The Lathe #13

Emacs, Lightroom, DALL-E, and COVID.

The Lathe #13
"Sasquatch in a blue recliner drinking a cup of coffee"


Anyone who's followed me at all over the past several years can't help but be aware of my long-term love/hate relationship with Emacs and Org mode. Emacs can never be a sometimes-only thing with me. I'm either all-in or I'm out. It's similar to how smoking worked (until I finally quit): If I smoked one cigarette, I'd smoke 2 packs that day. There was no in-between.

I occasionally try to quit using Emacs. I get all excited about setting up new software and workflows for time tracking, note taking, task management, blogging, publishing PDFs, dealing with email, writing code, journaling, logging, general text editing... and so on. You see the problem, right? I already have all those things in Emacs. They already work, and all in the same free, future-proof, wildly flexible tool.

So once again I'm back in Emacs for most everything. (I'll quit next week 😘.) After a couple of weeks of trying yet again to write my own configuration, I'm comfortably back to using Doom Emacs. It does so many things so well right out of the box. I'd have to spend years getting my own config to behave as nicely and consistently, so I gave up. Doom it is, again.


Lightroom CC/Desktop/Cloud/Not Classic

I'm not a professional photographer or an artist. I'm a camera nerd who enjoys taking pictures. My actual requirements for post-processing photos are pretty basic. And yet, I load up on software and workflow and spend hours with layers and filters and presets and file management and what have you. I'll admit, it's fun playing with software, but shouldn't I be spending more of my time taking photos?

As a way to simplify things, I've tried switching to Lightroom (not Classic) a number of times and failed. I keep a list explaining why, but mostly it's because I want to manage image files my way and Lightroom won't let me. I use a specific file naming convention for photos but can't enforce this when using Lightroom. I can "Store a copy of all originals" on my Mac, but I can't influence the folder structure, and I kind of hate that.

On the other hand, Lightroom has gained a number of nice features recently. AI masking is super handy. Some of the "premium" presets do a great job of getting me close so that I don't need to rely on Lightroom's too-aggressive "auto" settings. Overall, Lightroom is fast, clean, and pleasant to use and can cover 95% of my processing needs. Oh, and it syncs seamlessly to the iPad.

For the past week, I've been importing all new photos into Lightroom, and so far, so good. When I stop overthinking my process, Lightroom is everything I could need for most of my photos. I at least have the originals on my local Mac's hard drive, which is comforting. And if I want to get fancy with an image, I open it in Capture One instead and go to town.


I finally got access to DALL-E and this is the first thing I did with it:

"Sasquatch in a blue recliner drinking a cup of coffee"

DALL-E is amazing, but, and maybe this is just me, I've seen enough social media posts of every silly thing people ask it to make. Maybe it'll slow down once the novelty wears off. I hope so. It brings up a question, what will people actually use this for once the novelty wears off? Ignoring some possible ethical issues (Andy Baio considers these in his post, Opening the Pandora’s Box of AI Art), what are tools like DALL-E for? The democratization of easily creating art at this level is a game-changer and I can't wait to see where it goes. One thing for sure is that I wouldn't want to be a freelance illustrator right now. My guess is we'll start by turning DALL-E into a sort of Unsplash without the actual artists.

A new web browser, Arc

I set Arc as my default browser after using it for fewer than three days.

I've tried all the "new" browsers, but the all felt like the same old thing with a few UI elements rearranged. Arc, on the other hand, feels different. It's hard to explain, but Arc is the first browser that handles bookmarks and tabs in a way that makes me feel like I'm organizing the internet rather than managing an out-of-control set of tabs. Some people have raised the usual concerns about privacy, trust, Chromium, and the meaningless but ever-popular "what's their business model?". I'll get to those things later, but right now I'm in love with using Arc. The "Library" is a great idea. The Library contains downloads, screenshots (built into Arc), my Desktop files, and "Easels", which are like giant whiteboards for collecting things. I love the split screen view and I really love "Little Arc" which is a pared-down browser window that opens when clicking web links in emails or other apps. It's exactly how I want a browser to behave. Anyway, try it when you have a moment.

Watching, reading, etc.

I'm still binge-watching Breaking Bad. Only a few episodes left before I can start watching "Better Call Saul."

A ★★★★½ review of Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
This is what a good time at The Movies means. It’s great when a film delivers on its promise and is exactly what it should be.

Rewatched "Top Gun: Maverick" on the small screen. Sure, it's all a chest-beating military sales pitch and Tom Cruise is kind of a flake but damn the movie kicks ass.

A ★★★½ review of The Phantom of the Open (2021)
Sweet and charming and there’s nothing wrong with sweet and charming.

"Phantom of the Open" was a sweet, quiet film, and just the ticket. I was surprised to learn that part of the story takes place in my hometown, which was cool.


COVID-19 finally caught up with me. I was fortunate to only be really sick for a couple of days, with lingering cold symptoms for several more. I'm finally done with isolation and hope to get out into the world again this week.

That's all for now. I'll leave you with yet another photo of my dog, Alice.

Don't hesitate to hit reply and let me know what's going on with you.