Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Non-Vacation

[caption id="attachment_868" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="My hammock"]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 my backyard. I brought out a tote of books, a notebook, and writing utensils and swayed in the breeze while answering the Week 2 questions. When I was done with that, I pulled out the novel I'm currently reading and sunk deliciously into its plot.

My neighbors were floating in their new pool while music played on their deck. I was far enough away from them to feel alone, yet near enough to enjoy the music and feel a sense of community. I listened to the sounds of splashing, felt the breeze mix with the heat, watched a few birds come and go.

That's when I realized I felt like I was at a resort, far removed from the worries of daily chores. My hammock in the shade was like a poolside cabana. If only someone had come around to take my drink and snack order.

I spent several glorious hours on that non-vacation. In fact, the rest of my weekend was happier and more relaxed than it might otherwise have been.

Mental note: take more non-vacations. I wonder what other opportunities might present themselves.

Friday, June 26, 2009

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"]Pink Fountain Gaura in my yard[/caption]

Nikon D40x
ISO 400
Shutter 1/1000

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wreck This Journal: Week 4

[caption id="attachment_852" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Cut through multiple pages to make fringe"]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 not exactly messy like, say, spaghetti sauce might be. But it's a start.

Here are the tragedies my journal endured this week:

  1. Rubbed in infield dirt and gravel at the baseball field

  2. Ripped out and crumpled up a page. Cat batted it around the living room.

  3. Hubby wrote in it with a dirty stick. Since the stick is no longer pressed in the book, that probably means it's loose in my purse. I should probably go look for that.

  4. [caption id="attachment_851" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Writing with a dirty stick"]Writing with a dirty stick[/caption]
  5. Grape smearing

  6. Cut through multiple pages. For some reason, this was extremely gratifying.

  7. Holes poked with a pencil (not inside the dotted lines)

  8. Drawing thick and thin lines with a pencil

  9. Made a paper airplane (still in tact in book)

  10. [caption id="attachment_853" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Folded a paper airplane"]Folded a paper airplane[/caption]
  11. Completely colored a page wherein I allowed myself to be okay with my art skills be elementary

  12. [caption id="attachment_854" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Completely colored a page"]Completely colored a page[/caption]
  13. Dripped nail polish and smooshed the book to make a pattern

  14. [caption id="attachment_855" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Smooshed nail polish"]Smooshed nail polish[/caption]

Happy wrecking!

Curious about what other wreckage transpired?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

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: http://www.stcsig.org/usability/newsletter/index.html.

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"]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 both a table AND chairs which I would love to have. Instead I think I may one day replace the stiff chairs with a small outdoor loveseat. What a great space that would be!

The garage is filled with various boxes of things, construction supplies, tools, and other odds and ends.

Tackling the garage is a big project, though. Every time I thought about cleaning it, I decided I didn't have the time or the energy. So I started by just breaking down the empty boxes and taking them out for recycling. There were a lot. (Let's just say the boxes at the top of the stack were from Christmas.)

Now there is a path through the garage. Room to move without twisting and tip-toeing. It's a good start.

My desk in my home office was feeling cluttered and I couldn't figure out why. I had recently organized it, but I still felt stressed whenever I sat there.

Then I realized how overburdened my magnetic bulletin board was. There were various schedules, phone numbers, and a collection of things that individually made me happy (magnetic poetry, cards, pictures, etc.). As a group it was overwhelming.

I took everything off and put back only the things I wanted to look at right now. Everything else went somewhere else. The whole desk area is now more appealing because of the small bulletin board clean-up.

In 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there I am reclaiming my space, one little nook at a time. It's amazing what a big effect such small tasks can have on my serenity.

Monday, June 22, 2009

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 Deb's course, we are working through The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. One of the basic tools she presents is writing three pages every morning. Simple stream of consciousness- what's on your mind, what you have to do that day, how tired you are, whatever. I have been writing my morning pages for a week now after a month long hiatus.

I'm finding the process leaves me feeling more calm throughout my day. By writing in a safe space whatever is in my head no matter how wild, stupid, trivial, or boring it may seem, I am setting my intention for the day. The simple act of writing in the morning encourages more writing later in the day. It helps me see the stories in my daily life. It helps me understand what I may not be clear enough about.

I don't know yet where all of this will lead. I don't have any grand goal for the process. I simply want to foster creativity and let the path unfold before me.

This begins week two.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

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.

Friday, June 19, 2009

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"]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"]Bench by the lake[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_813" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Rope on a mast"]Rope on a mast[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_814" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Grate around a tree"]Grate around a tree[/caption]

On a related note, I am now on Flickr, so if you'd like to see some of my other photos venture on over to www.flickr.com/photos/lifeafterweb. (There is also a link in the left sidebar of this blog.)

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

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"]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 noticed the From and To address were identical. No matter. The cost to mail would be $2.24.

Two sunflowers and four Edgar Allan Poe stamps later, I reluctantly dropped my journal in the mail bin. In NY. A whole state away from my house in NJ.

[caption id="attachment_792" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Stamps after the tape ripped them off"]Stamps after the tape ripped them off[/caption]

Then the withdrawal set in. I wondered how long it would be before I held my journal again. I despaired over thinking it might get lost in the mail.

Over the weekend I lived vicariously through all of my fellow wreckers, reading their posts, looking at their photos, watching their videos. Each one spurred brilliant new ideas. Alas, there was no journal for me to wreck.

So I waited.

My journal made it home on Monday. I felt relief. I felt excitement. I felt fear over taking on some of the more difficult pages.

[caption id="attachment_794" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="The journal back home safe in my mailbox"]The journal back home safe in my mailbox[/caption]

I yanked off the tape. The cover was remarkably resilient, but I managed to pull off the black layer in some places.

[caption id="attachment_795" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="After ripping the tape off"]After ripping the tape off[/caption]

Ahhh, that's better.

Here are the tragedies my journal endured this week:

  1. Mailing (as aforementioned)

  2. Crumpling the instruction page

  3. Covering a page with white things

  4. [caption id="attachment_791" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Cover this page with white things"]Cover this page with white things[/caption]

  5. Scratching with a metal ruler

  6. Writing on the sides of the pages

  7. [caption id="attachment_796" align="aligncenter" width="150" caption="My husband\'s not-so-secret message"]My husband's not-so-secret message[/caption] [caption id="attachment_797" align="aligncenter" width="150" caption="My new clean curse phrase"]My new clean curse phrase[/caption]

Keeping it in decent condition to mail it was my previous excuse for keeping the wreckage mild. Now that mailing is done, I need to step it up. (Cue Jaws theme music.)

Will I be able to do it? Time will tell. Check back next week.

Happy wrecking!

Update 6/20/09: Read Wreck This Journal: Week 3 part 2 (where my husband and I play baseball with the journal)

Curious about what other wreckage transpired?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

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 us. Why perforate a thumb tab when we could simply open the top flaps? Crazy idea, but it works for the cereal people.

Besides, as my friend pointed out over the phone, even if you jab the end of a wooden spoon through the tab and successfully pull it open, the cheese packet doesn't fit through the opening. Hmmm.

I'm curious. How do you open the mac & cheese box?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

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. About a month ago I was on a roll writing three pages in my journal every morning (thanks to a suggestion from Deb Owen about Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way).

In those morning pages I was writing anything that came to my brain in those first morning minutes: how sleepy I was, what I had to do that day, what I was happy/sad/upset about, what I wanted to do if only I could.

During those few weeks of continued morning pages a crazy thing happened. I felt my creativity awaken. I started writing more. I started Twittering with new fascinating people. My personal relationships became more fulfilling because I was making deeper connections with people. I had a series of little "aha!" moments where I realized things I hadn't previously recognized in myself.

Then the May craziness hit. Travel and baseball consumed much of my non-working time. I stopped doing morning pages. I found all sorts of compelling reasons not to do them.

If you saw my post yesterday, you know I hit a wall and am now reclaiming my time in small increments during parts of my day that might otherwise be lost.

That includes morning pages. So despite my body's grumblings, I picked up my journal and began writing again this morning. I gave myself permission (ok and Deb gave me permission too) to aim for a mere page and a half, rather than three pages. Just for now. Just on my early rise commuting days.

And you know what? I wrote two full pages. Then rather than race through a 30 minute flight-of-the-bumblebee morning routine, I gave myself permission to take my time. I had breakfast. I put the baseball uniforms in the dryer for tonight's game. I responded to a Twitter post. I showered and got ready at a reasonable pace.

Interesting thing. I made it to work an hour. I dug right in and found myself more finishing tasks in a more focused, less scattered way.

Sure I had some lingering tiredness (though I often have that anyway). I also had a sense of calm. I felt oddly at peace with my day's activities.

Tomorrow is not a commuting day so I will sleep a little bit later and aim for the full three pages. I'm hoping my morning pages will get me off on the right start again.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Reclaiming Time

[caption id="attachment_757" align="alignright" width="225" caption="My flower filled cart at the garden shop"]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 that wet Monday night.

I drove to the garden center and spent more than an hour slowly wandering the vegetable plants, herbs, and flowers. In that giant greenhouse, I could feel my spirit settling. I selected some flowers for potting as well as some herbs and veggies, a nice trellis, two giant bags of soil, and a couple of seeds. (It should be said here that I am not a gardener. I know very little about it, in fact. But I think I'd like to.)

By the time I got home it was after 9:00 p.m., certainly dark. I unloaded everything in my garage and spent a few minutes admiring my garden to be.

Tuesday night after my usual long commute home and dinner, I went outside and potted plants. It was after 9:00 once again and I had to walk every few minutes to turn the motion-sensor light back on. But in those shadows, I potted my flowers and arranged them on my deck where I could see them in the morning.

On Thursday I was off and, though I did an hour or two's worth of work, I used that day to tick off to do items: 3 loads of laundry, buying toothpaste, depositing the $25 birthday check my sweet grandmother sent me 6 weeks ago, purging my closet of unworn clothing, emptying the garage of the mountainous pile of old broken down boxes, and guiding my stepson in cleaning out his backpack. I even had time to write not one, but several blog posts.

I spent all day Saturday and the first half of yesterday at my stepson's baseball tournament. Upon returning home yesterday afternoon, rather than flopping on the couch wiped out (like I really wanted to do) I cleaned out my garden bed and planted the vegetables and herbs. It was actually quite therapeutic.

In the span of one week, my life became manageable again. What suffered as a result? Not one thing. Work was still there on Friday and again today. My husband and stepson carried on with their usual routines. Everybody ate dinner, sometimes together, sometimes separate, but no one went hungry.

I, however, am quite a bit more calm. Imagine that.

What can you do this week that will make your life easier or relieve a little stress, even if it seems like an oddball time to do so?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

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."

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Friday, June 12, 2009

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 WhatBird.com. 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 11 birds. I saw "Ring-necked Pheasant and thought "my bird has a ring around its neck. Voila!

So here you have it- a ring-necked pheasant.

Happy Friday!

[caption id="attachment_749" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Pheasant in my yard"]Pheasant in my yard[/caption]

Thursday, June 11, 2009

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"]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...

  1. A walk in the rain.

  2. Tea bag staining.

  3. Fuji apple sticker added.

  4. 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 swirl punches on the title page"]Water-color and swirl punches on the title page[/caption]

  5. Wrote my name in various pencils, chalks, and markers.

  6. Page numbering, starting with 42. Because I can. (If you read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, you know why 42.)

    [caption id="attachment_719" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Page numbering (not starting at one- where would the fun be in that?)"]Page numbering (not starting at one- where would the fun be in that?)[/caption]

  7. Chewing.

  8. Circled the letters of my name in the warning message.

  9. Punched swirl and heart shaped holes in intro.

  10. Sewing. Beads. I even sewed one page to another with a string of beads hanging between them.

    [caption id="attachment_720" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Sewing pages (together) with beads for splashes of color"]Sewing pages (together) with beads for splashes of color[/caption]

  11. Office supplies: post-it, sticky colored flags, business card, paperclips, staples, highlighter, white-out.

  12. A couple of throws.

In these first steps I learned that I really limit myself. So far my destruction is fairly clean: "pretty" water-coloring or containing page destruction to the center portion of the pages. I'm defacing a book, but whether it can be called destruction is debatable.

My husband found me using decorative punches to cut shapes in the first few pages. He wanted to help so I handed him the journal and a swirl punch. Part way through, the punch got caught in the paper. My husband tugged and pulled and twisted the punch to try to free it from the page. I cringed and winced. Then I realized that was entirely the point. He didn't just one-up me. He blew right by. My journal now has a proud crumply torn bit right on the title page.

I guess I need to work on my destruction skills (though I'm trying to keep the book in decent condition until I mail it to myself). I foresee a long battle ahead. Whether that is a literal battle against the book or a metaphorical battle within my mind remains to be seen.

Watch for the Friday post on The Next Chapter: Wreck This Journal site to see how the rest of the group is doing.

Happy wrecking!

[caption id="attachment_726" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="A peak at the pages"]A peak at the pages[/caption]

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

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 you!)

Have you met interesting people online? Share your stories in the comments if you'd like.

If you're wondering about my friend's adventure, she has decided to use her unemployment to do something she has long been in awe of: bicycling across the country. Coast to coast. Pacific to Atlantic on a bicycle. (Yes, the kind you pedal. I'm tired just talking about it.)

I wish her a fabulous and safe journey filled with joy! You can follow her progress on her new blog.

Oh, and if you see her maybe you could give her some water or a shady resting spot. She's really nice.

Friday, June 5, 2009

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.

The first step of wrecking my journalFor my first act of wreckage, I carried my copy of Wreck This Journal in the rain. On purpose this time. It's already speckled with a nice little wave (as shown in the photo at left).

If you want to partake in some healthy destructive behavior with me, see Jamie's write up with all the details. It is free, solely for fun, and there are no obligations to actually blog about your experience if you don't want to.

We start today, June 5, and run through July 31. Don't be shy about jumping in midcourse. I just joined last night and picked up the book today.

As Victoria said to me on Twitter, "Can't wait to get wrecked together. Oh, wait, that's something different. ;-)" Well, you get the point.

Happy wrecking!

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 can just out of view. Her response was, "you're difficult, aren't you?"

Not sure if she was kidding or not I laughed it off. After a couple of shots she said, "you like taking weird shots, right?"

Um... I like to think of them as creative, inspired, original at worst. But weird works too, I guess. I said yes and asked if that was a bad thing. She said, "there's one in every class."

With that established she led me over to one end of a long outdoor corridor. Never one to be mistaken for graceful, I ran into her when she stopped and stepped on her foot. Thank goodness this is a non-credit course.

Anyhow, this Friday's photo is one of the corridor shots. The evening time and overcast weather lent to an overall macabre feeling which I rather like. Call me weird (obviously it won't be a first), but the tragic lighting works for me.

Happy Friday from a one-of-a-kind, weird, ungraceful budding photographer!

[caption id="attachment_689" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Dark outdoor corridor"]Dark outdoor corridor[/caption]

Camera settings: ISO 400, f3.5, shutter 30.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

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 Twitter. Here are a few recent ones that I think are particularly helpful:

Why Twitter shouldn’t scare you and why you should be there:
Havi explains it best in her post Twitter demystified and debunked. She refutes some myths and likens Twitter to your favorite local café. That’s not scary at all, right? (Havi is @havi on Twitter.)

How to get started in Twitter:
Hot off the press is Your Web Coaches’ The Cool Thing About Twitter, just published today. It is aimed at small business owners, but read it anyway because the information is comprehensive and written especially for beginners. Mynde explains how to set up a kick-butt profile, what to tweet, and who to follow. It is all very not scary. (Mynde is @MyndeMayfield on Twitter. Her fellow Web Coach Wendy is @WendiCholbi.)

Twitter’s hold on the world:
If you want to understand how Twitter affects the world at large, see the article TIME posted today on How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live. They even explain why knowing what your friend had for breakfast is interesting. (TIME magazine is @TIME on Twitter.)

So there you have it. Twitter isn’t as scary as you think it is. It’s easy to join in the conversation.

Browse these articles. Then join me at the café. You can follow me here: @lifeafterweb. Once you’re there, send me a tweet. You can paste this one right into Twitter if you’d like:

@lifeafterweb I’m here. Thanks for taking the scary out of Twitter!

I promise to reply.

See you on Twitter!