Worked out an images workflow

I mentioned a few days ago that I’d got my microblogging working about the way I wanted. There was one exception to that: my “images” workflow.

There’s pretty good “media library” functionality built into WordPress, but I’ve always found it a bit too blog-centric in how it works to be a good general solution to images hosting.

I was a Flickr user from way back, but when the new owners ruined it I decided I should host my own images, and ended up going with Lychee to provide self-hosting functionality.

Lychee works great, but it took me a while to sort out how to integrate images hosted there into my blog.

Here’s what I’ve ended up doing:

  1. Upload images to images.philipbrewer.net. The Lychee software lets me keep them private or make them public, and it lets me organize them into albums. It also produces an RSS feed of all my public photos.
  2. If I want to use one of my photos in a blog post, I select the photo in Lychee, click on the share button, and select “direct link” to get a link to a .jpg file. The default is the full-size image, but I can edit the link to get a link to a medium or small image if I prefer.
  3. In my blog post I insert the image as usual, except instead of selecting the image from my media library, I click “Insert from URL” and paste in the link I acquired in step two. If it’s the main image for the post I also paste it into the “use this image” field in Open Graph (a WordPress plugin I use to generate the metadata so that links shared in Twitter and Facebook use the image I want). If I want to, I can also specify the Lychee page for that image as the target URL if you click on the image.

Here, for example, is an image I took yesterday:

The utilities right-of-way past the U of I research fields is mowed until you get to the solar farm, but after that there’s a long stretch of tall weeds. Not impassable, but not a path either.

Pretty much everything works the way I want it to now. The images are hosted on images.philipbrewer.net, I have access to small, medium, and large versions of the images, and an easy-enough way to include them in a blog post.

Two things that could work better:

  1. A one-click way to get the link for the images pasted into all the right places in a new blog post, so I’m not having to go back and forth to make the image block, get one link, paste it (usually twice), then get the second link, and paste that one.
  2. A one-click way to get a srcset, so that my pages can be more automatically made responsive.

Still, after a bunch of posts where I was testing things out, in which things didn’t work quite they way I wanted them to, I’ve now got things just about set.

Non-deadly, yet perhaps actinic rays

Sun shining through a lily flower.

I went for a long-for-me, 7.22-mile run this morning, and listened to a podcast about light therapy.

(I go back and forth on listening to podcasts during runs. When I listen I feel like I miss out on being fully embodied in my physical activity. When I don’t listen I fall behind on stuff I really want to listen to. Today I listened.)

The podcast had Paleo Magazine‘s Ashleigh Van Houten interviewing Scott Nelson, the founder of Joovv, talking about the health benefits of exposing your skin to red and near-infrared light. I’d heard about this, but had assumed it was some woo-woo new-agey thing. Turns out it’s probably not. There’s been a huge amount of research on the benefits of exposing your skin to red light in the 660-nanometer and near-infrared light in 850-nanometer range.

(There was apparently a lot of research funded by NASA back in the 1990s when they had to use lasers to get light of just the right frequency. Nowadays LEDs make it easy to get the intensity and frequency of light that you want.)

So, I’m out on my run, listening to Ashleigh and Scott talk about all the health benefits to your skin (of the red light) and to deeper connective tissues (of the near-infrared) and thinking that it all sounds really cool, but knowing that I’m probably never going to want to spend even hundreds, let alone thousands, of dollars to buy a device that will shine bright red light on my skin.

At around the mid-point, maybe 4 miles into my run, I paused for a drink of water out of the fountain in Morrissey Park, thinking it was pretty hot for just 8:40 AM . Which made me think of this giant glowing orb in the sky, which was shining down on me with pretty intense light at a wide range of frequencies, most definitely including red and near-infrared.

Turns out, sure enough—the energy in the red and near-infrared frequencies of sunlight is right in the range of therapeutic doses shown to have health benefits.

Of course, full sunlight is full of other frequencies of light, including blue (prone to mess up your circadian rhythm if you’re exposed too close to bedtime, but just what you want to get your circadian rhythm set correctly if you get your exposure in the early morning like I was doing), and ultraviolet (dangerous in excess, but the UV index was zero when I started my run at 7:40 AM and probably didn’t reach 5 before I was safely back indoors). So you need to treat sunlight with respect. But I already knew that.

I have mentioned before that I feel better when I spend a lot of time outdoors, and have speculated that sun exposure is part of the reason. (Along with time in nature, moving more, appropriate quantities of community and solitude, etc.) The information about red and near-infrared light exposure seems to lean a bit in the sunlight direction—but with the welcome news that it’s not just the vitamin D that helps make me feel better, which means maybe I can feel great without having to expose myself so much to the deadly actinic rays of the sun.

Maybe there are non-deadly actinic rays!

Pocket watch phone

To be completely honest I mainly want this because without it the watch pocket in 5-pocket jeans is worthless. But it also occurs to me it might be appropriate as an alternative to a burner phone.

I don’t have the device fully characterized yet, and in fact there are multiple versions that might be differently useful in different circumstances, but here’s a sketch of what I’m thinking about.

First of all, the device has to fit comfortably in the watch pocket of a pair of 5-pocket jeans. That’s its whole raison d’être.

Almost certainly it needs to have:

  • Camera
  • GPS
  • Good-but-small screen
  • Bluetooth
  • WiFi

This is enough to enable all sorts of use cases: Geo-tagged images, navigation, listening to podcasts, tracking workouts, etc.

If I could get just that—and if it were reasonably cheap, and designed with good security—I’d buy one in a heartbeat, simply to have a workout tracking device that fit in the media pocket of my workout shorts. (My phones get bigger faster than I need to buy new running shorts.)

At this point, we need to make a big binary decision: Does the device have a phone?

Without a phone, it’s just a teeny-tiny tablet. As I say, I’d buy one, but without a phone it’s pretty limited—no connectivity unless you’re on somebody’s WiFi.

For most of the use cases I have in mind, this would work great. I could connect my headset & heart-rate monitor, kick off a podcast, start up my work-out tracking app, and go for a run. Along the way I could pause to take photos to document my workout. And the end I could share photos and workout details to social media. (Everybody I know cares deeply about my workouts.)

Some very minor software tweaks would let you use it your pocket watch phone as if you were connected. For example, you could still write texts and social media posts, they’d just be queued up until you went on WiFi someplace at which point they’d all be delivered.

The biggest issue with a pocket-watch non-phone phone would be the inability to make emergency calls. Less of a big deal but important to a lot of people is just generally being connected—making and taking calls, sending and receiving texts, keeping up on and posting to social media, etc.

The downside of adding a phone is that it loses the potential to be a purely off-the-grid device.

It might be possible to compromise: You could have a phone that’s turned off (with a burner SIM). Then you’re covered: In case of an emergency turn the phone on.

Proper burner phone security would require that you dispose of the phone as well as the SIM once you’ve powered it up. That need could probably be avoided if the phone generated a new IMEI on each power-up the way some devices are now generating new MAC addresses on power-up for the same reason. (There might be other numbers that would need to be regenerated. There’d also probably be other software changes necessary, such as obfuscating the list of installed apps, to keep the phones from being self-fingerprinting in all sorts of ways.)

If you can make the phone cheap enough, which having a very small screen would help a lot with, maybe none of that matters. Buy the phones in three-packs for a few dollars, and then give them to homeless shelters as soon as you’re done with one.