Monday, December 1, 2014

My First Art Show


Last night I took down my photography at Vic's. Thank you to the entire Vic's crew who's generosity in giving me space to display my work for a month was tremendous (complete "thank yous" at the bottom of this post).

What an amazing experience!

Art

Art. I've had an intensely long struggle with this word. Of course, the understanding of the word is akin to trying to understand the meaning of life. The understanding, if one can come to one at all, comes from a never-ending relationship with beauty. I'm still working on my definition of "art," but I generally go with something around art being an attempt to bring something in the minds' eye, to life for others to witness and interpret. I'm undecided on whether or not "art" can exist if only its creator witnesses it. "Does a tree falling alone in the woods make a sound" kind of stuff.

I've struggled with whether or not photography can be art. My struggle is over thanks to this experience and discussions and perspective from people I consider "artists." Photography can be art for sure. It's art when the photographer can get something unique and powerful and subtle to be seen by the viewer. After this experience, I consider myself an artist. It feels so cool to say that. The acceptance came on the first day while I was hanging my work. Someone asked "are you the artist?" "I guess so" I replied.

Economics

The "show" wasn't about revenue, it was about taking a risk in putting myself out into the real world from an artistic standpoint. I spent a ton having everything printed and mounted. I'm sure what I did could've been closely replicated for probably half the cost if one were diligent and shopped around and cut a couple of corners. I didn't post any pricing information, though everything was for sale. Each piece's placard had "emailaddress for inquiries" on it. Over the course of a month, two people reached out inquiring about specific pieces; they wanted pricing info. In Salesforce speak (no, I didn't actually use Salesforce), one of the deals is Closed-Won, and the other is Qualified; "almost there."

I grappled with how to price things. I still have no clue how to do so. The algorithm I used to price was "a little more than cost to produce the physical object." I didn't take into account some abstract notion of demand, or quality of the shot, or the costs that went into actually taking the shot. I prioritized getting my work into someone else's life; onto their wall. I wasn't going to give things away for free though.

Even if you did the budget version of my production, and used my lame pricing model (which I don't advise), you'd be hard pressed to make a living doing one-at-a-time cafe shows. You'd need to play with the simultaneous-shows vector, and/or the price vector, to "get the money right."

Inspiration

The experience has been deeply inspiring. The number of times during setup and teardown that I was approached with versions of heartfelt "this is beautiful work," deeply impacted me. Touching someone with my art evokes an intense motivating feeling; a deeply connecting feeling.

Several times while just sitting and having coffee in the cafe people approached me asking if I was the artist. I have no idea how they knew me; I was just being a random customer and not interacting with the photographs in any way.

As I was leaving Vic's last night, the barista went out of his way to tell me about how many compliments and discussions the show had evoked from customers, and how the staff was going to miss the installation.

Online vs. Offline

I've been posting pics online in various forms since the dawn of digital photography. The online "social" feedback loops for ego stroking and means for expression are amazing. However, there is nothing like shaking the hand of someone you touched with your art, while standing in front of it and admiring it together. The experience was a neat reminder of the necessity of "real-life" interaction; I've missed that. Speaking of "real-life" interaction, a friend posted this powerful short film about human connection in the future.

Thank You

Thank you to everyone that complimented my efforts. Thank you to Vic's for letting me show my work. Thank you to Photo Craft for the awesome printing and mounting service (specifically Claire who helped me accept, and take on, the challenges of translating digital photography to print (not at all easy)). Thank you to my friends and family who took time out of their day to go see my show. Thank you to the folks that bought my work.

Thank you to everyone who provided me feedback, and put up with my dragging a camera everywhere. Particular thanks to you if you patiently waited for me to "get the shot."

Thank you for teaching, guiding, inspiring, encouraging, and motivating me. You've given me one of the greatest gifts of my life.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Secure Communications

Like you, I was devastated to learn of the NSA (and associated services) finding there way into protocols and toolchains and algorithms that I've trusted for years. I was recently pointed to an open source project that gives me hope around securing my wire communications again; Streisand.

The underlying connection stack that sits between you (your laptop, your mobile phone, your iPad, your whatever-IP/DNS-enabled device) and the network at large is increasingly exposed to wrongdoers. As talented software/hardware developers increase in numbers, and toolsets/frameworks explode, pulling together toolkits to steal/re-route your network traffic/information (e.g. credit cards/passwords) gets easier by the day.

Streisand is an open-source project that, relatively easily, allows you to setup the backbone of secure communications, using a variety of encryption technologies/tools/protocols. Coupled with a cloud instance provider, and a open source VPN client, you can protect your IP traffic all the way down to the wire via a virtual network somewhere, completely disassociated with your personal identity. You can inspect every line of code yourself in each package, so only you are to blame if you leave a pesky buffer overrun in the mix for exploitation. You can use your own tokens/keys, so you don't have to worry about malicious/overused/weak tokens/keys being used to encrypt/decrypt your traffic.

As the debate around net neutrality continues, trusting ISPs to do what you expect with your IP traffic gets harder and harder. Obfuscating that traffic gives me at least *some* control. I also like knowing that no matter what country/hotel/coffee shop/office building/etc I'm in, no-one else can decipher my communications over the wire.

There are a variety of "cloud services" that offer your own preconfigured VPN server in the cloud, but using someone else's service kind of defeats the point.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Day In Pictures; A(nother) Tuesday

Catching up with Gayle.
Mid-morning psycho-therapy with Jillian. #alignment

Lunch with Kyle.

Picking up the little one from school in absolutely gorgeous mid-afternoon Fall light.

Talking ATLAS Institute with Mark Gross over beers.

Boulder discussion with Robert Garber over beers (2nd round). I screwed up focus badly in this shot.

Pre-event dinner with April.

Debriefing the evening with nanny Natalya.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

iOS to Android Migration Complete

Punchline if you don't want to read further: I'm successfully using a compact Android phone (for now), but I want an iPhone 4S with NFC, running iOS.

Well, I did it. For the first time since Apple released an iPhone, mine (latest, iPhone 6) now sits discharged on a shelf, and an Android phone (Sony Xperia Z3 Compact; NOT rooted) sits in my pocket. I think the biggest reason I was able to decouple from Apple was that over the past couple of years I had weaned myself off of iTunes (once an awesome idea/model/framework, but now a lame relic of times past). Rdio for music. Tivo for TV. gmail for mail. google calendar for calendar. I never watched movies on my phone.

I bought a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact which runs Android (I'm running it on ATT's network (which I'm not supposed to be doing)). I ran Sony's Bridge software for Mac and transferred everything (and I mean _everything_; it even does App matching (perfect matches for those that exist, and suggestions for those that don't) from my iPhone to my Sony.

Neat things so far with Android.
  • Apps install _really_ quickly.
  • Service access permissions are nice and clear. Before an app can install, you have to grant/deny various permissions (e.g. accessing location or account information).
  • Auto-complete just works. Apple's always failed to auto-complete the things you really want to auto-complete (like email addresses).
  • Bluetooth just works. Pairing and re-connecting works as fast as it should and you never wind up in no-man's land searching for one radio or the other. Some of this upside could be due to Sony's Bluetooth radio/chipset. No way for me to know that right now.
  • Back button. Every app and OS window has the notion of needing to go "back," but iOS doesn't make this an accessible, OS-level, UI metaphor. Android does; which is super handy.
  • Tap-to-Pay and general NFC stuff (e.g. transfering pics from my Sony camera) works great.
  • Unlock your phone with your face.
  • external MicroSD card support. just by more storage when you need it.
  • micro USB connection for power.
  • Google Voice (or whatever they're calling their equivalent to Siri) is incredible!
Things I'm not liking with Android.
  • The scroll acceleration on the touch-screen doesn't feel right. It could just be that I'm so used to iPhone's, that it's feeling off.
  • It lacks a unified app notification framework. This means you have to chase down how each app does notifications (push, visual, audio, vibrate, etc). This is annoying. iOS does a fine job pulling this altogether in one consistent manner.
  • Encyrption handling when mounting. I encrypt everything (Internal & External memory card), and external apps (e.g. OSX when you go to mount the Android phone) struggle to interface with the phone. Sony's Bridge software does a decent job of letting me read/write from the Desktop, but this should be seemless (as iOS has made it) and everything should just look/feel like an external drive from the OS, whether encrypted or not. This could be a Sony issue and not an Android issue, I'm not sure yet. Oddly, Sony's Bridge software doesn't allow for encrypted backups to desktop; that's just plain lazy.
  • Unified full-handset backups are a PITA. There are services on Google Play that support cloud backups of everything, except Photos. Apple's done a damn good job at just backing _everything_ up in the Cloud so I never have to think about where my "system" is backed up, vs. where my "media" is backed up.
  • The voice interface doesn't allow for sending SMS via voice. I'm a heavy user of Siri. "Tell Joe I'll be there in 10 minutes" is something I do a dozen times a day. Typing out simple text messages is so 1800s. Voice command support needs to be better.
I was surprised that nearly every single application I was using on iOS had an Android counterpart.

I'm a heavy Google-apps user. So much of my world is stored in the Goog/cloud, and Google is so integrated into Android, that all the basic stuff like Calendar, Contacts, and email, "just work" (and in some cases much better).

Stuff I'm missing
  • Airplay screen mirror/share stuff
  • iMessage
Three things made the transfer _really_ smooth
  • Sony's Bridge software (worked fine with iOS 8 and Apple OSX Yosemite)
  • Last week I ditched Apple Contacts/iCloud Contact sync in favor of Google Contacts. To do this, I exported all my Apple Contacts from iCloud (after setting up iCloud sync), and imported them into Google then de-duped (mostly automated, but I did make a manual pass at some of the important contacts). I disabled the Contact and Calendar transfer with Sony Bridge as I didn't need those parts.
  • Google == Android and much of my digital world is on the Goog.
I feel like handset computers are purely a hardware game now. I moved off of iOS because the iPhone 6 sucked, but I wanted NFC (I'd waited years for Apple to produce h/w with NFC support, then when they did, it was this massive brick of a piece of h/w in the iPhone 6 (no... I'm not even talking about the 6+... the _6_)). If Apple can produce another beautiful handset, I'll probably switch back to that.

Curious to see if this lasts. My preference would be an appropriately sized Apple handset (e.g. iPhone 4S) running iOS, that has NFC. Apple is so friggin' late to the game with NFC; big industry miss on their part; sad. I'd already be back on my 5S, but... I need NFC.