Milliblog: Photo Captions

This blog is still alive and kicking. I post when I post. Currently, my energies are deployed on other fronts. If you absolutely must get your Analyze the Data not the Drivel fix look over my extensive millibloggy photo captions.  Here’s a typical example:

The “miraculous staircase” in the Loretto Chapel. After paying your three dollar entrance fee you can enter the chapel and see the staircase. When I was there people were milling around while a recorded message told the breathless story of the miraculous staircase. The story goes something like this. The chapel needed a staircase. Some nuns prayed to the sky fairy of carpenters and low and behold a carpenter showed up with a bag of simple tools. Over the next month this remarkably skilled carpenter fashioned this beautiful wood staircase using only his simple tools. Apparently he constructed the staircase from the floor to the upper level without central supports. Even now the staircase lacks the standard central beam of spiral staircases. The masses were amazed! How could the staircase stand without a central support? Surely this is the work of the divine. This is what passes for a miracle among sky fairy believers. It’s the same type of magical thinking that invokes aliens to explain the pyramids. Just maybe the carpenter knew what he was doing and had the technique to pull it off. Occam’s razor people: It cuts deeply.

The “miraculous staircase” in Santa Fe’s Loretto Chapel. After paying your three dollar entrance fee you can enter the chapel and see the staircase. When I was there people were milling around while a recorded message told the breathless story of the miraculous staircase. The story goes something like this. The chapel needed a staircase.  So some nuns prayed to the sky fairy of carpenters and low and behold a carpenter showed up with a bag of simple tools. Over the next month this remarkably skilled carpenter fashioned this beautiful wood staircase using only his simple tools. Apparently he constructed the staircase from the floor to the upper level without central supports. Even now the staircase lacks the standard central beam of spiral staircases. The masses were amazed! How could the staircase stand without a central support? Surely this is the work of the divine. This is what passes for a miracle among sky fairy believers. It’s the same type of magical thinking that invokes aliens to explain the pyramids. Just maybe the carpenter knew what he was doing and had the technique to pull it off. Occam’s razor people: it cuts deep.

The Santa Fe Trail

In the last ten years, we’ve moved five times.1 In a few days, I will increment that count. We are moving to Santa Fe New Mexico. Our previous perambulations were driven by work. We went where the jobs were and they were all over.

Because I have spent a lifetime moving for work I have no patience or sympathy for people who insist on staying put.

“I can’t leave here because … blah, blah, blah,” said every lazy whiner ever.

If you have to move to find a job get off your fat ass and move. Humans evolved on the move. Our distant ancestors trekked great distances foraging and hunting. We are happiest when moving. Putting down roots is for plants, not people. I’ll eventually settle down when I’m dead. Until then I am on the move.

Moving is old hat; what’s different this time is picking a place first. For over twenty-five years I’ve been a wandering software developer. This is beyond idiotic. The most portable stuff in the world is software. The internet makes it possible to create software anywhere and deploy it everywhere almost cost-free. There’s no need to pile programmers into pits to extract bits. Theoretically, all software developers could work remotely, but in case you haven’t noticed, we don’t live a theoretical world.

It’s easier for management to impose discipline and administer idiocies like SOX compliance if uppity developers are in the same room. Remote discipline is too easily mitigated with the mute button meaning management must come up with good ideas to herd their far-flung cats. Some enlightened outfits successfully manage productive remote developers but frankly most are struggling or openly hostile to the idea.

When it first occurred to me, way back in the 1980s, that commuting to an actual office was unnecessary I thought that within a decade or two most software development organizations would embrace remote work. The cost savings and enhanced access to global talent seemed like total no-brainers. Well, for many reasons, some good, (like getting smart people together), and some stupid, (see SOX), the brave new world of ubiquitous remote workers remains an infuriating work in progress.

I expect this muddle to eventually resolve but in the meanwhile, I am no longer willing to abide locales that do not suit me. So, for this move, we picked a spot, Santa Fe, that mostly meets our esoteric geographic preferences and then started looking for a job. Santa Fe is a small city so it took a little longer to find a good job but this thing called the internet also simplifies job hunting.

I’ve enjoyed my Saint Louis sojourn but like many Missourians of the 19th century, it’s time to head down the Santa Fe Trail.

Casa Joma

We are building a little house in the hills near Santa Fe. We will have unimpeded views of the mountains to the north. The lack of street lights, combined with Santa Fe’s 2000 meter elevation, should make for decent stargazing.


  1. Frequent moves are a good way to dodge jury duty.

What is Required: Print Captions on the back of Photographs

I am tired of waiting for “the market” to exploit painfully obvious opportunities so I will now provide guidance, in the form of milliblog entries, that tell our less imaginative entrepreneurs just what some of us would buy if we could.

Here’s a deep request. How about printing captions on the back of photographs?

I just went through the excruciating ordeal of ordering about one hundred prints from SmugMug. SmugMug prints meet my high standards but their online ordering software is clunky and clearly geared toward very small print runs. If you have hundreds of pictures, of varying and custom sizes, the software will punish you. The obvious steps of setting a paper type, selecting all your images, and then letting the software work out the paper size from image aspect ratio is not available. You must go image by image setting one easily derived parameter after another. I would print a lot more if it wasn’t such a frigging chore.

As annoying as SmugMug print-ordering is at least I get the prints I want with one major exception. If you check out my online photographs you’ll see I use captions like nanoblog entries. Many people have told me they really like my captions. One of my pet peeves is unlabeled photographs. I have wonderful hundred-year-old photographs of elegantly posed complete strangers because nobody left a clue on the back.

So, in addition to printing timestamps and file names on the back of photographs, include captions as well!

P.S. It takes about five years for the market to meet my obvious requirements; don’t hold your breath.

Milliblog: Religous and Comic Origin Stories

joseph smith powers up small

Joseph Smith gets his superpowers.

Have you ever noticed that the “origin stories” of religious figures and comic superheroes have a lot in common? Green Lantern is given a powerful ring. Moses is handed magic tablets. Buddha, a wealthy patrician, is horrified by injustice and suffering and decides to fix things: ditto for Batman. A powerful, otherworldly being, comes to Earth to save us. Are we talking about Christ or Superman? The only difference between comic book heroes and religious figures is: comic book origin stories are more plausible. There is a teeny tiny chance that being bitten by a radioactive spider will give you some powers, probably a tolerance for certain arachnid proteins, but there is absolutely no chance that long dead John the Baptist will poof back from the dead to baptize your semi-literate backwoods ass.


  1. A milliblog is a short blog entry that makes a single point and then gets out of the reader’s face.

For Carl’s Memorial

Carl in his basement apartment surrounded by his drawings and hugging Puff: one of his long lived cats. Carl was a good friend for most of my adult life. During the many years I lived in Edmonton I spent a lot of time with Carl. It’s rather odd that I have so few pictures of him. I have been an avid amateur photographer since I was eight but I only have half-a-dozen pictures of Carl. I held off “developing” this image because of the reflection in Puff’s eyes. Now I see this informal imperfection as a reflection, (pun intended), of Carl’s haphazard fun filled way of life.

Carl in his basement apartment surrounded by his drawings and hugging Puff: one of his long-lived cats. Carl was a good friend for most of my adult life. During the many years I lived in Edmonton I spent a lot of time with Carl. It’s rather odd that I have so few pictures of him. I have been an avid amateur photographer since I was eight, but I only have half-a-dozen pictures of Carl. I held off “developing” this image because of the reflection in Puff’s eyes. Now I see this informal imperfection as a reflection, (pun intended), of Carl’s haphazard fun-filled way of life.

A memorial celebration for the life of Carl Sullivan was held today, June 20, 2015,  in Calgary. I was unable to attend, but I sent this little note. The world is a little gloomier without Carl. 

1969 was a memorable year for many reasons, but two “events” stand out for me. It was the year of Apollo 11, the epochal first moon landing. If humans still exist a thousand years from now the first moon landing will still be remembered and lauded. Of less historical, but greater personal interest, 1969 was also the year I met Carl B. Sullivan.

Apollo marked a high water mark for western civilization; we have been steadily degenerating ever since. Similarly, Carl, for me, marked a high friendship mark. No event of the last forty-six years holds a candle to Apollo 11 and no post-Carl friend holds a candle to Carl.

I know Carl would enjoy being bonded with Apollo 11. He enjoyed the “weird.” His own weird, the weird of others, the world’s weird. Carl liked to cast himself as a sage and wizard. He was certainly a sage of the absurd and a wizard of fun.

I have many fond memories of visiting Carl after another exquisitely self-crafted dismaying day only to have Carl wave his wizard’s wand and make my gloom bloom. This is an exceedingly rare talent and frankly we were blessed to fall under his spell.

I know Carl was ambivalent about the prospects of an afterlife. His appetite for the absurd did not extend to religion. I am harsher; I expect utter oblivion, but if I am wrong and find myself cast into Hell for a lifetime of misdemeanors, I’ll find Carl, (he had his own Hell worthy misdemeanors),  and Carl being Carl, will turn Hell into an eternal party!

Goodbye old friend you will never know how much we all miss you.

An Honest Resume Personal Statement

While updating an online version of my resume a nagging web page advised me to include a personal statement: apparently the personal statement is my chance to stand out, make that all important first impression, and firmly affix my lips to succulent corporate ass.

Being programmer oriented, the web page suggested I write about my first computer. This is just conniving HR speak for, “How old are you?” HR cannot directly ask so they’ll probe circuitously. Sorry gals, (HR is a female ghetto), I’m on to you. I am excellent actor and liar. I can play your little game but I am no longer interested. Still your little page made we wonder what my personal statement would be like if I was telling the truth and not spinning like a millisecond pulsar. I think it would look something like this:


I want to solve problems: not create them. You would be surprised how many software organizations cannot tell the difference.

Ask yourself:

  1. Does your organization think the orthodox application of trendy project management “methodologies”1 like agile is a substitute for real insight and work?
  2. Do you bind yourself in SOX inspired straitjackets and wonder why programmer morale and productivity has plummeted?
  3. Do you have an antiquated remote work policy and insist staff show up for periodic management brow beatings and pointless brain numbing meetings?
  4. Are you wedded to standard software tools merely because they are standard?
  5. Are you afraid of iconoclastic viewpoints and meekly seek a lowest common denominator consensus?
  6. Finally, do you follow industry trends or set them?

Perhaps my bad attitude shocks you.

“Who would hire this guy?” you ask.

It’s a fair question. I’ve had my fill of “Software Theater.” I will no longer act like I agree with bad ideas just to get along. From now on I am going to tell people what I really think, not what they yearn to hear.

To work with me your organization must be:

  1. Located somewhere I want to live to or have an enlightened 21st century remote work policy.

I am tired of wasting my life in humdrum hellholes because that’s where an employer is located. This is inexcusable for 21st century software developers. If you haven’t figured out how to manage geographically dispersed remote workers your organization is hidebound, myopic and doomed!

  1. Have a positive attitude about novel approaches to problems and encourage programmer autonomy.

I have often solved problems with nonstandard tools and techniques only to be told to do it again using a standard tool. Sometimes this makes sense but usually it’s motivated by pure organizational fear.

“Oh my God we won’t be able to find someone to support this!”

Or even worse, “We’ll have to learn something new!”

Companies make a big show about “thinking outside the box” while huddling like bed wetting cowards in the corner of one.

  1. Accept the simple fact that work is small part of life and stop trying to manage employees outside of the workplace.

It’s amazing what some companies think they can get away with! Would you believe asking recruits for Facebook and Twitter passwords? Don’t try this with me; I might punch you! Most companies know that asking for passwords crosses all sorts of inappropriate boundaries but even more enlightened organizations often have a “velvet fist” social media policy that basically tells employees not to involve the company in their personal jackassery. This is a reasonable request but it’s usually seen as bullying. Most will shut up: not me! Freedom of speech is fundamental and absolute. Companies that try to silence employees should be ashamed of themselves.

If you’re still reading and think, I like the cut of this guy’s jib. We have enough kowtowing eunuchs on payroll: a few ballsy shitheads may spruce this joint up. I’d suggest you look over my attached resume, peruse my public GitHub repositories, read my blog, browse my extensive photos, and check out what I’m reading. You’ll get a pretty accurate sense of who I am, what turns my crank, how I approach problems, and how I deal with difficulties. Unspoken social conventions demand that we suppress ourselves to work. I will no longer do this. I am what I am; I do what do; I will not change for you.


  1. I loathe the word “methodologies.” The correct word is “methods.” Wanton syllable inflation is a reliable bullshit tell.

What hobbies do you have? Have you learned anything useful from them?

This is my first “cross-posted” entry. I composed this on Quora. I was asked to answer the title question and I did. I probably won’t do this very often. Still, a little experimenting is fun.

Answer by John Baker:

The short answer is many and yes. The longer answer is pretty much everything I do, that matters to me, is a hobby of some form or other. Some of my major hobbies are:

1.      Amateur Astronomy
2.      Photography
3.      Blogging
4.      Recreational Programming.

Amateur Astronomy has been a lifelong pursuit. I was hooked as a child looking at Venus’s crescent through a small refractor in the badlands of Utah. It’s hard to relate how much I have learned from Amateur Astronomy or how much it has influenced my life but it is a lot and heavily.  My decision to study science in school and later university were outgrowths of this passion. I have traveled all over the world to view eclipses, see spectacular comets, and tour major observatories. Even today the best possible night for me is to stand alone under clear extremely dark high altitude skies and soak in the gentle light of the Milky Way.

Photography is also a lifelong hobby. I shot my first roll of film on a cheap fixed focus camera when I was eight. I blow hot and cold on my hobbies. Sometimes they utterly dominate my every waking hour. Other times they lie dormant, ignored, waiting for me to pick them up again. Photography is such a hobby. Over the decades it has taught me a lot of chemistry: I started picture taking in the “chemical” era. Nowadays I’ve absorbed a wide variety of photography related software skills. I’ve also learned a lot of history. Studying early photographers and how they created some of their iconic images is fascinating.

Blogging is relatively new hobby. I started with the idea that it would be good “composition practice,” a way to learn about web site maintenance, and finally a safe way to vent without serving time for assaulting imbeciles. It has met all these expectations and more. It’s presumptuous for bloggers to describe themselves as writers but you do acquire a greater understanding of what writers do. That old joke about being a drunk with a writing problem is not far from the mark.

As for recreational programming: despite going into work day after day,  year after year, and staring at screens of, please stab my eyes out, “work code.” I still muster the energy to work at home on software projects using unconventional programming languages and tools. Many professional peers have poked fun at my eccentric tastes and others have told me I was wasting my time. The joke has been on them. Many that cast these aspersions are no longer employed while my current job is a direct consequence of knowing things the convention bound do not.

I have learned many specific things from my hobbies but the single best thing I’ve learned is simple intellectual integrity. Nobody is going to do your hobby for you. Paying others to take up your hobbies makes no sense. Cheating on a hobby is crazy. You have to do the work by yourself; you have to learn by yourself; you have to think for yourself! Hobbies refine our individuality; I’d recommend more hobbies for everyone.

What hobbies do you have? Have you learned anything useful from them?