I made this…

Hobbies, Stained glass No Comments

I didn’t have the glass to make panels based on the custom patterns I’m working on, so while I waited for that order to arrive I used some old glass to make a smallish practice panel using a pattern (not mine, I got it off the internetz) inspired by Art Nouveau glass by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It looks like this, and is 8″ x 11 1/4″:


I still need to solder some loops on it so I can attach a chain and hang it in a window, but I haven’t had a chance to get to the hardware store yet. Happily my glass order arrived as promised, in two business days, and shipping was much less than expected. (I budgeted $80 for shipping, it cost $23. Huzzah!) I’m really happy to have found the very friendly and helpful folks at Atlantic Stained Glass — having a relatively local reliable supplier just makes this all so much easier.

On being unplugged

Internet, Ramblings 2 Comments

rob, being totally intrepid

Spending a full two weeks offline turned out to be more interesting than I expected. Like many of my friends, I believed that I’d be itching for some connectivity or email or news or Twitters within a matter of days. But I wasn’t. I thought I’d end up feeling cut off and isolated having no access to Web feeds, news sites, email, or TV. But I didn’t. I thought that, by the end of my exile, I’d be relieved when I was finally able to get back online. But that didn’t happen either.

Instead what I discovered is that being online all the time is profoundly fragmenting, stressful, and distracting. It turns out that I really don’t need to be incessantly jacked into the Matrix, that having constant, up-to-date information about all the myriad details of global, economic, political, and technology news doesn’t make me better, stronger, faster, more knowledgeable, or better informed. What it does make me is more scattered, erratic, stressed, edgy, and flighty.

Yes, flighty.

During my two week exile from the Intarwebs, I rediscovered my ability to read long, complex pieces of writing in a single sitting. I regained a sense of calm and an ability to focus of which I had forgotten I was capable. Without the constant distraction of email and IM and IRC and Twitter and Growl and SMS and Web feeds and the telephone and everything else, I found myself more present than I have felt in a long, long time. By contrast, the constant barrage of interruptions and distractions feels very much like a system that appears stable only because all the subsystems are equally unstable. Let just one of those subsystems get out of whack and the whole mess comes crashing down. This, I’ve realized, is neither wise nor healthy.

I also discovered that the lack of a clear line between “work” and “not-work” makes me insane. Now that I have regained some tenuous grasp of my sanity (which I hadn’t realized I’d lost until I stumbled across it again), I’m going to try to hang on to and strengthen it by being very, very disciplined about establishing and maintaining work/not-work boundaries. I’ve been working from home for four years now so this could be a bit tricky, and I’m bound to backslide now and again (and crunch-times are fair game, of course), but it’s a worthy and necessary goal. So far it’s working out.

It’s just time to slow down. I’ve spent the past eleven years continually ramping up my information consumption and communications channels, while gradually blurring the lines between work and not-work to the point of invisibility. I’ve been boiling that frog so unbelieveably slowly that I really had no idea just how stressful it had become. But now I do, so now it’s time to start fixing it.

Vacation lesson #2: Slow isn’t just for food.

Books I read while on vacation

Books 2 Comments

the house where we lived for two weeks

We stayed in a house in a small town called La Roque sur Pernes in the south of France for two weeks (pictured above). There was no internet, no tv, no radio. I didn’t take my laptop or cellphone. I did take a bunch of books, and there was a shelf-full already there. The result is that I read a lot. Here’s the list, with very short reviews.

  • Anathem, by Neal Stephenson. Awesome, A+++, will definitely re-read it. Highly recommended.
  • Moving Targets, by Margaret Atwood. Must read for Atwood fans, missable otherwise.
  • The Good Earth, by Pearl S Buck. Fantastic.
  • Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. This was a third re-read for me, so obviously I love this book.
  • Toujours Provence, by Peter Mayle. Meh.
  • My Life in France, by Julia Child. Fun and interesting. Julia was quite a woman.
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, by Dai Sijie. Excellent. My favourite of the trip. Short, one-sitting sort of thing, but absolutely fantastic.
  • World Without End, by Ken Follett. Another medieval page turner, but very, very similar to his other medieval page turner (the story of which happened in the same town some 400 years earlier). Good, but not great.
  • The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley. Erratically written and awkwardly paced. Feels like the outline of a more epic trilogy that just never got written.
  • Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. Sadly, this one doesn’t hold up. Loved it when I first read it however many years ago, sort of slogged my way through it the second time. Luckily Stephenson has already completely redeemed himself with Anathem.

Vacation lesson #1 – I love reading. I’m going to be making a lot more time for it again, mostly by getting up at 6am and not opening the laptop ’til 10am. Turns out it’s a really nice way to start a day.

Photographing Provence

General No Comments


Rob and I just got back from a two week vacation in the south of France where we drank wine, ate cheese, and spent a bunch of time hanging out with Zab and Alice. Being the photo nerds we are, of course, we took a bunch of pictures. You can see Rob’s at his Flickr set, and mine are in my Flickr set.

Part of my vacation was getting away from the computers as much as I could (seriously, I was offline for 14 days, more on that later when I’ve had a chance to reflect), so I took a decidedly minimalist stance regarding what gadgetry I packed. I had to take a camera, of course, but I took a very, very stripped down kit that included only:

  • Nikon D80 body
  • Nikon 20mm f2.8 prime lens
  • Nikon 35mm f2.0 prime lens
  • 2 8gb memory cards (of which I used one)
  • An extra battery, a lens brush, and a microfiber cloth

This all fit nicely into my de-badged Domke F-5x shoulder bag, which is about 1/3rd the size of my regular camera bag. The kit was a little limiting, but the limitations were challenging in a fun way. (More than once I did find myself very much wishing I had 85mm and 135mm lenses with me, a few instances where a tripod would have been good, and I really should have included a polarizer filter.) I ended up taking around 650 pictures over the course of two weeks, of which I’ve posted around 190. I’ll write more about the trip later on sometime, but it should be said that a good time was had by all, although I may be ruined for cheap wines and not-French butter now.

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