Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Work Humor

The following short quiz consists of 4 questions and tells whether you are qualified to be a "manager". The questions are not that difficult.
  1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator? The correct answer is: Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe and close the door. This question tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way.
  2. How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator? Wrong Answer: Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant and close the refrigerator. Correct Answer: Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door. This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your actions.
  3. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference, all the animals attend except one. Which animal does not attend? Correct Answer: The Elephant. The Elephant is in the refrigerator. This tests your memory.
OK, even if you did not answer the first three questions correctly, you still have one more chance to show your abilities.
  1. There is a river you must cross. But it is inhabited by crocodiles.How do you manage it? Correct Answer: You swim across. All the Crocodiles are attending the Animal Meeting! This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.
According to Andersen Consulting World wide, around 90% of the professionals they tested got all questions wrong. But many pre-schoolers got several correct answers. Andersen Consulting says this conclusively disproves the theory that most management consultants have the brains of a four year old.

via joke website

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Look! I got mentioned!

EGE over at TheHouseAndI mentioned a fabulous blog, "It's Lovely, I'll Take It!", and I almost fell over laughing at the crazy pictures people think represent their house's best features. Seriously? You think that out-of-focus picture of your bathroom with funky wallpaper and missing tiles in the shower makes me want to buy your house?

I had to get in on the fun, so I submitted a lovely listing found in my local area. Today was my lucky day, as blog-owner Sara featured my submission. The condo association is built around a man-made lake, and that is one of the prime selling-features of units for sale in this gated complex. The condos are nice and all, but really, does this photo of the current owner and the fish he apparently caught in the lake make you want to buy the place?


Yeah, me neither. And what's with the sweater?


Living in Southern California, it's going to be a while before splorp! and I can afford a place of our own. That doesn't stop us me from looking. Hey, I don't want to ill-wish for any home owners out there, I know you like it when your house appreciates in value, but splorp! and I keep watching the prices go down, and the number of foreclosures go up.

We don't necessarily want a foreclosed home, but the more of them there are, the more affordable homes become overall. And when you're talking about an average price for a 2-BR 1-BA Condo with less than 900 sq. feet in my home town, the average price for the last several years has been $450,000 plus HOA of $300 or so each month.

Foreclosures and short sales and the general free-fall of the housing market look good to us! Maybe next year we can start looking to buy.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Webmaster Skillz Go With Photoshop Skillz

Being able to play with Photoshop is really quite fun. It comes in handy for the various things my family wants me to do, like digitally removing food stains on shirts.

But being a Webmaster and being able to edit HTML and CSS? Seriously, if you're a blogger, I think that while you may not need to know how to make them work, you need to know WHY some things work, just so you can avoid trouble.

True, blogger and other blogging programs take care of a lot of problems for you. But do you really want to forever be at the mercy of another company to redesign your blog? You should really get the hang of a few web-based elements that can make your blogging world work better.

Like, learning about posting images. No, you really don't need to know about using the actual HTML commands to link images to your blog post. Yes, you'll do just fine using the tools blogger gives you, and never learning that particular trick.

But just the other day I saw someone doing two things that made me shake my head. I'm not going to link to the blog because I don't want to start a flame war or embarrass somebody who just doesn't know better, but - these were things that no web-savvy person would do, because they have the potential for causing problems later. Yet, not only was she doing them on her own blog and posting about them, she was posting them in an attempt to teach other bloggers how to use them on their own blogs. Very Bad!

Here is my attempt to convince you to learn the right way to do things, which involves knowing a very small bit of HTML.

Error 1) Linking to an image on another person's/company's website. What's wrong with this one? Ok, first of all, it's contrary to web etiquette (it's rude!). That cute image you absolutely must have on your blog is a) probably copyrighted, and b) is hosted by someone else that pays good money to host their stuff on the web. Their hosting company allows them a certain amount of storage space and bandwidth. Every time someone visits your blog post linking to that image, you're draining the other person's bandwidth. If your blog post has so many page hits that it makes them exeed their bandwidth, it may end up costing THEM money because YOU link to their image. Costing somebody money isn't very nice, is it?

Plus (and here's where it can become a problem for you) if that person or company figures out what you're doing, they can simply move their image (best-case scenario: it results in a "broken image" for you), or worst-case scenario replace it with an image you find offensive. Imagine you're a "mommyblogger," writing about something innocent, funny, and child-related, and you link to a random-something image. If your page gets so many hits that the random image causes problems for the owner of that image, he may just decide to replace that image with something pornographic. Suddenly your nice post with the lovely image you "stole" is not so nice!

Lesson: Don't link to someone else's image. It's not nice, and it may come back to bite you in the end. Take the time to save the image to your own photo storage service, and upload it to your blog. You'll avoid problems in the long run.

Error 2) Advocating using the image tag to modify the size of an image. Basically, this person had an ad button that  would not fit on a blog side bar. Seriously? The person making this recommendation had no idea what she was doing. Changing the image by restricting its size in the image tag is the worst way to do it. Imagine you have a square image, 100 pixels wide by 100 pixels high. Now, say your problem is that your sidebar will only fit something that is 90 pixels wide or smaller. So you go ahead and tell the image tag to display this image, but restrict it to 90 pixels wide. Congratulations! Your image is now squished and looks strange, because what you HAVEN'T done is change the image's height. For example:

vs

Again, the solution for this is to not use the image on the other person's server, but instead to actually save the image, then edit it using some basic image editing software (irfanview is a good basic program, and it's free), then upload it to your photo storage service. When you change the image size, you want to make sure you change the image size proportionally. This means that your square image will reduce to 90 pixels wide by 90 pixels high - still a square.

See, these are basic pitfalls of displaying images, which you could easily avoid if you took a few minutes each day to learn a little bit about HTML and how it works. Try W3 Schools.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mad Photoshop Skillzzzzz (part 2)

(Ok, so this is what I really meant to say about knowing how to use Photoshop, but I got distracted.)

Having some knowledge about Photoshop is great and all, but when your husband volunteers your skillzzz, you better measure up.

For all those significant others out there: Don't volunteer your SO's skills without checking with them first!

While we were visiting his family, splorp! volunteered me to fix a photo of his late grandfather. Now, that wasn't so bad on the surface. The problem was all I heard was splorp! saying in a tone of voice that expresses his full confidence in me, "Oh, no problem. LadyCiani can fix it!"

Umm, what am I fixing? That might be good to know. Cause I love your optimism, but what are you getting me in to? I had to explain to splorp! that for future reference, you need to say, "Show it to LadyCiani. Maybe she can fix it." See, changing the wording gives me an 'out' if it's something beyond my mad skillz!

Seriously? This worried me. Mostly I was worried that it would be a really old picture that they wanted me to fix somehow. Hmm, what's so bad about that, you wonder. What's the difference between fixing an old picture and an new one (beyond already-digital format vs. scanned image)? Well, it could be pretty bad. It doesn't really matter if a photo is scanned or not. You can fix a scanned image just as well as one that's digital. It's just that older photos come with more problems.

Have you ever noticed that most newer pictures are glossy, while a lot of those old photos are textured? Yeah, that texture creates problems. It looks really cool, but it's the basic mechanics of scanning a photo that cause problems. When you go to scan a photo, the scanner is basically shining a lot of light at the photo. Just like the big copy machine you always wanted to use to take a copy of your butt? Yeah, same concept with the regular desktop scanner.

Still don't see the problem? The texture you find on old photos is a semi-regular bumpy texture, with a bunch of high points and low points right next to each other. Think of a hillside, and then finding a cave in the hillside. What happens when you shine a light into the cave? The darkness of the cave swallows up the light. That's basically what happens when you have a texture on a photograph. The scanner is shining light at the photo, and the low points of the photo swallow up the light. It means the now-digital-scanned image looks incredibly grainy.

True, professional photographers can probably compensate for the problems caused by the texture, but there are no guarantees. Also, if you're trying to correct the photo for light damage (yellowing) at the same time, result might look strange. (Let the lesson be, always print photos on glossy, and store in archival, acid-free storage).

Anyway, so I hear splorp! volunteering me to his mom to fix this photo, which I've never seen, and I semi-panic. I still want her to like me, not be disappointed in me! And I already know it's my mother-in-law's favorite photo of her now-deceased father. Oh, please let it be something I can do!

It turned out ok. The photo wasn't more than 5 years old, and they just wanted me to fix a food stain on his white work shirt. Not too horribly complicated, as corrections go. It wasn't like it was completely easy, though. The photo had been slightly scratched, and it had fingerprints all over it, plus I had to tell my father-in-law that he needed to clean his scanner bed. All those things are problems because when he scanned the photo, the glass of the scanner had dust on it, which transferred to the now-digital image as white flecks. The scanner also picked up the scratches and fingerprints, and I had to try to correct for all those things.

Still, the photo looked pretty good at the end. EvilMomBeast got a kick out of the idea that I could remove smudges on the walls in the background too - she called it "Painting my parents' living room."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

On Having Mad Photoshop Skillzzzzzz

Except, you know, I don't really have Mad Photoshop Skillzzzz. I'm really just a dabbler who has taken a couple of classes, and everyone thinks I'm good.

Mostly I would identify as a Webmaster, but I decided a little while ago that it would pay off for me to take some classes to expand what I can do in my career. This was before I was angling to get the Webmaster job at work (yes, I still work at the same place, ::sigh::), and I figured that it would make sense for me to be able to create the images and things I need to build web pages.

Basically, it's a pain in the rear to tell the graphics guy, "Ok, I need a .jpg that's 180 pixels wide by 90 high, and it needs to show ... " Yeah, you can see where there would end up being some creative differences of opinion there. Not to mention having to send the image back to the graphics guy multiple times, as the boss changes his mind about what he wants the web page to look like. And color matching? Say, putting an image with a black background onto another black background. There are A LOT of interpretations of "black" in the world.

All in all, I decided that it would be good for the career, and good for a hobby, and hey, maybe I can stop asking husband splorp! to fix photos for me when I'm at home.

One of the best decisions of my life.

Seriously, if you have the opportunity to take a photoshop class, DO IT. Mine was offered at my local community college, and it was one night a week for a semester (about 16 weeks). Yeah, taking a class most likely means you'll have homework, but it's soooo worth it. Community college is really cheap compared to the "professional" classes offered other places. Also, there's a good chance you won't have to buy a text book. My teachers made recommendations for books that we might find helpful, but they did not teach out of a textbook, so they didn't make you buy one.

As a blogger (when I remember to post I'm a blogger), I find it comes in handy to know Photoshop. Not only because I can fix images for the shiny-forehead-spot, but also for making my own title image, and for creating buttons or anything else I want to do. Have an ad button that won't fit in a side bar? I can reduce it in size without warping the image. Want to focus on just one part of the image? I can crop out what's not relevant, and also make the colors look truer at the same time. Have a photo that's too big for where you want to put it in your blog? Reduce the size without losing detail. Photo takes too long to load? Optimize it for the web at 72 dpi without losing image quality.

Basically what I'm saying is, if you're a blogger, you know having photos on your blog will make it more interesting to read. You almost NEED this type of training. So go sign up for a class. Go on, do it now! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stupid Humans

I have a confession to make - I love reading the advice columns from Dear Abby and Annie's Mailbox.

Mostly I love how they offer common sense, and advocate proven counseling resources for people in need.

Today, July 23, 2008, I absolutely loved Dear Abby and her item on dogs kept locked in cars.

I'm an animal person. I'd love to get a dog, but I waver between, "Our apartment has a wonderful garden area" and "It's not fair to keep a dog in an apartment." splorp! comes down firmly in the latter category, though he likes dogs too.

Dear Abby today featured people who had written in to about what they do when they see an animal locked in a car. One advocated keeping the number for the Humane Society Rescue Unit on your cell phone. The best one was saved for last:

DEAR ABBY: While attending the 1994 Gator National Drag Race in Gainesville, Fla., an announcement was made for the owners of an '89 Buick station wagon to please get their dog out of the car. Fifteen minutes later, a new announcement: "For the owners of the '89 Buick station wagon, we have good news and bad news. The good news is, your dog is fine. The bad news is, your passenger side window is now broken."
Everyone in the stands cheered! -- MITCH IN ROXBORO, N.C.

Mitch who wrote in to Dear Abby, thanks for brightening my day! I love it. I think it serves those stupid people right.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Back from Vacation

Ok, so, technically I've been back for a little bit, and it's taken a while to get back in the groove of things. You know, work, blogging, etc.

Not that I'm ever all that regular with posting to the blog, but hey - I try.

Vacation was good. splorp!'s family likes me, and we took tons of photos. splorp! got some of them up on his webpage already, so you can check some out there. I got to hold the new baby, so all is good with the world.

Me Holding Max

Me holding the new baby, Max.*

I like babies, they're really cute, but I always feel awkward holding them (something splorp!'s mom picked up on right away). I'm the youngest in my (smallish) family, and my younger cousins lived far enough away that we didn't see them much except at a few holiday gatherings. Certainly I didn't change their diapers or babysit them, and the few kids I did babysit were potty trained already. It's safe to say I've never actually changed a diaper in my life (28 years old next month).

splorp!'s mom (EvilMomBeast) only teased me a little bit about the baby thing (he was squirming and I was having trouble holding on!). She knows I didn't have young kids around when I was growing up, so it was really just a quick comment of, "Oh, look at that maternal instinct. Do you need help?" Which was followed by me quickly handing the baby to splorp!, who has had much more experience with babies, what with changing his sister's diapers while growing up (the same sister who is Max's mom).

Vacation was really quite good. Central Ohio is very warm and humid, but I enjoyed myself a lot. splorp!'s parents have a pool in the back yard, so we spent quite a while outside and in the water. I proceeded to cover myself in sunscreen, because I will turn red like a lobster if I'm not careful. Gotta say, those new sunscreen in aerosol sprays? LOVE them. They're a little expensive for the number of "servings" you get per bottle, but the coverage is really good, and you don't have that greasy funky white stuff on your hands, and it dries quickly on the skin.

EvilMomBeast watches the other grandkids one or two days a week while splorp!'s other sister and her husband work, so we saw splorp!'s other nephews several times. Cute kids - and they liked playing in the pool and splashing.

I finally got splorp! to take drive me around to all the places he has told me about over the years - places he grew up and had fun and what not. Only took him 10 years, but hey, finally. (Ok, maybe it didn't take the full 10 years, but at least 8.) Every time we have visited his parents I would tell him that I want to see where he grew up, and sights around his home town, and he finally drove me around. Of course, I then listened to 2 hours of, "There's a road here now?" and "This has changed so much!" and "They re-named my Junior High School!" But I think it was well worth it. Now I can kind of put visuals with the stories he tells.

*Gotta love having Photoshop skillz!!! (yes, with a 'z') This was taken after spending ALL FREAKING DAY on a plane and in an airport, and I was extremely shiny on the forehead. Those photoshop skillz allowed me to color correct for horrible flash-induced all-over red skin tone, and also get rid of the shine.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Vacation!

Vacation in our household doesn't come around very often. Unfortunately, it comes around even less often right now, as I had to burn all of my saved vacation days and use them for sick time not long ago.

I'm generally a healthy person, but I came down with a really bad case of the flu the week after Thanksgiving, and then the week of New Years. I had to use a week of vacation time each time. The last time I was sick for a week? Hmm, maybe 1992 or so, when I was in 7th grade.

Anyway, our vacations tend to be long weekends to Las Vegas, since that's driving distance from our home in Southern California. We've also done San Diego, and a short driving trip up the coast of California. Other vacations are pretty much trips to visit family.

Husband splorp! hails from Ohio (or, as my sister is convinced, Iowa*), so we try to make it back to visit his family once a year at least. Sometimes we don't quite make it, but his mom and dad have met us in Vegas, and they've flown out to see us, so it mostly works out.

That's where we are this week - Ohio. Hot and humid, and really, really green. Growing up in Southern California, I'm more or less used to farm land, but the green here is everywhere! It's actually really nice, to see something that's not burned-or-burning roadside, or oleander bushes, or stupid ice plant growing on the side of the road. The green here is overflowing, and just - wow. Really green.

Also, the suburbs are quite different than what I'm used to. The houses are set further back from the roads, and they're spaced further apart, and everything is green with really big trees, and the brick houses! In California, we don't have much that is built of brick. We also don't have many places with basements (earthquakes, you see). So the first time I came out to meet splorp!'s family, I was really surprised by the amount of brick that is here, which they take for granted. Even splorp! is rather immune to it, and he's been in California a dozen years now.

We visited splorp!'s grandparents, and his youngest sister had her first child in February (which means splorp! has a new nephew), so we met him for the first time this trip, plus we are visiting with the other sister's family (2 nephews there), and his cousins and various aunts and uncles made special trips to see him. splorp! has a larger family than I do, so all this family is all a bit overwhelming to me, but I'm doing my best to fit in. They seem to like me, and not the fake-pretend-to-like-the-daughter-in-law-because-we're-stuck-with-her, so it's pretty good.

Soon it will be over though, but until then we're going to be relaxing by the pool, which is 84 degrees (F) in 90-some degree temperature with 85% humidity. Yeah, my hair is a frizzball.

*My sister once visited Iowa with her then-boyfriend's family for a wedding. Now, 10 years or so later, every time splorp! and I travel to Ohio, she's somehow convinced we're going to Iowa. A typical conversation between her and splorp!: Her, "So, what was it like growing up in Iowa?" splorp!, "I wouldn't know, since I grew up in Ohio."