Life After Cancer »

Federico Viticci, on life:

Cancer changed me. It’s not necessarily about chemo drugs (they’re awful, but they work) or the oncology routine and terminology that you’re forced to learn suddenly and force upon the people around you. As a survivor, it’s not even strictly about living with the consequences and the constant reminder that I need to be prepared for anything.

Cancer taught me the beauty of life. To find magic in the simple act of having dinner with my girlfriend. To see work as an opportunity to inspire others and be useful. To love my parents now and cherish every moment with them because one day they’ll be gone and I’ll hold onto my memories forever. To listen to people and respect others because, in the end, no matter our diverging opinions and disagreements, we’re human beings and empathy drives us forward. My experience gave me a profound awareness of the fact that my time is limited and that, at a basic level, I have no idea what I’m doing here. And this freedom is amazing.

I’m here today because people saved me. I recognize that I am lucky and privileged. Last year, when I realized that I wasn’t fully seizing the second chance I was granted, I decided to do everything in my power to change my habits and respect this new opportunity. What I can do as a person is to take better care of myself and find a balance between my activities and my personal, physical existence on this planet. I sought a healthier lifestyle so I wouldn’t squander my extra time.

Take some time, and really digest this piece. It’s not a surprise that Federico’s most personal writing is also his best. Cheers, Ticci.

Henry Lee McCollum released from North Carolina prison »

Jonathan M. Katz, writing for The New York Times:

James and Priscilla McCollum, Henry’s father and stepmother, began to cry and shout for joy as the son they call Buddy stepped out in a houndstooth jacket, khaki pants and slate blue tie he’d been given by the lawyers who helped secure his release. The team, from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, began weeping and hugging as well. Standing a free man in fresh air for the first time in his adult life, Mr. McCollum swatted away gnats as he faced a phalanx of television cameras. He told the reporters that his faith in God had sustained him through years of fear that the legal system that had wrongly incarcerated him would also wrongly take his life.

Mr. McCollum also spoke of the 152 men still on death row in the state prison, whom he called his family.

“You’ve still got innocent people on North Carolina death row,” he said. “Also you’ve got some guys who should not have gotten the death penalty. That’s wrong. You got to do something about those guys.”

[…]

Finally free, Mr. McCollum, who like Mr. Brown is mentally disabled (Mr. Brown’s IQ in tests has registered as low as 51) faces the challenge of his life: learning to live in a world he has not experienced since he was a teenager three decades ago. On death row, Mr. McCollum was never allowed to open a door, turn on the light switch, or use a zipper. He never had a cellphone, and until last week had not used the Internet. (He excitedly told his stepmother about his first use of Google Maps days ago, when he saw pictures of her house.)

Thirty one years, wrongfully incarcerated. I’ll assume Supreme Court Justice Scalia is eating a little crow today (probably not).

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month »

Stephen Hackett:

I know first-hand what this means. In five years, my family hasn’t paid a single dime for our son’s care and on-going rehabilitation. As soul-crushing as having a child with cancer is, I can’t imagine having to worry about life-altering debt or filing for bankruptcy as well.

There are a million good causes out there, but let’s make September about those kids on my refrigerator.

I’ve set up a St. Jude fundraising page that I will be linking to instead of RSS sponsors for the month of September. My goal is to raise $1,000 for the kids of St. Jude this month It takes $2 million a day to run the hospital and research center, so $1,000 is a drop in the bucket. Let’s make it our drop.

Just made my donation. How could you not?

36 years in this skin »

Hacker wizard, Brett Terpstra:

I started drinking and smoking in Middle School. I wasn’t a popular kid, but I didn’t fit in with the burnouts, either. I was just a nerd with a proclivity for addiction and a need to snuff out my feelings. It was later determined that I was Bi-polar and ADD, among other things. I saw a shrink for depression and suicidal thoughts, but nothing came of it as far as treatment. Self-medication became a way of life. By High School I was always “on” something. By college I was a full-fledged addict.

This is an incredible, moving, introspective piece from Brett. Happy birthday, man. We’re all glad you made it.

The Time of Our Lives »

Oren Miller:

4 years ago, in the summer of 2010, we were at Bethany Beach, and everyone was having a great time. Our family and some friends were building sand castles, going in and out of the water, and just relaxing in general—everyone except anxious old me. I had hundreds of unread emails and dozens of ideas for blog posts I didn’t have time to write, and I was surrounded by too much sand and not enough coffee. I tried to pretend I was having a good time, but people could see I was out of my comfort zone, and worse, that I didn’t want to be there.

It was only on the drive back home that I had the epiphany. It was only on the drive back that I realized what I had been missing out on. It was only on the drive back that I realized I had been experiencing the biggest tragedy of human existence: I was having the time of my life, and I didn’t even know it.

After a year of health struggles, last week I got an official diagnosis of Neurosarcoidosis and pulmonary sarcoidosis, and started treatment (high doses of Prednisone) yesterday. I won’t go into the details, you can read about them if you want, but I will say that it’s been the hardest year of my life.

I’m incredibly thankful for those close to me, online and off. But specifically, my beloved Jenna.

My lovely, lovely wife has continually supported me through this in ways I can’t verbally express, in part by sending me posts like this. Reading stories like Oren’s have helped me keep my situation in clear perspective. Things can always be worse, and when they’re worse, you can still have the time of your life.

Segregation Now »

From Nikole Hannah-Jones’s phenomenally written and devastatingly sad Segregation Now: Investigating America’s Racial Divide:

In recent years, a new term, apartheid schools — meaning schools whose white population is 1 percent or less, schools like Central—has entered the scholarly lexicon. While most of these schools are in the Northeast and Midwest, some 12 percent of black students in the South and nearly a quarter in Alabama now attend such schools—a figure likely to rise as court oversight continues to wane. In 1972, due to strong federal enforcement, only about 25 percent of black students in the South attended schools in which at least nine out of 10 students were racial minorities. In districts released from desegregation orders between 1990 and 2011, 53 percent of black students now attend such schools, according to an analysis by ProPublica.

✱ Everyday Carry

My friends Brad and Myke sent me down an endless pit of looking at “everyday carry” sites thanks to the latest episode of their excellent podcast. So I figured I would post my own. I know these things have run their course with some folks, but I’ve always been a fan of seeing what’s useful to others. So here goes…

  1. Keys with Kero lightning cable—Probably the most useful holiday gift I got. I use it every day.
  2. Koyono Slimmy Wallet—Seriously my favorite wallet ever. Super thin (I keep it in my front pocket) regardless of how many cards you put in it, within reason. It’s also incredibly durable. Mine is about 3 years old and looks like new.
  3. Ray-Ban “New Wayfarer” Sunglasses in matte black—These are actually kind of hard to find these days. Maybe they weren’t that popular, but they’re my favorite pair of sunglasses I’ve owned. A bit smaller than most Wafarers, which I prefer. Plus, I’m into matte anything.
  4. Field Notes “Pilsner” & Field Notes “Cold Horizon”—These are the best small notebooks around in my opinion. I always have at least two on hand. If I have my bag with me, I carry… enough.
  5. Pilot Precise V5 RT Extra Fine Point in black, Pilot Precise V5 Extra Fine Point in blue, and a plain old Accent Highlighter. I adore the Pilot V5. Perfect for everyday use.
  6. Mid-2011 MacBook Air i7—The best computer I’ve ever owned. I’ll be sad when it dies.
  7. Fitbit Force—Very cool fitness tracker. I like knowing how much I walk per day. I replaced smoking with walking during the day, and this helps me stay on track. Additional bonus: The battery is amazing. Lasts about 2 weeks.
  8. Buffalo MiniStation 1 TB Thunderbolt External Drive—Very reliable * knocks on wood * portable hard drive that is super fast for being a spinning disk. Thunderbolt for the win.
  9. iPod Classic 80 GB—The device that just won’t die. I bought this thing in 2007 and it still works just as well as the day I got it. I like being able to have my whole entire library in my bag.
  10. Apple EarPods—Are they great? No. But they’re better than average, and that’s fine for when I’m at work. Plus, they let just enough outside sound in that I can hear my desk phone ring.

Not Pictured: I generally use an Incase campus backpack, but depending on what I have to carry, that could change to a messenger or a sling. Also not pictured is my Space Gray iPhone 5s. I used it to take the photo. Duh.

✱ How I Almost Lost Every Family Photo I Have

Yesterday, we celebrated my son’s 15th birthday (Yes, 15!). Before the extended family came over for the party, I thought it would be fun to pull up a few old photos of my boy for us to have a laugh over. What came next was an influx of heart palpitations, tears, panic, and relief. But let’s back up and start at the beginning…

My Terrrible Workflow

It had been at least a few weeks since I looked at our iPhoto library. I have a 128 GB MacBook Air, so keeping a local copy has been out of the question for some time. But I’m no dummy, I back up regularly. I have a copy of the library on an external 1 TB Thunderbolt drive — which I use as my regular portable — and another copy stashed on the data partition of my Time Capsule. Neither of these are foolproof, and I know that, but it’s always worked. Even with the inherent risk. See, I’m no dummy. Nope. Not me.

Any time we do a “photo dump” of our phones, cameras, etc, I hook the Thunderbolt drive up to the Air, open the library, and import everything we need to save. Then I hook the drive up to my Time Capsule and make another copy. Again, I know this is a terrible strategy, especially when dealing with invaluable memories. And yes, I had planned to embrace Bradley Chambers’s excellent workflow once I had the time. It should’ve been clear that changing my ways was urgent, but we don’t think that way until we get burned, right? I mean, we’re not dummies.

Call The Fire Department, Dummy

When I hooked up the drive and fired up iPhoto this past Sunday morning, everything seemed normal. I scrolled up the library; about 10 years back and double clicked on a thumbnail. I was greeted by an image of a giant exclamation point. I hadn’t seen this before. “What in the hell?” came fumbling out of my mouth. Our bedroom is next to the office, and my wife overheard. I assured her it was nothing and decided that Bradley’s suggestions needed to be implemented. Right now.

I hit ⌘-A in the photo view, and clicked on “Export” (which is horrible in iPhoto — more on that later). I was greeted with an “Unable to create…” dialog, which basically means that iPhoto can’t find the original files; only the thumbnails.

Next, I decided to open the iPhoto database itself and dig around.

This is where the panic began to set in.

The “Original Files” and “Modified Files” folders were empty. I mean, nothing. Not a single image. Clicking through all sorts of who-knows-what in that database turned up zilch. I quickly logged into the Time Capsule and opened that copy of the database. Same thing. Empty. This is when the tears started streaming uncontrollably. Blubbering. Whimpering. All of that.

I’m the tech person of the house, so when my wife came into the office to see what was causing my groans, she saw my face and naturally starting sobbing too. She knew that I had been working with our photos, and immediately knew that something was very, very wrong. We were in complete panic-mode. A photographic fugue state, if you will.

My reaction may sound extreme, but here’s a number for you: 14,500. Fourteen thousand five hundred photos. Gone. And I didn’t know how or why, or what I could do to get them back. That’s not including the 75 or so hours of video that were missing as well. I needed to collect every backup disk I could find and check them for a viable library. But I didn’t really have that kind of time, nor could I remember which drives had what. Great backup strategy, huh?

Outsmarting Myself

I mentioned that it was my son’s birthday and folks were coming over shortly after my horrifying realization that I had failed as a parent (yes, that’s what it felt like), and we needed to get things together. We still had some last-minute gifts to buy, and food to cook. So we went out.

On the way to the store, my wife (still teary eyed) mentioned that I had sent her to her office with an external drive not too long ago. I honestly don’t even remember doing this, but figured we could stop and pick it up. It’s worth a shot, right? We bounced around to the stores we needed to hit, stopped at the office and headed back home. My heart was pounding as I plugged the drive in.

Deep breaths…

A fully intact library was there — give or take a hundred photos.

I sat back in the chair, feeling a little bit better based on the fact that I wasn’t a complete dolt. I had actually sent a backup to my wife’s office for safe-keeping. I seriously don’t remember doing it, but the point is that I did, and I suggest you do something similar. It started to come back to me; if god forbid the house caught on fire, I wanted the photos safe.

Birthday party or not, I had to start the process of migrating out of iPhoto.1

The Tools — Phoshare, Hazel, Dropbox and Everpix

I won’t re-hash what Bradley Chambers rightly recommends. Toss him the $3 and grab his short eBook; it’s absolutely worth it. I’m basically following it to the letter. It involves Dropbox, Everpix, and some solid backup strategies. He outlines everything clearly and explains all the costs involved. The big plus is it’s written for “normal people”, so you can share it with non-techy friends and family. I did however, use a couple of extra tools that eased getting to the goal of a Dropbox based library.

Hazel’s great; I’ve talked about it before. But when you yank your photos out of iPhoto, and want to arrange them nicely in folders, Hazel goes from great to an absolute must. Read Sven Fechner’s article on moving your library, and specifically the part describing the app, Phoshare. Earlier I mentioned that exporting from iPhoto is pretty terrible, mainly because metadata is totally borked including the images’ “created date”. Phoshare fixes that quite nicely, preserving all metadata and copying all your images into a user-defined folder.

So my process went something like this.

  • Use Phoshare to export the iPhoto library to a desktop folder
  • Create a Hazel rule that sorts exported photos into subfolders based on year created, then month
    • First level folder: 2002, 2003, etc…
    • Second level subfolder 1 | January, etc…
  • Move newly organized folders into the Camera Uploads folder in Dropbox
  • Point Everpix at my Camera Upload folder
  • Sit back and take a deep breath

Note that if you are meticulous with naming/dating your iPhoto Events, using Phoshare to export based on Event name should suffice.

Phew…

This stuff isn’t for everyone. Catastrophes like this probably won’t happen to most people. But the thing is, you don’t have a problem until you have a problem. It’s the same cringe-worthy talk we’ve had a million times with our parents about backing up data. I’d argue that this is more dire. Databases can be very stable, but I’m no longer willing to keep life’s memories in something that can seemingly turn on me in an instant. I still don’t know what actually happened; it could even have been my own fault. Doesn’t matter though. I need a more stable plan, and for now, Dropbox+Everpix is it. Dropbox could go away tomorrow, and I’ll still have a neatly organized folder with all of my photos that I’m free to clone for safety.


  1. By the time everyone showed up I was already uploading to Dropbox. No harm done.