Thursday, May 29, 2008

Freecycle is great!

Have a bunch of stuff that might be useful to somebody, but don't want to have a garage sale? Want something but don't want to spend the money? Try Freecycle!

Freecycle provides community based e-mail lists where folks post things they want to get rid of, and other folks post things they want. And it's all local, so it's also a great way to meet people in your community.

Here's two examples of how we've used Freecycle.
  • After moving, we had a bunch of boxes that were still usable, but we didn't want to store them. So, Susan posted them as available on Freecycle. Somebody else who was moving soon responded, and within a few days the boxes were gone and were re-used!
  • The other day, we got to thinking it would be cool to have a kiddie pool for Karen. So, Susan posted that we wanted a small kiddie pool. The first reply was from a woman who had an inflatable 3 feet deep by 12 feet diameter pool in her garage that she wanted to get rid of. The pool has pumps, filters, and everything. All for free!
So head on over to and sign up today!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

Grandma and Grandpa decided they wanted the biggest and coolest swingset/play structure ever for their grandkids to play on. Looks like the one that fits this description is the Arcadia II Ultimate Playground. So yesterday, I went over to help Grandpa assemble this structure.

It comes in 7 boxes. The first four are lumber. These boxes are extremely cumbersome to move, as they are filled with varying lengths of boards which all have to fit into the same size box. Little Tikes does their best to put a few long pieces into each box along with staggered lengths, but the boxes are still very large and difficult to move. Bill (the other son-in-law) got the lucky job of moving these seven boxes from the store into the garage. I just had to move them outside. Here is a photo of the seven containing lumber.

And here's the two sides of the tall structure after step 4. The instructions have 38 steps. A step to them is a page of instructions and illustrations. Each "step" has from 2 to 12 different parts to it.

Step 5 was a big one. The kit started to look three dimensional here. If you find yourself assembling one of these someday, the key to step 5 is actually before step 1. You need to make sure your ground is level. We did that, but if you are assembling this, I'd add an extra foot all the way around to the area that you level. The photo to the right is of step 5. Steps 6-10 were installing the two lower decks and the ladders.

This set is huge. It's hard to see just how big it is without a person in the photo. To the left, that's Grandpa, Karen, and I after step 10. We worked hard, fast, and efficient from 9am to 5pm, and only completed step 10 of 38. The boxes of wood aren't nearly as full as they were, yet, as we cleaned up for the day, looking at the number of bolts and screws we still hadn't touched made us realize that there really are another 28 steps remaining.

So, I'm sure we'll be assembling this for days to come, but the rewards will be well worth the effort. Karen will have lots of wonderful memories of this play structure.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lifetouch Strikes Again!

As a former independent school photographer, I have a lot of problems with Lifetouch. Their three year contracts that automatically renew unless you notify them 180 days prior to the end of the contract make it nearly impossible to get into a school, because schools rarely will go look for a new photographer at the point in which the contract automatically renews. That's my personal beef with them.

But today's news comes from CNN. "Besides the head and body switching, some necks were stretched, one
girl's arm was missing and another girl's head was placed on what
appeared to be a nude body, with the chest blurred." Can you believe that?

Apparently, the high school had required Lifetouch to make heads the same size and eyes at the same level in all student photos. Lifetouch says that this request was ""unusual and definitely very particular." I disagree. Any school who wants a yearbook is going to want the heads to be about the same size and will want all the eyes to appear at about the same height. Think about it. Wouldn't your yearbook look wierd if all the heads were different sizes and the eyes were at different heights?

And why did these photos have to me modified in the first place? The Lifetouch cameras should have Crop Lines in the viewfinder. With these, the photographer can ensure that the heads are all the same size. I think the school would have shown a little leniency if Lifetouch showed two photos of people whose heads were the same size, but had dramatically different sizes of foreheads, thus making the eyes not quite at the same height.

My advice to McKinney High School would be to use this as an opportunity to fire Lifetouch and hire an independent photographer. Now that we are all digital, it's a lot easier for an independent photographry company to handle the work associated with photographing up to 3,000 students in a day.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

So, I haven't been writing much on the blog lately, because I've been spending my train time working on a surprise for my lovely wife Susan!

Here's a video of the iPhoto book Karen gave her for Mother's Day!