Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Travel Tuesday: San Francisco

travelling has always been a passion of mine. one not really lived out until recently. the idea of flying to far away countries, crossing oceans and completely devouring a new culture is perfection to me. i still have yet to mark off even a quarter of the places on my to go list but the thought of what lies ahead of me makes me more giddy then anything. a few weeks i traveled from my home in north carolina to nevada and california. even though this trip was a baby step in comparison to where i'd like to travel, i really did have the time of my life. lake tahoe, the golden gate bridge... it was incredible. i've been dreaming over these pictures since i returned so i thought i'd share a few today:)

thanks valorie for asking me to guest post! have fun in china!


photos from my flickr.

Nicole is on awesome twenty-something that blogs at my teacups in peony and can be found on twitter at @teacupsinpeony.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reminding people of 1776, China's most vicious grandmas, and how its killing puppies hot outside.

Or, my first few weeks in Beijing.

So, basically, old Chinese women are vicious. I don't know what it was about their upbringing that made them still able to violently shove fully grown men out of their way even when they're 80, but during rush hour traffic on the subway, when everyone is pushing and shoving to get on, I'm actually afraid of these women. They may look all cute and innocent, smiling and eating fruit on the side of the road in their old lady clothes, but they're NOT. When it comes down to it they can fight like angry tigers, and its not like anyone can push them back because they're *old* so we just have to put up with their vicious elbowing and cursing as they fight everyone else for a seat.

In case you're shaking your head, it's not just me that thinks Chinese grandmas could probably push around American football players: All the other people staying in China through my program agree. Even the Brits and the Americans can agree on the viciousness of Chinese grandmas. Truthfully, the Brits and the Americans can agree on a lot of things, like day drinking and how trips to Hong Kong are very important, but every once in a while we need a good rousing chorus of "Yeah, well, we totally kicked your ass in 1776!" and "Oh, honestly, you wouldn't even BE a country if it wasn't for us!" to remind us that we can't be getting *too* chummy with them. We are still waiting for HRH Elizabeth II to just admit that Canada is the 51st American state, after all.

Also, I would really appreciate a trip to Canada right now, because basically, its insanely hot in Beijing. Not just like hot-hot, or really humid hot, or even holy-I-can't-breathe-because-it-burns-the-lungs-hot. Its Killing Puppies Hot here. [Killing puppies hot is the kind of hot where the weather is just so oppressive you consider that you might actually be willing to kill a puppy if it meant you could cool off. I thought of this last week.] I just can't wait to see what Shanghai has in store in two weeks if its supposed to be even hotter there than it is here. STABSTABSTAB.

Anyway, I could probably ramble on for 18 pages (front and back! [give yourself a cookie if you got that Friends reference]) about my first few weeks here in Beijing, but I'll stop here. I'll talk more about the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Great Wall, and all the other places I've been next time.

Hope you guys are having wonderful lives. If you want to be on my email list (which has slightly more contact with me than the blog), leave a comment below. :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Photo Friday: Robert Stackhouse

Hey everyone! This post is a little different than the average Photo Friday -- this one is more a DIY than just a list of photos, but when Robert proposed this idea, I thought it was too cool to pass up. Enjoy! 

I guess it was serendipity that one day in two thousand and nine I happened to see an article on lifehacker talking about a fellow who had improvised a ring flash from fiber optics and his DSLR's on board flash (http://lifehacker.com/5148948/diy-fiber-optic-ring-flash). It was serendipitous, because my wife and I had recently discovered that we would be having a child, we had seen an instructable on how to create a star-field ceiling (http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-create-a-fiber-optic-starfield-ceiling/), we were planning on following said instructable, and we knew we were going to have leftover fibers.

Making the flash was a bit cumbersome since the original article seems to gone offline, but as they say, persistence pays off.

One use of a ring flash is to cast a soft shadow around the outline of your subject if it is shot in close proximity to a backdrop.

I'll let the images speak for themselves.
On board flash:

Hacked ring flash:

Though I haven't done it myself, if you plan to improvise a ring flash of your own and have an external flash, I might go the two bowls and an external flash route. Perhaps that's a future exercise for me.
There are other uses for a ring flash. I personally want to see how it does for outdoor night portraiture. Happy shooting.

 Robert graduated with a B.E.D. – Visual Studies and has been involved with the design and implementation of various types of web applications since October of 2004.  A husband and father of one, Robert is a staunch advocate for localism and supporter of local businesses.  He is involved in local tech groups that freely exchange knowledge of best practices when he can be. He can be found blogging, on twitter at @rstackhouse, and on facebook.  

[Interested in guest blogging on Simply, Valorie?]

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Guest Blog: 25 in 25

Hey guys, Valorie here. I hope you're all doing well while I'm in China. :) You guys have all seen one guest post from Sar before (isn't she great?), and now here's another. I thought this was so cool and exactly what Simply, Valorie is often about, so I was excited that she suggested posting this. Anyway, enjoy, and tell Sar how much you love her. :)

To celebrate my birthday, I came up with 25 life lessons I’ve learned throughout my 25 years on earth. I've seen others do this, but I wanted to come up with my own. As I celebrated growing older, I reflected back on my life thus far and tried to gleam some understanding to God’s plan.

25 Life Lessons I've Learned in 25 Years
(Previously posted on Sar's blog.)

So far, this is what I’ve learned:

1. Learn people’s names. If I could rank in order my life lessons learned, I think this would be the most important. Whether it is the housekeeper who cleans your work building, the mailman you see every afternoon, or the woman you meet at the party who is your best friend’s brother’s niece, learning someone’s name is the key to building strong and meaningful connections.

2. You will never be good at everything. Embracing your idiosyncrasies or faults will make you happier over the long run. I cannot sing well, I have a softball player’s thighs, and I will never, ever be able to fold a fitted sheet. I still sing out loud in the car where nobody can hear, I love how my legs look in running shorts, and nobody sees the fitted sheets when the bed is made. And I’m okay with those.

3. Speaking in I-statements is the best way to solve any argument. “I feel this way” is one argument that your friend/mother/significant other cannot disagree with, as they are your personal feelings. Being open and honest with your feelings will divulge your heart and make your relationship closer.

4. Life isn’t fair, but nobody promised it would be. Good people die, bad people live, and how you cope is ultimately up to you.

5. Choose your battles. It will only make you more frustrated if you fight over small things, but if something is important to you, be prepared to make a stance.

6. Always choose love. Love conquers all.

7. As Charles Swindoll once wrote, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” You cannot always control what life throws (or doesn’t throw) your way, but you are always in charge of your reaction.

8. Forgive others. Whether you are holding a grudge from 7th grade,or you are hurt from someone last year, forgiveness is the key to your personal happiness. Holding grudges will only make your heart heavy.

9. It is perfectly acceptable to be angry with God. He is prepared for your anger (and certainly can handle it), but He will help you overcome your hardships.

10. Just breathe. And if that doesn’t work, by all means, just dance.

11. If at any reason you feel like life is weighing you down, or you cannot handle it, visit those who have it worse off. I guarantee that being immersed in an environment where others are going through worse struggles but with a more positive attitude will almost immediately change your outlook.

12. You will always have someone who dislikes you; no matter how hard you try. Wasting your energy caring what others think about you is silly, tiring, and pointless.

13. Smile at people you meet or pass. You are more personable, and you never know whose day you are going to make.

14. All people deserve a second chance. A third chance is pushing it.

15. Sometimes you have to obey rules you don’t want to follow, but if you don’t try to help change them, you’re just complaining.

16. All good relationships are hard work. Even people who are meant to be have to be willing to compromise and learn each other’s needs.

17. Although stepping outside your comfort zone is scary, the payoff is exponentially great. Feeling as if you’re stuck in a job? Apply everywhere, even not in the town you live in, and move. Afraid of heights? Go bungee jumping. Conquering your fears will make you feel invincible.

18. Enjoy the little things, and recognize how much you love them. The feel of your mother’s hands. Skipping in parking lots with your dad. The way you and your brother can accurately quote the entire movie “Aladdin.”

19. Laughing at yourself is the only way you can be comfortable with who you are. It will also make you un-embarrass-able.

20. Asking for help does not make you weak, it makes you smart enough to realize that you can’t accomplish your task alone. Stubbornness only delays your success.

21. Never regret your life experiences. If you did something you are not proud of, make sure you don’t do it again. Everything you have done previously makes you who you are today.

22. If it is something you have never done, you should not judge someone who has—regardless of the choice. You are allowed to have opinions, but your judgments are better held to your own actions.

23. A random act of small kindness goes a long way. Pay for the person’s drink behind you in the coffee line. Bring your coworker lunch. Hide your office worker’s favorite candy in her desk drawer with a note.

24. If you want to be somebody else, change your perspective.

25. If you’re still having a bad day and all of the above is not working, then wear frilly underwear. It is not possible to have a bad day when you’re wearing cute underwear.

Sar is a mid-20s graduate student at Baylor University. She's attempting to earn her PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience. Her hobbies include photography, working out, and drinking Diet Coke (breakfast of champions). Sar also teaches an introductory statistics course, which means her students think she's ridiculous for thinking numbers are cool. Her full name is Sarah but even her good friends forget how it's spelled so she goes by Sar. You can find Sar at love love love is all you need or @lovelovelovesar.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Photo Friday: Tyler Anderson

A Study In Instagram

Photography is something I only do as a hobby, but I love being able to find subject material in my every day life. As a result, one of my favorite iPhone apps is Instagram. Below are a few of my favorite photos, and here are the stories that go with them.

1. One night I looked in my fridge and discovered I was low on, well, pretty much everything. All I had was some root beer and some ice cream (I'm not even kidding on this). I despaired, but only for a moment, when the brilliant idea to make ROOT BEER FLOATS suddenly sprang to mind. Thus, a delicious yet unhealthy dinner was had, and Tyler was happy.
2. I've always been envious of photographers that can take good beach shots. I've tried and tried over and over again, and am never happy with the result. Finally, this year on my spring break trip, I got a shot that made me overcome with how much I liked it. This is that picture.
3. Always a fan of the rare and unpopular, seeing this VW van in my university's parking lot made me immediately lust after it, while simultaneously making me loathe my "common" Mazda Tribute. I had to take a shot and I had to put an old filter on it, just so I could live vicariously through the photo for a while.
4. Brian Williams came to talk at my school's senior convocation this year. I was able to be good for almost all of the talk, but finally at the end I could stand it no longer, and snuck my phone out for a quick shot. I was so close, I had to do it, right?
5. This is another shot from spring break 2011. The shot is pretty grainy and blurry, being taken in bad lighting conditions, but I actually liked the low-fi way it turned out, and how the lighting frames my friends singing on stage.
6. My roommate and I have an ongoing deal: We take turns buying beers, trying to see how obscure and crazy we can get with our choices. I saw this at our local Lowe's Foods and couldn't resist. Being from the Minnesota region, I had to get a brew from the Great Lakes company!
7. *Sigh* As much as I sometimes hate to admit it, I'm a member of a fraternity. Everyone once in a while I get what some of my brothers call (un-ironically, mind you) fratriotic. For those of you who are normal people, that's patriotic with a "frat" shoved in at the beginning. Anyway, one morning I woke up with a fierce fratriocity (I don't even know, I'm just making up words now) and took this photo.
8. My university's (Elon University in North Carolina) campus is absolutely gorgeous, and that's coming from a not-so-outdoorsy person. Still, walking past this flower bed, I had to take a shot. It was simply too pretty not to.
9. I've never really enjoyed photos of text, and I've also never liked the horrendous Instagram border that can be found in this final photo. Despite this, somehow these things I dislike came together in a wonderful photo of the back cover of a Paul Simon lyric book that I have. Looking at the back of the book caused inspiration to strike, and it's quickly become one of my favorite photos.

Tyler Anderson is an iOS/Mac software developer at the Iconfactory. You can find him on Twitter under the username @TandyQ and you can sometimes read thoughtful stuff from him on Tumblr (http://tandyq.tumblr.com) or his personal blog (http://tqanderson.com/blog).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Travel Tuesday: Jamaica

A Not Fully Relaxing Vacation

I was very excited for the end of the semester; no school, summer sun, and vacation!  This summer would be especially fun because my parents and I were going to Ocho Rios, Jamaica two days after I finished school.

The first sign of trouble happened the night before we flew out.  My parents were hosting their annual Kentucky Derby Party (which used to be a family fun pool party, but now that the kids were all grown up in college it was now an dinner party… with lots of booze).  I was the only person under 40 (actually, more like 50) but having fun watching the adults act like fools.  The only problem was that my teeth really hurt.

Back story, when I was a freshman in high school I was on swim team.  One morning during practice I landed face-first on concrete and knocked out some teeth, and ever since senior year I’ve had a crown. 

Recently, my crown had come loose but it wasn’t really bothering me.  During the party, it started to ache really bad and even made the teeth on either side hurt too.  I took a few extra strength Tylenol and was good to go.

Until about 1:00 am when I wasn’t able to sleep because my teeth hurt even worse.  Tylenol didn’t even help, and around 5:00 am I fell asleep merely because I was so exhausted.  When it was time to wake up at 6:30 I was a wreck, and told my mom how much I was hurting.  No way were we canceling our trip, so I took more Tylenol, my dad packed another anti-inflammatory and codeine, and were off to the airport.

Basically throughout the next several hours, I took multiple codeine because the pain grew more and more intense and the pain killer would wear off quicker and quicker.  Once we reached the resort, I went to see the nurse who gave us the name of a dentist in town. 

Needless to say I was freaking out.  I was exhausted and tripping on pain killers and they wanted me to see a dentist in JAMAICA?!  I was waiting for some ghetto, hole in the wall clinic where they would rip out my tooth and then be prescribed marijuana…  It didn’t turn out that way.

After a long wait, the dentist took an X-Ray and discovered that I had an infection in my gums.  I was prescribed some pills (no marijuana in sight) and told to not drink alcohol.  That sucked a little, but I was willing to do anything for the pain to be gone.

That afternoon I spent sleeping in the hotel room while my parents had fun on the beach and at the pool.  By the next day I was okay enough to join them at the pool, although I felt so stupid because my upper lip was super swollen, I had abscess growing on my gums, and when I smiled I looked LITERALLY deformed.

The day after that I woke up with my lip a little less swollen, the abscess larger, and no pain.  It was our last full day in Jamaica, so we decided to go on one of the excursions.  We went to a beautiful botanical garden (where my abscess popped and LORD was it disgusting and bloody), did a little shopping downtown (where I WAS offered marijuana and did not take it, sorry) and then climbed the Dunn’s River Falls. 

Quite the trip, eh?  At least I didn’t bow out of going on the trip… because we found out that my local dentist was out of town!  So I managed to have a fun (and interesting) trip, and I hope anyone else reading this decides to go to Jamaica because it’s BEAUTIFUL!

Allison Blonder is an awesome twenty-something that blogs at Take Me or Leave Me and can be found on twitter at @allison_blonder

Friday, June 3, 2011

Photo Friday: Katie Patzke

Hey Hey Hey, blogging buds. The name’s Katie and I am currently a student/part-time employee in wonderful Las Vegas, Nevada. I moved here almost a year and a half ago and it certainly takes some getting used to. I manage The Therapist. I suppose the word, “manage”, is an exaggeration. I only have about 8 loyal followers and about 500 pageviews a month; however, my blog IS my therapist (hence why I called it that). I write about random things, I rant, and I process life. It’s mostly for me, but if you like, feel free to enjoy.