Not sure what to post about but I guess it’s going to be the Coronavirus

Submitted by John on Mon, 03/09/2020 - 23:56

I’ve wanted to post for a while now but all I’m reading about is the Coronavirus. The Coronavirus is a boring subject for me to write about because the facts are simple, yet the outlook is very uncertain and I have little control over the final outcome.

This is everything I know about the Coronavirus:

  • it’s a bat virus that has made its way to humans. So we have no natural immunity to it
  • very transmissible between humans
  • people are contagious for days before they show symptoms
  • this tells me that we’re all going to get it sooner, rather than later
  • some percentage of people will die from an associated respiratory syndrome, COVID-19
  • we (in the United States) do not have nearly enough hospital beds or ventilators to treat the likely victims all at once
  • so our best bet is to self quarantine and reduce social contact so we can prolong how long it takes for the infection to work it’s way through the population, thereby reducing the impact on the medical system over time
  • currently the number of known cases is doubling every three days. If that trend doesn’t stop soon it will be too late to manage this thing.

Amazingly, some folks dispute all of these facts, and they are dismissive of the whole situation. This boggles my brain.

The reason I am most bored, however, is that you, dear reader, already know more about the ending of this story than I do. Should I panic? I’ve done plenty of that. Sit back and relax until this whole thing blows over? I’ve thought of that too.

Happy Hand Washing!

Fixed a few things

Submitted by John on Thu, 03/05/2020 - 23:46

A few things have been bothering me, mostly related to the D8 migration, so I dug in and fixed them recently.

  • I now have a favicon. I plan on updating the favicon from time to time, unless I forget, in which case I won't.
  • I fixed the tags on the weblog posts. I can now create new tags whenever I am entering a new weblog entry, instead of having to navigate all the way over to the taxonomy page.
  • I restricted the Stella Amp menu to the Stella Amp pages (and got rid of the defunct "Buy it!" menu item.)
  • I changed the title of the weblog in the RSS feed, so RSS subscribers will now see the correct title for the feed (Hello RSS subscribers!)
  • I removed some extra "display titles" on various parts of the site


It's much cleaner, but now I want to fix:

  • CSS of menus and the top nav bar, on desktop but especially mobile
  • I'd like some other form of sidebar, not sure what, not sure why, not sure how, but it needs some sort of vertical design element.


The TSA responds with guidance on flying with large format sheet film

Submitted by John on Sat, 02/01/2020 - 11:39

A few days ago, I posted an article about some new CT scanners that are showing up in airports. These new scanners have more powerful X-rays and are more damaging to analog film.

The article mentioned roll film, but I was curious about sheet film.

So I reached out to the TSA and asked them for guidance about flying with sheet film. I don't have my list of original questions handy (I'll post it later when I come across it) but I did get a response back from the TSA. Here are the latest guidelines on traveling with large format sheet film, as of February 2020:

Thank you for contacting the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Contact Center.

Most x-ray machines used to screen carry-on bags should not damage undeveloped film under ASA\ISO 800.  There are a limited number of screening checkpoints that use x-ray equipment that may damage undeveloped film.  These airports will have signage in front of the x-ray stating that the x-ray may damage undeveloped film.

If you are traveling with the following types of film, please pack it in a clear plastic bag, remove it from your carry-on bag at the checkpoint, and ask for a hand inspection:

  • Film with an ASA\ISO 800 or higher
  • Highly sensitive x-ray or scientific films
  • Film that is or will be underexposed
  • Film that you intend to “push process”
  • Sheet film
  • Large format film
  • Medical film
  • Scientific film
  • Motion picture film
  • Professional grade film 
  • Film of any speed that is subjected to x-ray screening more than five times

In most cases, the x-ray equipment used for screening checked baggage will damage undeveloped film; therefore, please place undeveloped film in carry-on bags.


Don't send your analog film through the carry on baggage scanners!

Submitted by John on Thu, 01/30/2020 - 12:34

Kodak wants you to know that the TSA has some new CT scanners for screening carry on luggage that appear to be more destructive to analog film than the earlier X-ray based scanners were. This new article from dpreview has the details:

Kodak describes the results as 'not good,' saying: 'Just 1 scan shows significant film fogging, leading to smoky blacks and loss of shadow detail. This will be more significant for higher speed films. Although it’s possible that a roll of 100 speed film would show less degradation, we strongly recommend against putting any unexposed or exposed but unprocessed film through a CT Scanner.'


In order to avoid this, Kodak tells photographers to keep their film products in a carry-on bag and to request that TSA agents hand-check the film rather than sending it through the CT scanner. The TSA confirmed to Kodak that its agents are trained in hand-checking movie film, roll film and single-use film cameras.

So, I read this and thought, the TSA has trained their agents to hand check roll film, great. But what about sheet film!

First I tried to look up and find anything on the TSA website itself. Nothing. Then I did a google search or two and still didn't find much. There is a post on Michael E. Gordon's blog about flying with large format sheet film that has a horror story and some advice about what Michael does when he flys with the TSA. But that article was from 2012 so it doesn't deal with the new scanners. Also some of the resources he links to in that article are missing from the TSA site.

So I reached out to the TSA today to see if they have any recent guidance on traveling with sheet film. I'll let you know when/if I get a response. (UPDATE: They responded!)

(If you are curious about Kodak's previous research on flying with film and the effects of airport baggage scanners on film, both print film and movie film, check out their 2003 Technical Information Bulletin Baggage X-ray Scanning Effects on Film)


Submitted by John on Mon, 12/16/2019 - 22:23
A cupcake with sprinkles.


Why I don't put any music in my youtube videos

Submitted by John on Tue, 11/19/2019 - 07:27

Oh here is a fun one. Youtube provides creators with a list of "copyright free" songs they can put in their videos. Turns out, one of their "copyright free" songs has a sample from a song from 1956 owned, in part, by Warner Brothers, Sony, and three other record companies:

In common with many YouTubers, Matt didn’t want any copyright issues on his channel. So, to play things safely, he obtained the track ‘Dreams‘ by Joakim Karud from YouTube’s very own audio library for use in his intro. Unfortunately, this strategy of obtaining supposedly risk-free music from a legitimate source still managed to backfire.


Very early last Friday, Matt says he received a “massive barrage” of emails from YouTube, targeting “pretty much all” of his KSP videos. The emails said that Matt’s videos “may have content owned or licensed by SonyATV, PeerMusic, Warner Chappell, Audiam and LatinAutor.”


‘Dreams’ composer Joakim Karud allows anyone to use his music on YouTube, even commercially, for free. And the fact that Matt downloaded the track from YouTube’s own library was the icing on this particularly bitter cake.

“So I guess this library can’t be trusted at all,” says Matt. “YouTube might just remove songs from it after the fact and then shrug off any consequences for videos that use that music as you know, shit happens.”

Matt said he had to time out to manually protest the automated claims against his account but he says his overtures were immediately rejected, “almost like it’s an automated bot or something.” But things get worse from there.

After contesting each claim and having all of those rejected, Matt says the only option left is to appeal every single one. However, if an appeal is lost, the video in question will be removed completely and a strike will be placed against his account.

It’s three strikes and you’re out on YouTube, so this is not an attractive option for Matt if the music companies somehow win the fight. So, instead, Matt is appealing against just one of the complaints in the hope that he can make some progress without putting his entire account at risk.

This is why I no longer include copyrighted music in my youtube videos. I have included it in the past, because music is fun! But ultimately it's not worth the hassle.


Ten simple rules for helping newcomers contribute to open projects

Submitted by John on Sat, 11/02/2019 - 09:27

I deeply appreciated this clear set of ten guidelines to help new contributors get started in any open project. Seems there's a lot of wisdom here for software teams in the workplace as well.


Rule 1: Be welcoming [...]

Rule 2: Help potential contributors evaluate if the project is a good fit [...]

Rule 3: Make governance explicit [...]

Rule 4: Keep knowledge up to date and findable [...]

Rule 5: Have and enforce a code of conduct [...]

Rule 6: Develop forms of legitimate peripheral participation [...]

Rule 7: Make it easy for newcomers to get started [...]

Rule 8: Use opportunities for in-person interaction—With care [...]

Rule 9: Acknowledge all contributions [...]

Rule 10: Follow up on both success and failure [...]


Julia Nunes interview

Submitted by John on Thu, 10/03/2019 - 21:02

Behind every complaint is a desire, and so the name of the game is my attention is this magic wand, and whatever I put it on grows. And that’s like friendship and love and music and fashion and exercise and consciousness and strength and beauty and sex and flowers and nature and traveling and family and honesty and…

Julia Nunes in a new interview on her latest album, cancel culture, self care and living in a world of ups and downs. Recommended.

I'll be honest, I kickstartered her new album. I listened to maybe a song and a half. And I put it on the shelf and said woah I have to be in a different place to get into this. And then I forgot all about it.

(Don't get me wrong. I'm still gonna pick up her next album, whatever it is, day one.)

What captivated me about her early videos was that I saw them and thought immediately, hey, I could do that. Why couldn't I do that? The whole process of making the video was right there documented in the video itself. One day, one of her songs inspired me to make my own cover of one of her other songs. And her vocal range is close to my own so I can sing along without too much fussing and straining.

So whenever I think of Julia Nunes, I think of the value of just jumping in and doing whatever you can to make something happen, push that needle a little bit, move the ball forward, and create with what you have available at the time.