People who share their stories understand the importance of honest, clear, specific feedback. These reviews include other people’s stories as well as story-telling devices like cameras and internet service providers.
It’s a small app that makes a big difference. Not just in my photos, but also in the time I have to spend on them.
Noiseless is the name of a little program by Macphun that I recently bought, downloaded, and started using on the old grainy slides and scanned photos that were the main content of the family photo book I recently completed for a client. It really saved me a lot of time—and therefore it saved my client a lot of money.
Digital noise is a problem particularly in photos taken in low light or at low resolution. Typically, I use Photoshop’s Filters and Adjustments options to eliminate noise, but it’s a tedious process. The goal in this kind of editing is to reduce the noise but preserve the detail, and that can be a difficult balance to find.
Noiseless does it all in one swipe. Easy.
A true review of Noiseless might go into detail about how the software works, what your settings options are, and the actual process of using it. But I’m going to cut to the chase: It works. And it’s easy.
It’s also cheap. I bought Noiseless for only $14.99, and later I saw it in the app store for $9.99 (doh!). There is also a Pro version for $59.99 that can be used as a plugin for programs like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture, as well as a standalone app.
I recommend Noiseless
If you have old JPEGs that were scanned at lo-res, or you tend to take a lot of pictures at dusk, I recommend Noiseless as a cheap, easy way to eliminate digital noise and improve your images.
This might not be normal, but I think about death quite a bit. And about getting old. This is not depressing for me, or morbid. I just like to be prepared. There are a lot of things I can’t control about aging and dying—but there are certain things I can. By focusing on those things I can be as ready as possible.
So I have a deep appreciation for Dr. Atul Gawande’s book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. For one thing, it’s a very readable book, probably because Gawande has filled it with stories of real people, real families, and real choices. Some of those stories are heartbreaking. Some are inspiring. All are instructive.
For another thing, Dr. Gawande’s analysis is insightful. He places the stories he tells into the context of the history of the American healthcare system, and in doing so he helps us understand why things are the way they are. Essentially, Gawande makes the case that as members of a culture that values independence, youth, and science, we are ill-equipped to face our own mortality—but it’s not too late to become better equipped.
There is so much good stuff that Gawande says in Being Mortal—the hardcover copy I have is full of underlinings that I’ve referred to several times in the weeks since I finished reading it. I’m trying to resist the temptation to over-share in this book review, but let me offer one short quote from the Epilogue. Dr. Gawande says:
We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive. (p. 259)
This distinction he makes between “health and survival” and “well-being” is a central theme of the book. It’s a distinction you’ve seen played out if you’ve ever admitted a loved one to a nursing home. A decision like that is usually made out of concern for someone’s health and safety, and many nursing homes are pretty good at keeping people safe. Still, no one wants to go into a nursing home. Why? Because we know that life is about more than safety. Nursing homes can offer physical care, but what’s missing is the help we really need to navigate new reasons for living when our physical bodies begin to decline.
Normally a book like this might make me feel hopeless. I have a hard time dealing with systemic problems (like American healthcare) because they seem impossible to solve. But Gawande doesn’t ask me to change the system; he simply makes me aware of its shortcomings. In doing so, he helps prepare me to make my own healthcare choices, no matter what choices the system might pressure me to make. I don’t have to change the system; but I don’t have to let the system change me either.
Perhaps the most practical help Being Mortal offers is an encouragement to discuss four powerful questions before making any major healthcare decision—
What is your understanding of the situation and its potential outcomes?
What are your fears and what are your hopes?
What trade-offs are you willing to make and not willing to make?
What is the course of action that best serves this understanding?
By discussing these questions ahead of time with your family and with your physician, you’ll feel much more ready to face age, illness, and mortality.
Go ahead and order a copy of Being Mortal. I think you’ll find it surprisingly encouraging to read. It is neither manipulative nor indifferent. By the time you finish it, you’ll simply have a feeling of knowing what needs to be done and being ready to do it.
Last week I met Eric Crump. He’s the “Editor, etc.” (so says his business card) of a new local newspaper in a nearby suburb—the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle.
He started the Chronicle himself less than a year ago. because “a great community deserves a great newspaper.” Eric felt that our existing local newspapers—which give thin coverage to a wide swath of small towns as well as the major metropolis we are suburbs of—could not possibly do justice to all the smaller stories that are part of the Homewood-Flossmoor community. Gradually he added a couple other writers who share his vision, and together they publish 80–90 stories each month.
Eric’s not looking for big circulation numbers; he’s looking to serve just the small town where he lives. He doesn’t want wide coverage; he’d rather go deeper—on fewer stories if necessary
Sure, he’ll include the local high school basketball games, just like the bigger papers do. But he’ll also seek out stories about the Chess Club, and the Speech Team, and the Scholastic Bowl. And he’ll cover the local Rotary Club, the new Portillo’s, and the grand opening of Paintertaining.
So Eric spends his days in conversation with parents and students, business owners and local shoppers, village officials and substitute teachers, politicians and church leaders, pet lovers and chocolate lovers. He listens and asks questions and takes notes. Then he writes an article or a feature story or an opinion piece to share his findings with his neighbors and friends. Eric believes these small stories can have a big effect on community.
But Eric’s real dream is for the Chronicle to become a printed newspaper. While most of the big papers are reducing print runs in favor of digital subscriptions, Eric knows that many readers in his small town are more comfortable with paper than pixels. If he can work out the business model, he’ll fill that niche. Interesting, huh?
By the way, I met Eric because he expressed an interest in Common Ground, the cross-cultural relationship-building program I’m part of. He learned about Common Ground from a participant who also happens to be active in a local school that Eric wrote a story about. She connected Eric with me, and I invited Jason Perry to join us. Jason is a Flossmoor resident and fellow Common Ground participant.
The three of us met at Civilitea Gardens, a local small business that had just opened a few months previous. It was a perfect setting for our conversation—because Civilitea also seems to want to build community in their community, like Eric does. They provide a Mayberry-like setting where conversation comes easily. The owners will tell you everything you want to know about teas and herbs and natural ingredients, and then they’ll let you sit at a little table next to a bright window looking out at the foot traffic and bicycles, sipping tea for as long as you want.
So consider this my personal endorsement of the Chronicle, of Civilitea Gardens, and of community-building in general. Grab a fellow human and spend an hour sharing your stories over a cup of premium tea.
And if you’re worried you won’t have anything to talk about, read the latest community news from the Chronicle before you head out the door!
Confidence. Bible movies I’ve seen before have portrayed young Moses as an unsure outsider in the Pharaoh’s palace—a man who knew he was Hebrew and didn’t quite belong. Exodus presents him as a confident military leader and privileged member of the Pharaoh’s advisory team, completely unaware of his Hebrew heritage. I have no idea if this is accurate, but I found it thought-provoking.
Jealousy. Exodus’ storyline develops an interesting relationship between the Pharaoh and his son Ramses and his adopted son Moses. Those dynamics of personality and jealousy and indebtedness inform the later interactions between Ramses and the Moses who returns to Egypt to free the Hebrews.
Transformation. Setting up Moses as a military leader allows Exodus to present an interesting transformation. In this version of the story, Moses grows up with little respect for all things spiritual. He tolerates his adopted father’s reliance on a priestess to interpret what the Egyptian gods were saying. He knows nothing of his own people’s faith. Then God appears to him at the burning bush, and he believes. He believes, but he doesn’t understand—because he’s not familiar with this God. He assumes, for example, that God chose him to save the Hebrews because of his military background. So Exodus shows Moses returning to Egypt and having an unsuccessful confrontation with Ramses (who is now the Pharaoh), which leads him to begin training the Hebrews for military conquest. When Moses’ military approach fails, he has to step back and watch God do things His way. The plagues teach Moses as much about God as they teach the Pharaoh. I liked seeing Moses learn and change and grow.
Relationship. Toward the end of the movie God and Moses are working on the Ten Commandments, and they have this exchange:
God: I’ve noticed that about you.
God: You don’t always agree with me.
Moses: Nor you with me.
God: Yet here we are, still talking.
I like the idea that we can keep talking with God—even when we’re angry with Him, even when we disagree with Him, even when we don’t understand what He wants from us. We hang in there and keep talking. Isn’t that what relationships are all about?
Things other people didn’t like
I read some other reviews of Exodus: Gods and Kings before seeing the movie, and most of them gave the movie very low marks. The criticism—from Christians as well as nonChristians—covered the acting, the special effects, the departures from the Biblical narrative (yes, there were some), the fact that Director Ridley Scott is a religious skeptic, and even the fact that the cast was mostly white people. I am not enough of a film (or social) critic to know how much merit those accusations have.
I just know that Exodus entertained me while I was watching it, and it made me think afterward. What more can I ask from a movie?