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Photography Cheat Sheets, Again

It’s been a while since I shared any photography resources here, so I’m going to do that now.

So, in just a couple of weeks a good friend of mine is headed out to a Pacific island for an expedition for work.  Yes, I do have cool friends who do cool things.  In any case, he’s going to be taking a lot of photos, mainly of birds and other local flora and fauna, for blogs and reports he has to do as part of the justification for the money spent on him being sent on this little adventure to a semi-tropical island.  But, he’s a little rusty on his photography and actually only recently got a modern auto-focus lens, having been using his old-school, manual-focus glass.  So, in a small effort to give him some tools to. hopefully, get him a little more comfortable with some of the crunchy bits of the photography experience, I thought I’d share a link to the Photo Argus’s collection of 15 “Must See” Cheatsheets and Infographics for Photographers this week.

It’s worth a look for you photographers who, like he and me, have gotten a little out-of-touch with the technical parts of our cameras.  They cover everything from posing people for portraits, which I have never been good at doing, to just what aperture, ISO and shutter speed numbers all mean.  They also cover focal length control and the three components of exposure and a whole lot more.
They’re great refreshers if you’ve set your camera down for a long time for whatever reason.  And, they’re a great starting point for those of us who may never have been clear on some of these concepts in the first place!


Roll Your Own

Three words that strike fear into the heart of many a wise system administrator.

And not a few other sorts of smart people, too!
In this case, though, I’m talking about rolling your own WordPress theme.  This is one of those many, many projects that I’ve wanted to get to on that ever-elusive “one day” when I have spare time.  It’s also something I want to ultimately do for, which I quietly rolled live a week ago.  I won’t make it in time for the “official” launch date at the end of the month, but maybe I’ll have a custom theme there by year’s end.
In any case, for an open source project, I think WordPress is actually extremely well documented and, relatively recently, the Theme section of that documentation got a make-over, making it more useful and easy to use.  Of course, you can always download a theme, as I’ve mentioned before, but it’s always something that comes close to what you want, and not precisely what you want, developed just for you.  So, toward the end of enabling more people to make their own, personal, custom themes, I’ve got a mess of links for you this week for WordPress theme building.
Now, let’s get started.

First, there’s something I find very helpful, especially for someone who’s new to WordPress themeing; the WordPress Template Hierarchy.  This is a graphical representation of the way the various template files work and work together in WordPress.  If you think of it as a kind of flow chart, it may help you follow how everything fits together.  Also, remember that many of these files are really optional.  In fact, most are, but for a really functional theme, you’ll definitely have quite a few of them, so it’s worth looking at how they all fit together.

Once you get comfortable with that, consider choosing a framework for your theme.
I don’t mean a theme framework, although that is one option, because I feel like that would lock you into all the same traps as just using someone else’s theme, just on a larger scale.  But, do consider using a CSS framework, like Blueprint or Bootstrap.  (If you’re not sure what that means, don’t worry a lot of people don’t.  Just check out 10 Best Free CSS# Frameworks for 2015, which gives you a brief introduction to what they’re about and the front-runners in popularity.)
Bootstrap is one of the more popular ones, in part because it was created by the same folks who created Twitter, but it sure has grown beyond that.  In fact, you can see a lot of the applications for Bootstrap over at 40 Useful Bootstrap Tools and Generators for Web Developers, which even includes a link to a plugin for WordPress to help you integrate the two and starter theme and tools, just so you can see how it’s done!  This can make styling your theme easier, once you get used to how it all works together.  It helps if you’re already familiar with CSS3 or modifying existing WordPress themes, or both.

Another tool you may find useful as a starting point is _s, AKA Underscores.  Underscores is a “starter theme” meant to be the very basic pages needed for a theme, with minimal CSS styling done.  It’s basically a blank canvas for a theme, but that doesn’t really do it justice.  It’s been called the “1000 hour head start” for theme developers and was endorsed by the WordPress theme team at one point, though I don’t know if it still is.  If you want to go that way, which I think is a great idea, you can check out an introduction to it over at WP Tavern and a full-on tutorial for Underscores by it’s creator, Themeshaper.  And, even better, if you want to combine this starter theme with Bootstrap, you can see how with this tutorial; Make a Custom WordPress Theme with Bootstrap 3 and  (That’s what I’ll probably do when I finally find the time!)

So, there you have it.  Not quite all the tools you need to make a unique WordPress theme, but a very good start!
You’ve got a three-day weekend to use all that with now, so get to it!

DIY Magazines

Yes, resources to actually layout and publish your own magazine, mostly for free.

My blushing bride pointed out recently that I mostly haven’t posted anything original in years.  Just links to other resources and some brief copy around it to explain what I’m posting and why.
This week isn’t going to be any different.

I love magazines.
They are, perhaps, my most annoying secret vice.  They’re hard to store and, since I have so little time to really read these days, I tend to hold on to them far too long.  I love them so much that I lose sight of the fact that they are “periodicals”, meant to inexpensively deliver timely information that has a relatively short shelf-life.  I love the written word and few things pull me like a well-designed magazine with articles that promise knowledge or “hip-ness” that I can get from no other source.
In fact, I have always, secretly, wanted to establish an underground magazine, but I’ve never had the time or resources.
I still don’t have the time, but, well, here are some resources.

First of all, these are a bit old, although I verified them all myself very recently.  Mostly, these resources center around the technical aspects of design, layout and production of magazines, and rely on an Adobe program called InDesign.  It’s a little dated, but it’s still a good layout program.  So, the first link I’m sharing with you is to the suggestions for an InDesign replacement, all of which are free.  (Incidentally, I’ve used Scribus, which is the first they list and it’s actually surprisingly easy to get used to using.)  The next three links are all tutorials on layout specifically for magazines;,’s InDesign tutorials, and a “professional” magazine layout tutorial at  If you’re willing to pay a little bit, you can pick up one of the hundreds of magazine templates available at Magazine Forest for relatively little money.  (And, no, I don’t get any money from them or anyone else I link to in this post.  In case you were wondering.)  If I ever get any of this fabled “free time” I keep hearing people talk about, and had any inspiration to write on a regular basis, I would probably take that short-cut myself.  It’s hard to beat if you have $60 you can spend on this kind of project.
Finally, if you want to distribute your work, I have two ways to do it.  First is the digital magazine publisher, Issuu.  You can upload your digital magazine for free and readers can get to it for free, too.  If you want more control over your publication and access to stats on how many people are reading your work, they have paid plans.  And, finally, if you want to physically print your magazine, you can try MagCloud, which has a rate calculator posted so you can figure out how much it would cost to print your work in quantity.  It’s not as expensive as you might thing, considering.

So, there you go.  A magazine link-dump with everything you need from start o finish, except the actual content.
Good luck with that part.

Anyway, have a great weekend and go produce something!


Starting Up

I love starting things! Beginning something new is such an adventure!

Seriously!  Of course, sometimes, I have a bit of a hard time actually launching some of these ideas I have, even when I’ve mostly built the website.  That’s why, for instance, I’ve given myself a deadline of the end of this month to actually launch  If I don’t launch it soon, I may never!

That doesn’t mean I can’t have a sense of humor about start-ups, though.  Especially internet startups.  I mean, after having my career launch with the internet, basically, and keeping my nose to the corporate grindstone when I watched so many people try, with varying success, to launch every imaginable kind of startup known to human-kind, well, it does help to keep a sense of humor about these things.
That’s why when I saw the Random Startup Website Generator earlier this month, it seemed like old times.  It’s funny and clever and, well, a little close to home!
Of course, what it reminded me of was Wired on-line from that era and all the random Web 2.0 generators they had or had linked to from their site.  The fact that the links were brought together by the same guy who wrote the Wired app is probably no coincidence.  In fact, I even made my own contribution; the Web 2.0 Business Plan Generator!

For fun, compare that to “Cool Startup, Bro“, which are actual startups trying to get a little traction.  I’m not sure if it’s funny, or sad.  By the way, that link brings you to a page that auto-starts video with fairly loud audio, so be warned.

And, hey, start something new this weekend!

Things To Read

I’m a little suspicious of lists put out by booksellers of books I ought to read.

I’m especially suspicious when it’s a list of 100 “books to read in a lifetime” being suggested by Amazon.  But, when Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic and one of two founding developers of WordPress, I have to admit, I pay a little closer attention.  For one thing, I’ve heard spectacular things about him from at least one of his old high school buddies and for another, I respect what he’s managed to do with a basically abandoned open source project.  I figure he’s smart enough that he’s worth paying attention to when he suggests something.  Also, looking at the list, I’m surprised at how many I’ve read already, and how many more sound interesting.

That being said, if you want a shorter list of suggested books to read this year, you can try the 6 Books Bill Gates wants you to read presented by Inc., magazine.  Not surprisingly, no fiction listed here, but in six books he manages to cover some science and some history, as well as business and more general sociology.  Again, say what you will about Bill Gates, he is a genius and I am seriously considering reading these books this year.

So, now that I’ve given you a list of recommended reading to choose from this year, what will you choose?  Or do you have something else entirely you suggest we all read?

Tools to Escape the Rat-Race

Don’t we all dream of being wealthy and independent?

By the end of the week, haven’t we all gotten a little fed up with our jobs?  Don’t we dream of being our own boss, an independent contractor or consultant who charges big money for sounding off with our opinion about how things are done?  No?  Just me?
Well, if you’ve ever contemplated it and have thought about how much you need to charge an hour to make your same salary, or more, as an hourly contractor, I have the on-line tool for you! Calculate your Hourly Rate It’s an easy, simple, and free, tool to let you figure out how many hours you need to work and what your hourly rate needs to be to gross a certain annual salary.  Granted, it doesn’t calculate in things like health insurance and retirement savings and other expenses, but, it is a great place to start if you want to go independent.

And, if you want to get some capital to start your own consulting business, you absolutely need a plan.  Even family won’t loan you money these days if you don’t have a business plan.  At least, mine won’t, and yours won’t either if they’re smart.  So, what to do?  Simple, hop over to Enloop and let their web app help you bang out a fairly reasonable, and free, business plan.  Again, it may not be perfect, but at least it’s a start.

So, there you go, two tools to let you start planning your next business venture, and not just dream about it.
As for me, I’m going to go and work for “the Man” today, and dream some other day.
Have a great weekend, y’all!

Scientology Petition

I don’t normally post inflammatory things, but I think this is really important.

Long-time readers and friends will know that I have strong, and negative, feelings about Scientology.  Whatever Scientology started out as when L. Ron Hubbard first envisioned his “plan for living”, it has become, in my opinion, a dangerous cult-like organization that hides behind it’s religious status while actually being focused almost entirely on making money.  Based on documentaries and books and news stories of various kinds, I believe that they are, at the very least, indirectly responsible for more than one death and countless ruined lives.  In short, I think Scientology is dangerous and should lose its tax-free status and its protection as a religion.
As it turns out, not only is this not an original idea, but someone has already created a petition on calling for the revocation of Scientology’s tax-exempt status.  I signed the petition, and you can, too, by following this link.

While I urge you to sign and share this, please note that my views on this subject are strictly my own and do not necessarily represent the views of any group or organization that I may be a part of and should not be construed as such.

Fast Workouts

No, seriously, modern science has given us a workout that can be done in 7 minutes.

Loyal readers will know that my weight has gone up and down several times over the years.  The heaviest I ever remember being is 238, which was just before I lost my job in 2001 and ended up being out of work for a year.  I took the weight off pretty quickly then, which was made easier by stress and fear and the occasional lack of groceries!  (Just kidding, Mom!  We always had plenty to eat!)  Usually, how I’ve done it every time was to just restrict my calories and work out regularly.

But, what I’ve noticed is that every time I restart my workout routine, it gets a little harder.  Recently, I was back up to 235 and I decided that I was tired of being fat.  So, I started with the calorie counting and restriction, like always, but restarting the exercise has proven more difficult than ever before.  I’m so desperate that I’m thinking about turning to Lifehacker for help!
In fact, specifically, I’m considering using a workout they shared in 2013 that they claim is based on research and only takes 7 minutes to do.  It seems like a miracle.  But, since I’m working super long hours and I’m always pressed for time, it may be my only option.

It’s also the only thing I’ve got for you this week in the way of a “fun” link.
So, you know, enjoy.

Secret Phone Menu

No, I’m not talking about ordering take-out.

Have you ever wanted to get to the hidden parts of your phone?  You know, those secret commands that technicians use to get your phone to give up its deepest, darkest secrets?  Well, if you’re an iPhone user, you’re in luck!  Yahoo recently shared all those with the world, and, now, I’m sharing that same information with you, dear readers:  How to Access the Hidden Menus on your iPhone, at Yahoo Tech.
If you’re an Android user, the article is a little less helpful.  And, there are so many Android phones that it’s hard to cover all the possible hidden features.  But, they do link to an old Reddit thread that has collected a lot of Android hidden codes.

Y’all have a great weekend and a happy Easter!

Independent SciFi Movies

I have two for you this week.

Yes, that’s right, two independent sci-fi movies. One is a short that you can watch in it’s entirety on your coffee break. The other is really just a trailer for the longer movie. Both come to us via

First, I’ll give you the shorter of the two, but with the greater potential.  The movie is called “Dust” and it’s about a very unpleasant evolutionary explosion and the ramifications of that in a science-fictional future.  IO9 shared the trailer in July of 2013.  You can find out more about the whole movie at their Facebook page.  It’s worth hitting the Facebook page for all the footage that’s not in the trailer on IO9.

Back in June of 2012, IO9 shared the complete short film titled “The Gate”, in celebration of an alleged deal for a longer feature.  While they might have gotten the deal, I’ve never heard anything about the longer movie.  At least we can enjoy the slightly disturbing short film thanks to the magic of the Internet.

So, there you go.  Two quick films on a Friday for you.