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My life right now…


…with my fingertips glued, mostly, to the keyboard…

OR…

Why I’ve been going on and on and on and on about my graphic designs (for now) …

To Do List (CC)You folks who have been following my blog for a while know that I’ve gone through periods where I talked about dance and nothing but dance.

Then there were long periods where I talked about loosing weight, eating healthy and getting fit and pretty much nothing else.

In fact, there have been periods where just about any and every topic under the sun became the “topic dee jur” for several “jurs” where I talked about that thing a LOT… and nothing else but that for a while.  (my friends from France just probably had a heart attack at my butchering of their native tongue.  Sorry guys.  🙂

Why do you get stuck on the same topic for a while?  I hear the teeming multitudes (all fourteen of you) asking…????

Because well, I blog about my life.  And whatever is going on in my life at that moment.  And I’ve been working a LOT on these designs lately trying to get as many as possible online and ready for people to buy in time for the Christmas Season.

AND because I see the end of my 401k (on which I’ve been living) coming to an end in Feb,

AND sales from these designs are one possible replacement for that money and a way to remain self-employed, 

AND I hurt my left arm / shoulder about two months ago and it still hurts and working on the computer (and these designs) is something I can do that doesn’t make the arm/shoulder hurt worse

AND THOSE things, dearest readers, are topics for another blog post.  The topic “de jur” is:

How was that for wicked teasing?  Hmmm? (One must confess that I’m grinning like a bad boy at the moment)  Watch for an update on those other tantalizing tidbits later…

But I digress.  I do that you know…  😉

My latest design

I love booksYou fine folks reading this…

(didcha catch my witty pun?) look to the right at the design…  Get it?  *snort* *giggle*

I started off with “reading” in the sentence.  ROFL [slapping knee and grinning foolishly]  And my design  *guaff* *snort* *giggle*  is about BOOKS!  Woot!

I crack my self up sometimes….  See what happens when I do a blog entry with only three sips of coffee in me?  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  😉

Anyway…  long time readers of this blog may recall that I have a Masters Degree in Library Science.  And, until early last year, I worked as a Librarian.

I love to read.  Well, duh.  LOL

So here is a design with that in mind:   “I love books”  / “I ♥ books”

Since this is just the fourth post in this new series, here is a reminder about the format.  Each post will have three parts:

  1. A large image of the new design
  2. A bit of background on how the design came about (just below)
  3. A few of my favorite products with the new design (just below that)

I hope you are enjoying the “back story” on the designs as I create them.

Even if you don’t visit the store and do some shopping, please hit the share and like buttons so that others can find out about my designs.  Thanks!

Background on my latest design:

One of the things that I knew early on was that I actually have very little drawing skill.  I mean I have a good size chunk of creative talent, all modesty aside, but the mechanical skills involved in picking up a pencil or paintbrush are things that I just do not have in my toolbox.

I can envision what I want but I lack the skill to actually produce it in a traditional “artistic” sense.  Thankfully graphic design doesn’t really require 100% creation from a blank page, or in this case a blank screen.

You can build upon the works of others.  So part of what I do is look for photos or clip art which is CC 3.0 BY, CC 3.0 BY-SA, or Public Domain. (If you want to read more about it what those letters mean, check out the first article in this series)

I love books

I love books – original photo. Licensed under CC 3.0 BY jamarmstrong on flickr.com

I start with an idea, which is mine.  All mine, then I start scouring the Internet for images which are kinda sorta what I want and with work and modification in a graphics program will fit the idea I have in mind.

I wanted to do a “I love books” design.  And I found this photo.  I really loved the warmth of the colors but there were several problems from the standpoint of a “graphic” for shirts, mugs etc.  Here’s what I did to turn it into a more workable design:

  • Square fits more products than rectangle designs and are easier to work with
    — So I added extra background to the top and bottom
    — I smudged and blended the extra bits so they looked like part of the original photo
  • When using text in a design “Level” is best
    — so I rotated the image to level out the pages of the books
  • Clarity and focus are important
    — meaning that elements which muddle the picture have to be removed, so the red bookmark ribbon was removed
    — and since the “heart” created by the pages is definitely the focal point of the photo, I moved the book over, cropped one side, added borders on the sides (like I did for the top and bottom), smudged and blended so it looked like part of the original photo.
  • The letter "I" with a color gradient matching the original photo.

    The letter “I” with a color gradient matching the original photo.

    Big is better
    — (getcher mind outta tha gutter!)  *ahem*  Go ahead.  Laugh.  Get it out of your system.  *sigh*  Moving on… The small text in the original photo was removed
    — I looked for a “dramatic” font online (one which had commercial permission)
    — I then used the MAC Text Edit program to create a black version of the font; I did a screen grab to convert the “text” into “graphics” and imported the “I” and “books” into GIMP, the program I use for working on my designs.
    — I then reversed the colors making the text white and the background black.  I deleted the white, making it transparent.
    — Then, and here’s the cool part…  I pasted the now, transparent text onto the photo, moved it around until parts of the warm yellows and reds and golds showed through and when I found a spot I liked, I then took another screen shot, got rid of the “black” background, making it transparent, leaving the text in glowing warm colors which matched the photo.  Tah-Dah!
    — Then it was just a case of moving the text around until I liked the positioning.  Woot!

For the record, I am quite proud of myself.  Why?…  I hear the teeming masses (all three of you) asking…?

I love books 400x400 small TORNBecause, dearest readers, I had to LEARN to do all that flippin stuff.  Fiddlin’ and Finagalin’ with Fotos ain’t like makin’ coffee!   Sheesh!  Can we say “learning curve?”  OMG!  No wonder graphic designers / computer geeks get paid so much!   For the record, understanding layers for me was the hardest part.  It is finally starting to click but only in the most basic sense.

An-Knee-Ways….  I’ve come a long way.  And it is all self-taught.  Just little ole me (and lots of very helpful YouTube videos) learning how to do it.  And I’ve only scratched the surface of what is possible.  *grin*

In all seriousness, what makes me so proud of this design is that I had this picture in my head.  And the final design came out very much like what I had in mind.  Woot!

My favorite products with the new design…

As a reminder, since this is only the fourth announcement of designs using this new “standardized format”…  I’ll share with you a few of the products from the first batch on which I think the new design looks awesome.   If you want to see all the products with this design, then click on one of the many links scattered through this post and hop on over to the store…  Cheers!

Read the rest of this entry

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Books and Songs from the “Rachel Maddow Show” (Current Season)


Books from the About the Books on the Rachel Maddow Show

The Rachel Maddow Show airs on MSNBC (9pm Eastern Time) Monday-Friday. The show, hosted by Rachel Maddow, is a daily news and opinion television program…

… The show usually features one or two guests during the 60 minute program and sometimes those guests are authors. Usually the author is there to provide commentary on the topic of the day, or to be interviewed because they are the topic of the day. Therefore, any plug of the author’s writings are secondary to the author’s pundit or news role.

Given that focus, it is understandable that there is no easy or concise way to find a list of the books mentioned or featured on the show. Trust me, I looked. I’m a librarian and I’m pretty good at finding information on the Internet, if it exists.

There just isn’t a list like that our there. Until now. So, here for your enjoyment are a list of the Rachel Maddow Show Guests who are authors and their books…

…if you watch the show regularly you’ll hear a song played as the show goes to commercial or during the credits roll at the end.  The name of the song, if one is going to be used in that night’s show is released on the MaddowBlog.  However, just as with the books, there is no single concise list of all the soundtracks.

Fear not, my fellow Maddow fans, I’m including them down below along with the books.   [ Read the Rest of the Article ]

I’m re-reading the Dresden Files (as part of my “new year plan”)


So, what does “reading a SciFi/Fantasy” series have to do with the price of tea in China?

Smiley wearing glasses reading a bookWell, nothing actually.  But it does have something to do with my whole “Transform Tony in 2013” plan.

Here’s the VERY brief outline of the plan.  Trust me, I can be brief when I need to and today, I need to because I’ve got a LOT of things on the “to do list”

But, Uhmmm.. I digress… back to that outline of “The Plan.”

Here is the deal, I recognize that to achieve my goals for this year (more detail on that later) that I have to do a little bit every day/week:

  1. Get plenty of sleep every night
  2. Stretch daily
  3. Lift (3 x a week)
  4. Cardio (3 x a week)
  5. Diet (in the sense of eating right, not in the sense of starving myself)
  6. Dance (overlaps with cardio but not always — also overlaps with lifting, but not always)
  7. Be “domestic” (e.g. laundry, dust, balance Quicken, pay bills, ride herd on the clutter, etc)
  8. Be “entrepreneurial” (e.g. add designs to my online t-shirt/button/bag shop on Zazzle, write articles on Squidoo, promote and advertise my Line Dance Instruction business, etc)
  9. Socialize and/or Relax

Yin Yang (CC)So, where does the “reading SciFi” fit into all this?  Well, friends and neighbors, I’m about to go all Zen on you.

There has to be balance!

To maintain a healthy “me” there has to be some socialization and relaxation built into the picture.   It can’t all be “work, work, plan, plan, plan, work, work, work toward the goal”  Ya just gotta cut loose and relax some too!

So, as part of my ‘getting ready for bed” routine I do some reading.

Ah-HA!  cry the teeming masses of the eight people actually reading my blog!

The light dawns.  The sun rises and understanding and clarity reigns throughout the land!  Woot!

And the SciFi series I’m re-reading is The Dresden Files / by Jim Butcher.  Ok, so I’ve read this series of books before.  And I have this “rule” that I only keep books around if I’ve read them at least four times.  And since this is the fourth?  fifth? sixth? time I’ve read this series I’m going to keep the books around this time so the next time I want to read them I won’t have to go scrounging around to find them all.

If you’re into SciFi, or Fantasy, or you’re into Detective Noir books then this series has got your name written all over it.  It is about this nice guy who happens to be Wizard, and a Private Investigator and who sometimes gets himself into trouble.  Uhmmm.  Did I say “sometimes”?  That’s like saying the Mississippi has a little bit of water in it.  LOL

Anyway, the books are a very fast read.  Lots of fun.  Entertaining, enjoyable and full of action.  They have characters which develop and grow, not only within each book, but over the span of the entire series.  Which means that you really do need to read them in order.

The first one, which I finished last night, is called “Storm Front”  Here is what it says about the book on the author’s website:

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things — and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a — well, whatever.

There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Now, that I’ve finished book one, I’m going to have to head to Half-Price Books today and try to find Books 2 & 3 in the series.  *sigh*

That is after I go to the dance studio this morning and before I go practice with my awesome dance partner and then go to the wonderful West Coast Swing Class tonight.

See ya on the dance floor!

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