What has gone before 2 . . .

Kind of busy . . . so I will point both old and new subscribers to some old posts.

In 2012, we succumbed to the old people syndrome . . . and went on a cruise. Specifically, a cruise to Alaska.

A note to new Disperser Track readers . . . I’m only showing a sample of the photos in each post. The actual posts and the associated SmugMug galleries contain many, many, many more photographs. You have been warned.

In a series of posts, I covered everything from our departure from Seattle (links to original POST and the associated SmugMug Gallery) . . .

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

. . . to our arrival Ketchikan (links to original POST and the associated SmugMug Gallery)

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

. . . to the flying excursion we took while there (links to original POST and the associated SmugMug Gallery) . . .

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

. . . to our travels through Tracy Arm (here are the links to the POST and associated SmugMug Gallery)

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

. . . to our anchorage in Juneau (see what I did there? No? . . . nevermind; here’s the link to the POST and associated SmugMug Gallery) . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

. . . to our visit to Skagway (here are the links to the original POST and associated SmugMug Gallery) . . . 

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

. . . to our return travels, stopover in Victoria, and return to Seattle (here are the links to the POST and associated SmugMug Gallery).

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

Alaska Cruise 2012

So, if that’s not enough to keep new subscribers busy, I don’t know what is. 

As for my regulars readers. My apologies . . . I’ve been occupied with life, and this is the best I can do right now. But, take heart . . . one of the reasons I’ve not posted much is because I’ve been busy scheduling posts for April. 

As a refresher, I will be off the internet for the whole month of April. That don’t mean there won’t be posts . . . au contraire; there be lots of posts, all already scheduled. Take care, and see you on the flip side. 

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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Note: if you are not reading this blog post at Disperser.Wordpress.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Posted in Airplanes, Alaska, Alaska, Cruise Ship, Machines, Photography, Photography Stuff, Scenery, Travel Stuff | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Replenishing the snacks

Came across something today at Costco . . . 

20150327_152138-Processed_DIGI

I like crêpes. I like them with Nutella, and I like them like this:

Warm up one crepe . . .

Warm up one crepe . . .

. . . sprinkle granulated sugar . . .

. . . sprinkle granulated sugar . . .

. . . roll up and cut into  bite-size pieces . . .

. . . roll up and cut into bite-size pieces . . .

. . . sprinkle with a bit of powdered sugar for sweetness.

. . . sprinkle with a bit of powdered sugar for sweetness.

The package of 20 was a bit more than $8, but no mess, no fuss. I did not know how good they would be, but I was a willing test subject. 

Pretty good. A little thinner than I like, but hey, it saves Melisa from having to make them.

We also stopped at Trader Joe’s to replenish the cookies supply . . . 

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Milano-wannabes, but pretty good.

Milano-wannabes, but pretty good.

20150327_153157_DIGI

Actually, the Biscoff are from Costco as well. Four of those packets to a box for less than $5. 

Along with the torta bread and bagels we bought, I’m all set for a few days.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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Note: if you are not reading this blog post at Disperser.Wordpress.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Posted in Creative, Writing Stuff | Tagged , | 18 Comments

Holy Crap and Holy Crap on a Cracker

Holy Crap:

The Internet is a wonderful place. Our connectivity, with each other, with strangers, with literally the world, is an amazing thing to behold.

Just today I came across a post on the site Open Culture letting people know about The Metropolitan Museum of Art making 422 Art Books available not only to read, but for download. That’s amazing enough (I spent an hour looking around), but then you see the links at the bottom of the page . . .

Download Over 250 Free Art Books From the Getty Museum

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Puts 400,000 High-Res Images Online & Makes Them Free to Use

The Guggenheim Puts 109 Free Modern Art Books Online

700 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices

The eBooks . . . Aesop, Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, Asimov . . . Bradbury, Calvino, Clark, Dumas, Feynman, Hume, Kant, Russell, Santayana, Twain . . .

True, Project Guttenberg has many of the same texts, but this isn’t a competition; both sites add amazing access to a wealth of material, but do so in different ways.

As I click on links, each link takes me to a post with more links . . . and then, I notice the sidebar. I don’t normally look at sidebars as they are typically filled with junk.

Not this sidebar . . . More free books, from Hemingway to Neil Gaiman, from Philip K. Dick to The Golden Age of Comics.

The Hemingway link leads me to Seven Tips from Ernest Hemingway on How to Write Fiction. I’m not a big fan, but . . . the man speaks to my writing habits; I could do worse.

The Golden Age of Comics link leads me to . . . Comic Book+.

I don’t swear much but . . . holy shit! You need to register (for free) to read the stuff, but once you do  . . . I can’t explain; if you like comics, go there.

BUT, not just books . . . free movies, free documentaries (some of the WW II features were very interesting), links to free courses in all sorts of disciplines, free language lessons, free music, free audio books, free music.

All of it bad for where I’m at right now . . . I’m about to embark on a self-imposed blackout of the internet for the month of April. That’s right. No Facebook (which I don’t do much), no Twitter (which I do even less), no blog (writing mine or reading other people’s – which is something I do a lot). I’ll still do e-mail, but nothing that’s not house, family, or friends related.

The point is that while I recognize the Internet is the embodiment of “waste of time”, it is also a veritable fountain of knowledge and learning. And the above site is just one place; start adding in all the museums, all the universities . . . one would need multiple lifetimes.

Or, one could just use this lifetime to take selfies and follow this or that undergarmentless celebrity. Sadly, the majority of people opt for the latter.

Holy Crap on a Cracker:

The internet is a scary place. Details of ourselves, of our lives, our habits, our wants, our likes and dislikes, and all manner of data that not that long ago would have been jealously guarded under the now-outdated concept of “privacy” is freely available to both our friends . . . and our enemies.

Today, as I was working out, I listened to an interview with Marc Goodman. If you want to shit your pants (or panties), buy his book. I am reading it now, having bought it right after listening to the interview.

If you want the shorter version, click on any of the links at his site. Or, just watch this TED talk:

If you don’t mind the idea of crime and drug cartels with larger R&D budget than the people given the task to fight them, then you’ll sleep well. If the idea your car can be hacked does not bother you, then you’ll sleep well.

If the idea of drones controlled not by hobbyist, but by criminals does not bother you, then don’t worry about it.

 . . . criminals are not bothered by local, state, or federal laws (assuming such laws exist — for many things, we’re heading into uncharted territory) and they are looking at the internet as a bonanza; a veritable field of easy pickings. I’m not referring to Nigerian e-mails telling you they’ll give you a few million dollars if you give them your bank account (which, incredibly, some people still do).

I’m talking about bad guys hacking your biometrics (fingerprints and retinal scans), hacking your electronic signatures, and stealing you blind. And that’s just the ones who want to steal from you. Some may want to harm you. They can find out where you live, your travel patterns, know when you are home, know where you go . . . scary stuff.

Once can, of course, be careful . . . except that there are companies out there who aggregate information from thousands of sources to create a profile for you, me, your family, and possibly your dog.

Sounds incredible? I have a King Soopers, Safeway, library, AAA, and a few other cards  . . . all for my convenience and all with my personal information. Maybe not all the same information and not all complete, but cross-referenced with credit card data, health records, public records (i.e. the title for your home), and these companies can put together a whole lot of information on you, and sell it to anyone with $20.

Ah, you say, but all that data is protected.

Really? Have you not been reading the news? Plus, you know, I’m pretty sure King Soopers and Safeway are not spending billions on security . . . like governments, who still get hacked.

I don’t trust my phone . . . I don’t do anything financial on it. I don’t trust my computer . . . There are no passwords stored in my computer. They are written down and memorized. I don’t “remember sites”; I enter my password each time I log on, and if available, I use two-steps verification (I get a code on my phone that’s only good for a minute – without it, I can’t log on). I change my passwords at least once a year. 

I don’t trust any of the ‘convenient’ technology available to me . . . but Comcast, my cable company, keeps sending me offers to get a security system for my house, all controlled from my smartphone. Here’s an interesting article . . . and then read this one.

Tell me again why I want internet access on the security for my house? I can buy into the system’s ability to call out (which it does) to a monitoring station, but I don’t want the ability for someone to remotely ‘service’ the system or for me to remotely “look” into my house while I’m traveling . . . or when I’m home (read THIS and then read THIS).

I like OnStar’s ability to remotely unlock my car, and even turn on the engine . . . but they can also turn it off. That, I’m not happy about.

People talk of computer-driven cars as if it’s a good thing. I don’t see it as such. For that matter, airplanes live and die, literally, on their computers. That does not make me all that comfortable.

The movie sucked beyond belief, and I have managed to erase most of it from my memory . . . but I always remember this:

Hacks need not be carried out by sophisticated programmers with years of training. A pissed off employer can wreck a lot of damage with very little effort. They can steal and sell information, they can purposefully corrupt data . . . in short, they can be assholes.

The world is full of assholes and the wonderfulness that is the internet leverages their power. Rather than make the lives of a few people miserable, assholes – especially elected ones – can now make the lives of millions miserable.

Capitol One just issued me a new card because of the Home Depot data breach . . . Not a big deal.

What if it were my fingerprints that were stolen? Who would give me new fingerprints?

So, sure, go ahead and upload the selfie of you and your son and daughter, of your nifty car, your expensive television, your new golf clubs, the gun you bought, the vacation you are planning to take.

Here’s the Catch-22 . . . the above describes our concern with what criminals do. Surely, we want our governments to have the tools to fight them bad guys who would do you harm. We want the local cops to have those same powers so that they can keep us safe. Greater powers, even.

Why would anyone object to empowering governments and give them the tools to keep us safe? 

. . . because sometimes, all too often, in fact, people in power get ideas; ideas that are not always good for everyone. Governments abuse power, people abuse power, and anytime you hand someone power over you, they are very reluctant of letting it go, of allowing oversight, of working within the rules.

Governments do many wonderful things, but they have also been shown to lie to our face, to abuse the very power we grant them, to arbitrarily apply rules to some even as they exclude others and/or themselves from those same rules. 

Point me to a politician that has gotten poorer while in office. Show me a politician that lives no better than those he purportedly serves. I am sure there are a few; they are the ones who have not cut deal, taken bribes, compromised their ethics and any ideals they said they had. They are the ones without any power to affect change, they are the ones we don’t re-elect into office.

So . . . which criminal class do you trust with your virtual life? Which criminal class do you want controlling your life? 

. . . sleep well.

Bonus Holy Crap:

While perusing my many archives, I came across audio files of some of Col. R. G. Ingersoll’s public lectures. Not his voice, obviously, but someone reading Ingersoll’s speeches.

I can’t find the original site for the recordings (the orator captured the tone and power of the words perfectly) and so I can’t ask if I may make them available here, but I did find this:

https://archive.org/details/ingersoll_mog_librivox

And for them who would rather read:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/8140/8140-h/8140-h.htm

And for them who like YouTube:

Regardless of your beliefs, you owe it to your reasoning abilities to listen to these words, or read these words, and see if your beliefs stand unshaken. 

. . . then again, reason is seldom the trait of believers, this despite having been given the ability for such.

No picture for this post . . . this post is only for people who read it to the end.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Magnified Whisper

Magnified Whisper

Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.  

If you click on the doodle, and nothing happens, this is the link it’s supposed to go to: http://disperser.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/palm-vx-and-i/.

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Note: if you are not reading this blog post at Disperser.Wordpress.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Posted in Musings Stuff, Opinion, Personal, Stuff, Writing Stuff | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Laundry and Snacks

Here’s a recap of the big small-laundry re-do . . . 

20150228143736-Processed_DIGI 20150228153114-Processed_DIGI 20150302084320-Processed_DIGI 20150302154949-Processed_DIGI 20150302163817-Processed_DIGI 20150304172524-Processed_DIGI 20150307171150-Processed_DIGI

It’s a small laundry room and also the entrance from the garage. It’s OK, but our next house will have a large mud/laundry/throw-your-stuff-down room. Because of the dryer vent hose location, we can’t push the washer and dryer as far back as we would like. Damn idiot builders!

20150308_142019-Processed_DIGI

Once we got to this point and were about to reinstall the old laundry tub, we decided to upgrade that as well. $200 got us a cabinet, tub, faucet, all the hoses and pipes.

20150321_075638-Processed_DIGI

I added the plexiglass . . . something I did in our other homes as well. It keeps stray droplets from ruining the wall.

20150321_075656-Processed_DIGI

Why is this called ‘Laundry and Snacks’?

I’ve had a few posts about the kind of stuff I eat and realized snacks deserve a special mention. 

Snacks are an important part of my day. They bridge the three hours between breakfast and lunch and the four hours between lunch and dinner and the five hours between dinner and bedtime.

I happen to have a fantastic wife who can whip stuff up at a moments notice. Some might recall these . . . 

20150222152217_DIGI 20150222152715_DIGI

. . . but she can also throw together other stuff . . . 

20140412_201938_DIGI

That’s either rhubarb or strawberries or both . . . my memory fails me and the snack has long since . . . eh, passed from my life. 

These next beauties are mostly for me as she does not like chocolate chips (and walnuts) cookies.

20150214125140_DIGI

The white balance on those is slightly off, they should be very dark . . . like the picture on the box of the mix.

20150214_140031_DIGI

Some might remember she also bakes . . . 

20140728194330 20140728170906 20140728184703

For a quick snack, she sometimes whips this up . . . 

20150213_150030_DIGI

Mandarin slices, pineapple pieces, whipped cream, walnuts and coconuts bits . . . this stuff does not have a long shelf life. 

Well, I don’t really know that for a fact; it never lasts long enough to figure out if it has a shelf life.

This next thing is one of our recent kicks . . . 

20150215143141_DIGI

That’s bread dough from Trader Joe’s half topped with pepper jack cheese and the other half with mozzarella cheese; no sauce. 

That also has an unknown shelf life.

People might get the idea I don’t eat healthy snacks. Not so . . . 

. . . I have fruit (usually bananas and apples) . . . 

20150221152014_DIGI 20150221_152509_DIGI

. . . and even celery with laughing cow light creamy swiss cheese.

20150216_164037_DIGI

But, truthfully, my preference leans toward . . . 

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When I have some, not all that often, I might indulge in a polenta and Spam snack.

20150315_134954_DIGI

I know what you’re all thinking . . . this guy eats too healthy!

Well, hold on; that’s the case when I feel like making stuff or feel like asking Melisa to make stuff. 

But, for when I don’t, there are cookies. Everyone knows graham crackers and Milano cookies, but these are probably not something most people are familiar with . . . 

(excuse the poor quality of the photo - I was eating at the time)

20141109_191854_DIGI

(excuse the poor quality of the photo – I was eating at the time)

. . . there are other cookies too, some from Costco and some from Trader Joe’s, depending what I feel like.

. . . and candy. We usually have THESE around. We always have THESE.

Other quick candy hits might include jawbreakers, mints, or licorice. Not that crappy soft stuff that is fed to unsuspecting and unsophisticated kids.

20140721_172642_DIGI

We don’t usually have chips around, but when we do it’s these:

20150214_145903_DIGI

Those are all fine and good, but what is one to eat in-between snacks?

Usually, bread; French, Italian, or sourdough. Often plain, but just as likely to be adorned with appropriate toppings. I’ll even eat a toasted slice or two of 12-grain bread with a generous helping of honey. 

Today, on a lark I decided to prepare all my snacks ahead of time. Of course, it was after breakfast . . . which was after a banana and a piece of bread.

Here are my in-between meals snacks for the day . . . all gone now, and I’m a bit hungry, but I’ll try to hold off for a few hours until I go to bed.

20150323_121054_DIGI

OK, clockwise from the top left . . . a Kirkland grapefruit cup, a small Nutella sandwich and four small cookies (two different kinds), an apple, five crackers topped with pieces of pecorino cheese and a small sandwich of torta bread and pecorino cheese, and finally one slice of 12-grain bread cut in two for a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich plus two cookies. 

. . . I might sneak something before going to bed . . . probably a piece of bread. 

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Note: if you are not reading this blog post at Disperser.Wordpress.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Posted in Other Stuff | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments

Photography the Disperser Way – Cropping and Post-processing

Yessiree, boys and girls! Step right up as I try sounding like I know what I’m talking about!

OK, I kid . . . I have no idea what I’m talking about, and I’m not about to pretend I do. I can, however, talk about what I, in ignorance, do after I snap a photo and before it appears on this blog. Specifically, cropping and post-processing.

In case anyone wonders why I’m sharing my lack of expertise, it’s because I recently came across a post on cropping, and it struck me how different people see things. Also, I’ve noticed a number of blogs posting photos that to my tired, old, and myopic eyes looked as if they could have used a tad more brightness or a bump in exposure.

There be nuthin’ I like me better than suggestin’ stuff to people . . . this despite 99.9% of the people 1) don’t want no suggestin’, and 2) promptly forget any offered suggestin’.

That don’t faze me none . . . here we go.

This is a photo of a Kestrel. Shot with a long zoom and against the light, it was taken a few days before my Woodland Park job and I parted company. Perhaps the photo was an omen of dark things to come . . .

Flowers,

. . . but, no . . . out of darkness one can find something bright.

Flowers,

So, heavily cropped, but what else happened? Here’s the original photo’s histogram:

Original Histogram

Notice it’s skewed to the dark side with a huge spike from the sky. Here are the Lightroom adjustments I made to the raw file:

Raw Adjustments Raw neutral no sharp

I played with a lot of stuff. I made the effort to illustrate what it takes; I would not normally process this type of shot because there is no chance anything good will come from it. But, since I did make the effort for this post, I went ahead and did the other half of the processing. I’m not including those settings because they are tweaks in onOne’s Perfect Effects. Here’s the result that comes back into Lightroom.

Flowers,

That is not exactly what I got back from onOne . . . I did me a few more adjustments on the processed photo once it got back to Lightroom:

Post-onOne Adjustment

I sharpened the photo after I post-processed everything. I find it gives me a cleaner image.

After all that, the histogram is a bit more balanced.

Oh, I did one more thing; I used a local adjustment to make the eye and face of the bird a little brighter. Here are the local brush settings:

Eye Adjustment

Those adjustments are just for the face, carefully applied so they don’t spill over onto the surrounding sky where they would be readily visible in contrast to the rest of the sky.

This next photo was my first attempt at cropping:

Flowers,

I did not like the extra bits of tree standing there, at the bottom, all by their lonesome.

This next trio looks like the same photo, but it’s not; it’s the next one in the series. The original, the cropped and adjusted version, and the final product with the same processing applied.

Flowers,

Flowers,

Flowers,

Like I said; I would never go through all this effort for these shots because of the poor quality of the end-product.

Because new readers might be unfamiliar with my peculiar form of sarcasm and/or irony-filled banter, know I’m perfectly happy with those results. It’s just that they take more effort to achieve.

Cropping is something I do for many if not most of my photographs. There are photographers who take pride on never cropping; they compose the end product right off the bat.

I don’t have a bat, plus there’s another reason I crop. The norm when I shoot is for the focus point to be in the center. Lenses work better on center, the focusing works better on center, the metering works better on center . . . but mostly, it’s laziness. I could move the focus point, but that introduces another variable into an already complicated process.

Plus, if I move it and then forget to set it back, I screw up the next photos I take (that has happened a few times). So, center it is.

Hummingbirds,

That’s the shot as taken . . . I’m gonna wanna crop that. I typically try and adhere to the Rule of Thirds (read about it HERE and HERE).

However, when I can I also try to line things up. What do I mean? In this case, it’s an imaginary line from the beak to the corner of the photo.

Hummingbirds,

It’s probably not something anyone would notice. Or maybe they do. Here’s the finished product.

Hummingbirds,

Notice I brought out more of the texture,  both in the subject and the foreground.

By the way, I’m listening to this:

Carrying that concept a bit further, here’s another example of rules of thirds combined with flow lines and post-processing. Here’s the original.

Hawk,

And here’s two possible crops with the Lightroom prep before sending them to onOne.

Hawk, Hawk,

Now, there is no rule saying lines have to lead to corners. I just prefer them so. Take note of the eyes of the bird . . .

Hawk, Hawk,

How about that; you can see them a bit better in the final product . . . again, I lightened the eye and surrounding area to “bring them out”.

There is another concept at play here; leaving some room in the direction of motion.

Let me illustrate with this horse:

Horse,

I don’t like all that stuff around the horse so I will crop down to it.

Horse,

The thing is, I did not leave much room in front of it. The indicated motion will seem cramped because of it. Here’s the final product.

Horse,

Not bad, but look at this next example.

Horse,

ORIGINAL AS SHOT

Horse,

CROPPED AND PREPPED FOR ONONE

Notice, I left more room in front of the horse, giving him a place to run, so to speak. I could have left a bit more, but here’s the final product.

Horse,

Most people might not notice, at least not consciously.

One quick side note . . . I inadvertently processed all of the photos with a 2013 copyright notice. Some are from 2013, but not all.

How does all this work with landscape shots? Here’s a rather bland shot.

Yellowstone 2013,

I could process it as is, but . . .

Yellowstone 2013,

. . . I like this better.

Edited to add: I forgot to mention why this particular crop; one is the rule of thirds (the position of the cliff), but the other reason is maintaining the “S” shape of the edge of the cliff from the upper right to lower left. That’s how the original is was shot, but the grass is out of focus and I thought it distracted from the scene.

Still, not very dynamic. I could go all out and do this . . .

Yellowstone 2013,

. . . but I’m more likely to scale it back a bit.

Yellowstone 2013,

Sometimes the dynamic range of a scene makes it difficult to process. Here’s an original shot.

Yellowstone 2013,

This is how I might crop this shot if I wanted a stronger center element. Those rocks in the upper right are interesting in their own right, but they draw the eye away from the main feature (the vertical ridge).

Yellowstone 2013,

Notice, I also removed a lot of the foreground distraction on the right side and emphasized the shrubs. Here’s the result of a typical canned processing setting.

Yellowstone 2013,

I like the strong presence of the rocks and shrubs, but the sky is all funky like. I can scale back the sky a tad, but I lose some of the impact of the rocky face.

Yellowstone 2013,

A bit of contrast and midrange adjustment brings back the deeper tones of the rocks.

Yellowstone 2013,

I mentioned there are different options for cropping, and I usually plan for the possibility of multiple crops. Here’s an example.

The original:

Yellowstone 2013,

By the way, I’m listening to a rendition of the theme from Joe Versus the Volcano.

Anyway, I can crop the photo by emphasizing the foreground and removing the boring right-hand side.

Yellowstone 2013,

There are a few things bugging me about the photo. One is that dark spot (a billboard) along the road and in the distance (it draws the eye). The other is the few pieces of garbage visible in the foreground (wrong color).

I spot-adjust to remove them, and also switch to neutral processing in preparation for onOne processing.

Yellowstone 2013,

And here’s the final product.

Yellowstone 2013,

Or, is it?

The other crop I could have done, again removing the offending dark spot.

Yellowstone 2013,

And here’s this final product.

Yellowstone 2013,

Some people like sky . . . others like the texture in the foreground. The choice is yours.

Me? In this case, I prefer the one with the foreground (the first crop).

I usually plan for crops. Here are a few examples of original photos and subsequent crops.

Yellowstone 2013,

Yellowstone 2013,

Yellowstone 2013,

Yellowstone 2013,

Here’s one where the lighting was very bad due to a very overcast sky).

Original, as shot

Original, as shot

Cropped and prepped for processing

Cropped and prepped for processing

. . . and the final product . . .

Yellowstone 2013,

I could have shot at a higher ISO, but that would have blown out what little definition of the sky presented itself. It’s easier to recover underexposed features (especially if shooting RAW) as opposed to details in areas that are blown out (over-exposed).

Brightening or increasing the exposure on something might introduce grain, but you can deal with that. When something is blown out, there is little one can do, and whatever you do will usually result in stuff not quite looking right.

One other comment . . . even with the guidelines switched on, I often shoot “slanted”. I mean, not if I’m paying attention, but if I’m engrossed in the scene I end up with photos that sag on the right. Anything with vertical or horizontal lines, such as a horizon, will immediately look wrong. Even when I don’t crop I often have to straighten the photos.

Proceeding, here’s another example. The original:

Clouds, Pikes Peak,

. . . let me do my crop thing . . .

Clouds, Pikes Peak,

That’s not bad; the clouds still look ‘natural’. Here’s the finished product.

Clouds, Pikes Peak,

Now, I mention there are other cropping possibilities . . . here’s another crop from the same photo.

Clouds, Pikes Peak,

. . . and here’s the final product.

Clouds, Pikes Peak,

I pushed the processing on this to show what can happen to the clouds; I don’t think they look as good as they did in the first crop. This was on purpose, but sometimes your processing requires a lot of tweaking to keep everything ‘looking natural’.

Before I push for the finish, here’s what I’m listening to now:

OK, I’ve been speaking about cropping and post-processing. Understand that cropping comes into play because we capture rectangular frames and those might not always lend themselves to what we want to capture . . .

. . . but, there are times when they do. Oh, happy days! All I then have to do is use my canned processing. Here are examples of original and post-processed photos, no cropping required.

Yellowstone 2013,

Yellowstone 2013,

Yellowstone 2013,

Yellowstone 2013,

Yellowstone 2013,

Yellowstone 2013,

Yellowstone 2013,

Yellowstone 2013,

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Noon in the Arctic

Noon in the Arctic

Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.  

If you click on the doodle, and nothing happens, this is the link it’s supposed to go to: http://disperser.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/palm-vx-and-i/.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Note: if you are not reading this blog post at Disperser.Wordpress.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Posted in Photography, Photography How To, Photography Stuff, Writing Stuff | Tagged , , , , , | 22 Comments

Four vs. Five

Today is the five year anniversary of my blog . . . Assuming a noon-to-noon time accounting, I’ve been at this 3,652 days, or 315,532,800 seconds.

The traditional and modern anniversary gift for five years is ‘wood’. 

. . . I don’t discuss my privates, so let’s move on.

Fun fact; it would take you longer than 3,652 days to count to 315,532,800, even if you don’t take any bathroom breaks.

Anyway, here’s the other stats.

Time

And where am I with the blog on this anniversary day?

Here’s the accounting for Views. Understand this is not necessarily eyeballs on the (virtual) page. Some are robots, some are people looking at the reader and only seeing a small portion of what I do.

views per month

The highlighted numbers are the highs. December was also not bad because of my snack-by-snack reporting from our Caribbean cruise.

But why was November so high? Was it my NaNoWriMo effort? My Photography? the massive injury to my leg? Let’s see . . .

November 2014

Ah . . . it appears people really enjoyed my pain as they explored Firefly-related stuff.

These were the general stats from last year:

Followers

These are the current numbers:

Stats2

This will be the 1,240th post. Up 449 posts from LAST YEAR

I now have 754 followers or 282 more than last year. However, only a small number of the follower participate, and I greatly appreciate the contributions of people who comment on my posts.

I’ve had about 68,300 total views, with roughly 20,800 in the past 12 months. Those views came from about 7,800 visitors in the past 12 months or roughly 21 per day.

I’ve already shown the views charts, but a few years after I started my blog, WordPress started tracking actual visitors in addition to total views. It would be nice if WP let users have more control of their stats (or let us use Google Analytics), but they don’t. Here’s what 2014 looked like for this blog.

2014 stats

Numbers are difficult for some to process, so here’s a chart tracking monthly views and visitor from last April to now.

Views and Visitors

The scale for the views is on the left, and the scale for the visitor’s line plot is on the right.

I’ve had 10,453 comments as I write this post, and I care more about those as that’s people interacting . . . except that number is misleading since pingbacks are counted as comments, so it’s probably closer to about 7,500 comments.

What do people come to visit and comment on most?

Well, in this past year . . .

year views

And there you go; the power of Browncoats. My Firefly series accounted for a lot of views.

As usual, my writing made a poor showing. Some will argue my NaNoWriMo No. 2 had 69 views.  I would rejoice were it not for the fact I know only six people have the password for that post.

The all-time list (views since inception of the blog) shows the same truth – people just plain don’t like my writing:

all time views

Excluding the password-protected NaNoWriMo post, the first fiction that makes an appearance on the list is my Zombie Apocalypse story, coming in with a five-year total of 63. That’s 63 views, and not necessarily 63 times it’s been read, and that’s over the course of five years.

In fact, these numbers are further skewed by the comments. Whenever someone comes back to answer or leave a comment, it counts as a view. So, even a small exchange can add 10-20 views. In reality, they are not views at all.

WordPress does not provide a complete summary of the comments; all they give you is the status based on the last 1,000 comments. Here’s the one for last year:

As one can see, one does not need to comment often to get into the list.

As one can see, one does not need to comment often to make the list.

Most commented

CommentsSummary

And here are the current comments stats:

top commenters comments most comments summaryNote I still have about the same number of comments per month, and that stands to reason as the core group of readers has not fluctuated much over the course of this past year.

Where do all the viewers come from? WordPress only started tracking where visitors came from in February of 2012, and since then the majority of visitors are from the US, which stands to reason since I live in the US and I write in English.

This was the map last year.

Top Countries since FEB-2012

Last year I hinted it would be nice if it completely filled in. Here’s the current map.

WP Countries

Not much has changed, but last year I marveled at the fact none of the then 1.3Billion people in China stopped by my blog.

Well, now at 1.36Billion, China finally got on the map . . . with 1 view. I feel bad for the poor bastard who drew the short straw, but I would have liked to see the straw bundle being passed around.

I also use ClusterMaps, and it does not agree with the WordPress numbers. I like that they break it down a bit more. You can go look at it on your own HERE, but here are a few snapshots.

First up, the numbers from last year:

Cluster World

And here’s the current one:

clustermaps2

ClusterMaps track unique visits (32,495 from March of 2012), and that’s how I estimate actual visitors as opposed to views. 

That means I had 11,057 visitors to the site this past year.

ClusterMaps gives you the visuals as well; I’ll only show a few regions.

The 2014  North America map:

US

The 2015 North America Map:

clustermaps us 2015

Cubans don’t like me much.

Here’s the 2014 Europe map:

Europe

Here’s the 2015 European map:

clustermaps europe 2015

Still only one visit each from Luxembourg and Liechtenstein . . . A few years ago, one person in each of those countries came to see what’s going on and decided it did not warrant repeat visits.

I used to get demographics for my blog through QuantCast, but that option is no longer available on these free blogs. It will be interesting to see if the domain mapping (disperser.wordpress.com ==>> dispersertracks.com) will change any of the above, or if I’ll have other options.

While I don’t have the breakdown of demographics, I do have an approximate ranking for the blog from Alexa.

First up, the 2014 ranking:

Alexa rank

. . . followed by the 2015 ranking:

Alexa

Wow . . . I jumped from 11-millionth to 6-millionth place AND I’m ranked in the top 754,500 blogs in the US.

The Bounce Rate is the percentage of people who view only one page before leaving. The average time per visit is 5 minutes. I might be accused of low expectations, but all that sounds pretty good to me. Better than I expected.

Google changed their Page Rank feature. Here’s the ranking from last year:

Page Rank

And here’s the ranking from this year:

Google rank

There is a bit of a discrepancy in the stated rankings for Alexa, but I’ll use the ones I got directly from the source. I’m not clear on the rest of the numbers but can’t be bothered to look them up.

There are a lot of sites that calculate ranks, so I decided to use one that aggregates a lot of information, and checks how much my blog is worth (Blog Calculator).

Last year:

Blog worth

This year:

Worth2

So, my pay rate increase is roughly $7 per year. Wait . . . 30% sounds better.

I should also mention that since I had my domain mapped, I get differing results depending which URL I use. The above are for “disperser.wordpress.com”.

“dispersertracks.com” gets me higher numbers for some, and lower numbers for other things. They should both be the same, so I’m not clear as to what that means.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

No Smoking!!

No Smoking!!

Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.  

Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.  

If you click on the doodle, and nothing happens, this is the link it’s supposed to go to: http://disperser.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/palm-vx-and-i/.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Note: if you are not reading this blog post at Disperser.Wordpress.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Posted in Creative, Musings Stuff, Personal, Writing Stuff | Tagged , , , , , | 48 Comments

Romance

Romance.

Readers probably don’t know I’m a sucker for romance. It likely stems from my solitary life before I went to college and the fact I was incredibly lucky in finding my soulmate.

I don’t gush on about my wife because that is a private thing, but I won’t hesitate confirming she is the most important thing in my life. Our meeting each other, deciding to share the rest of our lives, and continuing to discover and cherish each other . . . That is what I draw on; that is the stuff of romance.

BUT . . . I don’t write traditional romance novels. Or, maybe I do but I don’t know it. Let me check:

~ ~ oo ~ ~ 

The wind kept Bafio’s hair from blinding him as they rode the black stallion. Unfortunately, the hair lashed at Iofna’s face as she tried to hold on for dear life while sitting behind him. Her arms barely encircling his sculpted torso, she wished he had not shaved his chest hair. At least that way she could grab onto something. Iofna buried her face in the crevices formed by his sculpted back muscles and pleaded for him to please stop.

“Stop! I can’t take any more!” she yelled as the Bafio’s hair snapped at her like a jealous lover. Sensitive to her predicament, Bafio slowed to a gentler pace, letting Iofna catch her breath and get a better grip.

“Ouch!” he yelled. “Not the underarm hair!”

She let go and promptly fell off PileDriver, who kept on galloping. Luckily, Iofna fell atop one of the stallions massive dumps, which cushioned her fall.

With amazing agility and speed, Bafio dismounted the still galloping stallion, rolled, and ended up next to her in the tall grass, but clear of the dump.

He never gets any shit on him!” Iofna breathlessly thought.

Bafio stared into her eyes as he sought to remove her soiled clothes. He kept staring into her eyes as he fumbled with the knot securing the lacing of her bodice.

After a half a minute or so he lowered his gaze down to the knot. On the way, Bafio’s eyes feasted upon her heaving bosom. He would have gotten lost in the moment had he not remembered his own pectoral muscles dwarfed hers. He looked down at his own open shirt cleavage and got lost in the moment.

“Hey!” Iofna yelled, “Eyes down here!”

“Sorry,” Bafio replied as he resumed his attack on the knot, now with renewed vigor.

“It’s no use,” he said after a few minutes of trying to get the thing undone.

“You have to use your teeth,” Iofna reminded him.

“Oh, right!”

Bafio dug into the suede material, bit down hard, and pulled with all his might.

The bodice came off and flew above their heads where the wind caught it and flung it at PileDriver’s rump. The stallion, startled as it grazed, kicked hard and by sheer bad luck caught both Bafio and Iofna on the side of their heads.

Dead, they were finally together and would now spend eternity in each other’s company . . . unless passing scavengers made off with their various body parts. Damn scavengers!

~ ~ oo ~ ~

Yeah . . . probably not traditional.

Let me try and expand what I mean. I may inadvertently use some of the romance tropes, but my goal with romance is to address the intellectual side of it. Any romantic partnerships I include in my writing deal with people who like, respect, admire, and see each other as equal partners in their lifelong journey.

With rare exceptions, I don’t write much about angst, infatuation, sexual attraction, and I definitely do not write about the . . . ah . . . more private aspects of relationships (A Good Night Sleep was as close as I ever got). There is plenty of that available in other places; places not my blog.

Side note: if ever the 50 Shades of Gray crowd gets tired of that kind of thing (not likely), boy, am I going to be rich!

I’ve written very little without the coming together of two people being a part of the plot (Torin and Different come to mind). I have written about characters losing a soulmate, sometimes to set up the story and other times as a motivator for the character’s involvement in the plot (Fall of Angels, The Hunter).

This is 2015 . . . that means that my writing career is roughly ten years old.

Side note 2: that’s right, you read that correctly; I’ve been at this writing thing for ten years, and I’ve not published a thing.  

2005 found us as new residents of Colorado, the company I had just closed and the automotive industry life it was tied to now 1,900 miles away and fading from memory. I had written short stuff before, but the two Guardians short stories were the first effort I made at a plot, at sustained dialogue, at multiple threads (two), and so on.

As I re-read The Guardians (I & II) I can see just how far I’ve come as a writer. Yes, lots of punctuation errors and poorly written, but I still like the concept. Not knowing any better, I did submit the first part, and now I can better understand why it was rejected. The form letter said the concept was overdone, but I wish they would have said a bit more.

I wish they would have said something like “you currently suck”. It might have gotten me more motivated to work at writing.

I don’t think the concept is overdone; I think that romance got in the way and I did not write it well.

The original plot was for a science fiction story with an underlining blossoming romance. Those ideas kept flip-flopping during the story, at times becoming a romance story with a slight science fiction story in the background.

I took my eye off the story I wanted to tell.

Shortly thereafter, I started N. E. O.

I had actually started in 2003, both with some research and with the opening paragraph. There it sat for two years, and then I picked it up again in late 2005. By the end of 2006 I had written three chapters; yes, three (3).

I stopped because I went back to work. Oh, I added a few words in 2010 and again in 2011, but it was not until I was no longer working that I picked it up again, in August of 2013.

N. E. O. suffered from the same problem as The Guardians; it did not know what it wanted to be. I know what I had planned it to be; a story about aliens visiting Earth. I envisioned a sweeping story dealing with humanity’s reaction to the presence of the aliens on and near Earth.

Instead, romance again got in the way. The story drifted toward relationships instead of keeping the love interest as a secondary theme. The alien thing became no more than the background for a silly love story, complete with well-established tropes but probably not as well-executed.

For a while, I wondered if I was destined to become a romance writer (they do make a lot of money). No (see above sample).

NaNoWriMo 2013 came along while I was still writing N. E. O.

 NaNoWriMo forced me to think in terms of a longer story arc, and that forced me to shift the romance (did I mention there is always romance?) to the background and tell the larger story.

I think that also drove me to writing a “just romance” flash piece just because I was missing it. Rose and Joe is a piece I really enjoy re-reading. It’s a different take on an old internet story I remember reading.

Oh, let’s not forget the older but funnier Movement Propels Destiny, a story dealing with romance in a very unorthodox way.

Rose and Joe is a unique story in one aspect . . . I describe the woman as very beautiful; except I don’t. I let the man say she is beautiful, and that could be a subjective assessment.

I take a lot of crap for not describing my characters. It is specifically because I often deal with romance that I don’t describe the people in my stories.

All my exposures to literary or cinematic romance have taught me the following; looks (beautiful or ugly) and money (poor or rich), or combinations of the two, always have something to do with the romance either happening or not happening.

Even if one of the protagonists starts out as ugly and poor, they eventually end up either beautiful, rich, or both.

You never read this in a romance story:

~ ~ oo ~ ~

She saw him from across the room. The movement of his hand as he adjusted his package drew her eye. Well, it was actually his other hand lifting the lower part of his stomach so he could reach his package that caught her eye.

No; truthfully, it was the whole; the extended beer belly, the remnants of a cheese pizza on his pants leg, the unidentified stain on on his shirt (she hoped it was seepage from the open sore on his chin, and not ketchup), the slack jaw, shifty eyes, and the way his greasy hair stuck to his scalp. She heard him belch and hoped his farts would be as loud.

Immediately drawn to him and hoping her vast inheritance and ample breasts would be enough to make that man hers, she went to him as a moth to a flame. Unlike a moth, she was already consumed; consumed by his intoxicating presence. No, really; he had not showered for at least a week.

~ ~ oo ~ ~

Instead, I purposefully concentrate on character, actions, and emotions tied to both circumstances and how the characters react to same.

Readers tell me they need something to anchor the characters for them, but what if I describe both the hero and heroine and then they get Jim Carrey and an also-talentless female version of Carrey as leads for the movie adaptation? All I’m going to hear about is how the actors don’t match my descriptions.

My way ensures that if the readers are disappointed with getting Tom Cruise instead of a 6′ 4″ actor playing Jack Reacher, they have no one but themselves to blame.

Anyway, this is getting long . . . here’s a poll for them who have read my stuff.

Not exactly a love story, but something I think deserves a few more eyes on it. Three stories covering a long arc in three short flash pieces. Here’s a piece few have read but of which proud I am: Thoughts in the Wind.

For them who read them and are so inclined, I would appreciate feedback on the three stories, Thoughts in the Wind, and on Rose and Joe

Oh, yeah . . . a picture.

 Pulp-O-Mizer_Forbidden_Love

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Note: if you are not reading this blog post at Disperser.Wordpress.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Posted in Creative, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Opinion, Writing Stuff | Tagged , , , , , , | 25 Comments