Something Pithy Here

"Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop." -- The King of Hearts

I'm an adopted Texan. As they say, "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could!" I post pictures and opinions as suits my mood, mostly because I can. Hooray Internet! 

So far I have three blogs here. By the Way is the oldest. I started it in 2003. I lost a couple of years to Vox because I was too lazy to bother to export when they shut down. I consider it an exercise in accepting impermanence. When I followed my husband to Singapore for his first expat assignment, I started (T)expatriate: A Southern Girl in Singapore. That covers 2010 and 2011, give or take. Next came Oslo, and (T)expat 2: Norwegian Boogaloo,  in 2012. Now I'm back home, and back on By the Way.

Pix live on Flickr. I toss links out on Twitter when I feel like it. I'm still not sure what to do with G+ but I kinda like it.


White Christmas

We had a bunch of snow last week, making a real-live White Christmas.

Snowy Crossing

Snowy Crossing

They didn't plow right away, I guess because of the holidays, so it was soft and white and pretty for a couple of days. Still nicer to stay inside, though!
Hello Kitty says stay warm!

Hello Kitty says stay warm!

The Twelve Games of Christmas

The Mad Oilman and I drafted twelve games from our collection with the intention of playing them all over the Christmas holidays. Between us we've selected some old favorites and some still new to us.

The Twelve Games of Christmas

The Twelve Games of Christmas

So far we've played Dominion, 51st State, D-Day Dice and Pickomino. (I'm rolling dice to determine the order, of course ;-) Next up is Roma, one of the ones we've never yet played. Queen Games is a huge supporter of BGG.con and both this and Inka were door prizes from previous years.

Merry Christmas and happy gaming to all!

The Darkest Day

This is it, the shortest day of the year. The sun has already disappeared so technically I've survived and it all gets better from here.

Area of Concern

Area of Concern

Last year when we arrived in Oslo the days were already miserably short, especially compared to Singapore, and it was such a shock that the getting-still-shorter didn't seem that much more awful. This year, however.... We've gone from the glory days of unlimited summer sun to, well, this dismal mess, and I have not enjoyed it. I admit that when the sun is out, it is very pretty. I kinda like having "golden hour" all day. I just wish the day was longer. Happily, my wish starts coming true, incrementally, beginning tomorrow.

Lightroom Panic, or A Cautionary Tale and Hooray for Backups

I still haven't completely nailed down my Lightroom workflow, partly because I keep discovering new features and of course then I want to use them. (Play with ALL the toys!) I already had lots of digital images when I started using Lightroom, and a loose sort of workflow with Canon DPP that covered getting images to the media center PC for slideshows and to Flickr for sharing. Lightroom has great tools for this sort of thing (Publish!) so some of my DPP habits don't make so much sense now.

For example, in DPP I exported my keepers as full-size JPGs. I'd then upload those to Flickr with a separate program, and just let the media center screensaver use the same images. Now I can publish screen-sized JPGs for the media center and full-size JPGs straight to Flickr, but I've still been exporting those full-size images to a "keepers" folder out of habit. It finally occurred to me that I don't use those files. I never look at them. I don't send them anywhere (except to the backup disk). They just sit around and take up disk space (twice!). Sure, disk space costs less and less as time goes by, but still, why?

Also, I want an easier way to keep track of "done" and "to do" states so I can get a sense of my progress going back through those old images. I used to just dump everything into My Pictures and let the screensaver fly, but it doesn't take long for that to result in a lot of crappy pictures on your screen, so I set myself the task of editing my existing library and rebuilding the slideshow folders with only good stuff. I've worked my way back through 2012 and part of 2011 this way.

All this leads up to Lightroom Panic Day.

Pre-Panic Day my labels looked like this:

  • Red: ...
  • Yellow: To Be Exported
  • Green: Exported
  • Blue: Pano/HDR/etc
  • Purple: ...

I used the Yellow and Green labels to keep track of when to export the full-size JPG (Yellow) and when to publish to the media center and Flickr (Green). For tracking through my back catalog, I just imported one month at a time and kind of winged it, frequently forgetting where I was when I broke off to process NEW pictures. Obviously not an ideal process.

I decided to try this:

  • Red: Skip
  • Yellow: Consider
  • Green: Keeper
  • Blue:  Pano/HDR/etc
  • Purple: ...

Newly imported photos don't have a color, so I know I haven't looked at them yet. As I go through a set of images, I can toggle Red and Yellow using the 6 and 7 shortcut keys. Then I can filter on the Considers and work on them in the Develop module. I set the ones I like to Keeper and away we go.

First I went through all my Smart Collections and changed their rules to pick up Label Color = Green instead of Label Text = Exported. So far so good. Then I changed my Label Text values, and fumbled around a bit in that process, finally figuring out how to save the new names to my existing custom label set. I set up some new Smart Collections to show the various workflow states (New Imports = all uncolored, In Progress = all Yellows, Keepers = all Greens) and was feeling very clever, when I realized that all my Publish Smart Collections were now EMPTY!? WTF? Cue the Lightroom Panic....

AGH! Put the laptop down. Walk away. Calm down and think.... Hm, all those catalog backups I do every time I shut down Lightroom.... Maybe I can just open the last known good one of those.... Oh, the relief! Look at all my pretty green labels! Pretty pretty green labels and happy fat collections stuffed full of lovingly processed pictures! Whew.

Past the panic, (and with confidence in my safety net!) I knew I still wanted to try this new labeling idea, so I did some experimenting and discovered that when I changed the label text, all my pictures marked with that color changed to White (Custom), so I still had a way to identify them. I picked all the White ones, marked them as Green again, changed the rules on my Smart Collections, and voila, order was restored.

I haven't used my new system yet (still recovering from the panic, thanks) but I have high hopes.

WorldWide Photo Walk 2012

Scott Kelby's fifth annual WorldWide Photo Walk took place this past Saturday, October 13. The MO and I participated, the first time for both of us, and we had a blast! I enjoyed walking with a big group, seeing what subjects other people chose to shoot, watching us all get creative looking for that different angle.

Our Oslo Walk Leader, Håkon, put together an interesting route. We went from a nature preserve to a neighborhood, through a park and a construction zone, past the Opera House and ended up at a bar in Sentrum where comfy seats and frosty adult beverages were oh so appreciated.

I just got a new camera, a Canon S100. I didn't really need to replace my S95 (Canon builds these little cameras like tanks--MO has dropped his several times but it keeps taking great pictures), but this one has GPS! It sure uses up battery life, though. I switched back to the S95 right at two hours into the walk, so I can see needing several batteries for a full day of adventuring. Now that I have it, the GPS stays on! The Map module in Lightroom fascinates me, and this time half of my pictures already knew where they came from ;-)

We endured quite overcast skies til the very end of the walk, when we had a tiny bit of sunshine, but at least it didn't rain. I ended up with a lot of high ISO images but I decided to call it intentional--part of testing out my new camera, you see. I like the slightly bigger file (4000 x 3000 pixels) for cropping purposes. I most often see my pictures on the living room tv, so I crop to 16:9 if it works well. Thanks to my Instagram addiction, I also like 1:1 crops more and more these days.

Fall in Frognerparken

As far as I'm concerned, summer never actually showed up here in Oslo, but by now any lingering thoughts of warmth are long gone. As I whimper and look for more sweaters, I have to admit that the fall colors make for some beautiful scenery.

Fall in Vigeland Park

Fall in Vigeland Park

More pix in this set on flickr.

metal wine?

We ordered this bottle of wine at dinner tonight, just because the name was interesting. We were at an Italian restaurant, and the wine was listed under Piemonte, so it was a bit of a surprise to read "Sigurd Wongraven is a musician from Norway" on the label. Turns out, yep, he's a metal guy, and I guess he likes wine, so there you go. Skoal \m/

How to Tangle on your iPad!

I've been hooked on Zentangle for years now, and when I got my iPad I was sure I would love tangling on it. But it just never quite worked for me. I tried multiple drawing apps. I bought a stylus. And I kept going back to my trusty Microns and my Iona sketchbook.

A couple of days ago I had a conversation on Instagram with @artzyfartzy, who obviously has the whole tangling-on-an-iPad thing sussed. She suggested ArtRage and mentioned that she zooms in a lot to draw. I already had ArtRage (in fact, when I opened the app, there sat an unfinished tangle attempt, mocking me) and I was sure I had known it zoomed, but I gave it another shot, and for whatever reason, it all came together for me this time!

I'm so excited about my new tangling tool that I put together this How To, just for fun :-)


Before 'n' After

I continue to boggle at the wonderfulness that Lightroom sprinkles on my photos. I resisted buying it for quite a while, even after the Mad Oilman raved about it (and proved its worth with ever-better pictures of his own). Mainly because I'm kinda cheap, but mostly because I thought it was overkill for my "snapshooter" images. Then my parents came for a visit, and we watched over the MO's shoulder as he transformed his already-really-good shots of our travels from what we expected (really good shots) to OMG-that's-a-great-picture! And then Adobe dropped the price by almost half. And then I poked around and found out you could indeed keep your pictures on a totally different drive, which meant I could use it on my drive-space-challenged laptop after all, and just like that, poof, my objections had all disappeared. So I buckled and I bought it. And I haven't looked back....

The tutorials at the Adobe site are top-notch (Julianne Kost always has the answer), and before long I found The Grid, and then fell down the rabbit hole of Perfect this-and-that with Brian Matiash and now I'm having as much fun with my pictures on my laptop as I do on my iPad. (And I swear to Percolator I never thought I'd say that.)

Anyhow, where I was originally going with this thought was to post a before-and-after screen cap to show how spending just a bit of time in Lightroom makes me all happy and sappy about my pictures.

A rose with better pixels is still a rose

All I did here was apply a camera profile (I almost always go with Portrait or Landscape--they just seem to look the best to me), hit the auto-magic Auto Tone, and then pile on some Clarity and Vibrance (oh yeah, I'm a sucker for Clarity and Vibrance) et voila, my rose she has had une makeover!

Okay, not going to win any awards or whatever, but that's not the point (or my goal). What's exciting me is that I have a tool that makes me want to go out and take more pictures because now I'm really interested in making them into good pictures. It's not that it can save bad pictures, but that it can make regular pictures into something you actually want to look at again. And I'm actively trying to take better pictures to start with, 'cause eventually I plan to end up with some great pictures of my own.

Summer Finally Happened

Summer in FrognerparkenScenes from a Day OutScenes from a Day OutScenes from a Day OutScenes from a Day OutScenes from a Day Out
Scenes from a Day OutSummer in FrognerparkenSummer in FrognerparkenSummer in FrognerparkenSummer in FrognerparkenSummer in Frognerparken
Summer in FrognerparkenSummer in FrognerparkenSummer in FrognerparkenSummer in FrognerparkenSummer in FrognerparkenSummer in Frognerparken
Summer in FrognerparkenSummer in FrognerparkenSummer in FrognerparkenSummer in FrognerparkenSummer in FrognerparkenSummer in Frognerparken

Summer Finally Happened, a set on Flickr.

We've had rain and cold for so long, it was a true surprise to have some sunshine! Not only that, it happened on a weekend, which was an extra bonus. We walked downtown yesterday and to Frognerpark today. Of course it's raining again now, but at least we got a little bit of summer :-)

Spatial Courtesy (or the lack thereof)

One thing I noticed soon after arriving in Norway, that has just grown more… noticeable… is a very different attitude towards personal space. As in, there isn’t any. Now, this is a brooooooad generalization, based on my own experience, so if you are a Norwegian who thinks this simply doesn’t apply to YOU, by all means consider yourself exempted from the following rant, and unbunch your panties if they’re tending that way.

Here’s how it works. I’m walking down the sidewalk. It’s a nice wide sidewalk. A group of three are walking abreast, chatting, coming in my direction. I move to the side. They don’t adjust at all. I scooch to the very edge and turn sideways so I don’t get mowed down. I’m curious what would happen if I just stopped and stood still, but most Norwegians are at least a foot taller than I am, so I haven’t tried that. I’ve spent more footsteps dodging other humans here in the last six months than I can believe.

Another example: two sinks in the ladies’ room. Some girl, let’s call her Amy, is standing in front of the left sink, fiddling with her hair, so I use the right sink. Meanwhile, girl #3 (she will be… Mathilda!) comes out of a stall. Mathilda has no sink access, because Amy is still standing around preening. The entire wall of the bathroom is mirrors, so scooting sideways whilst primping would really not be a big deal. Scooting sideways out of range of the sink and hand dryer is a bit more problematic. Amy can obviously see Mathilda, she’s standing right there behind her, in the mirror. But first come, first serve is apparently the rule, so Mathilda is SOL ‘til I leave. Lucky for her I’m not a primper.

(And the waitress nearly bowls me over on my way back to my table. Maybe I’m just invisible.)

Compare and contrast to Singapore, where a veritable sea of people happily cruise every which way through MRT stations and along Orchard Road with nary a handbag bumping into a stranger despite the fact that it’s packed wall-to-wall. If Singapore’s population had Norway’s attitude, it would be pure mayhem. People would be falling over in the middle of the street, having successfully concussed each other.

At least if the drivers were Norwegian, those people lying in the street would be safe, because pedestrians always win in Norway. I guess traffic would simply back up til somebody carted away the bodies. If the drivers were Singaporean, they’d just honk and swerve Winking smile

Christmas (weather) in July

Here's a screenshot of the current weather:

For my friends at home, that's highs less than 60F

For my friends at home, that's highs less than 60F

It's July. And I'm not in Australia. When I'm feeling optimistic, I decide this means we are going to have a correspondingly not-cold winter to go with this not-hot summer. I try to stay optimistic a lot.

On a cheerier note, the Mad Oilman remembered that he makes a mean risotto, and we've had it twice in the last week. YUMMY!!

Also, the new Google+ app is gorgeous on the iPad. I mean, it is really really pretty. It kind of makes me sad that I still don't quite get it. I want to like it, but I'm just not sure where it fits.

Playing with Composition

I'm trying to be more cognizant of backgrounds. Even stuff that's supposed to be there (like leaves) can detract, it seems. Blurring it out isn't always an option (although I suppose with editing/post-processing/whatever you want to call it, it could be) so it seems like a good idea to compose well in camera when possible.

I like the red in this, but wish it went higher up into the picture. Since it's a counter top and not a wall, that's not likely, though, unless I tip the flower pot on its side ;-)

It's got centerfolds!!

Last weekend we went to Doha, Qatar, for the first race of the 2012 MotoGP season. Since the moto action is at night, we had some day time to explore, and on Sunday we went to the Museum of Islamic Art. Despite some difficulty finding the entrance (really) it was a wonderful visit.

The building itself is gorgeous, and the exhibits are laid out with plenty of space and dramatically lit. I particularly enjoyed the calligraphy and of course the jewelry :-)

This was yet another museum that allowed photography of the works, something that is still surprising although it seems to be the rule rather than the exception outside the US. I figure I'm going to get much better pictures in a catalog book, though, so a trip to the gift shop is always in order. I picked out IZNIK Pottery for the Ottoman Empire and Mohamed Zakariya: An Eloquent Eye.

Today I'm breaking the IZNIK book (thank you, Myssie, for showing me how to properly open a sewn book) and I discovered that it has centerfolds! Hooray!!


Go me!

I am surprised--I have actually made it halfway through the LOAD challenge and I'm still keeping up! Hooray me!

Happy Valentine's Day, You Drip!

 Woke up this morning to find our dining table awash in water dripping from the new fountain that someone installed in the chandelier without asking. Another leak in the corner of the living room, and a third in the guest bath. After installing appropriate buckets, mopping up the mess, and calling the landlord, I sat down with my cup of coffee and lo and behold, here comes a new leak in the kitchen. Now I'm wondering where the next one is going to spring up!

Big@$$ Bird

 So I was sitting in the kitchen this morning, drinking my coffee & playing my WwF turns, when this enormous seagull landed on the balcony railing and stared at me for a while. It's hard to tell with nothing for scale, but this is a much bigger bird than your average Florida seagull....

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