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Glory Days... Sort Of.
WHAT: Personal, Random   |   WHEN: August 3, 2012   |   WHERE: Marion, Ohio
Was back in Marion, OH last week. I grew up there, and it will always be 'home'.  While I was there, Kylie, Saige and I were invited by proxy to a birthday party for a sweet little three year old girl who's the daughter of some friends of the friends we were staying with.  Got to bust out a football and play catch with a couple of the guys for a bit.  My high school quarterbacking days felt like they were 20 years ago. Oh, right... they were 20 years ago.  In any case, I miss outings like this, and it was fun to visit with our formerly athletic selves... only now it feels more like we're in slow motion.  Good times.



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Honey-Do Project: Oversized Ruler Growth Chart
WHAT: Fun, Personal, Random, Useful Stuff   |   WHEN: April 6, 2012
My wife, like a multitude of others, is unofficially a Pinterestaholic.  And the only reason it's "unofficial" is because Dr. Phil hasn't yet come out and explicitly said there is such a thing.  It's only a matter of time, though.

Perhaps I should actually thank Pinterest.  It got my to do what nothing else has for a month and a half now... a blog post.  My blog thanks you, Pinterest.  And it thanks my wife, too.  She wanted a way to measure and document our kid(s) height(s) in a way that we can take with us whenever we leave this house. [For those reading between the lines and wondering what "kid(s)" means, number 2 is not on the way yet... just planning ahead.]

So, after a quick search of Pinterest, my wife found several examples of oversized rulers as growth charts.  And then came the honey-do look in her eyes, and that's where I enter the scene stage right.  After a quick assessment of skill-level required to do our own ruler, I was confident - even with my, ahem, underwhelming handy-man skills, - that this is something I could do.  And for extra credit, we wanted to Pottery Barn-ize our version by sprucing up the numbers a bit.  Easy peasy... instead of painting them on, we just went out and bought some decent looking brushed metal finish house numbers.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how it came out. I did have a little issue when sanding the 2nd coat of polyurethane where it fogged over a bit.  Still not sure why, but it wasn't terrible and it was hard to notice unless you got it in just the right light.  It does kinda bug me that something like that happens at almost the very end after all the work I put in on it, but I'd rather just try to ignore my perferctionist tendencies than start over and have to tape off those God-forsaken tick marks again.

Anyway, here it is in it's final (for now) resting place in the kitchen.  And keep on reading below if you're interested in the process and wanna make your own.  



Trust me.... if I can do this, surely you or any other 4th grade shop student can.  The biggest thing you need is patience.  If you're like me, I love instant gratification on projects like this, and I have a tendency to wanna rush the waiting/curing times a bit and move on to the next step.  Patience, grasshopper.

Anyway, this is what I started with... a pre-cut 6' trim/molding board from Home Depot.  I had planned on having to find buy a larger piece of wood, cut it down, and sand it before I could do anything else, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this score.



The next step was to lightly sand the edges of the board to soften them up a bit since they were pretty sharp when I bought the piece of wood. 



After sanding, I wiped down the board to get rid of the dust from sanding and then applied a coat of stain.  I used the "Jacobean Bean" color because I wanted something darker and a little more sophisticated.



The next stage was the worst part of the whole process.  I tried to think of every shortcut I could think of to make quick work of the tick marks, but in the end I knew I wouldn't be happy if they didn't look good.  I'm sure there's probably an easier way to do them, and if you know of one, I'm not sure I even want you to tell me because I don't wanna be annoyed by how much time I might've been able to save.  I used a ruler and a pencil to mark off tick marks at every inch and then drew each tick mark on the board with pencil. Then I used painter's tape and masked off the edge of the board exposing only the areas I wanted to paint. I'm not gonna lie... total beat-down.  I wish the NCAA men's championship game woulda been a little more exciting to distract me from the monotony of taping.



Next up, painting!  I chose an oil-based glossy black paint to make sure I got a durable finish that would stand out enough against the dark stain color. I put on 2 coats, and let dry overnight.


After letting the paint dry, I removed the tape (tons more fun than putting it on), and brushed on the first thin coat of polyurethane for a protective sealant.  I let it dry for about 4 hours, and then lightly sanded the board with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the rouch texture of the polyurethane and then wiped the board with a damp cloth to remove the dust.  Everything looked great at that point.  I wanted to put one more light coat on for a little extra protection against anything the kiddos might try and do to it, and this is where things got a little hairy.  I used the same exact process to apply the 2nd coat of polyurethane as I did the first one, but this time when I sanded the second coat and wiped it down, I got some fogging over parts of the board. Boooooo.  

At this point I had 3 choices.  1) Dial down my anal perfectionist inner voice and let it ride as is.  2) Try to fix the fogging with some kind of ad-hoc, cross-my-fingers-and-hope-this-doesn't-ruin-everything rework process. 3) Start over.  Option 2 got eliminated pretty quickly after talking with a couple people about how I could and most-likely could not easily fix it.  Option 3?  Pffft... Not gonna happen.  I'd rather light my hair on fire and then throw gasoline on it before having to do all those tick marks again.  Sooo... option 1 it was.  And rather than call the slight fogging in a couple places defects, I'm calling them character.  Besides, they really are hardly noticeable once you get them the board outta the sunlight.



The last step was to attach the brushed nickel house numbers to the board and hang it.  The numbers were self adhesive, so... bonus!  I marked the board 3/4" from the opposite edge of the tick marks for my baseline for each of the numbers to make sure they lined up.




And voila!  Here's a closer shot of the final product after hanging it in the kitchen.



I think each year where going to put a small image of each kiddo on the board at the location designating their height for that year.  And I'm also marking my height on the board this year when I turn 40... so I can see if I've started shrinking yet.


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A Sister's Eulogy for Steve Jobs
WHAT: Personal, Random   |   WHEN: October 31, 2011
It's no secret that I've been a fan (and part-time non-payroll marketer) of Apple for many years now.  While they may not always have the most technically superior products, in my opinion they have long been the measuring stick for fantastic user experiences.  Surely a lot of people at Apple have contributed to these insanely great experiences through a lot of hard work; Steve Jobs didn't do it on his own. But it's impossible to argue Apple would be what it is today without Steve Jobs, his passion, and his vision.

I'm admittedly fascinated by this man's story... maybe even enough to say I had a man crush on him for awhile.  But who in our time has had as much impact on our daily lives as Steve Jobs?  I can't think of a president, an entertainer, an athlete or anyone else for that matter that has impacted how I live my life more.  From computers to music to phones to tablets, he and his company transformed these industries in a way that meaningfully affects how we work and play and communicate with each other.  Apple wasn't always the first to deliver a product or service, but more often than not they were the first to know how to do it in a way people would latch on to.

All this to say I read Steve Jobs' sister's eulogy to him today, and it blew me away.  I have to admit I have a morbid sense of curiosity about what his last days and hours were like, and his sister's account is a beautiful story about his life and the end.  Here are the words she read at his memorial service on October 16th.

----------

A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs
By MONA SIMPSON
Published: October 30, 2011

I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us. Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people.

Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother.

By then, I lived in New York, where I was trying to write my first novel. I had a job at a small magazine in an office the size of a closet, with three other aspiring writers. When one day a lawyer called me — me, the middle-class girl from California who hassled the boss to buy us health insurance — and said his client was rich and famous and was my long-lost brother, the young editors went wild. This was 1985 and we worked at a cutting-edge literary magazine, but I’d fallen into the plot of a Dickens novel and really, we all loved those best. The lawyer refused to tell me my brother’s name and my colleagues started a betting pool. The leading candidate: John Travolta. I secretly hoped for a literary descendant of Henry James — someone more talented than I, someone brilliant without even trying.

When I met Steve, he was a guy my age in jeans, Arab- or Jewish-looking and handsomer than Omar Sharif.
We took a long walk — something, it happened, that we both liked to do. I don’t remember much of what we said that first day, only that he felt like someone I’d pick to be a friend. He explained that he worked in computers.

I didn’t know much about computers. I still worked on a manual Olivetti typewriter.

I told Steve I’d recently considered my first purchase of a computer: something called the Cromemco.

Steve told me it was a good thing I’d waited. He said he was making something that was going to be insanely beautiful.

I want to tell you a few things I learned from Steve, during three distinct periods, over the 27 years I knew him. They’re not periods of years, but of states of being. His full life. His illness. His dying.

Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day.

That’s incredibly simple, but true.

He was the opposite of absent-minded.

He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures. If someone as smart as Steve wasn’t ashamed to admit trying, maybe I didn’t have to be.

When he got kicked out of Apple, things were painful. He told me about a dinner at which 500 Silicon Valley leaders met the then-sitting president. Steve hadn’t been invited.

He was hurt but he still went to work at Next. Every single day.

Novelty was not Steve’s highest value. Beauty was.

For an innovator, Steve was remarkably loyal. If he loved a shirt, he’d order 10 or 100 of them. In the Palo Alto house, there are probably enough black cotton turtlenecks for everyone in this church.

He didn’t favor trends or gimmicks. He liked people his own age.

His philosophy of aesthetics reminds me of a quote that went something like this: “Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.”

Steve always aspired to make beautiful later.

He was willing to be misunderstood.

Uninvited to the ball, he drove the third or fourth iteration of his same black sports car to Next, where he and his team were quietly inventing the platform on which Tim Berners-Lee would write the program for the World Wide Web.

Steve was like a girl in the amount of time he spent talking about love. Love was his supreme virtue, his god of gods. He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him.

Whenever he saw a man he thought a woman might find dashing, he called out, “Hey are you single? Do you wanna come to dinner with my sister?”
I remember when he phoned the day he met Laurene. “There’s this beautiful woman and she’s really smart and she has this dog and I’m going to marry her.”
When Reed was born, he began gushing and never stopped. He was a physical dad, with each of his children. He fretted over Lisa’s boyfriends and Erin’s travel and skirt lengths and Eve’s safety around the horses she adored.

None of us who attended Reed’s graduation party will ever forget the scene of Reed and Steve slow dancing.
His abiding love for Laurene sustained him. He believed that love happened all the time, everywhere. In that most important way, Steve was never ironic, never cynical, never pessimistic. I try to learn from that, still.

Steve had been successful at a young age, and he felt that had isolated him. Most of the choices he made from the time I knew him were designed to dissolve the walls around him. A middle-class boy from Los Altos, he fell in love with a middle-class girl from New Jersey. It was important to both of them to raise Lisa, Reed, Erin and Eve as grounded, normal children. Their house didn’t intimidate with art or polish; in fact, for many of the first years I knew Steve and Lo together, dinner was served on the grass, and sometimes consisted of just one vegetable. Lots of that one vegetable. But one. Broccoli. In season. Simply prepared. With just the right, recently snipped, herb.

Even as a young millionaire, Steve always picked me up at the airport. He’d be standing there in his jeans.

When a family member called him at work, his secretary Linetta answered, “Your dad’s in a meeting. Would you like me to interrupt him?”

When Reed insisted on dressing up as a witch every Halloween, Steve, Laurene, Erin and Eve all went wiccan.

They once embarked on a kitchen remodel; it took years. They cooked on a hotplate in the garage. The Pixar building, under construction during the same period, finished in half the time. And that was it for the Palo Alto house. The bathrooms stayed old. But — and this was a crucial distinction — it had been a great house to start with; Steve saw to that.

This is not to say that he didn’t enjoy his success: he enjoyed his success a lot, just minus a few zeros. He told me how much he loved going to the Palo Alto bike store and gleefully realizing he could afford to buy the best bike there.

And he did.

Steve was humble. Steve liked to keep learning.

Once, he told me if he’d grown up differently, he might have become a mathematician. He spoke reverently about colleges and loved walking around the Stanford campus. In the last year of his life, he studied a book of paintings by Mark Rothko, an artist he hadn’t known about before, thinking of what could inspire people on the walls of a future Apple campus.

Steve cultivated whimsy. What other C.E.O. knows the history of English and Chinese tea roses and has a favorite David Austin rose?

He had surprises tucked in all his pockets. I’ll venture that Laurene will discover treats — songs he loved, a poem he cut out and put in a drawer — even after 20 years of an exceptionally close marriage. I spoke to him every other day or so, but when I opened The New York Times and saw a feature on the company’s patents, I was still surprised and delighted to see a sketch for a perfect staircase.

With his four children, with his wife, with all of us, Steve had a lot of fun.

He treasured happiness.

Then, Steve became ill and we watched his life compress into a smaller circle. Once, he’d loved walking through Paris. He’d discovered a small handmade soba shop in Kyoto. He downhill skied gracefully. He cross-country skied clumsily. No more.

Eventually, even ordinary pleasures, like a good peach, no longer appealed to him.

Yet, what amazed me, and what I learned from his illness, was how much was still left after so much had been taken away.

I remember my brother learning to walk again, with a chair. After his liver transplant, once a day he would get up on legs that seemed too thin to bear him, arms pitched to the chair back. He’d push that chair down the Memphis hospital corridor towards the nursing station and then he’d sit down on the chair, rest, turn around and walk back again. He counted his steps and, each day, pressed a little farther.

Laurene got down on her knees and looked into his eyes.

“You can do this, Steve,” she said. His eyes widened. His lips pressed into each other.

He tried. He always, always tried, and always with love at the core of that effort. He was an intensely emotional man.

I realized during that terrifying time that Steve was not enduring the pain for himself. He set destinations: his son Reed’s graduation from high school, his daughter Erin’s trip to Kyoto, the launching of a boat he was building on which he planned to take his family around the world and where he hoped he and Laurene would someday retire.

Even ill, his taste, his discrimination and his judgment held. He went through 67 nurses before finding kindred spirits and then he completely trusted the three who stayed with him to the end. Tracy. Arturo. Elham.

One time when Steve had contracted a tenacious pneumonia his doctor forbid everything — even ice. We were in a standard I.C.U. unit. Steve, who generally disliked cutting in line or dropping his own name, confessed that this once, he’d like to be treated a little specially.

I told him: Steve, this is special treatment.

He leaned over to me, and said: “I want it to be a little more special.”

Intubated, when he couldn’t talk, he asked for a notepad. He sketched devices to hold an iPad in a hospital bed. He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment. He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit. And every time his wife walked into the room, I watched his smile remake itself on his face.

For the really big, big things, you have to trust me, he wrote on his sketchpad. He looked up. You have to.

By that, he meant that we should disobey the doctors and give him a piece of ice.

None of us knows for certain how long we’ll be here. On Steve’s better days, even in the last year, he embarked upon projects and elicited promises from his friends at Apple to finish them. Some boat builders in the Netherlands have a gorgeous stainless steel hull ready to be covered with the finishing wood. His three daughters remain unmarried, his two youngest still girls, and he’d wanted to walk them down the aisle as he’d walked me the day of my wedding.
We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.

I suppose it’s not quite accurate to call the death of someone who lived with cancer for years unexpected, but Steve’s death was unexpected for us.

What I learned from my brother’s death was that character is essential: What he was, was how he died.

Tuesday morning, he called me to ask me to hurry up to Palo Alto. His tone was affectionate, dear, loving, but like someone whose luggage was already strapped onto the vehicle, who was already on the beginning of his journey, even as he was sorry, truly deeply sorry, to be leaving us.

He started his farewell and I stopped him. I said, “Wait. I’m coming. I’m in a taxi to the airport. I’ll be there.”

“I’m telling you now because I’m afraid you won’t make it on time, honey.”

When I arrived, he and his Laurene were joking together like partners who’d lived and worked together every day of their lives. He looked into his children’s eyes as if he couldn’t unlock his gaze.

Until about 2 in the afternoon, his wife could rouse him, to talk to his friends from Apple.

Then, after awhile, it was clear that he would no longer wake to us.

His breathing changed. It became severe, deliberate, purposeful. I could feel him counting his steps again, pushing farther than before.

This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it.

He told me, when he was saying goodbye and telling me he was sorry, so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old together as we’d always planned, that he was going to a better place.

Dr. Fischer gave him a 50/50 chance of making it through the night.

He made it through the night, Laurene next to him on the bed sometimes jerked up when there was a longer pause between his breaths. She and I looked at each other, then he would heave a deep breath and begin again.

This had to be done. Even now, he had a stern, still handsome profile, the profile of an absolutist, a romantic. His breath indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude.

He seemed to be climbing.

But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve’s capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later.

Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.

Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.

Steve’s final words were:

OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.

Mona Simpson is a novelist and a professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. She delivered this eulogy for her brother, Steve Jobs, on Oct. 16 at his memorial service at the Memorial Church of Stanford University.


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No Paternity Test Required
WHAT: Fun, Personal, Random   |   WHEN: July 29, 2011
So my mom's been saying for weeks now how much Saige looks like I did as a little one.  In fact, she joked that Saige looks more like me than well, me, at her age. I mean, I don't have any newborn images of me, but from what I remembered of the few baby images I'd last seen of me years ago, I knew there were some similarities. I needed proof, though, so I asked my mom if she had any she could bring over so I could see for myself.

So, without further delay, here's yours truly 38 years go. Thanks, Olan, for this masterpiece. BTW, judging by the amount of photos my mom brought over from Olan Mills, they musta known us like Cheers knows Norm.  I know a lotta folks make fun of Olan Mills for his cookie-cutter franchises delivering, ummm, stellar images with craptastic props, non-sensical backgrounds and the incomparable "look-away" poses, but that guy musta laughed all the way to the bank.  He's the Ray Kroc of photography.



... and here's little Saige in a quick image we took tonight for comparison.  Holy crud, it's freakin' mini-me.


I'm just hoping her high school senior yearbook photo doesn't look like mine.  Actually, I'm really just hopin' her eyebrows - unlike mine - thin out over time.  Otherwise, I smell a wax job in her future... unless we decide to make her wait until after she graduates just to keep the boys away. Kidding. Just kidding... sort of.

And to finish out this post, here's a few more beauties from the Olan Mills factory with a little color commentary mixed in.

Speaking of color, for this first one, who was the jerk that started this terrible trend of colorizing images like this to make the subject look like they were destined to be a freakish circus attraction?


I can assure you this is the only time I ever sat this awkwardly close to my brother's crotch.  Apparently the clown suit I'm wearing made it okay, though.


Nope. Still not looking at the camera.  I can only guess that Olan Mills had a company policy to fire any employees that photographed subjects looking anywhere near the camera.


Ahh, yes... the signature Olan Mills double-exposure. This musta been their go-to, cash-cow image because let's face it, what parent wouldn't want an image of their kids' heads floating on a black backdrop while seemingly gazing into their future... which unfortunately included plaid pants.


Joker pants aside, this could be a Revlon Shampoo magazine ad image.  I mean, look at that silky smooth, shiny flowing hair. You can't pull off those pants without great hair.


Wearing a leisure suit with a turtle neck leaning on a faux fence in a faux field... everybody did this in the 70's.  BTW, you'd think the photographer mighta pointed out to the parent(s) that their kids hair looked like, oh I dunno, a mole hill was growing on top of their head before they took the photo.  Not like they coulda missed it. 


We musta been the smartest kids in school with all those books in our obviously-real library.  


We are clearly outdoors in this photo. Clearly.  And I'm starting to realize I had the same haircut for the first 10 years of my life. I imagine my parents rolling me into the local mall barber shop and saying, "Give him the Davy Jones do."


Okay, let's deal with the elephant in the room in this next photo and get it outta the way.  Yes, the tear in the photo is in an awkward shape and location.


Hey, back in the library... in a tan corduroy suit.  Oh well, at least I'm not in a red corduroy suit because that would be ridicu... oh... never mind.



20





Comparing Apples & Oranges
WHAT: Fun, Random   |   WHEN: March 22, 2011
"It's apples and oranges... you can't compare them."  We've all made the analogy. I personally am frequaently guilty of making this false statement.  Clearly you can, as the infographic below demonstrates. I've now been learned. 

From now on, I've updated my personal inventory of cliché phrases to modify this analogy to say, "You can't compare apples and, oh, I dunno... rectal thermometers." And until I see an inforgraphic to prove otherwise, I'm sticking to it.

Apples to Oranges.

Infographic by Smarter.org



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