Monday, July 26, 2010

Creating A Photo Book - Part One

One of my many goals for this year is to find a way to share my photography in multiple media formats.  I would classify myself as a hobby photographer, with lots to learn about the craft.  It really is an artform, however my method is much more "point and shoot".

I had decided that I wanted to make a photo book, so I did some research and came across  This site makes it very easy for you to create an eBook, or Photo Book, and more!

I decided to use their service to create a photo book of some of my favorite pictures over the past couple years.

I started by using their tool to create the Photo Book and then it hit me... I hadn't yet organized the photos I wanted to go in the book!  At first this seemed like an easy task, but I want this book to tell a story.  I want each picture to really be worth a thousand words and to strike up emotions of the whole experience when I look back on these in ten years.

What I had realized was that this was going to take some thought and effort.

My first step has been to reach into my collection of photos and go through picking out my favorite shots.  Those pictures that jumped out at me.

My next step will be to fine tune those pictures and make sure that they are print ready.  By print ready, I mean that they are at least set to 300 dpi and have any effects on them that I think make them tell the story better.

I am going to pick fifty of my favorite pictures and then will use LuLu to publish a book of the photos.  I will likely also order a book for my Mom and I'll make the link available for anyone else who would like to check the book out. I may even pick my favorite twelve and make myself a 2011 Calendar, the possibilities are endless!  LOL.

I'll post any other thoughts along the way.

Have you ever done a Photo Book / Scrapbook?  What is your favorite part of the process?

Living Simple Is Easier Said Than Done

I really have been taking a look at how many things I have and I've been trying to cut down on the number of material assets, making sure that I only have what I want and use regularly.  Remember this post?

Well - then I went back home to Windsor and emptied out the storage unit where I kept quite a bit of things after we sold the house.  In one quick swoop, I added more items than I had already gotten rid of, and now I need to sort through these and get rid of them as well.

I now know that this is going to take me well into next year before I'm at a stage where I feel like I'm making progress.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

This Perfect Day

Sometimes I jot thoughts down on my Blackberry phone.  While walking on the hiking trail near my place I wrote this down, a friend of mine suggested that I make sure I get credit for it, so I posted it on Lulu Poetry.

This perfect day
I did not waste
I marveled at her beauty
Stood in a shadow of her grace
I said a prayer
A thank you was all I could say
For such a perfect time
On this perfect day

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I Just Want To Read The Book!

I've been reading Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich" and have been really enjoying it.  It solidifies some of the things I've been learning lately and really drives home the fact that we can obtain any dream if we believe that we can and have a burning desire to obtain it.

As I'm reading through the book I came across a poem that the author references, which after some research I found to be "My Wage" by Jessie Rittenhouse.  It's a fantastic poem, so I'll quote it below.

My Wage
I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening
When I counted my scanty store;
For Life is a just employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.
I worked for a menial's hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have paid.
~ Jessie Rittenhouse
This poem really hit home.  Life is what you make of it.  If you settle for what happens your way and never realize that you can have anything you desire, you're missing out on reaching your full potential.

This brings me to the reason for this post.  I was very interested in finding other Jessie Rittenhouse work and found that he was the editor for two books that seem to be a great collection of work from many authors called "The Little Book Of Modern Verse" and "The Second Book Of Modern Verse".  As I looked through the authors in these collections my heart raced and I knew I had to get these and read them.

Now the first place I would look for such books would be the library.  I've come to learn to use this first as it's the lowest cost option and is an excellent resource.  Unfortunately the library did not have a copy of either collection, in fact none of the libraries in the Library Network (a collection of Michigan based libraries) had it either!  I was a bit disappointed.  In a case like this, my next resource will be or eBay.  I ended up find the first and second collection on, but take a look at the prices, they varied from $20 - $100!

Then I stumbled across the Kindle version of the books on Amazon.  Each of them was listed at $4.99!  What a great deal!

The next thing that crossed my mind was that I didn't have a Kindle to read it on. No worries, Amazon offers the Kindle Reader for PC as a free download.

Since I've been leaning towards picking up a Barnes and Noble Nook, I did a search and was disappointed to find that the Nook did not offer a PC version of their reader, so I may have to pick up the ebooks from Amazon.  This may lead me to end up purchasing a Kindle... nice job Amazon, you may have just pushed your way to the top of the list with this little feature!

I'm about to load the Kindle Reader for PC and I'll let you know how it turns out, but I am very glad that there is an affordable option for me to read these books!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mastery : The Keys To Success And Long-Term Fulfillment

I picked up a new book for this month.  The title of the book is the subject of this post.

This book was recommended reading from one of the courses I'm taking.  It's also been an interesting topic to me as I've always been one of those instant gratification type people and have rarely put the effort forth to achieve mastery in any specific area.

One of my goals is to learn to play guitar.  I've taken several lessons from several teachers, but I'm hoping that some of the lessons from this book may shed some light on what areas I'll need to focus on to really make progress.

As usual - once I'm done reading it, I'll post up a review.

The Next Level - Personal Transformation Program

I'm at the beginning of a transformation, both mental and physical.

This has been a natural evolution for me in dealing with and understanding some things that have happened over the past couple years.

It's been a good experience so far and I'm working on documenting my milestones and what I'm learning as I reach each goal. I want to track my experiences and develop a program so that others may use the same methods to reach their goals. The reason I'm doing this is that I think that others may be able to benefit from what I'm now learning and wish that I had learned many years ago.

I'm using levels to track my progress and looking back on what I've learned from the previous level as I move to the next level.  I'll also plan out my own goals in each new level and review at the end to make sure that I've grown in some way. My motivation for using levels is because it is something I can easily relate to as a former video game addict. Goals are also easier to obtain when all requirements to move to the next level have been laid out in front of someone.  This is a similar method to earning belts in martial arts, except there won't be an exam at the end of each level.  Or maybe there should be?  :)

The program is still in development as I move through the levels myself, but here are some details that I've come up with so far.

There are four areas of focus in each level. As you progress through the levels you have lessons and things to put into practice in the four areas before you can move on to the next level. There is also a weight goal for each level.

The four areas are;

  1. Diet and Eating Well
  2. Mental and Emotional Growth
  3. Physical Attraction and Outer Appearance
  4. Activity and Exercise

There are ten levels total in the program.  The weight goal is based upon your personal long term goal.

This is not a program that will take months to complete, it's a life altering, pattern changing, growth program to help a person feel more overall satisfaction with life.

I believe that this program will work best for someone that is similar to me. Someone who has a lot of weight to lose, perhaps has a negative self concept, low confidence, is shy and hasn't mastered social interactions.

I'm pretty excited about this and will post more as I start to develop the program.  If you're wondering what level I'm currently on - I'm on Level 2 and I fully expect to be on Level 3 by the end of August.

If you have questions or feedback, feel free to email me or leave a comment.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Used Book Store Finds

It was my friends birthday yesterday.  We decided to hang out for the day and we ended up taking a trip up to Flint, MI.  One of the stops along the way was at a used book and CD shop.  Actually - they had everything, used books, comics, cassette tapes, CDs, Vinyl records and much more.

I spend a good part of the time searching through some of the old vinyl records and managed to grab the following;

Grabbing the three albums cost me $7, which I thought was a pretty great deal.

I moved on to the comic book section, which brought back some good memories, but I didn't drop any cash - which is a good thing, since I don't collect them anymore it would have just been a waste.

After that I noticed a very cool poem called "I AM MUSIC" - it was typed out on tattered paper and was taped to the end of one of the bookcases.

I stumbled across it with a Google Search, but it didn't seem easy to find.

I am Music, most ancient of the arts. I am more than ancient; I am eternal. Even before life began upon this earth, i was here - in the winds and the waves. When the first trees and flowers and grasses appeared, i was among them. And when humanity came, i at once became the most delicate, most subtle and most powerful medium for the expression of emotions.

In all ages i have inspired people with hope, kindled their love, given a voice to their joys, cheered them on to valorous deeds, and soothed them in times of despair. I have played a great part in the drama of life, whose end and purpose is the complete perfection of human nature. Through my influence, humanity has been uplifted, sweetened and refined. With the aid of humanity, i have become a Fine Art. I have a myriad of voices and instruments.

I am in the hearts of all and on their tongues, in all lands among all peoples, the ignorant and unlettered know me, not less than the rich and the learned. For i speak to All, in a language that all can feel. Even the deaf hear me, if they but listen to the voices of their own souls. I am the food of love. I have taught people gentleness and peace; and i have led them onward to heroic deeds. I am comfort for the lonely, and i harmonize the discord of crowds. I am a necessary luxury to all. I am MUSIC.


I really liked this piece - it just hit home with me.

Now I started to notice the books, and found the following books;

A Century of Lyrics, 1550-1650

I had read most of the Dan Brown books and I thought I had read Deception Point, but after reading the description on the back - it didn't seem familiar.  It was such a low cost item, somewhere around $0.50, I figured I'd grab it.

The link above to the "A Century Of Lyrics" was a much cooler find for me!  This hardcover book is from 1938 by D.C. Whimster and it is the lyrics from 100 songs written between the years of 1550 and 1650.  I can't wait to dive into this book and analyze the lyrics of that time period as well as learn more about the authors of those songs.  That was a whopping $2.95 - which again - I'll call a steal!

All in all it was a great day... I also ended up grabbing the first and second seasons of Laguna Beach on DVD.  What can I say - I'm a sucker for those shows, and the ladies are hot!

Let me know if you've found any great bargains lately...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mid Year Check In - 2010 - Part One

July 13th is the Day 194 of 2010.  We're more than half way through this year, isn't that hard to believe?

I thought it would be a good idea for me to take a look back at what I hoped to accomplish this year and make sure I'm on track to reaching my goals.

The first post was focused around Photography Goals for 2010.

  1. Although I haven't done a "picture per day" challenge yet, I have taken quite a bit of photos on my hiking trips this year.  The year is not done yet though, so I'll still try and do this before the close of the year. 
  2. I did sit down and think about my goals for this year and prioritize what I enjoy most and I believe that is photos that can be framed and displayed as art.  My main area has been nature up till now, so I'm going to focus on getting some of my photos enlarged, matted and perhaps approach one of the local coffee shops to see if they'd be willing to let me try to sell them there.
  3. Read a book per month?  Who the hell thought of this idea?  I've read more than a book per month, but not all on photography topics... oh well - I guess I can still accomplish this if I put my mind to it.
  4. I completely forgot about this one.  When I did some initial searching I couldn't find any photography clubs that looked interesting enough to join.  I'll keep looking.
  5. Sharing my work online - yes, this is still a goal I am planning on reaching.  I have a Flickr account setup and over the next several months I need to fine tune some work and get it up there for others to view.
  6. Create two photo books for the year.  Well - I can definitely do one that focuses on the trails at the Waterloo Recreation Discovery Center.  This is another that I had kind of forgotten about and it's time to see if I can make this one a reality.
  7. Get Published.  When I wrote this 5 months ago, I said "it's a good thing I have eleven months to figure out how to do this..." and I still don't have a clue.  We'll save this one for next quarter.  
  8. Develop a post processing workflow - this one I've made progress on.  Using Lightroom I can now drop the photos from a photo shoot into a folder, browse through them and make minor edits using Lightroom, pop into Photoshop and make more edits and still keep the original picture in tact.  It's a great process which I'll look to keep.  Goal Accomplished.
  9. Wow - I suck.  Ok - I still need to do the postcard thing.  I'll get this done this month, I promise myself. Goal Accomplished.
  10. Take a Photo Workshop - this is still a great idea and I need to check out when the next Nikon School is coming to Ann Arbor.

Ok - so I've only got 1 out of 10 done on this list.  That's not great, but now I've done the check in and I know what I still need to do... and I can do it all, I still have time!

In my next post I'll cover my personal goals for 2010 and see how I'm doing on those...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Which eReader Is For Me?

I won't lie - I'm not an iPad fan. Before you throw things at me, let me explain.

I've held the device in my hand and although I do believe that it is very suited as a device in which you consume content, I do not believe that it is a device which can be easily used to create content.

The iPad will never replace my laptop.  It does not have the capability to run the software I use to create in any medium.

Let's start with what I think it would do spectacularly.
  • Used as the information gateway for a high end hotel
  • Used to deliver your photography portfolio to a high end prospective client
  • Used as a way to collect survey information from high end clientelle
  • Used to read newspapers / e-books
And - for the last reason, I'll include it as I look to purchase an e-book reader.

There are many other uses, but to be honest, I'll listen to my music on my i-Pod, I already have a contact / calendar application on my Blackberry and it syncs with my desktop computer at work.  I'm not going to "browse the web" for anything that would actually require interaction on the i-Pad, because interacting with the device itself is not all that great.  I'm not going to type emails and if I want to run an application that was made to run on my i-Phone, I'll likely do that there.  With that said - the display is great, which makes me think that it would do very well in any type of presentation format or perhaps when using it as a book reader.

Just before the iPad came out, I almost bought a Kindle from Amazon for this exact purpose.  I had been reading quite a lot of books lately and found that it might be nice to have them all stored electronically, rather than stacked up on my nightstand.  Of course, the thing that stopped me from buying was the buzz about the "Kindle Killer" and the fact that the Kindle did only one thing, but let's not knock it - it does it very well!

The idea of being connected all the time and being able to grab a new title in an instant made it very interesting to me.

As I started to learn more about the two products, other requirements started to come to my list.  I wanted to be able to support not only Apple or Amazon purchases, but other formats of e-books as well, such as the ePub format.

My list of possible readers narrowed to the following

Apple's iPad - $629 (w/ 3G Wireless at $60 per month)
Amazon Kindle 2 -$189 (w/ 3G for connecting / downloading books)
Barnes and Noble Nook - $199 (w/ 3G Wireless, no contracts)

Let's talk about the iPad - it's pros are pretty simple.  If you buy it with the 3G plan, you're all set to consume media of multiple types, you can surf the web, watch a movie, read a book, it really can do a lot. It also has a nice color display. My question came when I asked myself if I'm looking for a replacement for the other tools that I have to surf the web, answer email, watch a movie, etc.  My answer was it might be nice, but it's not worth the price tag.

The Kindle came next and the benefit to this was the amazing screen and of course, the access to the entire Amazon catalog of Kindle titles.  It also came with wireless connectivity which you didn't need to sign up for an additional contract through a service provider, unlike the iPad. The 3G connectivity would be used to download the books, and little more than that. The Kindle does have contracts in place to deliver some of the periodicals and newspapers through the interface and network supplied, but had no web browser. The Kindle comes in two formats and to be fair the 9 inch version clocks in around $379.

On to The Nook from Barnes and Noble.  This was a recent find and the thing that attracted me to it was that it had a partial color touchscreen display, 3G included, web browser and the Barnes and Noble catalog of books for the reader.  The price really makes this one attractive, but the downfall is that it's only available in the 6" display. One of the things that I liked about this is that it's tied to a major "book store" so they can do additional marketing to get people who end up purchasing one back into the book store for special offers.  For example, walk into a Barnes and Noble and special offers will be available on your Nook for view.  Barnes and Noble also has contracts in place for periodicals and newspapers, similar to the Kindle.

So - as I type this, I'm leaning toward heading into Barnes and Noble and checking out The Nook.  If I pick one up, I'll post a review as well as pictures up on here.

Are there any others that you'd suggest I check out or that you are looking into?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lonely Little Me

Today has been an extra hard day dealing with this loneliness feeling that I've had with me for a bit now.  It's a hard feeling to describe, but I can see what I'm missing when hanging out with friends and their family.  The part that I don't have is the easy access to, or immediate connection with family or friends where I reside; the daily interaction that others take for granted.

The contact I'm talking about is that separate from the one of making social plans with friends.  I have that interaction and enjoy it when it occurs.  Then when friends part from the social activity, they go back to people that are their day to day interactions, such as the people that they live with or their family or very close friends that are over quite a bit. 

Since moving into my own place in 2006, and likely partially due to losing my father the same year, I've noticed an increase in feeling lonely. Before this, I had many friends and roommates to interact with, I rarely felt lonely.

However, I'm at a point right now where many of my friends are now married, or in relationships.  I've stopped drinking and therefore don't fill the void by socializing at bars near as much as I used to.  Now my days are filled at my house, reading, or watching movies, alone.

I think about my family a lot.  If I was back in Windsor, it could almost be expected that someone would stop by on a Sunday to say "hi" or for a visit.  Sure - they would call first, but it's not like it's a far distance to travel, family was always close by... and visited often.

Now, it's not that way at all.  I've seen my Mom three times this year.  That saddens me greatly... I love my mother, she's been there for me my entire life and I've learned so much from the love and lessons that she has given me.  I have other friends and family that I haven't seen since my dad passed.  Yup - 4 years this month. 

It's like the border has put a barrier in the way that is makes the effort just to the side of not worth it.  It's a very weird phenomenon.  I could just as easily be in France, or London and the contact would be similar.

I think of the days when I was back in Windsor and how I saw some friends every day!  I didn't even live with them, they were just my best friends.

Loneliness is a weird thing.  I don't fear it, and there are times when I absolutely enjoy it.  Being alone and in the type of environment that I'm in can re-charge the soul.  My question then becomes, "what do I do when I'm re-charged?"

The answer up until now has been to head back to work.  I've fallen into a cycle of letting work stress me out, and then finding time to re-charge while at home.  Rinse. Repeat.  There is not much to my life outside of this cycle and I begin to wonder how much longer I will allow it to go on.

My goals are to live a happy life.  A life full of experiences.  It's hard to do this by yourself and sometimes it's much more rewarding to share those experiences with someone else.

So what is the point of this post?  Hell if I know - I just figured I'd babble on about things while trying to figure out how to deal with the feeling of being alone.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

If I Only Knew Then...

I think this year has been my year of self discovery.  I've read more books from January through now than I've read in the past ten years and each of them has been picked up with a goal of exploring an area of life that I've paid little attention to before.  It has been a great and challenging year so far and I've found myself mumble the saying "oh, if I only knew then what I know now...", perhaps this is a saying that you've also used or heard in the past?

My questions to you are -

  1. If you were going to give your life's advice to a young person today, what lesson would you tell them that you've learned?  
  2. What pebble of wisdom do you wish you would have found earlier in life?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Is Love Real?

And, in the end, the love you take
Is equal to the love you make. ~Paul McCartney
I've been thinking about love quite a bit lately and wondering if there is such a thing.  I wonder whether there can really be a bond of feelings so strong between two people that are not blood related?

I do understand the love that a Mother will have for her offspring.  This makes sense to me and is evident across all of nature although mostly in mammals. A Mother will protect it's young at any cost as she has a vested interest in them, they are from her body, they are part of her. 

The male of the species has two goals, to survive, and to procreate. I'll dig in deeper and find references for this statement, but these are the general goals.

According to the definition of the word runs all the way from "a profound, tender, passionate affection for another person" to "enthusiasm, or liking for anything".  That's a pretty wide range!  No wonder I'm searching for what love really means.  It looks like the word has become overused for many different meanings through the years.

I stumbled across the origin of the word love and found it quite interesting.  Especially that it did not really come into use with relationships until around the 17th century.

In our modern society we usually relate the term "in love" with two people that are in a committed relationship.  This relationship usually happens through the game of courtship where the female will eventually choose the male, testing him at each phase.

The five phases of courtship are Attraction, Non-verbal Communication, Verbal Communication, Physical Touch, and ending in Sex.

The game is pretty simple when broken down and females will test the male's worthiness at each level to find out if they will "make good offspring" and can provide for them and their offspring.  There is no denying what I mentioned above, the female will make the decision to move through each phase, however the male can do things to build a strong sense of attraction to better the odds in his favor. It really is a game...

This is human nature kind of stuff, that happens and sometimes it's without us noticing.

There are some interesting articles out there that talk about couples that have been in relationships for a long time and still feel the same way about their mate as when they were going through the courtship phases. That, along with my personal experience of seeing couples stay together for long periods of time makes me think that there is "something", but I start to wonder whether this "something" is really just the attraction factor to that person and nothing more?  Think of all the couples who get together and get married, only to get divorced, some multiple times.  I bet every one of them would tell you they were "in love" at some phase of courtship.

My question comes back to me - Is Love Real?  If these things are programmed into us in our animal forms, then what is love and is there even such a thing?

I'll continue to research this and see if there really is such as thing as love or if love is really just an extreme side of a feeling, such as obsession with someone / something. 

What I do know as a fact is that one who is "in love" and going through the feelings that come with this generic term, can easily be influenced to believe that which is not true or does not exist in reality.  Which makes me wonder whether this leads to an unhealthy state of mind?  Does one talk themselves into being "in love" when influenced by these feelings? Since we all make our own reality, is love a unique feeling for each person?

I believe the answer to the last question is "yes".  The reason I believe this is because I don't think "love" is always a mutual feeling.  One person may feel much stronger feelings for their mate than their mate feels for them and I believe that these feelings can change over time, I also believe that the change is usually a decline in feelings.

I think there will always be people who will just prefer to get lost in their emotions and not try to understand why they feel the way they do... if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm not one of those people.  :)

Comments and thoughts welcome....

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Simplify The Life, Live In The Moment

I came across a couple blogs lately on living a minimalist style of life.  It's a pretty interesting concept.  I can't help but look around me and wonder how I've accumulated so many things, and I think the main reason is that we end up filling up the space that we live in, whether we really use / need the things we fill it with is another story. 

So - I'm going to take stock of the things I own, and I mean everything.  I'll start tomorrow with my front two rooms.  The goal of this type of challenge is to live with only 100 things or less.  I'm not sure that I'll be able to get that low, but I'm going to try my best to get to below 150.  More on this tomorrow.

I've been wanting to check out this DVD. I'm trying to save money, so rather than going to Blockbuster like I would usually do, I'll just add it to my Netflix queue and wait for it to come next week.

Speaking of movies, I'm thinking about going to check out "Grown Ups" this weekend as a treat to myself.  I may even take a friend, but we'll see how it goes.

I'm also working on a new article about the iPad vs. a couple e-book readers and which one I'll likely go with... I hope to have that posted soon so stay tuned.

Hope you have a great 4th of July weekend!  Party safe, don't drink and drive!