It’s Not About Me Week – Social Media Experiment

I’m going to try something different next week on social media and I’m wondering if you want to join me.

I’m guilty of promoting myself (I’m a freelance photographer and writer, so I need to more than most) 90% of the time on social media. Even when it’s not blatant promotion about posts or images or tours or etc… it’s about me. I know that’s a big part of social media, to communicate about ourselves to others, but I have had this growing feeling that it is a bit much. Not just me putting it out there, but seeing it as well.

I have a few friends who are great at gathering info, adding their twist and sending it back out and I find those folks very helpful. I’d say about half their posts/tweets/etc… are about themselves and I want to try to be like them for a week.

Heck, not even a true week, just five weekdays.

Next week, November 17-21, 2014, it’s not about me. Or, for those more social media literate, #itsnotaboutme.

At least half, if not more, of my posts, comments, tweets, etc… will be about others. And not just that crappy ‘liking’ and ‘favoriting’ crap. I plan to share other people’s work I find inspiring, funny, helpful, insightful or enraging (but thoughtful). I know a lot of great artists, most of them photographers, and they put out a TON of quality work. It’s time I talked about them for a while.

Don’t worry, the other 360 days of the year will be primarily about me, including the eBook I will soon release. See how easy it is? :)

Care to join me?

When you go to your favorite social media sites next week, think about someone else and how you can help lift them up, give them some spotlight or simply say “Thank you” in front of a larger audience.

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Why I’m A Slave To My Fancy Fitness Tracker And Fitness Apps

71U4YnY4DtL._SL1500_I love tech and I often think it can cure all my ills, or at least distract me with its awesomeness. As I age, though, I am more and more skeptical about the promises of new gadgets. Also, get off my lawn, you dang kids!

And yet, I had a need to drop my weight down to a healthy level. I was weighing 200lbs back in June and that was too much to carry around. I wanted to drop at least 15lbs to get my gut down so I didn’t have to hold my breath when tying my shoes, to feel better in general and, honestly, to look better for my wife. She loves me for who I am but that doesn’t mean she needs more of me to love.

I had tried dieting with one of those programs back in the Winter and I couldn’t take the artificial taste of it all. It was also opposed to my desire to eat more real food (and yes, chocolate counts as a real food) and organic food. I wasn’t going back to that.

I also knew my key lay in eating better, getting enough sleep and exercising more. I don’t have any conditions that making weight loss hard and I have comfortably weighed 185 before, I just needed self-control.

Enter the Vivofit from Garmin. I bought it about three weeks ago and they say that is how long you need to try something before it becomes as habit. And it has.

Why the Vivofit? Why be a slave to a thing on my wrist?

First, I liked it better than other options simply because it has a clock on it. I’m not a jewelry guy and won’t wear a wrist band just because. This ruled out most Fitbits and those ones by Jawbone.

Second, I really liked that it had a visual reminder to get off my butt. After one hour of inactivity a red bar starts across the top and then adds segments for each 15 minutes I continue to ignore it. All I have to do to clear the bar(s) is get up and walk for maybe a minute and a half, sometimes longer for more segments. I like this better than the Fitbits habit of buzzing because I can look at it and see where I am. I’m a visual kinda guy.

It of course comes with an app for my phone as well as a USB stick that lets me sync with my computer and the web (from which my app pulls info). Yay! Syncy Magic (R).

Then I decided to couple it with the myfitnesspal (he’s not my pal, he’s more of a helper) app that tracks food ingested. I put in my goal (lose a pound a week) and that app syncs with the other app. Yay! I’ve used a calorie tracker app in the past but I like this one the best as it has a wide array of foods and is fairly easy to use. And it has Syncy Magic (R).

Lastly I piled on a workout tracker called MapMyFitness. These apps are all so cool they don’t need spaces in their names. MapMyFitness allowed me to better track workouts, like going for a run or bike ride or even doing sit-ups (it has a huge library of activities, even SCUBA diving) and it had Syncy Magic (R) as well so all three work well together. They all adjust off each other so there is no duplication of effort and you can’t cheat.

So WHY am I a slave to wearing this device and tracking my food eats? Why don’t I just inheriently have the self control to not eat and then go exercise every day?

I took that question in my head and turned it around slightly. I’m not a slave to the Vivofit, I’m a slave to me and the Vivofit just helps me get there.

The device increases the number of steps I need to take in a day to keep me active and burning calories. Even better, it has trained me to get off my butt. Studies have shown that sitting all day shortens your lifespan (and certainly makes it less healthy along the way) but I get into a groove on the computer and ignore getting up.

(At which point in my writing I looked down, saw the big bar and didn’t even realize it had been an hour since I sat at the computer. Got up, walked just a bit.)

It also pushes me a little and has me parking further away from stores and even walking to the bank with the dog the past two days. These are things I knew would help before I got the Vivofit, but I’m an analytical guy and this helps me quantify ‘doing more’. When I see there are only 1000 steps left before my goal and it is 7pm at night, a time I might spend relaxing around the house, I’m more likely to get up and go for a short walk or hit the treadmill if there are a lot more steps to go.

For me, it’s like a ribbon on my finger reminding me of something. That I want to be more healthy and feel better just moving around this planet.

I’m down to 192.5 lbs as of today and my gut is noticeably slimmer (when I started using it I was 195). I’m also more fit and do more with my body, which is my main goal; to be more fit and enjoy life.

There have been some ancillary benefits as well. MapMyFitness has renewed my interest in biking and all I need is a handlebar mount for my phone. It also has these ‘Challenges’ and I thought they would be dorky. Surely I don’t need to compete against others to keep myself going (I grew out of that in my 20s). And yet… one popped on Monday in regard to walking your dog, as I had logged such an activity that day. It’s a month long challenge and in the end Purina donates a bunch of dog food to rescue shelter while obtaining my email address for their marketing (which, thanks to our government, has to include an unsubscribe button). And it worked; it has me thinking each day about getting Theo out for a good walk when I was slacking on that before.

Yes, I can do all these things without the Vivofit and the apps on my phone.

And yet, here it is, three weeks later and I’m still using it when normally I would have lost interest if it had sucked. I’ve lost 2.5 lbs since starting and I’m still able to eat as much chocolate as I want. I fit into my pants better and had to add a hole to my belt.

The Vivofit and apps have worked well for me and I see how the habits they create are sustainable for the years and decades ahead.

Addendum: Besides the watch feature (and date too!) the biggest reason I went with the Vivofit over the Fitbit and others is because the battery lasts a year, like a normal watch. I don’t have one more item I need to remember to charge each day and it’s not going to die on me in the middle of my day.

A Free Gift To Help You Say Thank You

5x7 Thank You Card

5x7 Thank You CardThank you.

Simple. Effective. Appreciated.

Telling someone Thank You can have a profound impact, especially when it is out of the blue. I don’t profess to being an expert (I start “Thank You” projects and they seem to fizzle out because of bright, shiny distractions) but I do know receiving a Thank You note in the mail is appreciated 99.99% of the time.

As it was recently my birthday I crafted some Thank You cards using my own images to send to those who gave me gifts. Then I thought maybe some of you out there who like to print at home could find use of the image I created.

With that thought in mind, I am offering you a file you can print out at home or have printed at any store you like. If you don’t have blank cards, might I suggest Red River Polar Matte cards? I receive no commission from that link, I just like their cards (and you can use them for your own unique print project as well!). Be sure to pick the 7″x10″ (folds to 5×7″). And grabs some envelopes too.

Here’s the PDF version of the file: 5×7 Thank You Card

Download that, order up some cards and have at it. Mind you, the cards are for your personal use only, please don’t try to sell them.

 

 

A Little Perspective – Dirty Dishes

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Upon entering the kitchen this morning, I was confronted with this mild disaster in my sink.

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I assure you this is not my “Photo Of The Day” post for today.

This scene reminded me of an image a friend posted to Facebook yesterday. That image depicted approximately the same ‘disaster’ and had a text overlay blaring, “It’s Not Just Your House. Cut Yourself Some Slack.” in a very cute font. It is was a playful attempt at making us all feel like we were not alone and that the ‘perfect’ household, where everything is in its right place and sparkling clean, rarely exists.

But as I stare at my own task cut out for me this morning, I actually started smiling. Why? Because instead of seeing a pile of dirty dishes that will take some scrubbing to get clean (while my stomach reminds me it needs attention first), I am reminded why those dish are there. It’s a matter of perspective. In this case, the whisk, bowls and buried measuring cups are from baking brownies for the parents and brother of a friend of my daughter, a friend who died last week and left behind a grieving family. The cutting board is from the veggies that went into the salad for that family. Same with the greasy pan which cooked the chicken.

The other bowls are from breakfast the morning before (I’m that lazy sometimes). Those bowls remind me of nothing so monumental as the lose of a child, but of something simple; those dishes are dirty because my family ate healthy, delicious food yesterday. The knife with globs of peanut butter was used to liven up a banana late at night.

I decided at that point it was a matter of perspective.

When you come over to my house you just might see dirty dishes in the sink. What I see, in contrast, is a family fortunate enough to have good food with which to make a mess.

Dishes, in general, are a lower priority for me. Maybe this rationalization is a way of making myself feel better for not having a spotless sink every day? Maybe. But not likely, as I know I will always get to the point where I clean them, usually with some upbeat music on the radio.

——-

I wrote this post as a reminder for you, dear reader, the same reason my friend re-posted the image on Facebook. You can look at it either as a horrible mess you don’t want to deal with or as a reminder that your family ate well and healthy the day before. Either way, you know it will eventually get clean, it always does, but maybe changing your perspective will make the task a little lighter on the “Perfect Mom/Dad/Wife/Husband/Bachelorette/Bachelor” guilt soaked section of your brain.

They may be dirty dishes to you, but they are a happy family to me.

——

And if you want to share this story but know your friends won’t read all 500 words, use this:

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Guilt be gone!

Enjoy your day.

pwc

One Year: No Gift Cards, No Gift Lists

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With Christmas just three days away and I in my normal last-minute scramble for gifts, I have decided to try something new. It seems to be working for this holiday season.

The idea is simple and was sparked by my friend Tiffany pointing me to this article from Semi-Rad.com pointing out the best gifts are not things you ask for.

The challenge is this: Spend one year buying gifts for friends and families without resorting to asking (or seeing) a gift list or ‘buying’ a gift card.

Why? Because I found out this year, so far, I can buy things for people that may not be on their list. I enjoy opening a gift and seeing something new, not something that I asked for, and I think others do to. It seems backward sometimes, to make a list and say “buy me this”. I know it helps people who aren’t familiar with my likes and dislikes, but if someone doesn’t know me well enough to pick out a gift they think I’ll like, then it’s okay to not get me anything at all. I won’t be offended.

And thus, I have purchased gifts for nieces and a nephew almost totally at random. They might already have them. They might not like them, but that’s okay. Maybe I’ll be known as the uncle who always gets crappy gifts the kids didn’t ask for. If that’s my place in family history, so be it.

I’d rather take the time to sit and think about what my family and friends would really like than to just check things off a list. It will help at birthdays because as it goes now; the birthdayee sends out a list of things they want. The other family members email each other explaining what they got. Phone calls are made when we can’t remember ‘the list’. It’s a hassle. I’d rather think about my brothers and find something that has some meaning behind it rather than something on a list. It has more meaning, I feel.

And don’t get me started on gift cards! “Here, I took some money and turned it into plastic.” I’d rather give cash. Or as I call it, “The US Gift Certificate; good at any store or drug dealer. Even accepted in some countries worldwide.” If you have no clue what to get the person, give them a card with a time and date on it. That time and date is for the two of you to go shopping (even if you don’t like shopping, because you’ll get bonus points if the person knows you don’t like shopping). If you’re going to just give the person money because you have no clue, at least use the money as as chance to spend time together.

I’m going to try this for a year and see how it goes. I have almost made it through one major holiday so I’m thinking the rest should be a breeze.

What about you? Are you up for the challenge?

Winter: Settling In For A While

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Watching the storm clouds pass while walking Langley today, I am excited to be moving back to Whidbey Island. Summer is nice, but winter storms and the drama they spread with a mix of light, wind and chill makes me feel home.

The irony is my daughter and I are moving from home, my ‘ancestral home’ as I call it. I moved in with my parents last year when the rental home Sabrina and I  were living in was foreclosed on and I had eight weeks of travel planned for a ten week period. The timing was near perfect as it would save me from not being home for two months while paying rent.

Plans to find a new rental upon my return from trouncing through Nepal, Bhutan, India and Peru were slowed by the fact that I fell in love when I returned to the States. And she happened to not live in the Seattle area, making travel necessary. I flew to meet her every other week when my daughter was not with me. Then there was the photo tour I led in India and my girlfriend flying out to Dubai to meet me for a trip together to Oman (yes, she’s 100 shades of awesome that way and more).

A trip to Jordan with Sabrina and two weeks in Alaska and and and…here it is December already. Tripit.com tells me I have been on the road for 237 days this year and that number will be over 240 come December 31st. 106,000 miles traveled somehow.

But weather and my intuition tell me it’s time to move back to Whidbey. I look forward to the Winter storms slowly giving way to Spring. I look forward to being holed up in my office, typing away and editing photos while the temperatures hover around 45F. I love winter in the Pacific Northwest and I look forward to returning to Whidbey Island next year.

Don’t Neglect Your Personal Projects

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Have you ever been busy?

I mean real busy, for months.

Or have you ever made excuses as to why you can’t spend time on a project that is, to most, frivolous and non commercial?

As someone who makes my living from photography in various means (shooting, instructing, writing, leading tours) I’m constantly having to think about my next payday. This means I often put out work that will appeal to a wide audience. Luckily, most of my interest is in an area of board likeability; landscape, scenic, travel. Happy stuff. Pretty stuff with bright colors.

I have found that posting high saturation colors, especially orange and red, tends to draw a crowd. Sunsets are a big hit looking at stats on Facebook and 500px.com. But that’s not all I shoot.

And likely it is not all you shoot either.

Do you have a particular subject matter that appeals to you but is not necessarily commercially viable material? I’m here to tell you to keep shooting that stuff. Keep at it, even if it is not popular.

That stuff feeds your soul or passion or whatever you find at the center of you when all else is quiet. It will probably never make you rich, but it will make life a little lighter and probably put a smile on your face.

Take time to shoot your personal projects. Plan it. Place it on a calendar. Give yourself 30 minutes each week to edit photos just for the fun of the photo, not because you think someone else will like it. Then post it anyway. Share it with the world if you like. Chances are someone else will find some inspiration in your ‘not popular’ images and that helps create more art. Which, I feel, makes the world a better place.

My personal projects come and go. One that has stuck with me for a while is a fascination with clouds. Mind you, I know squat about them, except the water holding part. But I like to shoot them and am enthralled with stormy days when clouds pass by, twisting and turning and lighting red and orange at sunset.

Below are images from this personal, not-so-profitable project on clouds. Please share yours in the comments section below. One picture or a hundred, it doesn’t matter.

Bomb Threat On Washington State Ferry Cathlamet, Or, How A Possible Stoner Made My Daughter Late For School

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It’s not as if the Washington Ferries run like clockwork.

They try to. And the Mukilteo-Clinton run I was waiting for happens to have the best on-time performance in the fleet.

So my curiosity was piqued when, at the normal time of seven minutes until departure, the ferry wasn’t loading. A big truck blocked my view of the boat so I thought not much of it and went back to chatting with my daughter.

At departure time we still hadn’t moved. And I could spot three police cars parked by the dock.

At seven minutes past departure time I was genuinely curious. A few more police cars were showing up and a Coast Guard rescue helicopter was now circling with its landing gear down, a sign that it wasn’t just passing by.

I snapped a few pictures of the activity.

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Washington State Patrol K-9 officer (minus his dog) walking on the ferry in Mukilteo.

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Coast Guard helicopter circling the scene.

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Workers (I’m unsure if this gentleman is with WSP or WSF as a number of officers were not in uniform) check around the boat.

And then the big bomb truck from the Washington State Patrol showed up  (as the ferries are part of the Washington State Department of Transportation, the WSP has responsibility for their security).

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And a dude or two started putting on protective gear.

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All the while passengers were asked to leave their vehicles and stand near the back of the parking area. Some huddled by the toll booths for a good point of view. The wind was blowing a winter chill around and warmth was hard to find outside of our cars.

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Meanwhile, Sabrina took her first bomb threat in stride.

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Throwing rocks in a storm retention pool.

Walking to the side of the dock, the activity on the water was pretty obvious.

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The Navy boat was just passing by but doesn’t it make things look more urgent?!? One of my friends said he saw a device, like a log standing straight out of the water with an antenna on top, float by, not bobbing with the waves as the multiple logs were, and head for the boat. Sabrina called this a UUFO (Unidentified Underwater Floating Object). We checked my friend’s breath for signs of alcohol but he seemed sober. I never saw this device but it’s cool to think the WSP or Coast Guard had a mini-sub there to check things out. Makes it more exciting.

We then heard, “Fire in the hole!” and a loud pop. I’d give it an M80 sound on the scale from Popits to Nuclear Warhead. Walking back to the bomb truck, there is now a spool of cord on the ground and more people talking.

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Oh look! News cameras! They must know something.

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Getting closer:

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Now to work my way to the front of the pack for a better view.

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It’s bomb dude with a black backpack. I’m guessing this is not his kid’s backpack even though it looks like the one Sabrina sometimes uses. He also decides to get his knife out and start cutting into the bag. This is certainly not his bag, I hope.

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Movies? Let’s take a page out of Hollywood and, “Zoom in. Rotate. Enhance.”

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Does anyone know what that is? It looks like a video game possibly. And the letters “..STROM” ?  A little help here?

Moving on, bomb dude keeps ripping apart stuff.

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And then he finds something. Shows it to his buddies (at least I like to romanticize all bomb dudes are buddies, just like in the movies).

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See the smile on his face. I think he wants to take it home.

After that, he opens and pours out a water container.

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And that’s pretty much about it. The Coast Guard heads off…

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Ferry workers reboard the boat…

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Bomb dude undresses… (just the suit, ladies)

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And puts away the bomb blowing up stuff…

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Police stand over the remains of the pack. I’m sure some of them wanted to have a smoke, there was certainly some tension going on.

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And the film crew turns to filming the boat loading.

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We then sail off to Whidbey Island, about two hours later than anticipated.

I want to thank the Washington State Patrol and Coast Guard for doing their job well today. No panic. No beatings. No glamor and glitz as if Tango & Cash had showed up. They kept the passengers and crew safe and dealt with the situation professionally.

My daughter also experienced something I hope she never has to deal with again. You know how kids like anything cool and out of the ordinary? That was her morning and she was excited to tell al the kids at school about it.

In the end, according to news reports, there was no explosive device found. That thing bomb dude showed to his buddies, on second inspection, was likely just a bong.

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I think this picture says it all.

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Looking for something pretty to look at instead? Check out yesterday’s Photo Of The Day – Immersion Panorama Of Machu Picchu

Unspoken Seating Regulations For Airport Waiting Areas

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I’ve been spending a lot of time in airports recently. And that means a lot of time waiting in airports with often little to do (mind you, I’m typing this while in an airport waiting area, but let’s ignore that fact because it doesn’t work with my narrative). So I observe. And I like to ‘study’ the way humans interact and relate to each other. By ‘study’ I mean watch and come up with theories I never have to challenge or research. Here’s one of them.

In airports in the USA with bench seats, there are predictable patterns to how people sit under certain circumstances. Failure to follow these rules results in scorn, ridicule, banishment to a dungeon or possibly just a dirty look. You see, we all know once inside the plane we will be sitting next to someone. Closely. So when we are outside of the plane, we want nothing to do with sitting next to someone (unless we know them, and even then it can be tricky if you are catching a 4am flight and are not yet awake). We have rules, unspoken rules, about where to sit. They look like this:

1 Person

With one person in a row the rule is pretty simple; they can sit where they please. Sometimes they will sit in the middle, but if they are considerate they sit on the end of the row so their bag doesn’t take up a seat. Yes, they will have a roller bag. Always. People without roller bags tend to stand. Hippies with backpacks lay on the floor. And kids never sit, at least not for more than a nanosecond. If they have a roller bag, they have a cell phone as depicted below.

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2 People

The two person configuration is not much different.

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And So On Until The Row Is ‘Full’

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Overfull

Most people are happy with the above configuration. Most consider the row full and no one else should sit there. But if a ‘newbie’ traveler comes along and actually wants to rest his feet before getting on a flight, the most often chosen spot is seat #7. This is because the open adjacent seat allows for bag storage out of the general legroom area.

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Overfull Exception

This is, of course, unless one of the passengers happens to be an attractive woman.

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Power Option

Given the Overfull scenario…

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…we now throw in a power pole, always located in the center of a row.

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In this scenario, even the most introvert, anti-social, mobile device toting geek amongst us will ask the other passengers to please move their bags so he may suck from the life giving teat.

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That is, again, of course, unless there is an attractive woman in the row. In which case most geeks will forgo power for proximity to someone who smells pretty, even if they know they have zero chance of talking to her.

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This leaves a clear space open for another geek to gain some power, nearly filling the row.

When Standing Close Is Not Okay

If we take our Full scenario above and in saunters someone who doesn’t want to sit, but instead stands close, this would be most disliked by the rightful sitters.

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No one likes to be stood close to when they are sitting, even with a one seat buffer.

When Standing Close Is Okay

However, standing close suddenly becomes socially acceptable if you are recharging something and there is not a seat available.

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I don’t know why this is. I think it is because we feel like people have to have a reason to stand close to us. Charging a phone? That’s okay. Eating a burger. Not okay.

The Troubles Couples Have

It’s time for a pop quiz because this little cartoon game just got serious. A couple enters the waiting area. The seating is as such. Where would they sit and in which configuration (woman on left or man on left)?

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I know. It’s not easy. Two seats here and two seats there. I’ll give you a moment more to think about it.

Done?

The correct configuration is:

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The reasoning is thus: The gentleman would not want his lady friend  having to sit too close to the geek, knowing that she would become uncomfortable as the geek slowly leaned closer and closer to her, lured by her natural charm, while continuing to watch X-Men 12: The Final Mutation on his phone. Thus, being a considerate gentleman, he takes the seat closest to the geek (a ‘geek block’ if you will) while allowing his lady friend (thanks to Melanie for the phrase) to avoid sitting close to people, especially geeks.

If he’s not the considerate type, the configuration would end up like this.

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He’s happy because he gets to catch up with friends on Facebook telling them how awesome his trip is going to be. She’s quite unhappy because not only is he ignoring her, having picked this set of seats so he can charge his phone rather than getting her a seat with some elbow room, she also has to sit next to the guy in seat #8 who seems a little too happy. He’s freaking me out too and I’m the one who drew him.

Beyond this, chaos reigns. More people show up and no one is happy, but we slog through it, this time we have around strangers.

The funny thing is, if we get to our destination and mosey up to the local watering hole only to find the same situation, we won’t hesitate to grab a seat next to anyone for a chance to drink a beer. I guess it all comes down to motivation.

What The Heck Is “Cross Check” Anyway?

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I’ve flown a lot over the years and one thing has bugged me. Anytime I don’t understand something, it bugs me. You might think I get bugged a lot, and that would be accurate.

It’s the flight attendants, you see. They have codes I wasn’t fully grasping so I thought I’d ask an expert. My friend and flight attendant Mary Jo Manzanares was kind enough to let me in on the secret (it’ not really a secret, but I thought you’d be more intrigued if I played it up a bit) and answer some of my pressing questions. Such as: What the heck is a cross check? What do you do to actually perform one? Where does it fit into the “get on plane, magically fly across the sky” process?

Her kind reply:

Each Flight Attendant has a door (or doors) that they are responsible for opening in the event of an emergency.  The door exits all have inflatable slides that must be engaged to work.  We call that “arming the door.”  When the door is armed, if it is opening, the slide will engage.  Remember the safety briefing?  “The doors are equipped with inflatable evacuation slides for group floatation.”  That’s what they’re talking about.
After the main cabin door is closed, but prior to push back, one of the Flight Attendants will say something like “Prepare doors for departure and cross check, please.”  What follows is a bunch of “checks” and “cross checks” announcements.  Check says “I’ve armed my door – the inflation slide is now fully operational in the event of an emergency.”
On some planes, a Flight Attendant is given a secondary door for which they are responsible.  When we say cross check complete, it means that we’ve armed out primary door (the slide is operational) and we have double checked our secondary door to make sure it is armed as well.
The entire process is a way of ensuring that all the emergency slides engaged and available for use in the event of an emergency evacuation.

There you have it. A mystery no more. At least for me. I thought this is generally what was going on and now it is good to sit back and relax while pushing back from a gate knowing the flight attendants aren’t really making jokes about me. I mean, that’s what you assumed they were doing, too, right?

Pep Talk: Look For Opportunity

words

I was an idiot.

Again.

This time I left behind all my memory cards but took my camera. Thinking the bag was properly packed, I spotted Mt. Baker very bright and shiny off the starboard side of the ferry boat while taking Sabrina to school. Walking to the aft deck I whipped out my camera and….”No Card”.  BLAST! I checked the bag (one I am testing and not fully packed) and found my hard case which can hold up to four cards. It held exactly zero. DOUBLE BLAST!

I’ve gotten better at not overreacting in the past three years. When the water goes up, I go up, or so a Zen Buddhist story goes.

My brain started working on how the heck I left ALL my cards behind. It was a simple mistake on my part because all my cards look the same and the one I thought was in the camera was really in the card reader. After noodling on how to prevent this in the future, I realized it would be a good topic for a blog post on Digital Photography School, a blog I get paid to write for. (That post should be up next week, in case you are wondering how to not be an idiot like me.)

I hammered out most of the post on the way back home on the ferry as inspiration was still high (and Mt. Baker was far gloomier under a wintery Washington sky). I did have a point and shoot camera and I used that one, which would not have captured Mt. Baker well at all, to take a photo of the “No Card” image on the back of my Canon 7D. Copy file, drag, drop, spell check, grammar check….and post to blog queue.

Some blog posts for DPS take 4-6 hours to write if I’m struggling to explain a new concept. This one took maybe an hour in total. Relatively speaking, an easy payday (mind you, I have to do a LOT more writing to make it an actual day’s pay).

I could have left the boat fuming about missing the great shot, and it was a beautiful view this morning. Instead, because I have been slowly training my brain to find opportunity in ‘bad’ situations, I have a few more pennies to put toward purchasing a new lens.

Have you had any moments when things didn’t go your way, but you were able to make them pay off (monetarily or not) in the end?

Swag Suggestions

Swag (n) – That free stuff you receive often at company events, conventions or on press trips.

My living room floor was half covered in swag, not an easy feat as my floor is fairly large (and often covered in dog hair, but that’s another story). I had recently attended a conference in beautiful British Columbia, called Travel Blog Exchange, went on a personal trip to Costa Rica then followed up with a press trip from the fine folks of the state of Colorado. All of these trips generated swag. I wish I had taken a photo of the sprawl, but I wanted badly to be able to walk through my living room again, so it is now clean.

The piles, and going through them, got me thinking about what is useful to me and what is not. I understand and appreciate companies wishing to give me something to remember them by and hoping their name will stay at the tip of my brain. I get that part. I also understand what I find useful from the point of view of a consumer, which is what I turn into when not at the convention.

To that end, I would like to make this an open suggestion to companies, tourism offices and convention organizers alike on what types of swag I find most interesting and useful. I hope none take it as a ‘You suck!” type of feedback, because it’s not. I know you want to get your message out there with a limited budget and I’d like to help make some suggestions from the ‘attendee’s’ point of view. I’m honestly not a greedy bastard, as this list might make me sound, because I truly don’t need all this stuff. But if you are going to hand things out, I hope you’ll take these notes as constructive.

Water Bottles

I have enough water bottles. But not everyone is like me. If you want me to keep your water bottle and use it, make sure it is quality. On a recent trip I received four water bottles. That’s a lot of water (or gin or beer or …). Want to know which one I left behind for housekeeping? The cheapest one. For you promotional companies out there I know money is always a subject, but quality is what will keep the bottle in my hands (assuming I have four hands). On the last trip the best bottle was a solid Nalgeen bottle from Avalanche Ranch in Colorado. The least favorite I left behind? I don’t remember the name. I know quality is spendy, but that bottle will be with me for years.

Flash Drives

Ah flash drives. They are great at replacing CDs (please, never, EVER, give me a CD….my laptop doesn’t have a slot for it) for handing over your company or locations information. I still remember a Nerds Eye View rant in the minivan on our way to the first TBEX conference about her disdain for CDs (“What the hell?!?!” was often blurted out loud). I applaud those of you switching to flash drives. My suggestion would be two fold: 1) make them cool. The recent drives from Colorado and Aspen had a wood casing with the location name on them. Perfect and identifiable. 2) Don’t make them too wide. On this same Colorado trip the other participants and I were using the extra space on the drives to share photos form the trip. The only problem was when someone brought in their drive, all fancied up in leather from a different trip, and it was so wide I couldn’t use one of the USB ports, slowing the process. It’s a little thing, I know. Keep it stylish and small. I use the drives to grab info, share info on a trip and then I will likely use the drive to send photos to a friend later. Your drive will get more use if it is simple and elegant.

Or, for the techies out there, consider putting a QR code on the back of your business card if you know the crowd is particularly mobile device savvy.

Named Stuff

Named stuff is a general category. It’s hats or bags or toothbrushes or anything else you splash with your company or location logo and name. Most of this stuff I honestly don’t like. I don’t want to be a walking billboard for your stuff unless I really like what the company does and support it. Even then, I don’t like generic logos. Today my daughter went to summer school with a lunch bag from my last trip (because I can’t find her lunchbox). It had the location’s name and then “Chamber” below it. I understand the point of view from this chamber of commerce wanting to advertise and it’s a decent bag. The problem is they missed a chance to make their location shine and instead went with a generic “(Location) Chamber” silkscreen. What would work better might be “(Location) – We keep the ski slopes cold and the hot springs hot” or some such. Something catchy that tells me about the place and is lasting in case the bag makes it into the monthly donation pile and winds up in someone else’s hands at a thrift store.

Luggage Tags

This is a new one for me and I received four this last month. I do like luggage tags and they are useful. But, again, I’m not going to advertise your company, most likely. Yet, if you make the luggage tag interestingly shaped, as one company did, and have the company name on the inside of a flap where it’s still handy, I might use it. In the case of luggage tags, Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) have it easy and here’s why.

To me, the best luggage tag would be one a bit bigger than a business card so I can place mine inside, on one side. On the reverse side is a beautiful photo of the location with just the name. Think tropical beach scene, one lone palm tree hanging over the water, and the word Hawaii in the corner. Simple and nice. Now take the same design and replace the photo with Hawaii’s (admittedly nice) logo….meh. I’ll pass.

For any CVBs out there who are thinking of something like this, find a great shot of your location and run with it. Don’t make your name the feature, make the photo the feature. People will see the photo, then your name and want to go there. Think about what you want to sell me (and others looking at my luggage on the carousel): is it your name or your images? Breaching orca whale = San Juan Islands. Delicate Arch = Utah. A stein of beer = Germany. Most US states already do it with their license plates and it looks good.

What Doesn’t Work

  • Things that aren’t reusable don’t work as well. I received a nice little tin with some M&Ms in them. 10 seconds later, I was looking for a garbage can for the cute little tin because I didn’t want to pack it home. The thought was nice, but they didn’t last long. The mints, in the same type of tin, did make it home with me and my daughter loved the tin for small stuff storage.
  • Very goofy stuff also doesn’t work well beyond the initial laugh. Here I’m thinking of goofy hats or show specific items. Funny saying on a pair of boxer briefs? I’ll get a laugh out of it and so will someone at Goodwill when they buy them (though this may work to your advantage).
  • Candy also doesn’t ‘work’ because I get a sugar buzz and forget your name when the wrapper is in the trash.
  • T-shirts….hmmm…..this can go either way. I don’t need a lot more shirts, but some people do. The only shirt I kept read “Boba Fett was a Freelancer” but it only gets worn around the house cus I’m not a shirt-with-words-on-it kinda guy.
  • Fridge magnets with just your company name on it will go in the trash. See previous note about luggage tags.

Other Things That Work

  • Quality pens
  • Post-It Note pads
  • Maps – mainly because I’m a map whore

Your Turn

I’d love to hear from those of you who receive swag. What’s worked well for you and what hasn’t? What would you like to see? (besides: Matching Ferraris) And if you’re in the PR industry, feel free to comment here asking questions about ideas you might have (or email me individually). Most of us like swag in one form or another and if this post can help create more good swag and less trash, I’d feel my typing today was worth it.

The Ebb And Flow That Facebook Stops

As I clean up my Facebook ‘friends’ list, I’m setting some mental limits for how I use the tool. The fact that I included ‘friends’ in apostrophes should be some indication of why I am doing this.

I’m doing it because, often in life, people are meant to come and go from your world, your sphere, your active memory. As a traveler, the tendency is to try to grasp on to the fun that was had for a few nights on beaches of Hawaii while making new friends. They were cool people, weren’t they? You got along so well for that short amount of time and you felt like you really connected as humans.

Back home (or even on the road with a smart phone or laptop) you instantly looked up these new friends on Facebook, Twitter and the like. A click here and a click there and now you guys are best of mates for life!

The problem I have with this approach occurred when I started realizing not everyone I came in contact with needed to be kept, stored, referenced. You can’t bottle time and you can’t make the good times always roll. Before the age of Facebook, these types of chance encounters had their own life and like everything in life, they ended. For the most part, that is the healthy way to handle those relationships. As a flash in a pan that is marveled at and enjoyed while in existence. But then moved on from when the time comes.

I am holding on to too many of these encounters and it’s clogging my life and Facebook.  There are people I have met while traveling who take some effort to keep in touch with. There is a couple I met in Australia who I really enjoyed sharing wine and karaoke with and who just this week sent an invite to come visit. ‘In the old days’ this is how it always was. You had to call or write a letter and eventually you could write an email (which, at the time, seemed a bit like Facebook does now). These all took remembering to make contact. You remembering why you liked that person enough to put in the most minimal of efforts to type an email. You thinking about that person and caring.

Facebook, while a cool tool, changes that dynamic. Now you like someone one day and add them to Facebook the next. From that point on, zero effort is needed to keep up with what is happening in the other person’s world, if they update often enough. But it’s not really connecting like a phone call or email can when distance divides you. It’s too easy and not deep enough for my liking. Case in point; I hiked for five days with about a dozen other people on the Inca Trail in 2008. Of course I friended them on Facebook upon returning to the States, where most of us reside. But recently I removed most of them from Facebook because, well, because we really didn’t have much in common and weren’t connecting.

Three, my tent-mate Jeff as well as Alice and Heather, I kept because over time Facebook has worked its magic and I’ve gotten to known them better by interacting. But the others that were on Facebook (not all on the trip were)? We were meant to meet on the trail and then go live our lives. Ironically, the only person on that trip I have seen since was Tiffany, who I visited in Australia nearly a year later and is the only one not on Facebook.

I know I can’t collect everything in the world and bring it back with me. Life is impermanent, you can’t actually posses things and all that jazz. It took me a while to see the value in applying that approach to the relationships I make while traveling. Some are meant to be cherished and fed. Others? Sometimes you’re meant to have a few too many Guinness in an Irish bar together or enjoy a kayak trip through pristine Pacific waters and then go your own ways.

Sometimes I won’t friend you on Facebook the day after I meet you.

Acme Made Camera Bag Giveaway

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It’s time to spice things up a bit. Let’s hold a giveaway!

The folks at Acme Made sent me a bag for review but it’s really not going to work with any of my cameras. For the record, Acme Made is not the company that supplies Willey E. Coyote with explosives. They, instead, make nice looking camera, iPhone and laptop bags.

So my inability to use the case is your chance to pick it up!  The bag is meant for ultra-zoom type cameras or the ones with the lens always attached. About that size. You can find specifics of the bag here on Acme Made’s site. I didn’t even noticed the lens cap pouch the first time through. Neat idea!  It’s sleek. It’s stylish. And it comes with a shoulder strap and a velcro loop in the back for attaching to a belt, pack strap or possibly a small gerbil.

The contest rules are pretty standard, with a twist. Open to USA residence only and I’ll pay the shipping. One entry per person. Only actual humans can enter. The drawing will be held on, or about, Tuesday the 24th of May, 2011. I will use Random.org to pick a winner based on the order of entry. Deadline to enter is Monday, May 23rd, 2011 at 11:00pm PDT.

To enter, do one good thing for someone else, without them asking you to do it, and then leave a comment below. The comment need not be about the good thing you did at all. And the level of goodness does not matter as it’s a random drawing. Here are a couple more photos of the bag to be won. Click any picture for a larger version.

Good luck!

 

The Semi Non-Unofficial Preparation Guide To Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) 2011 In Vancouver, Canada

It’s almost here! By almost, I mean less than two months away. TBEX. An annual (and then some) gathering of travel bloggers, marketers, PR folks and other travel industry hooligans with the sole purpose of having a number of parties. No, I mean. It’s a time to bond, to learn, to grow, to hope Gary uses the word ‘porn‘ in a presentation again. And then party.

As TBEX has grown from the initial, “What the heck are we doing here and what are we going to learn?” event in 2009 to its current status as an international destination celebration of all that is travel bloggy, so has the need to prepare. What can’t you live without at this year’s TBEX conference?

Needed at this year’s TBEX:

Passport

I know, it’s just Canada to those of us in the USA. Evidently this whole time that has meant they are their own country. And they have a flag to prove it. You need a passport to get in there now, or one of those fancy enhanced drivers license. If you’re from a country other than the USA, the need for a passport is probably already glaringly obvious to you. We’re a bit slow down here.

iPhone

Everyone else (except me) will have one and you should too. Don’t ask why. The herd will trample the weak.

International Cell Coverage

For me this is a big problem. I have the world’s oldest cell phone and I like it that way, except when it comes to travel. Because it works no where. I once got an international calling plan but found it hecka expensive. Yet, if you want to stay in touch and find parties, you might want an international calling plan. Me? I’ll be roaming the streets aimlessly looking for a likely group of people all looking at their phones checking in to foursquare.

The Handy Visitor’s Guide

WhyGo Canada, one of the event’s sponsors, has a handy First Time Visitors Guide post chalk full of useful info for you YVR newbs.

A Camera

No wait, don’t bring a camera. There will be 10,000 other cameras there (everyone has two, by law) and the amount of flashes going off at any given party is enough to put a Judas Priest concert to shame. You’ll be in enough other people’s photos. And you brought an iPhone, so you don’t need another camera.

Map Of Vancouver

You’re going to get lost. Get a map. Here’s the Vancouver Tourism’s page to suit your needs. Those are handy PDF versions to download into your iPhone.

Business Cards

And plenty of them. It looks like there will be 600ish attendees. You might not meet them all, but it’s best to be prepared. I also have a personal quest for this TBEX. My daughter is in the ‘collecting things’ phase of her life and she is making a collage on a huge piece of paper of various business cards. Being the Loving Dad that I am, I plan on grabbing as many of your cards as I can while at TBEX. So bring different versions, too. Order them now!

Something To Share

TBEX is about meeting other travelers and it’s also about sharing experiences. You will find a number of people who have not only been where you’ve been, but also who want to go where you’ve been. Come prepared to share something insightful about where you’ve traveled, something other than a “10 Must See…” list.

A Place To Stay

If you haven’t booked a place to stay yet, it might be a good idea to get that ironed out. Vancouver Tourism has a handy list of hotels offering discounted rates for TBEX media folks. I’m beginning to think Vancouver Tourism likes us. There’s also room at a hip hostel a few (15) blocks from the convention center, but located along a bus line. Or ask Anny Chih if her couch is available.

Good Overview Of What To Expect

BootsnAll, a TBEX sponsor and very nice people to boot (har!), has put together a well researched and thoughtful post than this on what TBEX is about, how to make the most of your time, etc… Check it out here.

Ukulele

Pam will want to jam with you.

A Link To The Actual TBEX Event Page

Here it is.

A Spare Liver

And some aspirin.

Not needed at this year’s TBEX:

ID – You can drink when you are old enough to hold a can in Canada.

An Attitude – I’m not going to take you seriously, so just be yourself. And give me a business card for my contact-hoarding daughter.

Fancy Shoes – They hurt your feet every time you wear them, don’t they? It’s Canada, wear shorts and a pair of flip flops.

iPhone Charger – Do you know how many other people won’t have forgotten theirs? Plus it’s a way to break the ice at parties. “Hi, I need an iPhone charging cable,” is always a welcome introduction. Even if the Queen shows up (although she uses a Droid, so don’t ask).

Powder Blue TuxedoIt’s been done. Try to top it, but don’t try to imitate it.

I look forward to seeing each and every one of you at TBEX. Come up, say, “Hi” and then promptly hand over five different versions of your business card to appease my daughter quest for calling card world domination.

Where Money Comes From Around The World

Bermuda

I’m an American and as such, I know where my money comes from. For one thing, I hear about the US Mint and the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing printing more of it often and I even got a chance to see the outside of the branch in Philadelphia at one point (pictured here, but we showed up too late for a tour). For added humor the US Engraving website is, I kid you not, http://www.moneyfactory.gov/. Accurate.

I have collected money from my various trips and love sharing it with my daughter as everyone’s money, it seems, it way cooler than ours. Sure, the USBEP has been spicing things up a bit, but to a 9 year old, Kenya’s shillings have way more color and much cooler animals on the back. Where do other country’s money come from?  I started looking around and found some interesting info. (all photos pilfered from the government run websites linked to in each section) I simply went to the large National Geographic world map outside my office and started pondering where it all gets made.

The Royal Canadian Mint or Monnaie Royale Canadienne

This first one is not too unlike the US Mint. Heck the names are even the same. But they have colored coins for the Royal Wedding. I’m not in need of royalty, but colored coins would be cool.

Hong Kong Note Printing Limited

Note printing in Hong Kong is run by a private company and three banks are allowed to issue notes? So the notes from the three banks are all a bit different and the company has on its board members of “the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), China Banknote Printing & Minting Corporation and the 3 note-issuing banks.”? A bit confusing but still the money looks pretty.

Bermuda Monetary Authority

Again, some pretty money and not only that, the Monetary Authority has released a shipwreck series of proof coins! While I’m not a fan of shipwrecks (especially that of Adventurous Kate’s) they obviously have had enough to print proof coins for two years. And if you want to see the coins on exhibit just wander on over to BMA House, 43 Victoria Street, Hamilton. This Exhibit is open from 9am – 4:00pm daily (Monday – Friday).

Kremnica mint

A mint with a long history. Just check out the Wikipedia article on it. And it is one of the oldest running mints in the world, started in 1328. Today it mints coins for up to 25 countries.

THE CENTRAL BANK OF TURKMENISTAN

Not speaking the language, I just want to note that the Central Bank of Turkmenistan not only controls all of the country’s monies, but it also still uses frames on its website.

Central Bank Of Peru

In searching for Peru’s main printing or minting facilities/authority I went for to their central bank’s website. And how handy it is! Right here, on the main page, they show you inflation numbers and bank rates. Handy! That’s how.

Qatar Central Bank

Interesting. I go to the Qartar Central Bank’s website, the English version, and click on the little snippet at top that say “Banknotes” expecting to be delivered to a website showing very fancy money with pictures of probably dead leaders or scenes from the country. Or both. What I get instead is an box asking me for a user name and password. Huh? I try my standard username and password combo: Martin Bishop and “Too Many Secrets”.  No good. Come back 5 minutes later and it’s working. Suspicious. I think they are on to me. Interesting note under this note (below) “The value numeral and 3 vertical bars appear on the left hand side of banknote, to help the partially sighted recognise the note.”

And thus ends my lighthearted romp through a few different world banks, their notes and mints. Do you have any interesting tidbits you have collected on your journeys?

 

The Odd Things We Bring Back From Our Travels

_MG_6256I’m cleaning up around the house today (surprise!) and I came across the item pictured at right.  It’s a roll of toilet paper brought back from Nepal.  Why did I feel it oh so important to bring back a whole roll, still in its protective wrap?  I’m not sure.  I’m used to carrying a small roll with me while trekking or in highly polluted areas to help clear my nose, but why on Earth did I pack a whole roll in my checked baggage (baggage that was overweight, thanks in part to this nefarious roll of toilet paper)?

We all bring back mementos from our travels in one way or another.  Some are memories, but a lot of us bring back stuff.  The good stuff.  A feather here, a rock there or something bigger.  But what about stuff you never meant to bring back.  Have you opened up your bag when you arrived home and thought, “Why the hell did I bring this all the way home?”  If so, share your story in the comment section below.  The best response will get my roll of brand new Nepali toilet paper.

Fun With Fonts – Your Opinion Desired!

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It comes up from time to time.  ‘It’ is someone complaining that I use Papyrus for a font on watermarks.  And it’s usually visceral and out of place.  I actually had an email conversation with someone once who commented on my use of the font and as is often the case, people are more sane when you call them on their blog comments.

In my discussion of the use of Papyrus was the thought that it’s over used and people know you suck if you use it. It was put more politely than that by the other person involved, but that is the general sentiment amongst the font geeks; people who are really into fonts.  Sometimes too much.  I tried pointing out that a lot of people, most, I guessed, just don’t care.  It’s like complaining about someone in the classic car circles using a certain type of hubcap that you just KNOW is not original and used by Ford for their 1990s Aero Vans.  Really, the populace doesn’t care about minutia like that, or so I believe.  And that is what this blog post is about.  More or less.  And maybe I’m wrong, which is why I experiment and listen.

Take a look at these two images, please.

What I would appreciate is your opinion.  In the comments section below please let me know:

  1. Are you a font geek (it’s really ok if you are, we all have something we’re geeky about)?
  2. Do you know the name of both fonts?
  3. Does it matter to you which font is used?
    1. If yes – Which do you like more, the top or bottom?

This is totally non-scientific blah blah blah.  It’s on my blog, of course this isn’t hard science.  I’m really most curious if most of you out there who view my images really, really care about which font is on the images for a watermark.

UPDATE 2-26-2011

I have listened to your comments and the voices in my head and have decided to go more simple and put it in the corner.  I also bought a box of Girl Scout Cookies but that was more for the voices in my head.  It now looks like this.

My Crazy Idea To Ditch My Cell Phone And Why You Would Hate To Do The Same

I come up with crazy ideas.  Here’s another one: Ditch My Cell Phone.

Why?  $397/year is why.

I’ve been thinking of this idea for a while and even tried out Skype wifi phones back 4 years ago.  I sold it last year for $8 on eBay as it was broken for no apparent reason.  That was then.

Now there are iPhones and Droids and more!  Oh boy!  So many selections and stuff works better.

So here’s my plan and why:

Current cell phone plan (300min, 400txt): $34.98/mo

Actual cell phone bill: $41.27/mo with taxes

Annual cell phone cost if I never went over on minutes or text: $495.24

Actual 2010 cell phone charges: $707.89

My thought is to use Skype on an iPhone, iPod Touch or Android phone, but only in wifi mode.  I checked out Verizon’s packages and 2GB of data a month is $20 (before taxes).  This is compelling and I still might consider it.  But I honestly think I can get away with only using my phone when I am near a wifi hotspot.  If this is the case, I can get a Skype annual Unlimited US/Canada (North US) calling plan, which includes cell phones and landlines, for $3/mo.  On top of that I already have a number for Skype and that is $60 paid annually, so $5/mo.  $8/mo total.

I do need to buy or steal some kind of iPhone/iPod/Android.  My current thinking is to get a new iPod Touch which has the dual cameras and bells and whistles.  And you can use Skype on it.  I have feedback from about 5 people saying they use that setup or an iPhone and it works well.  There were a couple of people saying be cautious and my plan is to give it a whirl before ditching T-Mobile (who I’m on hold with right now so this feels all dirty…they don’t know I’m thinking of leaving…sigh).

I’ve been asked, “What the heck are you thinking?!” when I mention dropping my cell phone.  I do love the convenience.  I’m thinking that I can get by with not being 100% reachable 100% of the time (which isn’t true because I plan to be out of the country for about 9 weeks this year and my cell phone doesn’t work internationally).  I’m thinking voicemail does work and I rarely, if ever, is a call super urgent.  Yes, I do think back to the days before cell phones and wonder “how we ever survived” but the fact is we did survive, and life really was ok.  There are certain times when a cell phone is vital, I just don’t think it happens (knock on wood) enough for me to pay $700/year.

Doing the math: $8/mo x 12 = $96/year + phone purchase first year (max of $250 including taxes) = $350 for year one and $100 after.

What inspired this idea was being off social media, interactively, for five days.  I learned things weren’t nearly as urgent I made them out to be.  The number of people who contacted me via old fashioned phone or email was minor and easy to attend to by checking a few times a day.  I was left wondering if the seeming need for constant contact via a cell phone is just all in my head and if life is ok without it.  I’ll still have a phone number and when my phone is near a wifi hotspot, including home and quite a few airports like Sea-Tac, I’ll be instantly reachable.  And I do spend a lot of time at home, believe it or not.

I doubt this idea will work for everyone.  It takes being ok without instant communication when you want it and most aren’t ready to cut that wireless cord.  Or something.  I’m guessing you’re still scoffing at this post.  Bristling even.

I would love to hear your input one way or the other.  Have you ditched your cell phone for another form of communication?  Do you nearly faint at the thought of losing your phone?  Drop me a line in the comments section below.  Or just give me a call while I still have a phone (but make it quick, I’m nearly over on minutes again!).

Create A Gratitude List

GRATITUDE

I’m taking a break from the interactive side of social media for a week.  It’s nothing drastic and I’m not trying to prove anything.  I just need a break from the non-stop barrage of input, which I’m hoping will help my output.  As this is my second blog post in a day, maybe it’s helping.

In the calm that is the quiet of my house when my daughter is not here I have had time to ponder many things while not staring at a screen non-stop.  Previously when I’ve given myself a break from distractions I have come up with lists.  Lots of list.  Goals, mostly.  Things I want to do and achieve.  Ideas that pop into my mind when I give them the space away from the computer and all distractions.  This time around my mind went backwards.  Not backwards in the sense of the wrong direction, backwards in time.

Instead of making a list of where I want to go, I started a simple list to remind me of what I’m grateful for.  At first I thought the task would be daunting.  I mean, I do have a lot to be grateful for in this life and I know it.  How can I get that all down?  The answer is simple; with this.  It’s a tool anyone with a computer can use and I’ve found it very handy.  I leave it open on my computer as a tab and can pop in items as they pop into my head.  Easy, quick, simple.  And in a week, maybe the page is filled.  Maybe more than one page is filled.  Who knows.

I do know it’s helped capture the important parts of my life I am grateful for.  Give it a whirl.  It takes a second to download and 5 seconds to start using.  It’s that easy.  Heck, you can even print it out and fill in the blanks if you want to get all old fashioned with a pen and such.  In no time you too will be giving yourself a document to help you remember what’s most important in life, what’s worth remembering and being thankful for.  Here again is the link.

January28th Is International No Emoticon Day

no-emoticons

Let it be known throughout the land that January 28th is International No Emoticon Day!

Why no emoticons for just one day?  Because the poor buggers are being over used, over worked and over used!  They’re tired and they want a break. They told me this in the shower this morning when this brilliant idea popped into my head.  It all harkens  back to my childhood.  One day, when I was five or six, my Grandma came over to bake cookies with me.  She was a kind, loving soul and what she said that day has stuck with me.  She said:

“Peter, don’t use emoticons.”

That’s what she said.  She then giggled a sly, unassuming giggle as she placed a tray full of cutout reindeer into the oven.  And it stuck with me for four reasons:

  1. What the heck is an emoticon?
  2. How did my Grandma know about them in the 1970s?
  3. Why did Grandma claim she didn’t hear the buzzer then always take the burnt cookies out of the oven with a smile on her face?
  4. Whatever, ASCII art rulz!!

Yes, Grandma’s lesson was lost on me at the time.  Even though my Commodore 64 was perfectly capable of :) and :-/, I lived in a whole other world (it was called the woods, we had them around our house at the time and you played IN them).

But now, my heart is moved by those stern words (and an odd fear of cookie cutters).  Don’t use emoticons.

So be it!  Will you rise to the challenge?  It’s just one day.  One day to try to express how you’re feeling in words instead of cute little pictures.  One day to give your : key, which was happy being the least used key on the keyboard until 10 years ago, a break.  Stand with me, or by my, or somewhat close the area code I live in, for on January 28th, from now until, well, next year when I forget it’s already January 28th and we change the date….where was I?

FREEDOM!!!!  (from :( and :~P)

If you need a more concrete reason to learn how to communicate without emoticons, consider this plausible real life scenario:  You turn the corner and are face to face with Bigfoot.  You want to express your utter shock and dislike for the current situation to him, but he doesn’t understand emoticons no matter how fast you type on your iPhone.  He only understands the laws of the forest and the mountains (maybe he’s a yeti in your version).  No Sasquatch or Yeti will enjoy being told :0.  He’ll likely rip you to pieces.  All because you forgot how to use your words to express strong emotions.

Don’t be dismembered by a Sasquatch.  Use your words.

Just for one day?

Twilight In The Mountains

There’s a time of day that is the same for me no mater where on the planet I may be. Correction, there is a time and place. The place is very important, yet it’s doesn’t matter where I am.

Twilight in the mountains.

The trail down from the Coleman Glacier on Mount Baker is becoming less obvious. The actual time of sunset is hard to pin down, as the sun dips behind a shoulder of the mountain hours before it passes the distant horizon. Exact timing is not important tonight. What is important is that I forgot my headlamp. And that’s a fortunate mistake.

I can still make out the major roots and ankle turning stones. I’m not yet to that point where I need to open my eyes wide, but it’s closing in. In my haste I almost fail to notice a very subtle deja vu. I haven’t felt like I’ve been here before (although I have been on this trail a number of times). Instead, the familiar feeling comes from the calm before night.

I stop for a moment to let it sink in. It’s that time before dark but after sundown. It’s that time when the bird are hurriedly finding their way back to nests. If I were in camp, a fire would be started about now as the chill of night finds its way through layers of clothes. It’s a calm transition, a time before and after all mixed into one. And it’s timeless in its beauty.

I have witnessed this time of day on six continents and many islands of this world. Dark from the East scratches at the coat tail of Light racing to the West. Neither stands over me, but instead it’s as if a portal lay over the land for a few fleeting minutes. That portal takes me back to other times I have been outdoors when the chase takes place. In childhood it was that moment when we couldn’t make out the football any more and risked getting clobbered in the head. It was the moment right before the streetlights flashed to life. They always gave a warning buzz as the ballast for the sodium vapor stored and amplified its charge before purging the portal and forced us into evening.

That portal extended over my first real hike in August of 1990, when Liz, Jason and I hurried down the hill from Talapus Lake, also without flashlights, before both of my friends headed off to college in different states.

It was in that portal that I watched my first in-the-wild black bear pace the opposite shore of a river in Olympic National Park as my friend Kristi asked if we should think about heading home in the advancing dark. I remember crawling under a blanket as I began to sleep alone, without a tent or fire, on the shores of Pratt Lake, wishing that the portal would pass so it would be dark and I could justify wanting sleep. 10,000′ up Mt. Rainier, the mountain and my goal still barely visible, anything seeming possible. The time walking, with a blanket over one shoulder and my arm around the one I loved, as we strolled along a deserted beach with a plan to make love just above the surf while watching the stars fill the sky. Or sitting along Ashland Lake with my daughter, just the two of us and a few dozen excited mosquitoes, and listening to the still before night overtook the forest and it came to life again. This summer with Jodi at the summit of South Sister in a make shift campsite and the roar of the camp stove silenced at last so we could watch gathering storms to the south electrify the atmosphere.

And heading back to the car, three miles away, on the side of my beloved Mt. Baker.

All these places different but all connected by that one special time of day.

Twilight in the mountains.

Don’t Forget The Soap!

Previously I posted my thoughts on extending your holiday by removing soap and shampoo and other toiletries from hotels.  Sure, it’s fine.  The current reasoning is they want you to take it and can’t reuse it, so you might as well bring it back.  Shampoo, conditioner….those things are easy.  But what about that slimy bar of soap.  Worry no more!!!   Step by step, (all two of them) I’ll show you how to bring back that zesty bar of soap to have and treasure at home, for always and always and always until one of the two of you turns into little pieces and falls down the drain.


Watch more travel videos at tripfilms.com

Introducing The (Not So) Underground Seattle Travel Writing Mafia

Some of us write for newspapers. Some write for magazines. Others pen guidebooks or ghost write.  Almost all of us have a blog of some sort or write for one. All of us love the Puget Sound and Seattle.  All of us call this area home.  All of us have a passion for writing and travel.  Some of us are really into gelato too, but that’s beside the point.

Then one day when this lady met this fellow, and they know it was much more than a hunch. That this group would somehow form a Mafia. That’s the way we all became the Seattle Travel Writing Mafia.  And what a fun loving bunch of hoodlums it is.  I’ve only been hanging with the group for about a year and a half , but I’ve been very pleased with how the community….errr…..crap, no, I mean, Family, is a fun place to be.  Without actually being a place, because it’s the people.  Just like Rush would not be a band if it were not for the people.  It’d just be a bunch of expensive instruments laying about on stage.  We’re just like Rush.  I call dibs on being Neal Peart! And we’re going to have a LOT of backing vocals.

One of the things I’ve liked best about the Mafia is how open we are to visiting dignitaries from the writing world.  Any time someone mentions coming to town, the battle cry is raised and we find a bar or coffee shop at which to gather.  Some place with wifi, probably.  And treat our guest as one of our own.  I like that about this Mafia.

Now then, if you’re coming to town, I thought I’d put together an unofficial register of the Mafia to make life easier for you.  This list is not complete, it never will be.  I’m only starting of with a few people I know who are in the Mafia (we have no formal Don so we can never be taken down) and are open to receiving visitors to Seattle.  Email me if I left you off the list, it’s not intentional, I’m just trying to get to the ferry before the line becomes too long.

The (Not So) Underground Seattle Travel Writing Mafia

(in no particular order)

If you’re traveling to Seattle, look up one of us and ask us to show you around.  Some of will be nice, some will be mean. It’s like sitting next to someone on the bus, without the stench.

An Open Letter To PR Folks: Include More Photographers

Serengeti Savannah Impact.  As a PR professional, that’s what you are looking for when selecting people to come along on your press trips.  Impact.  Otherwise, why have anyone there?  I’m guessing you look for writers who can convey your company’s story, or that of your client, in a compelling way.  To weed out the levels of good and slightly better and even better…..it takes a long time.  Who’s going to convey the look and feel of location X or hotel Y best?

It’s a daunting task.  As the PR juggernaut keeps catching this crazy social network vibe and figuring out how to get more bang for their press trip buck, I want to point out an often overlooked asset: photographers.

Everyone likes their press trip attendees to spread the word any way they can.  Most who are invited bring along small point and shoot digital cameras and some bring decent DSLRs (those bigger clunky ones with interchangeable lenses).  The photos that are shot typically end up on Flickr, Twitter, Facebook…you know the routine.  This is, for the most part, a bonus to the anticipated word based tweeting, article writing and blog posts.

Why not turn those bonuses into more of an asset?  It’s all about impact.

Take a look at the photo with this post.  I’m a professional photographer and I also get paid to write.  What this one photo says about the Serengeti National Park is, indeed, worth a thousand of my words.  Not only that, in today’s short attention span society, it locks you in and makes you want to learn more about where it was taken.

I’ve been on press trips in the past where my quick photo posts, made easy with today’s technology (as long as there’s wifi!), get far more attention than a 140 character tweet.  Imagine your client is Serengeti National Park.  Now, imagine the photo above being tweeted with the text, “The sun’s starting to set here on the Serengeti and I hear lions in the distance. The savannah is amazing!” Which has more impact; those words alone or with the photo?  Which do you think will be shared more readily?

You don’t need to bring a professional photographer, just someone who really loves photography and is damn good at it.  You also need someone who knows the social side and can get the word out (as you want writers to do).  Ideally a photographer who also writes well.

The main discussion point with this post is in regards to photo rights and I understand it can be a gray area.  What’s important in bringing along a photographer is making clear before the trip who owns what.  From a PR perspective it’s as simple as stating, “You retain the copyright to your images and we (or your client) will not use them in any promotional way without your consent”.  Actually, that statement is overly simplified, but cuts to the quick.  It’s very important to make things clear up front who has rights to the photos and from my perspective, the photographer should retain copyright.  It is up to them to then negotiate with the hotel, tourist bureau, etc… that sponsored the trip if any images may be used in further promotion (website, brochure, etc…).  But others may have differing ideas and I suggest you use the comments section below to voice them.

I see the benefits working both ways: Your PR company or client gets better photos of their property/locale presented through social media.  Much, much better photos in most cases.  You will also often have access, on a per item basis, to work with the photographer to fill other promotional needs.  This is after the photos are taken with no additional risk to the client other than would have been allotted in filling the photographer’s spot with a writer.  And ideally you would be able to find a photographer with decent writing skills to fill both roles.  The photographer receives the normal benefits of access to a new location for their own portfolio building and possible revenue.

Impact.  Consider letting a photographer help deliver it in spades on your next press trip.

How To Transform Your Bootsnall Moleskine Into The Best Travel Journaling Device Ever

Let’s say you went to Travel Blog Exchange 2010 and got one of the fancy Bootsnall Moleskine notebooks.  They are red, they are fancy, and they look like this:

 BootsnAll-Moleskine

And if you weren’t at TBEX’10, you can still get a Moleskine on BootsnAll’s Facebook page.  It’s really simple, just leave a comment for a chance to win.  No signing up, no clicking this and that.  Just leave a comment.

After receiving my special edition BootsnAll Moleskine, I was faced with a conundrum; Where does the pen go?  You see, I don’t normally carry a pen with me and I have no manpurse.   Most pens are too large for my pockets (which aren’t very deep).  How can I get the most out of this handy notebook?  Enter, the Space Pen Stowaway by Fisher.

SpacePen

It’s small, it’s handy and with the aid of a rubber band (or in my case, a hairtie I stole from my daughter) check out what you can create:

Just-A-Hairtie

SpacePen-In-BootsnAll-Moleskine

BootsnAll-Moleskine-With-Hairtie

Moleskine-On-End

Finished-Ultimate-BootsnAll-Moleskine-Journal

 

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen.  The new and improved Complete BootsnAll Moleskine Travel Journal Device (CBMTJD).  If you look close, you’ll also notice the last picture is brighter than the first picture, just proving the fact that this simple change improves the look and feel of the notebook instantly.

Need your own raw materials to make a CBMTJD?

If you’ve found another way to improve on the BootsnAll Moleskine, post up a link in the comments section.  The raddest upgrade wins a high-five from me.

Win An Organic Makalu Wear Trekking T-Shirt

Makalu-Sara Here’s your chance to win a fine, fine organic shirt from MakaluWear. You see, MakaluWear is run by a couple of folks from Nepal (Makalu is one of the 8000m+ mountains in the Himalayas, East of Everest) and I stumbled on their shirts one day while searching the grand internet.  I then came to find out they donate a portion of t-shirt sales to Room to Read, a non-profit I had been involved with in the past to help get a school built in Nepal.  I liked the idea of organic shirts, something relating to Nepal, that the company was run by a team building the company from scratch and that they gave back to the community in which the lived.

Since then I’ve had a chance to meet one of the owners when I was in Kathmandu and get to know them both a bit better.  They are people I’d gladly go climbing with and I still whole heartedly support their endeavors.  And that’s why I’m giving away this shirt!

First, the prize: 1 (one)(uno)(ett)(ek) MakaluWear “Supporting Expeditions Since The 1920s” shirt in blue.  Sara, of Rock Climber Girl fame, was nice enough to model the pink version as pictured at right.

Second, how to enter: simply leave a comment in this post.  I’ll then use one of them fancy random number picker things to pick a winner at random.  You don’t have to ‘like’ anything on Facebook (although they do have a page), follow them on Twitter (got that too) or any of that tricky stuff.  Just leave a comment telling me what you like about the color blue.  Or what you like about organic stuff. Or climbing. Or daises. Anything that’s not vulgar cus I have a big old delete button for that type of stuff.

Your comment must be posted by 11:59pm Pacific Time on June 30th, 2010.  I’ll pick the winner the next day.  Special note: I’m only willing to ship the shirt in the US and Canada.  Sorry.

You are, of course, encouraged to visit MakaluWear’s website, especially if you want to see what the blue version looks like.  And if you want to decrease your chances of winning but increase the amount of friends who find out about MakaluWear, please feel free to tweet this post or share it on Facebook with these buttons.

That’s all there is to it!

For Sale – Dagger Atlantis Sea Kayak

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SOLD

When it sits in the garage for two years, it’s time for the kayak to go to a good home.  Hopefully someone who really, really wants to get out on the water a lot this summer (pretend the sun’s coming out any day now).

This Dagger Atlantis 17′ Sea Kayak also comes with spray skirt and paddle.  The seat has the standard Dagger semi-padded cover (really, you’ll want a new one for longer trips).  The rudder is integrated into the stern for a slipstream configuration, ensuring less drag and chance to be damaged than the standard flip down rudder.  The rudder peddles are adjustable and there is a handy locking mechanism if you don’t want to use it.  Both hatches seal well and have ample storage for an extended trip.  Carry handles front and rear as well as deck rigging come standard.

If you have any questions about this kayak and want to take a look, it is located on Whidbey Island (you could paddle home!!) and I (Peter) can be reached at 206-973-8309 or peter@thecareyadventures.com.  Asking $700 for the kayak, paddle and skirt.  Ohhh!!  And the air horn, I’ll throw in an air horn!

Some more pictures (click each picture for a larger image. Please ignore any of the weeds you see in the photos)

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Introducing Peter West Carey Photography

Peter West Carey Photography

I’m getting into the simplifying phase of the day/year/life before I head off to Nepal for a month and to that end, I’m making my online photography presence easier on me, and hopefully you.  Hidden Creek Photography is going away.  It’s time.  For one thing, I don’t live on Hidden Creek Way any more.  And it was getting darn confusing having two sites for just about the same thing.

Therefore, I’m combining the two hopefully seamlessly.  All the old links for HCP will still work.  But from this point forward, you can access my world of photography, including price lists for wedding shoots, at http://peterwestcarey.com .  All the pictures from HCP are there and you know more will be added after my trip to Nepal tomorrow.

Thanks!

pwc

Sharing The Nepal Adventure And Gear Arrives

I’m heading to Nepal in two days.  EEEkkkk!   I’m only halfway packed and then I get packages with more stuff. In this case it’s good stuff I want.  One is a hoody (picture here) from Makalu Wear which will serve me wear on the cold Khumbu nights.

IMG_0015 (1000 x 750)

Don’t ask about the blow torch, it’s not going.

The hammock was a last minute idea.  I had been following Seth and his company, Trek Light Gear, on Twitter for a while when the idea hit me last week, “I wonder if one of those would be useful in Nepal?”  I’m still unsure as to the use when there will be not many things to tie to, but I get crazy ideas once in a while.  In this case, I noticed Seth had a number of fans take photos of his gear in use and then post them to his Facebook fan page.  I thought he might like a photo of one some 17,000′ up in the valleys of Nepal, so I sent him a DM asking if he could send a demo and I’d send it back after taking said photos in country.  I know he can’t do it for every loon who emails him, but low and behold, the hammock showed up today!  So in the pack it goes and I’ll be sure to get some product ‘in action’ shots.  It’d be awesome if I could use it as something of a portaledge to belay from while rock climbing.

Oh!  And if you care to follow along on the adventure using a SPOT device on this handy website:

Nepal Trekking and Climb Of 20,295′ Kyajo Ri


Share your Adventures with SpotAdventures

This is what the map looks like currently.  Starting on Wednesday little spots will start showing up from the journey.  The big action starts on April 28th as we fly to Lukla and start the trek.  Before then it’ll be a bunch of Kathmandu stuff.

I’m super dope excited and need to get all this stuff into a couple of duffle bags.  Along with my gear I’m also delivering a cowboy hat, camera, video recorded messages and 35lbs of shoes for Sherpa friends in the Himalayas. 

Man, I’m so jacked to get on that plane….

I Forgot What I Was Going To Say

No really, I forgot what this blog post was going to say.  I started my blog writer and then walked away from the computer.  Only to return to a blank slate and a blank mind.

Maybe I was going to write some grand Year In Review post as is the rage at this time of year.  But I think I’ll save that for January 2nd when the year to that point (otherwise known as January 1st) will be MUCH easier.  It has been an amazing year and my head spins to think of how utterly distant 2008 is to me.

I’ve learned to let go of a lot I have no control over.  I’ve learned to not judge things, events, people so quickly to being good or bad.  It seems those tales I read my daughter over and over finally got into my head.  A big pile of cement was placed on top last night with the reading of Fatima The Spinner And The Tent, a story once again pointing out you can never really know where you’re going, but it’s best to do your best each step of the way.  For one day, you will need all you have learned if you’ve taken the time to learn it.  Or something like that.  In essence, not seeing your lot in life as intrinsically good or bad because you never know what’s around the next bend.  Be happy, enjoy what you have.  That kinda stuff.

A year ago, I had a really hard time with that.  I wanted something that will never be and my anger at not being where I wanted in life was clouding all of my life.  One of those self fulfilling things.  If all you see is gloom, chances are you’ll get more gloom.  If what you really want is to see the sun, chances are the gloom doesn’t look so bad.  And nothing ever stays the same anyway.  Focus on what you desire and whether you buy into all the hippy-dippy intentions, manifesting, chanting to the moon stuff or not, it’s a decent way to live.  Some call it setting goals and in my personal life I’ve seen it work fairly well to keep those goals in front of me as a reminder of where I want to go, whether I make it there or not. 

The trick is to also be open to all the other stuff going on in your life while focusing on those goals.  Focus need not mean tunnel vision.  It’s key in life to ask for help when needed and be willing to accept it, even if you didn’t ask.   I know a lot more people today than I did a year ago because of asking for help, learning from others and being open.  I am very thankful for those from my past who are still with me, the long time friends, some of them since before elementarily school.  And I am very thankful for those new friends who have popped into my life this last year and made it an amazing ride.

Unlike some reaching midlife (no, I’m not even close yet, I plan to live healthily to 100) and dealing with a major life changing event, I ran for a bit.  But not far.  I have a daughter which helps temper my past inklings to get jacked up on adrenaline.  And I didn’t run far.  Ok, Australia was far.  But that, honestly, was running to something.  It is a place I always wanted to visit and curiosity, and cheap airfare, got me pointed in that direction.  I tend to seek adventure by nature and maybe that is all just running away.  But I doubt it, I’ve grown more reasonable and responsible by having someone in my life to care for.  She’s still forefront in my thoughts.  She is someone I could never run from and will always be my call, bringing me home time and again.

Maybe I was going to write about all the new friends I’ve made?  I doubt it, because my fear of leaving someone out and hurting feelings is holding me back from that.  It’s one hell of a list containing some new groups: writers (bloggers in disguise), bloggers (writers in disguise), travelers, climbers (this group had become so small from my lack of climbing in the past decade, that it feels like starting over).  And additions to old groups.  I don’t count my blessings by the quantity alone, but by the quality.  This may sound odd, but I don’t always make friends so easily and it’s been one thing I’ve worked on this last year.  Just meeting people and making friends for the sake of friendship, connectedness.  I had no magical goal in mind for his and honestly didn’t think about it much until February of 2009.  It’s best not to set goals with friends except maybe to value and cherish them.

Or maybe I was going to write about all the fun trips: Utah visiting old, grand friends, Mexico to brave a tropical storm with more friends, Oregon offroading (and the smashed window of the truck), The TBEX Roadtrip to Chicago, Pennsylvania for a day or two to say goodbye, Australia to say hello to strangers who became friends, San Francisco for some good IT work and music, British Columbia to experience an RV in small places (with a big interior), Cape Disappointment which is named all wrong when the sun is out and you’re yurting it, Ocean Shores for more comfort from friends than I thought possible and much needed healing to begin, Hawaii for pure adventure and fun (more posts from there in the new year!) and then home.  I’m sure I left a trip or two out, the beginning of the year is blurry.

But that all sounds braggadocios, doesn’t it?  It’s hard to express thanks for a wonderful life and not sound that way.  Sure, not everything has gone how I would have liked it to this last year.  A change in martial status (as a friend of mine so gently put it) which seemed inevitable at the beginning on of the year, eventually came true.  But it’s never the end, I’ve found out.  I actually already knew that and would readily tell friends when dealing with hardship, but having lived it for a while, I’m glad to know I wasn’t lying to them.  Even with that big life change which some consider earth shattering, life continues and it is indeed what you make of it.

I doubt all but my parents are reading this far which means it’s time to cut it. 

Thank you to all the old friends who have remained in my life and helped me out this last year.

Thank you to the new friends who I didn’t even know existed at this time last year. 

Take good care of yourself

pwc

Trial of Voice Recognition Software For Blogging

NOTE: The below text was inputted using Dragon Naturally Speak 10 software.  I did not edit the post except for putting this note at the top mentioning that I did not edit the post.  And adding in the links to the product and ProBlogger.  I know the program can do that, but this is a quick, out of the box use as in…..I didn’t read the instructions.  Enjoy!!  Kinda.

 

Sometimes I can be a bit impulsive, I admit it. Take for instance this blog post. I am writing or rather dictating the whole thing using speech recognition software. I just got the box today from Amazon and was rather excited and generated start right up. I’m going to leave this post as is with no edits to show the accuracy that can be achieved with simple out-of-the-box first run no training was recognition software.

But first people interest about was recognition software was supposed to Pro blogger. That should read a post on Pro blogger. As you can see sometimes I’m having problems with this program but all in all quite honestly it’s a lot more accurate than programs I’ve used in the. And to give the program some credit I’m running this on a fairly old machine, like four or five years old.

At first it’s a bit daunting and sitting here in my office staring at a computer and an expected to just hold a comfort station. A HHHHH, that should be a conversation not a comfort station. He could see how this can get rather humorous very quickly. Imagine a guy with one of those headsets like I’m working in a call center in trying to think of what to say any meaningful way. Because he is going to take my brain sometime to learn a different way of doing this rather than just typing everything out. When typing I have the time to talk my thoughts before they come out my fingers, but with voice recognition things have to be formed for I see the. Before I see them. Before I see them. Before I say them. Yeah I can see us could take a bit of training to get the Peter used to my voice. To get the Peter used my voice? No no no no. That’s supposed to be “get it are used to my voice”. Nope let’s try this again. To get the computer used by voice. To get the computer used to my voice.

I can see it’s also to take me somae time be used to speaking normally to the computer and hoping that catches up. It actually is keeping up quite well but there is a little bit of a delay and if I try to read what’s on the screen while I’m talking that I can see that’s going to be a problem. If I turn away and just look into the room I could have much more of a conversational tone without actually knowing if the computer is missing about one little thing here or one of their. I think that’s the key to making any voice recognition software work for me at least as I have to look away from the screen because this paragraph is going a lot quicker but I’m not sure how accurate it is to look and see.

Okay looking back at the screen now I can see that there’s a little stickier and a little mistake there, but seriously if I look away from the computer and to speak in a normal tone and a normal conversation not getting into any kind of ranting and work on my enunciation alone which needs help anyhow, I try to remember the punctuation, this program seems I can work quite well for doing simple dictation.

I can see that I’m going to need a different headset is the one that came with the program while it does work is a bit annoying. Whoa! Okay two things. Number one I just figured out how to correct words and hopefully make this program learn my voice that faster. Number two it has the word Whoa in its dictionary. Okay, now I’m starting to get the hang of how to correct things and make it work a little better. Really, there is no reason for me not to use the keyboard. Although the more I started using this program the more I can see its use in being a program. No wait. I meant, well. Nevermind. Correcting is actually quite easy but this headset is still pinching my ear is way too much. And just in the course is one blog post he needs to speaking clearly looking away from the computer and using a conversational tone the accuracy increasing as the post goes on.

While I only purchased the standard version of the program there is a feature with the next version of that allows for using a digital voice recorder to carry with me most everywhere I go. It’s my hope that I can use the digital voice recorder as a means of blogging especially while traveling. I think it would free up a lot of time and a lot of lugging around a computer if I could just dictate my blog posts as I’m feeling the same in a moment in a location and then later dump them onto the computer using the voice recorder and have it recognize my speech and go from there. Keep in mind, that what you are reading here is a very basic quick dry run using ran right out of the box without, how do you say reading the instructions? I know the longer I use this program and the more I teach it to recognize my speech and goofy way I talk the better the program will become more useful. One important thing for me to remember, is to add in, a proper, situation, all the time,.? Excellent point— quote quotation quotation marks.

Okay, I would direct out this post for now because you’re probably getting a bit bored. After I get used to using this program of bit more I really do think it’ll be handy writing quick accurate and hopefully meaningful blog posts. Used well I do believe this program can improve my blogging by making it a bit more conversational rather than what comes out my fingers. That’s not to say everything I say has more meaning than what I type it, oh, nevermind again.

Interesting Post on MSG and organic wines

080220-1926-1146_std.jpgIn reading through some posts today i found this interesting question over at the Organic Wine Company regarding the use of Auxi Gro (I never have liked product names that have horrible spelling).


More travel related content coming soon……like why just about every date from now until June is a “Premium” date for using miles on US Air, meaning 50K for a domestic flight. I’ll give you a hint, it’s because FF programs are starting to suck more. 50k miles can also get you a flight to Argentina on the Star Alliance.


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