Showing posts from June, 2009

My Non-Vacation

[caption id="attachment_868" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="My hammock"][/caption]

A strange thing happened to me on Saturday. I found myself on vacation.

I wasn't on a tropical island. I hadn't flown anywhere. No long drives. No crowds.

It all started when my husband and stepson left for baseball practice Saturday morning. With the house all to myself and the first sunshiny day in about three weeks, I planned out my morning. First weed the garden. Then work on my Week 2 exercises for Deb's Creative Pathways course.

So I set to work in my garden, pulling weeds, tilling dirt, and watering the plants. It started to get hot outside, but I wasn't ready to go in yet. I considered carrying one of the stiff chairs from my deck down to beneath the deck for a shady spot to rest. Then it dawned on me. We have a hammock.

I went to the basement, found the rolled-up hammock, carried it out, and hooked it up to two trees in m…

Photo Friday: Pink Fountain Gaura

As you may be aware by now, I have been taking a photography class to finally learn exactly what to do with all those settings on my DSLR camera. Between the exposure lecture and the next week's lab I wanted to practice.

As you may also be aware, it has rained a lot in the past month. That means I have a plethora of gray photographs. One day the sun peaked out for about 10 minutes so I dropped what I was doing and went to practice what I learned in my yard.

This week's Photo Friday shot is one of those practice shots. I photographed this Pink Fountain Gaura in the fully manual mode. The richness of the color and depth of field were exactly as I had hoped. (See it on Flickr for better quality.)

Happy Friday!

[caption id="attachment_861" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Pink Fountain Gaura in my yard"][/caption]

Nikon D40x
ISO 400
Shutter 1/1000

Wreck This Journal: Week 4

[caption id="attachment_852" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Cut through multiple pages to make fringe"][/caption]

After playing baseball with Wreck This Journal last Friday night, I have to admit I was at a loss for what to do next.

I was so proud of the idea and ecstatic that I got a great photo of it on my phone. It was a perfect act of joyous spontaneity. After all my piddly little wrecking exercises, I'd raised my personal bar quite high. I was no longer following the rules of destruction. I was actually wrecking.

Since I can't force spontaneity, this week I simply returned to the suggestions within the book. I'm sure another impromptu joyful wrecking will occur. At least I proved to myself that I could do it.

The next best thing seemed to be rising to Jamie's challenge of doing the thing we fear most. For me that's the food page. To ease myself in, I bit a grape in half and smeared it on the page. It's…

Latest Edition of Usability Interface is Live

The latest edition of Usability Interface is published at long last! As editor, I haven't yet hit the right rhythm of timing. What a learning process this has been!

With this being my third issue I think I now have an idea of how long on average each step takes. Perhaps that will help me with assembling a new timeline moving forward.

Anyhow, this issue talks to usability professionals about the value of words, gives an excerpt from the newly published 5th edition of Designing the User Interface, and explains why I leave my floss on the counter.

If any of this interests you, you can read the latest issue here:

Reclaiming My Space (the space that is mine, not the social networking site)

[caption id="attachment_824" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="My bulletin board after the clean-up"][/caption]

My recent efforts to reclaim my time have also become activities in reclaiming my space.

Over the past two weeks I have reclaimed my deck, a path through the garage, and my bulletin board. Little things really. Each one, however, gave my soul a little boost.

My deck felt ugly and cramped. In a roughly 6x8' space, there were four chairs, an animal hideout, and a flower pot half-filled with soil growing weeds. It was cramped and made me think "ugh" every time I walked by the sliding glass door.

In one evening, I pushed all the chairs into an orderly fashion against the deck rails (cornering in the animal house to conceal it a bit) planted flowers in the pot, and added 5 more flower pots.

Now I walk by and think "pretty." It's on it's way to becoming a deck I love. It's still too small for b…

Finding My Creativity

I'm taking part in Deb Owen's Creative Pathways course. We just started a week ago and will be going for a total of 12 weeks to work on unleashing our creativity for whatever that means to each of us on this journey.

For me it means letting my creativity come out and play, to see what transpires. It's something that I have stifled over the years since working in web where I'm "supposed" to be a technical person.

It's a scary thing to call myself creative. Yes I graduated with an English degree. Yes I liked writing stories when I was younger. Yes I admire artists. But I tend not to think of myself as creative. I think of other people as creative. I think, "sure I do little semi-creative things here and there, but she's a real artist/writer/photographer/(fill in the blank)."

I have no problem looking at others as the real deal. Me, however, I'm just me. I guess it's true what they say about you being your own worst critic.

In D…

Taylor Swift Raps with T-Pain as T-Swizzle

On the CMT awards the other night the opening sequence was a discussion between Bill Engvall (one of my favorite comedians) and Taylor Swift (one of my favorite singers) about her dreams.

She dreamed of being in the new Star Trek movie so they showed a clip of her patched in to a scene. She dreamed of being an NFL player so they cut to a clip showing her in the Tennessee Titans locker room geared up getting into game mode with one of the players.

Then she said she wanted to be in a rap video with T-Pain. The result was this...

You can see the video in higher quality on CMT if you prefer. Wordpress won't let me embed that version.

Wreck This Journal: Week 3 (part 2)

Because this was too good to hold until next week... Wreck This Journal baseball style. That's my husband at bat. Talk about cracking the spine! It's mangled good now. And then I rubbed it in the infield dirt. Overcame the fear of getting it dirty. Woohoo!

[caption id="attachment_837" align="aligncenter" width="476" caption="Wreck This Journal baseball style"][/caption]

Read Wreck This Journal: Week 3 (the first part- where the I mailed the journal)

Photo Friday: From the Park and Marina

This was my fourth week of photography class and our second lab. We ventured off campus this time to shoot at a nearby park with a marina.

I'm finally learning how to manually work with the exposure settings. It's still kind of a slow thought process followed by some trial and error, but it's a vast improvement over the first lab.

It was another overcast foreboding evening. Fortunately the rain held off until after the photo shoot. Still, it made for more gray photos. I played with composition to work in color, played with distance and close-ups.

The final count was around 210 photographs that I shot in those two hours. I'm even happy with how many of them came out. (Plus, no all black photos this time!)

Here are a few of my favorites:

[caption id="attachment_812" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Bench by the lake"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_813" align="aligncenter" width="200" cap…

Wreck This Journal: Week 3

First I want to thank all of the people who visited and commented my earlier WTJ posts! It is incredible to be in the company of so many amazing, witty, funny, wonderful people. Thank you so much for dropping by. Wreck on!

We are now entering week 3 of Wreck This Journal. The first two weeks have been a blast, as well as a learning process.

The first thing I did this week was mail my journal to myself. I took it to my office last Thursday with a heap of stamps. I taped it closed reveling in how glorious the track of destruction would be when I ripped it back off. I addressed it with a borrowed blue Sharpie then adhered a return address label.

[caption id="attachment_793" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="All taped up"][/caption]

I asked the guy in the mail room to weigh the book and tell me how much the postage would be. He paused. I'm not sure if it was because I handed him a book that was taped shut or if it was because he no…

Usability of a Mac & Cheese Box

If you're reading this you either really like my writing or you were helplessly drawn in by that amazing title.

So here's the story: I was making macaroni and cheese the other night when I found myself experiencing a bit of déjà vu.

To open that familiar blue box I jabbed my thumb at the bright yellow "push here to open" tab on the upper edge of the box. As usual, I succeeded in doing nothing more than denting and mashing the corner. Then I went to plan B: rip open the top flaps and be done with it.

I commented on Twitter about my inability to work that thumb tab thingy and asked if I was the only one. That little tweet elicited 5 fast responses and a phone call from people all agreeing they couldn't work it either. One suggested we start a club. I'm thinking we could call it People Opposed to Useless Tabs (POUT) or Just the Flaps Please. But I digress.

What I realized is that we didn't fail as macaroni & cheese box openers. The box design failed…

Morning Pages (still reclaiming my time)

I am not a morning person. I don't like to get up before the sun. I don't even like to get up before 8:00 a.m. regardless of the sun. In fact, 9:00 a.m. would be perfect. (Rarely happens- this is why they call it wishful thinking.)

But this morning, in a continued effort to reclaim my time, I fought (so desperately fought) my non-morningness. I woke up at 6:00 a.m. Today being a commute to New York day (which happens twice a week), I had to get up early anyway. When the alarm went off, instead of hitting snooze again and again or resetting the alarm for 7:00 a.m. (which was soooo tempting), I sat up.

My body argued and complained, weighing itself down in an effort to sink back into the sheets. It beckoned to me presenting me with wonderful temptations of pillows, blankets, dreamland, and warmth. It's all right here! All you have to do is lay back down. Gravity will do most of the work.

Yet I sat up. You see, today is the day I am starting my morning pages again. …

Reclaiming Time

[caption id="attachment_757" align="alignright" width="225" caption="My flower filled cart at the garden shop"][/caption]

Recently I hit a wall. Don't worry, I don't mean that literally. It was the kind of wall where I realized I had been so busy working, commuting, traveling, and going to my stepson's baseball games that there was little time for anything else.

I hadn't planted a garden as I had intended this spring. Laundry had taken over the bedrooms and bathrooms. My journal hadn't been opened in weeks. Ditto for the book I'm reading. I don't even like to think about the state of the garage and the basement. You'd think we were victims of indoor tornadoes. Like a neglected lawn (oh yeah, there's that too), my life was entering the unmanageable.

Then an interesting thing happened. After another far too short weekend and a full Monday workload, I decided it was time to begin a garden. Right then on …

A Warm Place to Nap

Because it's Saturday and we all need a break...

Laptops put out a good deal of heat. My cat tried perching on my computer a couple of times before learning he would be shooed off.

If he had looked this cute doing it, I might have let him be.

Ok everybody... collective "awwww."

see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Photo Friday: Pheasant

This week's Photo Friday took a bit of research on my part. I captured this shot a few weeks ago when I saw an interesting rather large bird walk through my yard. My camera happened to be handy so I snatched it and stepped out on my porch as quietly as possible.

I managed to get a few pictures before the bird took flight to escape the crazy woman. Here the bird had frozen while determining the appropriate course of action. (Pose for a picture or run like mad?)

Since I know extremely little about birds, I somehow categorized this as a quail. No, I don't know why. As I prepared this post, I figured I better see if I could figure out what it really was.

A quick search on "bird identifier" turned up The site has a search tool that lets you begin narrowing down bird choices by selecting as much information as you would like about the region, the size of the bird, body shape, beak shape, colors, etc.

In about 5 minutes I had slimmed down to a list of…

Wreck This Journal: Week 2

Journal wrecking commenced last Friday. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, read the Week 1 post about the Wreck This Journal book blogging group.)

[caption id="attachment_725" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="The journal in its current state"][/caption]

When I told my husband about the book, he looked at me like I was crazy. Then he opened it. He read every page with increasing excitement and asked if he could play too.

Suddenly and vivaciously he chucked the journal across the room and proclaimed, "it said to make a destructive unpredictable movement with the journal so I threw it!"

I love this man.

Here is the destruction that ensued this week...

A walk in the rain.

Tea bag staining.

Fuji apple sticker added.

Water-colored the home page, which subsequently bled through to the other side. Bonus!

[caption id="attachment_723" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Water-color and s…

A Friend's Crazy Idea and the Benefits of the Internet

I received an email yesterday from someone I haven't spoken to in probably a year. In it she linked to a blog she just started where she will be writing about her upcoming dream trip.

Her first post mentions reaching out online with a particular question resulting in her communicating with people from all over the United States. Further she received helpful unsolicited suggestions and encouragement to make her adventure a little less stressful. With all of this support, she concluded the internet is "a wonderful tool to meet helpful, interesting people."

I wholeheartedly agree. Between this blog, various online forums, Twitter, and the Wreck This Journal book blogging group I joined last week, I meet a lot of wonderful people. We discuss life, work, family, books, and even ask each other for help on occasion.

The internet truly is a great place to meet helpful, interesting people if you choose to use it that way. (And to all you wonderful people, thank you for being y…

Wreck This Journal: Week 1

You know all those books you have in pristine condition lined up like soldiers on your bookshelf? This isn't that.

Starting today I am participating in my first book blogging adventure and I will be tearing it up. Perhaps literally.

I found out about this little party on Twitter last night. (Thanks to @victoriashmoria for the tip!)

The book blogging group, called The Next Chapter, is hosted by Jamie Ridler of Starshyne Productions. It is open for anyone to join at any time (even in the middle of a book).

The book we are just beginning is Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith. As the name implies, the challenge is to get this book dirty. Unabashedly muck it up. As a person who rarely even dog-ears pages anymore (though there was that one incident with the book and the rain… sorry hubby!), I'm looking forward to unleashing my inner rebel.

Lots of fun people will be posting links to their own blogs to share their Wreck This Journal stories. I will be posting here each week.


Photo Friday: Macabre Corridor

I am two classes in to my first photography class. After years of taking pictures through trial-and-error, I decided it was finally time to really learn the settings.

My camera has an awful lot of buttons that I'm afraid to touch lest I break something. Deciding there is no time like the present, I signed up for a summer course at my local community college.

This week was our first lab. We did a photo shoot on the campus. Mind you, we haven't actually learned any of the settings yet. We shot in manual mode, changing apertures and shutter speeds to our hearts content (keeping the ISO at 400 per the teacher's instructions).

So how did it go? Well, my first shot came out completely black. The good news is it can only go up from there.

When it was my turn to work with the teacher I selected a fountain as my subject. It had a trash can in the background off to the side. My teacher suggested a couple of angles. I went for straight on in a way that let me keep the trash c…

Making Twitter Less Scary

Twitter is a hot topic. I have been a member since November 2007, when the hype had really begun picking up. As with most of my web endeavors, I signed up because as a web producer it’s important for me to know the popular platforms and I learn by doing.

For a while I didn’t do too much with it- check in periodically, stress about crafting the perfect witty remark, wonder how to find people you want to follow. Little by little my participation grew. I joined conversations and “met” some really wonderful people. (Still meeting great “tweeple” in fact.)

Now it’s a dialogue, a news source, a playground, a virtual café (see “Twitter demystified…” below).

Twitter is something you don’t really get until you have been doing it for a while. (See how I said “doing” rather than “using?” Twitter is ubiquitous enough to have become a verb.) Most Twitter users I have talked to agree. So don’t wait until you “get it” to jump in.

There are many (many, many, many) articles out there about Twitte…