watch (emphasis mine):

All of this syncs with your iPhone, making the watch the wrist-bound control tower of your life in tech. Monitor your heart rate or your movement in general. Tap to have Siri take a message, or send a voice reply. Pay for drinks with your wrist (Apple Pay will be, yes, Apple Watch–compatible). With this product, Apple is moving from your desk and your pocket onto your person, your pulse point.

Goodbye, Old Friend

Today marks the end of an era — is ceasing to operate in the way fans like myself would recognize. From the site’s creator:

In July 2014, we received a DMCA take-down request for all Top Gear UK, US, and Australia torrents from FACT, a British trade organization representing the BBC. While I suspect that FACT acted on their own rather than at the request of the BBC, we still must honor their request to take down the content that we have been hosting for over 10 years now.

I have decided to just retire the main site and redirect traffic here to the forums. Fifth Gear is a great show but it isn’t worth dedicating a whole website to. I also don’t want to try to keep an episode directory going as it’s a lot of work and Wikipedia does a much better job at it. For the countdown timers, there’s other great sites out there such as TV Calendar.

Final Gear will forever hold a special place in my heart. To understand what Final Gear meant to me, you need to understand what Top Gear means to me.

Top Gear

Top Gear is, ostensibly, a car show. But it’s so much more than that. In fact, I can’t really pinpoint what it is, exactly. The easiest way to describe it is a comedy show themed around cars. A great example is the amphibious car challenge, wherein the three hosts were tasked with creating amphibious cars from scratch. It was both interesting and hilarious:

Despite all that “cocking about”, Top Gear can also be serious, if it wants to be. In 2010, they put together a tribute to F1 racing driver Ayrton Senna. Even as someone who doesn’t get the draw of F1, the piece was absolutely touching:

That said, my favorite Top Gear episodes are the races. There have been many, and every one is marvelous to watch. More often than not, they’re completely contrived. I’ve never cared.

Perhaps the best example of this is the Top Gear Polar Special. In it, the less-fit hosts, James and Jeremy, raced the third host, Richard, to the North (magnetic) Pole. James and Jeremy were in a heavily modified Toyota Hilux, Richard was in a dog sled. The race was clearly incredibly grueling. The exasperation you began to feel as the episode documented their journey was palpable.

Further, as with every episode of Top Gear, the cinematography is top-notch, and the music is wonderful. The Polar Special is, in my estimation, the pinnacle of the series.

Top Gear is at its core, a show about cars. It is possibly best known for the car reviews. The Ariel Atom is a wonderful example:

Top Gear is a wonderfully fun show, which is far deeper than you’d expect, looking at face value.

Click/tap to enlarge. Photo courtesy Marco.

It’s become a staple in not only my life, but Erin’s as well. Our Sunday afternoons when the show is in season are scheduled around Top Gear. Moreover, when they were starting new seasons (in UK parlance, a “new series”) in the summertime, Erin and I threw a “Top Gear Party” every year. We would have all our friends over, grill hot dogs and hamburgers, and once the sun went down, watch the show projected onto the back of our house. Our summers were largely defined by when Top Gear was starting again.

Final Gear

I first got exposed to Top Gear late in my college career; roughly 2003 or so. At that time, iTunes video wasn’t a thing. I was immediately hooked and thirsted for more. At the ripe old age of 21, I had… less complex thoughts… about how to acquire media. I quickly found my way to Final Gear. On Final Gear, one could find torrents for not only new episodes, but past ones as well.

My thirst both quenched and intensified, Final Gear showed me the way to shows I never would have heard of otherwise. I found Fifth Gear, another wonderful UK motoring show hosted, as it turns out, by some Top Gear alumni. I discovered the short-lived Top Gear Australia; I followed the long journey of bringing the much-maligned but still enjoyable Top Gear America from concept to presently-running show.

When I heard an incredible song on Top Gear — which happened more often than one would expect — I would want to know what it was immediately. Thanks to Final Gear’s What’s That Song? forum, I could find the answer within a day or two of the episode airing. I wouldn’t have discovered Ludovico Einaudi without Final Gear.

While I didn’t spend an overabundance of time on the forums that have become the Final Gear site, I did lurk there from time to time. I knew the regular faces. Imagine my surprise when I saw one of the site’s administrators tweet at me. I was completely star struck when he did; much more so than I’m sure Daniel was in talking to me.

Though I was mostly a lurker, I was overjoyed when I heard that Richard had received the helmet that the forum had sent him. Even though I wasn’t involved in the process, well, at all, I felt like I had sent him that helmet. I was amazed when I heard that Viper, the site’s creator, got to go to a taping and confirm that some on the Top Gear staff read and loved the forums. It felt like one of us was there, talking to the show’s stars and producer.

This summer, Final Gear received a DMCA notice. No one was surprised by it. Nevertheless, it marks the end of an era.

So, thank you, to both Top Gear and Final Gear, for the hours of enjoyment you’ve provided me.

My life would genuinely not be the same without that show, or that site.

Thirsty Dog

So about that iPhone 6 camera…

…it isn’t so bad, is it?

iPhone 6 Quick Impressions

I received my Space Gray 64 GB iPhone 6 on launch day; I’ve had it for nearly a week now. Naturally, I have some immediate impressions.

  • The battery life seems better than my 5s by a comfortable margin
  • The screen seems to be of better quality than the 5s
  • I’ve adjusted to the side lock button quickly, but for some reason I keep thinking the volume controls are on the right side now
  • The camera is markedly improved
  • The 5s looks positively tiny, but fits much more comfortably in my hand
  • Software-wise, I like the new screen size a lot
  • Physically, however, I’m not sold on the size

I think Joe Rosensteel summed it up best, and I completely agree:

In truth, I’m still adjusting to this change, and I do think that I might have selected a smaller phone if one were available. For me, screen space was never as important as one-handed operation.

I’m very curious to see how I feel about the size after a couple months.