Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New "PhotoBook" Albums

The "PhotoBook" is a new album option that can be used for "Parent Albums" or "Brag Books."

What's a "Brag Book"? Well consider a duplicate of your wedding album in a 4" x 4" size or a 4" x 6" size! Put that in your purse or briefcase and bring it around to show off your wedding! THAT's a "Brag Book"!

These cool albums are available in the following sizes:



The albums have "wraparound" photo covers and all the pages are gloss. Like other "flushmount" albums, the photos in these albums run edge-to-edge on the page and you can have panorama pages as well. These are priced right too!

If you have booked a 2008 wedding with me and would like to add these albums to your wedding package, just let me know! Past clients can order these as well.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanks for all the Referrals!

I figured it would be rather slow for bookings for 2008 due to the holidays this past week... but NO! This week alone, I have had several referrals for weddings for 2008 from my past clients and also from wedding vendors I've worked with in the past!

Thank you all SO MUCH for thinking of me and for referring your family, friends and clients to me!

I have found that to succeed in this business, a solid referral base is necessary. Sure, new business is necessary as well. But it really is working with these referral clients that make being in this business so rewarding. It's just a confirmation to me that I'm doing something right.

Thanks again to everyone!


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Like many families here in the USA, I'll be with my family as we thank the Lord for the many blessings we have had this past year.

Here's wishing all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Shopping on the Day After Thanksgiving

How many of you do this? Several years ago, I started doing this and I've been doing it ever since.

I had always thought that you'd have to be really nuts to want to stand outside in the cold at 4 AM or earlier to get the first dibs on shopping. What's the appeal? But then I found out from my nieces and nephews that the sale prices are really good and that most stores only offer specials until perhaps 12 noon. Not being one who really paid much attention to the "After Thanksgiving" sale ads that come out on Thanksgiving day, I had no clue.

But now I rush out on Thanksgiving Day and purchase several copies of the Chicago Tribune just to get any coupons and ads that are in there. Our family has found that sometimes, certain stores will put in a discount coupon that saves even more money and that pays for the $0.50 cost of the paper and still saves you a lot of money.

My favorite place to go on the day after Thanksgiving is Best Buy. Yeah, I'm a sucker for electronics and software. But the last couple of years, I haven't found many sale items that I really needed. Some of the people wait in line all night long to be the first into the store. I can't do that (and refuse to) so I often go around 5 AM. Most of the time, that's too late to get any of the "super" deals that only have a couple of units per store. Maybe this year, if the weather cooperates, I can try getting there a little earlier. Yeah, I'm nuts!

Anyone else into this yearly madness? We make a game out of it. My daughter and I go to Best Buy and my wife goes to other stores. We keep in contact via cell phone to see what we've all got. We don't expect to get lots of stuff, we just want to see if we can get a few items at a good price. Then we get back in time for breakfast and we are done for the day. That's usually around 8 AM. If we pick up one or two things really special, we're happy with that. Some folks go crazy and get all upset if they don't get some specials. We don't care. We're out for a good time and that's what makes it worth doing. Take the fun out and I don't think I'd want to do it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

American Girl Dolls

When my daughter was growing up, she liked playing with her American Girl dolls.

For those who don't know what an American Girl doll is, you must not have a daughter! Based on the American Girl books, each of these dolls have some historical significance because they come from various eras in American history. For instance, Kaya is an Native American Indian and Samantha is an early 20th century American doll. Others include Addy, Felicity, Josefina, Julie, Kristen, Kit and Molly.

In Chicago, there is a huge American Girl store downtown. I recall going with my wife and daugther to visit the store. Of course we'd walk out with over a hundred dollars worth of dolls or accessories on each visit! Yeah, these dolls aren't cheap. But they are well made.

For a guy, you wouldn't think I'd be so interested in these dolls, but you can get caught up in it. The displays at the store are top notch and you would not believe how many moms and daughters (and yes, dads too) are always at the store! Inside the store is a theater for a live action play that is put on about the dolls. There's also a small restaurant in there as well. And let's not forget the doll "grooming" section... dolls are placed on little barbershop chairs and hairstylists are there to fix up the dolls! Amazing!

My favorite doll is probably Samantha. You can see her on the left in the photo above. To the right is an Asian doll from the "Just Like You" collection. Back when my daughter got hers, I believe these dolls were called the Today dolls... but I may be mistaken.

We had always wondered why there wasn't an American Girl doll and story about a Chinese girl. We had figured out a story line for it... An American Girl whose family helped build the railroads in America. We weren't the only ones who thought of this because my cousin told us about the same idea she had.

Well, today, there's a "friend" of a doll from the 1970's, and she's a Chinese doll. Well, she's not the main character and she's not from the era of building the railroads, but I guess she'll have to do. The 70's doll's name is Julie and her Chinese friend is Ivy.
If you ever get a chance to check out the American Girls store, do it. I'll guarantee you'll be amazed at the displays there even if you might not be into dolls. It's done up right! :)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Give This A Try!

Want to test your eye-hand coordination when using a mouse?

Click here.

My best time (as of this post) can be seen in the image above.

What's your best score? Post it in the comments section here if you try this game.


Ever seen "composite sketches" like this before on TV?

In the past, a sketch artist would be called in to draw a picture from the descriptions given to him/her from victims and witnesses to a crime.

And not too long ago (and still used by some agencies) a composite sketch kit called an "Identikit" was used to help witnesses try to remember what suspects looked like. Numerous transparencies were laid on top of one another to make up the final face.

Today, computers are often used to make the "sketch" with a program called "FACES." Choices are made as to hair style, eyes, nose, frown lines, lips, etc. It's a very fast way to make the sketch. In the hands of a skilled person, a "sketch" can be made in just a few minutes with the right description.

I put these composites together rather quickly, but you get the idea. This is a powerful tool to help catch criminals and also to help with missing persons. The sketch of the two men are the same except for the eyes and the spacing between the eyes. Makes him look different, doesn't it?

I recall going to the post office when I was young and seeing all the "wanted" posters of criminals posted there. Some had actual photos and others had composite sketches. Today, I don't see these in my post office. So I asked, "Whatever happened to all the posters?" They still have them! They just post it in the back rooms now where the public can't see them. Wonder why they do that?!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Guitar GTG (Get Together)

All Photos by Jim Wallace

On Saturday, a group of fellow guitarists gathered to play some 70's songs!

This time we had more than just guitars playing... we had bass, dobro, harmonica and percussion!

Among some of the best songs played was "Ventura Highway" from the group America. Wow... we had everything from harmonized vocals to dueling guitar solos! Yeah, we sounded pretty good! Time to cut a demo! Special thanks to Jim Wallace for taking all the photos so that I could concentrate on playing bass! :)

Friday, November 09, 2007

"Who Writes This Stuff?" - Part Two

Back in August, I wrote about some really strange fortunes I've been finding in Fortune Cookies lately.

But I had to share this one with all of you too!

Last night, my wife and I went to one of the Asian food markets here in the Chicago area and we bought a bag of sunflower seeds thinking they were shelled. After looking more closely at the bag, my wife discovered that they still had the shells on and so she was rather discouraged. I thought it was a waste of money since I have no intentions of cracking the shell off these small seeds just to get to the "meat" of the seed. Too much work.

But all was not wasted because this is what we read...

"Crack the shell with your teeth, eat the seed and spit the shell. Be cautious don't eat the seed without spitting the shell!"

Who writes this stuff?! That statement alone made the purchase worth it! LOL

Edit Note: After trying some, these actually aren't too bad! Nice Licorice flavor to them, but it's just too much work for me to crack the shells. Plus I'm a lousy spitter too...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Voiceprints - Spectrograms

Known Sample



It's been a while since I've posted something related to Forensics!

Have you ever seen a "Voiceprint"? It's actually called a Spectrogram and it is NOT admissible as court evidence. Like Lie Detector tests (Polygraph exams) the Voiceprint is not something that the courts rely on. Still, attorneys ask me all the time if I can identify someone based on a voiceprint.

The Spectrogram is basically a graph showing three variables... the X axis is time, the Y axis is frequency and the darker parts of the graph show the intensity, or volume. That's about as basic as I can put it without getting too technical. Can you tell which sample, Q1 or Q2, was spoken by the person who spoke the control sample, "This Is A Test?" The samples and control were created on the software I use for audio enhancements and voice analysis. It's the same software used by various law enforcement agencies including the FBI.

Deering - Goodtime Banjo

Yes, I'm posting a day early! I've been late posting in the past few weeks so I thought I'd surprise everyone and post a day early.

Just got this instrument in yesterday... a Deering Goodtime Banjo!

I was always amazed at the speed of pickin' that banjo players can do and have always wanted to learn how to do it too. So I decided it was time to give it a try!

The banjo is about as American of an instrument as they come. Some may say it's kind of "nerdy" to play a banjo, but I don't think so. It's a cool sounding instrument and it does take some skill to play it. This one is a very basic model, but I think it will serve its purpose in helping me learn to play.

The Goodtime banjo is an open back banjo. It does not have the resonator back that comes on more advanced models. But it plays really nice! It doesn't take much pressure to fret the strings to get a decent tone. It plays like butter!

I recall watching Jerry Van Dyke (Dick Van Dyke's brother) play a banjo on the Dick Van Dyke show. And, who can forget seeing Roy Clark play a banjo too? Of course Roy Clark from the TV series "Hee Haw" could play just about any stringed instrument! And let's not forget "Dueling Banjos" from the movie "Deliverance."

Yee Haw! :)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Growing Up Brady

Remember a while back I wrote that my daughter and I had watched all 116 episodes of "The Brady Bunch" on DVD? Well, before all that happened, many years ago, I had read the book, "Growing Up Brady," by Barry Williams who played Greg Brady on the show.

The book describes in detail the behind-the-scenes antics of the cast and crew and I thought it was really interesting. The Brady Bunch was one of my favorite shows growing up and I had watched it many times in syndication as well. But some of the things I didn't know about the cast is in this book!

For instance, did you know that Greg had the "hots" for Marcia? Jan had the "hots" for Peter? And Bobby and Cindy were "hot" for each other? Yikes! Think that's bad? How about Greg had the "hots" for his mom (Carol Brady) and actually took her out on a date?!

Did you know that Robert Reed (the dad, Mike Brady) actually hated being on the show and had a total dislike for the show's producer, Sherwood Schwartz? In fact, he's not even in the final episode because he refused to be part of what he considered a poorly written script!

Yes, all this is described in the book.

Or how about the time Greg went to work and did a scene while being totally stoned on Marijuana? Didn't know that, did you? I didn't! Ever wonder what happened to Tiger the dog and Fluffy the cat? Better get the book to find out!

Anyway, after seeing all the shows again on DVD, I went and purchased this book on eBay just so I could read all the fun stuff again.

Far out!


Ever throw one of these? It's not as easy as you might think. This one's not sharpened...

I remember on episodes of the old TV show, "Kung Fu," Kane made it look easy. You know what? It isn't! To get these to stick on the board, the sharp spike has to land just right with one spike hitting the target. If two spikes hit the target at the same time, it just bounces off and falls to the ground.

I got this Shuriken about 32 years ago. Yeah, it's an old one. Looks in pretty good condition right? That's because I never really used it for target practice. I just happen to find this in a old box not too long ago. Brings back memories.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

87 Kids for Halloween

Yesterday's weather was pretty decent for a change for a Halloween night. Sixty degrees...

So I figured we'd have a bunch of kids coming to our home to get their "tricks or treats." I did a running tally and here's what we had: 87 total kids in 17 different groups. All of the kids had parents who hung out by the sidewalks, except for the junior high and high school kids who went out on their own.

Years ago, when I was doing my fair share of candy hopping in Chicago, the moment school let out, my brother and I were out the door on our quest for candy. My sister came along with us years later, but we'd "ditch" her with my mom because she would slow us down! Yeah, we were mean brothers when it came to getting our candy!

We'd go up and down the streets filling up our shopping bags. Back then, all we had were either plastic pumpkins to use or brown paper shopping bags with handles. By the end of the night, we'd have an entire brown paper bag filled with candy!

Today, times are different. You have to be really careful. In the past, we never gave it a second thought. Kids under 10 were going out on their own! Not today. That wouldn't be smart. It's too bad how the world has changed...

Anyway, it was good to see all the kids having fun again on Halloween. No rain, decent temperatures.... good times!