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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!

Digital Assets After Death

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what happens when we die.
Recently, a friend of my wife’s died very suddenly and unexpectedly.  She was not, as far as anyone knows, ill in any serious way.  Nor, again, as far as anyone knows, did she have any medical condition that might lead one to expect a sudden death.  It was a very shocking surprise.
Her husband, who is also a friend of ours, was suddenly responsible for all the things she had…
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I like choices.

Also?  I’m cheap.
How do these things go together?  Simple, I am forever searching for cheaper, or, cheapest of all, free, alternatives to expensive commercial software packages.  Like alternatives to Microsoft products, so I don’t have to pirate them.  Or, free software that can replace Photoshop or something similar.  But, I don’t spend hours Googling for answers like that.  Instead, I go to a site called Alternative To and search there.  (And, yes, if you look for those two things you’ll find LibreOffice and GIMP, which I use instead of the things they replace!)
But, you can also find other alternatives, like, for instance, an alternative to Beyonce.  Or an alternative to the iPad.
And, if there’s not an alternative to what you’re looking for, you can always do the research and add the alternatives you find to save others the hassle.

So, go ahead and save yourself some time and, maybe, some money this Friday afternoon and find some free alternatives to your favorite, high-end software!

Modern Art

Okay, it’s been awhile since I’ve shared something that’s just fun to look at. Time to fix that.

So, I titled this “Modern Art”, but I really mean “Art made with contemporary tools and media”.  Not necessarily what people typically think of as “modern art”.  Not, as I recently heard someone describe it “Murals made by nailing up trash out of someone’s dumpster”.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that at all, even though I probably wouldn’t hang something like that in my home.)
No, what I’m talking about is a site that collects everything from photography to innovative sculpture to sci-fi pop-art to animated GIFs.  And, pretty much, it’s all cool, too.  At least, I think it is.  Your opinion may vary.
Either way, ThisIsColossal has some interesting stuff to go look at, so, you know, go.  Look.  It’s Friday and, if you’re reading my blog, you’re not really working any way, so you might as well go and be entertained!

Have a great weekend!


Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricane season started on Monday, June First. Are you ready?

Here in Texas, hurricane season is kind of a big deal.  Or, at least, it is to this kid from the Heartland.  Of course, most of the time, we have plenty of time to prepare because you see these things coming from a long, long way off.  Still, it’s better to be prepared early rather than competing with everyone for bottled water, bread and canned food.
So far, since I’ve been in Houston, I’ve been through one horrible tropical storm, and near miss and one actual hurricane.  The tropical storm taught me where to buy my house, namely the one house we looked at that wasn’t pulling out carpeting after the flooding.  The near miss and the hurricane taught me to be a little better prepared.  So, every year, I try to spruce up the supplies I have and make sure I have fresh “survival food”.  I also try to post a little something about how we should get ready, as a public service of sorts.  And, of course, it helps me gather links together in one place that I find helpful.

There are a couple of philosophies when it comes to hurricanes.  Mostly, it’s either stay or go.
If you stay, you need to think about what you need to get by for an extended period of time.  Most emergency preparedness sources suggest that you need to have food, water and other supplies for at least 72 hours.  San Francisco has a great resource,, that is specifically designed to help people in that city prepare for disaster.  Of course, the basic principles can be applied almost anywhere, and there’s a section of the site dedicated to helping people take the SF72 template and customizing to their own city.  If you haven’t done any prep work at all on your disaster survival stash, this is a great place to start.  Another great place to look for ideas, although I think the list is a little over-board and dated, is the 2012 Doomsday Survival List from Money.  This was a list put together by a pretty extreme prepper who was convinced that the world was going to end in December 2012 for some reason.  In any case, it’s a pretty complete list for people who are fairly pessimistic, but it does cover most contingencies and considers a long-term disaster.  If you’re in the Houston area, like me, the city has their own disaster preparedness site, Ready Houston.  It’s a good site and they offer a free DVD you can use to help you plan for emergencies with advice specifically for the Houston, TX area.  They have videos on the site, too, as well as links to training other places, like FEMA.
One thing to consider if you have pets, for instance, is what to do with them during an emergency.  FEMA has a training course for helping you with your animals in an emergency situation, which I found via the Ready Houston website.  (They also have a more general, but, apparently, pretty complete course in general emergency preparedness.)

If you decide to make a run for it, you’ll want to put together what’s alternately called a “go bag” or a “bug out bag”.  Personally, I feel the name “go bag” seems less paranoid and crazy-survivalist sounding, but it amounts to the same thing.
The idea is simple, really, it’s just a bag with all the things you need for anywhere from three days to a couple of weeks, ready to go on a moment’s notice.  Not unlike a hospital bag for a pregnant woman, the main thing is that it’s packed and ready so when panic hits, you can just grab the bag and, well, go.  Again, you can take this as far as you’d like, assuming anything from temporarily relocating to another city and staying in a hotel to running off and hiding in the woods for a couple weeks.  It’s up to you.  But, either way, consider what might go into that bag.  For some good examples, check out Scott Kelley’s Bug Out Bag on Kinja, who even provides links to what he bought so you can get it easily, too, and the oddly less woodsy approach to a bug out bag by American Rifleman Magazine.  Remember, it ultimately comes down to just being ready for what ever you think might happen wherever you are.

I would also suggest that you have some long shelf-life food on hand, like every good IT guy has in his desk.  I particularly like Millenium Food bars, actually, since they provide a lot of calories and energy with a five-year shelf-life.  Also, they don’t taste bad at all!
Something I’ve been meaning to do is scan important documents, like my home-owner’s insurance policy and my various credit cards and IDs and put them all on a LaCie PetiteKey USB Flash Drive that I keep on my keys, in case all the original documents get destroyed while I’m not at home.

So, in short, the idea here is to be like the Boy Scouts, prepared.
Have you gotten ready for hurricane season yet?  Start now!