Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fuck Cancer

It's been a while since I've posted to my blog...but I'm sitting down to write this morning because of the topic of cancer and a new resource that I stumbled across that people should be aware of, and use.  And I stress the word "use".

"90% of cancers are curable if caught in stage one".  I did not know that.  There's also a lot more that I didn't know about cancer on the website called "Fuck Cancer" located at this link of  Excuse their language, but it does get attention, right?  :)

I think it's a pretty safe statement to say that almost everyone knows someone who's been affected by cancer.  The sheer number of varieties of cancer make that somewhat inevitable.  Father, mother, sister, brother, friend....  It doesn't matter who it affects, once it happens it opens up a lot of questions and dialog that many people don't think about in the normal course of life.

The mission of the Fuck Cancer website is to change that.  Go there.  Read about it.  Their goal is to have a blunt and open dialog about cancer to discuss the kinds of things that you won't read about on pure medical websites like WebMD.  It offers the information from many different perspectives:  education, prevention, emotional, patient, caregiver, community.  Great stuff!

One of the things that I've learned within the past ten years or so that really struck me even before I saw this website is that the chances of getting many types of cancer can be significantly reduced by lifestyle changes.

This is entirely within every person's ability to do.  All it takes to get started on this path of prevention is willpower and the desire to live a long and healthy life.  This is not to say that you won't some day get whacked out of left field with a terrible form of cancer anyway, but there are many obvious things that you can do to improve your odds...right exercising more, cutting out smoking, cutting down on drinking, reducing stress, etc.  But there's also much more than that....

How about knocking the constant influx of crappy food out of your life?  Have you ever read the ingredients to something as simple as the croutons that you shake on your salad?  Yikes!  Have you heard all of the news about genetically modified seeds and crops and how horrible they are for you (go to and search for news on "Monsanto" to read about that gem of a topic)?  Have you switched to organic milk so that you're not feeding your family unnecessary antibiotics and growth hormones every day?  Soda?'s nothing else other than chemicals and acids.  How about your laundry detergent....which over the years has been filled with many wacky new "more effective" cleaning chemicals.  Guess what....that stuff stays in your clothes if it's not rinsed out well and then it touches and absorbs into your skin all day when you wear those clothes.  The list goes on and on....

Do you think these things don't affect your health?  If so, you're kidding yourself.  The human body and immune system certainly weren't designed to be pounded all day, every day, with chemicals that you can't even pronounce the names of.  55% of all Americans are allergic to at least one thing.  Does that sound strange to you?  It does to me....and I totally believe that all this crap that gets piled into us over decades has broken down the ability of the body to cope with many simple allergens.

I firmly believe in "everything in moderation" for success in many areas of life in general, but what happens over time is that all of the things above sneak into your life and guess're no longer living a life of moderation, instead you're living a life that has chemicals in it at every turn.  Some people don't care about this, but a lot of people do.  Leading a more sensible life with less garbage in it doesn't turn you into a right-wing chemical hater.  It's just common sense to be aware and take better care of yourself....

But I digress off the main topic a bit....

The Fuck Cancer website is a valuable resource that offers up its information from a variety of angles that anybody can latch on to in order to satisfy their needs.  Even if you don't know someone with cancer, check out the 'Get Educated' section so that you can learn how to monitor yourself and take simple preventative measures to lead a healthier life.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rising: Looking forward from 9/11

Above is a time-lapse video showing the construction of the Freedom Tower.  It's definitely worth a few minutes to watch how far the building and site have come.  Very cool!

For the 9/11 anniversary, my daughter is doing something in school where they pick a person to interview about 9/11 and ask some questions about what you were doing that day, the emotions you felt, how you feel about it all these years later, etc.  I had my experiences from that day that I originally wrote about in a blog post at this link back in 2010.

She wasn't born yet when 9/11 occurred and something struck me about the fact that she's learning the history of an event that I lived right through....that we all lived right through.  Thinking about 9/11 as a history class topic just strikes me as strange for some reason.  I don't think about it has "history" yet, it's still all so new.

I had to pause when she asked me some of the questions, specifically one where she asked how I felt about it twelve years later.  I didn't really know how to answer that.  Not much has changed.  I'm still shocked, angry, sad, and left wishing that people could find a way to get past differences large and small.  I see and hear people every day getting stuck on things that are so trivial in the bigger scope of life that it really makes me wonder what we're all doing sometimes.

But anyway....

I saw a show on the Discovery Channel last night called "Rising:  The Rebuilding of Ground Zero".  It was very well done and I recommend trying to catch a repeat of it if you can.  It walks through the building of the Freedom Tower, the Fountain Memorial and the Museum that all currently sit on the Ground Zero site. All components of the site are due to be completed in early 2014.

It's impossible to watch this show with a dry eye, especially when they interview the plumbing foreman responsible for all the piping and pumps that will move the water up, over and into the Fountain Memorial.  His mother died in 9/11 and he very much feels that he's building the fountain for her since he never got to say goodbye.  Very touching....the raw emotion is palpable.  I can't even comprehend it.

But the show did not dwell on the feelings of sadness so much as it painted an optimistic picture of looking forward, and of transforming that space into a beautiful memorial park where everyone can go to sit, learn, absorb, and take a deep breath to think about the enormity of it all.  And dare I say that maybe people will also think about themselves a bit as well, to reflect on what's important to them in life and how we can all make things a little bit better if we try.  Although it will be emotional going there for sure, I can't wait to see it.  It will be stunning, in a good way.

So on this 9/11 anniversary, I'm not filled with all of the negative images from that day.  Instead, I'm filled with the positive and forward looking images from that show that I saw last night....and the comments of the family members who were interviewed that were crushed by loss and are looking to the rebuilt site and memorial as a way to not only reflect and remember, but to very much move forward in a positive way as well.

Out of darkness sometimes comes a light.....and maybe the rebuilt site and memorial are just the light that we all need.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Journaling with Day One

A while back, I wrote a blog entry discussing why I started writing a personal journal and reviewed the iOS and Mac app that I use called 'Day One' that help me do it effectively.  That article is located here on my blog:

Today, I ran across a great set of articles of a similar nature written by a guy named Tulio Jarocki, but his articles go into much more detail than mine and really touch on some of the great reasons for journaling and why 'Day One' is so effective as a tool to do it.

If you're even remotely considering journaling but aren't quite sure how to get started or even what really might interest you to write about, give this set of articles a read.  There are so many good reasons to journal, and I can almost guarantee that when you sit down to read it years from now that it will provide a great and interesting glimpse into your personal history.

The five articles by Tulio are linked to from this page on the 'Day One' website: 

Happy journaling!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Review: ProCamera for iPhone

I'm big into the hobby of photography, and have been for years.  I own a lot of good DSLR equipment (bodies, lenses, flashes, remote timers, etc) and use it to obtain the best quality that I can when I'm out shooting.  You can see some of my photos here:

Some time recently though, I got tired of hauling around all of that heavy equipment in a separate backpack and migrated to using a high quality Canon compact camera on more and more occasions.  Stick it in my pocket and away I go.  And even more recently, I've been subscribing to the photography adage that "the best camera is the one that you have with you", which would be the camera on my iPhone 5 that I always carry with me.  Apple's new TV commercial captures the essence of this point nicely.  You can see it here:

My problem with the native iPhone camera app is the lack of control that I have over it.  It's designed for simplicity and ease of use, and it excels at that.  It has the HDR and Panorama functions that are quite handy, but beyond that there's nothing in terms of user control for creative photography.

Photographers know what photographers want, so enter the plethora of iPhone camera apps designed to provide more functions than the built-in Apple camera app provides.  I don't know how many camera apps are in the Apple App Store, but there are a lot.  Some top examples that I've used and like include Camera+, Camera Awesome, and Kit Cam.  All of them include some handy unique features and built-in editing capabilities that keep me using them periodically for special needs, but I was still on the hunt for the perfect all-around camera app.  And then I found it!

The name of my favorite advanced iPhone camera app is ProCamera, and their website is located at this link:

Here are some things that I really like about this app that make it stand out above the rest and help to satisfy my creative shooting needs when I feel like pushing my iPhone to its limits to make a special shot:

  • Separate exposure and focus lock controls.  A must for creative image control.  These are also available when shooting video, which is huge!  This is the only app that I know of right now that offers this.
  • Continuous focus during video
  • Image stabilization
  • Video stabilization
  • Histogram display.  Handy to see when you're pushing the limits of the lighting...
  • Shutter speed and ISO displays.  Handy to understand what you're dealing with so you can compensate if necessary (e.g., steady the camera for a shot with a very slow shutter speed).
  • Separate shutter buttons for taking a stabilized shot or a regular shot.  Stabilization sensitivity is user-controlled.
  • Quick-button switching between camera and video
  • Auto ISO boost for getting better shots in dark situations.  Great feature!
  • JPEG compression level control
  • Rapid and HighSpeed shooting modes
  • Pro Lab is a full suite of color and exposure correction editing tools that are very handy to have on-board within the app and are easy to use.  There are also Pro Cut (a cropping utility) and Pro FX (some color and lighting presets) but I don't use either of these too often.
  • .....and more!
...and of course the app has all the standard photo app features like grid overlays, self-timer, level, sharing to social media sites, etc.

As you can see, there are a lot of features to expand your creative horizons, but the nice thing is that the interface is designed to keep most of it out of your way until you want/need it.  Nice job!

The app has performed flawlessly for me over time and has therefore earned a place on my home page for rapid access.  I still use the built in Apple camera app to shoot panoramas and HDR, but other than that.....this is my go-to photo app on the iPhone.  Well worth the few dollars that it costs, and highly recommended!

Friday, March 22, 2013

No matter what, keep your creativity alive!

I've received emails from all over the world about this blog (which shows me that people are actually finding and reading it, which is cool), so I try to put material up here that can be of value to people who happen to to come across it.  I would like to relay a short story to you...

I'm not complaining or looking for sympathy, but I had a hellish year in 2012.  I'm glad to see it gone!  Work was a total physical and mental overload, I had some health challenges, things were constantly going wrong with the house that had to be fixed, big money was pouring out the door on unexpected expenses, I started several large home projects (none of which I could finish because of lack of time), etc.

I'm sure you've all been there...and maybe I can pass along this experience to somehow give people who occasionally have to deal with sustained crappy circumstances like this a way to pull yourself out of it.

Honestly, if it wasn't for my wife and kids and the enjoyment I get out of our family life, I think I would have jumped off the roof of my house last year because I was going nuts!  :)

And something else happened along the way in 2012 that was worse.  I just felt generally "off" much of the year, and I'm not normally like that at all.  Looking back on it, I lost a bit of myself along the way in all this chaos and I didn't even realize it until things calmed down a bit and I was able to take a breather to think.

Today it dawned on me why I felt "off".  During all of the chaos around me, I gave up everything in my life that had anything to do with creativity.  I gave up reading, writing, photography, music....everything.  The creative spark was totally gone.  Since I'm a creative person in general, this was a big loss that I didn't even realize was occurring until it was already long done.

So how to snap out of it?

First, realize that even though constant ongoing problems might be inconvenient, expensive, and time consuming, it's not the end of the world.  Shit happens.  And then more shit happens. And then more.  And your job is killing you.  And the house has problems.  But hopefully it eventually comes to an end and things settle down.  Eventually there's a window of opportunity during all of the bad news and that's the time to find a way to deal with it and pull yourself up from the mess.  Look for that window of opportunity to clear your head.

My Carvin LB70 bass, out of its case for playing again!
Second, don't give up on yourself.  Last year, during this one month in particular, I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown if one more thing went wrong.  And guess what.  The "one more thing" did happen that same week...and it inconvenienced the family and cost $2,500 to repair right in the middle of the Christmas holiday season.  Did I have that nervous breakdown?  No.  In fact, it was just the opposite.  It was the slap in the face that I needed to pull myself up and solve some of these things that had mounted up on me.

Third and most importantly, don't lose yourself.  I lost myself last year by giving up my creative hobbies and activities.  Find something that you enjoy and make the time to do it.  It doesn't matter what it is, just make time for yourself.  Notice that I didn't say "find the time" because you won't find it during trying circumstances.  You have to "make" the time by sacrificing something else (maybe those hours of TV watching?!).

My new Mitchell MD100SCE, ready for learning!
Now I'm back on track!  I made a commitment to myself this year not to let this happen again and to ensure I've got time carved out for myself.  To start with, I'm doing something I've wanted to do for years:  I bought an acoustic guitar and I'm teaching myself to play!  I made the time to do it by cutting out a few TV shows each day which now clears the way for me to practice and enjoy the sounds of my new hobby.

I'm also practicing bass again, getting back into my photography, reading, planning to use my Mac computer and GarageBand to record some rudimentary songs, etc.  And of course, enjoying the family time!  All of this has done wonders for my outlook....and I vowed not to lose myself again by giving up the things that I like and my creative outlets when times get tough.

I don't profess to be an expert on this stuff, but I hope this article helps someone/anyone who happens to stumble across it on the web.  Pull yourself up and get out there to enjoy life!