Thinking of Paris.

After a few weeks of hectic activities — fun and travels — it was great to return home and enjoy the silence of my apartment. It gave me enough time to do the mundane things around the house — everything from restocking supplies to rearranging the wardrobe for the changing seasons. I am again enjoying my daily morning ritual of grinding and making my pour-over coffee. I can carry my music, my books, my wardrobe, my favorite devices, my favorite soap, and other small luxuries of daily life, but I can seldom replicate the coffee ritual. I have tried and traveled with a coffee-making kit, but it isn’t the same. Making coffee in the morning is a good reminder that I am home. 

Talking about coffee, it seems that climate change and skyrocketing demand have started to impact coffee prices and the availability of good beans. I was reading this article that explains why there is growing momentum for lab-grown coffee. A handful of startups such as San Francisco-based Compound Foods, Voyage Foods, and Seattle-based Atomo Coffee have jumped into the fray. 

In one of my podcasts with Howard Lindzon, I postulated that the pandemic was a beta test for a much harsher future for humanity. Whether it was robotic deliveries, lab-grown meat, or vertical farming — we have to start to live with the limits and limitations imposed by climate change. The sad truth of climate change is that all those who work in the coffee ecosystem will suffer the most. What will happen to the workers at coffee farms, small farmers, and their families when climate change takes away their livelihoods. 

Perhaps that is why every time I drink a cup of coffee — I want to appreciate it and fully savor every drop. 

Being away also was an excellent opportunity to step away from the daily torrent of media inanities, the Facebook whistleblower melodrama, and the eternal sermons of Twitter gurus. In his Big Technology newsletter, Alex Kantrowitz observes that the social media preachers live on a BlowHard Curve.  

“The journey from sage to blowhard is instead a progression, one involving several steps and tradeoffs between being authoritative and overexposed,” he writes and makes a strong case for a momentary pause. Alex’s advice extends to his brethren in the media and newsletter writer community, who start exciting but quickly become tiresome. 

It is hard to be good or brilliant if you are constantly talking (metaphorically speaking.) Even the best television series with millions of dollars spent on talent become drab and drag on after a while, and who can blame “brofessors” with life experiences of a hummingbird. 

We live in a world of platforms, algorithmic content monsters that constantly need to be fed by content. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. It is just a means to create engagement. The feed doesn’t judge. It just wants to devour attention and feed on engagement. Whether it is pandemic, the vaccines, the NFTs, or just some new 

Anyway, that’s it from me for today. This coming week will be fun — there is a likelihood of new MacBook Pros and new M1 Chips. Talking about chips, I just wrapped up a piece on the A15 bionic and hopefully will get it edited and publish it this week. 

October 17, 2021. San Francisco. 

Reading List:

  1. Eco-friendly, lab-grown coffee is on the way, but it comes with a catch. [The Guardian]
  2. The Blowhard Curve. [Big Technology by Alex Kantrowitz.]
  3. How Hunter Thompson, the writer, became a legend. [Rolling Stone]
  4. What’s the story behind GlenPark BART Station design. [FoundSF]
  5. The Newsfeed is dead. Ben Evans said so in 2018

It has been ten years since Steve Jobs passed. The company he co-founded is worth nearly two trillion dollars. The brand he created is everywhere. The devices he helped conjure are everywhere.

And yet, we miss him every day, for there isn’t a Steve Jobs to help us overcome our mediocrities. Don’t get me wrong — there are new pretenders: the media machine needs them. The stock market needs them. But if you have lived as long as I have, you know he was one of a kind.

Here is a relevant bit from a blog post, The Tao of Steve, I wrote ten years ago:

The idea of Steve led me to follow my heart, make tough choices, be brutally honest with myself (and sometimes annoying to people I love) and always remember that in the end, it is all about making your customers happy. There are simple ways to get along with everyone. There are easier ways to get things done. There are compromises. But to me Steve Jobs meant try harder, damn it, your customers (readers) expect better than that. Steve taught me to care about the little things because in the end, little things matter.

As a former professional journalist, thankfully, I no longer have customers. I still believe that the readers of this blog, expect better from me.

Since my heart attack, I have tried to live by the day, for the day. I don’t always succeed in doing so, and more often than not, fail. As a result, birthdays as a special occasion to celebrate have become less meaningful, unless it is the year of zeros and gives. I turned 55 last week — the number that represents Cesium (caesium) which, as per Wikipedia’s definition, is a “soft, silvery-golden alkali metal with a melting point of 28.5 °C (83.3 °F), which makes it one of only five elemental metals that are liquid at or near room temperature.” Its symbol is Cs. It is usually associated with some products that need radioactivity. 

The funny thing is that many of the metal’s properties, many quite misanthropic, are an opt reflection of my state of mind in our post-pandemic reality. And perhaps that’s why few very dear friends collectively surprised me with a series of experiences that involved hiking, eating better, disconnecting from the Internet (mostly), and of course, making photographs in an amazing location. 

The gift was their company, but in reality, they wanted me to reset, rejuvenate and re-energize. This sojourn was a perfect way to break my pandemic-inspired predisposition for solitude and contemplation. Being out in the sun, relearning the joys of my camera, journaling late at night under the canopy of stars, and reading was therapeutic. It made me realize that often I was so busy with the business of life that I forgot the life itself. 

As I walked through the silent slot canyons, surrounded by Navajo sandstone, caressed into curves by gushing waters and rushing winds, it was a reminder of my insignificance. Look closer, and you start to see layers in the rock that represent thousands of years. Time, on a geological scale, is very different from what we think of as time. It is a good reminder that our individual lives don’t merit even a spec, yet we are so obsessed with our ego, our presence on the planet, and whatever we deem important around us. 

W. Somerset Maugham once noted: “Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.” I don’t intend to be foolish enough not to be delighted by whatever life brings me – one way or the other. 

Somewhere, October 3, 2021

There is nothing quite as good as starting your day next to the bay, listening to the slow and rhythmic break of waves on the shore. And it is even better when the fog hugs the distant hills and lingers over the bridge that has been Instagrammed maybe a billion times. The beauty of the morning inspired me to make some photos — and test out the technical mettle of the new iPhone 13 Pro’s various cameras.

….powered by the new image signal processor (ISP) in A15 Bionic for improved noise reduction and tone mapping, the iPhone 13 Pro lineup features the best camera system ever on iPhone. The all-new Wide camera has a larger sensor with 1.9 µm pixels, the largest ever on iPhone, for less noise and faster shutter speeds needed across lighting conditions, producing even more detailed photos. Coupled with the larger ƒ/1.5 aperture, the Wide camera on iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max offers a massive improvement in low-light situations, up to 2.2x when compared to iPhone 12 Pro, and nearly 1.5x when compared to iPhone 12 Pro Max. Sensor-shift optical image stabilization (OIS) — unique to iPhone — is available on both models

The new Ultra Wide camera features a much wider ƒ/1.8 aperture and a new autofocus system, bringing a 92 percent improvement for low-light environments, producing images that are brighter and sharper. iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max also boast a new 77 mm Telephoto camera, offering 3x optical zoom for a total 6x optical zoom range on the camera system.

Apple iPhone News Announcement.

Apple’s claims check out. Most landscape photographers judge the camera by its ability to capture details and colors, for a good camera is the one that can produce files that transition from shadows to highlights with a minimum of fuss. And the iPhone 13 Pro cameras pass with top grades.

Later, upon returning home and looking at these images on an XDR display, I could easily see the impact of the bigger pixels giving the images smoother transitions between shadows and highlights. I also like that the colors are naturally deeper. I appreciated the lower noise in the new sensor — giving me the courage to make the fog a bit whiter during the editing process.

As I usually do with my mobile photography, I used the Halide Camera to capture images in RAW and used the Darkroom App to edit them on the phone. The edited set is a mixture of color and monochromatic images. I hope they convey the sense of calm and peace I felt this wonderful morning.

September 26, 2021. San Francisco

Friday Night Lights: SF Giants Stadium, long after the game is over. Leica SL2-S. Leica M 135mm lens.

“Tweek,” is an aggregation of the tweets I sent out during the week. It is a habit I picked up from Disquiet, a blog run by Marc Weidenbaum. It allows me to remember what I was thinking about during this specific time. It also allows me to correct my grammar and spelling. If you don’t follow me on Twitter, this is just the best of what I have shared with my community.) 

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September 23: The passing of Melvin Van Peebles made me think of his son, Mario, who made the most wonderful 1991 release New Jack City, which like The Godfather, is one of the best movies about the brutalism of the capitalist way. Quote: “Yo baby, we talkin’ about combinating and consolidating!”

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 In response to a tweet by outgoing Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer, I did a tweet thread. 

September 22: Here is my PR-bullshit free translation: 

  • 1. There is no way stock will do better than what it has done over the past 13 years. 
  • 2. Govt(s) oversight is going to grind the company. 
  • 3. Top-down leadership is getting crazier. 
  • 4. Term limit on enabling a monster is 13 years.

I remember when Mike was part of @mozilla and what a strange journey from being part of the open web’s champion to being part of the evil “attention sucking” empire that is a net negative for the web, SV ecosystem & Society.

The last thing I will say to this – the longer you have stayed inside the circle, the less trustworthy you are. It is a shame that SV is hiring from a knowingly toxic and morally ambiguous place. All things learned there are going to pollute the ecosystem for a long time.

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September 22: The macro photography on the iPhone 13 Pro is insane. Here is a close-up of nibs from a new Twisbi pen. My short review from yesterday, in case you missed it.

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September 20@PitchBook: $23.5B invested in Indian startups this year, nearly double what the country’s VC ecosystem collected over the last two years combined. Forty-one unicorns, 17 minted this year. Big market, more local tech IPOs & China (Tech)Chill prompting shift of $$$s to India.

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September 19: 25 years ago, sometime this week, @djshadow

 dropped the mind bomb called Endtroducing. We might be getting old, but that album still keeps rocking. Raise your hand if you heard it then! (Read)

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September 19: Damn @disneyplus has deprecated the @IPL viewing experience by pushing it to @ESPNplusHD & killing @DisneyPlusHS. This is what happens when a global strategy is set from California without understanding viewership. The point of “apps” was to create curated experiences and go after niches. Instead, we are back to the lame “cable oriented thinking,” which isn’t surprising since most media giants aren’t known for innovation.

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