Trip to the Outhouse–Blogging, Four Years and Counting . . . and It All Started with Hurricane Ike and Matthew Mitcham

Matthew Mitcham, having fun, before the start of the 2012 London Olympics (photo @matthew_mitcham)

It’s hard to believe that four years have gone by since I first started this blog.  It’s doubtful that I would have put in this much continued effort were it not for two big topics that I blogged about back in 2008, the devastating Hurricane Ike, which passed through southeast Texas, and gay Australian diver, Matthew Mitcham, who was a gold medal in the Beijing Olympics.

There’s not that much evidence of the extensive damage that Hurricane Ike caused, even when you head down to hard-hit Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula.  Galveston, though still trying to recover population numbers, is once again bustling with out-of-state tourists and day-trippers from nearby Houston, who are attracted by the warm water, great restaurants, and new entertainment venues.  If you take the ferry and cross to Bolivar Peninsula, you pass by new sub-divisions of beachhouses, most of which rise high off the ground to protect them from rising water.

When it comes to the second topic, Matthew Mitcham is back, once again competing in olympic diving, this time in London.   After winning his gold medal in the 10 meter platform dive, Mitcham, at age 20, became one of the most–if not the most–well-known out gay athletes in the world.  For some so young, being such a worldwide celebrity might have been a heavy load to carry.  However, Mitcham, as athlete, activist, and product spokesperson, has worn all of his hats well, and once again is back competing in the London 2012 Olympics.

While this blog attracted many readers because of my telling of the events happening to me personally and that of Houston during Hurrican Ike and the days after, thank goodness there has not been another hurricane that has headed our way in these past four years. 

On the other hand, my blogs about Mitcham’s victory in the Beijing 2012 Olympics still bring readers to this site, showing that he’s still–if not even more–popular.   I still admire Matthew Mitcham, not only because he’s such an amazing athlete and role model, but also that in spite of his célébrité, he has been able to keep a good sense of himself and just be a normal early-20s guy.

Check the early posts (2008) for more about Hurricane Ike and Matthew Mitcham on this blog.  Also a good way to keep up with Matthew Mitcham is through Twitter (https://twitter.com/matthew_mitcham), where he posts lots of photos.

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Now That April Fool’s Day Has Passed, It’s Time To See How the Garden Is Growing

Annie is always ready to assistant in checking out how the garden is growing. (4-2-11)

When it becomes garden time, this blog could be one of the most boring in all of the blogosphere; however, my little patch helps keep me on an even keel, so I like to add a pic here and there just as a record for myself of what I planted when and how things are growing.

It’s just been about 2 weeks since I put in the last photo, but the entire plot looks so much greener.  The lettuce is still going gangbusters, and most of the beans have started on their second set of leaves.  I didn’t over-plant this year, so I’ve had to go back and drop in a seed or two in places where the originals didn’t sprout.  I have a total of 7 tomato plants and 4 sweet peppers, not counting the 1 volunteer tomato that I discovered a couple days ago; it probably came from the compost that I added last winter.

I need to get in and hoe out the chickweed and elm tree sprouts that would cover the ground if it weren’t for the vegetable plants; however, unfortunately–or fortunately–we have had enough odd showers to keep the garden soil a bit too moist for that task.

The neighbors across the street are having a garage sale, which they started preparing for before 6 AM.  Of course, Annie couldn’t stay settled with the commotion, so we’ve been up since that time; quite early to get up on a Saturday, but I’ve gotten the back patio swept of most of the remaining oak leaves and the nasty pollen crap that they put out in the spring.  I love my shady oak tree, but keeping the patio clean is an almost never-ending story.  Oh well, just like my garden, the patio with its shade-covered pergola is one of my favorite parts of my house.

OK, yes, it’s Saturday, and now 10 AM; it’s time for a shower and out to take care of any number of errands.  Tomatoe cages, for one.  Definitely need more tomato cages.

What’s Matthew Mitcham Up To These Days?

 

Matthew Mitcham and his partner Lachlan Fletcher enjoy the time they have together between busy schedules.

Matthew Mitcham and his partner Lachlan Fletcher enjoy the time they have together between busy schedules.

The hits on here indicate that a lot of people are still very into Matthew Mitcham, the Olympic gold-medal diver from Australia.  It seems like he’s been a very busy guy since winning the diving championship last year in Beijing.

According to an interview done by afterelton.com: “A year after shooting to worldwide fame, Mitcham isn’t just training for his next diving competition, but is also studying science at Sydney University.”  If you haven’t done so yet, you can read more of the article “Catching Up With Mathew Mitcham” here.

Squidwho also has many photos and links for Matthew Mitcham fans.

Picnik and FotoFlexer–Cool Photo-Editing Sites; But What’s the Difference?

With Additional FotoFlexer Effects, Text, and Frame

Top: Original Photo; Center: With FotoFlexer Twirl; Bottom: With Additional FotoFlexer Color Effects, Text, and Frame

Soon after I started this, my first blog, I discovered that I would need some kind of photo-editing tools. I stumbled onto Picnik, and until very recently have been using it and like it alot.

Picnik is easy to use, and it works efficiently. Choose a photo, do your editing, and save it back to your own photo files in no time. Mostly I’ve cropped and re-sized photos so that I can get them to fit in the posts here in WordPress, and when it comes to placing photos in the sidebars, they have to be sized (usually smaller) to fit. Sometimes it takes a littlef trial and error just to get the fit that you need, but even so, you can do it quickly.

I also like working with the text option on Picnik. There are lots of different fonts, and after using it just a couple of times, adding text of whatever color and size you want is a no-brainer.

There are some special effects choices as well, but the creative possibilities with these will take you only so far. Using Picnik is a bit like going to a McDonald’s; you’re in and out in no time, and the Big Mac and fries that you order today will be identical to the Big Mac and fries that you ordered the last time you were there.

FotoFlexer, on the other hand, is more like one of those restaurants where they serve wine and you might have to wear a jacket. There are more options when using this photo-editing site, so you have more possibilities of being creative, but with these options, there is more to learn and more to play with.

With some of the twirl and stretch choices, you can almost become an artist. I just have started to work with my photos on Fotoflexer, and I know that I’ll continue to do so. Along with a variety of effects, you can add some nifty animation, which I have done, but haven’t been able to make work after I downloaded the photos with the animation to my files. The animated images are on the photo, they just aren’t animated anymore. (If somebody reads this and knows how to remedy this, I’d appreciate your leaving a comment.)

Also FotoFlexer has some of the correction tools that PhotoShop has so that you can erase, draw, and do that color-dipping with that cute little eye-dropper. You can also reverse the image. This is definitely a fun photo-editing site, but something that will take a bit of learning. In comparison to Picnik, I found working with text and re-sizing somewhat more complicated. However, FotoFlexer allows you to butt photos together, do overlays, and even make montages.

One thing both of these editing sites seems to be missing is the ability to re-size photos into inches or centimeters; there’s only the pixel option. I wanted to re-size some photos for some postcards I’m trying to print on my new HP Photosmart C5580 (my barely-more-than-a-year-old Lexmart died of a paper jam that I wasn’t able to fix, and I reckoned it wasn’t worth trying to get it repaired), but I couldn’t re-size to the size necessary because I could only use the pixel dimensions.

Until recently, most all of the photo-editing I’ve done for my blog has been done with Picnik; however, the banner is one place where I have utilized both FotoFlexer and Picnik. First, I used FotoFlexer to repair some of the blemishes in the old photo and added the sepia coloration; the I cropped the photo, added and colored the text, and re-sized it to fit my banner space with Picnik.

Both of these photo-editing sites are good: Picnik is great for novices and for saving time, while FotoFlexer requires a bit more practice to use but has the capability to advance your creativity.

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See also: Picnik: A Cool Photo-Editing Site

Matthew Mitcham vs. Hurricane Gustav feat. “About the Blog” (Unless you’re into dance music, you won’t get this title.)

Having only been doing this blogging stuff for about six weeks, I never imagined that anyone would take an interest–just thought it’d be a fun way to get back into doing some writing again. (There was a journalism degree earned way back when, after all.) Then when I started writing about the weather here in Houston, and Tropical Storm Edouard came our way, I saw that people were tapping into my posts.

Then I entered a post about a gay Australian kid’s gold medal in Beijing, and as they say, “the hits just kept on coming.” And now, Hurricane Gustav comes along, and plink-plink-plink, the counter continues to move.

I’ve learned a lot about who and what people are interested in. I’ve also discovered how cookies work and that you can find out some interesting information about who’s checking out your blog. I found out that people all over the world are interested in the out gay gold medal winner. I got hits from places i’d never have imagined, like Kenya, Moldova, Saudi Arabia, even Iran. There were lots of hits from Hong Kong and Taiwan, but not a one from mainland China. It makes one wonder if they were just tired of all things Olympic, or was it that any internet freedoms they had during the Olympics had been taken away.

Also there was a lot of interest from those in universities and offices, where some people probably should have been working. Of course, these little cookies can’t tell you exactly who is looking at your page, but I still wonder if that was some forest ranger up there in one of those lookout towers who checked in from the National Forest Service. Somebody else with such a specific government address wanted a look at the Matthew Mitcham post, that I hesitate to mention any details. But when it comes to searches, people are most curious about Matthew’s boyfriend. I was a little curious myself, but I really in no way have the time nor desire for this blog to be perezhilton.com. I did, however, run across this photo of Matthew and his boyfriend Lachlan Fletcher, which some of you may not have yet seen, so I’ll share it. (They do look pretty cute together, don’t they?)

When it comes to the storms, people just want to know whatever they can find out. I’ve always been fascinated by the weather, so providing information for others, and places where they click to something more specific has been fun.

But as my “stay-cation” is over today, I’ll go back to writing things a bit more personal, and just when I have time. I hope that some of those who came here just because of Matthew Mitcham or Hurricane Gustav will return and check out some of the other posts. And thanks to those who made a comment; those are nice to get as well.

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See more links to Matthew Mitcham here.

Fans of Matthew Mitcham should also check out Squidoo.

Picnik: A Cool Photo-Editing Site (UPDATE: Read about Picmonkey Below)

If you look at the dates of my blog, you can see that I haven’t been at it very long, or maybe you can tell it for other reasons. I’m not an expert and I know it, but I’m learning and have found lots of other great blogs as well as helpful sites.

One that I really like is Picnik. It’s a photo-editing site. It’s free and you don’t have to download anything to use it. That’s one reason I like it so much. I have a couple other ways to edit photos on my computer, but I think they are more difficult to get to if I’m working on my blog. If you keep the Picnik page open, you can just download one of your pictures, edit it, and–wham–it’s ready to add it to your post.

It’s all pretty intuitive too. I think anyone who works with photos and artwork would like it; probably you scrap-boogers–I mean scrap-bookers (and you know who you are) would like it because it’s really easy to change the sizes of photos and crop them. What I really like is being able to easily–and yes, it’s easy–to overlay text on a photo. There are lots of special effects features as well.

I’ve used it on most of the pics I’ve added in my blog, including all of the flower photos in the blog below. I did my banner at the top with it, from the little picture that’s under it on the left. I started first with the old Dorrance postcard, which you can see in one of my first posts, Fishing on the Flooded Smoky River.

Another good photo-editing site is FotoFlexer.

UPDATE:  Picnik is no longer a functioning photo-editing site.  It is now a part of Google+, and since I don’t use Google+, I tried to find a photo-editor similar to Picnik.  Picmonkey is the best substitute that I have found. 

Picmonkey, for the most part, functions like Picnik did.  I use it mostly for cropping, re-sizing, and framing photos for my blog, and it works well and fast with these functions.  However, I am disappointed with the type fonts, as it doesn’t have nearly as many as Picnik, and many are of the handwriting-style, rather than the more standard fonts.  Also, I’ve experience problems moving back and forth from one function to another.  For example, if I crop and re-size a photo, then frame it, sometimes I can’t go back to the original main functions, so I just have to start all over with the photo.

For the most part, though, Picmonkey satisfies my basic photo-editing needs, and perhaps they will do some upgrading to work out the kinks in the site.