12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

50 Totally Free Lessons in Graphic Design Theory

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If there is one thing that churches (that aren’t mega churches – and sometimes even the megas…) frequently fail at doing, is creating layers of communication that actually communicate.

The one thing you communicate is whether or not you know what you are doing and most churches scream, “We’re oblivious!”

Interested in improving?  Check out 50 Totally Free Lessons in Graphics Design Theory.

The lessons are fairly simple and easy to browse.

Creating a Color through Black and White Picture

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christmas-parade-08-25I featured some pictures last week during Phriday Foto that had everything Black and White except the only important person in the picture, my daughter.  Turns out this is pretty easy and can be done with a free program, so I thought you might be interested in learning how to do it.

First, you need GimpGimp is a FREE graphics program like Photoshop, which is expensive.  Gimp is not quite Photoshop, but for free, it rocks.  Also, it works on either Mac or Windows.  I first learned about it from Frank Turk who has a Gimp University blog with loads of tutorials.

Simple directions are first, followed by detailed directions and screenshots.

Simple Directions

  1. Create a duplicate layer:  Layer->Duplicate Layer
  2. Desaturate the top layer:  Color->Desaturate (pop up window->desaturate)
  3. Erase the top layer where you want color to shine through:  Tool->Eraser
  4. Save As your picture in the format of your choice.

Detailed Directions

I’m going to post pictures of the progress as we go through.  Click on the pictures you see in the article for a full sized picture.

For this process, I picked a Christmas Parade picture in which a very colorful lady presented a profile, but she blended somewhat with the other spectators in the original picture.

(Click for Larger Pic)

For well done graphic work, everything is done in layers, so get used to adding multiple layers to an image.  To create a duplicate layer, you need to select the layers menu and then duplicate layer from that menu.

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This is going to give you two layers in the layer menu toolbar.

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Next, you want to take all the color out of the top layer, which is called desaturatization.  The easiest way to do that is to drop down the color menu and choose “desaturate.”

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You’ll get a pop up with several options.  Just click the big desaturate button.

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This will give you a Black and White layer over the color layer.

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Then select the eraser tool from the tool tray, select the brush size you want and erase where you want the color to bleed through.  (The more precise way to do this is to create a mask that will create a selection around the place you want to erase, but this is the quick, easy and dirty way to do it.)

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When you are done, from the file menu, click “Save As” and save the image.  I created this by naming it “color through BW.jpg” and it automatically took me through the process of exporting it as a jpeg image.

(Click for Larger Pic)

Mac in Black|Phriday foto 07-04-08

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Sorry, no patriotic pictures of flags, kids or picnics.  Not even fireworks.

Some of you have noted that I was having trouble with my laptop over the last couple of weeks.  Turns out, the motherboard fried.  I took it in to a local Nerd Herd to confirm the suspicions and found out that, as expected, all was without hope.

I had backed up my information on an external hard drive I had purchased for our home, so there was no loss of data.  Just the grind of having to restore everything from a backup.

With the added pain of a whole new system.  :)

Yep.  I’ve done it.  I went over to the “dark side.”

Glowing AppleYours truly is now sporting a brand new Macbook Black.  No, not the Pro Series laptops, but I’m happy with the one I have.  I know some are getting those high end laptops, but I have no idea how they have the money for it.  Here’s a picture of the glowing white Apple on the back in the darkness of my home office as I take a break from working on my sermon.

I haven’t completely grasped the organizational structure, but they tell me it makes more sense when you do “get it.”  I pray I “get it” soon.

I will say, though, that it is fast.  Much faster than my old XP machine and light years ahead of my wife’s Vista machine.  Yikes.  That looks like a complete waste of money now.  She waits and waits for it to do ANYTHING, but this Macbook just flies through whatever you tell it to do.

Also, shutting down and booting up is AWESOME.  It’s almost NO TIME!

I still have to convert my iPod over to mac sync now.  I have no idea how well that will go, but I hope it goes as easily and quickly as importing all of my music from the external hard drive into iTunes.  Drag, drop and wait 20 mins to convert tons of audio, video and everything else.  Done.

Oh.  And it is light.  It’s not the “Macbook Air,” but it is probably half the weight of my former laptop.

Finally, thanks to the advice of David Phillips, we got the extended warranty, which takes the 1 yr hardware and 90 phone support to 3 years each.  David said that you should always do this with a laptop, because the manufacturers don’t allow you to simply buy and replace broken parts.  If you break something, particularly something important, you have to send it in.  Pretty soon, it is cheaper to simply buy a new computer.

Of course, that is how we got to where we are now, so we learned our lesson.

I’ve set up Firefox already and imported all my bookmarks with the Foxmarks Add-On.  It syncs your bookmarks, personal structure and all, to the net and allows you to log on and bring them to another computer using Firefox.

Final thing:  The whole “it just works” thing that mac users always throw around to pc users when their stuff is grinding and glitching…  they don’t seem to be lying.

There you have it, boys and girls.  Another one goes over…

As for the foto, I know it’s not much, but it is my first effort with the mac and using iPhoto with my Canon DSLR.  I like the program.  It looks promising.  I’ll reserve judgement to see if it is as good as Adobe Lightroom, which is what I have been using.

You can check out my pre-Mac pics at the ol’ photoblog.

Segway inventor Kamen with new invention for wounded veterans

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Dean Kamen, creator of the Segway, has a new invention that is amazing. He developed it at the request of the US Government in order to help wounded Iraq Veterans who are coming home without arms. It is a prosthetic arm that has highly sensitive tactile ability.

Follow the link, watch the video. It is amazing.

Blogging Update

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Just to let you know, I have been blogging, but you haven’t seen it yet.  I have been working on a massive overhaul of my template that will have very few references to the current template.  I plan on rolling it out overnight tonight, if I am able to carve out the time.

Anyway, accompanying it will be a “Better Blogging” post on your template and what effect your template can have on increasing your readership.  I hope it helps you.  For that matter, I hope it helps me.

If all goes as planned, check in tomorrow to see the changes and why they were made.

Think Skaters are Slackers?

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Give up your preconceived ideas. These guys are techy enough to eliminate their boards from this video. It’s amazing.

What else might you not know about skaters?

Did you know that more kids skateboard than every other sport in the US?

Link Load 04-18-08

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Link Load Logo

In this edition, a tool to keep your hands clean, a little girl’s power sander, 1950’s documentary of a dream trip to Disneyland (MUST WATCH), the most expensive bottled water (you thought gasoline was getting expensive…), writing 200,000 books ain’t that hard, ballroom dancing with dogs (not kidding), pachyderm painting, serious paintballers only, efficient freezer baggage, subdivision affordability with transportation factored in, table top biosphere, re-packaging your computer into a teddy bear, the new source of antibiotics: alligator blood (not kidding) and, finally, this week’s sign that the end is near: Mommy 2.0.

The HandlerThe Handler

This handy pocket tool/key chain keeps your hands off of filthy things, and has antibacterial coating as well. Germaphobes, this is for you!

The outrageous hello kitty Power sander

Well, it is what it says it is. A Hello Kitty power sander. Yikes.

Disneyland Dream

You’ve got to go watch this real live piece of Americana from the 1950’s. This Connecticut family documents the winning of a contest to go to the newly opened Disneyland in California. Fringe coats, different hats for the different areas of the park and a neighborhood tickertape parade to send them off in style.

Most Expensive Bottled Water

Need to drink water from a glacier? I hope you have some coin… Apparently this is all the rage among people with more money than sense.

LINK BY LINK; He Wrote 200,000 Books (but Computers Did Some of the Work)

Got writer’s block? Maybe you can borrow this guys computer program which will fill in the pieces for you after you give it the necessary information.

Dance, doggie, dance

No kidding, Youtube video of a dance with dogs as the partners. No kidding. Did I tell you I wasn’t kidding?

Elephant Painting

Youtube. Fascinating.

Paintball Turrett

Need to defend your fort? Watch your back while you snipe the enemy? You may be a little to serious about paintball, but this will help you do it. It is automatic.

Speed tip: Make individual portions in freezer bags

Freezer bag efficiency. This is actually a good idea.

How affordable is that subdivision?

Affordability Index

This set of links is to a story and tool, respectively, that will help you figure out what the real cost of a subdivision is when you factor in the cost of skyrocketing gasoline. If your city is like mine, the cheaper subdivisions are a long way away – and that means driving. How expensive is your home if you have to drive 25 miles to the office and then another 25 to get home?

Make your own Biosphere

For your desk as a conversation piece. Complete with shrimp and other fun, living things. Once you seal it, you never have to open it again.

Programmers, DIY Types Embrace Soft, Hackable Chumby

This computer is made to be taken apart and rehoused in whatever you want to put it in. Like a teddy bear.

Antibiotic Alligator: Promising proteins lurk in reptile blood

Thought that diseases were outsmarting our overuse of antibiotics? Apparently, there is a whole new reservoir of bacterial resistant proteins in the blood of alligators.

My Beautiful MommyMommy 2.0

This week’s sign that the end is near: A book that helps moms explain to kids why they are going to get plastic surgery.

WordPress 2.5 and plugins

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Wordpress LogoIf you are new to blogging or don’t know much about hosting a blog on your own site vs. blogspot or even wordpress free services, you can check out my rundown from last year that will give you the basics. There are a few changes of specific info from then, but just a few.

I am really diggin’ WordPress 2.5. Kevin Bussey said he hated it over on Marty Duren’s blog, but I think he just hates change. He’s such a stick in the mud, he probably still likes his worship with all hymns and just the 1st, 2nd & last verse sung to a Hammond B3 Organ with the vibrato wailing.

:D

Anyway, 2.5 is awesome in a lot of ways, but I’ll just tell you a few of my faves.

  1. The Visual Editor is MUCH better and you don’t have to do the shift-alt-v thing to get the extra buttons.
  2. In the Visual Editor, you can post media to your server by uploading pictures, audio or video. I’m still using flickr and podpress for most of this, but I am experimenting and have found hosting the pictures on my own server is a little easier and a lot more flexible than it used to be.
  3. Big fave – You can embed video from Youtube or other similar hosting site via the Visual Editor. WordPress used to really not like you embedding streaming video. You used to have to write it in the html side of the code and publish it immediately. If you ever changed anything in the post, the video would quit. This makes obsolete the embedify plugin that I was previously using to do the same thing, but it only worked with Youtube (I think – I never tried it with another service).
  4. The plugin page will check if you need to update your plugins and will do it for you with the click of a link, rather than forcing you to overwrite a file with ftp.

Well, those are just the top vote getters at the moment.

I also want to give you a new list of plugins that I am using. Joe Kennedy put up a list and it reminded me of a lot of changes that I have made in this area, so here they are:

  • Akismet – The anti-spam plugin that comes with WordPress.
  • All in One SEO Pack – This plugin is a Search Engine Optimization tool that will hlep your posts get found and, hopefully, read.
  • Angsuman’s Feed Copyrighter – Inserts a copyright tag at the bottom of your post when read in a feedreader.
  • Anti Spam Image – This plugin is no longer available on its host site, but might be found if you search for it. It puts the number/alphabet image input box by the comment section to keep spam programs from filling my comment section full of offers for porn and medications without a prescription. Very necessary, in my opinion (The plugin! Get your mind out of the gutter). Other plugins offer similar options.
  • Bad Behavior – This is anther anti-spam plugin that monitors ip addresses for frequent attempts to access and post to your site and shuts them down cold. When it is working, it rocks. Unfortunately, it sometimes messes up, like the time it shut me out of my own blog and I couldn’t even log in to the editor. It’s not doing that right now, but it is corrupting my category tables or something, so it is in time out (deactivated) for behaving badly. Hopefully, an update will patch it up and let it get back to shutting down spammers. I’ve just upgraded to the latest update (Monday night), but it is still living up to its name, so it is still in time out.
  • Countdown Timer – This is a fun little plugin that lets you count down to something that you might be writing about. Our big trip to Vietnam was the last thing I put up. The downside is that the time and date function don’t work right, so you have to figure how far it is off (I think about 2 hours behind) and set your event for the appropriate wrong time so it will show the right time. A little high maintenance.
  • Feed Statistics – Most of our blogs are read in feeds, but they aren’t counted by Statcounter codes that we embed in the page. This plugin lets you see some information about how many people are grabbing your feed, and which posts they pick up.
  • Google Sitemaps – This plugin creates a sitemap for the Google to pick up when it scans your site. That’s beneficial, because it helps Google decide if your post is relevant to searches that others are performing and this will cause relevant searches to rise in the search results.
  • inline RSS – One of two rss feed scrapers that David Phillips installed to scrape the feed of my photoblog and put the titles as links in the sidebar of my blog. If you need help, ask him. He’s pretty cheap tech support. I don’t know which of these scrapers is actually doing the work, but I’ll link to the other one when it comes up. (This is all alphabetical, you know.)
  • Maintenance Mode – This plugin allows you to stop others from accessing your site while you do upgrades or mess with the template.
  • Move Comments – Allows you to move comments from one post to another. This is handy if someone says something brilliant but it relates to another post.
  • PodPress – Plugin that turns your blog into an audio or video podcast. It’s awesome and easy.
  • Slashdiggalicious – This puts a bunch of icons for social networking sites that allow a reader to post a link to your article to those sites.
  • Subscribe to Comments – Allows readers to subscribe to emails updating them on comments posted to an article you’ve written. This is particularly helpful for people who are wanting to follow a discussion, but don’t want to check back all the time.
  • ToDo List Plugin – Let’s you create a ToDo list in the dashboard of your blog, so that you can keep up with stuff that you want to do, like modify some part of your template.
  • WordPress Stats – Keeps track of hits, etc. for your WordPress blog. Doesn’t track IP addresses, if you need that sort of thing, you still need Statcounter.
  • WordPress Automatic Upgrade – This plugin will walk you through an upgrade of WordPress software when it comes out. It works very well, and you don’t have to be a geek to upgrade your software. By the by, upgrade your software, because not upgrading it leaves security breaches that can expose your blog to hacking.
  • WordPress Database Backup – Creates a backup of all your data so if something goes wrong and your host accidentally wipes out your blog, then you can reload it and not lose everything. I have been close on several occasions and have lost a few things that weren’t backed up. Nice to have everything else still here.
  • WP-RSSImport – The other scraping plugin.

Pastoral Blogging: Claiming feeds, switching readers and podcasting

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I am considering switching from Bloglines to Google Reader as my primary rss feed reader. If you don’t know what that’s all about, read this post: Pastoral Blogging, Pt. 7 (I hereby stop numbering them and will name them from now on…)

Anyway, this is not really brought on by Bloglines at all. It works well, adapts very well to the mobile internet on my Treo and is still the biggest feed reader. Google Reader is rapidly on the rise, however. The change is being brought about because My Yahoo homepage, which has been my homepage for a looooong time is trying to transition to keep up with iGoogle – another homepage, similar to My Yahoo. Well, Google also has online shareable docs, calendars, blogsearch, pictures (to compete with Yahoo owned, Flickr) and, of course, this reader. That’s just to get you started – there’s ALOT more.
Well, I am already using Google for those other things, excepting Flickr, so when Yahoo tries to force me to shift to its new beta My Yahoo page and I find that my email and fantasy sports teams are unsupported modules at the new version, so I switch back, but not without a hassle.

On a whim I check out iGoogle (available with free google account) and start adding modules. Guess what? I can check my email from the iGoogle homepage. Yeah my Gmail (google mail) but also MY YAHOO MAIL. I can check my Yahoo mail from the google homepage but I can’t from the new My Yahoo homepage. Errr…. Just a suggestion, Yahoo, be ready to roll before you start something like this.

Anyway, since it looks like I am going to be moving over to Google for a homepage, I might integrate my reader into iGoogle as well.

As I went through that process I found that I can import all of my feeds as they are from bloglines. In Bloglines, go to “edit” and at the bottom of the left hand column, click export feeds. Save the “export.opml” file to your hard drive and then upload it in the Google Reader. That simple.

Regardless of whether or not you switch, however, you might want to claim your feed at bloglines. It’s under My Account -> Publisher Tools. You need to find your feed, integrate some code and then authenticate.

In a mostly unrelated topic, I settled on an audio plugin to help with post Frank Page’s Q&A session with Tulsa Metro. It is PodPress, and it gives you tons of stats about downloads vs. plays vs. feed reads. Really good stuff, if you want to upload some audio. I tried another one, but it didn’t work. PodPress is low maintenance and clearly the way to go. it you want to get a little more high maintenance, you can list your audio at iTunes with Podpress, but even if you don’t, PodPress creates an rss feed that people can use to subscribe to audio that you upload. Bottom line: if they are on your blog, they can subscribe to your podcast, and if they aren’t, they are not likely to find you at iTunes because that is like a needle in a haystack. Of course, this plugin is for WordPress blogs.

Be good. I’m going to see Marty next week, so I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll blog, set some stuff to drop while I’m gone or just take some time off. Most likely the latter, but we’ll see.

Photoblog

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Just for my own amusement and my family’s ability to get to my pictures online (some are of my family), I have created a photoblog as a subdomain. If you would like to access my photoblog, you can do so here:

photoblog.twelvewitnesses.com

With the help (as always) of David Phillips, this blog is a direct connect to a flickr account set up for just this purpose. It siphons off the photos, sets and recent uploads, as well as any I mark as favorites, which I have not done. The home page is a full sized picture of whatever I uploaded last, which you can cycle through backward at full size. An easier way is to look at the sets of pictures, which will launch thumbnail pages. If you click on a thumbnail, a larger size will appear and you can scroll through the set, forward or backward, if you like.

I’ve enjoyed taking pictures since I was a kid. My Mom was a professional photographer, so I grew up around it.

I use a Canon Rebel xti DSLR to take the pictures and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to process the RAW data, which is the way I record the digital data.

Flickr now also receives photos through email. This will allow me to post pictures I take with my camera immediately to my photoblog, which I look forward to doing. Camera phones have revolutionized culture, it seems. If you have a flickr account, you have a secret email address that will receive your photos. Login to flickr and go to www.flickr.com/account/uploadbyemail/.

Wait, there’s more. The photoblog is photoblog software, but I might also like to upload pictures from my treo to this WordPress powered blog – the main domain site – and post a short article to go with it. I can do that, too, though it is a different process. It also works with blogger, typepad, moveable type and other blogs styles.

If you would like to post to your blog from your phone, you have to first set up the interface with flickr and your blog. You can do that by going to www.flickr.com/blogs.gne and following the process there.

After you get that set up, then go to www.flickr.com/account/uploadbyemail/blog/ and get the add on to your secret email address that will receive your email picture, post it on your flickr site, and then send it all to your blog as well.

Should be fun for random “out and about” posts, but also could be interesting when live blogging a conference.

Enjoy.

[HT: Mark Ghosh]

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