Wednesday, May 24, 2017

learning stuff in photoshop

Though I’ve been using Photoshop for more than 15 years now, I’ve pretty much used it for journeyman stuff, such as making and processing graphics and photos for use on websites and in digital advertising. Haven’t had time to experiment much with it, or learn new stuff unless I have to in order to achieve an effect I want. So I decided to try to learn something new at least once a week.

Today comes from the MediaLoot blog: Make Colors Pop in Lightroom or Photoshop—I have both, but use Photoshop all the time while I haven’t had time to actually learn Lightroom. It involves using the Camera Raw filter. I used the settings from the tutorial, and here are the before (minimal processing, low-res image taken with my Galaxy phone):

flowers on the mantle, pre-filter
Flowers on the mantle, before processing (click to see it big!)

Flowers on the Mantle, filter applied
Flowers on the mantle, after applying camera raw filtering (click to see it big!)

I think the second image does look a lot better. So much so that I’m willing to use the preset filter I made with the tutorial on other photos. But I also think I need to learn more about what I’m actually doing so I can twitch the filter to make it look even better.

Here are two more experiments. I think the processed photos are much better—these are images taken with my Canon:

Slink in the Window, May 25, 2016, no processing
Slink in the Window, May 25, 2016, no processing (click to see it big!)

Slink in the Window, May 25, 2016,color processed
Slink in the Window, May 25, 2016, after filter application (click to see it big!)

Pepper in the Window October 29 2015 no processing
Pepper in the Window, October 29, 2015, no processing (click to see it big!)

Pepper in the Window October 29 2015 color processed
Pepper in the Window, October 29, 2015, after filter application (click to see it big!)

So, cool. Learned something new.

posted by lee on 05/24/17 at 05:20 PM

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

cat snot & other tribulations

This afternoon, I decided to open the window for a while. It was wicked hot earlier this week, but now it’s just cold.

Slink was here, in the living room:

image
Slink snoozing. (click to see it big!)

Which is at the front of the house and includes getting by the dog to get to the window at the back of the house.

But he managed to do it, probably by teleportation since it was instantaneous.

He then proceeded to rub against my face as I was opening the window. Then sneezed in my face. A full, snot-laden, allergy-induced cat sneeze.

Which caused me to step back fast—stepping right into the dog’s water bowl.

Normally it’s just an “oh shit” moment. But I’ve been sick for a week (allergies or a cold, who knows?) and am exhausted because last night I 1) binge-watched every episode of Marcella on Netflix and 2) got very little sleep once I did get to bed since every time I settled down, I started coughing. And trying not to cough so I wouldn’t wake Stanley. Which made the coughing worse, of course.

(Marcella was very good. But a lot of holes, kind of built-in to the series—she suffers from fugue states, it seems—maybe to explain things where you don’t really know what happened but seem to be resolved so the story continues. Hmm. Maybe these get resolved in season two?)

Anyway, after stepping into the dog’s water bowl, I just started laughing (while sopping up the water), which made me start coughing again. Which made me think about the benefits of Depends.

It’s just too cold for May.

posted by lee on 05/21/17 at 07:00 PM

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

when will there be good news

When Will There Be Good News? (Jackson Brodie, #3)When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book introduces a character I like even more than Jackson Brodie: Reggie, a smart, loyal, and resourceful 16-year-old girl strives to do the right thing while dealing with the worst circumstances.

This novel, like the earlier two in the series, is far from perfect. Sometimes there are just too many details and too many characters, sometimes there’s not enough detail about the characters who drive the plot. Not every thread is wrapped up or resolved—you can only hope things are resolved in the next JB novel (which I will read as soon as I can download it from the library) or, hopefully, the one after that. (These really are not standalone books—you’ll get very lost if you don’t read them in order.)

I love the humor of the characters. I love learning more about the characters—even the ones that are, really, unnecessary to the plot, such as Louise (she was introduced in JB2, and was unnecessary there, too) other than getting Jackson out of a sticky spot or two. (I like her, and hope it ends up well for her—she deserves a happy resolution.)

The story revolves around a 30-year-old massacre of a family leaving one survivor, a killer, a train wreck, an orphan, and fierce loyalty to loved ones. There are very sad events, some brutal events, and plenty of humor and hope. It left me wanting to know what happens next.

posted by lee on 05/20/17 at 03:38 PM

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

one good turn

One Good Turn (Jackson Brodie, #2)One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is what happens after “Case Studies,” with two the same characters: Jackson Brodie and Julia (who has become Jackson’s sort-of girlfriend). Brodie has moved to France, but gives the impression that he’s kind of bored with it. He’s in Edinburgh for a festival because Julia is performing in a play. While there, he witnesses a road rage incident, which spins out to having all sorts of repercussions.

In the meantime, a very rich but very criminal home developer who is about to be taken down for fraud has a heart attack while with a woman providing “favors” and his wife, Gloria, decides she doesn’t want to be bothered by his employees and minions so tells them he’s off somewhere. This appears to be a side story, but ...

Jackson, while doing a bit of sightseeing, comes across the body of a drowned woman, but loses it (the body, I mean) as he’s trying to pull it away from the incoming tide. This sets up a the introduction of Louise, a Scottish cop (and her son, Archie, and his bad friend, Hamish). And very interesting character, though it’s hard to see what she ads to the actual plot. Even after everything is resolved, Louise seems to be a set-up for a future Jackson Brodie book. Which is fine—I like her, just don’t see the point of her character in this particular tale. Events involving Louise and her son just kind of hang. Unresolved threads here. Maybe for the next JB novel (which I will download next).

A central theme revolves around matryoshka (the Russian dolls that stack inside each other), and indeed the entire plot is matryoshka. It all makes sense in the end, though it’s kind of dizzying while in process.

What I enjoy a lot about the way Atkinson spends a lot of time with the inner stories of many, but not all, of the characters. Some people say it bogs down the plot too much, but I think the characters’ development is the point of Atkinson’s Brodie books and not so much the plot, and I enjoy this.

There was one reference to “Case Studies” that did bother me, and that was in reference to one of the characters in that novel, her ultimate fate—seemed gratuitous and pointless. I won’t get into it because I don’t want to spoil “Case Studies” for anyone.

The main problem I have with this, and with “Case Studies,” is the plots do not quite resolve. Things are left hanging; some answers are just assumptions the reader draws based on hints. I don’t know yet if this is planned or if it’s just weak storytelling (or laziness) on Atkinson’s part. Or I’m just nitpicky. Maybe this novel ties up in the next ... ?

posted by lee on 05/10/17 at 02:08 PM

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

case studies

Case Histories (Jackson Brodie, #1)Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not your usual detective novel—it’s more of a series of character studies, I think, several stories that somehow all get connected. After I read the case histories (there are three in the beginning, and one more further in), and I was getting into the story, I was a little confused at first. But I like the “hero,” Jackson Brodie, and I especially like the way Atkinson draws you into each character when she limns their inner dialogues, the real thoughts that show who the person really is. It reminds me a lot of Stephen King’s writing, where he managed to make the characters seem like real people, people you actually know.

In this book, the stories of the survivors are more important than the whodunnit and really, much more interesting. And funny, and in some cases, sad.

I liked it so much I downloaded the second Jackson Brodie novel from the library.

posted by lee on 04/30/17 at 01:54 AM

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Friday, April 07, 2017

if the videos aren’t enough, here are more photos

Besides the videos, Scott also took a bunch of photographs of the disaster (you can click the arrows to see it full screen):

Meant to ask Scott about the ceiling over the living room—did that survive? And how did the bedroom next to the stairs do?

posted by lee on 04/07/17 at 08:58 PM

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Sunday, April 02, 2017

horror movies

Scott went up to Oscoda to assess the damage. This is what he found: (if you can’t watch these because they won’t load, please let me know and I’ll figure out another way to embed them—this is just a q&d fix).









From what he saw, it looks like this is a much older problem than we originally thought. It appears that the broken pipe kept gushing until the power to the pump was turned off (the house has its own well water supply). Someone, fortunately, turned off the breakers when the problems was originally discovered (by whom, initially, I do not know ... there are some information gaps that need to be filled in) so the water was turned off.

Scott says it’s like the inside is just dripping with moisture. The crawlspace is a swamp. The carpet needs to be ripped out ASAP. Most of the drywall is kaput. The paneling in the family room looks like it’s liquid still. The furnace and probably the hot water heater are gone, and probably the dishwasher, though the fridge is still okay (good thing—brand new, barely used). The stove was there when my parents moved in back in 1993, so that should probably be replaced anyway (or just removed).

As he said, he doesn’t know why the ceilings on the second floor fell—there are no pipes in those ceilings. So it must’ve been mighty wet in there for quite a while. With the weather warming up, cleanup needs to happen fast.

One thing I do know: when the repairs are done, they will be done right. No cut-through joists to accommodate the plumbing—a lazy con-artist did that when the house was built in 1979. Unbelievable.

posted by lee on 04/02/17 at 08:23 PM

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

wind, weather, water, & an empty house, oh calamity!

This weekend wasn’t a good one for tech stuff—DoS attack on one server, weird glitch on another, and we had to move our webserver to a new box because the disk is failing. So I was starting to think about what else to do for a living to get away from high tech. (I always do when aggravated by server crap that always seems to happen at once.)

However, I got a lesson that even “low tech” has problems. We put Dad’s house on the market last September and I saw that the market is picking up so that boded well for actually selling it this spring (Iosco County is not exactly a hot market—not for years now). But Mother Nature kicked us in the teeth. There have been windstorms and power outages where the house is—it’s the norm for a northern Michigan winter. While we don’t know for sure, it looks like the wind knocked the power out to the house (happens an awful lot there) and it didn’t come back on in time to prevent the pipes from freezing. Frozen pipes in the back wall, which apparently burst and destroyed the ceiling above the dining room and family room. My nephew Scott and his girlfriend Kayla just happened to go up that way for a weekend jaunt, checked on the house, and discovered the nightmare.

This was my biggest fear, that weather would cause something like this. A storm or a lightening strike or even a tornado. What frustrates me most about it is I’m not there to help with dealing with it.

Here is what these rooms looked like:

kitchen
The kitchen, when we put it on the market. (click to see it big!)

family room
The family room when we put it on the market. (click to see it big!)

That was then. These are now:

damage kitchen view
Looking from the kitchen towards the dining area/family room.

dining room ceiling
The ceiling in the dining area (click to see it big!)

Dining room area.
text (click to see it big!)

The ceiling above the dining area
The ceiling above the dining area. What gets me is how pristine and untouched the curtains look. (click to see it big!)

The ceiling that is no more
Where the ceiling used to be, above the dining area and family room. (click to see it big!)

Where the ceiling is now
Where the ceiling is now. (click to see it big!)

I know there was a bad windstorm a couple of weeks ago, but this looks like it’s been more than two weeks. But, I don’t know—I have no idea how quickly damage like this can happen.

The area that is damaged in mainly in the one-story section behind the garage, and below the upstairs bathroom in the two-story part of the house (hence all the pipes).

My nephew saw a silver lining: “Well, once we fix it we can say ‘improvements made’ in the listing.”

posted by lee on 03/26/17 at 01:13 AM

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

a criminal defense

A Criminal DefenseA Criminal Defense by William L. Myers Jr.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well-written and interesting, but ultimately preposterous. Much too convoluted and contrived and too many things had to fall perfectly into place for the resolution to work. But it’s well-written and it kept me reading because I wanted to see how it all resolved.

posted by lee on 03/11/17 at 02:31 AM

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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

planet earth 2

Flamingoes - San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, BBC America Planet Earth 2
Flamingoes,San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, Justin Anderson (click to see it big!)

We’ve been watching Planet Earth II—and it’s just as beautiful as Planet Earth, first aired back in March 2007 in the United States.

My only quibble is sometimes the music gets twee—I loathe that. I like David Attenborough fine as the narrator, though I would be just as happy with Sigourney Weaver as narrator as she was in the 2007 US version of Planet Earth. I also like that they are pointing out the effects of climate change and encroaching development on the habitats.

In the first episode, Islands, the flight of the baby marine iguanas in Fernandina, Galápagoes to reach their parents without being eaten by waiting racer snakes was very exciting—better than a car chase by far. And in episode 2, Mountains, the flamingoes in the Atacama Desert was my favorite part. In the most recent episode, Jungles, I loved the Wilson bird of paradise mating ritual in West Papua, Indonesia. I’m looking forward to the next episode, Deserts, on Saturday.

posted by lee on 03/07/17 at 05:00 PM

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