Photo Editing the Free Way

I know most people out there have heard of “Photoshopping” an image. Most of the time this is a term for a way out the effect like putting someone’s head on someone else’s body. The term Photoshopping refers to an Adobe product called Photoshop that is actually quite expensive. I’m going to point you to some free alternatives to sprucing up your photos.

The first program is the GNU Image Manipulation Program, which ends up with the name GIMP. This program is a direct competitor to Photoshop. It’s main focus is on manipulating raster graphics (pixels). This program is pretty optimal for editing the photo (resizing, cropping, color balancing, etc) as well as removing things (dust spots, zits, your ex, etc). A Windows installer and be found here. Now, the interface does take some getting used to, but they are working on a new interface for 2.6 as well as some more professional-level features (CMYK, higher color depths, non-destructive editing, etc.). The main place where the GIMP has proved problematic is on very large pictures. I’m not talkin 10-12 megapixel. I’m talking LARGE like mattes behind a Hollywood movie.

The second program is Inkscape. This program does not focus on raster images but vector images (shapes and lines). A vector object should become infinitely zoomable without ending up pixelated, though you may end up with corners you didn’t notice. This makes it optimal for things like logos, cartoons, or tattoo mockups. “But I thought we were talking about my photos… that doesn’t sound like how I want my photos to look,” I hear you saying. Well true, but you can actually make shapes and put textures (like your photo) on them. This allows for crazy effects like things popping out of a photo, drop shadows, and more. I’d argue this is more of a program for adding things into photos. Now, if you are used to Photoshop or the GIMP or Paint, this program is not immediately going to seem familiar. Some really cool tutorials on how to use it are here. And yes, for all you Adobe people out there, this is like Illustrator. (No idea how it differs, as I’ve never used Illustrator, but the big open source artists (TigerT and jimmac) have switched to using it from Illustrator several years back. In that time a lot of new features have been added.)

Once again, I suggest watching the Inkscape tutorials or just search YouTube for tutorials on these programs for some really cool effects.

Diaper Practice

Happily diapered monkey

We ordered (and received) our cloth diapers last week… prefolds, wipes and snappis from nickisdiapers.com and prorap covers from dy-dee.com. (If you happen to be in the market, dy-dee’s prices are the lowest I could find (on anything they carry) but they charge for shipping, and nickisdiapers is free shipping on anything over 75, or on covers. And they have a lot larger inventory. She just opened a retail store in New Glarus, so I might have to check that out sometime.)

Anyway, we decided to try them out. As you can see, we successfully diapered one of Joe’s stuffed monkeys. We had a little trouble working around the tail, but my dad tells me that might not be an issue with our baby.

The diapers were (I think) the last really urgent thing we needed before Jr arrives. I’m sure there are oodles of things we’re missing that we don’t realize we needed, but between me and diapers, I think the most major newborn necessities are covered.

Merry Christmas to Us!

Ice Cream in our freezer

My parents bought us a chest freezer for Christmas, and it’s been in our garage for months now, waiting for the right occasion to carry it down to the basement. Well, yesterday had the right components (a nice dry day and another guy to help Joe move it!) So of course we had to christen it. How do you christen a freezer? If you know my family, this should be a ‘duh’.

The interesting thing was trying to decide what ice cream to buy. My original goal was just the largest quantity I could find, such that they wouldn’t fit in the side-by-side… but since I didn’t see a Schwann’s truck on the way to the grocery store, I had to settle with 5qt pails. I’m still confused why the Blue Bunny was priced so much higher than Dean’s or Schoep’s, even on sale. I was even MORE confused when I noticed that it’s a smaller bucket — only 1gal, 1pt. Go figure. It was certainly tasty, but I wouldn’t think it was any better than the other brands. Joe said I should have done a true comparison by getting all the same flavor but I thought that might be overkill. :)

So thanks, Mom & Dad! The freezer works!

Wonderful Husband!

Anniversary Tulips

So last Sunday was our 6th wedding anniversary, and Joe surprised me Friday night with a big bouquet of tulips! I divided them into several arrangements, so I can enjoy them all over the house. Thank you, honey!

(Update: I’ve been enjoying them now for almost a week, and they’re opening beautifully.)

PyCon 2008

Okay, so I’m completely dorking out in Chicago right now. PyCon is the annual Python convention. This is Python as in the programming language and not the snake or Monty Python, though all of those are well represented.

I’m sure I’ll be post more info about the things I see, but I need to go grab some food.

Happy Pi Day!

I went to a Pi day party this evening. (March 14 = 3.14) We watched the movie Pi (I’m unimpressed, but it’s still probably better than Duplex) and dined on pizza pie, pumpkin pie, and blueberry pie. (Much more impressive!)

For anyone who feels like boning up on their number theory, go here.

Frankly, I think my dorkiness has channeled into a less mathy direction these days. So I’m going to talk to Sumomo and then veg out with a good mystery.

Cream Puff Dessert

I was flipping through a magazine last week and found a recipe for a Cream Puff Dessert. My parents came down for lunch today, so I decided to try it out. After all, it’s always good to have guinea pigs around for that sort of thing.

Anyway, the crust was cream puff pastry (boil 1 c water and 1/2 c butter, add 1 c flour and stir until you get a smooth ball, remove from heat, add 4 eggs, one at a time, stirring until smooth, spread on the bottom and sides of a greased 9×13 pan, and bake at 400 for half an hour) and after it was cooled, you were supposed to fill it (1 pkg cream cheese, 3.5 c cold milk and 2 pkg pudding — the recipe called for both to be chocolate, but I replaced one with vanilla), top it with a tub of whipped topping, drizzle it with caramel and chocolate ice cream toppings, and sprinkle it with sliced almonds.

I got as far as filling it, and then handed it over to my mom to finish while I dealt with some chicken. We left the finished dessert at room temperature for an hour or so until we were ready for dessert. The crust was very pretty and pretty tasty. I could see it being an attractive component of both sweet and savory dishes. The dessert as a whole was okay. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as the recipe made it sound. First, it was kind of gloppy. I think putting it in the freezer for an hour or two after assembly would help it set up better, but that might make the bottom crust a little soggy. Secondly, the filling wasn’t anything special. You couldn’t really taste the cream cheese, so it basically just seemed like pudding in a shell. We were comparing it to Joe’s chocolate pudding torte, and it just couldn’t stand up to the competition. For that, the cream cheese is combined with powdered sugar and a cup of whipped topping and spread on the crust as a cheesecake layer, and the pudding layer goes on top of that. I would consider trying to assemble the torte in the puffed crust, and drizzling it with the sundae toppings instead of the traditional chocolate curls, but I think the pretzel crust we usually use would probably beat it hands-down for flavor, even though it’s not as attractive.

We brought the leftover dessert to Becky and Josh’s house tonight for them to try, and they liked it quite a bit. So maybe it’s just that our standards are too high. But for desserts, high standards are good to have. It makes it easier to turn things down when you know they won’t make the cut!

San Diego Trip

Joe and I have been meaning to visit my brother Rob and his wife Andrea in San Diego since they moved out there three years ago, but we never quite found the time. Recently they started talking about maybe moving back to the Midwest this summer, so we knew our time was running out. The trick was to find a window between the end of morning sickness, and before I’m too pregnant to fly. (Every airline has its own policy… seems like they don’t like to land the plane for a passenger to deliver) Well, at my January appointment, my doc gave me the okay to travel, and I booked our flights that afternoon.

We were scheduled to fly out of Madison early Thursday morning, so we stayed with my parents Wednesday night. This meant we could sleep in until 4:30. When we left, our flight was listed as on time. When we got to the gate, it was delayed enough that we’d miss our connection in St Louis. AA taxied us to Memorial Union to catch the bus to O’Hare for a later flight. Fast forward to O’Hare, where our flight is delayed. And then delayed again. Then canceled. Joe started calling friends all over the country, checking where we might have a place to stay. The AA folks rescheduled us on a flight the following morning (which also ended up being canceled, btw) but we didn’t like that plan. We went to the main desk to see where we could get that evening. They couldn’t get us to San Diego, Seattle, Las Vegas, or back to Madison. They COULD get us to Orange County, which was only 75 miles north of San Diego. That flight was also delayed, but it got us to OC at 10:45, where Rob and Andrea were waiting for us. (note: if the plane had approached OC after 11pm, we would’ve been rerouted to LAX and bussed south to OC due to curfew violations. This is the one thing that DIDN’T go wrong) Our luggage, btw, was MIA until about 2am Saturday. Thank goodness I’m the one who packed our carry on bags!

So our San Diego vacation started when we woke up Friday rather than midmorning Thursday. We had unseasonably cool and wet weather (it rained about half the time we were there) but it wasn’t icy and 20 below, so we weren’t complaining! Unfortunately, Rob wasn’t feeling well, so we stayed low-key for the most part. It was nice just being away from day-to-day life and spending time with Rob, Andrea and their lovely cats. Friday we spent some time in La Jolla watching the seals laze on the beach, peering in tide-pools, and browsing through local shops. Saturday was a lovely day and we spent it at the zoo. I thought the pandas were particularly cute, but Joe was a bigger fan of the meercats and the firefoxes. We had an Italian feast for dinner at their church and enjoyed a concert from a wonderful pianist/singer; it was mostly musical theater or older songs like ‘Makin’ Whoopie.’ After church Sunday Rob grilled a lovely pollo asado (yes, I know it means roasted, but he grilled it) and we had some very good tacos. Afterwards, we had a leisurely afternoon playing darts, and Rob took us to Frye’s so Joe could get his fix. One last lazy morning talking and walking around the neighborhood (and thanks to Jr, it was a shorter walk than I otherwise would’ve enjoyed) and Rob took us to San Diego International for another traveling adventure.

I should mention that Mom called mid-morning to warn us that one of our flights (ORD-MSN) was already canceled. So we knew it was going to be another fun day. When we got to the airport, we talked with a very nice AA rep named Maria who bent over backwards to help us out. She booked us on a NW flight through Minneapolis, and it was only supposed to delay our return time to 11:15 or so (originally 10:30pm). So we went through security, and they didn’t notice that I was supposed to get the extra special security screening. (We ran into that on the way there, too. If your flight gets changed, the boarding passes look like you bought them at the last minute with cash, so we got thoroughly frisked and our bags inspected. They even swabbed the inside of each carry-on with something to get analyzed in a mass spectrometer. Fortunately, the security people (all three times we got inspected) were all very nice, and Baby didn’t get any extra radiation… just a few extra pats.) Anyway, in San Diego, I wasn’t targeted for the special screening, but while I was waiting for Joe, he mentioned it to his security folks, and they called me back to get searched. Apparently, if your boarding pass doesn’t get punched to indicate that you’ve been screened, they won’t let you on the plane. FYI.

So we wandered around the terminal looking for lunch, and discovered that San Diego airport food is ridiculously expensive. We saw a hot dog meal (included 1 hot dog, 1 soda, and an order of fries) for $9 or so. If you upgraded it to include 2 hot dogs, you were looking at over $11. We ended up splitting a personal size pizza and supplementing with granola bars and fruit leather courtesy of Rob and Andrea.
After all the hassles, it was really strange when the flight left on time with no problems. When we landed in Minneapolis, we knew we had over 3 hours to wait, and spent some time walking around the airport. Very nice airport, by the way… good place to have time to kill. We had a lovely dinner at TGI Fridays, and meandered back to our gate with plenty of time to spare. Particularly when the flight was delayed. And then delayed again! It was after 11 when our plane arrived, and after midnight when we got back into Madison. Late for us, later for my parents, who wake up much earlier than we do. But they were there to meet us, and our luggage made it safely back, too. Back to the house to stay another night, since we didn’t want to drive back home exhausted in the snow. It was a little weird, though. Sumomo was wide awake in the room where we slept, so he was making little hamstery noises, Makita (my parents’ cat) was meowing at the bedroom door hoping to get in, and Baby was wide awake and kicking me. It felt like a conspiracy to keep me awake. But when we got up, the snow had been plowed, and we were able to get back home without incident. Good times.

Lessons learned:
1. Bring more books than you think you’ll possibly need. I thought 2 would be plenty. I was wrong.
2. Bring more snacks than you think you’ll possibly need. I thought I was way overdoing it, but we polished off my stash.
3. When you get to a certain point in your pregnancy, turning sideways doesn’t make it easier for somebody to pass you in tight quarters. Airline aisles, for example.
4. When pregnant, clothes that fit when you pack them don’t necessarily still fit when you try to wear them a week later.

Thank You Mom and Dad

During church today, our pastor mentioned that she will be out of the state during the primary elections. She went down to city hall to find out what she needed to do and when she could get a ballot. She found out they were available now, and she just needed to fill out the paperwork. She did and got the ballot. She looked at the Democratic side of the ballot, and there was a Black man and a woman. She started crying right there because all that she and her generation fought for had finally come to fruition. She was very proud to have seen this day, and she was proud.

I want to say that though that, though I know in my head that this is a momentous occasion, my heart does not think that this is such a big deal. THAT is what she and her generation should be proud of.

Mugshot.org

I have been using an online service for a while, but I haven’t really made good use of it. The main reason I haven’t used it much is that I don’t have enough friends on it. The reason I haven’t had too many friends is that I didn’t really know how to sell it to others. Well, I think I finally did, so here I go.

Mugshot.org is an online social network. I know, I know, yet another one. Well, the Mugshot guys (who are actually the RedHat guys) understood that too. My biggest problem with the whole social network thing is that it’s yet another place I have to go to to see if anything has happened and to post any new info. Certain people don’t like services. This resulted in me having a MySpace account, a Facebook account, a blog, a Digg account, a Linked In account, etc. I’m also an old school IM person with a ICQ account, an AIM account I killed, and a GoogleTalk account. Throw in my accounts at Amazon with reviews and wishlists, and the end result is my information is stored in bunches of separate places that not even I can remember all of.

Also, as I said, I’m an old school IM user. I honestly miss being able to just log in and talk to people that are online, but I’m honestly rarely online anymore. I could e-mail the person, but I’d have to have a reason to stop on that person’s name in my list of 20+ people I really ought to talk to. And what was the best part of instant messaging? Finding out what people have been up to, of course, but also to discuss things we’ve discovered and to razz each other about their idiotic beliefs =)

This is where Mugshot comes in. Yes, it’s yet another network, but luckily you don’t really need to make a new account with another password. You login using a link sent to your e-mail, using your AIM account, or setting up a password. It then combines many of the sites you already use to share what you’re posting. These sites include:

  • AIM Accounts
  • ICQ Accounts
  • GoogleTalk Accounts
  • Jabber Accounts
  • A Link To Your Website
  • Blogs
  • Amazon
  • Del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Flickr
  • Google Reader
  • Last.FM
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace
  • Netflix
  • Picasa
  • Reddit
  • Rhapsody
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

And that’s just at this point. They are working on adding more. Honestly, they’re interested in suggestions for the sites they’re missing. You can also do what they term as a “Web Swarm.” This is basically posting a link with a bit of a description. This is particularly useful if you don’t use del.icio.us, as I don’t.

Now you got all this information about the music your friends are listening to, the websites your friends are linking, pictures your friends are posting, news articles your friends are reading, movies your friends are reviewing, etc, and this leaves you with only one thing to do. You go and you send them a comment about how much you like what they posted or how wrong they are. In other words, you are given the springboard to normal conversation.

You can also form and join groups of people with similar ideas and add website RSS feeds to the group to discuss.

Finally, there’s a program called the “Mugshot Stacker” that is like an RSS reader or IM with all that info on your friend. You can also post a read only web version that you can post to webpages or on your MySpace account.

I hope I can convince more of my friends to use Mugshot.

Here’s my account link: http://mugshot.org/person?who=R4kgNGdjbKbmWZ

You can find out more at: http://mugshot.org/features

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