Thursday, January 31, 2008

You're Running Wild

So last night I got together with Trinity River Bluegrass. (That's the band I'm didn't know we were so official as to have a name, did you?) Anyway, we practiced through our songs like normal. We were all tired and ready to be done. At the end, Raymond started playing a nice chord progression, and Dave chimed in with his guitar picking (which is really good!). I know enough to follow along, so that's what I did. Then, Raymond started singing the words of our last song. I'm better at singing than playing, so I got to add my own part. Pretty soon, we'd rearranged a song! We really liked it, but realized we'd never remember it for next week's practice. So, I pulled out the trusty MacBook Pro, opened up Garage Band, and we recorded our first song! If you're hearing music from my blog right now, that's the song we recorded. If you don't hear anything, check the music player in the sidebar.

Raymond is singing lead, I'm doing backup, we're all on guitar, and Dave is doing the melody on the guitar. The original song is You're Running Wild, sung by Rhonda Vincent.

Of course, it gets rough at times, because we'd only played through it once or twice, but I'm pretty proud of it. We were all giddy last night! Our first recording! Hooray!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Study in Aperture

Sometimes photography can be overwhelming because of its technical nature. There are lots of terms and lots of variables that come together to make a good picture. Today we're going to talk about aperture.

Aperture refers to the opening in a lens that lets the light in, and how wide that opening is. Here are some photos to demonstrate:

The first photo has a narrow aperture, the second has a wide aperture. Some people say "small" and "large" instead of "narrow" and "wide," but that gets a little confusing because of the next fact.

Apertures are given a number, usually with an "f/" in front of the number to denote aperture. The wider the aperture, the smaller the number. The more narrow, the larger the number. (Now you can see why referring to the wide aperture as large is confusing, because it also has the smallest number.) For reference, the first photo is f/16 and the second is f/2.8.

So, I'm already confused...why do I even want to mess with it??

Well, here's what aperture does. First, it works in conjunction with shutter speed (how long the shutter is open) to get a properly exposed photo. But most of all, aperture determines the depth of field (DF), which is the amount of area in a photo that is in focus.

Here is a photo of Jon that I've taken using a narrow aperture, resulting in a large DF. The aperture was set to f/8.0. My shutter speed was 1/125 of a second. You'll notice that everything in the picture is in focus, from Jon all the way back to the trees.

In the next photo, I widened the aperture slightly (to f/5.0). Because a wider aperture allows more light in, I had to use a faster shutter speed of 1/500 of a second. [As a side note, I'm using the "P" setting on my Rebel. It makes sure the image is properly exposed, and I roll the wheel near the shutter button to get the right combination I want. So I just rolled to widen the aperture, and my camera determined the shutter speed. Maybe someday I'll do it all myself, but today is not that day!] Anyway, you'll notice that the elements behind Jon have gotten a little fuzzier. The fountain is a little out of focus, and the trees are too far away to be in focus. They are outside the DF.

Still not satisfied, I tried once more with an even wider aperture, f/1.8, which is the widest my 50mm lens will go. My camera compensated with a shutter speed of 1/2000. Now I have a much smaller DF. Only Jon is in focus, and the background is pleasantly fuzzy. This is why I like aperture. What had started as a nice shot turns into something that can really pop. The photo almost gets a 3D quality to it. My subject stands out from the background, which is exactly what I want.

One note of caution, however. While I like working with a shallow DF, it can get me in trouble sometimes, usually when there are two or more subjects in the photo. If the DF is too shallow, only one person may be in focus. You may not be able to see that until you look at the photos on your computer, which means you have to be aware of DF as you shoot, without relying on the playback screen on your camera to tell you if you got the shot.

So, you've got a point and shoot without fancy shmancy lenses? Never fear! My Canon PowerShot A70 (from several years ago), has these settings within the menus. So check your manual and see what you can find!

Friday, January 18, 2008

How I'm Doing: Political Awareness

Well, it turns out I stink at being politically aware. Besides listening to one talk show on my way home from work on Wednesdays, I don't try too hard to listen to political stuff. However, today I found some links to some information, and I'll be putting them up here for you, as well. I took my Candidate Matchmaker test (which I've added to the sidebar), and Mike Huckabee came out on top. Then John McCain, then Duncan Hunter, whoever that is. Mike Huckabee feels a little "going with the gospel crowd," but I'm not going to NOT vote for him just because I don't want to be "one of those people." If, at the end of the day, he's more in line with my views than anyone else, then he gets my vote.

I was surprised that I had more in common with three democrats (including John Edwards and Barack Obama) than I did with Ron Paul. Very interesting. I don't know much about Ron Paul, but I kinda thought I'd like him. I better do some more research!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How I'm Doing: Organization

Two days ago I organized my jewelry. I have two jewelry cases, neither of which were used to their potential. One held the necklaces, but it's four drawers were empty or filled with stuff I never wore. The other held the earrings, all stuffed into one compartment. I was forever untangling necklaces and pulling out handfuls of earrings to find a matching pair. It also held all my rings, again jumbled into one spot.

So, Sunday afternoon, I pulled out all my jewelry, laid it on the floor (which Friday loved), and organized it by type: Earrings a) studs, b) small dangles, c) hoops, and d) large dangles; Necklaces a) silver, b) gold, c) other. I was surprised at how many bracelets I had as well. Now that I work on a laptop most days, and bracelets scrape against the keyboard, I don't wear many bracelets. But there they were.

I paired up all my earrings, then put each pair onto a button (the posts through the holes of the button). I'd started this method awhile back, but hadn't done it to all my earrings. When I use a pair, I leave the button on the dresser, then refasten the earrings onto the button at the end of the day. I did have to take off several of those clear plastic shields that are on lots of earring backs. They covered the buttonholes so I couldn't get the other earring in. And usually, they were small earrings that didn't need the shield anyway. For the few pairs of large earrings with shields, I left them off the buttons, but they are so few that it will be easy to pair them up when needed.

I put the four categories of earrings into the four unused drawers. I put my bracelets into another drawer and separated my rings out into the two ring holders, one in each case. That left the necklaces.

I spent quite a bit of time untangling necklaces. Then I paired up chains with some leftover pendants I had. Any other pendants left over, I put into a compartment in my jewelry case. Total, I have almost 50 necklaces, all of which I like and would wear if they were available. I couldn't imagine fitting them back into the small hooks for necklaces in my jewelry case. There had to be another option.

I remembered reading in a magazine about putting cork board on the wall with straight pins to hold each necklace. I mentioned that to Jon, and he thought it would look tacky. He offered to put something together with a wood board and pegs, but we just couldn't see where we could put it. So...I started searching online. My friend The Container Store didn't offer a whole lot of help, nor did a "how to make necklace holder" google search. Hm.... I realized I was coming to a time crunch (almost time for evening service), and I could only keep the cat out of the bedroom so long. The necklaces were nicely organized, but still on the floor. What to do.... Well, I decided what would work in a pinch. I took a pants hanger (the kind with the cardboard rod), pulled the wire out of one end of the cardboard, slid each necklace on, keeping them in their categories, and put the wire back in. Voila! Only one of my necklaces does not have a clasp; all the others can easily be taken off and put back on by unclasping them. The other, I'll move toward the end where I can pull the wire out and get the necklace off that way. I have a decorative thing hanging above the dresser, so I pulled it off, hung the hanger over the nail, then put the decoration back.

Sure, it's ghetto, but I was actually surprised that it didn't look TOO bad. (And yes, you can laugh at my obvious low standards.) And it was free! So I'm thinking I'll see if I can make it look a little better. Wrapping it in something...painting it.... We'll see what happens.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Proofreader Needed

E-mail forwarded to me regarding a piece I put together for work....this was the fourth unique request for corrections of the piece this week, and by far the most eloquent.

Dear Messrs. F-- and E--,

In appreciation of and in receipt of the same new C-- form, I humbly refer you to page 2 which provides the instructions for completing the kit. In spite of an overriding willingness to comply with your instructions, I find it difficult to fulfill your fourth, fifth and sixth enumerated request. Each enumerated request refers to pages numbered 10, 11, 12 and 13.

Since the case implementation kit has only (9) yup, count em, nine pages,and pages 10, 11, 12, and 13 are absent, would you please consider this notice as satisfaction of all my present and future administrative requirements in this regard.

Thanking you in advance for your simplification of my responsibilities,

I remain,

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My family

This Christmas, Jon and I were able to enjoy all of our family. Since they all came to us last year, we went to them. We started by traveling to East Texas where my family lives. Jon drove, so I got to take advantage and get beautiful sunset photos. I really love landscape shots, I decided. And sunsets. Maybe they're cliché, but I like them.

My family's Christmas consisted of food and chit chat. LOTS of both! One of the highlights of the weekend was the Diet Coke and Mentos experiment. All of us "kids" got Mentos in our stockings (which we got to open Christmas Eve--a first!). Jon opened his first, and it was the, "Oh, thanks...." kind of response, until my dad informed him of the 8 2-liter bottles of Diet Coke he had on the back porch. Jon's eyes lit up and he reiterated his thanks, but this time much more sincerely!

Our Christmas meal wasn't traditional, since it wasn't really Christmas day, and we'd be having that meal with other families. So we had a wonderful pork loin. That, plus a puzzle and games and movies made a perfect weekend.

It was so much fun to have all the family together.

On Monday morning we got up while it was still dark to head up to Silver Dollar City (SDC), near Branson, MO. SDC is a Norvell family favorite vacationing spot, and Jon and his brother have many childhood memories there. Jon was like a little kid as we finally neared our cabin (and I heard Dave was the same). That night we opened stockings--a first for this side of the family as well (you parents are getting weak in your old age! Haha!). The next day we managed to cook a full Christmas meal in a tiny kitchen (Mary cooked/sliced the turkey before coming...otherwise we wouldn't have made it), and it was delicious. The next two days we spent in SDC, enjoying the Christian atmosphere there as we celebrated the birth of our Lord.

By Friday, we were ready to come home. I drove the first leg, and we had the tiniest bit of snow, though it warmed up as we headed back home.

We were home, tired, and happy. What a great week!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


If a resolution is made on a post no one reads, do I still have to keep it?

(Just a note in case you missed it, since I blogged twice yesterday....)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Marketing, Chonko-style

Just wanted to make quick note of this. One of my goals for work is to gain a better knowledge of the marketing aspect of my job. I know how to kern titles much better than I know when to start a new ad campaign. So, I was charged with finding a class I could take. Today, I checked out UT Arlington, and guess who is teaching Intro to Marketing? Dr. Chonko. The professor every B-school student at Baylor had for Intro to Business. As an art student passing through the suits and briefcases of the B-school every day, I never imagined I would be taking Chonko's class! Depending on the times available, I may not take him (and maybe I shouldn't...I don't even know if he's a good professor), but it's still crazy that the option is there.

The New Year's Resolutions: 2008

I don't know why it is. There's really nothing different about January 1st than there is about November 3rd or June 22nd. But, for some strange reason, I'm much more motivated on Jan 1 than June 1 to improve myself. Maybe it's the pounds of food eaten during the holidays, or the lack of exercise during the cold and very busy months. Maybe it's the breath of fresh air that comes after all the Christmas decorations are put away. Or perhaps it's the impending doom of swimsuit season. Whatever the reason, the beginning of the year happens to be the time when I think of ways in which I can improve. So, without further ado:

  1. Be consistent in my Bible study. You'd think a Christian of 19 years would have this down, but I don't. Problem: No planned time for it. Solution: Wake up right when the alarm goes off.
  2. Be consistent in my exercise. Biking went the way of Bermuda shorts when the temps got below 55. Plus, Jon doesn't have lunch time to bike any more, and who wants to exercise alone? Problem: No motivation. Solution: Competition. Jon and I are creating a friendly competition with the goal being to keep up with each other in time spent exercising.
  3. Be consistent in my guitar practice. Problem: Seemingly no time. Solution: Plan my day better.
  4. Read more. Problem: When I read, I can't get anything else done until I finish the book, so it's very unproductive. Solution: Plan small increments of reading time each day, and stick to it.
  5. Do less. Problem: I can't help it. "Yes" always comes out of my mouth. Solution: Don't make a decision on the spot. Talk with Jon about it before responding.
  6. Be more organized. Problem: No motivation or time. Solution: Plan in time each day for picking up, choose a spot a month to clear away the things that never found permanent homes, and keep reading "Organized for Life" over and over again. :)
  7. Be politically informed. Problem: I don't know what I think about the election. Solution: Watch the news, listen to conversations, and read up on the candidates.
  8. Be romantic. Problem: Jon beats me hands down in this area. Solution: Carry out one romantic gesture a week (bigger than the daily "I love yous").
  9. Cook more. Problem: Frozen bag meals just aren't appealing any more. Solution: Pick simple meals and keep staples in the pantry to make them.
  10. Make a schedule and stick to it. Problem: Not enough time in the day to accomplish all my resolutions. Solution: Go to bed on time, get up earlier, and plan the day with bits of time for each goal.
This morning I started my resolutions. I usually roll out of bed by 7:30 or so, but today I was up when Jon got up (6:00), and I had my quiet time, practiced guitar, biked and showered before work. Who knew I could be so productive?

I'm still working on my schedule, but hope to have it satisfactory soon. Then I'll print these resolutions and the schedule, and stick them where I can see them every day.

Good luck to you in your resolutions!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Random Thursday

I learned something new yesterday. When it's below freezing outside, don't try to clean your windshield at the gas station. I successfully coated my windshield with a nice coating of ice and had to scrape it off. That was a dumb idea!

So Friday barely made it through a week without us. When we got home, he'd barely eaten in 5 days, his fur was kinda gooky like he hadn't been bathing, and he was hiding in the bathtub when we finally found him. After he realized who we were, though, he purred like crazy and dug into his food. Maybe he was fasting like Gandhi. We came home, so he could eat again. Needless to say, we're hoping Margie never goes out of town again while we're out of town, because she's the best babysitter. She will stay and play with Friday, whereas the people watching him this time just came in to fill his food bowl and leave. Thanks, Margie, for hanging out with my cat. I didn't realize he would decline so rapidly without his daily dose of love and attention!

I have an innovation for you, but you'll just have to remember it for next year. My Christmas tree is a hand-me-down from my parents. I'm not sure how old it is, but every year it loses more and more needles. And, just by being fake, it doesn't look as full as a real tree. A few years ago, my Grandma gave me green garlands to hang around the house. I put them over the doors the first year, but the next year I wondered if I could use them to supplement my tree. And it worked! The garlands look the same as the tree, with the green pine needles. So I put a garland in between each of the layers of my tree, and it gives it a much fuller look. So there you go. Maybe it's good timing for me to tell you now, so you can catch the after-Christmas sales and get you some garlands! :)

So it's the new year. 2008. Crazy. I'm still working on my resolutions. I usually don't make them, but I think this year I've decided they're important. Not that they're done at the beginning of the year, but that we have resolutions in general. If we don't have resolutions/goals toward improvement, we'll wake up five years from now and realize we're just the same (and the worse for it). My mom was telling me awhile back how she actually wrote her goals down where she could see them every day. You know, like the cheesy motivational speakers tell you to do. And I think she felt cheesy doing it, but the cool thing was that she reached her goals! Then after that, I had the opportunity to assess my work goals, and make specific directives that I would fulfill over the next year with the intent to improve myself to make me better at my job. It was nice to get some concrete goals on paper. So that's why I'm doing resolutions this year. It's good to assess where you've come, consider where you want to go, and come up with some good goals to get you there. I'm looking forward to it.

Alrighty, that's my post for the day. :) More to come!