@jcburns February 13, 2020 at 11:17 pm

The fine people at Tillamook dairies have what appears to be an annual promotion that involves tweeting on National Cheddar Day (hope you celebrated.) I retweeted the specified stuff and two hours later, a DoorDash person handed me a fancy insulated bag full of cheese.

I guess this is how the internet is supposed to work.

@jcburns February 12, 2020 at 3:17 pm

So the fictional District Attorney of New York from 1990 to 2000 on Law & Order was named…Adam Schiff?! That seems like quite the collision of coincidences.

Real numbers from a small state.

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

Even in an age where it’s much easier (and in fact possible) to do so, I don’t spend a lot of time listening to candidates’ stump speeches. They’re designed for a certain effect and past a certain point they sound somehow…pat.

But I listened to Amy Klobuchar’s “we did well in New Hampshire” oration tonight and, in her success, she delivered a lot of the stump speech content, but managed to speak to working-class Americans in a deep, somewhat sad, party-independent way.

And I listened to Joe Biden, who had already decamped to South Carolina, where he could be surrounded by energetic people who weren’t as pasty-white as those in New Hampshire and Iowa. He seemed tired, spent, and a man full of heart, but not much gas in the tank. He has a story, but it’s a story based increasingly in the past. He didn’t do well.

So tonight, the New Hampshire Primary. Play the politics music! Fire up the big boards!

And, because it’s 2020, fire up Twitter on a convenient device and the people (and/or bots) you’ve chosen to follow will give you their quickly-delivered takes.

MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki around 10:30pm. The forehead of Joe Biden indicates how far down he is.

Updating at 10:55 pm: Buttigieg is speaking to his supporters. Why haven’t I noticed before that his cadences can get very Obama-y?


Monday, February 10th, 2020

Apparently enough people enjoyed the wet and cold weather system that inundated the Southeast last week—we’re getting a rerun this week. Weather is determined by a popular vote, right? Starting at midnight in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire? Maybe I have my news blips and bleeps confused. Maybe a caucus is involved. Or…polling.

All I know is: it’s wet, very wet outside.

Two skylines.

Sunday, February 9th, 2020

Atlanta seen from midtown in 2017 and 1979. Photos by me.

I should say that the topmost image is from three years ago, before another spate of building. You probably couldn’t see downtown from this spot now. (Also, the Georgia Dome is now gone.)

And if you pulled back—further north—about a half-mile, the forest of midtown buildings would make the center of Atlanta seem somehow secondary.

This is also an indication of why I vastly prefer digital to film. The detail, the detail.


@jcburns February 9, 2020 at 12:59 pm

Sometimes I use a script to make a mosaic of my Instagram pics to try and figure out exactly what life I’ve been living the past few months.

For all your digging needs.

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

I don’t know anyone else whose initials are those of a noted British company that makes excavating machines, tractors, backhoes, and the like.

But I’m oddly proud that mine are. I guess if my name was John Deere or Edward Caterpillar I’d have much the same reaction. (No, don’t bother looking, I just made up Edward Caterpillar.) Deere, however, was a real guy.

Wikipedia says:

JCB was founded in 1945 by Joseph Cyril Bamford, after whom it is named; it continues to be owned by the Bamford family. In the UK, India and Ireland, the word “JCB” is often used colloquially as a generic description for mechanical diggers and excavators and now appears in the Oxford English Dictionary, although it is still held as a trademark.

So…not just a predominant set of initials, but the Oxford Dictionary says when you’re talking JCB, you might as well be talking about big’ol yellow digging machines.

I’m so proud.

Embracing the new.

Friday, February 7th, 2020

You may know that most of the smartphones and other digital cameras out there take a picture in a format called JPEG. It’s one of a couple of predominant file formats—the way the ones and the zeroes representing a picture are written to and read from hard disks (and flash drives, and floppies, and are sent from one place in our networked world to another.)


Dogcow (moof!), pixels by Susan Kare.

People—the folks charged with making operating system and application software better and better—have constantly tried to come up with better solutions for files than JPEGs and GIFs and even the more professional, almost uncompressed PNG and TIFF formats. These, by the way, are called bitmap file formats, where basically every pixel can be different…a recording of the real world. Vector file formats are another thing entirely. Don’t get me started.

But bitmaps, the stuff of photos. There are so many of them out there now.

They’ve put new proposals our for possible embrace and elevation to the level of “a standard”: ever hear of JPEG2000? I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t. DjVu files? MNGs? Yeegads.

So I spent some time today as part of my continuing education as a designer reading about FLIF—the Free Lossless Image Format. And in so doing also skimmed through stuff on JPEG XL, the latest from the JPEG people. Oh yeah, that’s an acronym too. The Joint Photographic Experts Group started work in 1983 that led to the ubiquitous JPEG format. Seriously. It’s everywhere. Most of the visual stuff you see on a web page is JPEG. And when you compress it even a medium amount, you see these undesirable compression artifacts, the so-called “mosquito noise” that makes a heavily compressed JPEG look like crap.

The thing about a standard is…you can’t just declare it by imperial fiat. (Seriously, Mr. President, don’t even try.) You have to get it out there and convince a critical mass of developers and users and browser manufacturers and camera manufacturers to embrace it. And as some formats evolved, they were entangled with patents and royalties and other means of turning intellectual property into money for…well, someone.

That’s why Apple’s choice of HEIF/HEIC, which has been defined and embraced for four or five years now, was such a big deal. It’s easy for them to declare that all their latest cameras (which will sell in the millions) will use it (in addition to JPEG), and when files created with it are something like 50% smaller than JPEG for the same quality, it’s not a hard decision.

So people who work with images (and moving images, again, a whole other kettle of fish) these days have to keep up with the new types of files, and stay familiar with how one reads, writes, and processes these throughout all steps of a modern workflow.

So a day like today for me was a lot of this kind of reading. Just trying to keep up. Do I get what they’re doing? Can I open a file created in one of these formats? Can I create one? Can I see the visual difference…the color reproduction, sharpness, and presence or absence of artifacts? Am I missing something?

Do I have a horse in this race? Or a dogcow?

Messes tracked.

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

Atlanta is having one of those winters where we get a lot (and I mean a lot) of rain, often as part of a pretty powerful cold front that spins off high winds and tornadoes and Severe Weather Update Bulletin 3D Doppler Special Coverage that tracks the system as it comes in (inevitably) from Alabama, causes havoc big and small, and then, leaves to cause more messes first in Athens, Georgia and then in South Carolina or the Smoky Mountains.

Reporters are then deployed to say “look at this flooded road” and “look at this huge tree on this house.” Take a look from News Drone Severe Flying Doohickie 2!

Yeah, trees, floods, seen those things before.

Flooding in Northwest Ohio in January 2008.

We had that today through a big chunk of today, and at the end of the day, I can barely remember much of what we did except that it was done on top of a very drippy very rainy backdrop.

I’ll sleep better tonight, I think.

Chippy, now drippy.

Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

I spent a lot of today staring at text on my screen, deep within the tortured logic of obscure API calls, delving deeply into the way images are served on web browsers (like the one you’re using to read this now)…and listening to a second day of wood chipping not far outside my front door.

And I thought leaf blowers were annoying.

An image I tossed up onto the Instagram in July of 2011. For no good reason.

The guy across the street has taken—well—he’s commanded people to take two major and unruly entangled trees out of his back yard, along with a vast amount of plant material that grows up, over, around, and within these trees. It’s one of the reasons Atlanta was a city of trees before it became a city of mixed-use development. Stuff grows here. Boy, does it. This removal has been a major operation, with 4 or 5 vehicles, ropes, ladders, and the aural star of the show, a large Vermeer (ask for it by name) wood chipper, and, surprise, several loud gas leaf blowers to tidy up the detritus.

But I think they’re done for now. At any rate, a large amount of rain is supposed to wash through overnight, and I hope the rain and accompanying cold front marches through town with as little drama as possible. Sounds drippy outside.

Sometimes nothin’ isn’t a real cool hand.

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

Last night I hadn’t planned to watch that much of the coverage of what were supposed to be the Iowa Caucus results, but I was compelled, trainwreck-style, after hearing Brian Williams say to Rachel Maddow “we got nothin.” Well, he probably pronounced the ‘G’, but he was paying homage to his New Jersey origins. So if you have nothing, what do you do? I remained tuned to see.

So I stayed up late and watched the pontificators try to come up with new ways to say that the results weren’t being reported, but for me, the novelty soon wore off. And then, the politicians realized that empty lecterns were sitting there on live cable tv news channel screens, waiting to be filled, and sure enough, Klobuchar came out (first) to fill them with a vague take on what I’m sure was her stump speech. Then, Biden and Warren started doing much the same, almost simultaneously, and the cable nets made a dubious choice and stayed with Biden, as MSNBC’s Maddow promised “we’ll get Warren’s speech cued back up and show it to you right after Biden.”

No, no they didn’t. Neither did CNN. Instead, Bernie Sanders moved lecternward and because the rule that a live something, anything must be aired—a TV rule I’ve never embraced—they covered Sanders. I went to bed. If they made it back to Warren it was in the wee, wee hours.

Doesn’t seem fair to her, really.

And tonight, well, Sammy and I stuck with fiction and didn’t get anywhere near coverage of the real world. I had enough politics and I sure had enough of Our Imperial President.

If I’m disciplined, I won’t even flick through tweets in bed. Well, we’ll see.

@jcburns February 3, 2020 at 11:22 pm

Inspiring. Groundbreaking. Trustworthy. Missed. (and now, honored on postage.) #gwenifillforever


Monday, February 3rd, 2020

I’m trying to imagine the meetings at MSNBC and CNN where the producers say “okay, we’re not going to have any tangible results to report until late in the evening Eastern Time, but somehow, people, we’ve got to come on the air and carry prime time with gusto and energy.”

It’s probably easier to succeed with content, but the cable news folks have decided that a squad…make that a large squad of hyperactive young reporters, pulled from the ranks of interns and producers, will economically lift the broadcasts up and, even as the lower-third graphics report “Awaiting First Iowa Results”, they will zip around high school auditoriums, hypercaffeinated and super camera-savvy: “Here, these three, you’re for Pete, right? And…” (zipping over to the other corner) “…you were for Amy before but not now and…”

And, well, I hit the mute button and contemplate how much this exercise will really affect the 2020 election which, I’m sorry, still feels several months away.

Instead, I commend to you Adam Schiff’s closing remarks today in the Senate (this is the whole 25 minutes. There are shorter clips elsewhere, but this really holds together as oratory for our times.)


Sunday, February 2nd, 2020

There’s a volunteer we’ve encountered before at the Atlanta Botanical Garden who sets out an array of seeds, pods, cones, and, well, I guess, seed-like-thingies, and he (depending on your questions, interest, and/or attention span) challenges you to identify them or helps you guess them or simply tells you what they are.

Encountering this display with Sammy always gives me a quiet smile, because for her, this isn’t much of a challenge. But she’s also polite and friendly and she spent some time this sunny afternoon going through them with the volunteer guy…again.

She knows her trees and the stuff that comes out of trees in their quest for reproduction. Me, I dropped Biology in high school, but she grew up learning these diagnostically and taxonomically at the hand of parents who exposed her to lots and lots of growing stuff outdoors.

I did get Liriodendron Tulipifera right, however. Tulip Poplar. There’s a big one in our back yard, and darned if it doesn’t drop that stuff. And it’s one of the first trees she taught me three decades ago.

Second month.

Saturday, February 1st, 2020

I can report a certain sense of relief now that the calendar has turned over and we are in the second month of 2020. February! Not quite spelled like it is pronounced! Garden month of…well, not the northern hemisphere. Wellspring of positivity!

I like how this traffic cam picture, from GDOT via WSB-TV’s website, has a helpful yellow arrow.

On the other hand, a truck with 8500 gallons of fuel rear-ended a silver Volkswagen on I-85 just north of the perimeter and flipped several times this morning. The resulting fire and fuel dump drained into the sewer system, causing multiple underground explosions. Truck driver and VW driver were killed.

Atlanta. City of freeways. City of freeway-proximate conflagrations.