COVID-19

Sandy is resting in her stable

Here in the Midwest we have Meijer, a big-box store like Walmart except way nicer. Meijer is pretty terrific.

Meijer

I shop there every week. I go Saturday mornings now, early, hoping for the best selection. I wear nitrile gloves; we have some thanks to our son who used them on the job until he was furloughed. Friday the CDC recommended wearing masks in public. I tried to find my sawdust masks in the garage but had no luck; the place is in considerable disarray. I’ll do a deep dive later. Off I went.

I worry most about the pandemic while I’m in Meijer. There are just so many people there! And some aren’t good about keeping their distance. I am usually a charge-ahead shopper — let’s see how fast I can burn through this list and get out of here! But now, I have to choose deep patience. I wait as long as it takes for a clear path before I move. But that means I just expose myself for that much longer.

They had toilet paper, ground beef, and chicken breasts this week! Small victories.

When I got to the checkout there was a new plexiglass shield between me and the cashier. As I loaded bags into my cart I noticed this:

It’s a Meijer tradition: since 1962, every store has had a mechanical horse for kids to ride. And since 1962, every ride has cost just a penny.

I’d never paid much attention to Sandy. My kids were never interested in her when they were small. Even though I’ve shopped at Meijer for more than 25 years, I didn’t even know her name was Sandy until I saw that sign saying they’d put her away.

It makes obvious sense to put Sandy away right now. But for whatever reason, this one small thing brought the enormity of this pandemic home to me. I stood in line holding back tears.

Other pandemic reports from fishyfisharcade and -N- today.

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Film Photography

Kosmo Foto Mono in Rodinal

Reeds

I’m shooting through all the film I’ve stockpiled, and a roll of Kosmo Foto Mono was next in the queue. I spooled it into my Nikon N2000 as I hadn’t shot it in a long while. My 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens is still new to me, so I mounted it to give it another spin. I developed this Kosmo Foto Mono in Rodinal 1+50 and I was overall happy with the results.

But first, let’s look at some photos I wasn’t too happy with. Several shots were lighter on the edges than in the middle like the one below.

Lowe's reflected

Shadow detail wasn’t great in a few photos as well, as in the photo below. Can you see the runner on the path? He was much more obvious in real life as I made the photograph.

Suburban living at its best

There’s so much that goes into what a photograph looks like when you see it here. I almost always let the camera meter the scene; did my N2000 favor the highlights here? Is its meter still accurate? It was great the last time I used it. But that was more than a year ago and old cameras — this one is from about 1985 — do fail sometimes.

I used my CanoScan 9000F Mark II and its bundled ScanGear software to scan these negatives. Better scanner software or a better scanner might have resolved these images better.

I’m still new to developing my own film, but I’ve built enough skill at it to get consistent results. That doesn’t mean consistently perfect results; perhaps something about this developing session wasn’t ideal. The temperature of my developer was higher than ideal: 22.8° C rather than 20° C, thanks to ambient temperature. That led me to reduce development time from 9 minutes to 7 minutes 10 seconds, as calculated using the converter at the Massive Dev Chart Web site. Maybe that played a role.

Who knows. The rest of the roll looked really good to me.

Fence and shadow

At the time I made these photos Indiana was on stay-at-home orders thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. So I shot the whole roll around the house and on walks I made around my neighborhood. This is what I like to call la-de-da photography — images of anything that strikes my fancy. None of this will ever hang in a museum. But I had fun shooting the roll, and that’s what matters.

Film

I like Kosmo Foto Mono. But when I’ve sent this film out to my usual labs for developing and scanning I sometimes thought the results were a touch too contrasty. My usual labs use D76 or one of its clones. Rodinal managed the contrast better. There’s a slight muddiness in some images, but a good range of tones overall.

Pine needles

It was strange to walk around the deserted streets of my subdivision, so I walked over to the nearby strip mall and it was similarly deserted. We walk over to this Mexican restaurant a lot, or at least we did before they closed thanks to the pandemic.

El Rodeo

Ah, vinyl village life. Our neighbor owns this funky Jeep with its white fenders. This shows Kosmo Foto Mono’s signature deep blacks.

Jeeeeeeep

That 35-105mm zoom lens has a macro mode. I love macro work! On a rainy day I put some small things on the kitchen windowsill and photographed them with the lens wide open (f/3.5).

Rocks

I was with Margaret when we bought this little bird sculpture, but I can’t remember where that was. The focus is a little soft.

Birb

There you have it: Kosmo Foto Mono in Rodinal 1+50. It’s a fine combination.

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Blogosphere

Another bug in the WordPress block editor and frustration trying to get WordPress.com Support to believe me

Let me start by saying that software support is a wicked hard job. I’ve worked in the industry more than 30 years and have experienced it firsthand on support rotations.

Until the latest update to WordPress’s block editor, it was possible to flow text around an image following these steps:

  1. Insert an image, either using an Image block, or using an HTML block to embed a Flickr image.
  2. Using the block tools, right or left align it.
  3. Grab handles appear on the image. Drag them to size the image to your liking.

Boom, that’s it, the next blocks flow around the image. At least, it did until the most recent block editor update. It’s broken now. After step 2 above, you can no longer select the block with the image in it. It appears to merge with the next block. If you click the image and use the block tools to delete the block, it deletes the next block but leaves the image in place. The only way to delete the image is switch to the Code Editor and remove the code that embeds the image. Here’s a screencast that illustrates what’s happening. This has got to be a bug.

Chicago Theater

I have found a sort-of workaround. Insert the image, size it, then left or right align it. It gives the desired end result, as you can see at left.

The only trouble is, you still can’t select that image block. I can’t resize it, I can’t move it, I can’t edit the caption. I can’t even delete it.

The only way to interact with the image block after that is in the code editor.

I opened a case with WordPress.com Support and described this regression. The support engineer said that the block editor was never designed to work in the way I described. I replied that it had indeed worked that way until a couple days before I opened the support case.

The engineer then asked me to either use the Text & Media block, or use the Classic Editor block, to do what I wanted.

This is an example of the Media & Text block. It doesn’t support Flickr embeds; unfortunately, I use Flickr to host most of the images here. Also, the default text is huge and you have to format it to try to match it to the rest of the post’s default text size. You get a slider to do that, and you have to match it by trial and error. It doesn’t actually flow the text around the image, as you can see.

MeditatingDogIt does work to use the Classic Editor. I’ve done it here: this paragraph and the image at right are in the Classic Editor block, and the paragraphs that follow are in Paragraph blocks.

It was surprisingly challenging to remember how to use the Classic Editor after all these months in the Block Editor, but I figured it out.

However, I was still sure I had found a bug, and I said so very directly to the support engineer. I shared an old post with the engineer that showed how I had flowed text around an image. I pointed the engineer to the underlying code behind the post to prove it: there were dimensions in the code for the image. Those wouldn’t have been there had I not used the grab handles to shrink the image. The engineer finally said, “Okay, I see you were able to do this before. It seems unusual that it was possible to do this before, but I can certainly report this change to the Block Editor devs. for you.”

No, it wasn’t unusual. This is how it actually worked.

Furthermore, following the steps I described above to flow text around an image results in a block you can no longer select, and can only delete by switching to the Code Editor. In what universe is that not a bug?

If anyone from WordPress happens to read this, I’d be grateful if you’d check what I’m saying here and, if I’m right, open a bug ticket for it. I’d surely like to see this fixed as I encounter this bug every day.

Most of the time when I open a support case with WordPress.com I get active troubleshooting. I’ve found several bugs over the years and most support engineers are happy to get to the bottom of it with me and, when I’m right, write a bug ticket. They even email me a link to the ticket so I can follow it and see when it gets fixed.

But every now and then a support engineer repeatedly tries to tell me that whatever bug I’m encountering is how the system is supposed to function, or that I am wrong about how the system used to work. That makes me nuts. I feel gaslit.

I know this support engineer doesn’t know me and has no idea I’ve been making software for a living since the late 80s. That I was a quality engineer for 17 of those years. I’m adept at identifying bugs.

Harrumph, enough ranting. I hope someone at WordPress.com figures out that this condition exists and puts it in the queue to be fixed.

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Blogosphere

Recommended reading

💻 David Jenkins was in Moscow for a while in 1990. He shares photos and a perspective on the poeples’ ability to worship as the Soviet era was beginning to end. Read Eastern Europe 1990: A Meeting in Moscow

Pause in the photowalk
Apple iPhone 6s, 2020.

💻 I love short memoir articles, and Jerome Carter wrote a nice one this week. He remembers chili dogs and Nehi grape soda in his rural southwest Virginia childhood. Read Of Chili Dogs and Childhood Memories

📷 Mark O’Brien, who like the Argus C-3 is from Ann Arbor, Michigan, finally writes his magnum opus to his hometown’s most famous camera. Read The Argus C-3: The Infamous Brick

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Photography

Help me test my blog

I’m having ongoing minor issues with my blog’s functioning. Could you help me test something by leaving a comment? It can just say “Test” or something else short. After a while I’ll delete this post. Thanks!

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COVID-19

Meetingpallooza

At work, we’ve started a big, important project. Teams are executing while we’re still planning the middle and end of it. It’s packed my days with meetings. Is it just me, or are Zoom meetings more draining than meeting in person? I go from one Zoom meeting to another from 9 to 5:30, except for lunch because I decline lunch meetings. I need to eat and have a little down time.

Meanwhile email keeps arriving, and I’m absolutely bombarded with messages on Slack. Because I know I don’t have the discipline to not respond to incoming messages during meetings, it’s my habit when I’m in the office to leave my laptop at my desk. It lets me be present and pay attention in the meeting. I’m usually the only person in the room without a laptop. But on Zoom, the meeting is on the computer. And because my schedule is so heavily packed right now, if I don’t respond during meetings I’ll work late every night catching up on messages. No thanks.

Wild

I was Friday tired at the end of Wednesday this week. I hit the wall Thursday afternoon. I declined my 3:30 and 4 pm meetings and unplugged from everything for 90 minutes. I resurfaced for the 5 pm management huddle, which is just a time for us to check in on how we’re all doing. I went first, describing what I’m experiencing. Then I said it: this is intense and I can’t sustain it.

The room was silent for a minute, and someone changed the subject. We talked about three or four other things. Then the VP who was leading the meeting said, “I want to go back to what Jim said. I’m experiencing the same thing. Like Jim I don’t take my computer to meetings either so I can be present and focus, but now I can’t get away from the computer. Is anybody else handling this better?”

A few people had suggestions. I even made one, one that I came up with during the meeting: I’m going to block time in the morning and afternoon on my calendar and decline any future meeting requests that happen then. I’ll shut down Slack and email while I’m in my meetings and open it when I’m not, because I will have guaranteed time to respond to messages.

Will this work? Probably. But it might have some negative effects I can’t see right now. I’ll try it and see, and keep adapting from there. And I’ll liberally steal other peoples’ good ideas that work for them, and see if they work for me.

More isolation reports from -N-, JR Smith, Gerald Greenwood, Yuri Rasin, Johnny Martyr.

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