Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Digital Darkroom: Salvaging Photos

As a photographer, I am always sending pictures to the cutting room floor (aka - the Recycle Bin) because of lighting issues, etc. When taking so many photos of a subject at once to insure at least a handful of great ones to use, it is inevitable that some will be deleted - some before you realize it's too late. Luckily this one didn't get away...

I was taking a series of photos of my son trying to lick his own elbow (it's impossible, go ahead and try) when the flash didn't fire fast enough and the lighting turned out bad. When I scrolled through the files and noticed the unintentional perfect smile he gave I knew I had to save this moment. So I cropped it and changed to black and white...

Since the lighting was so bad, the photo became very pixelated and the contrast was horrible. Unwilling to let that smile get away I entered the Filter section in Photoshop and started changing the image. I used a very light Crosshatch filter, Accented Edges filter, and added the Craquelure filter on top of that. Then I went into the Levels adjustment and fixed the contrast. This gave it a black and white textured painting look. It's not the photo it started out as, that's for sure...

See what I mean? How could you let that smile end up in the Recycle Bin?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

This Blog

will soon be at the URL (without the - in the name)

The previous owner of the URL finally gave it up after sitting on it for a few years and not posting. I will still keep this address to forward you to the other one if necessary.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Drug Dealing at the Doctor's Office

Most of the time I write about funny things that happen in my life or just life in general. However, some days there are things I hear that are not so funny and make my blood pressure rise a little.

Yesterday on the way to my son's preschool I was listening to my favorite morning trio, Mark, Ed, and Sgt. Sam on KLBJ 590 AM. You know you are getting old when you switch over from the KLBJ FM morning crew! Sgt. Sam doesn't do fart jokes.

They had a drug representative for a pharmaceutical company on talking about local doctors and how they get "face time" in their offices to push their pills. This lady said of the 250 doctors on her list about half of them required her to bring breakfast or lunch for the entire office before she could give her sales pitch for the drugs. Some went as far as providing her with a menu of what they wanted to eat. Some even complained when fajitas were brought in and said, "Fajitas again? We just had them yesterday."

She also said that some of the smaller companies with reps that had little or no budget to provide these kinds of perks to doctors had zero chance of getting in their door. None. Nada. Zilch.

Now I know this is nothing new. I worked for twelve years in the restaurant business and we had many private parties for drug companies that would invite dozens of doctors for free meals and wine. Some of these doctors would put their names on a list for the food to be prepared "to-go" and wouldn't even stay for the sales pitch. They would take their four tenderloins, sides, salads, and desserts home to their families. Nice perk. I'm sure this is all built into the price of the medicines we take. Thanks, Dr. Greedy.

In no way am I sticking up for the drug companies or endorsing some of their business practices. My point in this is that I would like to see the doctors who do not play this game with the drug reps be applauded for their ethics. They are probably more interested in providing quality healthcare than padding their stomachs with free food. Next time you are at your doctor's office and you see a drug rep come in, pay attention to how the doctors, nurses, and staff treat them. If they turn their noses up at fajitas again then you know where they stand.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Reasons Why My Wife Makes Fun of Me

It’s my own fault, really. If I didn’t provide her with so many reasons to laugh at me she wouldn’t. Luckily for me she knew what she was getting when she agreed to marry me. Maybe she just wanted somebody around to make fun of for the rest of her life. I’m fine with that. If my purpose in life is for her to have somebody to rag on, then so be it. I know I’m somewhat goofy.

Take for example my dance moves. I remember as a kid going to dances, or to clubs as a younger adult, and I could boogie! My moves were smokin’ and the dance floor actually caught on fire once. I heard somebody say it was just a cigarette butt that got dropped on a napkin, but I knew better. That wasn’t burning paper I smelled. It was the fiery soles of my shoes.

To see what else she makes fun of me for, click...

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Minimalist Décor vs. The Children

When my wife and I first met in our early twenties we both lived a minimalist décor lifestyle. This was not necessarily by choice, however, but mostly because we were broke and moved around the city to different rental properties. Lugging around a bunch of stuff every year was not something we wanted to do while paying daily rates for a U-Haul. As the years passed we began to amass extra stuff and our small rental units became a little more cluttered.

Six years ago we finally bought a house and it was twice as big as any place we had ever lived. Again, not by choice, but by the simple fact that our house was bigger than our collection of furniture, kitchen accoutrements, art, lamps, etc., we were once again living with a minimalist décor. Our house was open and inviting, free of clutter, and comfortable for guests when they entered the front door to one of our many parties and backyard bar-b-ques.

Then came the children.

Find out if we decided to keep the children by clicking...

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P.S. Don't forget to read my 24 recap here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Here Comes The Rain, Sun, and Bugs

I love it when the weather gets warmer and the days last longer. The grass grows nice and thick from the rain; the windows and doors can be open to enjoy the breeze. At our house an open door is an open invitation to any flying insect to help itself to the luxuries of cable TV, fresh fruit, and the warmth of a glowing light bulb at night. With the kids constantly going in and out of the back door - bees, flies, junebugs, and others are helping themselves to our house. I have spent the majority of the last few summers catching flies in my bare hands (yes, like Daniel-san) and tossing them down the kitchen sink with the disposal on. It is a "dispose all", right? With the exception of some previous clogged pasta, sweet potato peels, and salmon pate incidents, I like to think it should live up to it's name. It's not called a "dispose most" now is it?

I usually preface the squirmy fly's demise by saying, "Take that you pesky fly! No more fresh fruit (or trash can delicacies) for you!" This year I've decided to go the more humane route on ridding the indoors of flying nuisances. I hung two strips of fly paper on either side of the back door. Stephanie thinks this is one of the most disgusting things she has ever seen (hello? afterbirth anyone?), but I kind of like them. Not only does it stop them from coming in the house but you can stand there and watch them squirm while trying to free themselves. These are chemical free papers so they don't suffer - they just starve to death. Pretty soon a spider will build it's nightly web around them and go to town on the fly paper buffet. Granted, a few flying things still manage to make their way inside. Those suckers still get the one-two punch on the way to the sink.

By the way, in case you were wondering what that beautiful sunset photo is of, that's the flypaper. A true piece of art that you, too, can pick up at the store for $.25/each.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Too Many Questions, Not Enough Answers

“Daddy, why do we have trees?”

“Well, trees grow on Earth and provide oxygen to our atmosphere for us to breath,” I said.

“But why do we need oxygen, Daddy?”

“So we can breath,” I said again.

“Oh. But how do we breath?” he asked.

“Through our mouths and noses,” I replied.

“Oh. Daddy, why do we have noses?”

To continue reading click...

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Golf? Today? Are You Sure?

Today is my friend's 34th birthday and we planned a few weeks ago to get in a round of golf. With the exception of our tennis matches, it had been a while since the two of us had spent any time together without our wives and kids around. This was going to be great! A whole day of golfing starting out with breakfast tacos at Maudie's Tex-Mex Heaven! It doesn't get much better than that.

Last night we were discussing the weather outlook for our day's events and his reply was, "It's going to rain?"

Me: "Yep. All day they say. 100% chance. Do you still want to golf?"

Birthday Boy: "Hell yes! As long as there is no lightning we should be able to tee off. I'm in!"

Me: "Okay. I'm not scared to play golf in the rain."

So after I took his money playing Texas Hold'em poker (morning breakfast taco wager), we called it an early night (Baby Girl did, actually), and headed home for a good night's sleep before our golf day.

At 8:30 this morning I called his house to make sure he still wanted to play. It was 40 degrees and raining steadily, but not hard. His wife answered the phone and said he was already on his way to pick me up after he located the giant golf umbrella in their garage. He said it might be a miserable round of golf but we would have fun!

Great! I'm happy to know the mere presence of my company is enough to make a miserable, cold, and rainy day of golf fun. I couldn't help but think to myself how much more fun we would have if he just picked up those breakfast tacos on the way to my house while I loaded up Tiger Woods PGA Tour on the computer. We could sit in the warm and dry shelter of the house, slurping hot coffee, stuffing ourselves with spicy breakfast tacos - all while making incredibly long putts, trading high-fives, and watching The Masters tournament. A perfect day in many men's books.

Instead we decided to brave the elements and make the trip south of Austin to the golf course. We still arrived early after devouring our tacos and making a few wrong turns. There were three other cars in the parking lot. I thought for sure they belonged to the pro shop guy, snack bar attendant, and groundskeeper - so I got out and ran in to see if the course was open. It was! The cars in the lot actually belonged to a threesome that had just finished the front nine and were warming up/drying off in the clubhouse getting ready to head out for the back nine. I thought, if they can do it so can we! The pro shop guy informed me that there were no rain checks for today. Translation: No refunds when you wuss out and come speeding back in your golf cart. No problem. We were men and could handle the conditions!

The first hole was fine. We both put our balls on the right side of the fairway rough with a good line for the green. Five shots later and we were on our way to #2. The second hole was a little more challenging being a par 5 and uphill with a water hazard. I think I scored a 9 on that hole. He lucked out with a 7. Hole #3 was decent and we both double bogeyed it with a 6. At this point our hands were freezing and turning red. His face looked like the shiny side of a freshly washed Red Delicious apple. Mine surely looked the same, if not more delicious.

Hole #4 was a blessing as it was our first par 3 of the day! My first tee shot went WAY left out of bounds. Having not used a mulligan yet I thought this was the best time to do so. Who knows if I would get another chance! My second tee shot was short of the green but went straight. His tee shot also landed short, but we were both happy nonetheless. I chipped up on the green and left myself about a 25 foot put for par. My hands and body were so cold I just ran up and putted the ball to get it over with. The greens were soaked and rolling slow. The ball was headed right for the cup but it was certainly not going to make it all the way. I stood and watched as kept going...and going...and going....plunk! PAR!

We high-fived that incredibly long put and trudged on! We skipped our tee shots on the next two holes and hit from the 150 yard markers in the middle of the fairway. The almost frozen rain pelted us through the front of the golf cart, soaking our clothes. I could hardly bend the fingers on my non-gloved hand and our butts were soaking wet from the seat. We finally decided that we were not the men we thought we were and screamed like babies while speeding back to the clubhouse to warm up (throw in the cold, wet towel).

The wusses will attempt a golf outing another day.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Masthead Design

A friend was kind enough to let me build a new masthead for her blog last week. I've been learning new things in Photoshop and Illustrator and she's been wanting to redesign her mama blog. Check out her new look...


To see the whole blog click here.

Bob and Thomas

Check out this post titled Long Bob the Builder, Short the Sodor Railway from the site Long or Short Capital.

Great stuff!

Read about Long or Short Capital here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

New Baby Arrived!

My new bundle of joy arrived yesterday and weighed in at 2 lbs. 11 ounces, and is 6 inches tall! I am happy to say that it was a smooth delivery and both baby and daddy are doing great! She's not quite ready for solid foods yet so I will nurse her until she is ready to wean herself. Hopefully this will be soon. With a little bit of help she is able to sit in a highchair at the table with us for meals. It is a must that we strap her in because this little baby is very fragile.

So far she is sleeping through the night and I haven't had to get up to rock her. I imagine that this is only a phase and we will be spending some good quality time together singing songs and looking at picture books at 3:00 AM just to calm her down enough so she will fall asleep again. These will be rough times for a while, but having been through this with two other babies, I think I'm up for the challenge.

I'm already planning her outings to the park and zoo, birthday parties, graduations, wedding, and more! It will be so much fun watching her grow and the interaction she will have with her siblings. Teaching her new things and showering much love upon her will help to expand the horizons of her future. The fact that I will learn so much from her is an added bonus.

So without further adieu, I present to you Baby Dee...

* in D200. What? Did you think I was talking about something else?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bulky Item Collection

One of the things I do while at home during the day is keep an eye on our Cove for any possible burglars. Since our street is a dead end, I usually notice cars coming and going. This week was our Bulky Item Collection time when everybody puts out their junk for the city to take away. This always brings about the junk collectors who are looking for scrap metal, fixable items, parts from washing machines, grills, tables, etc.

We once had a broken gas grill disappear piece by piece until it was all gone at the end of the day. This was the same grill that the gas line burned through while I was cooking burgers for my 26th birthday party. I noticed a reflection of a flame in my watchband and peeked under the grill to see the gas line on fire. I quickly started turning off the burner knobs yelling "Holy $&*%!" while the party guests sitting close by scrambled off the porch to the back of the yard. I back peddled through the sliding glass door and into the duplex we lived in at the time, looking for cover in the event the grill and tank exploded into the side of the house. After a few minutes of nervous anticipation we deemed it safe to return and shut off the tank. I could have died on my birthday! The gas components were removed and it was converted to a charcoal grill. The base eventually got so corroded that it would not hold charcoal anymore - so out to Bulky Item Collection it went! And then went to several other places in pieces. I went seven years cooking on charcoal until I finally had the nerve to fire up a gas grill again.

This morning the bulky item truck came by to gather up the piles of stuff from the curbs. Normally they bring in a huge dump truck that has jaws attached for lifting the stuff into it. When I looked out the window today and saw just a normal garbage truck I thought to myself, "I guess they are going to come back for the neighbor's couch since it won't fit in there."

Boy, was I wrong! Check out this fun series of photos. After I realized they were actually going to shove that couch into the truck and crush it, I went running for my camera. The photo quality isn't the best as I shot it through my dusty living room window. I wish I had opened the window to hear the compactor eat it...