Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Blog Post for 2010

What makes a good post for the end of a year?  A recap of the year?  A look towards the upcoming year?  What should the blog focus on in 2011?  Who is reading this blog anyway?

From statistics given to me by my StatCounter account, it seems people from all over the world check out my blog.  It has been that way since its inception.  I don't think people read every post I write, although some people do.  Most often, people do a Google search and my blog pops up as something to check out on a given topic.  Or, people will look for photos of a certain subject and my blog will offer some photos that match that search.

So really, I can write just about anything and there will probably be someone who will eventually see the post.

I found that if I post about "popular" things like cameras, guitars, celebrities... I'll get a bunch of hits to my blog.  The most hit post was probably my post about Charice Pempengco, the amazing Filipino singer.  I don't recall the exact number, but I think I got over 600 hits in one day.  I wonder if just writing her name here will get some hits too!

You may wonder why I often end each post that have photos on it with the instructions, "Be sure to click on each image to take a closer look."  Well, I found that many people only look at a single blog post, not the entire blog.  So that one phrase is the first (and possibly the only time) they will ever read it.  My weekly blog readers see it all the time, but they don't.  And, a reminder for them to click on the image is necessary because I don't downsize my images too much.  I usually leave them at 4x6 size at 300 ppi., so you can see some good details if you click on the images to view them closer.  Many photos on the internet have been downsized so much that you can't see any details if you enlarge them.  Not mine.

So what is interesting to write about?  What will my readers want to read?  That's a question I have to ponder twice each week.  Usually on Mondays and Thursdays, my blog is updated with content.  While not all posts are interesting to everyone, I find that my readers still come back to check up on me.  I may not know who the people are, but I can tell from my StatCounter that the same IP addresses have come back often.  Hundreds of times actually.  To those people, I'd like to say, "Thank you" for your continued interest in seeing what I'm up to weekly.

I go through phases it seems when I post.  Sometimes I'll do a whole string of posts on fishing, or perhaps guitars, or photography related posts.  I keep wondering if I'm going to run out of ideas to keep the blog fresh.  Writer's block... you know.  Just kind of like this post.  I'm not really sure what to write about, so I'm just rambling here.  And, if you've read all this so far, I guess you don't really mind reading all of this babble either.  Otherwise you would have already moved on to something else, right?

I also find that having a photo along with a blog post makes a huge difference.  I don't know about you, but I like seeing pictures with things I read.  For instance, this post doesn't have a photo.  So have you been thinking, "Why am I reading this?  It doesn't have any pictures to look at!"

While this post hasn't had any real value to speak of, it's been keeping me busy at 4:30 AM.  Yes, I often have weird sleeping patterns.  Sometimes I go to bed late and get up late.  Other times, I go to bed early and get up early.  Other times I go to bed at "normal" hours and still end up waking up at 3 AM!  There are no "normal" hours for me.  I don't sleep throughout the night either.  I often wake up many times during the night.  It's been like this for years.  So when I don't have the ability to sleep, you'll often find me on the computer.  Just like right now.

OK... seems I've typed enough.  This post looks "long enough" to be legitimate, even though it's been nothing but worthless information that most people will think was a real waste of their time reading.  You are probably wondering why you've even stuck with it this long right?

Have a great 2011... better posts to come next year!  :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

R Taylor - Style One with Maple/Sitka Spruce


I never posted about this guitar until now.  It's been my main steel-string guitar for over a year.  While it is basically a more advanced Taylor GS guitar, the R Taylor Style One is the "hand-built" version made by just a few select Taylor employees.

Back in 2006, Taylor decided to make some hand-built instruments and so they formed the R Taylor company.  The company makes a little over 300 instruments per year.  Consider that Taylor's yearly production is well past 70,000 instruments per year, this is a very small division!  But only the best woods and construction techniques are used and yes, you CAN hear the difference!

I've owned several Maple guitars from Taylor over the years, two of which were GS models.  The Style one has been described by some guitar forums as a Taylor GS Guitar on steroids, but I like thinking of it as a more refined Taylor guitar.  Deeper bass, clearer trebles... an overall more satisfying sounding guitar.

This particular R Taylor happens to be the third R Taylor ever made, with serial number 003 from 2006.  It not only looks great, but sounds that way as well.  Be sure to click on each image for a closer look.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ovation Classic 2073LX with Tremolo

I took a photo of the Ovation Classic 2073LX (my new nylon-string guitar) and Photoshopped in a tremolo onto it.  Rock 'N Rollers would call this a "Whammy Bar."  This would never really work on a classical guitar as it would probably cave in the top if you tried to work it.  Plus the constant stretching of the nylon strings would make it go way out of tune!

Looks pretty cool though, don't you think?

The before and after photos are included.  Be sure to click on each image for a closer look.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Studio Work

Recently, I was asked why I didn't do more studio portrait work.  After all, there's a lot of money that can be made doing that!  But my response was that it takes more space, time and effort than I can often give right now.  Even a simple two umbrella, backlight, and hairlight setup requires a lot of work to set up correctly.

I initially set up for a 17 person session with a black backdrop and a gelled backlight, but  found out the night before that several of the people planned to wear dark colors.  So I switched to a white seemless paper backdrop instead.  While it doesn't look very wide here, the backdrops are 10 ft wide.  They still weren't wide enough for that many people and so it needed to be "extended" via Photoshop.  Individual photos of the people were also taken and I used a smaller 5 ft wide black velveteen backdrop with a gelled backlight for those images.

All of my living room furniture needs to be moved away for photo sessions.  Basically, the entire house is turned upside down to do a session.  Washrooms are turned into dressing rooms, the family room becomes a staging area... it's too much to ask to do it more than perhaps a couple of times per year.  Still, my family has put up with it when needed.  (The second photo shows what the room looks like with furniture still in the way, but with the softboxes used for main and fill lights.)

Umbrellas were used for the group images, but later I switched to softboxes for the individual photos  I have a little more control of the lighting with softboxes, but umbrellas spread the light wider which is good for high-key photos (white backgrounds.)  Ideally, I would have lighted the backdrop with two umbrellas and then used two more ro light the people.  But there just wasn't enough room to do that.  Years ago when we lived in the San Diego area, I had used my three car garage as a studio.  It had plenty of room to shoot out of.  All I had to do was pull the cars out.  The garage was fully finished, so it had walls, not like some garages where you can still see the 2x4 wood supports.

One day I'd like to have some real shooting space where I can leave all my gear set up.  Then perhaps I can do more portrait work or commercial photography work.  One day...

Be sure to click on each image to take a closer look.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hawaii Five-O

Hawaii Five-O was one of my favorite shows while growing up in the late '60's through the 70's.. It seemed every high school and college band played the theme song from the hit TV show.  Every half-time football game had the bands playing the song.  (They also played the song Vehicle quite a bit too, but that's another story.)

In the original TV series, the character "Kono" was a big Samoan guy played by an actor named Zulu.  But in the new TV show, Kono is now played by a Korean actress named Grace Park!  How did that gender change happen?  And not only that, but the new Kono is now detective Chin Ho Kelly's cousin!  

Look closely at the video below and watch for the credits.  

Here it is:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ovation Classic 2073LX

(All Images Borrowed From The Internet)

Years ago, I had an Ovation Legend nylon-string guitar, but sold it to get a Godin Grand Concert Multiac nylon.  That got sold to get my new Ovation C2078LX... which has already been sold to get the new Ovation Classic 2073LX.  I've come full circle!

The new Ovation has a 1-3/4" nut width which will make it much easier to play.  The new contour body shape is better than my old Legend which had a super shallow bowl.  It should sound deeper and fuller.  The OP Pro Studio preamp should also make it sound nice when plugged in and played amplified.

While the guitar looks virtually identical to my old Ovation Legend, it should be much different in its playability. It's slightly smaller nut width should help a bunch and I am excited about the new bridge design as well.

The guitar is expected to arrive on Friday.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Russ Lowe Method Of Success In School

When I went through college (the first time) to get my bachelors degree in Electronics Engineering Technology, I was an ok student.  I got B's and high B's mostly and a few A's sprinkled in here and there.  My Grade Point Average was 3.3 out of 4.0.  Not bad, but nothing spectacular either.

Years later, I decided to go back to school to get two Associates Degree's in Evidence Technology and in Pre Law / Court Management.  I was older than many of my fellow classmates since it was technically the second time around for me at college.

I made the decision that if I was going to put myself through the torture of studying again for another degree, I had to be the top student in the program.  After all, I was older than the other students, I was already married, and I didn't really want to be in school any longer than I had to.

To get these two degrees, I decided I wanted to finish the program as quick as I could.  Three semesters total was my goal.  To do that, I had to take 18 to 21 credit hours of classes for the three semesters, plus take one summer session (Biology and Sociology.)  That's a lot of classes, but I petitioned the Dean and was granted permission to do it.  A lot of my general education classes transferred over, so I was able to skip those classes again.   On top of that tough class schedule, I worked at the San Diego Police Department after my morning and afternoon classes and then returned back to the school to take a night class.  I literally went from 8 AM to about 9:30 PM.  Sometimes too, I'd go out on homicide calls at night.  I barely slept for three semesters!

The way I did it was I kept telling myself these things: "I LOVE this class!  I really like this teacher!"  And, I always sat in the front of the classroom.  That's it.  Even if I hated the class, I told myself that I loved it.  It worked.  I graduated at the top of my class with a 3.92 out of 4.0 GPA (I got one B+ which threw off my 4.0 goal.)  I graduated with honors from the Administration of Justice department.  I was granted a special law enforcement memorial award for being the top student of the program and given a plaque, but a trophy with my name engraved on it (along with others who won the award each year) sits at the school.

Today, whenever I get asked by people who are thinking of going back to school, I tell them this story.  I tell them that the secret to success in getting good grades is to tell yourself you love the class and teacher and to sit in the front every day.  One person I know has been doing just that and he swears it works.  I hope others will take the hint as well and do it because it really does work.  Psyching yourself up for class every day, paying attention in class, doing your homework diligently and basically concentrating 100% of your daily effort on your goal, will guarantee success in school.  That's the Russ Lowe Method of Success in School.

Monday, December 06, 2010

DVD-R Discs

I've tried many different brands of DVD-R media, but the one that seems to work the best on a variety of DVD players for me is made by Verbatim.

It has gotten to the point that I only seek out Verbatim discs now when I shop for DVD-R media.  Other brands sometimes do not play in my DVD players.  Also the "minus R" discs work best too, not the "plus R" discs.

While it has been nice to print images on plain white discs for my wedding clients, going forward, I think it is actually safer that I simply put their wedding images on these DVD-R discs without an ink-jet image printed on the surface of the discs.  My computer seems to be able to play just about any brand of disc, I wonder if I just used the Verbatim discs even for computer files like JPG photo images, maybe the data would be even more "universal" for more computer disc drives.

Whatever...the Verbatim discs have always been rather reliable, so that's what's going to be used going forward.  While it is not as "fancy" when no picture is printed onto the back surface of the discs anymore, on the long run, it's probably better without it anyway.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Glee And Other Series DVD's

I just finished watching the first season of GLEE on DVD.  I love the show!

While others may not like Glee because they think it's annoying or that it promotes things like teen pregnancy, homosexuality or other issues, I think it shows the various kinds of social groups at a typical high school.

I know when I attended high school (many years ago) we had similar issues.  There were guys who were obviously gay, although back then, "coming out of the closet" wasn't something that was done at that early of an age.  But you could tell... everyone could.  Interestingly, many of them were either in the theater club or glee club as well.  Years later, these same people have openly "come out of the closet" and we as a group of high school friends have accepted them the way they are.  They are our old friends, after all.

As for teen pregnancy, I know of a couple of people at my old school who went through that.  So really, I don't think the show promotes either issue, it just shows what happens in real life.  It's more about accepting people for what or who they are and not to be hateful about it.

Other characters include a physically disabled kid in a wheelchair, an overweight African American girl, a "Goth" dressing asian girl, stuck-up cheerleaders, jocks, and more.  Yes, it's about a typical student body at a school in Ohio.

This is not the first TV show I've watched on DVD instead of on TV.  I've watched the entire eight seasons of Monk on DVD.  I've also watched all of the episodes of Deadliest Catch on DVD.    I've watched at least three seasons of 30 Rock this way too.  I've also "re-watched" all of the old Brady Bunch shows on DVD.... so I'm no stranger to DVD TV show releases.

I actually prefer to watch shows this way... no TV commercials!  Plus the shows really move by faster as it doesn't take a full hour to see the episode.

As for Glee, I'm a HUGE fan of Lea Michele who plays Rachel Berry on the show.  Her singing is amazing!  Put right next to Broadway stars Kristen Chenowith and Idina Menzel (both of whom I absolutely love as well) who starred in many shows including Wicked, Lea's voice competes very favorably.  She can belt out a tune with the best of them.

To date, I've yet to see the show on TV though.  Since I'm now "late" in catching up to season two, I'll just wait for the second season's shows to be available on DVD.  And yes, I watch these shows from discs I get for free at my local library!