Star Wars Animals

posted in: Art, Fun | 0

The creatures are the best part.

Okay, maybe you disagree there, but one of the things I’ve always loved best about any science-fiction is the creatures. That’s true whether it’s the sandworms of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, the low-rent costumed animals in the original Star Trek TV series, or the vast array of alien creatures in the Star Wars films. Now, I’m not a huge fan of all of the CGI revisions that Geore Lucas made to the original trilogy (ie Han shot first! And the original Death Star explosion was fine, thanks.), but I absolutely love the combination of practical effects and computer graphics that made all the creatures on all the planets come to life. Whether it was bantha or the rancor, the original trilogy had great and setting appropriate animals that made the Star Wars universe seem a little more real. And, whatever your feeling about Episodes I, II, and III, Industrial Light and Magic really earned their name with the beasties on Naboo, not to mention the other creatures that show up in the least likely places.
So, when I saw this video from the Star Wars Kids channel titled Every Creature in the Star Wars Movies, I had to share it with you. It’s literally less than five minutes and still manages to cover all 90 named alien animals in all the movies so far. Definitely worth a quick look on a Friday when you’re trying to avoid a bit of work.
Enjoy!

Starship Troopers Bugs Explained

posted in: Art, Fun | 1

I love Starship Troopers, the movie!

I’ve read plenty of science fiction, including a lot of the classics. And, yes, I have read Robert Heinlein’s book, Starship Troopers, and, yes, I did actually enjoy it, even with it’s absolutely not ironic depiction of militarism and authoritarianism. But, honestly, the Paul Verhoeven movie is genius. Taken at face value, it’s a gorgeous, low-budget, sci-fi, military action movie. At that level, it’s fun and huge and really kind of great. But, there’s a deeper level that makes it even better, in my opinion. A saterization of our hyper-patriotic propaganda that recent political trends have weaponized make this movie even better. It’s great.
But, it’s also a pretty detailed exercise in world-building and goes beyond even what Heinlein managed in his book. Granted, I think the “arachnids” are more metaphorical than they are realistic aliens. They’re certainly at least fairly consistent in their depiction. But, don’t believe me, instead, take a look at this video from Offworld titled The Science of Starship Troopers’ Space Bugs. Actual scientists take a close, critical look at these creations. And it takes nothing at all away from my enjoyment of the movie! Nothing!
It’s also a fun way to waste about 30 minutes of your Friday. So, there’s that.
Enjoy!

PowerToys 2019

Some reboots are better than others.

Sometimes, I talk about really geeky things here, mostly because I AM a geek, but also because I am a professional geek. This is one of those times.
Back in the days of Windows 95 and Windows XP, Microsoft made a whole set of little tools that fankly should have been included in the operating system to begin with. Things like TweakUI that let you change almost every aspect of the look and feel of Windows, including where some system folders resided. There were other tools, too, like things thta would let you synchronize folders and autoplay CDs and, one of my favorites, Command Prompt Here that let you open, you guessed it, a command prompt in any folder from the Windows FileManager. Those little tools sort of fell off in popularity after those versions of Windows, but hard-core users and oldsters like me still remember them fondly.
Well, according to Lifehacker, Microsoft is bringing PowerToys back! What’s more, they’re making them open source, so you’ll be able to download the source code and write your own! Of course, they don’t have TweakUI in this batch of goodies, yet, but I’m sure some enterprising, young programmer will dive into the Microsoft GitHub PowerToys repository, and figure out a way to make all our old favorites. In any case, it’s a good space to watch for new utilities that may be useful to you. And, of course, it’s free, which is why I’m sharing it with you on a Friday.
Enjoy!

Color the Classics!

posted in: Art, Fun | 0

Remember that adult coloring book craze?

A couple of years ago, just like everyone else, my wife and I got a bunch of those “grown up” coloring books and some nice colored pencils and felt-tip markers. In theory, coloring was supposed to be meditative in some way and help you focus and distress. Also, I seem to recall there were claims of it making thousands of julienne fries in seconds, but I may have been confusing my pitches. In any case, we got them and for several weeks she and I colored and had an enjoyable evening or ten talking and admiring each others obsessive-compulsive coloring and shading. And, yes, it was fun. And, also yes, I think we should start doing it again.
If we do, thanks to Lifehacker, we have a much wider and less expensive source of coloring material, Color Our Collections! Thanks to the New York Academy of Medicine, libraries, archives and the like have shared free coloring sheets and books drawn from materials in their archives. It was apparently a campaign that I missed back in February, but the coloring sheets are still available, so you can download them and color to your heart’s content.
Which we just may. Hopefully, that will take the edge off while we get the last details worked out for recieving new dogs!
Either way, come back next week to see what else I’ve got for you!
Enjoy your weekend!

The Best Way to Make Money as an Amateur Photographer!

posted in: Art, Fun, Photography | 0

Here’s the single best way to make money as an amateur photographer!

It seems like there are articles all the time about side-hustles and how to turn your your hobbies into paying gigs. Everyone is looking for an angle to take that thing they love to do and turn a profit off it. Photography and amateur photographers are no different.
I’ve seen everything from training programs for stock photography, including “micro stock” photography to photographing for the real estate industry to how to shoot weddings in your spare time. Hey, I’ve even bought one of those stock photography courses. If you pick up just about any photography magazine or hit any photography blog, there are an abundance of ads telling you that you, too, can take those photos of yours and publish them or enter them into a contest or sell them some way to generate a lucrative income! Well, I have the ultimate solution for you.
If you really want to make money with your camera as an amateur photographer, sell your equipment.

No, seriously, it’s the best way.
Now, maybe I’ll sound like a bitter cynic here, but, as an amateur, there’s just not enough money in selling my work to make it worth my while to spend all those hours taking photos, editing them and finding a market for them. Sure, maybe I can hustle up a couple of bucks for some micro stock or win a contest. Maybe. But, is it really worth it? Look, in my “day job”, I get upwards of $75 an hour when I do consulting or the right kind of contract work. But, if I manage to sell a stock photo for $10, my hourly rate will drop down to less than fifty cents an hour for all the effort I’d have to put in. And for what? For the privilege of sucking all the fun out of my hobby and killing one more way for me to have fun. Is it worth it? I don’t think it is.
So, unless I’m looking to make it a business, which really means spending a lot more time on the sales and marketing and administration of a business than the creative photography that I love, it’s not worth it to try to make money with my photography. It’s just not. The only thing I’ll ultimately get out of it is the destruction of something I enjoy and use to relax and try to forget about work.

Sometimes, instead of worrying about the “side hustle” or trying to make everything in our lives turn a profit that shows up in our checking accounts, maybe we should try to find the value in just creating art for the sake of art. Maybe we should just do something fun because it’s fun, not because it’ll buy us more junk we don’t want or need. Maybe, it’s enough to have a job that we don’t have to love but that pays the bills so we can have fun somewhere else in life. After all, if our jobs were fun, chances are we’d pay our employers instead of them paying us.
So, you know, don’t worry about turning your photography into money. Just take more photos and enjoy your hobby.

Lightroom Masterclass

posted in: Art, Fun, The Tools | 0

Finally learn Lightroom!

Remember last week, how I was saying that I used Lightroom more than Photoshop? There’s a reason for that. Actually, there are several reasons, but the big one is that Lightroom is actually made specifically for photographers. For most of us, it has the basic tools that non-techs would want to have to quickly edit our photos. Granted, I am, actually, a computer geek, but I generally don’t want to spend hours and hours of my non-work time in front of a computer. (Yes, I do see the irony of that statement one a blog/website, but, still…) In any case, Lightroom lets you quickly get just enough editing to make good photos a LOT better. But, it only does that if you know how to use it. Personally, I hate spending money on training, if I can help it, but, sometimes, I have to admit that it’s good to see the industry accepted way of doing things with software. So, all of that is to say that this week, thanks to PetaPixel, again, I’m bringing you a link to a 30-minute Masterclass in Lightroom by Mango Street. They really cram in a lot of information in that 30 minutes, too! But, trust me, it’s all great training, even if it goes a little fast for someone who hasn’t used Lightroom much. Good news, though, you can go to the Mango Street YouTube channel for all their other tutorials where you can get a bit more in depth and get more tutorials about other aspects of photography, too.
It is all free, and all very good info, so go check it out!
Then, after you get inspired, go out and shoot some fresh photos to test out your new editing skills!

Quick Photoshop Tutorial

posted in: Art, Fun, GUI Center, The Tools | 0

Selecting edges is hard!

As a professional computer geek and an amateur photographer, everyone expects me to to know Photoshop like a graphic designer. The truth is, though, I enjoy photography because it gets me out from behind the computer. I really spend more time making the photo in the camera than I do editing it afterwards. Oh, sure, I do pull all my images into Lightroom to clean up the exposure and colors a bit, but I rarely do more than that. Unless it’s a little cropping.
But, a couple of jobs ago, I did find myself doing a significant amount of editing for the company website. Usually, that meant cutting out some one of the company products and putting on a better background or no background at all. I hated it. I hated it because selecting fine edges was incredibly hard for me. It was super tedious and if I ever hit something like hair, well, let’s just say I was glad to be working in a mostly industrial environment.
Of course, the truth is that I wasn’t using all the selection tools to their greatest effect. If only I had been following PetaPixel back then, so that I could have possibly found their 1 minute tutorial on using Photoshop’s refine edge brush! Wow! What a huge help that would have been!
So, in the spirit of helping my fellow geeks, because who else would be reading this blog on a Friday, enjoy!
Seriously, it really is only a minute and it will help you tremendously with your selections in Photoshop. And, if you like that, there’s a whole Definitely worth checking out.

Civil Engineering Explained

With videos, not math!

Not so many months ago, my wife and I were talking about a plumbing problem in our house. It was relatively small and has long since been fixed, but our discussion hinged on water pressure. Specifically, in this case, water pressure in the house and how that meant that there was always water in the horizontal pipes. Honestly, I hadn’t given it a lot of thought, but, of course, the pipes have to be filled with water the whole time, and under pressure, for water to be forced out of a shower on the second floor. Not enough pressure to fill the pipes with water means that there’s not enough force to create a flow. Makes total sense when you think about it, right? But, have you ever wondered how that pressure is created before it makes it to your house? That process is due to the miracles of civil engineering.
It’s also explained via helpful videos for the curious on the Practical Engineering YouTube Channel. In fact, water towers and the hydrosystems that allow us to enjoy showers, instead of having to use a hand-pump to fill a bath, are covered in the playlist titled Public Works; Season 1. But, they also explain concrete, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and more! It’s definitely a video destination where you can waste hours and hours of time watching videos about the miracles of the modern world.
And, it’s educational, in case you need an excuse to watch these instead of doing your actual work on a Friday afternoon!

Shop Helper

posted in: Art, Fun | 0

This is apparently all true.

One of the reasons I love photography is that it lets us see things in ways that we couldn’t otherwise see them.
Now, I’m mostly a still photographer, though I’ve dabbled a bit in video. If you look at my Flickr portfolio, you’ll see a lot of macro, or close-up, photography. The camera, and nice macro lens that I have, let me see things that I might otherwise miss. Details that I wouldn’t experience any other way. But, too, beyond that, photography captures not just a vision of things, but also their time. A photograph is quite literally a little slice of frozen light and time that we preserve forever, that we capture for future use and enjoyment. Video, in many ways, is that and much more.
The link I bring you this week made me smile, which, frankly, is sometimes the best you can hope for. It’s been a bit of a rough week and a smile was definitely needed. So, if you’re in the same spot, hop over to PetaPixel to see a mouse clean up a man’s shed. Yes, that’s right. Just like the mythical shoemaker’s elves, a retired electrician had a little helper cleaning up his workshop every night. A helper that seemed impossible, until he worked with a friend and a game camera to discover who was cleaning up for him
Seriously, it’s amazing and seems like it can’t be real, but it is.
I’m pretty sure my wife would like to have an army of them to try and tidy up behind me!
Either way, it’s only a 2 minute video and definitely made me smile.
Enjoy!

Government Sponsored Font

posted in: Art, Fun, The Tools | 0

Your tax dollars at work for better design!

No, seriously, this is actually US tax dollars working to develop a “better” font. Not even kidding.
Believe it or not, there’s a little something called the United States Web Design System that’s collaborative team specifically started to “…make it easier to build accessible, mobile-friendly government websites for the American public.” And, as it turns out, they have some resources that might be helpful for non-governmental web designers, too. One such is a simple font called Public Sans, which they call “A strong, neutral typeface for text or display.” Which it is, actually. It can be downloaded from their GitHub page, which further describes the font as “principles-driven” and “open-source”. It’s also a fairly nice, and free, change from Helvetica. Oh, and it includes webfonts, so you can, in fact, use it to unify your on-line and off-line branding identity.
And, again, all freely available and all brought to you, one way or another, by the United States of America Federal Government.
Sometimes, the government really IS here to help!

Enjoy!

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