Company Holiday Party at Disneyland, December 4, 2015

April 9th, 2016
Holiday Donald greeting guests
Holiday Donald greeting guests
Near Thunder Ranch. Why the earmuffs? Ducks don't have ears.
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2015 Holiday Card

January 5th, 2016

 

This was a little video I made to send out good cheer to friends and family. I regret not being able to practice it much in the weeks before, but I think it came out okay despite a few slow spots.

Cropping in Adobe Photoshop Elements

March 1st, 2014

(Click on any image to view it at 100%)

1)    Import an image into Photoshop Elements

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2)    Click on the Crop Tool in the Tool Bar on the left side of the screen

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3)    Select the “None” option in the Crop Options area at the bottom of the screen.

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4)    Draw a rough box around the area of the crop (it doesn’t have to be exact)

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The crop area will transform into a box with eight adjustment handles. Parts of the image that will be cropped out turn gray. A commit/cancel box also appears.

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Now that the crop area has been selected, there are several options available:

DRAG SELECTION AREA

Click anywhere inside the crop box and drag it to move it elsewhere in the image. (Hold the Shift key down to constrain movement to horizontal or vertical axes)

RESIZE CROP AREA

Hover the mouse over an adjustment handle until the cursor becomes a double-headed arrow, and then click on an adjustment handle and drag to change the dimensions of the crop area. (Hold the Alt key down to resize proportionately) (Hold the Ctrl key down to resize from a particular corner)

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ROTATE CROP AREA

Hover the mouse over an adjustment handle until the cursor becomes a double-headed curved arrow, and then mouse the cursor to change the angle of the crop box. (Hold the Alt key down to constrain movement from a particular corner)

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COMMIT/CANCEL

The green checkbox will commit the new boundaries of the image according to the crop box dimensions.

The red “NO” symbol will cancel the crop and return to the original image.

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Graphic Design samples

May 27th, 2012

I’ve started a graphic design page on my website so that I can demonstrate some of my abilities. You can view it here.

The only thing there so far is a pinwheel picture I did in Adobe Illustrator. I did this during my free time this April and May. It’s still a work-in-progress as far as I’m concerned. I’d really like to add to it using Illustrator’s gradient mesh tool to give the shadows an even more realistic look.

I used some additional technology (AJAX) to show the “outline” view of this artwork. You can see the paths from Illustrator if you roll your mouse over the picture.

There will be more to come. Hopefully, sooner than later. I will post updates here on the blog.

Donald “Duck” Dunn (1941-2012): An Appreciation and Tribute

May 13th, 2012

I was shocked this morning to read on Twitter that legendary bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn had passed away. Apparently, he was on tour in Japan and died quietly in his sleep at the age of 70.

Duck was one of those select few who had a profound effect on music and influenced countless others while remaining virtually anonymous. He was someone who you might not have heard of, but more than likely, you’ve definitely heard his music. To follow his career is to chart the course of the most important music made over the last 50+ years.

He was best known for being a member of Booker T. & The MGs. It goes without saying that Booker T. & The MGs, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, were pioneers of early Soul music.

But incredibly, Duck had made his way to the pop charts before becoming an MG. He was the bass player for the Mar-Keys in 1961 when they had a #3 hit with the instrumental “Last Night”.

With Booker T. & The MGs, Dunn made incredible soul instrumentals, most notably “Green Onions” and “Time Is Tight”. Beyond the great music they put out under their own name, they were also the house band for their label, Stax Records. This meant that they are playing on all the classic records put out by Stax throughout the 1960’s. That includes the recordings of Otis Redding (“Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay”), Sam & Dave (“Soul Man”, “Hold On, I’m Coming”), Rufus & Carla Thomas (“Walking The Dog”, “Gee Whiz”), Eddie Floyd (“Knock On Wood”), Wilson Pickett (“In The Midnight Hour”) and the great blues guitarist Albert King (“Born Under A Bad Sign”), among many others.

(I’m so happy that YouTube has live footage of this great band)

They don’t often get credit for it, but Booker T. & the MGs were also significant for being a racially integrated group at a time when acts and audiences were segregated in many places across the country.

After Booker T. & The MGs, Duck experienced a second stint in the spotlight when he joined the supergroup of musicians backing John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in the Blues Brothers. Dunn played himself in their 1980 movie and the 1998 sequel, “Blues Brothers 2000”. The first video here has the Blues Brothers and their band covering Wilson Pickett’s “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love”. Duck is prominent with his cloud of curly red hair while smoking a pipe.

In this age of “American Idol”, auto-tune, and pre-fab pop stars, the instrumental is pretty much a dead art form. While the instrumental was Duck Dunn’s claim to fame, his legacy was so much more. He wasn’t a teen heartthrob or a fancy singer. His only gimmick was creating some of the most grooving bass lines that locked in and helped create the world’s greatest rhythm section. According to Wikipedia, “Dunn’s basslines continue to be a source of inspiration for rap and hip-hop artists” which can only attest to the eternal timelessness of the music he created.

I feel so incredibly fortunate to have seen him when toured with Booker T. & The MGs behind Neil Young in 1993 at the Pacific Amphitheater. Rest in peace and thanks to the best bass player ever.

Wikipedia

March 2nd, 2011

I will admit that one of the hugest wasters of my time is Wikipedia.

Where else can you go to find an updated, detailed explanation of just about any topic you can think of for absolutely nothing? (Well, okay, you do have to pay for Internet access)

It really is a dream for anyone with the slightest bit of curiosity about the world.

But I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch that most of articles on Wikipedia are poorly written. I mean, really poorly written.

Here’s a good example. If you’re confused about the word “bus” when it refers to computers (I’m guessing the “Greyhound” type can be understood by pretty much everybody above the second grade), here’s what you get from Wikipedia:

In computer architecture, a bus is a subsystem that transfers data between computer components inside a computer or between computers.
Early computer buses were literally parallel electrical buses with multiple connections, but the term is now used for any physical arrangement that provides the same logical functionality as a parallel electrical bus. Modern computer buses can use both parallel and bit-serial connections, and can be wired in either a multidrop (electrical parallel) or daisy chain topology, or connected by switched hubs, as in the case of USB.

Got that? Now take a look at this entry on the same topic from Webopedia:

(1) A collection of wires through which data is transmitted from one part of a computer to another. You can think of a bus as a highway on which data travels within a computer. When used in reference to personal computers, the term bus usually refers to internal bus. This is a bus that connects all the internal computer components to the CPU and main memory. There’s also an expansion bus that enables expansion boards to access the CPU and memory.

Which of those definitions did you understand? Which one did you even want to read? I’m guessing the second one. I know I can’t get past “subsystem” in the Wikipedia entry without the fog rolling in. I believe Webopedia puts them to shame with their clear, simple writing.

Let’s go to another example, something more people know about–antioxidants. Here’s Wikipedia:

An antioxidant is a molecule capable of inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals. In turn, these radicals can start chain reactions that damage cells. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates, and inhibit other oxidation reactions. They do this by being oxidized themselves, so antioxidants are often reducing agents such as thiols, ascorbic acid or polyphenols.

I don’t know about you, but just a line or two in and my eyes are glazing over. Dust Bunny Rodeo is suddenly more appealing than slogging through that writing. Can it be that antioxidants are a very complex topic that can’t be explained by simple prose? Well, look what I found here

We can think of oxidation in terms of oxidative hits, kind of like bullets being fired at our cells. If a bullet (free radical) strikes a cell wall, that is one kind of damage, if it strikes protoplasm that is another kind, and if reaches the DNA of our cells that is the kind of damage that really matters….

Stopping cellular damage means stopping damage caused by the bad guys that get inside our bodies. Now, if you were very rich and wanted protection from bad guys, you would hire body guards to stand around you always and protect you from bad guys…

That’s exactly what we need to do to stop the bad guys from damaging our cell’s DNA — we need to hire body guards, in this case cellular body guards…

Whoa! How about that? By using some very apt analogies, they’ve made an explanation of antioxidants easily understandable by just about anybody at any reading level. It’s beautiful in its simplicity.

Now, of course, it’s well-known that Wikipedia is (in its own words) “written collaboratively by largely anonymous Internet volunteers who write without pay. Anyone with Internet access can write and make changes to Wikipedia articles.1” So it’s pretty pointless to rail against this unknown and undefined group who actually does Wikipedia’s writing. But on the other hand, some of Wikipedia’s writers do an incredible job of creating very well-written and compelling articles. For instance, their entry on propaganda is one of my very favorites. You couldn’t find a better explanation of that topic if you ask me.

But there are standards in place on Wikipedia. Entries that have bearing on current events have messages at the top of their pages warning that information “may change rapidly as the event progresses.” Other articles are flagged for lack of citations, biased writing and other stylistic violations. Why not do the same for the dry, overly technical articles there? They should ask these writers for a do-over.

Good writing is all about knowing your audience. Most likely, given its prominence, popularity and accessibility, Wikipedia is reaching the broadest reader base (as well as the most ignorant) regarding a certain subject. If someone is coming to a topic with a fair amount of familiarity about a topic, it would make sense to think that they would go elsewhere to read about it. In other words, a physicist specializing in electromagnetic radiation, say, is not very likely to be heading to Wikipedia to brush up his or her knowledge on the subject. There are trade journals, academic papers and weighty books that would be consulted first. So why write the entry using terminology only physicists would understand? Dumb it down! Let the rest of us understand this concept.

Wikipedia really needs to hire a technical writer.

Networking 102

February 10th, 2011

So you’ve decided to attend your first networking meeting…..

Here’s a simple handy-dandy list of suggestions that should make the event go smoother.

BRING:

Business Cards–The goal of this is connecting with people, right? Well, you can scramble around for a pen and spare scraps of paper each and every time you meet someone, or you can have a stack of business cards you can hand out. It doesn’t have to be terrible fancy or have a sophisticated design. Just something with the essential information on it: your name, your phone number, email address, and the URL to your LinkedIn profile will do very nicely. It would also help if there were a line or two about your job title or what makes you special, but if you can’t manage that, leave some space on the card so that your new contacts can write that information in themselves.

A clean, professional appearance–This probably doesn’t need to be said, but that could go for everything in this post. While it’s unlikely that you’ll be meeting someone who’ll be directly hiring you, it is still important to make a great first impression. So don’t treat the event as if it’s casual hour. But at the same time, you don’t need to be on formal evening wear. You’ll be probably be just fine with casual business wear.

A friendly ear and desire to communicate–You will be talking to quite a few people. Not all of them will be able to help you, I’m sorry to say. The only way to determine this is by talking with each other for a little while. Be courteous and patient; this isn’t speed dating. Even if there is very little common ground between the two of you but the other party seems friendly and helpful, that doesn’t mean things couldn’t change in the future. Once you get back home, look that person up on LinkedIn and ask them to join your network to make keeping in contact easier.

DO NOT BRING:

Inflated Expectations–You are looking for connections, nothing more. No one will be offering you a job at a networking event. At best, someone will make arrangements to meet with you for an interview at a later time. So don’t get your hopes up falsely. What you should keep in mind is the main theme in my Networking 101 blog post: everyone at a mixer is there to answer a single question, “What or who do I know that can help this other person?”. That goes for you, too. Try to find out the other person’s needs and do your best to come up with a resource or person that would solve that need. If not, keep that problem in the back of your mind and as you network more, see if a new contact can solve some of your older contacts’ problems. (We’re probably getting into Networking 201 here….)

Slime–That’s right. Slime. And it isn’t a Ghostbusters reference, either. If you’re at a networking mixer trying to get a new job or meet new contacts, you don’t want to come across as a fountain of negativity. Even if your current job sucks (hey, frankly, it happens) you don’t even hint at this when you’re talking to other people. Your boss is a jerk? Incompetent management driving the business into the ground? Keep all of that to yourself. Put the most positive spin possible on your job search. Because it reflects on you as much as if you had shown up to the mixer in torn and muddy clothes. No one in a successful position is going to help someone spewing slime at their first meeting, no matter how friendly they seem. Your acquaintance won’t go any further than the mixer. Say as little as possible about anything bad going on with your career and put the best spin on things that you can.

….aaaaaaand we’re back!

January 13th, 2011

It’s been one wild semester.

As I was mentioning in my last post (which seems like decades ago), I had just registered for classes in Dreamweaver and Flash/ActionScript. Well, I’ve finished those and gotten A’s in both. Even better, the class project I worked on in the Dreamweaver class actually won and was accepted as the site that replaced Fullerton College’s EOPS website. You can see my team’s work here.

So while I learned so much, I got somewhat sidetracked with my career path, website, and even this blog. I’m still not sure if I’m taking classes in the upcoming Spring semester, but I will definitely be doing much more to build my brand, starting immediately.

I have also been very fortunate over the last few months to be involved with some tremendous volunteer opportunities. I am able to learn and use things like XML and Joomla while doing them, which just adds to my experience. It works really well with the Web development and programming languages I’m learning.

The trick now is take the sum of it all and create with it. That’s going to be a slow process, but I will share my progress here along the way.

Off I go!

Back to school!

July 14th, 2010

I’ve already got it planned out for next semester….

I sign up next week for the second semester of the Dreamweaver class I took this spring (fingers crossed it isn’t full when I go to register) and also sign up for an advanced Flash class where the emphasis is on ActionScript (much more on this in a future post).

Just now I got in my email a notification from a online program I’ve taken a couple of classes from that tells me they are now offering an introduction course in PHP and mySQL!!! I will be signing up for THAT one before this night is over.

I love going to school and taking classes. Especially when they put you right smack-dab in the middle of a VERY in-demand job market.

What’s amazing to me is how neatly this is all fitting together. I had set out to learn all those languages by the end of the year and it’s like they were just automatically handed to me on a silver platter. Incredible.

Somehow, though, I need to sneak in some JavaScript there somewhere. That’s the only one missing from my wish list. Why do I get the feeling all of this will work itself out?

Networking 101

July 9th, 2010

Many already know this, but I’m writing this on behalf of a couple of people I know who are new to the very basics of networking.

The most important thing you can know about networking is that it does NOT work this way:

Networker #1: Well, hello! My name is Art. What’s yours?

Networker #2: Janice. Nice to meet you!

Networker #1: Nice to meet you, as well. Say, can you get me a job, Janice?

Networker #2: Why yes, I can, Art! Even though I know nothing about you or what you do, can you start Monday?

The idea behind networking is not “Me, me, me, me”. Successful networking instead is centered around the mindset of “What or who do I know that can help this other person?”

If you keep that concept in mind, you’ll do very well.

Of course, the idea here is that if a bunch of people in the room are all there to help each other out, everyone wins. So even if no one is in an immediate position to help you out, the idea is that you stick in their mind and in the future, they are looking out for opportunities for you–trying to use their contacts to help other people. And you are doing the same for them.

Why bother going through all of this?

Greg Johnson, executive and career coach, states that only 3% of jobs filled come from postings on jobs boards like Monster and CareerBuilder. I had a hard time believing that number, but he’s got the data.

So that means that it is crucial that EVERY job seeker is out there meeting new people and marketing themselves and their skills. No small task.

The bad news here is that as beneficial as networking is to you, it takes time to work. You are cultivating relationships here–quality relationships. Building friendships and establishing trust. This simply does not happen overnight, just as Art & Janice’s conversation above doesn’t happen in real life.

Who should you ask to join your LinkedIn network? According to Brenda Whitesides, a trainer on LinkedIn as well as a consultant and recruiter, it should be people with whom you feel comfortable enough to pick up the phone and talk to on a moment’s notice. Getting connections is only the first step. Kelly Blokdijk, a talent coach and HR professional, describes LinkedIn as a “rolodex”–simply a tool to keep track of people. What you do with those connections beyond LinkedIn is what’s important.

I was asked the question, “Who is better as a LinkedIn connection: someone in your industry, or someone as far away from it, like a construction worker?”

The answer is neither. The people you want for LinkedIn connections are “people persons” who go out of their way to help you NO MATTER WHAT INDUSTRY THEY ARE IN. What they happen to do for a living is slightly irrelevant. What’s more important is WHO THEY KNOW. A construction worker could have contacts with lawyers, graphic designers, marketing executives and CEOs. Who you want for your LinkedIn connections are great networkers.

And think about that….wouldn’t someone completely removed from your industry be in a better position to help you than the same old people you see every day, every week, or every month? What are the chances of a complete (yet connected) stranger being the answer to your problems than someone who you see every day and whose contacts are most likely the same as yours?

Another point I’ll add here is a LinkedIn “don’t”. I was contacted through LinkedIn to join the network of a former coworker I hadn’t heard from in about 10 years. I was happy to hear from this person and I accepted the invitiation. Many months went by and one day, I was at a networking event and heard that someone needed a contact on the IT department at Toyota. A bell went off in my head as I remembered that that was exactly where this former coworker worked! I told this new contact that I knew someone at Toyota and would arrange for an introduction. Well, I dropped my contact a brief note to ask about talking with someone who needed a connection.

Weeks later, I am still waiting for his reply.

This is about as opposite the point of LinkedIn as you can get. It reminds me of the comic strip Mr.  Boffo which regularly features “People Unclear On The Concept”. Signing up on LinkedIn and never talking to any of your contacts there is the very definition of being unclear on the concept.

If you can’t keep in touch with people, be willing to help them, drop a brief note saying hello occassionally, or want to know more about new things and new people, I would advise you to stay off of LinkedIn. You’re not helping yourself or anybody else. What good is it to have 75 or 100 LinkedIn connections if none of those people can help you meet the right people? Don’t bother establishing a profile there. Instead, invest all your time and money in lottery numbers.

I’ll make one last point here. Networking is fairly new to me as well. I’m still learning a great deal about it. But I can confidently say that I’m in the full swing of it and am looking to do more and more. If you’re new to networking, I would strongly advise you to get out and start as soon as you can. (I should point out that every opportunity is a networking opportunity. You shouldn’t have a conversation with the grocery clerk, gas station attendant, next-door neighbor, waiter or dry cleaner without networking.) You might not know it, but there are networking events on just about every day of the week. Just Google them if you don’t believe me. There are all kinds of free events, you could join a group and go to their events, or just go as a non-member for a slightly higher entry fee. But get in there and do it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Please feel free to leave comments on this post and let me know if I need to explain any of this further. I’ll respond in the comments or just create a whole new post about it.