August 31, 2009

Recent doings - plus some tips

I've been car-hunting. Fun fun. I recently came to the decision to look for a SUV or a wagon for a few reasons. Apollo really does need the extra space. Last time we went on a short road trip, he was so grumpy afterward that he snapped at another dog that tried to mount him (domination thing, not sexual). He normally just runs away. And because I'd like the extra space for the next few times I move. And because my poor civic coupe has a hard time on dirt roads that I often have to take to get to hiking trails. Blah blah. To sum it up...time for an used SUV.

My experience so far has been pretty interesting and I want to share my experience with ya'all. The first was a couple weeks ago: a dealer had an '07 Jeep Liberty with 35k miles that had hail damage. Sticker price after taxes - just under 18k. After some negotiations, they offered it to me for 10k - tax included. At the time I wanted to look around some more, but now I wish I had taken it!

The key to getting a good deal is getting a sales guy to say this magic phrase, "We'll work with you/your budget."

Saturday, I went to a few more dealers before I found one that said the magic phrase. My first choice was a Honda Element they had on the lot, but I very quickly found out they wouldn't negotiate below 12k (priced at 14k). They did their damnedest to get me to buy an old Durango - '98, 80k miles. The sticker price was 14k. Laughable. I made them kelly-blue-book it and we discovered that the sticker should've been 7k at most. They finally offered it to me for about $6200. But when I asked for more time to think about it, the guy got a little snippy with me. So at that point, I demanded my keys back (I had given it to them for appraisal) and walked out.

Arm-twisting and pressuring is a common sales tactic. I despise it and won't tolerate it. The key, I think, is to be very patient at beginning of the negotiations and keep insisting that, no, you can't afford that. Dealers and car salesmen usually have a bottom line in mind when they negotiate. Sometimes there's not as much room - usually if the car is a popular one like Subaru Forrester or Honda Element, for example.

With the cars that aren't as highly demanded, they will usually come down little by little. Be prepared to walk, especially if they get overly aggressive. Avoid signing anything, especially a piece of paper that says you'll buy the car if you and the "boss" agree to X terms, in case you decide you want to negotiate some more or to walk. It can be considered legally-binding in court, no matter how informal the paper looks.

It was a smart move for me to walk - after I got home and logged online, I found an '05 Durango for 7k at a nearby dealer! (No I didn't buy it.) If a sales person says their offer is off once you leave the premises...leave anyway. You are likely to find a similar car for similar price somewhere. You can ask if the offer will still be good the next day, they sometimes will "reluctantly" agree. Go home after negotiations, do your research. And after you're armed with information, either go look elsewhere or come back to the table.

Remember, it is YOUR money, you have the right to be happy with the car that you buy. If you want to shop around, it's your right to do so. Don't let car salesmen intimidate you into buying it right that minute.

Right now, I have my eye on a few '03/'04/'05 Jeep and Ford SUVs. They're not fabulous cars, the gas mileage sucks, but for a couple years (at least), it will work for Apollo and me.
Oh, and - yesterday, I shot a rifle for first time ever. And hit a tin can on second shot! It flew into the air! I can see why so many people enjoy it.


August 28, 2009

Friday Apollo

Apollo says, "Raiders suck!"

Apollo and I went to the field this evening and he found presents! He thinks someone left a Raiders football just for him! That's right, he did not steal it. It was abandoned-err--a present!

*Sigh* Apollo is such a thief. He really was a cat in his previous life. No one was around, and even though we hung around for about a half hour, no one showed up to retrieve the toy. Still, I feel a little guilty. He does not, however, and is determined to destroy this piece of filthy Raider crap!


August 25, 2009

Another Como picture

This isn't a great picture, ah well.

It looks like someone tried to improve this house/barn/whatever not too long ago. Why do I think that? Check out the windows in the roof. Those are new(er), fairly clean windows. On all other old structures that I saw, they were gone, broken, or really dirty.


August 24, 2009

Video clip

This made me laugh outloud.


August 23, 2009

I want a macro lens now

Fifty great macro pictures

Warning - some of these have bug pics. They are awesome though.

Now I think of it, I have a little magnifier filter someone gave me that's screwed onto a current lens. I'll test it out.


August 22, 2009

Ghost town Como in HDR

Como is a dying town. It's not quite a ghost town yet. There are still about a dozen or so people living in the town. Unfortunately, the train station I wanted to photograph was closed to public. I even tried to find a way to sneak around the fencing, with no luck.

Fortunately, there were a number of old buildings in various states of disrepair for me to photograph.

Brief recap about HDR - HDR is a compilation of 4-8 images in a succession of exposures, laid over one another to create an image that can be very true to life. It can also be manipulated to be hypersurreal.

This is an image of a building I shot at perfect exposure - 0.0.

Now, I also shot this building at -0.5, -1.0, -1.5 (underexposed) and +0.5, +1.0, +1.5 (overexposed). I used Photoshop's program to merge the images for me. As a side note for the user of PS3 - apparently, its HDR merging program isn't very good, and there are better ones out there. If this is a technique you want to seriously pursue, investigate alternatives.

Anyway, back on track. After I ran the hdr merge feature, this is one of the results I got. It's harsher, which works well for this sort of image. However, it's not really exciting.

So I tweaked various things and got this...
It's not quite hypersurreal, but it's a lot more interesting. I could've pushed this further and come out with even more bizarre results, but sometimes that's just over top and can be a turnoff. Additionally, if you look closely, it's obvious that by making these tweaks, I lost some details that really makes this building interesting, like the wavy, warped sideboards along the side and the plywood in the windows.

Looking this over, I prefer the first HDR results because I can see more potential in it, as far as photo manipulation, like making it look vintage and vignetted - much like what I did with my niece's photo. I will try find a happy medium between the two though, and see how it looks first though

Incidentally - I photoshopped behind this old ramshackle one out. See original to compare.

I'll have more pictures later.


August 21, 2009

Hey Mom! My underwear's on the Internet!! Again!

What can I say? I was bored last night and didn't have any new Apollo pictures because last weekend's day roadtrip was a bust.

And let me say, I don't envy professional pet photographers. Apollo was not cooperating, even for his favoritest treats. I took about 25 shots before I got this one, and it's not that awesome, technically - I just like how he looked so happy and silly.


August 18, 2009

Blowing his own horn

Don't you just hate people who do that?


August 17, 2009

Yes, little miss, I do as you command and

buy you ice cream.
This little girl's forehead is ginormous. I'm surprised it's not covered with throbbing veins. Like


August 16, 2009

Hope you're not afraid of clowns



This is my frickin' adorable niece.
Picture is ok, but the composition is kinda boring.

This is my frickin' adorable niece.
Who apparently also lived in the late 1800s.

God, I love photoshop.


August 15, 2009

He need "Head-On"

About 2 1/2 hours to do this. Had a couple stumbles, but a friend helped me figure out a couple issues - thanks, JC of Texas! It's not 100% finished, but for my first try at this sort of thing, I'm quite pleased.


August 14, 2009

Friday Apollo and a rant and rave

Monday through Friday, every day around 3:30, give or take, Apollo nudges my elbow and stares at me intently. If I give him any hint of attention, he dashes off to get the "flinger," which got its name when I was trying to teach Apollo the names of his toys and needed an alternative to frisbee, and brings it to the front door.

Off we go to a nearby field to play for about 15 minutes. Any longer, it's too hot for him. We usually return around 8 or so when it's darker and usually cooler. Most days, it's just him and me. It always surprises me. There's a perfectly nice field not a block away from this apt complex (it's just a few feet away for some apt buildings in this complex) that a local company that owns the property is nice enough to keep mowed for the locals to use. Why don't more people use it? It baffles me.


Rant: I am so annoyed that Eagles signed Michael Vicks. Granted, I wasn't a huge fan of the team to begin with, but I definitely won't be rooting for them anymore. Why couldn't the NFL have had an unofficial boycott? Why couldn't some other team sign him? Let him go to the Cowboys or better yet, the Lions, the worst team in NFL.

Rave: My brother sent me a couple books for my birthday. I absolutely loved one of them: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Not only is this one of the best books I've read in years, it's extremely well written and complex without being overwhelming. It's smart. Crisp writing. And the way Steig Larrson put the story together is just wonderful. This book was translated from Swedish, so some sentences are a bit awkward and stilted, but after a couple chapters, you get used to it.

I just did some poking around online, and it appears that Steig Larrson died a few years ago, and his three books are being published posthumously.

Read this book and while you're at it, snag: The Girl Who Played with Fire, just released last month. The third should be out later this year.


August 12, 2009

I really need to brush up on my astronomy

I could not for the life of me find the north star. I had no problem finding ursa major, but for some reason, couldn't locate the ursa minor where the north star is located.

click on the image to see it in large size
North star is somewhere to the right of this frame.
Shortly after my camera finished processing this image, its battery died, otherwise I would've repositioned and tried again.

This exposure was about 13 minutes long, it's a little overexposed, I underestimated how much light there'd be.


Perseid meteor shower

Tip - click on the photos for large images.

What's this? A meteor? But it looks so odd!
It's a plane.

I only saw one, albeit very brilliant, meteor. It streaked where I didn't expect it - right under the moon. The moon was pretty bright, plus I had the city lights to contend with. So I satisfied myself by taking pictures of the stars, something I hadn't done since my first photography class about 15 years ago. I'm probably dating myself here. Geesh.

Anyway. I had only a few minutes of exposure for these pictures. One downside to digital - it takes them awhile to process the image after I'm done taking a particular image and it's very boring standing there in the dark twiddling my thumbs waiting and waiting for it to greenlight so that I can take the next image.

I wasn't feeling patient tonight and was really tired, so I didn't want to take long exposures. Next time, I'll bring something to read and go nuts.

I must've jarred the camera slightly. There's a tiny bobble at the start of the star trails.

Of course, now I'm back home, I've got my third wind.

Not a stellar pic. har har, punny.

It's very disconcerting to be standing there in the dark, totally oblivious to anything nearby, then the camera's night light comes on for a split second - and I see a million bugs swarming around me.

Not bugs.

I'm still itchy at the thought of those bugs!


August 10, 2009

By land, sea or air

I've come to the conclusions that I will love living out in the country, by sea or in the mountains (air). Suburban and urban life isn't for me.

On Saturday, I went out to a friend's ranch and while I'm not cut out to be a farm girl - I held eggs that just shot out of a chicken's poop cute! Eeww - I did enjoy the experience immensely. It's quiet. Serene. The closest neighbor, at my friend's ranch, was about half a mile away. Relaxing.

True, there are downsides to having some land. Like figuring out how to maintain it. But not having neighbors right in my face seems like heaven. I've lived in apartments for just over 10 years, counting dorms in college, and I'm pretty tired of it. I can't imagine living in one for another fifty years. I know a couple people who have.

I'm not going to rush out and buy a property right now. Need money, for one, but it's a goal to keep in back of my mind. If I can make a decent living doing work online, certainly attainable.

And for your amusement: dancing dude
Warning - may need bleach for your eyes after viewing.


August 7, 2009

Friday Apollo

Checking out the view at Mt Evans

Puff the Magic Dra-err--Dog!


August 5, 2009

One of my etsy shop items

was chosen to be featured in Etsy's Treasury section for 'sublety'.

The link here: Etsy Treasury - Sublety
It will expire Friday Aug 7.

I realized recently I am really digging graphic design and am thinking of how to incorporate it in my business.


August 4, 2009

Hiking Tips by Jen

While ogling 3000 years old trees...

Instead of looking at the treetops while walking, STOP walking and look up.

Or you'll end up with one of these.

(shot with cellphone)


August 2, 2009

This goat won't win any pagents


At 14,000 feet, M&Ms...


Went up to Mt. Evans today. There's a road that goes nearly all the way to the top of the mountain. You have to hoof it up the last 200 feet though. When I was close to the top, I heard weird, loud popping sounds and thought there was something wrong with my car!

Wasn't until we parked and I got the bag of M&M out for snack that I discovered what happened.


August 1, 2009

Late Friday Apollo

I totally forgot yesterday was Friday. Oops.

Taken with my old point-and-shoot camera. Apollo was about 2 in this picture

My punishment for being a bad blogger: I will go now flail myself with a soft furry tail.


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