Sunday, March 27, 2005

Pimp My Product


As I've been in love with photography since high school, I'm always looking for easy ways to improve my skills. I used to know all the stuff, f-stop, film speed, how to develop and print my own film, etc. I do miss that level of knowledge and involvement in the art. A photography course would be needed at this point to get me back up to speed as far as the complicated technical details go, but I've been enjoying the nifty tips and tricks at Camera Hacks.

Today I followed the suggestions in this post regarding the sharpening of digital photos. I have a deep-seated envy of photographers that are able to produce incredibly crisp-looking images, whether through talent or their astronomically-priced cameras. In reading, I discovered that many digital cameras cause a 'soft-focus' effect that results in photos that are less sharp than film cameras. It then occurred to me that perhaps some of the skilled photographers were processing their digital photos in order to gain that beautifully crisp look I love so much.

I downloaded GIMP (which is a free and pretty nifty, well-rounded alternative to the wallet-gouging Photoshop) as well as the GIMP smart-sharpening script in the post. It took a bit of wrangling (GIMP requires two downloads, the runtime environment and the actual application), but installing the script is relatively easy to figure out. Don't be put off by the description of it being a bit-map editor; you can work on and save jpgs and other widely-used formats.

Once you've got the smart-sharpening script installed, to access it, open a picture in GIMP, and it's located under Script-Fu -> Photokit. It allows you to adjust the settings, as well as do it multiple times to one photo. Using different photos, I played around with it and got some stellar results. It will not help photos that are out-of-focus to begin with, but on some in-focus shots, the change was significant enough to be pretty amazed at what a difference it made.

Check it out; I used my Icicles pic to see if I could better improve in the photo what I had seen with my eye, the brilliant facets of the sun reflecting in the ice. Before and After. That was one run of the script on the default settings. The changes aren't exactly earth-shattering, but I notice enough of an improvement on the second that I'm quite thrilled with the result.

So try it out! I'm so excited to have a way to easily improve my photos. And.. if my internet connection wasn't so persnickity right now, I think I'd replace everything in my Flickr photostream with smart-sharpened copies.



Currently Playing...
Song: Suzanne Vega - World Before Columbus
Book: Everyday Magic: Spells & Rituals for Modern Living by Dorothy Morrison
Obsessing Over: iPods! Help me get one free by clicking here -- then get one yourself!

Friday, March 25, 2005

One of the Best Covers and Videos I've Seen In a While


A Perfect Circle - Imagine

Video code provided by MusicVideoCodes.com

By the Way, I Go to School With a Bunch of Fucking Idiots


Students set more than 50 fires to celebrate WVU victory
(note the picture.. I live in Sunnyside)

I knew there was a huge men's basketball game last night between WVU and Texas Tech, so when I heard what sounded like a hundred people screaming their lungs out at around midnight, I pretty much figured we won. Despite the fact that I pay little attention to sports and don't feel much in the way school pride or allegiance, I'd been rooting for WVU because they hadn't had a win like this in ages, so I thought that was cool. Only the screaming persisted for like an hour, there were all sorts of sirens blaring as cops and fire trucks blazed by on the main street a block away. I kept thinking, Good Lord, what the hell is going on??

West Virginia University on Friday condemned students and fans who celebrated the WVU men's basketball team's victory in the NCAA regional semifinal by setting about 50 street fires, forcing police to use Mace to control crowds ... Setting street fires to celebrate sports victories has been a tradition at WVU for at least 30 years, Trevillian said.

Maybe it's me, but I don't really get the tradition of arson to celebrate sports victories.

I think the best part of the article is this:

Some students said they don't see anything wrong with setting celebratory fires. "We know how to have fun, and we do it in a responsible way," a student who said his name was Jeff Goodboy told WBOY-TV.

Cause, if you read the entire article, you would note just how "fun" and "responsible" the kids were last night.

Lt. Bill Trevillian of the Morgantown Fire Department said street fires were set downtown and in at least three student residential areas. The fires burned trash, couches, one vehicle, "anything that would burn basically," Trevillian said.

Several cars were overturned and several police cruisers were damaged by thrown items, the Morgantown Police Department said Friday in a news release.

No one was seriously injured, although several firefighters were hit by bottles or cans, Trevillian said.

A couch was thrown off a balcony and hit someone. Police had to use Mace to control large crowds downtown, The Dominion Post of Morgantown reported in Friday's editions.

Fun and responsible? Maybe I'm old, but that just sounds like a dangerous, scary riot.

You see the kind of straight-up morons I have to deal with on a daily basis?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

What kind of pirate am I? You decide!
You can also view a breakdown of results or put one of these on your own page!
Brought to you by Rum and Monkey

Anyone? Anyone? Beuller?


I feel like all I do these days is take tests and freak out for a week beforehand. Said freaking out doesn't include any actual studying, just so we're clear. Anyway, I had a Plant and Soil Science exam first thing this morning, which is always pleasant.. you know, trying to be articulate due to your overly picky professor and you know your brain won't actually wake up for another hour or so. This test was on plant hormones and photosynthesis, and I feel like I did okay, but not great. The short-answer portion of the test was a breeze, but the other three essay sections were somewhat difficult.

Even though the class is only an hour and a half long, it took me nearly two hours to finish, what with trying to come up with enough answers to complete the test. He breaks the test up into different sections of questions with different point value, and usually we can pick a specified number out of a list. Unfortunately, we had two eight-point questions that were required, so I spent a fair amount of time racking my brain trying to remember anything related to photosynthesis in C3 plants. The eight-pointers are the big questions, and the professor expects verbosity in our essays. Unfortunately, while I understand photosynthesis, I couldn't really explain or remember every damn detail. When I realized I'd used up an hour and still had a hell of a lot of essay questions left, I wrote down what I knew and moved on. I ended up being the second to last person to finish. And while I really enjoy that extra special quality time with my lab teacher I lust for, taking that long makes me feel a little slow and dumb. However, it took me longer than the class time on my midterm and I got an A, so who really knows. Plus, I may have gotten the six-point bonus question.

I got my pre-break tests back, and I was a little surprised to find I'd gotten 80 on my CS test. I've never understood the logistics of grading on a curve and what that means, but because the professor did, I got an extra four points that put me right at the B line. Hahahaha! I so totally didn't fail it, and that was a nice surprise. However, the Intro to Wildlife Management test, OMG, I bombed. I got PWNED! I think I got the lowest score of anyone in the class -- everyone was discussing with each other what their scores were, the worst were "I missed 26", "I missed 24", which is so nothing because I missed 44. God, I suck. I can't even remember the last time I got a D on something. Criminy.. and the great irony is this should be an easy class and it's really such bullshit. Kind of like the C I got in Ceramics that dropped me off the Dean's list. Anyway, I am doing so terribly in that class, you have no idea. I missed an assignment that was worth a ton of points, I practically failed the exam, and I've not taken any steps toward completing the out-of-class requirements. Phthththbbbbbb...



Currently Playing...
Song: Orange Soul feat. Angie Brown - Tower of Love [Milk and Sugar Club Mix]
Book: Everyday Magic: Spells & Rituals for Modern Living by Dorothy Morrison
Obsessing Over: iPods! Help me get one free by clicking here -- then get one yourself!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Alena Seal of Approval


As you may know, I get pleasure from pimping products I really enjoy. If something is exceptional, I want to spread the goodness.

I was craving Asian food not that long ago, and as our Giant Eagle carries a vast selection of "ethnic" foods, I was hard-pressed to decide what exactly I wanted. Being a lazy person who generally avoids cooking from scratch, at least when it comes to feeding my single self, I settled on three varieties of Simply Asia boxed noodle and sauce mixes. I'm a big fan of anything peanut sauce, so I grabbed a couple 'roasted peanut', as well as one each of 'soy ginger' and 'sesame teriyaki'. I keep frozen chicken breasts in the freezer and figured I could sautee a couple to add to each mix.

Out of the three varieties, the roasted peanut is by far the best. The other two were okay, but unfortunately not only did they taste exactly alike, they were rather unexciting. The roasted peanut is so good I went back and got more.

So forget the other two, let's talk about the roasted peanut. In the box, you get noodles, a sauce packet, and a packet of 'roasted peanuts', but every time I see them I can't help but remember that McDonald's calls them 'granulated peanuts'. I've had too many caramel sundaes with nuts.

I usually put a chicken breast or two in a covered pan on low-medium heat as soon as I put the water on to boil. I let the chicken sautee in a little oil the entire time, which allows it enough time to both defrost and crisp a little bit on the outside. They say to cook the noodles 7-8 minutes, but it usually takes about 10. Strain, add the sauce, stir, cut up the chicken, add to the noodles, pour in peanuts.. and you're good to go. The whole thing takes maybe 20 minutes, and it's damn good. I had some tonight and was reminded just how delicious it is. Definite peanut taste with a little bit of kick. Simply Asia Roasted Peanut gets an A from me.

If you're curious about the competing brand, Thai Kitchen, their peanut boxed noodles and sauce mix is pretty damn good, too. It seems more authentic Thai, as opposed to Simply Asia's somewhat generic Asian feel. Different kind of sauce, less kick, but more peanutty, I think.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I'm Weak


I couldn't take it anymore. Me and my obsessive thought processes, we cracked. I bought a pack. :\

Hello World!


Yes, I'm learning Visual Basic, how great is that? We'll use the term "learning" loosely. Yesterday we were instructed how to do the "Hello World textbook example of Visual Basic programming". Only instead of doing as instructed, I made my command button say 'Poop' and when you clicked the button, the message said 'This class sucks!' Hahaha. I r such a rebel.

Maybe, just maybe, I am on the road to fixing my wi-fi problem. After countless hours of screwing with it to no avail, I finally decided to start from the bottom up. I uninstalled everything again, shut down, cracked open the case, removed the adapter, reinstalled the software, shut down, and reinstalled the card. More APs showed up, and I was actually able to connect to one or two of them. The thing is that things don't seem exactly as they were, and I'm wondering just how badly things got messed up. I had a Blue Screen of Death that named my wi-fi software/adapter, so I figure something got screwy. Anyway, things seem to be improving in that department.. At this rate, I may have full access to the internets in about a year. Just keep checking in.

I am on my second day of quitting smoking, cold turkey. In my experience, having quit once before, Day 2 is the most difficult. I am super-jonesing and for the past few hours, I have been this close to walking a block to the gas station to buy a pack of cigarettes. The only thing stopping me is not wanting to go through this again. I certainly want to smoke more than I want to quit right now, but I know I'll have to start all over and experience another Day 2. Kids, don't smoke... it's so not worth it. Gaaaaaargh.

Lastly, some interesting news. My mom, at least until she moved to Italy, was an amazing saleswoman. In the early 90's, she started working at this tiny little start-up natural cosmetics company in San Francisco, which eventually grew into a pretty large, respectable business. Actually, it appears to be making quite a name for itself, and maybe you've heard of Zia? When my mom was at her peak for Zia Cosmetics (what it used to be called), she actually made more money than the owner of the company. I don't want to say she single-handedly built the company, but it was close... her ideas and salesmanship brought in a lot of business and made them a lot of money. Eventually, the owner came to dislike the fact that she was making less money than my mom, there were some disagreements, and my mom left the company. However, my mom has held a fairly large chunk of stock in this company and remained friends with the guy who currently runs it. He's been trying to sell the company, and came really close once or twice, but it hasn't worked out. My mom's been waiting for it to sell so she can cash in on her stock, which, depending on how much the company goes for, could be worth something like $750,000 to a million. Not bad, eh?

So I got an email from my mom today saying the company is being bought, and the sale will probably go through this week. She said the price isn't as much as the last time it was close to selling (but fell through), but she did mention that she and her husband, Angelo, decided that when they get the money, one of the things they wanted to do was pay my rent. This could be just for the summer while I go visit them, but I have a feeling they mean in general. Anyway, my mom apparently was looking at real estate online, and forwarded me a couple houses in Morgantown. A couple of years ago, we'd talked about the possibility of her helping me buy a house when the stock money came in.. while I can't say I forgot, exactly, I didn't really expect it. I will be here for another few years, and houses are relatively cheap, compared to other cities.

As I said, just interesting. She hasn't actually written or talked about this, so we'll see what she has to say.

This post is probably all rambly and crap because I can't stop thinking about cigarettes. I need help!!!!



Currently Playing...
Song: Corvus Corax - Tourdion
Obsessing Over: iPods! Help me get one free by clicking here -- then get one yourself!

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Grrrrr


This is just a quick post to state that I have not died or gotten really lazy. In fact, I have had tons of time, but Fate is cruel and I have found myself unable to get online since I got home from Angie's. There are only two available access points in my neighborhood at the moment, one denies my MAC address right after connection (and then kicks me off), the other allows me to connect, but only for about five minutes at a time. I'm not sure if it's my computer or what... I'm waiting for later tonight or tomorrow, end of break, to see if any more APs show up. I'm fiending for the internets, people. Fiending. If I had a working cable connection, I think I'd stick it in my arm to get all that data intravenously. One of my sole sources of entertainment has been the first season of The O.C. Ha. Ha!

We'll see how things go. Cross your fingers it's something simple.



Currently Playing...
Song: Missy Elliot - Crazy Feelings
Obsessing Over: iPods! Help me get one free by clicking here -- then get one yourself!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Spring Break


... is awesome and so totally what I needed right about now. I actually had four tests last week, if you count my quiz in Plant and Soil Science lab. When Robin and I finished, we were SO out of there. It's been so nice to just relax and not have to do anything. No posting here has been due to laziness and enjoying that feeling of "I don't have to or want to do anything right now but veg. Woohoo!" In addition, it appears most of my Wi-Fi access points have left town, so I've been having almost no luck getting online.

Spring break would not be complete without homework or the thought of a test next week, would it? Didn't think so.. and yes, I have both. Fortunately, the paper I have to write regarding an experiment we did in lab should be fairly easy, and Robin and I aren't going to sweat the Plant and Soil Science test until next week. We usually study the day before and it seems to work out fairly well for both of us.

Because not a lot is going on right now, I haven't much to post about. I love weekends and breaks especially because everyone clears out of town and my neighborhood is quiet. Both sets of neighbors seem to take off during break, so it's rather peaceful around here.

I finished my winning bidder's eBay mix at the end of last week, somehow amidst all my tests and crap. He told me a few artists he likes, and mentioned that he really enjoys new music. I had a rock-sounding mix in progress for myself, so because he likes just about everything, I built upon that and made a point to add songs and artists he'd probably not heard before. He emailed me yesterday to say he'd received the mix but hadn't had a chance to listen to it yet. I can't wait to hear what he thinks! I had a lot of fun designing the cover; I recently got some very cool fonts that were perfect for the rock-ish feel of the mix. Here's how it turned out:

Rock Your Socks Off Mix

1. The Killers - All These Things That I've Done
2. Jimmy Eat World - Get It Faster
3. Bush - Mouth
4. Veruca Salt - Disconnected
5. Muse - Butterflies and Hurricanes
6. Unwritten Law - Seein Red
7. Kosheen - Hungry
8. The Exies - Ugly
9. Evanescence - My Immortal (Live Acoustic Version)
10. Dido - Mary's In India
11. Grant Lee Buffalo - Fuzzy
12. Sheryl Crow - Behind Blue Eyes
13. Letters to Cleo - Dangerous Type
14. Tracy Bonham - Mother Mother
15. Tegan and Sara - I Hear Noises
16. Jet - Look What You've Done
17. Dave Matthews Band - Angel
18. Damien Rice - Volcano
19. Kennedy - Brain In a Room

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Week of Hell


Thank God it's almost over. Three tests in one week. One more class and Spring Break will be mine!

This semester sucks monkey balls. Seriously. It's awful. The good news is I'm doing fairly well in half of my classes, Plant and Soil Science and Conservation Biology. We had an exam in the latter on Tuesday, and I somehow managed to get 86% on it. w00t! Yeah, it's not an A, but I'm a lazy bastard and being rather content this semester with my B's.

Things took a turn for the worse today. First of all, I received a $10 parking ticket at school after they randomly, and without much fanfare, changed part of the paid lot into a decal lot. I failed to notice, parked where I usually do, paid for my hour and a half, and went to class. I was so confused when I got to my car and found the ticket, and it took me several minutes of indignation to finally realize what they'd done. Fuckers. GRRRR.

I had two more tests this afternoon. One in CS, which I completely bombed. This exam was about a hundred times more difficult than the last one, and because I hadn't taken it upon myself to memorize the intricacies of SQL or Access relationships, I was forced to leave two full pages blank, costing me 20 points. I tried to ask the teacher for clarification on the relationship questions, but he seems to hate me at this point, so his response was to take a few steps backward, throw up his hands and state in a pissy tone, "You should know this. There's three types of relationships. We talked about this in class."

I had absolutely no clue, so I resignedly flipped the page and went on. He then proceeded to continue to ride my ass, saying it was my fault, I shouldn't skip class, blah blah blah. I was, and still am, so exhausted and cranky, he irritated the hell out of me. I just rolled my eyes and muttered something under my breath. I wanted to ask, "So, is it my fault none of us understand you, and you don't understand us?"

Of course when Jamie asks him questions, he's super-nice. He likes her. She told me later that he'd pretty much given her the answers to that question, which irritated me even more. But whatever. I so don't even care about that stupid class. It's bullshit, for one, even if I do go on to use any of that, there's no way I'll need to know SQL or Access relationships or the differences between a hand-held PC/Pocket PC/Personal PC by heart going into it. If I use it, I'll learn it. This is just so dumb and not even worth my time at all.

Lastly, I had a midterm in Introduction to Wildlife and Fisheries Resources. I dislike this class most of the time because it's total fluff and really pointless. I missed one assignment worth 75 points (a lot) because I didn't even know it was due and when I found out, it was too late. My fault. This midterm, though.. I don't get it. The first section was pretty easy, multiple choice was actually kind of hard, but I guessed on most of them, and then the last section involved mix-and-match between 15 or so species and their Latin names. The worst part is that the instructors picked 15 of the most difficult names, meaning the ones that aren't descriptive at all. If you know a little Latin or a Latin language, you can often connect a name to a species because Latin names tend to be somewhat descriptive. Okay, first I want to know why this fluff class is requiring I know the Latin names for about 30 species in the first place. My hardest class, Plant and Soil Sciences, only requires that I know five. The IWMAN class is a stupid freshman-level class. Ugh. I knew about five on the list, the rest I sat and did eeny-meeny-miney-mo until all the letters were used up.

I can't believe I'm paying for this stupid torture. WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY??



Currently Playing...
Song: Kennedy - Brain in a Room
Book: Power of the Witch by Laurie Cabot with Tom Cowan
Obsessing Over: iPods! Help me get one free by clicking here -- then get one yourself!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Do You Believe In Ghosts?


Last night, I went on a ghost hunt with a local group, the West Virginia Paranormal Research Society (WVPRS). I didn't really know what to expect, but honestly I was a little skeptical that I'd actually see or experience anything, much less catch an anomaly in a photo.

Let's just say I got something that was so out of the blue that I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Check it out here. We drove around some more and then came back to that spot, but out of all my pictures, this was the only one like that.



Currently Playing...
Song: Tricky - Excess
Obsessing Over: iPods! Help me get one free by clicking here -- then get one yourself!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Secret Single Behavior


I was introduced to Sex and the City after the last episode aired, but what a great show. If you're a SatC lover, you probably know what I mean when I say 'Secret Single Behavior'. If not, here's a definition for you:

Secret single behavior: Quirky behaviors that we develop when we're on our own that we may be uncomfortable telling our partners about. (Example: eating peas out of a can or watching hours of the Home Shopping Network.)
(Albuquerque Tribune Online)

Carrie continues to bitch and moan about how she misses walking into her apartment when no one is there and it's all quiet. Now, how long do you think it's been since they moved in? Not long, maybe a week and she's already freaking out. She misses her "S.S.B." or secret single behavior. Things like standing up in the kitchen eating a stack of saltines with jelly on them whilst reading a fashion mag. She could NEVER do that in front of a guy. Big fucking deal! Charlotte's S.S.B. is to stare at her pores into a high powered mirror for an hour every night. Miranda's is to slather her hands with vaseline, slip them into gloves and watch infomercials. There isn't one damn thing that Samantha wouldn't do in front of a guy and Miranda believes her.
(filmfodder.com)

When I watched this episode, I asked myself what my SSB is. There's really only one thing I wouldn't do in front of a girl, something I recently alluded to: I dance. I don't know what it is, but I can only dance when I'm alone in my apartment with nary a soul around to see me. That's not to say I'm ever a good dancer, especially when I'm on a dance floor with the possibility of people watching, but when I'm by myself, I let loose like nobody's business.

We're talking full-body dancing, gyration, arm movement, and booty-shaking. I like doing it by myself because I can move however I want without worrying about someone thinking I look like a mental hospital escapee. In fact, I probably look a lot like this guy, although I have a feeling he's a better dancer than I am.

What's your SSB?



Currently Playing...
Song: The Donnas - Play My Game
Book: The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou
Obsessing Over: iPods! Help me get one free by clicking here -- then get one yourself!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Quasi-Daily Photo


OMG, what the hell is that bright yellow orb in the sky? Blue skies for the first time in a week: Icicles. Yeah, again with the icicles!



Currently Playing...
Song: Aimee Mann - Red Vines
Book: The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou
Obsessing Over: iPods! Help me get one free by clicking here -- then get one yourself!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I R Sooper Smartt!!


OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG, I am so happy! Guess why! No, I didn't get laid, but good guess. Okay, are you sitting down? I got an A on my Plant and Soil Science midterm. AN A!! A! I totally want to write that in the biggest font possible.

I totally did not expect this. In fact, even though I thought I did okay on the test, I had had that feeling after the first one and was so crushed to discover how wrong I was. I was not about to let my hopes up again, so I figured, at best, I'd gotten a B. Getting an A had never even entered my thoughts, people!

When I got my test back and saw the grade, my jaw literally dropped. Shocked, I did this weird slide over to Robin and showed her. Then I actually did a little dance in the middle of class. Thankfully, the teacher had given back the tests in reverse alphabetical order, so there weren't many people left in the room to see it. I totally did a happy dance and Robin laughed at me. But OMG, you totally would dance, too! I got home to pore over the test and did another, bigger dance in my living room. And, like, every half an hour, I remember that I got an A on my midterm and I have to say something self-congratulatory out loud. HAHAHAHAAAAAAA I AM CRAZY!



Currently Playing...
Song: Tim Hart & Maddy Prior - I Live Not Where I Love
Book: The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou
Obsessing Over: iPods! Help me get one free by clicking here -- then get one yourself!