Tools

Third Zenni specs


After a decent experience with buying glasses from Zenni, I decided to pick up a pair of dedicated computer glasses, with blue-blocking lenses and a prescription optimized for “arm’s length”.

I picked a pair of $7 frames, blue-blocking lenses, and their mid-range coating, and adjusted my distance prescription by rounding up the NV-ADD to .0/.5 and adding half of that to the SPH value. With shipping, they came to $45, and arrived in a week.

They work great.

A better camera bag…


For this latest trip to Japan, I’m taking my Sony A6500 body, 18-105mm f/4 lens, a small flash, a Litra Pro LED light, and an ancient Minolta 100-200mm f/4.5 with E-mount adapter. For accessories, I’m taking a Sirui 3T-35 tabletop tripod (sturdy and versatile, with an Arca/Swiss-style mini ballhead), and a small color checker card. I’ll have my Ninja Reflector in the suitcase, in case we have a really scenic view out of one of our hotel rooms, but I don’t expect to pack it along unless we go to an aquarium or museum where everything’s under glass.

I spent some time a few months ago trying to figure out how exactly I was going to carry it all. I have (coughcough) “several” camera bags. The smallest of my Domke bags would be more than big enough for this modest loadout, but it has two flaws: it looks like a camera bag, and it’s not a good fit for a trip that involves more shopping than serious photography.

What would be ideal is something like my old PacSafe anti-theft laptop backback, but with a proper camera insert to keep everything organized and protected. There are a lot of things like that out on the market, but they all end up looking like camera bags, and most of them are at best half-decent at other things.

Then I found the Tenba BYOB 10 (Bring Your Own Bag) insert:

Careful measurement of my PacSafe backpack confirmed that it would snuggle inside, protecting my gear without adding significant weight, allowing me to carry a bag I already like. Win-win.

Got pollen?


So, how’s the air today, Tokyo? Any issues you’d like to bring up?

First Zenni specs


After my unpleasant experience with “wear-all-day HD digital progressive” glasses, you think I’d avoid anything related, but for my first purchase from Zenni, I ordered a pair of near-range progressives, with rimless frames and blue-blocking lenses, and threw in a pair of amber clip-ons to use them at the pistol range (“front sight focus!”).

They arrived yesterday, and after adjusting the fit with a pair of needle-nose pliers, they’re working out great. For computer work, you need to have your monitor properly set up ergonomically, since the arms-length section of the lens is at the top. For reading, unlike the standard progressives, there’s no fuzzy edges or “swimming” effect. And a quick test confirms that they’ll be perfect for pistol shooting.

Zenni throws in a cheap hard case that offers some protection (padding only on the bottom), a good microfiber cleaning cloth, a keychain combo screwdriver (philips, slotted, and two sizes of hex nut), and a generous collection of spare screws, nuts, washers, and nose pads (not specific to your frame, so they may not match the color and style).

For their rimless frames, they offer a wide variety of lens shapes, and I’m quite happy with the ones I picked; they look just like I expected from the “try on” feature.

The one thing I didn’t realize, and regret slightly, is that the frames don’t fold; they just have spring arms. I’ll have to hunt through my old cases to find something that they fit into well.

Next pair will be simple single-prescription driving glasses with magnetic clip-on polarized shades, for about $35.

Dear Woot,


Please don’t screw it up this time.

(last time they sent a charger for the wrong generation, then ran out before they could exchange it; I got a refund, but I really wanted the charger…)

3/13 Update

Thanks, Woot; this time you sent the right charger. Why did I care about an N-generations-old Windows tablet? Well, first, because it has a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, HiDPI display, and the good pen, so it’s still quite a useful gadget, even before you take into account the fact that I have both the extended-battery US keyboard and the backlit Japanese keyboard.

Second, because quite a while back, Microsoft recalled the power cord (not the brick, just the part that went into the wall) due to thermal issues, but they had no provision for replacing a second power supply if you’d bought one. And I’ve long been in the habit of buying an extra when I plan to commute with a system. That left me with one known safe power supply and one that I couldn’t risk leaving unattended.

Getting a new OEM charger for less than what a fly-by-night Chinese company with a randomly-generated name charges on Amazon was a no-brainer.

Progressive Calenders


No, not that kind of “progressive”, the Wondermarkian sort, also called a continuous calendar. Every time he creates one of these in Illustrator and posts it, I save it away with the idea of knocking together a Perl script to generate my own. It only took 4 years for me to get around to it…

Let’s see if I can make a sensible download page for these:

The script needs some cleanup before I inflict it on the world (most likely as a web form). Also better font-handling; not only is there a hilarious bug in the header auto-sizing, but there are baseline issues with many (mostly CJK) fonts that make it tricky to position the numbers. I also need to make the locale-handling friendlier; the Perl DateTime module automagically pulls in month and day-of-week names for any language supported by locale(1), but specifying them as ja_JP, ko_KR, ru_RU, etc is “less than user-friendly”, and you have to switch to an appropriate font.

Sadly, the obvious free choice for a font that supports pretty much any language would be Noto, but its CJK fonts don’t work with PDF::API2.

One feature that’s still in progress is custom colors and text for specific dates. The idea is to feed it a custom list of holidays, birthdays, etc. Since I’m still working on text placement, right now it just sets foreground and background colors, which was enough for marking up a one-page, one-month vacation calendar for our upcoming Japan trip: red for flights, orange for shinkansen trips, blue for flea market days, and yellow background for “oh, crap, it’s Golden Week”.

Update

…and I’ve fixed the silly font sizing/positioning bugs and re-uploaded. Part of my problem was that I was fighting some silly fonts, and the epicycles required to position them vertically were screwing with the non-silly fonts. I still have a fudge factor in the script, but now it’s based on identifying the silliness (capheight or ascender >= bbox ymax).

Just noticed…

Trello’s calendar add-on works this way, but with just a subtle shading change as you move between months (along with the gray-on-gray text thing, which never fails to annoy me).

Blog software update


I bit the bullet and upgraded Hugo finally, from 0.41 to 0.53. Why so far? Because in 0.42, they re-did the internals for making relative references to pages by name, and made it a fatal error if pages in completely different sections had the same filename. Even if you never actually referenced them.

This was a show-stopper, because the only way to build your site was to fix all filename collisions, which meant breaking external links. In my case, about 300 of them on the blog, and several thousand on the recipe site (which, being automatically generated based on the recipe name, was hard to deal with; why, after all, shouldn’t two completely different collections be able to have a recipe named “egg-salad”?).

After some back-and-forth, they made it a warning that such references will return non-deterministic results, but by then there had been other changes that affected output, and I always do a full diff of the site to catch undocumented changes. And the diffs kept getting bigger.

Today I finally broke down, renamed all the colliding entries in my various microblogs (mostly affecting external links to the Quotes section), and scrolled through the 93,923 lines of diff output. Fortunately, 95% of it turned out to be removal of a bunch of gratuitous <p></p> pairs inserted by the old version of their Markdown library (either completely empty, or around <div> tags). Looks like they actually undid some of the changes that had increased the diff size for earlier versions.

As far as I can tell, nothing noteworthy broke, so I’m back in sync with the devs, and I’ve shaved a few seconds off my build time again.

Canary Cardboard Cutter


These little suckers are not only great for breaking down all the cardboard boxes you get with your Amazon shipments, they turn out to be a terrific way to tear through ‘ballistic nylon’ straps, duffels, and laptop bags (a power I’ve used only for good…). Much faster than knives or shears, especially for extracting strap and clasp hardware.

In theory, they’re disposable; in practice, they last quite a while.

Pro tip: when disposing of old duffels and laptop bags, check all pockets for leftover cash, gaffer tape, screen cleaner, and tools. I’d been wondering where that old SOG multitool had gotten to…

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”