February 28, 2009

Joy or rage?


February 27, 2009

How to take effective photographs - Cropping

It's one thing to read or be told how to photograph well, but it's quite another to actually see samples of why this or that does or doesn't work along with explanations.

One of the secret to stellar photographs isn't just in photography itself alone, but also in knowing when and how to to use post-production tools. Post-production is a fancy schmancy term that means anything you might do after "production" - taking photos. Cropping, dodging, burning, all the classic tools plus a few new ones thanks to the advent of computer digital technology that most of us now have access to.

Take this first photograph for example. It's a pretty good picture. It breaks the "rule of thirds" a little, but that's okay - rules are made to be broken. But how do we make it better? The little details that makes the kid so cute are actually drawing the viewer's attention away. Like the ear, chubby neck and the shirt. The black background isn't too bad, but if we trimmed it down, it would move one's focus squarely where it belong - on this chubbo's face.

Right now, he seems a bit far away and somehow frail. I don't want to convey this...this kid was anything but frail. If anything, he was pretty much in my face, demanding that I give him "the cam'a!" or to open a bag of goldfish so that he could stuff his face. Quite a character.

I cropped this photo along the left and right sides, taking out the ear, minimizing the shirt and the black. I decided to make the photo as perfectly square as I could. Now, because of how this photo was cropped, it more closely follows the rule of the thirds. His eyes pop out more; they effectively command your attention.
I did consider cropping more and making it a vertical picture. But I decided against it - I felt his cheeks were a distinctive feature and to remove them would hurt the photo. Whenever you crop, do it in moderation, little at a time (or be very familiar with the undo tool) and always always save your cropped copy under a different filename, just in case you decide you don't like it later down the road.

Rule of thirds example. Behold my computer drawing skills.
The original photo wasn't strong and distinctive, but cropping improved it. This is why close-ups of people's faces are employed so often in various media. The eyes are a very dramatic and effective way to grab people's attention - windows to a person's soul.

So, to wrap this up...
1. When cropping (or using other tools), keep the feel/mood of the photo in mind
2. Pay attention to the shapes of your subject and consider cropping parallel to the shape. Ie, if your subject is tall and lean, make the photo a vertical one to emphasize that.
3. While cropping, keep the the rule of thirds in mind - but don't follow it strictly.


February 24, 2009

Wang's Gourmet

Out in Colorado, I took a walk one morning to get a bit of a break from my sister's kids - totally adorable and fun, but for someone not used to kids, a bit overwhelming too. Anyway, so I was out walking and saw this.
Of course I had to snap a picture and think of funny, non-PG things people might say about this place. Like...

I want some wangs.
Wangs are tasty
Wangs up the wazoo! (ew)
Wangs don't melt in your mouth.

Can you think of more?


What's this newfangled Digg icon?

The addition of the icon is an attempt on my part to try drum up more readers.

"Digg is a social news website made for people to discover and share content from anywhere on the Internet, by submitting links and stories, and voting and commenting on submitted links and stories. Voting stories up and down is the site's cornerstone function, respectively called digging and burying. Many stories get submitted every day, but only the most Dugg stories appear on the front page."

It appears that you have to register (free) in order to participate. I'll probably add del.ico.us and a couple others because they don't require registration, I think, which would make it easier for you.

If you see a photo you really like or a post entry you think is really good, click the Digg button, which will take you to a new webpage. Enter a few words describing the post, and hit submit a couple times. That's all there is to it.


February 21, 2009

More people, more scars upon the land

The bright spring green you see is the fragile plant life that is also at risk of being exterminated. People are strongly discouraged from walking on them, for fear that they are irreparably damaged. I did touch it with my hand and found that it felt like how it looked - as soft as puppy's fur or a newborn's blanket.


February 20, 2009

And he lost a friend but kept his memory

The REAL Pikachu. They are endangered.
Pikachu and some other creatures and plants residing at the very tiptops of the mountains - and ONLY there - are threatened or endangered now. Their biology is so sensitive to any temperature changes that any changes in the norms has a devastating effect on them.


February 19, 2009

He climbed cathedral mountains


February 18, 2009

Rocky Mountain High

From when I went to Colorado 3 years ago. Scanned from prints.


February 17, 2009

I'll bet this thief was happy

he wasn't facing the other way.

News article: Woman uses wedgie to capture suspected thief

Don't understand what I mean? Let me spell it out for you. This brave lady put her hands near (down?) the back of the thief's pants, grabbed his undies, and pulled. IF the thief had been facing her, what would she have grabbed instead?

And a nitpick - if the thief was seen in act of committing a crime and indeed arrested for it...He is most definitely not a suspected thief. Associated Press sucks.


February 15, 2009

I hate it when...

I email someone with a bunch of questions, and they respond with one word.

"Is this house still available? Does it allow dogs? Are you the realtor or the owner? Can we meet Friday so I can see it? What time is good?"



*reaches through the interweb to smack that person!*


Ridiculously Happy

I have a million things to do, and not enough time to do everything, yet I'm in a fabulous mood. It seems like everything is starting to fall into place and I am pretty optimistic about my future. And a great haircut helps too.

On to other topics...
The bailout is a hot issue these days. I have read several articles on the bailout stimulus, but few really explain how it affects us people. I'm sure most of you have heard about the "rebate." Most people will get roughly $300-400 - in form of a tax break. It will come in each paycheck that you get; most people will see about $25-$33 less in your taxes per month. Doesn't sound like much, does it?

Most of the money is going to states in order to create jobs. It'll allow states to pour money in fixing roads, bridges, improving various public aspects of the state as well as retaining or adding jobs in the government. The money, hopefully, will also be used to help small businesses stay open and hire people. Small biz, after all, account for about 90% of U.S.' jobs.

One thing I was happy about in this stimulus is a retroactive provision that banks who took the first bailout money are required to meet the new regulations that are being imposed on any new bailout bank loans. In other words, they are being made accountable for how they used the money. Of course, there are loopholes that banks will try exploit, but hopefully they'll step up the plate, do the right thing and fix their mistakes.

Will they? That remains to be seen. Another good piece of news for homebuyers this and next year. If you buy in '09 or '10, you will get a "loan" of $7,500 - this was formerly available only to first time home buyers. Also, if you stay in this new residence for three years, you won't have to pay this loan back. If I weren't planning to globe-hop for the next few years, I'd be pretty tempted by this deal.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I have heard many people in D.C. complaining about this "rebate." It's not a big chunk of change for people in my demographic, and $25 a month seems like a pittance. But when you consider that they'll allow many many low-income families to stretch their money just a tiny bit further and buy things they couldn't before. Like more food, another tank of gas...New sneakers for the kids. Schoolbooks. Presents for birthdays.

That meager extra $25 will go far for families whose income are under the national household income median of $50,000. Roughly 37% of Americans families, with both parents working, make under $30,000 a year. That's a pretty big chunk of demographic. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau; I say roughly because they haven't made 2008 numbers available yet, so I bumped up the 2007 35% a little.)

Hope this helps put things in perspective a bit.


February 14, 2009

Origins of Valentine

There are two general versions of how Valentine came about.

In ancient Rome, back around when Christianity was starting to spread there, the folks were still into paganism. Around when February rolled around, the men would strip naked, run around in the streets and use whips to spank childless women to improve their fertility. No viagra back then.

This holiday was called Lupercalia and was held on February 15. Lupercus is another name for the roman god, Pan.

Sometime around 5th century A.D., the Church basically went, "This looks really bad for us, we don't like paganism and it's too tempting for people." And, surprisingly, instead of trying to squash this holiday, they decided to incorporate it into their Church rituals. "When in Rome..."

(version 2) The Church prefers this version: Sometimes around 3rd century A.D., a roman emperor decided that his army would be stronger if the soldiers weren't married, so he forbade the single men from marrying at all. A particular priest, whose name happens to be Valentine, felt this was horribly wrong to keep lovey dovey couples apart and defied his emperor by secretly marrying them.

Knowing how the Church was back then, superstrict about sex outside marriage, my theory is that an anal priest saw that these single men were having too much fun (wink wink), had a conniption and thought that it'd be better if they were married so that they wouldn't go to hell.

For his defiance, Valentine was apparently executed. On February 14th. And some time later, the Church declared him a saint for his works.

Which version is what actually happened? I'm guessing some combination of the two.


February 12, 2009

I'm too sexy for scammers

I've been looking for rental houses online, so I can go scope them out next week. I contacted one to set up a time for me to see the house. This is the email I got:

Hello Tenant,

Thanks for your mail and also for contacting me on The property,the property is still available for rent/lease right now.I must confess to you that you are a lucky tenant to be (woohoo! Jackpot!),because I don't really want to rent/lease the property
(aw!) but my wife advised me to do so (that bitch! Why include this personal info? I don't care). Due to our present location, we have been transferred from Work to Western region in Africa (specifically, where? Pick a country.) , i am an x ray weldders (How is it you can do that and have kids?), and i was transferred here under nigerdock plc (Wait, I thought you were transferred to Africa?).

My wife came here to join me with my kids after (6) six months i was transferd (Good god, spellcheck!), I will be here for (8)eight years (good for you. Why should I care?). My Mother is ill and her was went to Spain for surgery (sob sob). So my wife had to come along with the keys and all the documents to the property because my mother is not around for now (why would your mommy need to be here if you're the owner?). It is not share accomodation, it's all for you and your family, If you are still intrested in renting the place i want you to get back to me with the information below, which is in the rental application form,

[[Edited for brevity - looked like standard tenant app, but info could easily be used for theft]]

This is the address of the house is 4088 Diamond Ridge Vw Colorado Springs, Colorado, so you can go view the house and get back to me if you love it

This is a real house at a legit address. I'm betting the scammer pulled pictures from someone else's rental or sale ad. I wonder what'd happen if I showed up at this address. I was tempted to email him back to see if he asked for money, mail order or something.


Stone Arch


February 11, 2009

Eleanor's Words on a Book Cover

Eleanor was one smart lady.


February 10, 2009

We the People

I'm hoping to go back to see this - with a tripod. They keep the lights in the area where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and all the important pieces of our country very dim.


February 9, 2009

Random thought

Why is the time when the traffic is slowest called rush-hour?


Photo of a book cover

Very fitting quote, considering what I'm going to be doing in seven weeks.


February 8, 2009

Girl flips through a book


February 7, 2009

Metro chick cleaning her teeth


February 4, 2009


They're a touchy issue. I see them everyday, I know they're mostly ordinary people who just had a bad run in luck. But I have no idea how to deal when I see them on the streets. I'm not a native urban local.

Do I follow the en mass like a sheep and pretend they don't exist? Or do I acknowledge them - and risk pissing them off, which has happened - by making eye contact?

I can't win either way.

And there are the panhandlers. Give them money, some will mutter a "thank you" and look for the next poor sap. And there are others who will demand more. I don't carry cash, so usally all I have are pennies. The aggressive ones will call me names if I give them that. I don't really blame 'em. I mean. If I were in rags, living off change, and some chick who obviously has a job and can feed herself gave me 3 cents...I tell ya, I wouldn't be happy.

I'll be honest though, I don't like it when a crazy-looking, smelly person starts screaming at me. Who would?

Let me pose a question for ya'all. If you see a homeless that's unconscious, maybe hurt. Or drunk. Would you help him or ignore him? Assume he's drunk off his ass and leave him alone or stop to check in on him?

This was on the news last week. It illustrates this problem pretty vividly.

"A man who was ignored by passersby for almost 20 minutes this week as he lay on a sidewalk after being assaulted in Columbia Heights has died of his injuries, D.C. police said yesterday."
Credit: Washington Post.com, David Betancourt
Note: You may need to register to be able to read the article, but it's free. You can use a fake email address if you like.

What would you do?

It's a sad day when people walk by a dying man and do nothing. There's a special place in hell for them. I have a hard time believing that a man goes down - and dies of his injuries - and doesn't have any visible signs of injuries. Even if that's accurate, if you see a guy lying on the sidewalk, wouldn't your first instinct be to run to him? Where this attack occurred is in a so-so area. It's not the safest, but it's not the worst. If it was some sort of trap or scam...There were people around who could presumably help. Oh, but wait - why would they? They didn't help the poor fucker lying on the ground. Yep, special place. Apathy really sucks.

And for the record - I have given money to panhandlers in the past, when I had a couple bucks to spare. Way I see it, if they sit outside in the freezing cold for hours hoping to get money, they sure as hell need it a lot more than I do, whether it's for drugs, alcohol or food.


February 2, 2009

Random thought

Do mermaids have vaginas?


Puppy Mills and Backyard Breeders

This is a topic near and dear to my heart. So many animals - not just dogs and cats, but also birds, horses, sheep and so on - are the products of poor breeding. Often, the breeders will have their pets produce offsprings because they:
A. want to make money off them.
B. think the babies are so cute, want their kids to see miracle of life or some variation of this.
C. think their pets are breeding quality.
D. some combination of above.
Or the superrare - E. are true legit breeders.

E. The true legit breeders - the ones that charge thousands of dollars for their animals - are the ones who deserves that sum. They are the ones who do the work, show their animals so that they can get their points or whatever the breed/showing system requires in order to produce more quality animals. This is an expensive venture - showing, training, vetting, and testing. Any animals that are not show quality are usually spayed (or in large animals' case, gelded) and good homes are found.

There are other breeders who fall in the categories A through D are the ones who invariably dupe many people, myself included, into purchasing pets for ridiculous sums. They are the ones who contribute to the pet overpopulation problem. They're why we have so many animals in need of homes, so many ferals and strays and so many poorly bred animals.

Take a hard look at Apollo. He is most definitely not a show quality golden retriever. I love him dearly, but I'm honest. His body type is "field" golden retriever - slender, darker colored, and have shorter coats. That, in itself, is acceptable for showing. However, Apollo is much too large/tall for his standard, his snout is a tad too long. He will have hip problems when he's older. His shoulders are bad, so his gait is a bit rough - which will also contribute to hip issues and arthritis when he's older. These problems are genetic and if Apollo weren't speutered, he would've passed it down onto his ofsprings. His parents should never have had offsprings.

Take a look at this fellow. A "Tennessee Walker" horse

I know most of you are not horse people. It's been a long time - almost 15 years - since I've been around horses regularly. But even to me, this horse looks so poorly put together. Walkers are typically 15 hands and up. This guy is 14. He's got a thick, short squat neck, wide chest, straddled stance - looks pigeon-toed, no withers and a big butt. His knees look fucked up, too, but it's hard to tell from this picture. He looks more like a mix of a quarter horse and...I don't know. Probably a Heinz 57 horse. The only good thing about this guy is that he's gelded and obviously cared for, judging by his coat. And he's going for a bargain price of $2200! You can find much better horses for far less than that. Geez.

Here's my message. If you want to buy a dog, cat, horse, whatever, instead of adopting one, find a quality breeder and be prepared to pay the big bucks. Go to legit shows, talk to the people there and find out who's got decent breeding lines - and see if they have any that will go to pet-only homes. Or if you've the time and money, consider showing the dog. If you're not...For Pete's sake, go adopt a poor animal that's looking for a good home instead of supporting backyard breeders and puppy mills!

Keep an eye out for specific info on backyard breeders and puppy mills in the future.


February 1, 2009

Sizzzlin' Hot!

I'm not the sort to go for the romantic Valentine claptrap, but it's a billion-dollar industry. Hey, if I can help stimulate the economy...then by all means, I'll pop in a pretty pink picture (the top picture) in my blog.

The shoe is one of Steve Madden's shoes, a low-range designer shoe. He does shoes that are hundreds and hundreds of dollars, but this particular line is for "poor" people like me. I think I paid about $80 for it a couple years ago. And it's about a half size too small for me. It's an expensive photo prop.

Welcome, February.

59 days until I move.


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