Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How I Met My Honey...

Reba has this How I Met My Honey carnival going on today, and since it was such a magical moment when my husband and I met, I had to share...(click on the big red box to get to Reba's blog.)

Bemidji State University, Bemidji, Minnesota...Mark and I both lived in the same dorm (on different floors.) We didn't know each other yet. One Friday afternoon somebody knocked on our door and told us there was a dorm party kegger that night. I was eh about going, but my roommate really wanted to go, so I said I would go with her.

BSU is a dry campus, so the kegger was not on campus, of course. (Actually I believe most of us were actually underage, so we couldn't party on campus...)

Nope. This kegger was in a gravel pit outside of town. Yeah, isn't that magical? It was drizzly and kinda chilly. No electricity, just somebody's boom box playing and a bunch of people standing around drinking and chatting.

That's where I met Mark. In a gravel pit, standing around in the rain, drinking beer. Very romantic.

My children want to know why we didn't make up a better meeting...

edited to add...Wow. Could I be any less romantic? My husband is the romantic one. There is lots of mush potential -- I could mention how even now -- twenty(mumble) years later we still touch each other -- hold hands, snuggle on the couch, long hugs when we happen to wander past each other. And maybe I could mention that after these twenty-whatever years, all the various places we have lived, and all the people I have met, Mark is still the only one I can ever imagine being with forever. There's your mush...

Oooh, Dang.

I have been playing with Photoshop CS3 -- I have twenty days left of a thirty day free trial. I downloaded some actions from Pioneer Woman -- I love that blog, by the way -- and have been trying to figure them and CS3 out, and partially succeeding. But upgrading from Photoshop Elements 4.0 will run me $550. Ouch. I don't have $550 laying around, and there are many other things that are far more important to spend that money on...

So I was messing around with Elements, which I can upgrade to the current version for $80. I am finding that using CS3 has given me some insights into using Elements. (I know I need to get a book about digital photography -- any suggestions, Marilyn? Didn't you recently buy some books on this subject? Any you really like?)

Here's the photo I started with. Possibly straight out of the camera, or perhaps SOOC via a slight tweaking with Picasa2. Dunno.

Problems with this photo: It has a grayish haze. The right side of the photo needs to disappear -- the flower is too close to dead center, and the left background is more interesting.

Things I really like about this photo: The sunlight shining through some of the petals. The focus -- yay! The focus is the reason I was so desperate to buy a digital SLR -- I wanted to be able to get shots where only the subject was in focus. In this shot, the flower and bud below it are in focus, the unopened buds to the left are less out of focus than the background. Depth! Ta Da! Also, I like the way the flower is so much brighter than the background.

With Picasa, I can crop it, bump up the saturation, add a glow, adjust the contrast, and in this case, use the focal B&W button to emphasize the flower and make the background fade into the...well...background.

I like it better than the original. And ten days ago, before I downloaded the trial of CS3, I would have been happy with it, except for maybe the focal B&W. Not sure I like that...

Yup. I like it better without the focal B&W...

Here's the same photo after I messed around with Elements...

Pretty similar...although the background of the Elements photo is a darker and a deeper green, and I could do the edge burn thing to darken the edges. Plus the Elements program is more fun, because you have more control over the changes you make, and there are many more changes to play with. There are lots of filters that create images like that cutout Seattle skyline I posted a couple days ago.

I may upgrade my Elements program for now (you know, that might be a great anniversary present, Mark...), and I have eight months to decide if I want to blow my Christmas and birthday money on CS3...

So...what do you guys use? Any digital photo programs you love or hate?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Walking Abe in the Desert...

Abe, for not being a moron, is really a moron.

Seriously. He's a smart dog, but not one with common sense. Except for snakes -- he has a healthy respect for snakes. We are all shocked.

Zach and I took Abe with us when we went out into the desert behind our neighborhood to take photos of the prickly pear flowers. He spent the entire half hour pulling at the leash, so hard he was struggling to breath. I swear he is going to do some serious damage to his throat one of these days.

And he kicked a cholla...I guess he wasn't paying attention:

Never kick a cholla

Very unfortunately I completely forgot about putting a little pliers or something in my pocket when I walk the dogs in the desert. So I got stabbed about 20 times trying to pull them off Abe's front paw.

Then Zach used two rocks to pinch the chunks o' cholla and got them off.

Mojo tangled with a prickly pear twice -- that was enough for him to figure out it's best to keep far away. I don't think Abe will ever learn. I guess it's a good thing cacti are not indigenous to Alaska.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Seattle Skyline

I have been playing with my 30 day free trial Adobe CS3...

Here's the photo I was playing with today. It's from the deck of the cruise ship leaving Seattle on our way to Alaska. Not a great photo...it's gray and cloudy and dreary. Typical Seattle in the fall and winter, really, but not what I want. Yes, my reality is fluid and changeable.

After I cropped out superfluous water and sky...

I went arty. I like the blocky cutout look of this one, and the way the black building on the right is reflected in the water.

With this one, I added some lighting and punched up the depth of the color and the contrast. Still a gloomy day, but brighter.

This one is what Seattle would look like if it were in fact in Hell, rather than Washington.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wait! It's Thursday already?

Thirteen Random Photographs and Their Explanations.

  1. Flowers in my front yard.
  2. Whilst Photoshopping yesterday, I got this image. I think I can repeat it, but maybe not. I have not the bestest memory...
  3. Abe after one of his surgeries. Abe is almost back to normal!!!!!YAY!!!! He isn't limping anymore, his leg muscle is building up again -- his thigh muscle really atrophied with all the problems he was having. He will have some arthritis in that knee, and cold mornings in Alaska may be kinda tough on him...But he is very much getting back to the Abe we know and love.
  4. This is the kind of stuff you find in your computer when you have teenage gamer boys. This is Kirby as a ninja, I think. Or a robot.
  5. I love my external hard drive. I dump all my digital photos and the photo editing programs on there, since I have I don't know, 10,000 or 12,000 digital photos...Unfortunately as usual I screwed something up -- perhaps because of impatience on my part -- the off button DOES NOTHING. I have to disconnect the power cord to turn it off. Sheesh.
  6. Zeke and Thor skiing in the Austrian Alps. This was way fun.
  7. Can you say attitude? Tess did not like that shrug at all and was rather pissed I made her try it on, and even more annoyed that I reacted to her pissiness by taking a photo of it...
  8. One would like to think that a school would be all about proper punctuation. One would be wrong.
  9. One of my favorite places in Tucson -- a Tucson Sidewinders minor league game at Tucson Electric Park.
  10. This is a road near my house. Off to my right as I took this picture there's a big gas station, but the photo looks like it was taken way out in the country. This was taken on a morning this winter when there was snow above 4000' in the mountains.
  11. Fourth of July at a Sidewinders game. I was playing with the fireworks setting on my camera, and it worked! Woot!
  12. The top side of a rainy day.
  13. Thor and Tess like to wear rash guards when they go swimming. They discovered that once the shirts are soaking, they can breath into them and fill them with air.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Random Photos, Before and After Photoshop...

Zach's photo of a statue in Firenze

Storm moving off, Catalina Mountains, Tucson


edited to add...the before photos are not straight out of the camera. I generally mess with photos when I download them -- adjusting contrast and saturation and cropping and shadows and whatever...

How to ReCreate the Zach Photo from Yesterday's Post.

(If you aren't into playing with your digital photos, then you won't want to bother with this post...)

I spent a while tonight trying to figure out what the HELL I did to get that cool almost no color photo of Zach in yesterday's post...this one:

I have a trial version of Adobe Photoshop CS3 and my own Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0. I was messing with both of them yesterday, and I couldn't remember exactly what I did to it. I couldn't replicate it with CS3, mainly because I couldn't find a "remove color" button...

So. I opened Elements and WOO!

50% (I will explain 50% of what in a minute...)



Here is the original photo, or the photo I started with -- I usually hit at least the auto contrast and bump up the saturation just slightly using Picasa2 (the free photomessing program from Google). I may have also used the glow button on Picasa2. I mess with my photos quite a bit.

Here's what I did. It's pretty dang easy, actually...

Open the photo you want to play with in Photoshop Elements. Then create a duplicate layer:
From the Layer menu in the tool bar, choose New and then Layer via Copy (or just hit Ctrl + J). You will then have two layers in the layer box -- layer 1 and background. For this next part you need to work with just Layer 1. So click the little eye icon next to the background layer so it (the little eye icon) disappears. (I hope you are following me so far...)

Now open the Enhance menu in the toolbar, then Adjust Color then Remove Color. Your picture should turn black and white. Now in the Layers box, change the Opacity slider. The higher the percentage the less color there will be in your finished photo. Like above -- 50% has more hint of color than 90%. 100% will be black and white.

(I prefer Picasa2 for turning my photos into black and white shots because I can easily choose the color filter, which makes a difference in the finished black and white shades and textures. Picasa2 is more basic that Photoshop, but way fun and very user friendly. And free!)

Enough commercial! Now that you have adjusted the opacity, you have a black and white photo with a checkerboard over it...click on the eye icon box so you are looking at both layers again and you have a black and white photo with a hint of color. If you want to adjust the amount of color, you have to click the eye icon next to background so you are only working with Layer 1.

I use the Save As from the File menu, and save it as a JPG file with a different name so I have the original photo and the hint of color photo.

I hope this makes sense. I assume a certain familiarity with Photoshop Elements, but if you want more details let me know...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Random Photos...

Because I got nothing. Nothing to say. Nothing to rant about, or rather, no energy for ranting.

No energy for anything. I am going to bed as soon as I finish this, because I inherited a tendency to wake up in the middle of the night -- wake up enough to not get a good night's sleep, wake up enough to worry about stuff, but not enough to get up or read or whatever, so I end up laying there semi-conscious. Really fun.

So instead I am going to post a photo of each of my kidlets....

Tess, the Dungenes Spit, Washington state.

Thor, on a chunk of driftwood, Dungenes Spit.

I have been playing with Photoshop lately, and I like what "remove color" did for this photo of Zach in Italy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I like it! I really like it!

I realized when I was re-reading my last post that I neglected to say that I really do like Zach's tattoo.

I am also thinking I dodged a bullet by having that migraine -- I would have set a precedent I might have regretted...

Zach very possibly would have tried to convince me I should get a tattoo too, something to match his. Maybe a little ghost on the shoulder or something.

And then in a couple years when Thor gets some sort of Viking or Norse rune or something, I am obligated to get a tattoo that matches his, had a gotten one that matches Zach's...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Holy crap....

Zach got a tattoo yesterday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A PacMan tattoo!!!!!!!!

I didn't get to go watch him get tattooed because I was walloped by a migraine and spent the day and night and part of today feeling really freakin' lousy.

Posted by Picasa
(Can I just point out what really great biceps he has, even if one is now maimed by PacMan?)

He has been talking and thinking about this for months and months, it wasn't a spur of the moment thing. I am still fairly freaked that Zach has a tattoo. It's permanent. And he keeps pointing out to me that he knows someday his arm will be all wrinkly and bumpy and Pac will look terrible, like when he's 40...He's a funny boy, talking smack about 40 being old, since Mark and I are both over 40 (when the hell that happened I don't know. I mean, I know it was 4 years ago, but still, I don't feel 40.)

Thor rather liked the idea of getting a beserker -- a Viking warrior who was insane in battle -- as a tattoo. ( Look up Beserker.... A little research is good for the brain.)

Tess is not down with the idea of a tattoo. Girls are smarter.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

Creepy Spooky Weirdness.

A couple nights ago...

Wait. First I have to explain the stupidity that is my ceiling fan in the bedroom. You flip the switch on the wall and the fan or light comes on, right? No. You flip the switch and then search for the remote to turn on the light and or fan. It's under the bed again, where it landed after being kicked off the bedpost in the middle of the night. Not there...how about the computer desk? It lands there regularly...no. The shelves by the bed. Not there. Finally hunt it down in the fridge. Apparently I was clutching it while in search of a midnight snack and abandoned it in favor of leftover pizza.

Also, remember Mark is in Alaska, so it's just me and the kids and the dogs and the guinea pigs in the house. I am the de facto alpha creature. (I'm always the alpha creature, even when Mark is home -- hi, honey -- but when Mark's gone, I have to be the grown up and all that...)

Just kidding, there, about the alpha creature thing over Mark. Just kidding, honey...

So mostly we don't use the damn overhead light, because of the stupidity of the remote. But a couple nights ago I used the overhead lights, and when I went to bed I turned off the lights and put the remote on the shelf by my bed. I fell asleep and had a weird dream (I'll spare you the details. Even I find it boring.) that culminated in me having a little girl on a bike crash into me. I woke up, with the attendant every nerve jangling feeling -- you know the feeling? Like when you dream you step off a curb and you jar yourself awake... I was laying there for a minute, wishing this stupid jangling tingly feeling would quit already, when


It was a little freaky. I was already feeling all creepy, because of the dream and the jangly feeling, and then boom. Suddenly the ceiling light is on. I could see the remote, right where I left it on the top shelf of the bookcase by my bed. It wasn't where the dog could have stepped on it, I wasn't laying on it, a book hadn't tipped over onto it.

I am not superstitious. I don't believe in ghosts. Mojo was sleeping right next to me, and he wasn't staring at nothing in the corner of the room, his hairs weren't standing on end, he was snoring a little. Abe was sound asleep in the corner.

So I laid there for a minute, kinda freaked out, wondering what the hell is going on. This ceiling light/fan/remote thing doesn't work all that well -- I almost always have to hit the button a couple times to get it to do what I want -- so for it to just turn on, Weird...

Eventually I turned it off and went back to sleep.

The next evening, Thor and I were watching TV in my room...it did it again.

So I flipped the switch to off before I went to bed that night.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Places I have lived, in no particular order.

  1. Hutchinson, Minnesota. I grew up in south central Minnesota, an hour from Minneapolis. We went into the Twin Cities a lot. I love the Twin Cities.
  2. Oklahoma. yuck. I didn't like Oklahoma at all. (Sorry, Oklahomans. I'm sure it's a wonderful state. But I still don't want to live there.)
  3. Fort Lewis, Washington. Okay. I love western Washington state. I love being so close to the Pacific -- I love the Pacific Ocean. But damn, I cannot take the endless gray and rain all winter. I need sunshine, not just a lessening of the gloom. Thor was born here, at Madigan Army Medical Center.
  4. Virginia. For six or eight months. It was hot, and Zach was a naked baby in the wading pool in the backyard. I toured the White House, but really don't remember it. I do remember the Vietnam Memorial and Arlington, though.
  5. Wisconsin, for a couple months as a newborn, until my parents wised up and moved to Minnesota. Yes, you Cheeseheads, I just dissed your state.
  6. West Germany. We lived there in the late eighties. Remember the Cold War? We couldn't go within a kilometer of the border between East and West Germany. Then they reunified, and suddenly there were Trabants on the autobahn. Trabants were East Bloc cars. Not sexy West German cars like BMW's or Mercedes. More like a Yugo. I know. I am so old. Trabants, West Germany, the Cold War, Yugos. It's like I am speaking a foreign language. An old foreign language. Try Google. It is your friend.
  7. Illinios. North of Chicago, close to the Wisconsin border. We lived on Fort Sheridan, so we were this little pocket of regular in the middle of serious affluence. Major wealth. Giant houses, enormous estates. Oprah and Michael Jordan lived around there. It was normal to see a limo every time we left Fort Sheridan. Tess was born in the Lake Forest Hospital.
  8. Lacey, Washington. We lived in a tiny house when Zach was a toddler. This is the place where I destroyed Thanksgiving. My MIL and my sister and her family were there for Thanksgiving. Maybe an hour and a half after we put the turkey in, the power went out. And didn't come back on until 11 pm. The turkey was not salvageable. We had cold cuts for Thanksgiving dinner.
  9. Germany. I know, you are thinking I already said Germany. But I didn't -- I said WEST Germany. We lived in four different apartments in three cities in Germany and West Germany -- we lived on the top floor of a house, then moved to the bottom floor, then on post in Mannheim. After a couple years, we moved to Baumholder, and the country became Germany -- Bundesrepublik Deutchland, or the Federal Republic of Germany. I liked living in Germany and traveling around Europe. Zachary was born in Germany.
  10. Bemidji, Minnesota. I went to Bemidji State University. Northern Minnesota, isolated, ridiculously cold.
  11. The Netherlands. I loved living in the Netherlands. We lived in the Limburg Province, ten minutes from Belgium (where they have amazing chocolate and really good french fries, and oh, yeah, Belgium is a gorgeous country. Gorgeous.), and twenty minutes from Germany. We used to go to this really good restaurant in Germany and then drive all the way across the Netherlands to go to a movie theater in Belgium. We did lots of traveling, we were with NATO so we were part of an international community, which was super, and the kids went to an international school with kids from 27 different countries. It was an awesome experience for the kids.
  12. Tucson, Arizona. That's where I live now. I really like Tucson, except for the part where it's in the desert. I don't do well with hot, and it's really hot here in the summer. And it's just so crazy to have so many people live in the desert and ignore the fact that water is scarce. Tucson isn't so bad about that, although there are way too many golf courses here, wasting insane amounts of water. But when you look at the bigger picture, Vegas and Phoenix and all the smaller towns, it's truly insane. There is not enough water to support the people and environment, and there are more people moving here all the time. Something's gotta give, and I hope they figure it out before they do irreparable damage to the environment.
  13. Next -- Anchorage, Alaska. Yeah, the desert to the almost arctic in one giant step. We move in June, and I am really looking forward to a new place and the new adventures in living. Although I am definitely not looking forward to driving to Anchorage. Three kids, the Suburban towing a trailer, the car, two big dogs, the guinea pigs, a canoe, nine days or so of driving. Yeah. That's gonna be a blast and a half. Or not.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Things You Didn't Know You Don't Want To Know.

Ed Gein, serial killer and creator of "deer" sausage and human skin lampshades, made a belt of human nipples.

I know. You really didn't want to know that.

Movies I Don't Hate

Yesterday I ticked off Tasina, apparently, by dissing The Spiderman movies. At the very least, she threatened to disblogroll me. Unblogroll me? Remove me from her blogroll, alright? Or perhaps it was the hate for Spiderman cartoons, or JeanClaude VanDamm.m. (I absolutely cannot be bothered to learn the correct spelling of his name. I just don't care.)

But, hey. She. Likes. Cats. So we are even, and I am confident she will not unenblogroll me...(like unenroll, but unenBLOGroll! Yes, I do impress even myself sometimes.)

Really, Tasina and I are scarily alike, except that she lives in South Dakota and has a job, and I live in Arizona and don't. We even had the same baby names picked out for our kids -- she got the Noah, I got the Tess. At least once a week one of us posts something that the other one could have written.

So instead of risking two days in a row where I tick off the Tasina, because I would hate to push her to actually carrying out the threat of unenblogrolling me, I will rave about a couple movies I love.

The first is Juno. I love this movie. I love the actor who plays Juno (Ellen Page). I love the characters of her parents. The writing is funny.

I was impressed with Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. When I got home I had to google Jason, because I remembered he was in some sitcom in the '80's, but I couldn't remember which one. ( Valerie, then Valerie's Family when they fired Valerie Harper and she was replaced by Sandy Duncan. There. Now you don't have to google Jason because it would bug you until you remembered which sitcom he was in...)

I love the scene where she tells her parents she's pregnant. It's a great scene. The parents' reaction is so terrific. (Actually, since it is past Tess's bedtime -- I am writing this Tuesday night -- I may go yoink the DVD from her just to watch that scene. But then I will stay up way to late because I want to watch the whole thing. Maybe I better wait. Sigh.) I think Juno is just fun and funny and a great smart movie.

The Host

The Host is a Korean monster movie. It is awesome. I love this movie. It's funny and sad and exciting and really really well made.

The main character, Gang Du,
(the guy in the green shirt) loses his daughter to the monster. But then he gets a cell phone call that makes him and his very dysfunctional family -- father, brother and sister -- think she is still alive. But no one will believe them, so they set off to find and save her themselves. The monster shows up right away. Not of that teaser stuff where they show bits of the monster, a claw here, a tooth there, a hint of skin or eye, nope. It's full on monster almost immediately.

And it is an awesome monster. The special effects are excellent and seamless. The monster is creepy and sinister. The locations are great -- much of the movie is set under the bridges and in the sewers and tunnels around the river. The atmosphere is rather gray, which adds to the discomfort and creepiness.

The characters are great. I love the characters. Since it's a Korean movie, it has details that are unfamiliar -- Gang-Du's father owns a small trailer store by the river, and sells things like dried squid. Apparently the longest leg is the tastiest of dried squid legs. The way characters react -- the way the family of the monster's victims grieve, the attitudes of doctors and bureaucrats to Gang-Du and his family -- are different from the way generally portrayed by American movies. On the DVD, the director apologizes to various actors and crew for things like cutting scenes, putting them in uncomfortable situations during filming (like hip deep in the river), for not showing their faces. I can't really imagine most American directors bothering with something like that.

Americans are poked at -- an American mortician (I think) is the one who starts all the trouble by pouring chemicals down the drain, and several other American characters are morons or weird. The American Army is treates as rather bungling, as is the Korean military and government.

Oh, yeah, it's in Korean with subtitles. Actually it is dubbed into English, too, but I hate dubbing. They always end up sacrificing dialogue and pacing of the lines to match the words to the mouth movement.

Oh, yeah, it's kinda bloody sometimes. Tess is not watching The Host until she is quite a bit older, especially since the girl who's about the same age as Tess is one of the first victims of the monster. Which is fine with Tess, since she's not a big fan of the scary or creepy.

The Host is another fun and funny and smart, and creepy and scary, movie.