How I make photography posts to my blog.

Jumping! This is one of my favorite things to do on a sand dune.
Someone asked “Why the hell don’t you get a Flickr account? It must be a far better way to share your photos than posting 20+ at a time.”

So I wrote back with something like this:

Let me tell you a little how I make my blog posts.

What I want:
A single post with lots of photos, all viewable at the first look, at a size that does the photos justice, but that still fit on most displays. For a great example of this, check out the Big Picture blog from the Boston Globe.

What I don’t want:
Any “Click here to see the next image” links.
Thumbnails.
Flash.
Scripts (although I’d love the “J for next photo” link on the Big Picture blog).
Any external controls on how any photo displays.
Stress.

Here’s my method:
– I use Lightroom to export all the photos I want, with a set prefix, and individually numbered, all at the right size for viewing on my blog.
– These go into a set file on my laptop, named with the same prefix.
– I use a text file to write the blog post. Each line starts with a number. If the number is 0 it means there is no photo. Any number above that means I write about the photo with that number.
– I name that file with the same prefix.
– I run a python script that takes all the writing in the text file and converts it to HTML (with the photo descriptions as alt-text), and spits out two files.
– The first file is a html file that I can load locally, to check all the photos look good, and all the descriptions make sense, and there are no errors.
– The second file (and the terminal window) displays the HTML code, ready to copy and paste.

So far, I can do all of this while not connected to the internet. This is very important for me, because as you can see from my blog posts, I spend a lot of time traveling. It’s no good to me to only be able to work when connected to the internet, when I’m also on a plane. Or I’m on a cruise ship with satellite internet, which is very slow and very expensive, and I might not have wifi in my room. For example, I wrote this post while offline, or else it might have cost me a dollar to write while connected.

Back to my method:
– At this point, I can connect to the internet, and use ftp to upload the folder with the photos to my server.
– Because the files are already at the exact size and quality for display on my blog, it takes no longer than necessary. These 26 photos took about 10 minutes over satellite internet.
– Meanwhile, I paste the HTML into my wordpress blog “new post” form, tick a few boxes, and hit “Publish”.
– I now disconnect from the internet.

Sometimes, if I also want to share the original resolution files along with smaller display images, I export each photo from Lightroom twice, with the same number, and use a slightly different python script. Of course, these photos then take a massive amount of bandwidth compared to only the smaller images, and so I rarely do this when traveling.

Also, I often upload my favorite photos to Facebook, to share them there too, especially if the photos show friends or events my friends attended.

I have a Flickr account. For the number of images I share, I’d have to get a paid account, and so far I’ve not seen how it will help me share images on my blog. It’ll add many steps to the entire process, and steps I can only do online.

Again, if you could explain what I’m missing, I’d really appreciate it.


NYC trip roundup – 26 days, 26 photos

In September I spent 26 days in New York on holiday (or vacation, as I had to say while in america, to avoid confusion). Even though I blogged all the way through, and shared loads of photos, I noticed I haven’t shared my overall thoughts of the trip. I guess this will be that blog post!

To match the number of days I spent in the city, I picked 26 photos that hopefully sum up my experiences and memories, even if they aren’t my favorite photos exactly.

On day two I bought a bike! It cost 150 dollars. On day 26 I sold it for 100 dollars. I rode it almost everywhere, covering between 15 and 45 miles per day. I did take the subway at some points, but only for specific journeys, and when it was pouring with rain.
On day two I bought a bike! It cost 150 dollars. On day 26 I sold it for 100 dollars. I rode it almost everywhere, covering between 15 and 45 miles per day. I did take the subway at some points, but only for specific journeys, and when it was pouring with rain.

I use a GPS tracker to geotag my photos, but can also output my routes as lines on a map using Google Earth. Here is the majority of my cycling and walking in NYC, though some specific parts are missing due to dead batteries and forgetfulness.
I use a GPS tracker to geotag my photos, but can also output my routes as lines on a map using Google Earth. Here is the majority of my cycling and walking in NYC, though some specific parts are missing due to dead batteries and forgetfulness.

As you see, I never visited the Bronx or Staten Island, sticking only to Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. Not only that, I didn’t leave NYC itself at all. As I travel a lot with work, I often visit cities for one day, or just a few hours. I was invited to Boston and other cities, but turned down every one, as my idea of a holiday is not traveling at all!

New York Unicycle Festival on Governor’s Island.
New York Unicycle Festival on Governor's Island.

Shopping on Broadway.
Shopping on Broadway.

The photo called “I’M IN NEW YORK MOTHERFUCKER DON’T YOU EVER FORGET”
The photo called

US Open Tennis.
US Open Tennis.

Sweat marks after long bike rides wearing a backpack.
Sweat marks after long bike rides wearing a backpack.

On my first Wednesday, my housemate for the month said “You play the guitar, right? We’re having a song writers’ circle at a friend’s place. You should come along and share some songs.”
On my first Wednesday, my housemate for the month said

Getting to know the people in this photo was one of the best parts of my trip! Sharing my music was okay, but hearing their music, and seeing them perform around the city really made the difference.

I also hung out with the geeks. Scott and Rym are the hosts of a podcast I listen to, and we often met up for dinner, trips, podcasting, and in this case, playing nerdy games.
I also hung out with the geeks. Scott and Rym are the hosts of a podcast I listen to, and we often met up for dinner, trips, podcasting, and in this case, playing nerdy games.

I was in NYC for September 11th.
I was in NYC for September 11th.

I took lots of photos at night.
I took lots of photos at night.

I sublet a room in Hipsterville, otherwise known as Bushwick. There was always something going on in these two buildings, including parties on the roof, or parties in the other apartments, or parties in the basement…
I sublet a room in Hipsterville, otherwise known as Bushwick. There was always something going on in these two buildings, including parties on the roof, or parties in the other apartments, or parties in the basement...

I cycled most of the way round Manhattan, keeping as close to the shore as possible. Under the George Washington Bridge I found this tiny lighthouse.
I cycled most of the way round Manhattan, keeping as close to the shore as possible. Under the George Washington Bridge I found this tiny lighthouse.

I went to see the Mets lose a game of baseball with the geeks.
I went to see the Mets lose a game of baseball with the geeks.

I hung out on the beach with all the Williamsburg hipsters.
I hung out on the beach with all the Williamsburg hipsters.

I walked the length of Manhattan on Broadway.
I walked the length of Manhattan on Broadway.

I walked around the city at night.
I walked around the city at night.

I went to the top of the Rockefeller center at sunset.
I went to the top of the Rockefeller center at sunset.

I juggled in Bryant Park.
I juggled in Bryant Park.

I met up with Emily at the computer game studio where she works.
I met up with Emily at the computer game studio where she works.

I made friends with Emily and Isha, performers at the New York Clown Festival.
I made friends with Emily and Isha, performers at the New York Clown Festival.

I ate eight bacon cheeseburgers in eight days in an attempt to find the Ultimate New York Burger.
I ate eight bacon cheeseburgers in eight days in an attempt to find the Ultimate New York Burger.

Here’s me with my bike on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Here's me with my bike on the Brooklyn Bridge.

I cycled to Coney Island, rode some rides, ate a hotdog, and fell asleep on the beach.
I cycled to Coney Island, rode some rides, ate a hotdog, and fell asleep on the beach.

I saw five or six bands, including this awesome set by Lyle Divinsky and company.
I saw five or six bands, including this awesome set by Lyle Divinsky and company.

I went to the Maker Faire World Congress, and saw Eepy Bird live.
I went to the Maker Faire World Congress, and saw Eepy Bird live.

In other words, I was pretty busy in New York! In the 26 days, I only stayed in two evenings. I had lots of goals for the trip, and managed to meet all of them. I also did way more besides, exceeding every expectation.

Even the weather stayed on my side!

For the entire trip I spent quite a lot of money, but much of it was either on things not specifically for the trip, or I managed to reclaim some of the money. For example, by subletting my massive and very nice apartment in Berlin, I managed to rent a single small room in a barely furnished shared apartment in NYC. And all the things I bought in NYC (excluding my bike) I took back to Berlin. Also I eat food in Berlin too, but food in NYC costs way more, so I reckon I spent about twice as much on food in NYC than normal.

So once I do all the sums, including flights, I spent about 1700 dollars on holiday specific expenses. Not bad for a 26 day New York vacation!

I expect I’ll visit NYC again, and would love to spend a few weeks there next year. Thanks to everyone I met for making it an extra special trip!


Family photos

Living in Berlin, Germany, I don’t see my extended family that often. But I spent this past week in London, and thanks to the amazing transport infrastructure in the UK, I managed to visit quite a few family members I’ve not seen for years.

I’m kidding about the “amazing transport”.

I saw two out of three siblings, two out of two parents, two out of two surviving grandparents, two out of three uncles, four out of six nieces, one out of two aunties, one out of one sister in law, and one out of two brothers in law.

I visited my sister, who has four daughters. Here is Bethany and Hannah.
I visited my sister, who has four daughters. Here is Bethany and Hannah.

Becky and John, my brother in law.
Becky and John, my brother in law.

Hannah again.
Hannah again.

Debra and, in the background, Esther and Becky.
Debra and, in the background, Esther and Becky.

Becky.
Becky.

Hannah again.
Hannah again.

Becky steaming up her glasses.
Becky steaming up her glasses.

Hannah again.
Hannah again.

The whole family.
The whole family.

Learning to juggle two balls.
Learning to juggle two balls.

I took a trip up to meet my parents, who were visiting my mother’s parents. My grandmother has been put in a home since I met her last. She used to be fun and talkative, but this visit was mostly full of me sitting talking at her, and getting not much response. And then sitting in silence.
I took a trip up to meet my parents, who were visiting my mother's parents. My grandmother has been put in a home since I met her last. She used to be fun and talkative, but this visit was mostly full of me sitting talking at her, and getting not much response. And then sitting in silence.

My mother on the left, my grandmother on the right.
My mother on the left, my grandmother on the right.

On the other hand, my grandfather has changed in the opposite direction. Richard, or “Grampy” as he was known to his grandchildren, used to be quiet and grumpy. Now, after a stroke earlier this year, he’s really bubbly and talkative.
On the other hand, my grandfather has changed in the opposite direction. Richard, or



Richard is my uncle. He is blind.
Richard is my uncle. He is blind.


Richard and Richard (father and son).
Richard and Richard (father and son).

Grampy again.
Grampy again.


London trip

Here are some photos from my week in London.

Self portrait on Hampstead Heath.
Self portrait on Hampstead Heath.

Everything is OK at Camden Lock.
Everything is OK at Camden Lock.

Oddballs shop, where I bought some new beanbags.
Oddballs shop, where I bought some new beanbags.

Kim-Nga shopping for gloves.
Kim-Nga shopping for gloves.

On the tube.
On the tube.

Squirrel posing with a nut.
Squirrel posing with a nut.

Trying to herd pigeons in three dimensions is very difficult.
Trying to herd pigeons in three dimensions is very difficult.

HMS Belfast.
HMS Belfast.

Tower Bridge.
Tower Bridge.

Tower Bridge.
Tower Bridge.

Long exposure experiment.
Long exposure experiment.

TAM London.
TAM London.


Tim Minchin.
Tim Minchin.


NaNoWriMo 2010 ideas

It’s coming up to November, and that means NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. The goal: to write 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

I did it in 2008, and completed the challenge. That novel became Minding Tomorrow. In 2009 I had another go at NaNoWriMo, and wrote one of the story of Combat, the followup novel to Minding Tomorrow. I didn’t actually write 50,000 words in November, because I completed the story sooner than expected. Anyway, NaNoWriMo did its job, and by the end December 19th I had a 50,333 word novel.

What about this year?

Well, I have quite a few choices. I’ll break down my current writing projects and story ideas. All titles are working titles only.

Arc of Life: a large scale fantasy novel. I wrote a quarter of this back in June, but life kinda got in the way in July, August and September.

NaNoWriMo suitability: I think the point is to start at the beginning of a novel, rather than trying to write 50,000 words of an ongoing project. I think I’ll save this one and work on it later.

Human Danger: a retelling of a classic science fiction story from the point of view of the alien. I wrote 24,000 words of this story back in 2009, before working out a way better ending than I had when I started it. That meant I would have to write it again from the start though, and I didn’t feel like doing it right away.

NaNoWriMo suitability: Good. I’d be able to go straight into writing it, as I’ve got the entire thing planned. However, as I have to keep continuity with the original story, individual scenes are a real pain to write. I’d have to do a bit more planning during October to be read.

Monster Story: A human colony sets themselves up on a planet, and discovers there are more dangerous animals out there than they first thought.

I wrote this as a novella (35,000 words), but was unhappy with it. So I wrote extensive notes to see how to fix it. As it happens, I wrote the notes in the form of a meeting between three characters, and enjoyed it so much I released it as The Monster Story Conference. Strangely, the notes ran to just under 35,000 words too, though it only took me five days from start to end.

I want to write the final version of this story. It’ll be very easy, as I have two versions already, and I’ve thought about it a lot. I will be starting from scratch, but it feels a bit strange considering I’ve already written 70,000 words on this story already!

NaNoWriMo suitability: Good, but the final story won’t be 50,000 words long.

The Great Escape: A mystery set in a prisoner of war camp. A group is trying to tunnel to freedom, and our hero joins the effort. But not everything is how it seems.

The overall structure and concept of Monster Story came to me, in almost a complete form, in a dream. Maybe it is why I find the story so compelling. On Friday afternoon, during a nap, I dreamed the entire story and concept of The Great Escape. I can’t get it out of my head!

NaNoWriMo suitability: Good, but I think I need to let this one stew in my brain for a while longer, to get a better handle on the characters and scenes. They made perfect sense in my dream, but I know if I tried to write it so soon it’ll be very weak.

Minding Tomorrow part 3: Combat is not a direct followup to Minding Tomorrow, but it is set in the same future, with characters and events in common. Either can be read first. MT3 will be a followup to both novels, and feature the characters of both coming together to solve ever bigger problems.

I’ve had the events of this story banging about in my head for years, since way before I ever wrote Minding Tomorrow. I think I’m ready to finally write it.

NaNoWriMo suitability: Very good. I wrote the previous two novels during November, so why not this one? However, I don’t want to only put out stories set in the world of Minding Tomorrow. I feel I have a lot more than that to offer as a writer!

MT4/Monster Story Prequel: Yeah, I’ve always imagined Minding Tomorrow and the Monster Story happen in the same future timeline. Even though they are completely different stories, both thematically and stylistically, it might be fun to write the story that links the two.

Put it this way, the events at the end of MT3 are the reasons why the colonists go to Lanamay with the technology they have. Except for the Conveyor Drive, everything is set. MT4 will be about the invention of the Conveyor Drive.

NaNoWriMo suitability: Not good. I need to write MT3 first. Or Monster Story first. Certainly not this one.

The Pseudonomicon: I wrote down the title, but have never come up with a story to go with it.

NaNoWriMo suitability: None.

Train Mystery: Murder on the Orient Express meets Einstein’s thought experiments about relativity, the one with the beam of light bouncing off mirrors on a moving train.

I just looked at my notes on this story idea, and they need a LOT of work.

NaNoWriMo suitability: Not this year! Also, the story would probably be too short.

Cruise: The story of a cruise ship that’s in a port when a revolution and military coup take place in the city at the same time. Various member of the service staff are taken prisoner ashore, and yet the captain is ordered to sail away, out of trouble. The prisoners ashore start getting killed, so the service staff on board mutiny, take over the ship, and sail back again to save their colleagues. Etc. Etc.

Unlike all the above stories, there are no science fiction or fantasy elements to this story at all. Instead I’d draw on all my knowledge of working on cruise ships.

NaNoWriMo suitability: Good, but I don’t feel as passionate about this story compared to the others.

Looking at the above list, it comes down to Human Danger, MT3 or Monster Story. I have two weeks to decide. Meanwhile I do research and prepare notes for all three.

Any thoughts on which you think I should write?