Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June Poll Results Are in: G/V & Ts are the way to be

The June poll question was:
"It's summer, my friends, and I would like to know - what is your favorite summer drink?"

Responses were scattered, and there was one "other" vote for apple juice (thank you, my Philly fan!). I'll share some of the "other" responses and recipes later, but let's get to the runners up. There was a tie for second place drink between a summery white wine, a summery beer, a strawberry daiquiri or pina colada... y'know something frilly and rum-filled, and any/all of the above.

And now, the most preferred drink of the summer is.....

Some great suggestions in the "other" category included:
1. Cucumber Gimlet
3oz potato vodka
4 slices muddled seedless cucumber
1/2oz fresh lime juice
spoonful of sugar
combine ingredients, shake, serve

2. Sake-Mango cocktail
Mix sake (any cheap brand) and mango (or other flavor) sorbet in a blender. You can vary the proportions based on your desired consistency, and you can even add fresh or frozen fruit if you're feeling really fancy.

3. Pink Sangria -- this doesn't sound good to me, but you might like it!--
3 cups White Zin
2 cups Sour Mix
1 cup Watermelon Schnapps
1 cup Peach Schnapps
1/2 cup Bacardi Limon
1/2 cup Stoli Razbery
Mixed all of that up the night before. Then on party day, throw in 1/2 sliced orange, 1/2 sliced lemon & 1/2 sliced lime, pour a big glass over ice and add a splash (3 oz) of sprite.

Enjoy summer responsibly! Oh, and I almost forgot-- the winner of most creative fake name goes to: SLOSHED (who, incidentally, did NOT vote for any/all of the above!) Thanks for playing and don't forget to vote tomorrow/in July!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Memory Monday: Michael Jackson

Needless to say, I, like many others, was sad to hear of Michael Jackson's death this past Thursday. I will remember him for all of the amazing things he did and created. Anything that he was going through and whoever he was helped to create amazing things; not that this excuses him from any wrongdoing in an 'ends justifies the means' kind of way, but for me, the fact that many extremely talented and creative people are somewhat off-balance at least puts things into perspective.

I don't think I've ever met anyone who told me they didn't like Michael Jackson's music. It's impossible to listen to "Thriller" or "Beat It" or "Billie Jean" or "Shake Your Body Down to the Ground" or "The Way You Make Me Feel" or so many others without at least shakin a leg or two. He was an immensely talented person who created music that spoke to millions of people and helped to break countless barriers. I grew up dancing and singing to much of his versatile music that spanned over 40 years; my youth would have been so different if Michael Jackson hadn't been performing during it. He was a part of so many car rides, school dances, weekend afternoons with my cousins when we tried to learn the Thriller choreography, dance recitals, personal hairbrush microphone concerts where I myself was Bad, Halloweens (it's not Halloween until someone plays "Thriller"), cultural references...and still will be for quite a while. The first time I was let go from a job, I played a Michael Jackson mix on my iPod on my way home. Despite my situation, I found myself dancing in my seat on the T. It made me feel better about things and put me in a good mood, something I remembered for the next 2 times I found myself being laid off from a job.

I can't possibly do Michael's choreography justice, otherwise I would leave you with a homemade video dance tribute. Instead, in his honor, I've officially deemed "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" my jam (as in "That's my JAM!"). Long live the music and dance moves of the King Of Pop.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"For the honeymoon" Friday

So, as it turns out, Argentina is only a finalist -- and we're still collecting honeymoon ideas! We want to decide soon, so any recommendations you might have would be appreciated! Also, if you have been to one of the places we're considering, let us know what you thought!

Where we're thinking:
  • Hawaii
  • San Francisco/Napa & Sonoma valleys
  • Arizona
  • New Mexico
What we've ruled out:
  • Europe - we'll definitely go some day, but right now it's too $
  • Aruba - or anything else that might be too resorty-- we want some sort of culture and history and stuff to do, too, and this might be too similar to our recent trip to Isla Mujeres, Mexico
  • stuff in the Caribbean, Keys, or other hurricane season locations
  • non-gay-friendly places
Any votes? Pointers? Advice? Other ideas? Thanks!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fact Finder: Argentina's History

It looks like the honeymoon's going to be in Argentina, specifically Buenos Aires. I would like to learn about the history of the place, so I requested a fact-finding mission of myself. I said, "Self, go find out about Argentina's history," and then I did.

There's a LOT to learn about Argentina, so I'm going to stick to the basics so we don't become overwhelmed.

Argentina (see flag at right) is the 2nd largest country in South America (8th in the world) and is the largest (land-wise) Spanish-speaking nation (though not the most populated). It is officially called the Argentine Republic and is classified as an Upper-Middle Income Country. It consists of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, the capital, Buenos Aires. Interestingly, Argentina has warm regions AND icebergs, as it claims part of Antarctica (the Argentine Antarctic).

Earliest human settlements date back to 11,000 BCE in Patagonia. What I didn't remember from 5th grade history: The Incans thrived there (not the Mayans, the two of which I often confuse) and in 1480 controlled most of northwestern Argentina. Central and southern areas (Pampas and Patagonia) were controlled by nomadic cultures and not unified until the 17th century. Foods of the early tribes and peoples included corn, yuca, yerba mate, and sweet potato. (Side note: Fried yuca is not yucky - it's DELICIOUS).

In 1516, the Spanish set up a colony in Buenos Aires and kept control of it, even through British atttempts to conquest in the early 1800s. Spanish descendents, descendents of African slaves, and natives constituted one third of the Colonial-era Argentinians. They lived in Buenos Aires and surrounding areas, often as gauchos (cowboys) on the pampas (fertile low-lands), while indigenous peoples populated the rest of Argentina.

Serious shifting of boundaries occurred in 1810 (Independence) when Argentinians found out Napoleon overthrew King Ferdy VII. First, they created the Primera Junata (their first government that was not under the Spanish crown) via revolution. This resulted in 2 nations: The United Provinces of South America and Liga Federal, both of which would become modern day Argentina (ok, parts of Liga Federal would become Uruguay). Other provinces were slow to get on board with this 'unified state' idea. Paraguay succeeded in 1811. A formal declaration of independence from Spain was written in 1816 and became a reality in 1817, thanks to the efforts of Jose de San Martin (and others, obviously. He wasn't a magician or anything, I mean, let's be realistic). 1820: Liga Federal was crushed and absorbed by the United Provinces of South America. Shortly afterwards, Boliva and Uruguay were formed. Due to wars with Brazil and other countries and their own internal 'federales vs unitarios' issues, Argentina didn't create their Constitution until 1853.

1880-1929 was a period of growth and economic restructuring thanks to foreign investment and European immigration. President Roque Saenz Pena enacted universal male suffrage and they had their first election in 1916. President Hipolito Yrigoyen did some good stuff economic- and social-reform wise, but the military overthrew him during the Great Depression and there was another conservative rule. Argentina was neutral during WWI and most of WWII. 1946 brought the somewhat fascist, somewhat Guallist rule of Juan Peron (and Eva "wow she really looks like Madonna in that picture" Peron). Don't cry for me, Argentina: I'm not going to go into alllll the stuff that happened under and after the Perons. Briefly, Peron increased censorship and repression, the peso lost 70% of its value, workers and working conditions were vastly improved, Peron rid himself of advisors and was violently deposed in '55 and left for Spain. Next there was Fonzarelli -- I'm sorry, typo -- Arturo Frondizi, who invested in energy and industry. He was, however, forced to resign by the conservative military in '62. Huh, I'm seeing a trend, really. Arturo Illia comes into power, but then it's the return of Peron, with 3rd wife in tow, in '73. For a year, because he died in '74. I'm going to stop there. I'm more interested in the earlier history anyway. If YOU want more, go here.

Oh, and the current president is the first woman to hold the title: Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Another interesting fact: Argentina has had gay civil unions since 2002.

Thank you, Wikipedia.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oh Squiggy, look what you've done

I was checking out my cousin's blog (or, blahg) and found that when she was checking out MY blog, she checked out some of my links and came to the ugly dog contest. Yes, I think it's common knowledge now that the hairless dogs are the worst. Those Chinese Cresteds take the cake, and mostly, the cake looks like this.

I voted for Squiggy from Exeter, RI. It's the part Japanese Chin that really makes him the winner for me. That and the fact that he really looks like Squiggy of Lenny and Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley. Ok all of that AND the thought of Squiggy's owner, coming home to poo and an ashamed Squiggy, saying "Oh Squiggy, look what you've done," is somehow hilarious to me.

The moral of the story is that I need more things for my to do list that do not include voting for ugliest dog. Any more requests for Fact Finding? You let me know. I'll be here.

Or I can just start making it up...Yeah, I might just make it up.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Eat More Kale

Kale is good and good for you and you should eat more. THERE, I said it!
or just click on the link to your right

Sense of Accomplishment

Sometimes I miss that feeling you get when you get things done at work. You know, like when you have so much to do on your to do list that you think you'll just melt into an unintelligible pile of goop by the end of the day -- but then you somehow find a way to get it done. I like that feeling. It's stressful AND rewarding. It's rewarding because it's stressful, somehow.

Being unemployed, though, it's been hard coming up with that feeling. So I've invented ways to get there. I do still make to do lists, but now they look less like this:
  • call vendor A to tell them we're not going with them
  • call vendor B to say yes we'll take 200 please
  • check data for segments 2 and 3
  • code all data
  • explain to client slide 32
  • create slide 32
  • etc.
and they look more like this:
  • eat breakfast
  • laundry: lights
  • laundry: darks (I separate them on the list, like in real life, mostly because that way, I get to cross off 2 things)
  • give doggies a bath
  • go running
  • take a shower
  • write blog entry
  • have lunch
  • beat level 14 of gyrostarr
  • watch netflix movie
  • eat banana
  • do dishes
  • continue with wedding planning
That last one tends to branch off into several different to do's, all to do with wedding planning.
I like to cross things off as I go, and I like to pretend there's deadlines to things like laundry and what not. I set reminders in my gmail calendar that I have to eat a banana. It works for me.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Memory Monday: Crazy Technology

Ah yes, Memory Monday: The day when I remember things about old jobs.

During my contracted position, I experienced many fine things (like a first class flight experience with pretty OK Mexican food, working from home, etc.). One such "wow"-inducing thing was their conferencing center technology. Before you yawn and click away from this page, hear me out. This wasn't a teleconferencing sort of thing, where you sit around the phone and struggle to hear people on the other end; where several people always talk at the same time and it takes hours longer to get things done than it would have if you were in person; where you're playing games like duck duck goose with the people on your end to pass the time because the people on the other end can't see you. No, this was not like that. It was a video conferencing system. No, not something you hook up with a webcam on your computer and use with your long distance girl/boyfriend - this was SERIOUS. Video conferencing on steroids, if you will. Not to get all brand-y, but this was Cisco Telepresence - that coolness from the commercials:

In one such meeting where I experienced this delicious technology, there was a half circle table set up with 3 telepresence screens completing the circle across from us. It was so realistic that when one of the people on the other side asked for a pen, my boss reached out to hand her one. Trippy!

What's weird is that was my work from home job. My in-person jobs had the worst technology you could possibly think up. My most recent job was incredibly far behind (I cannot even begin to describe the slowness of the laptop and the nonexistence of its' battery life). Another job I had had teleconferencing systems from one brand, when another was their major client. So, when their major client called in, they heard "welcome to YOUR COMPETITOR'S conferencing system." Nice.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I hope I get another work from home position so I can play with Cisco Telepresence again! At this point, I would take anything with some pay and health insurance, but a girl can dream.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fed-Up Friday: Ever have days where your ovaries just shrivel up?

Yesterday was one of those days.

Ovary destroyer #1: I was walking my dogs at the park and there were kids there (from say, 8 to 11, mostly boys) setting up for their little league game. Two of them walked up to us and started barking at my dogs, who were, for once in their lives, not doing anything wrong. Of course, they started barking, and the little kids laughed and ran away. All I could say was "real nice" in a kind of sarcastic way, which only made them laugh harder. My ovaries, seeing how children can be, decided no, no, we don't want any of that, thank you, and retreated from the scene.

Ovary destroyer #2: Jess and I went running in the Southwest Corridor, where there are two separate paths for walking and biking. There is pretty clear signage (pictures and everything), and generally people follow the rules. We were in the most narrow part of the corridor and saw a gaggle of 12 year old girls approach the path on their bikes. They chose the running path. They didn't even stay to one side or try to get out of our way, so we stepped off the path and onto the grass. As they passed, Jess said, "There's a separate biking path on the other side." Just pointing it out. Not snotty in the slightest. And one of the girls looked over her shoulder as they passed us and said, "shut up." Again, all I could do was retort, "real nice" sarcastically. My mother would have slapped off my face, baked it into a homemade cookie, and served it to the adult I had disrespected if she ever caught me acting like that! After that, my ovaries were silent with disgust as they shriveled and shrank to a size so small, I couldn't even find them with a magnifying glass.

I shared this story with my mom, who works as a teacher's aid. She shared in my distaste that "these young people today are just so disrespectful!" We hung up. I sat back and replayed the day in my head. That's when I realized that not only had my ovaries gone on strike, but I had celebrated my 90th birthday as well.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

You can't spell "manslaughter" without "laughter"

During her three years in law school, Jess saw and heard many different lawyerly jokes. Some of them are more inside-jokey/"you really have to be a law nerd to understand this" than others, but there is one that is easily understood by nearly anyone: A t-shirt that says "You can't have manslaughter without laughter." (Don't get it? Psst! It's in the spelling!)

When she told me about this a few years ago, I thought, "wow, that's not funny." I let it marinade in the refrigerator of my mind for about a year, came back to it, and thought, "I guess it's funny in a black comedy kind of way." But now, my friends, 3 years later, I think I understand. You see, whomever came up with this realization (and subsequent t-shirt) has clearly seen really bad horror movies, like Jaws 4, Scream, and The Grudge 2. I just rented Blair Witch 2, and with the statement fresh in my mind, now I get it.

You see, I'm all for a terrible horror movie. I like to watch it, laugh at it, and make fun of it. I accept that going in. Example: There's a noise in the basement. The character goes to see what the noise was without turning on the lights, because clearly they are trying not to waste electricity. (I appreciate them being so green). I yell at them to turn the lights on, but of course they don't listen. They get down there. Scary music intensifies. They turn a corner and Bad Guy pops out. Manslaughter + terribly unrealistic special effects + stupid character you didn't really care about to begin with = laughter.

But that is where the laughter should stop. Things like Scary Movie should never happen. Let the bad horror movies stand alone in the manslaughter --> laughter department, I say.

Of course, it could also mean that if you're not laughing, no one will kill you. Hmm. Now I'm just not sure.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Memory Monday: Corporate Shwag

At my previous position, on my first day, I was presented with a lovely, tan baseball cap with the name of the company on it. The first thing I noticed was that it was ugly. I mean, UGLY: It was the nasty brownish tan that only looks good on a car's leather interior or on someone's couch they got at a tag sale. The lettering was black, and the company's logo was black and yellow. I was working for the ugly bumble bee company. Great. The second thing I noticed was how excited my boss was to give it to me. Apparently, his daughter designed them and they had just come in the week before I started. He was glowing. I took the hat and thanked him, and when I arrived home, I put the hat into the pile of useless shwag that I planned on trying to sell in a tag sale one day. The next day, my boss asked me if I had received a company hat and started to tell me the story about how his daughter designed them and how proud of her he was and how he started this company with his own two hands...it was my first day, so I said no. And that left me with two ridiculous ugly bumble bee hats.

The best corporate shwag I ever got, though, was at a part time job I had during grad school. There was a company picnic to be held that summer, and being a part of the marketing department, I helped order some of the shwag: Beach balls, portable frisbees that fold up, sunscreen packets, t-shirts, beer cozies, stress balls...my God it was ridiculous! And...and...fantastic! I still have that frisbee.

What's the best corporate shwag you've ever received? The worst?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fabulous Friday

It's finally Friday, and the Boston pride festivities start tomorrow! Well, they probably started last night (or a week ago), for some of the younger, springier chickens, but for me they start tomorrow! I can't wait to go see the parade, have my annual street sausage (ok, who are we kidding, it's one of many street sausages I have in a year), and dance with friends. It's great to have a day to celebrate and to be proud to be the person I am. Every day should be like that. Not in a self-centered, "I'm incredibly awesome" kind of way; that's not what I mean. I mean, I wish more people were happier about who they are. I think if more people led more examined lives and really understood and liked themselves, the world would be a better place.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Money saver/maker/excuse to have a BBQ: Yard Sale!

We're having a yard sale this weekend. Actually, I don't know if we can call it a "yard" sale, as there's hardly a yard where we're selling our stuff. It's more of a driveway. Does that make it a driveway sale? Probably not because then nobody would know what that was. "I'm going to go score some cheap crap at the driveway sale over on Main Street. You wanna come?" Yeah, it just doesn't have the same ring. So if not "yard" or "driveway" sale, is it a "tag" sale? This stuff's old, i.e. I ripped those tags off long ago. (Unlike a wedding guest I saw once whose tags were still on part of her dress. OH, and her hot pink bra was intentionally visible in a way that said "this is the only undergarment I'm wearing." I wouldn't want to buy that dress. Nosiree). Ok, so not tag sale either. You know what, I don't freakin know. I won't even pretend to know what the difference even is, so we're going to go with "yard" sale because that's what I saw used most on Craigslist. Thank you for listening to me think out loud.

The yard sale was mostly my idea. I know that my old tapes (yes, VHS...you know you want my copy of You've Got Mail) and computer games (for Windows 95...and earlier) aren't what you'd call "hot cakes," but 50 cents is 50 cents. Actually, I really think my old bike helmet from Costco could be worth something. It is an antique, afterall. Honestly, I really just have a lot of crap and would like to think a yard sale could assist in helping me get rid of it, as well as make me some sort of dough.

At first, it was just going to be me. Nobody was really into the idea...until the word BARBEQUE was uttered. And then people repeated it and told their friends, someone volunteered to make the burgers, another person asked what kind of keg they should get, one guy said he'd contact his circus connection and get a clown with balloon animals to show up...and then it got out of hand, reigned in, and now it's just a simple yard sale/BBQ/fiasco.

Initially, I didn't need the BBQ or other people to get excited; I would have done it if it were just me and my crap on the corner. But now that there's a few people in on it, I'm looking forward to not only getting rid of my crap and making a buck fifty; I'm looking forward to burgers and beer. AND, there's something else that's just as important as all that: Now my crap will be sold alongside other people's crap, and honestly, my crap feels pretty good about that. I also feel good about that because it makes me feel like less of a homeless person.

Really the moral of the story is that I'm excited to eat burgers, drink beer, and watch people buy my crap! I just hope it doesn't rain. That could add a dimension to this whole mess that I'm not really prepared for. After all, you can't have circus clowns and animals drinking beer in the rain.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fact Finder: Playing the Harmonica

I had a special request from Adrienne, a recent law school graduate, for more information on how to play the harmonica. I don't know, but I'll find out!

First, what type of harmonica do you have and/or want to learn how to play? Is it diatonic? This is most common, and you can play a full 7-note major scale in the key of the harmonica. Make sure, though -- it could also be chromatic, tremolo, octave tuned, special tuned...or something else entirely. This post'll focus on diatonics, in any case.

First, hold the harmonica with your hands on either side--- it has numbers on the top that you want to be able to see as you're playing. Don't cup it, pinch it. (I have a friend who would say, "That's what she said!" after such a statement). I guess you get fancy with the way you hold it (a la Blues Traveler guy, John Popper) later, when you're better. Let's not get over-eager, Adrienne!

Second, I feel obligated to tell you that you have to be a really good breather to play the harmonica. If you're dead, this just isn't going to work out. For those of us who are alive, playing the harmonica is very good for your lungs -- you have to have extremely good breath control to blow air in AND to suck it out. (That's what she said?) Here's a good article on the breath control required.

Music for the harmonica is generally written in tab form, so they'll give you the numbers you're supposed to blow (air out), signaled by the number and an up arrow, or draw (suck air in), signaled by the number and a down arrow. Go to one note and blow and draw -just fool around a little. You'll be able to hear that it sounds like multiple notes or a chord. To play one note at a time, you should experiment with a pucker formation that's kind of like imitating a fish (and not kissing your grandmother). Put the harmonica in your lips, not on them, over the desired note hole and you should be able to get to a one-note sound. Here's more on the pucker method (including a sample song for beginners to try out).

When you want to start playing more songs, here are a few you can try playing by number. There is also the play by color method, if you want to give that a shot, but the the playing by number is most common.

Here are some videos and more resources:
Monkeysee - how to play harmonica
Bunch of videos

Maybe I'll start playing harmonica at T stations...but where will people put the tips? Harmonica cases are a little small...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Memory Monday: Savannah

Today is my first day back from a weekend in Savannah. Yesterday on the plane, I literally had the thought that the trip was so good, Savannah and Jess's cousin's wedding so beautiful, that it would be hard to get up for work tomorrow. And then I remembered, I don't have a job! My feelings were a mix of "phew" and "damnit."

Anyway, thanks to my recent research on photography, I have some cool pictures to share with you from Savannah! I took zillions, so here are just a few:

What do you think - would you hire me to photograph (or be the second photographer at) your event? (I know, I know, the tower is the most phallic thing ever...but the lighting was kinda cool so I couldn't pass it up!)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fantastic "Total Eclipse" Friday

This should make your day (if it doesn't, you might be missing a funny bone or two).

First, watch the real video, because it's just weird as it is. Thank you, Bonnie Tyler.

Then, my friend, watch the literal video. Thank you Traci, for pointing this out, and thank you whoever thought this up. The unemployed clearly have the power to overwhelm people with their ideas and creativity. I guarantee you whoever came up with this was unemployed at the time, and I salute them.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I would like a title

I'm not talking a normal title either. No, "Marketing Research Manager" or what have you just won't do.

I'm talking about a creative title.

One of my best friends is getting her Ph. D. She drops a few raspberries in the lap of her khakis and all of a sudden, she's "Dr. Raspberry Crotch." Jess just graduated from law school. She sat in some chocolate and now she's "Chocolate Butt, Esquire. " Both are unfortunate nicknames, but funny.

It seems that I would have to both go back to school for something and sit in something in order to be awarded with such a title. It might be worth it.

What a relief! Maybe.

Potentially good news, friends: Though my previous unemployment benefits claim just expired, it looks like I can file a new one! I've been worried about this for weeks! Ever since they started adding red text (stating that my claim would expire on May 31st) to the message I received when I filed each Sunday. In fact, I was so worked up about it that I can't even celebrate this newest of news (especially since I have to wait 4 weeks to find out if I'm eligible and can open a new claim and all that). I find that I can only heave an emotionally exhausted sigh of relief that says, "Yay! I may be able to survive for another few months!" What a relief! Maybe, anyway; here's hopin'.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fact Finder: Studying for the Bar

Here's another entry from Fact-Finding Friday----
Jessica says: "Hey Pam, I want to know more about techniques to help me remember everything I need to know for the bar exam. Can you help me out with that one?"
Yes, Jessica. Yes I can.

In her blog, Lawsagna, this woman has a bunch of ideas as to how to remember a lot of information for the bar exam. I have never had to remember nearly as much info as is tested on the bar, but I've always found things like mnemonics helpful. She also covers lame things, though, like making crossword puzzles out of law terms. That just sounds ridiculous. But, it's all a matter of what works for you.

For example, her tip to find as metaphors and associations is one that might work well for you. The "memory palace" technique she talks about might sound far fetched, but I know you have a sort of photographic-ish memory, so it could be a good way to go. In this technique, you imagine a place or a route you know well and then place different things/principles/whatever in distinct places in that room or on that route. So like, rules of evidence could be placed in different spots in your living room (in your head, we're talking here). And then when you're trying to remember the rules of evidence, you can "walk through" the living room and say "oh there's such and such a rule, right there by the tv" and so on. Then again, you can't remember where you put your phone a lot of the time, so maybe this isn't a good technique for you.

Here's an interesting bit: Doodling can help you remember stuff during a boring lecture. Although, I see you doing those online lectures and you have to be taking notes all the time, so maybe that won't work. But if you have a free moment, don't forget to doodle if you're bored.

Other than that, looks like the best thing you can do is do the bar prep/barbri stuff. All in all, you are a great standardized tester and I think you're gonna be fine!

More resources:
Project Renaissance

What's your question? Leave a comment and I'll find out the answer.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fact Finder: Photography & Sepia Tones

Janet says:"Hey Pam, I want to know more about photography and, in particular, developing a sepia tone." Ok, Janet!

I don't know a whole lot about photography (just that I really like taking pictures), so I had to go a googling. For some reason, this made me think of the Price is Right yodler.

Anyway...I'm going to focus on common elements of photography to answer the first part of your question.

Like composition, which is basically how you organize and arrange the elements in the photo. What I ran into the most in my googling was the Rule of Thirds. This says that you should try dividing the shot into thirds vertically and thirds horizontally. Where the lines intersect (think tic tac toe, the corners of the middle square) is where the most important element or elements of the shot should fall. There are more rules and tips and what not (like framing your shot, using leading lines, how to make color the heart and soul of the picture, don't automatically centre your subject, don't be afraid to get too close or zoom in, and more), and the trick is using them until they become second nature. THEN you can break them when it's appropriate - like when you want to be particularly creative. When you do that, there are plenty of things to think about, like what do you want your artistic message to be? What do you want your viewers to see most in the shot? For more on composition and the rules of composition, here's a good website.

Then I found that there are all sorts of things you need to consider about the lighting of the shot. Do you want shadows? Beware of back lighting! Consider the angle of the light for other effects, and so on. Here are some good websites to investigate if you're curious about lighting:

So once you know about light, then you need to learn more about what in your camera affects light. It's good to know how your camera "sees" light and how much light it allows in. There's a lot of stuff that goes into this light equation, including aperture, shutter speed, and film speed. Changes to your camera's light meter affects all of these things. In general, you want the light meter in the middle for"proper" exposure. But, if you want to get artsy and deliberately over-expose (expose to a lot of/too much light) or under-expose (expose for too short a time to light/not enough light) your pictures, this is where you'd go to do it. There are other reasons you might need to over- or under-expose your pictures, too:
Overexpose (click into the positive settings in your light meter) if:
  • Subject is very dark in comparison to background
  • Snow
  • On a bright day if your subject is in shadow
Underexpose (click into the negative settings in your light meter) if:
  • Subject is very light in comparison to background
  • To achieve a silhouette effect
  • On a overcast day to increase color saturation
(from Understanding your camera's light meter)

As far as the specifics of light, there's the aperture, which, like the iris in your eye, is an adjustable doo-hicky in the camera's lens that controls the amount of light let into the camera. Aperture also affects depth of field, which is basically whether your subject/foreground and background can be sharply focused at the same time. Aperture is measured in F-stops, where the higher the F-stop value, the less light you're letting in/smaller the opening.
  • Bigger opening (large aperture/small F-stop) = more light, smaller/shallower depth of field (meaning the foreground is in focus while the background is fuzzy).
  • Smaller opening (small aperture/large F-stop) = less light, larger depth of field (background will be in focus). Good for landscapes.
Aperture can be changed on your camera if it's fully manual or sorta manual, but there are some point-and-shoot consumer, digital cameras out there that don't allow you to change the aperture. Instead, with these cameras, you should look at the different settings or modes (such as macro, landscape, and portrait) and investigate how they might affect your aperture.

Shutter speed has to do with how long the film or digital sensor is exposed to light and should be taken into consideration if you're doing a lot of action or motion photography.
Film speed (ISO sensitivity setting) is the measure of the film's sensitivity to light.

And now for the specific part of your question. "Sepia" actually comes from an artist's pigment derived from the Sepia cuttlefish. (Want to know more about the science behind sepia? Click here.) It's used to create a brownish, antiquey, romancey, nostalgic type look. How do you create this affect? In digital cameras, there's usually a specific setting for sepia. In not-so-digital cameras, you'll have to attach a sepia filter. (You can use external filters in digital cameras too, but most have the internal sepia tone filter option).

To develop sepia toned stuff, you can:
  • If your camera's digital, just print it
  • Mess around with it in photoshop (for more about sepia tones in photoshop, click here)
  • Take it to a lab (and make sure you tell them NOT to color correct)
  • Do it yourself by developing the print normally, then bleach the paper to remove the silver. Then rinse and repeat. Just kidding. Rinse, soak it in a sepia bath, wash again, and dry. More about this here and here.

Other resources:
Kodak's guide to 35mm photography
Great tips for night photography
To keep the conversation on photography going, check out the categories on the left of this website

And because I know you, Janet, I know that you've been into photography for a while and probably knew a bunch of this. BUT hopefully some of this/the resources was/were helpful (for you as well as for the other readers)! :) Thanks for askin'!

Monday, June 1, 2009

May poll results are in: You didn't want to touch the May poll with a 10' pole

Up to this point, readers, we had discovered that you like to walk/enjoy nature, were probably one of the theatre people, and were fun and prepared. We had also discovered that you're sensible, smart, funny, and technologically savvy. What was the main take-away this time? This was a boring question.

Let's recap: Here's the May Poll question--
Of my 2 previous roles in high school musicals, which one would YOU rather play (and you have to play the role with gusto, no 1/2-assing): A gangly, Daisy Dukes-wearing member of the chorus in South Pacific OR the Fakir in The Secret Garden?

And here are the results--

The poll received only about half of the responses my polls usually receive, and that's just sad. Out of that unreliable N, 23% of you were, in fact, theatre people, as I suspected in last month's poll. Good for you!

Another 23% of you would have played the gangly, Daisy Dukes wearing chorus member in South Pacific. I just want you 23% to understand that no, you can't really wash someone out of your hair like shampoo. Also, you probably do have nice legs, but you don't have to wear Daisy Dukes. They may not be for everyone.

I'm not even going to address that "7%" because it was only one person, and that person was me. I'm unique, ok, I get it.

And now for the 47% majority who would rather play my mom: Ok yes, the question was bad and yes, you chose the most clever answer. Good for you. Also, you don't even realize how cool you are: My mom wanted to be an opera singer when she was growing up. So am I to deduce, then, that you 47% really are performers at heart? Yes, yes, I think that's what I can safely conclude.