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Free Star Trek Movie

Want to watch a free 90 minute Star Trek movie?

No, it’s not an officially sanctioned, studio-made movie, but it still looks pretty good.
And, it has some stars from the franchise in it, reprising their characters, albeit in roles that have changed or progressed from where they were in the series.  Yes, it’s entirely fan-made, and fan-sponsored via three Kickstarter campaigns.  (See?  Sometimes Kickstarter does actually produce things!)
The link comes via and the movie is on YouTube.  The movie is titled Star Trek: Renegades.

Full disclosure here; I haven’t actually watched the movie, but reviewers I trust reasonably well have said good things about this, so I feel okay recommending it to you all.  Besides, at the very least, it’s worth the price of admission!

Art History – Photography Style

Browse classic photographic artists and be inspired.

Or, just waste time.
Whichever suits you, it doesn’t matter to me, unless you’re wasting time at my office. And, really, even then I don’t care as long as you’re not wasting my time.  In any case, browsing photography is one of my favorite ways to kill a little Friday-afternoon-and-I-don’t-want-to-do-real-work time, so I thought I’d share this.  It comes to us via DIY Photography and they got it from Reddit.  It’s the Red List’s historical photography.  You can browse by photographer or by subject.  Be warned, though, like any good photography collection, there’s some nudity in it, so it may not be entirely safe for work.  Also, if the site prompts you for an email and won’t let you browse, just but in some nonsense with a “” and the annoying, little pop-up will go away.
I like to browse images from the greats so I can figure out how they framed shots and try to reverse-engineering their lighting.
And, I just love photography.

Enjoy browsing and your weekend!

Writing Pot-Boilers

We’re not talking cookbooks here.

Pot-Boilers, far from collections of recipes, are quickly written stories of, sometimes, dubious quality that are sold cheaply.  The name comes from the idea that writers cranked these out to meet their regular expenses, or “keep the pot boiling”, as it were.  You might be familiar with them as “pulp fiction” or the somewhat more modern “airport novel“.
The old “pulp fiction” which I’m most familiar with is science-fiction or detective fiction that was written for cheap magazines and dime novels.  Any number of great characters started in some variation of these “literary” works.  And, while there may not have been a recipe, per se, there certainly have been formulas for this kind of genre fiction.  One of the most famous is the Lester Dent method, called the Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot.  You might not recognize the name, but Lester Dent is the creator of Doc Savage, one of the pulp era’s most well known heroes.  His work inspired many others, including Michael Moorcock who created the infamous Elric of Melniboné, among other brilliant characters and works.  In fact, Moorcock had his own method, largely derived from the Lester Dent method, which you can find here: How To Write A Book In Three Days.
The method is relatively straight forward and Moorcock outlines it quite well thusly;

“First, he says, split your six-thousand-word story up into four fifteen hundred word parts. Part one, hit your hero with a heap of trouble. Part two, double it. Part three, put him in so much trouble there’s no way he could ever possibly get out of it. Then — now this could be Lester Dent or it could be what I learnt when I was on Sexton Blake Library, I forget — you must never have a revelation of something that wasn’t already established; so, you couldn’t unmask a murderer who wasn’t a character established already. All your main characters have to be in the first third. All you main themes and everything else has to be established in the first third, developed in the second third, and resolved in the last third.”

Actually, the full Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot is a little bit more complex than that, but, really, that formula sums it up pretty well.

So, there’s the secret to your writing success.  No need to spend big bucks on a writing course or to get your MFA in Creative Writing, just follow the Lester Dent method to success!  (And, if you think it’s not possible, just follow the link to his Wikipedia entry at the top of this post.  He was quite successful cranking out this “low brow” pulp fiction!)
Seriously, I hope that’s provided a bit of inspiration to you to get writing.  What have you got to lose?

Flickr’s 20 Under 20

Just some pretty pictures to look at.

Seriously, I have been under the weather all week and I don’t have a lot left over for even a Friday Fun post.
I don’t know if it’s just allergies or a hateful Summer cold, but my head is all stuffed up and my brain is working slower than molasses at the North Pole in January.  So, pretty much, all I’ve got for you is this one link to Flickr’s 20 Under 20, a “celebration” of twenty photographers on Flickr who are under twenty years of age.  Don’t worry, though, it’s not all selfies.  This is a curated list of photographers chosen by much wiser and older art gatekeepers.  No, seriously, though, it’s a good list and the folks chosen to curate it are pretty talented.  One is the Director of Photography at Vogue magazine and another is a professional photographer who I “know” from Flickr that takes brilliant portraits and is also the Managing Editor for The Photographic Journal.

Besides, we all know that if you had the time to read this dull entry, you have plenty of time to peruse these fine, young photographer’s portfolios.
Oh, and by the way, I may start posting these Friday Posts at different times, later in the day, to test my click-through rates.  Supposedly, posting things later in the afternoon on a Friday will bring me a higher click-rate.  I’m not sure that I believe it, so I may start testing that theory.

Work Related Changes

So, last week, we finally had layoffs at my company.

No, I wasn’t one of them, and, in fact, we lost fewer people than some of our other offices.  Or, for that matter, many of the other people I know who are in the oil and gas industry.  And, while I don’t expect to lose my job any time soon, since I’m one of the few IT people here, there’s no telling what the future holds.
So, in short, I’m not quite in the mood for a “fun” link.  Instead, what I have for you are some work-related links.

First, while my old boss didn’t quit, he was let go, so the advice from The Muse, via LifeHacker, about what to do when your boss resigns was quite timely.  The first suggestion is the most important; Don’t Panic.  And, frankly, I’d add to the list they give you a bit of my own advice.  Be helpful to the new boss.  The new boss just walked into a bad situation that they may or may not be fully prepared for so do them, and yourself, a favor and help out.  For that matter, make sure you’re a team player and everyone knows it.  Naturally, you should have been doing this all along, but, if you haven’t, now’s the time to start.
Secondly, if you are out there searching already, or think you might be, make sure your resume is in order.  Need help?  Try this collection of Five Free Resume Building Apps from Techrepublic.  If you’re stuck writing your resume, maybe because you haven’t written one in a while or even never have, these can be a good way to get started.  Of course, always run it by an actual human being that you trust before sending it to anyone.  If you’re using a placement firm of any kind, a good way to test their quality is to send the resume to them for feedback.  The good ones will actually give you feedback.  If they don’t, then drop them, quick.
Finally, once you get as far as an interview, Fortune and CNN have a list of Five Questions to Ask Your Next Boss to determine if you’ll be a good fit.  People always forget that an interview is for the candidate to evaluate the company, position and boss, as well as the company to evaluate the candidate.  This article gives you some great ideas to try and see how you’d fit into a new organization.

So, I hope that none of my readers has lost their job recently, or been too greatly effected by layoffs, but, if you have been, I hope these links help.  Also, remember, we aren’t our jobs, so go do something fun this weekend that connects you to people outside of work.
To paraphrase Ferris Beuller, enjoy your life because it goes by pretty fast and you don’t want to miss anything.

Printing Advice

Digital photographers almost never print their work, but they should.

Well, for one thing, while digital formats change, printed work stays the same pretty much forever.  Also, a nice print hangs on the wall a lot better than a digital image stored on a drive.
On a personal note, I know I don’t print enough of my own work.  When we were dating, my wife printed a shot I took of that year’s “super moon” and gave it to me in a frame.  It was a reminder of all the things we talked about that night and, in many ways, a symbol of the real start of our commitment to each other.  All that, embodied in a single print, which I still have on my dresser.  And, I have a number of photos that I’m very proud of that I could print, frame and hang and be pleased to look at for a long time.

So, with that all said, I have two links for you about printing your photos, both from PhotoFocus.
First, there’s the article by Pamela Ann Berry, Printing is the Lost Art of Photography that gives you even more reasons why to print and some of the basic concepts you need to know before you prepare your work for printing.  Although it’s not incredibly detailed, she does cover sizes that work best on walls, and that printers generally offer by default, as well as some considerations for color management.  Of course, whole books and training courses have been written about digital color management for photography, so this is really the most basic stuff.
Secondly, there’s How Many Megapixels Do I Need to Print? by Vanelli, who gives you some great guidelines for how much data you need to capture to produce good, high-quality, high-resolution prints.  Of course, opinions vary on some of this, but, mostly, the math he uses bears out.  And, there are some ways to improve your work for print, too, like the Alien Skin Blow Up plugin that lets you maintain resolution and blow up your shot to a good size for printing.  (I don’t get any money from them to say this, but the Alien Skin Photo Bundle is a great deal on great software, which I use!)

For most of us, these two articles will be more than enough to produce great prints that we would be proud to hang on our walls or gift to friends.  If you haven’t done it, I highly recommend that you print some of your favorite photos for your wall.  Maybe even this weekend!

Tin Foil Hat News

I don’t believe much in the way of conspiracy theory.

That’s true whether it’s office gossip and rumors or things of a larger, more sinister nature.
I work in the oil industry and, with the price of oil being so low right now, you can imagine the paranoid rumors floating around the office about layoffs and who’s going to get fired.  So far, there’s been nothing.  At least, nothing that I’m aware of, but the paranoia is running high.

How does that relate to this week’s free fun post?  Well, it kind of doesn’t, but it did put me in mind of the assorted paranoid conspiracy theories that I’ve heard over the years.  And, that reminded me of Verified Facts, the completely random, but frighteningly plausible-sounding, conspiracy theory generator site.  It’s pretty stunning.

And, hey, if it’s Friday and you have a job that you’re slacking off from to read my blog, it’s also a pleasant diversion from the actual news.


Prison Diet

Here’s another reason not to break the law; prison food.

Seriously, this stuff is amazing.  And, not in a good way.
On the other hand, as brutal as it may seem, it does seem like it would make a pretty effective diet.  Recently, The Marshall Plan posted an article titled What’s In A Prison Meal? and I really found it eye-opening!  I know the prisoners are being punished for sometime terrible crimes, but some of these more restrictive prison menus seem like they border on cruel and unusual.
The article has photos of the meals described, though they’re “recreations” of the meals, not actual photographs of the meals and lawyers for some of the prisoners protesting the meals claim that’s part of the problem.  As terrible as some of these look, apparently, the inmates claim the actual meals are worse.  It’s a fascinating article, really, even though it’s brief.  For instance, did you realize that some states require that prisoners are given three meals in a 24-hour period?  Or that some states require prisoners to receive a minimum number of calories per day?  And, for a prison to be accredited by the American Correctional Association they have to have their menus approved by a registered dietician?  (I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as accreditation for prisons!)

In any case, I know it’s not my usual Friday posting topic, but food and what we feed people who don’t have much choice kind of fascinates me.  And, this article really got me because of the photos of the meals.  Go look and you’ll see what I mean.  It’s pretty amazing.
And, hey, when you go out tonight, be careful and stay out of jail or prison or whatever so you don’t have to suffer through meals like this, okay?

Photography for the Fourth

That would be the Fourth of July, better known as Independence Day, which is tomorrow.

For those of you outside the U.S., tomorrow is the day we celebrate our independence as a nation by barbecuing and having parades and, most of all, by firing fireworks.  And, oh my, there will be fireworks displays, both large and small, and there will be photographers at everyone one of them trying to capture that feeling of joy and freedom in an image.  Personally, I suggested you just go and enjoy the show, but, if you absolutely must take photographs, check out the links below for tips before you go!

First, and always one of my favorites, are the annual Ten Tips for Photographing Fireworks from Photofocus.  For most of us, these are the tips that matter most.
But, also, check out How To Photograph Fireworks at Digital Photography School.  They also have ten tips, but their tips are slightly different, so definitely worth a look.
And, finally, you can never go wrong with Fireworks Photography Tips from National Geographic.  Even if you are burned out on fireworks photography tips after the first two links, it’s worth following this link for the inspirational photography, if nothing else!

As always at public events, remember to be polite to those around you while you’re trying to setup your shots.  Just because you have a camera doesn’t make your viewing experience more important than anyone else’s.  And, of course, be safe!  Don’t get so worried about getting a good photograph that you let someone sneak up and steal your camera gear in the dark or that hot ashes from the fireworks land on your gear, or you!  Safety first!
But, most of all, enjoy the Independence Day holiday and festivities and appreciate the fact that, no matter how our civil liberties have been degraded over the past couple of years, we still live in a relatively free and still a quite glorious country!
Happy Independence Day!

Looking Inside

I’ve always loved seeing the inner workings of things.
Seriously, everything from ship deck plans to microscopic photography to those encyclopedias with the plastic, layered sheets of illustrations.  I’ve been entranced by them all.
Well, I’ve been busy this week and I’m not up to doing a huge, long post about anything, so I’m just going to share two links to revealing illustrations.

First, there’s an older post on Gizmodo of 20 “cutaway” illustrations of everything from a car to a space suit to a modern aircraft carrier.  Seriously, these are super cool.  I could stare at them for hours, if I had the time.
Secondly, there’s a post from a few years back on Extreme Tech showing all the inner workings of a DSLR camera.  As an amateur photographer, I use one of these all the time, but I have to admit, I’m still amazed at all the bits and pieces that make it work.

So, that’s all I’ve got this week, but hopefully it’s enough to keep you amused until your weekend starts!