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Author: dsamojlenko


25 years ago in June 1995, my best friend and I went on a life-changing journey across Canada (well, the western half at least). It was my first trip anywhere without my family, I think it was his as well. 

We bought a 30-day Greyhound pass, packed our backpacks, and set off.  We spent 150+ hours on the bus over three weeks, and hit every major city (and a lot of little road-side truck stops) from Ottawa to Vancouver and back.

We went to prom with a friend in Winnipeg, we spent Canada Day on Prince’s Island in Calgary, we mall-ratted in Edmonton, hiked a mountain in Jasper, were awestruck by the city of glass, and we took a rest in Banff before the long trek home. 

We slept on the bus when we could, stayed in youth hostels wherever we stopped, and we met travellers from around the world. When we couldn’t pronounce their names, we would just refer to them as their country (“Hey Germany, where we going tonight?”). They would teach us about their home countries, and help us see our own through new eyes.

We made memories for a lifetime. I would go on to develop a love of travel, and would take those experiences with me everywhere I’d go. We would have many more shared experiences in life, but that trip west is what first truly cemented our relationship. 

As the years passed, that trip would be a touchstone in both our lives. 

Two and a half decades, our friendship ebbing and flowing as friendships do, we always had that trip, and we always knew that no matter how much time had passed, we would forever be connected through that experience.

Marc passed away suddenly this weekend. We had not communicated in many years, I feel awful about that. But I think of that trip today, as I have many times over the years, as I know he did as well. That trip would shape our friendship and our lives together and apart.

What a long and crazy trip it’s turned out to be.
I miss you buddy.
Rest in peace.

Cuba, 2019

We just got back from a week in Cuba at the beautiful Pullman resort in Cayo Coco. I didn’t bring any film cameras with me, and I didn’t take a lot of pics, but here are a few:

The entrance and lobby of the Pullman Cayo Coco are beautiful, and of course so are the old cars that would pop by on occasion.
View from the lobby in the other direction is killer
The lobby bar and cafe is definitely one of our favourite things about this hotel.
This piano bar is a bit of a hidden gem, a tiny room behind the main lobby bar.
We took an excursion out to a privately-owned farm in Marón and the owner had this beauty.
This young calf was only 7 days old.
An old theatre in Marón

Frozen in 35mm

Got another new (old) camera, a Pentax ME, so I went out and shot another roll on a very cold day.  Totally forgot to make a note of what roll of film I put in, but pretty sure this is Kodak Gold 200.

Pentax ME | Kodak Gold 200 | January 2018

Pentax ME | Kodak Gold 200 | January 2018

Pentax ME | Kodak Gold 200 | January 2018

Pentax ME | Kodak Gold 200 | January 2018

Pentax ME | Kodak Gold 200 | January 2018

My Continuing Adventures in 35mm Film

After the fun I had shooting with my Pentax film camera last month, I kinda went on a bit of a used camera equipment shopping spree.  My favourite purchase was a Nikon F75 – one of the last consumer-level film cameras Nikon ever made, at a time when digital was eating up the film market.

Nikon F75 | Kodak Ultramax 400 | December 2017

This lovely camera has every feature Nikon had learned to put into cameras in 2003, in a nice compact and light package.  I picked this up off Kijiji for the incredible price of $65!  The fellow I bought it from took great care of this camera – not a ding or a scratch on it, and everything works perfectly.

Nikon F75 | Kodak Ultramax 400 | December 2017

The camera came with a 28-80mm kit lens, which is perfectly fine, but I had been wanting to get a basic 50mm prime lens, so I ordered one from a third-party seller on Amazon.  This lens makes the camera even more compact and ultra-portable, and takes wonderful portraits.

Nikon F75 | Kodak Ultramax 400 | December 2017

Having a fully automatic camera sure makes it easier to get shots of my favourite subject!

Nikon F75 | Kodak Ultramax 400 | December 2017

For my first roll of film in this camera, I shot Kodak Ultramax 400.  Comparing this new batch of photos to my last roll, I feel like the colours are not quite as rich.  I’m not sure I controlled for enough factors to really judge the film itself though – this is a new camera, different ISO, some of these photos use a flash, not to mention the seasonal change – in my first roll, there was still some colour in the landscape – for this one, every background is pretty drab.

Nikon F75 | Kodak Ultramax 400 | December 2017

I’m still really enjoying my new hobby.  On my recent shopping spree, I also picked up a 50mm lens for my Pentax I’ve yet to shoot with, and I bought some other varieties of film to try out.

Nikon F75 | Kodak Ultramax 400 | December 2017

I did try to mix up my subject matter a bit – Rio is really lovely and photogenic and all, but this is getting a bit ridiculous.

Nikon F75 | Kodak Ultramax 400 | December 2017

Unfortunately, it’s not the greatest time of year for getting out and shooting, but in February we’re heading to Hawaii for a vacation, and I definitely intend to bring a camera or two, and shoot lots of film.

One final note, I found another place to get film processed in Ottawa – Sooter’s has a location on Queen Street near Bank.  This location is much closer to my work, so very convenient.  The photos and scans turned out great, so I think I’ll probably go back there.

Shooting 35mm Film in 2017

Last month, I picked up a Pentax P30N 35mm camera for $20 on Kijiji, got some Kodak Gold 200 from Walmart, and shot my first roll of film in over a decade.  Here are a few shots from that roll:

Pentax P30n | Kodak Gold 200 | November 2017

The day we went out for this shoot was a clear day in late fall, so the sun was very low in the sky, creating harsh shadows and difficult shooting conditions, but I managed to get a couple good shots.

Pentax P30n | Kodak Gold 200 | November 2017

The Pentax P30n is a manual-focus camera from the late 80’s.  Having not shot on anything other than an iPhone or point-and-shoot digitals for the better part of fifteen years, it took a bit of getting used to.

Pentax P30n | Kodak Gold 200 | November 2017

I shot most of this roll on aperture-priority mode, just trying to get the hang of remembering to advance the film after each shot, never mind trying to frame, focus, and get a shot before my adorable subject would take off running in another direction.

Pentax P30n | Kodak Gold 200 | November 2017

I love the colours and contrast of film.  I usually have to tweak digital photos to get the colour in Rio’s coat to really pop, not so here.

Pentax P30n | Kodak Gold 200 | November 2017

The camera seemed to have a film-advance issue about mid-roll (see last pic), so there were some shots ruined due to malfunction, a bunch of shots were out of focus (manual-focus newbie), some were just poorly framed by me, and then of course there were a handful where Rio would look away or move just as I snapped.

Pentax P30n | Kodak Gold 200 | November 2017

These are, of course, the joys and frustrations of shooting on film.  The outcomes can be incredible, but every shot can be a roll of the dice, and you won’t know for certain until the prints (and scans!) come back from the processor, likely days later.

Speaking of processing, there are not a lot of options left in Ottawa when it comes to film processing.  It’s not like you can just pop by the local Fotomat hut or drug store photo counter anymore, they’ve all gone the way of the dodo in these parts.  This roll was processed at GPC Labworks on Bank Street.

All in all, I’m happy with the shots that did turn out, and I’m excited to shoot more film soon!


PHP Caddy v1.3.4

I just pushed out a new version of PHP Caddy today with a bugfix that should make it a lot more stable.

I have been using PHP Caddy as my primary development environment on my PC at work for the last month or so.  At first it was wonderful – stable, fast, easy, as advertised.  But as I got into the swing of using it, I started running into issues with the PHP FastCGI (php-cgi.exe) process crashing and causing 502 Bad Gateway errors – occasionally at first, but more frequently over time until it was barely usable.  I have no idea what causes it to crash, and I have exhausted my google-fu trying to find a cause or solution, until now.

When I first started building PHP Caddy, I had PHP 7.0 installed, and that’s what I’ve been running since.  This week, as the crash frequency was reaching unbearable levels, I decided to try upgrading to PHP 7.1.  Initially, this didn’t make much difference – the crashing continued.  However, in my continuing search for a solution to the problem, I found a reference somewhere that said that PHP 7.1 had added support for running multiple processes on Windows.  This rang a bell, so I looked into it.

Success!  Setting the environment variable PHP_FCGI_CHILDREN=2 before starting up the PHP FastCGI process, tells php-cgi.exe to spawn multiple processes (3 total), and fixed the stability issues completely.  I have now been running PHP Caddy continuously for the past two days without crashing.

If you are using PHP Caddy and have been experiencing occasional 502 Bad Gateway errors, try upgrading to PHP 7.1 and be sure to run composer global update.

Introducing PHP Caddy

Here’s something I have been working on recently:

PHP Caddy is a tiny PHP development environment for Windows, inspired by Laravel Valet.

No hosts file, no configuration, no frills. Just run it and go write some code.

In a world where Homestead and Valet exist, this is a good question.  A couple things:

1) Due to the corporate nature of my current job, I work on a PC during the day, so Valet (MacOS only) is not available to me.  At home I get to play with Valet, and it makes daytime me very jealous.

2) While as a developer I have slightly higher privileges on my PC than the average bear, I still do not have full administrator privileges and can’t install everything I want, so some of the Valet for Windows alternatives that provide all the dns niceities of Valet are not available to me.

3) Sometimes a virtualized environment like Homestead is a bit (sometimes a lot) slow on Windows.

So, I built this thing.  I like it a lot.  It runs very fast for me, and makes developing in PHP on Windows a bit more enjoyable.  Maybe you’ll like it too.

Shanghai 2014

Shanghai 2014

Pudong skyline at night.

Shanghai 2014

Pudong skyline by day.

Shanghai 2014

Zhujiajiao water town

Shanghai 2014

Me and my translator Lily on a gondola in Zhujiajiao water town.  Her glasses had no lenses.  I think that’s a thing in Shanghai.  weird.

Zhujiajiao water town

It was very smoggy…

Shanghai 2014

Jade Buddha Temple

Last day, last chance for delicious noodles and dumplings!

Goodbye sweet girl…

Dexy guarding my shoes

I guess 18 years was just enough. She made it all the way through her birthday month, but unfortunately we had to say goodbye to our dear sweet Dexy tonight. She’s been my best friend and constant companion for more than 17 years. From the moment she appeared at my grocery store as a runaway with boundless energy and that great big smile, she has held my heart. She saw me through lots of rough times and she brought me endless amounts of joy. She was a part of our family and we will all miss her dearly. Goodnight my sweet girl.