Monday 25 April 2016

The golden light of autumn afternoons is the most beautiful time of year here. It’s also the only sign of autumn this year; it’s still warm, even, or especially, in the ocean. We just had our first break since I started my new job and went to visit Jen at Diamond Beach and then Andrew’s parents. We last visited Jen’s beach place in 2010 when V was a little baby, also for the ANZAC Day long weekend, and it had just turned too cold to swim. This time it was even an acceptable temperature to Andrew, and the weather was lovely. As a bonus, we didn’t have a terribly confused three month old baby with us who screamed in exhaustion for the first three hours we were there, although the trade-off is that instead of one child, we now have two.

I was thinking we’d had a quiet month, but I see we managed to squeeze in Deadpool, a trip to Luna Park, a visit to my parents for Easter, a whirlwind trip to the US for Andrew (left Sunday, visited Mountain View and New York, returned Sunday seven days later), a trip to Luna Park with Ben and Anna and then a visit to them at the beach and a trial of paddle-boarding, a tea party for A and her cousin C, and the trip this week. I’ve only been to Melbourne twice, which is a special unique to me version of quiet.

Deadpool was nearly a bust; it was the first time we’ve been rained out of the Moonlight Cinema. So we doubled down and got “luxe” tickets to see it at Hoyts, a cinema with a ceiling. The luxe cinemas are a new (to me) thing where you’re basically in a giant loungeroom: there are about eight sets of two seats. And there’s table service popcorn. A really strange feeling; private but not really. I will return to my dual approach of completely public or real loungeroom cinemas. I found the movie itself a bit frustrating; if you’re going to break the fourth wall and get all metafictional, critique your own plot and pacing, says me. We had dinner beforehand at Hartsyard, which is doing North America comfort food, up-market, strangely similar to going to a private-but-not-really cinema. But also really good.

I was warned (and believed) that paddle-boarding is harder than it looks, which isn’t much of a warning since it looks really peaceful and easy. The main issue is balance; it’s not impossible by any means, but the board moves from side to side as you’re paddling it forwards, so you’re unstable in at least four directions at once. They also have a very large turning circle, or at least they do when I’m steering them. I’d be happy to try it more regularly if I lived right on the beach but I think it would be hard to progress much without a week or two of pretty regular trying. I enjoyed giving it a go though; I miss having the freedom to try new physical things. Right now I tend to have A attached to me like a limpet when other people are having adventures.

Andrew having been away for one week is no longer really a noticeable blip in my life. I do notice that I don’t have any other adult interactions for the entire time he’s away, but I don’t so much notice that my workload is increased. It’s not as though I was kicking back those evenings anyway. He got to see Hamilton performed by (much of) the original cast, with an empty seat next to him and all. Clearly I was with him in spirit. On the other hand, I go away for two weeks on Wednesday. That’s a real dent in everyone’s lives. An empty seat or three next to me won’t be very helpful either. It will be very hard on everyone. I’ve had one or two little children for six years now, I will for another two or so. I’m more than ready for the emotional freedom that comes with a little bit of maturity.

Make your Dreamhost site HTTPS-only

Encrypt all the traffic!

Some of the archival Ada Initiative web content is hosted on Dreamhost, and today I re-enabled HTTPS for it now that Let’s Encrypt certificates are available both on Dreamhost and

Here’s how to enable, and insist on, HTTPS connections to sites hosted on Dreamhost:

  1. Log into the panel
  2. Go to Secure Hosting
  3. Click ‘Add Secure Hosting’
  4. Select the domain you want from the dropdown, check the box next to ‘By checking this option you agree to the Let’s Encrypt Terms of Service.’, leave ‘Unique IP’ unchecked, and press ‘Add now’.
  5. Important: wait for an email from Dreamhost telling you the certificate is ready. This seems to take about fifteen minutes or so. The email contains a copy of the certificate but you don’t need to do anything with it, they configure the webserver automatically at about the same time as they send the email.
  6. Once you have received the email, check that your site is available at https://YOUR-URL and that your browswer does not report errors. (If it does, wait around 15 minutes, try again, and if you’re still seeing errors, screenshot them and contact Dreamhost support.)

Now that HTTPS is working on your site, you can then force all HTTP requests to redirect to HTTPS by placing this in the ~/YOUR-URL/.htaccess file:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
# Redirect all insecure requests
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} !=on
RewriteRule ^/?(.*) https://%{SERVER_NAME}/$1 [R=301,L]

# tell web browsers not to even try HTTP on this domain for the next year
# uncomment this only after you've confirmed your site is working on HTTPS, since it commits you to providing it over HTTPS
# Header set Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000" env=HTTPS

Check that visiting http://YOUR-URL now redirects to https://YOUR-URL, and the same should be true of pages underneath http://YOUR-URL.

Feature request for Dreamhost: make a “force HTTPS” option in your standard config.

For more information on Strict-Transport-Security see HTTP Strict Transport Security for Apache, NGINX and Lighttpd and Stack Overflow: How to set HSTS header from .htaccess only on HTTPS.

Bonus round: update absolute links

If your site is a bunch of static HTML files, and you have done a lot of absolute linking to your own webpages, here’s a possible command you could run, replacing with your own domain. I don’t recommend running it unless you know the UNIX command line, and you have a fairly good idea of what find and sed both do:
cp -a ~/$DOMAIN ~/$DOMAIN-backup-before-https-edit
cd ~/$DOMAIN
find -type f -name "*.html" -exec sed -i "s/http:\/\/$DOMAIN/https:\/\/$DOMAIN/g" {} \;

Creative Commons License
Make your Dreamhost site HTTPS-only by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Facts to definitely give when advertising your event, an incomplete list

The year. Otherwise your event for the 18th April might be in a few weeks, or it may be a stale webpage from your very successful and very over event in 2004.

The weekday. Otherwise I can’t intersect your event’s day and my (ridiculously complicated) personal calendar in my head and figure out if this is a Tuesday probably-I-could-swing-it event or a Wednesday nope-I’ll-be-in-Melbourne event without authenticating to some device and opening my calendar navigating to the day and… SQUIRREL.

If you are kind-hearted, you could add a few of very very many pieces of information suggested in the AdaCamp template lovingly brought to you by seven revisions of AdaCamps. But you can start off with the year and weekday.

Related: Terms not to use when negotiating meeting times, an incomplete list

Saturday 19 March 2016

Since last I wrote, I have been on a plane 18 times. It’s been surprisingly OK, or at least not the hardest part of my current work arrangements. Taxis on the other hand, taxis are annoying. The stale smoke, the air freshener, the heating that’s several degrees too warm, the windows open for fresh air at 100 km/hr. Some of this I can ask them to stop, but really the issue is that I’m tired and I really just want to sit, think, and not get carsick. Big dreams. Peak so far was the guy who knew I was late for a plane (no fault of his, it was traffic) who burbled reassuring fantasies in which I’d make the plane after all. Maybe the traffic will clear up around this corner? Or maybe this one? Traffic is really bad hey, maybe they’re holding all the planes for late passengers?

I don’t know that I want to live in the world where Melbourne’s traffic holds up all the planes on the East Coast.

And I did make the plane; it took me less than ten minutes from closing the car door to sitting down in seat 9D at the other end of Melbourne’s Terminal 4. No mean feat. I see the Australian Federal Police want to re-institute ID checks to clear security in Australian airports, so I look forward to my travel days getting an hour longer every time.

It’s a messy year too. V is at a new school to go with last year’s new house, which broke my heart to do (I attended five primary schools in five years myself). May it be his last for a long time. We have five different childcare arrangements, one for each day of the week. A is slowly transitioning to a new childcare centre as they have space. This does have the bright side that I don’t have to drive to Glebe, where I thought we’d live forever, every day any more. Glebe and I need a bit of space.

I spent half of January in SF. In order to approach a tiring new job in the most sensible of fashions, the second I was over the jetlag I left for Tahoe for three days. It did result in a fairly good morning of skiing, my first intermediate runs. Then the entire Nevada side of Heavenly got closed, we skiied to California, skipped lunch, and the afternoon wasn’t so great, but what I’m learning on the snow does seem to stick. I met a lot of people, got home, kicked off the school year, and we’re mostly settled in, just in time for holidays to mess it all up.

L&R visited Sydney in February, so lots of barbecues and beach trips and other things not available in Quebec in the winter. V got to visit McIvers Baths before he ages out of being allowed in them, and A threw a mysterious and epic tantrum until I finally worked out that she wanted to be piggybacked around the baths just like V. Lots of forgetting to plan to bring A home in the middle of the day for her nap, too, alas.

Around about that point, summer got repressive. It was a cool and rainy January, and then February came and sat on us for the entire month, bright and moist and overbearing. My hair must have been wet for the entire month. My niece N was born at the beginning of February, and Jette’s son L in the middle of the month, and they no doubt believe the world is a giant uterus.

I had a manicure which turned bright pink when it got cold, and the only ways I saw it happen were with ice cubes or visits to Melbourne. It’s hard to describe exactly how sticky and exhausted we were. I spent last weekend at Kiwifoo in Snells Beach north of Auckland, a North Island version of Jervis Bay, amid ludicrous shades of green and black and white cattle. It’s hard to dislike work travel when home is so unpleasant. Today, on the other hand, smells like the first day of autumn. The sunlight seems yellower and more angled. It’s warm when the air is still and cool when it isn’t. The first day of a season, the first real day, is always the best.

The 92nd Down Under Feminists Carnival

This article originally appeared on Hoyden About Town.

In blue on a white background, the DUFC logo: in a square with rounded corners, there is the female/feminine symbol; with the Southern Cross inside, above which it says 'Down Under' and below 'Feminists Carnival'.

Welcome! This post is the 92nd monthly Down Under Feminists Carnival. This edition of the carnival gathers together December 2015 writing of feminist interest by writers living in Australia and New Zealand. Thanks to all the writers and submitters for making this carnival enraging, sorrowful, celebratory, and joyous in different ways and at different times.

Highlighted new(er) Down Under voices

I’ve highlighted posts that come from people who began been writing at their current home in 2015, such posts are marked with (new in 2015) after the link.

This carnival observes the rule that each writer may feature at most twice.

Race, ethnicity and racism

Celeste Liddle was angry that Andrew Bolt of all people will be centered by the ABC in the constitutional recognition of indigeonous people debate.

The inquest into the August 2014 death of Ms Dhu in custody in continued in early December (now to resume in March). December writing about Ms Dhu’s death and the inquest included:

Stephanie explored peak white person in travel writing about drug tourism to Colombia.


Australian feminist bike zine 3rd Gear launched, with Issue #1 available and Issue #2 calling for submissions (new in 2015).

Catherine Womack swam at McIver’s Baths in Sydney; a women-and-children space.

Ashleigh Witt asked why private health insurers in Australia won’t pay for contraception?

Jo Tamar detected classist overtones in the reporting of bulk-billed IVF treatment in Australia.

Kath asked for marketing of plus-sized clothes that is unashamed and aspirational, using models in the size range of the clothes.

Rebecca shared educational information about breast cancer after another treatment.


Stephanie made fun of the silly IBM #hackahairdryer campaign.

Deborah observed that there are more men named David running NZX-listed firms than there are women.

Harassment and abuse

Brydie Lee-Kennedy discussed her experience in the Australian comedy community as a domestic abuse survivor.

On December 1, Clementine Ford shared abusive messages she’s received online. In the followup Kerri Sackville kicked off a Twitter campaign sharing the names of men who send abusive messages on the #EndViolenceAgainstWomen hashtag. Other writeups include:

Clementine Ford, Van Badham, Lou Heinrich and Hoyden‘s own Viv Smythe spoke to Tanya Ashworth about optimism in the face of online abuse and Viv followed up about her feminist burnout.

Lauredhel invited people to resolve to oppose rape culture in 2016.

Deborah Russell condemned NZ PM John Key’s participation in a prison rape joke.


Emily wrote about the myth of “spoiling” children by being kind and compassionate (new in 2015).

Celeste Liddle celebrated seven years of singledom.

Jo Qualmann reflected on her experiences being aromantic and asexual in a relationship.

Sky Croeser collected intersectional and anti-capitalist resources on solidarity and healing.

Media and culture

Doctor Who Season 9 wrapped up and Liz Barr mostly but not entirely liked the final three episodes.

Daily Life announced their Women of the Year finalists, with the eventual awardee being Australian Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs.

Scarlett Harris looked at women’s friendships in two media phenomenons: Taylor Swift’s performed-friendships and in Grey’s Anatomy.

Ju wrapped up her 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge reading and reviewing.

Anna Kamaralli drew out less-recognised abusive parenting themes in King Lear.

Year end

2015 retrospectives included: Emily (new in 2015), A.C. Buchanan, Avril E Jean, and Rebecca.

New sites

Blogs and sites started in 2015 featured in this carnival were:

Next carnival

The 93rd carnival will follow at Zero at the Bone. Submissions to chally.zeroatthebone [at] gmail [dot] com by 2nd February 2016.

Volunteers are needed to host carnivals from April onwards. Volunteer via the contact form.

Post-Squeezebox audio setup at long last

We stuck with the Logitech Squeezebox system for streaming home audio long long past discovering that Logitech was ending development of the ecosystem but inevitably it started to date. Our Squeezebox Classic didn’t survive our house move in May. Our Squeezebox Boom and Squeezebox Radio did, but over the last year Andrew subscribed to Google Play Music, I switched to a podcasting app (Pocket Casts) for my phone rather than a command line tool that downloaded new episodes (podget), and so more and more things became phone-only and unable to easily send audio to the Squeezeboxen.

We like whole-home audio (the ability to play the same thing throughout the house), so even aside from audio quality issues, Bluetooth wasn’t going to cut it. I started to look into switching to the Sonos system, but it was another all-in system where we’d be looking at replacing all of our equipment if Sonos went out of business or end-of-lifed their setup. Logitech, you’ve done a number on the hardware side of whole-home audio systems. So we’ve switched to using good speakers with fairly cheap and disposable ecosystem adaptors, ie, the Chromecast Audio.


  • ReadyMedia (formerly MiniDLNA), which we were already using to stream video to the TV, let’s us continue having access to the audio on our Ubuntu home server
  • BubbleUPnP to send audio from the home server to the Chromecasts

ReadyMedia has to be one of the easiest to configure Linux services I’ve ever dealt with. I’m intending to play around with BubbleUPnP Server in front of ReadyMedia shortly; shared playlists are still a Squeezebox feature missing from this setup so far.

We also needed speakers to replace the Boom and Radio (we could have used their line in function, but we’ll sell them to continuing Squeezebox users). Thus, new equipment to go with the set of Yamaha MSP5 powered speakers we already have:

The mixer is something of a revelation: we’re feeding the TV audio and a Chromecast into it, in order to be able to listen to either of them through the Yamaha speakers without having to press any buttons or even use any kind of remote. Obviously we pretty much never want to listen to the TV and the Chromecast outputs simultaneously; but we can now listen to them in very rapid succession and the energy needed to decide to listen to music in the lounge room is way way lower than it was. Long may the Hamilton cast recording, Justice Crew’s Que Sera, and Doctor Who podcasts be heard around our house.

Eye-catching graphics in two minutes: a wordsmith’s guide

Graphics have been spicing up my writing and slidedecks over my fifteen years as a writer and a public speaker; the simpler and more attractive the better. But it’s not easy to put them there.

I’ve had the good fortune to also have been an amateur photographer the whole time, and have taught myself some basic image editing skills, so when I find an image that’s not quite right but could be, I pop it in an image editor, twiddle a reliable and small set of dials, and out emerges something more eye-catching. Lucky me. And lucky you: the tricks to turn a photo into something simpler and more eye-catching are simple, and today is the day I share my version of them.

Are you a wordsmith more than an visual person? Are you a writer or a public speaker who appreciates the power of a strong visual in other people’s pieces and slide decks, and wish you could just twiddle a few dials and make it happen with your own images? Do you want to make featured images for a WordPress theme, or something to break up a millionty paragraphs of text, or a colourful image to re-engage your audience in your talk? Do you sometimes have an idea of what you want but the images your searches dig up are just a bit flat for your purposes? This is for you.

This entry covers two topics: first, finding existing images that you can make work for you without any further editing. Win! And the next level: when you have an idea of what you want, and you have a photo that… doesn’t quite tell that story… but could… it’s time to make some quick and dirty edits to liven it up. Make the colours a little stronger or stranger, eliminate some clutter, and pull out some detail. Your illustrations are complete!

Eye-catching photos for wordsmiths: principles

Eye-catching images accompanying to your writing or speaking should be brain candy: simple subjects that people can identify at a glance; high contrast so that most people can understand what they’re seen quickly; and understand at a glance; and brightly or interestingly coloured because it’s eye-catching and fun. Your illustrations will usually be a subtlety-free zone.

Luckily simple, colourful, and easy to understand is an appealing set of things to have in a photo, so you’ll often be able to find free photos that you can use without editing. But there’s also a very simple set of tools that will let you take an existing photo and up its simplicity and eye-catching for your work. Finding first; then failing that, editing.

Finding images

Use photos that the photographer allows to be used and changed by other people! The Creative Commons system provides photographers and others with a way to give you this right.

To find images with Creative Commons licences that match my needs, I head on over to Flickr search, with Commercial use & mods allowed selected in the “Any licence” drop down. A couple of Flickr search tips:

  • search for generic terms. If you’re looking to make a point about time, first search for “clock” and “watch” and “sundial”, not things like “clock showing noon” or “bedside clock”. Images are often fairly generically labelled by their creator and you miss some good stuff by going specific.
  • use Flickr’s “Interesting” search tool. There’s a dropdown labelled “Relevant” — by default Flickr is trying to find images whose textual description and tags best match your search term. Try changing it to “Interesting”, to instead find somewhat matching images that are very popular on Flickr. This will often bias towards images that are already technically good, highly saturated, have an unusual subject or setting, and similar; exactly the kind of eye-catching things you want for your blog post or slide deck.

Flickr isn’t the only Creative Commons game in town: there’s also Wikimedia Commons or Google Images (after your search, go to “Search tools”, then “Usage rights” then “Labeled for reuse with modification”.

Caution: often images found this way must still be credited to their creator. Learn more here.
Caution: be careful of images with recognisable people in them. The permission you got to use the image was from the photographer, not the subject. Ethically, the person in the photo may not wish to have their likeness appear with your content, and in some cases using images of people may be restricted by personality rights or privacy rights. It’s usually best to skip images of people, or to buy them from a reputable stock image site.

Editing tools

The point of this tutorial is to make adjustments to some of the most common “knobs” you can twiddle on digital images. If you want to start making edits, and you already have a tool in mind, look up how to crop, how to auto adjust levels, how to change saturation, how to change contrast, and how to change brightness in your chosen graphics software.

In this tutorial, I’ve made the edits to images with Pinta, a free and comparatively simple graphics program for Windows, Mac, and Linux. I haven’t used them, but Paint.NET is a widely recommended equivalently straightforward Windows image editor, and Pixelmator seems highly recommended on Mac.

Editing photos to be eyecatching: short version

  1. crop the image so that the subject of interest comprises most of the image, and is off-center
  2. try auto-level colour adjustments
  3. try somewhat increasing one or more of contrast and saturation, perhaps while twiddling brightness up or down
  4. also try decreasing saturation

That’s it! If you want examples of what this looks like in action, read on!

Editing photos to be eyecatching: with examples

Meet our original images

Old Computer by Sean MacEntee. Old Computer is a surprisingly rare beast: a freely licenced photo of a computer that is being discarded. I find it easy to find great photos for search terms like apple or pen, less so for “computer in trash”. It’s a problem when you write complaints about computers a lot.

Old Computer has two major limitations if you wanted it for your condemnation of the tech industry or your rage at discarding electronics into landfill:

  • it’s “flat” colour-wise: there’s a lot of very similar beige-y colours in the image
  • there’s a lot of classroom in the shot and not a lot of computer-in-bin
A computer monitor in a bin
by Sean MacEntee

PC270246 by NickDun (hereafter called SCUBA). This is a very evocative shot of what scuba diving in a group is like and would be a great addition to your story of getting your mask kicked off by that so-and-so who probably certified yesterday, but:

  • it’s a very typical shot taken with an underwater camera, that is, it’s extremely blue-tinted
  • there’s a lot going on in it; if you want to talk about sunlight and freedom, or if you want to talk about crowds of divers, you may only want to illustrate your post with part of the image
Two divers snorkelling above a large crowd of divers
by NickDun CC BY-SA

Big Rubbish Project: Eden Project 2011 by University of Exeter (hereafter called Big Rubbish). What can I say? Garbage is a versatile metaphor and images of garbage are useful. This image is visually striking: there’s lots of repetition and patterns, and not a lot of extraneous clutter in the surrounding scene. But it also has rather dim, flat colours.

A large pile of empty plastic milk containers inside a rusted metal container.
by University of Exeter

Step 1: crop

Old Computer has an issue with a lot of surrounding space; and SCUBA has two separate things going on in it. This we are going to fix by cropping the image. Cropping means cutting out some of the photo. Where possible, you want to cut out other unrelated objects, and large expanses of foreground and background.

Cropping principle: have the object of interest filling most of the photo, slightly off center.

In Pinta, select the Rectangle Select tool, drag to draw a rectangle over the bits of the image you want to keep, and then go to the Image menu and select Crop to Selection.

Old Computer, cropped so that the computer and the bin occupy much more of the image:

A computer monitor in a bin
by Sean MacEntee, cropped by Mary Gardiner

And two crops of SCUBA, the first showing the divers snorkelling at the top of the image and the second showing the divers grouped at the bottom:

Two divers snorkelling
by NickDun, cropped by Mary Gardiner, CC BY-SA
SCUBA divers groups at bottom of ocean
by NickDun, cropped by Mary Gardiner, CC BY-SA

Honestly I’m a bit sad to crop SCUBA, because the full image is so evocative of the last two or three minutes of SCUBA dives. Let this serve as a lesson: none of this editing is compulsory. Sometimes let less be more.

I’m even more loath to crop Big Rubbish, since as I noted at in its introduction I quite like its current framing. But one possibility with cropped is to change the message of the picture a little. For example, here’s a crop that implies that the extent of the garbage could be much larger:

A large pile of empty plastic milk containers
by University of Exeter, cropped by Mary Gardiner

An even tighter crop, taking out the edges on the bottom and right could imply that it wasn’t well contained.

Having made that illustrative crop, I’ll go back to working with the full version of Big Rubbish in future steps.

Further reading: Rule of Thirds for a guideline on centering or not centering your object of interest.

Step 2: auto level

At the start, we saw that all of Old Computer, SCUBA, and Big Rubbish have “flat colours”. “Auto level” commands are the simplest way to get a good variety of colour levels to diminish this effect.

In Pinta, go to the Adjustments menu, and select Auto Level.

The effect on Big Rubbish is most dramatic and most of an improvement for eye-catching purposes (original on left, auto-levelled on right):

A large pile of empty plastic milk containers inside a rusted metal container.
by University of Exeter, duplicated and colour-adjusted by Mary Gardiner

Contrary to (my) expectations, the effect on Old Computer is extremely subtle (original on left, auto-level on right):

Two images of a computer in a bin, with slightly different colours
by Sean MacEntee, cropped, duplicated, and colour adjusted by Mary Gardiner

But don’t worry, we’re not stopping here with jazzing up Old Computer.

The effect on the two SCUBA shots is dramatic, as it often is with underwater shots. Here’s the top one (original image at top, auto-level at bottom):

Two images of two divers snorkelling, with slightly different colours
by NickDun, cropped, duplicated and colour-adjusted by Mary Gardiner, CC BY-SA

You’ll notice that while the range of colours in the auto-levelled picture is wider, it has not ended up looking especially realistic. Realistic high-fidelity underwater photographs are not easy to produce… but luckily realistic is not our goal here; our goal is striking.

Sadly, the bottom crop of SCUBA is pushing the limits of colour adjustment: if there’s really only blue in the picture, auto-level will find red where-ever it can, no matter how ill-advised (original image at top, auto-level at bottom):

SCUBA divers groups at bottom of ocean; two images in slightly different colours
by NickDun, cropped, duplicated and colour-adjusted by Mary Gardiner, CC BY-SA

Not so great. But give auto-levelling a go with any picture you are trying to edit; there’s always an Undo command.

Step 3: increase contrast and saturation

Increasing contrast increases the distinctness of the colours in the image (beyond auto-level); and increasing saturation increases their richness.

In Pinta, go to the Adjustments menu, and choose “Brightness / Contrast” for a contrast slider, and “Hue / Saturation” for a saturation slider.

Here’s Old Computer, with the Saturation slider (which starts at 100) increased to 150, and the Contrast slider (which starts at 0) increased to 30 (auto-levelled version on left, higher contrast and saturation version on right):

Two images of a computer in a bin, with different colours
by Sean MacEntee, cropped, duplicated, and colour adjusted by Mary Gardiner

And here’s Big Rubbish, with three adjustments. I took Saturation to 130, contrast up to 20, and brightness down to -50 (auto-levelled version on left, higher contrast, higher saturation version, and lower brightness version on right):

by University of Exeter, duplicated and colour-adjusted by Mary Gardiner
by University of Exeter, duplicated and colour-adjusted by Mary Gardiner

Since I’ve made it darker again, and thus more like the original, let’s keep ourselves honest and compare with the original too (original on left, auto-levelled with lower brightness, higher contrast, and higher saturation version on right):

A large pile of empty plastic milk containers, two version with different colours
by University of Exeter, duplicated and colour-adjusted by Mary Gardiner

Our version has a lot more red: the bottles are white rather than blue, and the rusty bin has a warm red tone (partly due to auto-levelling and partly due to increasing the saturation dramatically). So auto-levelling and messing with the colours paid off even though I went and reduced the brightness back down to close to the original.

Saturation is a very powerful slider: make your colours richer by increasing saturation.

That said, sometimes you can do a lot just with contrast. Remember what a mess auto-levelling made of the bottom SCUBA picture? I didn’t give up there. Here’s a version based on the original, with brightness increased to 20 and contrast to 70 (original crop on top, higher contrast and higher brightness version on bottom):

Two images of SCUBA divers groups at bottom of ocean with slightly different colours
by NickDun, cropped, duplicated and colour-adjusted by Mary Gardiner, CC BY-SA

Here manually fiddling with brightness and contrast has pulled some detail out of the picture that auto-levelling didn’t manage to find, and made it much more striking while retaining the other-worldly darkness of SCUBA diving. (Spoiler: your eyes are better than cameras at adjusting, it doesn’t seem that dark while you’re doing it. But you might want to convince your readers or listeners that it is spooky-dark…)

Step three alternative: decrease saturation

Upping saturation to make your rust warm, and your water an inviting sunny-day blue can be very effective, but it’s also worth checking out what effect you get from dialling saturation both ways.

Here’s the top of the SCUBA shot (top version auto-levelled, middle version auto-levelled with contrast increased to 20 and saturation increased to 155, bottom version with contrast increased to 35 and saturation decreased to 25):

Three images of two divers snorkelling, with different colours
by NickDun, cropped, duplicated and colour-adjusted by Mary Gardiner, CC BY-SA

Both of the edits have something to recommend them: the more saturated version in the middle looks like the sunniest dive day in the history of time, and the less saturated version at the bottom looks ethereal and dramatic; my favourite edit that I produced for this post. Try dialling saturation down sometimes, not always and forever up.

And that’s it: you have your basic dials to catch eyes now!

Two minutes to more eye-catching photos

Full disclosure: you’ll have to do a bit of practice to develop your own taste. But here’s your quick steps when you have a photo that could use a bit of “pop” before being added to your writing or your slide deck:

  1. crop the image so that the subject of interest comprises most of the image, and is off-center
  2. try auto-level colour adjustments
  3. try somewhat increasing one or more of contrast and saturation, perhaps while twiddling brightness up or down
  4. also try decreasing saturation

And so wordsmith types: go forth and give people brain candy!

Sunday 3 January 2016

Our family has an unreasoning love for Wet’n’Wild Sydney so this year we bought season passes for Andrew, V, and me. New Years Eve was our second visit of the season. A was at daycare — her daycare’s usual enrolment is 120 children, and on the 31st 30 showed up — so it was the first time there that one adult wasn’t tied to a pre-water sliding child. It’s also the first season V has passed 120cm in height, which means he is tall enough for all but two rides.

And it went pretty well! V is patient enough now for the queues, the worst of which may have been about 45 minutes in length, and was thrilled by the scarier rides with the large “bowls” of water rafts get shot into to churn around. It was very much less good that I did come off a raft and he nearly came off one too at the end of the day. It turns out to be a fatigue-sensitive day out. My one was very calm although I was glad it was me and not V; I slid off the raft straight into the churning pool at the end and couldn’t surface for a moment because the raft was on top of me. Try and try again. V nearly fell onto the slide half-way through a ride, which would have been very frightening for the next ten seconds for us all, but luckily Andrew caught him. The next time we ride the big ones we’ll weight his legs down with ours.

A having daycare let us do more than one V-only thing; we also took him to see The Force Awakens. I liked it a lot, and that’s from a non-fan. V found it both scary and long but surprisingly warmed up towards the end.

This is my last week of unemployment; I’ll be travelling for my new job a week from now. So this is the last Mary-and-V week for a long time. It looks like it is mostly going to rain, so we’ll see how we do. The Good Dinosaur is planned and that’s all so far.

I haven’t worked since the end of September; it’s been a quiet time. I’d like to think about taking occasional sabbaticals throughout my working life but I don’t know if I’ll have that luxury. This time I semi-chose not to launch any serious projects or undertakings. Semi- because job hunting itself is a lot of work. More emotional than hours, I found, but hours too, preparing for job interviews in an industry I haven’t worked in in the usual way since I was 24. Things got more settled from mid-November onwards and then it was about taking a break. I knew I was mentally winding up for activity again when my break included seeing Maxim Vengerov at the Opera House and King Lear at the Sydney Theatre Company. I wasn’t familiar with either the virtuoso violin repertoire or Lear, and I am not that high brow; apparently it was time for an adventure. The woman next to me at Vengerov was there because she tries to see something at the Opera House whenever she visits Sydney. I had a front row seat to Lear and hadn’t realised. Regan’s facility in heels was quite something. I think I will try harder for company at such things in future.

In the short term though, my plan for the next couple of months is “survive and settle”. We’ve had so many changes, with moving and my business closing and my job hunt, that another period of holding our breath until a life pattern emerges is worrying me a lot. As always, we’ll see.

Podcast opinions, 2016

I shared some podcast recommendations a year ago and wasn’t expecting to update them a year later, but my listening has turned over rapidly. I haven’t spent quite as much time on it in 2016 as my older child now objects to listening to “talking” in the car. Drat! I’ll be commuting more in 2016, watch for an uptick.

New this year:

Startup. In a year I shut down a business I was naturally going to listen to the “starting a business” podcast, and to do something I’ve never done before, ie, go back and listen to it from the beginning. I found 2015’s Season 2 about the company Dating Ring a bit of a mixed bag for reasons largely outlined here, but I still enjoy the episodes about Gimlet Media itself. From 2014, Episode 3: How To Divide an Imaginary Pie in which they negotiate a co-founder equity split is a highlight. In 2015’s episodes, I enjoyed Episode 12: Burnout and Episode 16: The Secret Formula about podcast production. They’re going to profile a third company in Season 3, I am curious to see whether the episodes about external companies are ever as good as the ones about Gimlet itself.

NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, a round-table discussion of (largely American) pop culture, complete with, like Slate Money, the usual round table personality tropes emerging over time. Sample episodes: their farewell to Parks and Recreation and their review of Spy. But the best introduction of all is Peak Glen Wheldon, reviewing the Star Wars: Card Trader app. That’s in the Kimmy Schmidt episode at time 38:27, listen to that one first.

Reply All. Gimlet’s most popular podcast hasn’t quite made my “every episode” cut, but I did catch several of the highlights. I enjoyed Episode 36: Today’s the Day in which PJ and Alex have adventures in New York, and Episode 44: Shine On You Crazy Goldman in which PJ takes acid.

Returning from a year ago:

Chat 10 Looks 3, now one of Australia’s most popular (albeit still lowest production quality) podcasts. Check out Episode 20: Another Thing To Feel Guilty About in which Leigh Sales reveals herself to be a book chucker-outerer and Episode 21: Time For a New Safeword after Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister when Sales (one of Australia’s most prominent political interviewers) had previously declared his name to be her safeword.

Slate Money. I still listen to every episode even though I enjoy it a bit less now that they have a guest in most weeks. Check out The Two and 20 Edition for how venture capitalists make money.

2015 in threes

Three moments of 2015.

February 2015: V’s first day of school, calling to get him to pause at the gate for his first day of school picture.

April 2015: sitting in a dark hotel room in San Francisco recovering from AdaCamp in Montreal and travel in general, while Andrew used my power of attorney back in Australia to buy a house. (Yes, after much discussion. Still. It was a weird way to have it done.)

July 2015: lying in bed in a sunny Airbnb room in San Francisco, my first day in town, hot and tired and sweaty from jetlag and mosquitos biting me all night my first night in town. Around 7am Val told me online that she had news that Nóirín had died.

Three meals of 2015

Tapas at MoVida, while the couple perched next to us at the bar had a very awkward first date conversation about themselves and we hoovered up chorizo because one day, there may be no more chorizo. More than the meal I remember the freeing feeling of wandering around after dark, something I do so little of now.

The really quite good sushi I bought several times from Walgreens at 135 Powell St San Francisco. It got me through the dark and tired period of buying the house in the gloom of Hotel Union Square in April; and it got me through my two night stay in San Francisco in October for a job interview. Fatty, slippery, and tasty. Goes down well when you want to hide out in San Francisco with a blanket over your head.

Fish tacos at Verde in Kapaa. The fish of the day is always `ahi or makimaki — and why not have both? Verde is a physically non-descript restaurant, but the tacos are memorable. It became very clear to me that I need to seek out a lot more Mexican food before having an opinion on it.

Three photos of 2015

A vastly inadequate photo of the best sunset I’ve ever seen, over the equator flying from Sydney to Vancouver:


Goodbye to San Francisco, after we shut down the Ada Initiative:


A slightly fun mirror-selfie in Bondi:

Self portrait in Bondi

If you’re after quality rather than feels, have a look at my Bondi to Bronte and Kauaʻi photos

Three pleasures of 2015

“Child piles”: encouraging both my children to flop on top of me. They also like to hug each other. V has got bony but he’s also got a lot more considerate in the last year, so we’re having some great hugs.

Returning to the slopes at Thredbo and not falling down. And the feeling of getting my skis back under me occasionally when I started to lose it. And hot doughnuts after skiing wrapped up each day.

My two visits to Dolores Park in summer and autumn, enjoying sun and grass and sometimes slightly too many people, and nice views of distant fog, and even, one time, a rainbow. I want to go to Northern California with my family someday. Someday!

Three news stories from 2015

Video: Hamilton’s “Wait for It” – Gypsy of the Year 2015

Can you imagine?

The flotillas of the Rohingya. While they were at sea, a friend of mine said that this was what it was like, to know a genocide was going on but not doing anything.

The Prime Ministership change in Australia. I am not a huge fan of the “they’re all the same anyway” analysis; I well recall that argument being made at the last Federal election, referring to a Rudd-led ALP government and an Abbott-led Coalition government. I don’t think Turnbull is here to govern for people I wish he would govern for; I don’t think the change was nothing either.

The entire Syria and ISIS and Middle East and global terror catastrophe, but particularly the Paris and San Bernardino attacks; and France’s frightening response with regards to civil liberties. I don’t feel, from this distance, like the US has responded as intensely after San Bernardino, but after Paris they had less far to fall. And in contrast to many other countries, especially mine: Germany.

Three sensations from 2015

The sea spraying in my face for a half hour standing at the railing on a motor boat between Niʻihau and the Nāpali coast of Kauaʻi, to a degree where my eyes were stinging. Blood was dripping down my ankle from a previous fall on the boat. Nevertheless, it was exhilarating; my happiest moment alone for the year.

Motion sickness as I haul giant floating rafts up five flight of stairs for V at Wet ‘n’ Wild; wishing there were queues there that day so that I could get it to subside between rides.

Some of the first times my daughter has really hurt me: leaning too hard on me, jumping on me, squeezing my fingers tightly. She does this so little still that I get excited about how she’s growing up.

Three sadnesses of 2015

Writing memorials for Nóirín and Telsa.

“Mixed feelings” is the right characterisation of how I felt about shutting down the Ada Initiative but sadness is in the mix. Specifically, I wrote the business case for shutting it down. It was very convincing. Sadly.

Cutting people who’ve died, and people I’m not in touch with, from my Christmas card list. Relatedly, recalling a three-person conversation to which both the other parties have since died.

Three plans for 2016

Work in the technology industry again, in the technical hierarchy. I’ve never stopped coding, and I’ve learned a lot about project management since I last worked in this way (in 2005). Even interviewing for positions has taught me what a different person and employee I am now. Watch this space!

An intermediate run on skis. I’m skiing twice in 2016, this really should be do-able I hope. My long term ambition probably ends at “can ski the bulk of blue runs on Australian mountains”. That’s lots of variety.

Getting to grips with Melbourne, which I will be visiting a lot. My familiarity with Melbourne right now is so low that I got a takeaway coffee there this year and had no idea where people go to sit down anywhere inside the CBD. A place I like to go and sit would be a good start.

Three hopes for 2016

So prosaic, but I would love to get daycare for my daughter in the suburb we’ve moved to, and resume our walking childcare run. It got me outside and moving every day. That’s really really turned out to be something I miss. I guess a broader version of this is integrating into the neighbourhood and suburb more, since we plan to be here a long time. Having V in the local school will help a lot.

Growing my circle of adult friends in Sydney. It is, as always, somewhat more healthy in San Francisco than it is here.

And… the continuing emergence of a persuasive economic reform plan from the left. Basic income and wealth tax experiments!

Feel free to answer my end of year prompts yourself!