Friday, December 29, 2006

Night At The Museum

Tracie and I went to see Night At The Museum with her parents and sisters the other day. Let me just say that it was one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. I give it two thumbs up, it is fine holiday fun.

Ben Stiller plays a man who becomes a night watchman at a museum where, due to an egyption curse, everything comes to life at night. I have to admit that the movie is a little Jumanji-esque, but Night at the Museum was way better. The plight of the main character plays a much bigger part in the movie rather than just finishing a board game designed to showcase special effects.

Go see Night At The Museum.

-Gary

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What is a manger?

An amazing revelation manisfested itself to me this Christmas. Most people that I've asked; didn't know what a "manger" is. I'm going to tell you right now once and for all but first try to think of the answer yourself. A manger is not a barn or stable but a crib like container in which to place food such as hay and grain for animals. It's amazing to find out that people do not know this after all those years of hearing the nativity story.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

THE DARKEST EVENING OF THE YEAR

Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods filled with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

New Favourite Restaurant

Lately Tracie and I have been eating out at Perkin's Family Restaurant. I really like it there. I have to admit that it is a place for old people, but that's one of the things that I like about it.

They don't have blaring loud music, there are no huge banks of televisons to distract you, and best of all, you don't have to shout for the people at your table to hear you. It is quiet and relaxing. The menu is a little plain, but the food is good.

Tracie was wondering how many people don't go on second dates because they can't hear what the other person is saying and they don't get a chance to have a conversation to get to know each other.

Fun is fun, but sometimes it is nice to relax at dinner.

-Gary

Friday, December 15, 2006

Picking up School Photos

People come into the studio to pick up their kids school photos.

They say, "I'm here to pick up photos for Lisa Simpson".

I say, "Are they studio photos or school photos?"

This confuses a lot of people. I can only imagine what is going through their head. The problem is that, while the photos are school photos, we did retakes at the studio.

They say, "Studio."

I look through the studio photos and can't find Lisa, so I say, "Are they a retake of a school photo?"

They say, "Yes"

That makes them a school photo even though we took the picture in the studio.

I think to myself, boy is this guy dumb or what. I look through the school photos. There is no Lisa Simpson. Now I'm not claiming to be smarter than 99.9% of other people, but I can alphabetize well enough to get Simpson together with the other Ss or in the S section if you know what I mean.

Sometimes there is someone else named Simpson that I can ask about, but in this case there isn't, so I say, "I don't see anything for Lisa Simpson, did you get a phone call about it?"

They say, "Yes yesterday"

I say, "Is Lisa Simpson the name of the student?"

They say, "No the students name is Carla Sassenfrass."

I think, "WTF? ARE YOU STUPID? HOW IN THE WORLD AM I SUPPOSED TO GET CARLA SASSENFRASS FROM LISA SIMPSON?" I guess I should know all the step-moms in the entire city so that I can auto-magically connect them to these kids. In this situation I truely feel like I am not the dumb one.

In order to stop the madness, I have started asking if the name they told me is the student's. It cuts down on time spent looking for step-parents.

-Gary

Monday, December 11, 2006

It's Funny Because I Don't Know Him

I've been watching video clips on Youtube.com lately. My favourite videos all seem to have a central theme. The misfortune of others. I don't know why I find it funny when some random skater hurts himself trying to do some trick, or why I can't stop laughing when I see a little girl hit her dad with a stick in an attempt to crack a pinnata.

It just is. I like watching crashes, failed attempts at jumping over stuff and cars crashing. Youtube is way better than America's Funniest Videos ever was. Type in the key phrase "Funny Accident" and you'll be set for hours. With no repeats.

I do feel a little guilty laughing at the misfortune of others, but it's funny because I don't know them.

-Gary

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tony vs. Paul

This is one of the very best stop motion videos I have ever seen. I recommend that you watch it.
-Gary

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Istockphoto Success

I haven't written anything about how well I'm doing on istockphoto in a while so I thought I would give a little run down on how things are going.

My first $100 took from March 18th to September 12 and 234 downloads. I averaged 42.7 cents per download.

I hit $200.00 about two weeks ago on November 22. It took 215 downloads for me to make it, and 69 days. That means I was averaging 46.5 cents per download.

I haven't been adding new photos very consistently, it is hard to think of things to shoot, but I have been getting downloads from with in each new series that I shoot. When I do come up with an idea, it does sell, and I am getting good growth from them.

Here is my data for downloads so far since the very beginning:

03/06 : 1
04/06 : 4
05/06 : 7
06/06 : 30
07/06 : 63
08/06 : 90
09/06 : 93
10/06 : 103
11/06 : 82

12/06 : 4 (so far)

I downloaded a spreadsheet that makes predictions based purely on past performance. It predicts that by this time next year, I will be making $100 per month. I get the feeling that this might be a little conservative because it is still taking into account my start up few months. It also doesn't take into account things that you have been learning about stock photography itself, like what sells, and how to make images more useful for buyers.

I'm pretty excited about how things are going.

-Gary

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Princess Dianna

I was on my way home today when I heard someone on the radio say that investigators have finally finished the investigation into Princess Dianna's car crash. The radio station said that they would be giving the results of the investigation at a later time today. I guess they were far too busy to give the details right then...&*$%@#, their hides. Anyway my obsearvation is that an ordinary car crash takes about an hour or two to investigate if a fatality results. I really wonder what new information they thought they could glean from an investigation three or four years later that they couldn't have found out at least within a month considering the man power that would have been used in a case where royality was involved. They make me scoff.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Pamela Anderson

Pamela Anderson says she wants to get through her divorce with a little dignity. But here's the question.... Why is she so worried about dignity all of a sudden? She's never had a dignified bone in her body. She doesn't even know anyone with dignity.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The "N" word

The actor Michel Richards is being hassled by the black community lately because he lost his temper and called two black comedy patrons... niggers. Blacks have started a movement to try to have the word banned entirely from public usage in the arts and media. They say that the word is terrible because it is entirely a "hate word". Here's the deal. I think that if they are successful, there are other words that need to be banned as well. One such word is the "F" word. It's entirely a hate word as well. And there are phraises that are vulgar and hateful too. Why can't they be banned.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Casino Royale

I went to see the new Bond movie today. Let me just say, "Best Bond movie ever". It has a good story and lots of plot twists. There was plenty of good action, and the stunts were way less over the top than in some of the previous Bond movies.

It was also a lot heavier on the physical action and lighter on the sci-fi gadgets like in some of the previous movies.

I give it two thumbs up, it is fine holiday fun.

-Gary Milner

Thursday, November 16, 2006

If I Ran The Zoo

I emailed Linda back and said that she could use the photos. I sent her four to choose from.

If I'm any judge of exclamation points (and I think I am, there were three in the first line alone) she was pretty happy that I said it was ok.

Yes! It's no problem to send adult zoo passes! She'll mail them tomorrow! Yay!

I guess I'm even more pleased that she was. Even though she's getting a way better deal than me, passes only cost $16 each for adults. That would barely cover my sitting fee.

Looks like I'll be making a trip to the zoo in the near future to see my sign. Maybe I'll be able to network this into a behind the bars photo shoot at the zoo. Maybe even with the monkeys.

-Gary

O. J. Simpson Again

I just have to air my personal beef about paying O.J. Simpson to tell how he killed his wife and that other guy. In the first place, he shouldn't profit from this horrendous crime but notwithstanding that we've already be victimized with years of news coverage about the murder. We already know who did the murder and how he did it. We were inundated with it for years. Excuse me, but there isn't anything new that can be said. The news media is wicked and crazy.

Frogs on a Plate!

I received an interesting flickr from someone at the Calgary Zoo today. She seems to like this photo and one other one like it. Here is her email.

Hi there!

My name is Linda and I work for the Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada, and I saw a couple photos of your tomato frogs (on plate, and a head on shot). They are two of the best I've seen, and I was wondering if we could use it to create a species sign that explains some of the characteristics of these interesting frogs.

We will commit to providing you with photo credit each time it's used (where appropriate). We don't sell our images or use them for anything other than to show some of the animals at our facility, and if the photographer allows us to, we'll add them to our photo catalogue which lets us use the photo(s) potentially in our member newsletter, posters etc. to promote the Zoo.

Is this something you would consider? if you'd like to see what we're all about, please check out our website at www.calgaryzoo.com.

Hope to hear from you soon,
Thanks,
Linda

Monday, November 13, 2006

How to Scratch Backs and Earn Money

Tracie has an itchy back every single night. I have to spend the first five minutes of potential sleepy time scratching her back.

Last night she said to me, "If I was rich, I would hire someone to scratch my back." I suggested a homeless kid, you know, to help the community.

Tracie said, "I would receive the scratching, but, I wouldn't be a back scratcher for any amount of money"

I would do it for $50 per hour. Then again there might be a more profitable way of running this business if you charged by the inch, depending on how big the person is. Obviousley you can do simple calculations to figure out area using length times height, but how do you calculate the actual surface area of a person.

I think there must be some way of using volume and density to figure out the surface area of an irregularly shaped object.

-Gary Milner

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Basketball

The other day Jeff and I went to the studio where I work to take a few photos. This one is a shot that Jeff got of me pretending to be a high school basketball coach.

Yesterday Steve Meldrum invited me to play some hoops up at the church. Although I can do a six mile run in under an hour, I'm not really in basketball shape. I guess I need to work on my variable speeds with more sprinting or something.

Thankfully, I have been going to the gym doing those long runs or I would have really been in trouble.

We were playing with a bunch of college kids and maybe some high schoolers, and the games only went to 11 points. The worst part of it is that it takes me just about the whole game just to get warmed up. Then about half way through the second game my body decides that, "No I'm not actually going to die", and I can get down to playing some ball.

By then the game is over.

I kind of like being on the old guy team now. The old guys almost always win. I don't know why. Maybe we're too out of shape to do those stupid fancy moves and don't waste time or energy we don't have to like a lot of the younger guys do. I've also noticed that it gets easier to see the court as you age. I don't know why.

Maybe just experience.

-Gary Milner

Monday, November 06, 2006

Squashed

I went to play squash with my good friend Steve this morning pretty early. I found out that I need a little more practice playing squash. He went pretty easy on me in the first game, and I did hit a few pretty good shots that he couldn't return, but in the two games after that, he basically went to town on me.

By the end I was feeling pretty sick, maybe from not sleeping or having breakfasts or dehydration, but it wouldn't have made any difference to how well I fare against him anyway. Just to how many times I would have been beaten.

Well, Steve, if you're reading this keep it mind that there's a target on your back now, and in a couple of months I'll have my revenge (but only if I can find more people to help me practice.)

-Gary

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ryker Draw


Ryker Draw
Originally uploaded by Jackie Hutch.
Ryker is getting very good at drawing now, and it's exciting to see. My mom says all kids can do these things if they are given the opportunity. He's 26 months old now.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

AGAIN WITH THE TORTURE

Whereas if you torture the right guy about the information you want, you're quite apt to get that information. And furthermore if you torture the guy that did a terrible crime, or is protecting a criminal then maybe it could even be said that he desearved the torture it took to get him to confess. However, there's one famous case in recent memory of a Canadian who went to the middle east. He was proven innocent of any wrong doing, however while he was in the middle east he associated with a person or persons thought to be terrorists. I assume that terrorists when they're not acting as terrorists carry on a normal life style and have ordinary jobs. You can't tell that they're terrorists. He was intercepted on his way home to Canada when coming through the States. He was sent to 'Syria', I think, and had to endure months of torture. Any of us , when we go to the middle east could hire a travel guide who is a part time terrorist. We could then be accused of associating with terrorists and be tortured. Now that torture has been legalized, you wouldn't have to be sent to Syria any longer for that purpose. I'm worried that the time may come when people will start dissappearing from their homes during the night and held by the goverment without charge . This too,is a handy tool for the government to use in combating terrorism. When this happens, things are clearly out of hand. The fact is, they need to be stopped before they get carried away...and they"will" get carried away. (change of subject) The U.S. is a foremost military power. However, if you look at the amount they're going in to debt, (like 10,ooo dollars a second) you could say that they can't afford to spend a dime on the military. Not one solitary dime.

Monday, October 30, 2006

TORTURE USE (continued)

Don't get me wrong, I'm not liberal in my political leanings. I'm a conservative . But having said that I have to point out that I'm suspicious of politicians from both parties.

The gang that's been in power in the U.S. this last term have been a terrible bunch. If you read the news everyday you have to be aware of the explosion of the US. national debt. It's my belief that they will never be able to pay the money back. How could the same country that's going into debt at the rate of more than a billion dollars a day afford to pay back 7 trillion dollars, each trillion of which is a thousand billion.

I get the impression from the way Bush talks that Canada is no longer considered a friend of the States. This makes me uncomfortable. It's another thing that makes me dislike him.

I suspect him of using the middle east situation to gain more personal power, for himself and steal personal liberties from the people. This kind of thing has been done many times before by despotic rulers at various times and places in history. I think most people already know this.

I listened to what "Jeff" had to say about torture. He asked "what if the enemy had your son buried with only a little air left in his dungeon and you never had much time to find out where he is hidden. "Wouldn't you want them to be able to get the needed information in a timely manner?" Here's what I say about that: If you're going to do some torturing, you better be dang sure you've got the right guy. How are you going to know this? You won't be able to find out through torture because your victims will confess to anything to get you to stop.

I have always thought of countries that torture with great disdain. I think of them as being low life, second rate, cowardly countries. Why should I think of the U.S. any differently? I'm pretty sure that the low-life countries that have used torture all along, use the same rational for the use of torture that you gave me in your comments in my last post.

Bush professes to be religious. Well talk is cheap. Back when the Catholic church was in power in the middle ages they tortured people in a big way. They even had people thinking that the torture used was an actual favour to the victims. I don't want a church doing me any favours like this and I don't want Bush doing me any favours either.

I even feel nervous writing any of this because I feel like I might be one of the next people on the "water board" because I sound like an enemy.

I want to say one last thing. There's a reason people think they are drowning when they are being water boarded; it's because " they are drowning".

RC Track

I went to watch Dann race his RC car down at one of the hobby shops. I think he came third, behind the owner of the shop and some other guy. He was running neck and neck with the leader of the race until his battery pack came un-hooked. It was really too bad, because he had a really good chance of winning.

I think he was using a smart strategy of using a lower top speed in favour of more control, which generally results in a higher average speed and way less crashes. It is the crashes that really kill you.

They have participants spread in the high crash zones to flip you back over when your car lands on its back, but they just aren't fast enough or sometimes they don't see that you are stuck.

I was impressed with how well everyone worked together for the race. I guess they are all friends with a commen hobby, but they seemed to be racing hard for the pure enjoyment of it.

I made a panorama of the track so that you can see what the back room looks like at the hobby shop.

-Gary Milner

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Torture Use by the United States Government

This is quote from wikipedia:

There have been many reports that the United States has used water-boarding to interrogate prisoners captured in its War on Terrorism. In November 2005, ABC News reported that former CIA agents claimed the CIA had engaged in a modern form of waterboarding, along with five other "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques," against suspected members of al Qaeda, including Khaled Sheikh Mohammed. On October 27, 2006, Vice President Dick Cheney apparently confirmed that water-boarding had been used on U.S. detainees, specifically mentioning Khaled Sheikh Mohammed. According to the White House transcript of an interview with Scott Hennen of radio station WDAY:

Hennen: ...And I've had people call and say, please, let the Vice President know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives. Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?
Cheney: I do agree. And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed provided us with enormously valuable information about how many there are, about how they plan, what their training processes are and so forth, we've learned a lot. We need to be able to continue that.
...
Hennen: "Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?"
Cheney: "Well, it's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there I was criticized as being the vice president for torture. We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in."
The White House later denied that Mr. Cheney had confirmed the use of waterboarding, saying that U.S. officials do not talk publicly about interrogation techniques because they are classified.
As you can see Mr. Cheney is a barefaced liar . He has stated that the armed forces cannot use water boarding: but the CIA has no such restriction. The CIA is part of the U.S. so they do use torture. What more can I say. They can torture anybody, even you. And you would have to say that you're guilty or you could be tortured to death. Please don't vote for the conservatives this time around people.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Happy Birthday to Jackie!

It was my sister's birthday yester day, I called to say happy birthday but I didn't write anything about it.

I've pretty much written all my thoughts about her birthday last year or the year before... how it would be better if she were born on the 31st etc. She's practically a witch, yada yada yada.

I hope you had a great day yesterday Jackie.

Here's to at least 25 more!

-Gary

Monday, October 23, 2006

When Jeff Comes to Town

Jeff came to town for the weekend and we went to Vinerville to take photos of Medicine Hat from the cliffs.

Vinerville is adjacent to Medicine Hat, just up the hill from the IXL brick plant. There are about 20 houses there and the Higherground Christian School, and nothing else. It looks like it would be a nice quiet place to live, but the access to Medicine Hat isn't the greatest.

We're Gonna Need A Bigger Fence
We had a good time lookin down at police point and the rest of the city but realistically it is a little far to get good photos of anything besides the brick plant, police point, and the water treatment plant.

Jeff had a really good time showing off his jumping skills by hopping over a barbed wire fence for the camera a bunch of times.

-Gary

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Two Ways to Make a Pumpkin Carving Stencil or Template

This is one way for you to make a pumpkin carving template.

I've found that it works best if you use an easily recognizable photo.
In a photo editing program, make your photo black and white (greyscale).
Adjust the contrast alot until the photo loses all it's shades of grey and has only black and white (two colours).
Smooth out jagged edges with the drawing tool.
Then you can decide if it looks enough like what you want to carve, if it doesn't pick another photo.
You'll have to decide if you want to cut out the black or the white, inverting the picture will help you decide which part to cut out.
One thing to remember is to make sure that your template doesn't have any "islands", what I mean by that is that there won't be any parts that require pumpkin bits to float in mid air.

Here is a second way to make a pumpkin carving stencil.
If you have photoshop, you can do it in a way that is a little easier,
make the photo greyscale.
use the cutout filter which is in the 'artistic' group of filters.
make sure you choose to make only two or three levels and then play with the amount of simplicity and fidelity until you find the look you like.

In both cases, you can invert photo or not to save ink or help you imagine what the final product will look like.

I hope this is clear enough to be useful for you, and that you have the software to do it.

-Gary

Monday, October 16, 2006

Halloween Pumkin Carving Links

Here are eight pumpkin carving tips.

Here is a link to my Darth Vader stencil.

Here is a selection of pumpkin carving links. They include: the history of the jack o'lantern, various carving sites, and ways to help your pumpkin last longer.

Here is a link to a post about a pumpkin carving robot. It could carve a pumpkin in about six minutes.

Here is a link to my Lightning McQueen pumpkin stencil. If you are a fan of the movie you might want to carve it. Be careful on the more intricate parts, it might have too much detail. Simpler is better in this case.

Some of you may be interested in a
Pumpkin Seed Recipie
if you haven't cooked them before, they are a fun addition to your Halloween fun. Experimenting with different spices and seasonings makes them a lot better.

As I wrote last year, often the sponsored links are just what you are looking for. Give them a try if they match what you are looking for. There are often very good free things on their pages.

-Gary Milner

Happy Birthday Becky

It was my sister-in-law's birthday on Saturday. We took her out to Perkin's Family Restaurant on Friday to celebrate and then came home to play cards. We had a pretty good time. Becky is sure glad to be 16. She is pretty excited about getting her driver's licence.

My stock photo collection is doing quite well, here are my sales so far.

03/06 : 1
04/06 : 4
05/06 : 7
06/06 : 30
07/06 : 63
08/06 : 90
09/06 : 93

10/06 : 56 (so far)

I'm averaging 44.3 cents per download and I'm pretty close to hitting $2 per day this month. I just need to get a handful more pictures up and it would be pretty easy to get a check a month or more.

I'm getting my fill of photography at work right now because of the school portraits and family sittings that I've been doing. I'm finding it hard to have the desire to go out and shoot something for myself. I need to get on it. It would take much for Istock to be buying my a pretty good lunch everyday, as it is it could be close to being able to make the payments on my lowest student loan!

My sister is busily booking up my weekends to assist her doing wedding photography. She has me down for two already. I'm looking forward to it, because I really like working with her. It also gives me a pretty good excuse to go see her kids.

The blog is really taking off because of the pumpkin links. If I don't quadruple my normal monthly number of page views I'll be really surprised.

-Gary Milner

Friday, October 13, 2006

Observations On Arabs

Here's a very interesting article by Stephen Browne. He lived in Saudi Arabia for a year, and posted his Observations on Arabs. Here's a summary (he expounds on all of these points):
  1. They don't think the same way we do.
  2. When you meet them in just the right circumstances, they are a very likable people.
  3. Their values are fundamentally different from ours, their self-esteem is derived from a different source.
  4. Not only can they not build the infrastructure of a modern society, they can't maintain it either.
  5. They do not think of obligations as running both ways.
  6. In warfare, we think they are sneaky cowards, they think we are hypocrites.
  7. In rhetoric, they don't mean to be taken seriously and they don't understand when we do.
  8. They don't place the same value on an abstract conception of Truth as we do, they routinely believe things of breathtaking absurdity.
  9. They do not have the same notion of cause and effect as we do.
  10. We take for granted that we are a dominant civilization still on the way up. They are acutely aware that they are a civilization on the skids.
  11. We think that everybody has a right to their own point of view, they think that that idea is not only self-evidently absurd, but evil
  12. Our civilization is destroying theirs. We cannot share a world in peace. They understand this; we have yet to learn it.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Thanksgiving

Well, it looks like thanksgiving has come again. I don't think I have any dinner plans this year so I guess, I'll have to say what I'm thankful for in this post.

1. Tracie. I'm glad to have her as a wife. She's intelligent, hardworking and very talented. I'd be lost without her.

2. My family. They've been really good to us and helping us out tons lately.

3. Our jobs. I have a job that I really enjoy doing a lot. I'm making a little more money than I first expected, I'm learning tons of things, and it is really fun. Sometimes it is a little stressful, but that just shows taht I'm still growing in my postion as a photographer.

4. Living in Medicine Hat. I really like living in Medicine Hat. It is a small city, but it is getting bigger and bigger all the time.

5. Living in Canada. This is a really great country to live in. It is my home.

and last but not least,

6. I'm thankful there is at least one photo of me floating around that shows me dunking a basketball. This photo was taken about a year after I graduated. It is in the Medicine Hat College gym.

-Gary Milner

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Osama Bin Landen Pumpkin Carving Template

I made another pumpkin carving template last night. It is my first Osama Bin Laden pumpkin carving stencil.

I figured he's a pretty scary guy, so why not make him into a jack 'o lantern.

Included in this Halloween related post are links to two pictures. One with a black background and one with a white background. The white background picture is for printing and using as the template and the blackbackground is to help you visulize what it will look like.

If you use this one, cut the black part out of the pumpkin. Use the tips and how to's from my other halloween posts to help you.


osama

In other more job related news, here is a conversation I over heard.

Kid, "We ate our rabbit last night".

Photographer's assistant, "Why did you eat your rabbit?"

Kid, "We didn't have any groceries."


-Gary Milner

Friday, September 29, 2006

School for Scoundrels

I just got back from watching School For Scoundrels. It was the best movie I have seen in a long time.

Roger an unlucky meter reader who enrolls in a mysterious confidence-building class so he can win the love of the girl of his dreams. The class turns out to be something quite different when it becomes clear that as the the young man excels in the class, his professor challenges him by setting his sights set on the same girl.

I really enjoyed it. There were some really funny scenes. I haven't laughed in a movie so much since I can't remember when.

I will consider buying this movie when it comes out on DVD.

-Gary Milner

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Eight Pumpkin Carving Tips

Here are eight tips to make choosing and caving pumpkins easier this Halloween. Have Fun.

  1. Make sure the pumpkin is not bruised pumpkin.

  2. Bigger is better, but the size doesn't matter that much. Patterns can be enlarged but shrinking a pattern can make detailed work difficult.

  3. Make sure there is no discoloration or soft spots.

  4. Pumpkins with a flat edge don't roll as much and are easier to work with.

  5. Find a pumpkin with a sturdy stem, this is a sign of a healthy pumpkin.

  6. Lifting the pumpkin by the stem can damage the pumpkin and make it age faster.

  7. Check the bottom of the pumpkin to make sure the base is not damaged. If the bottom of the pumpkin is thin it could get punctured. This allows bad things to grow in the pumpkin.

  8. Put pumpkins that feel heavy or sloshy back. Insides can rot and leave a slimey, smelly, liquid goo.


I hope you have all been enjoying the pumpkin carving stencils that I have been making and get to use them this halloween.

Have fun,

-Gary Milner

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Free Cars Pumpkin Carving Template / Stencil

In anticipation of people searching for free pumpkin carving templates, I made this one from the pixar movie cars. This is the main character Lightning McQueen.

I inverted it to give you a better idea of what it will look like carved. I recommend printing the one with the white background, (it uses less ink). Just cut out the black part and peel the skin off the grey part.

You can click on the photos to get larger copies. You can get the full res version from my flickr account.

Here are 10 tips for carving a pumpkin:

1. Experiment with printing the template at different sizes in a photo editing program to best match the size of your pumpkin.

2. Use a pin or tack to make an outline of where you want to cut. Pinholes along the line to be cut make it easier to cut through the skin of the pumpkin and help you achieve a higher level of detail.

3. Don't follow the pattern too closely. Some of the parts you need to cut are a little too fine to be realistically carved. Massaging the pattern will make it more your own and it will turn out better anyway.

4. Don't skimp on the time transferring the pattern, extra work now pays off big time later.

5. In the grey area, peel the skin off and then shave the inside of the pumpkin to make portions brighter. This will allow a higher level of detail while leaving the curve of the pumpkin on the outside.

6. Use a sturdy knife. Wimpy ones always break.

7. Lay down tons of newspaper / garbage bags to catch the pumpkin guts. This will help with the clean up immensely.

8. Always carve with adult supervision. If you're an adult already, make sure there is a least one sober adult supervising.

9. Do not throw pumpkin guts or seeds.

10. Be very careful with the cutting instruments.

-Gary Milner

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pumpkin Carving Templates

Halloween is coming up, and I wanted to remind people about my old pumpkin carving related posts.

Darth Vader Pumpkin Carving Stencil - This is a link to a post where I have a template to carve a pumpkin that looks like Darth Vader.

Pumpkin Carving Links - This a link to an old page of links I made about pumpkin carving and other halloween related things.

There are lots of good resources describing how to carve pumpkins, how to make templates for carving more interesting designs as well as plenty of free places to get stencils for carving pumpkins.

Here is a little hint for making your own template.

In a photo editing program, turn your photo into a greyscale image, and then adjust the contrast alot until the photo loses all it's shades of grey and has only black and white.

Then you can decide if it looks enough like what you want to carve, if it doesn't pick another photo.

You'll have to decide if you want to cut out the black or the white, inverting the picture will help you decide which part to cut out. I've found that it works best if you use an easily recognizable photo.

There are tips about how to transfer the stencil to the pumpkin. I've found that using a needle to poke holes around the outside of the parts you want to cut helps. You can also use a felt tipped pen to shade the areas that you are going to cut.

I'll make a better how to post over the next few days, so that you can make a trogdor carving template or a lion or a George W. Bush jack 'o lantern if you want.

-Gary Milner

Friday, September 22, 2006

My Thing About Space

I don't know if I've written about this before, but I have somewhat of what I call a mild personality disorder. It manifests itself most strongly at the dinner table.

I *REALLY* don't like being crowded at the dinner table. It is like some sort of weird Gary Feng Shui. Things placed near my plate make me very uncomfortable. Short things may be closer than tall things. I don't like tall things to be directly in between me and the other people at the table. There should be valleys between the tall things so that I can see the other people. It affects me more the less crowed the table is because there is obviously space for the stuff to be other than right beside me. When there are more people I put up with it more, simply because there isn't enough space to go around. Often however I have to put something on the counter to get it out of the way.

This quirk of mine extends to many other places as well. For example when I am parking the car, if it is possible I leave at least one space between my car and other cars. It really annoys me when there are a million spaces in the lot and the only other car in the whole place is parked next to mine. Another example is in the men's room. I know most men do this, but some don't. At a line of urinals never, ever use the urinal right next to someone who is already there.
It doesn't matter if you know them or not or how good friends you are. Leave a space. It seems that men in general just know this, but it must be a learned thing.

Today I was doing photos at an elementary school and I was using the facilities. I walked past six urinals and used the second last one. (I wanted some space between me and the wall). I was the only one at a line of eight urinals. A little kid walks in and goes to the very last urinal.

"Can I use this one?"

I thought to myself no, but I didn't want to bully a third grader. It seemed to me that there were plenty of spaces *NOT* right beside me but "Uh... Yeah I guess." Maybe I should have taught him a lesson that all boys need. Give people their privacy at the urinal.

Come to think of it I don't even like to use adjoining stalls if I can help it.

-Gary

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wedding Photos in Canmore

Last Saturday I went to Canmore to photograph a wedding with my sister Jackie. I drove up with my mom who was going to help babysit Ryker. It was the first long car trip I have taken alone with my mom. We had a really good visit and got to do a lot of talking. I really enjoyed the time I had to visit with her.

Jackie invited me to help with her wedding because she was a little nervous about doing it all by herself. She is very talented and I have seen some of the photos online already and they are great.

The wedding was very lovely. I enjoyed it a lot. It was a stroke of luck that I was there because I had shot a wedding there a year and a half ago and I know some really good places to take photos.

I've gone through my photos now and I am mailing a cd of them to Jackie in the morning.

On the way home we stopped in Lethbridge and stayed the night with Jeff and had a fun visit with him there. In the morning we went to lunch and came home to Medicine Hat.

Monday, I went to Bow Island to take school portraits at the elementary school. It went well and we were done by noon. Tuesday I went to St. Fransis Xavier elementary school here in Medicine Hat. I was a little slow, and so we went right to the wire taking pictures of the oldest kids and didn't have time to do the buddy pictures. Then that night we set up the equipment at my old high school. We had four stations shooting there. We were able to get over 1400 kids done in one day. I have to say that the kids at my old school seemed a little bit better behaved than the other three high schools that we had already done.

But the best news of the week happened on Monday when Tracie had a job interview at a nursing home here in Medicine Hat. I'll let her tell more about that though.

-Gary Milner

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Pope makes the Muslims mad

The Pope has made the worlds Muslims mad by saying that their teachings are inhuman and cruel. Now, amid burning churches and threats of further violence he is insulting their intellence by issueing what he thinks they in their ignorance will think is an apology. His apology is this: "I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address. In a real apology he would have said "I'm sorry for what I said, and I take back what I said." Don't get me wrong, I'm on his side, but I know b.s. when I hear it.

MAD DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER

Duane Chapman, known as "Dog theBounty Hunter" has been arrested for his 2002 capture of a fugitive in Mexico. This capture was the one that catapulted Chapman into national limelight because it was the premere criminal recovery capture in a long time. It was this capture that landed him a position on international television. He's in trouble for ruffeling Mexico's feathers but I have to say that I congratulate him for the capture. But I also say that so far he is just a bush league bounty hunter who hasn't captured anyone really tough yet. I call him a lilly livered coward who dosen't have it in him to capture a real target. Mad Dog, your not a man unless you capture Osama freakin Bin Laudin. When you do that, you wuss, then you can have my respect.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Prosthetic Legs Aplenty

I forgot to mention that while I was doing the portraits at that elementary school the other day, a little girl came limping up to me with her nametag.

I asked her if she had hurt her foot.

She said, "No, I have an artificial leg."

Oh.

Sure enough, I could see rubber toes through the end of her sandals.

Then today at a highschool a kid came through with an artificial leg. It really surprised me becasue I wouldn't have thought I would have run into so many people with missing limbs.

-Gary

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Last Few Weeks

I've been up to a lot over the last few weeks. Over the labour day weekend, I went to Calgary to attend an istockphoto.com minilypse. The night before, I set my alarm and then went to sleep. I forgot to actually turn the alarm on though and slept in for an hour and a half, so instead of being 15 minutes early I was an hour and 15 late. It was ok though because almost everyone else was an hour late too.

I had a reallly good time photographing the models, and talking with the other photographers about lots of different things. We had access to the cjsw radio booths and the ming on 17th ave for two of our shoots over the weekend. Everyone really enjoyed it. Now I have to wade through 600+ photos. It is going to take me a long time to deal with them all.

I've been doing a lot of school portraits. We've finished shooting two of the highschools and one of the elementary schools. Hardly anyone at the second school wanted to smile. They were much more difficult to work with than the first highschool. Friday, we were at the first elementary school of the year. I really enjoyed it a lot. It is much harder work with the elementary kids, but they almost always smile.

We have paper tags with the kids names and a little barcode on them that we scan as we take their photos so that we can keep track of all the photos. As one kid was giving me his tag, he said to me, "My name isn't really Wilson, it's Jim." I thought that he must have gotten someone else's tag by mistake and so I looked at it. It said, "Wilson, Jim". I said to the kid that the tag was obviously wrong if his name was Jim Wilson, because it did say Wilson, Jim and that he shouldn't worry because I would make sure that it was fixed in the comptuer. I really doesn't make sense to put you last name first and your first name last does it?

-Gary Milner

Friday, September 08, 2006

My Cousin Michael

I found out today that my cousin Michael died today. He was a couple of years younger than me, and it came as quite a surprise.

It has only been a few hours, and so there are no plans yet.

-Gary

Monday, September 04, 2006

Steve Irwin Is Dead

The crocadile hunter was killed in a freak accident in Cairns. It appeared that he was killed by a sting-ray barb that went through his chest. He was swimming off the Low Isles at Port Douglas filming an underwater documentary when it occurred.

That's too bad.

-Gary

Friday, August 25, 2006

School Photos

I had my first full day of school portraits. We did the grades eight and nine. Most of the kids were pretty good and easy to get along with.

There was one jerky eight grader first thing in the morning who just refused to smile. He said he didn't smile for anyone. I told him to smile for his mom and he said he wouldn't even smile for her.
He then continued to try to get his little buddies to not smile as well.

The friends weren't nearly as lucky though. I got one laughing at me when he thought I wasn't ready to take a picture. He was annoyed that I could be so sneaky. Now guess if he's going to have an id card with a smile on it for the rest of the year.

I guess out smarting an eighth grader isn't really worth bragging about, but he was just so Hecking annoying.

-Gary

Monday, August 21, 2006

Back to School Shoot

The series of stock shots I did of Becky two weeks ago or so are now mostly online and ready to sell.

In fact this morning the first one sold on the first business day it was available! It is a picture of becky pretending to go into the school.

I had a small screw up with the model release, I forgot to write her name on the top line. Only the bottom half of the release was filled in propperly. What a pain. I really wish I could have had them all uploaded propperly three weeks ago. With less than three weeks to go, there isn't really much time for people to use my pics before school starts. I think that they will sell pretty well though. Becky is a cute girl and there aren't a lot of good teen shots. It doesn't surprise me at all how fast the first download came.

By the way, I'm already doing better than last month and there are still 10 days left!

-Gary

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Writely.com

I found an online word processor that looks pretty slick. It is called writely.com.

It can create documents in your choice of these formats:

- Microsoft Word
- OpenOffice
- RTF
- PDF
- HTML
- zip


You can use it to post to all sorts of blogs. You can add photos to your documents and you can even check your spelling. Since it is online, you can edit your documents on any computer connected to the internet. You can also have colaborators on documents using different computers. Regular wordprocessors have this feature as well, but I've never used it.

This website seems like it would be especially good for people who don't want to pirate MS Office, are not willing/able to download Open Office, or are travelling without a computer and can't find a cafe with a propper word processor.

I wrote everything before this using writely and it looks like I may have to get used to how it formats things if I want to post to the blog with it. I have cleaned it up a little so that it looks better after the fact in blogger.



-Gary

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Going Postal Turns 20

I love getting letters. It seems hard to understand why the term "Going Postal" has come to mean losing one's temper.

It turns out that 20 years ago a postal worker, Patrick Henry Sherrill went on a shooting rampage systematically killing 14 people, then committed suicide.

I guess he delivered lots of postcards but only received bills. That would push anyone over the edge.

From the article:

"Postal workers are no more likely to resort to workplace violence than workers in other jobs. A commission on workplace violence found 0.26 workplace homicides per 100,000 postal workers from 1992 to 1998. By comparison the rate was 2.10 per 100,000 for retail workers, 1.66 in public administration, 1.32 for transportation and 0.50 for private delivery services."

I can see why retail workers would go postal. Talk about a thankless job for no money.

-Gary

Friday, August 18, 2006

A great victory for hezbolla

The Hezbolla in Lebenon have claimed victory in the war they were wageing with Israel. May I be the first to wish them many such victories in the years to come.

25 Cent Fortunes

I read a good article about royalty free stock photo websites today. I found it interesting for lots of reasons, especially because they highlight success stories.

There has been some concern over the fact that microstock agencies are devaluing stock photography. I've read a few articles by people worried about this very topic.

I think they are missing the point and that they aren't really discussing what is bothering them. Here is a quote from one of the more thoughtful of the articles.

"Like many photographers, John sees new shooters moving into the field every day. They have their expensive new Nikons (or Canons) and are more than happy to blaze away with a piece of long glass on auto-everything and practically give the shots away for free."

The proliferation of high-quality digital cameras is diluting the profession right into the ground. Everyone has always wanted to be a photographer, and now everyone can. Sort of."

I think what photographers like John are worried about more than the fact that people are selling shots for a dollar rather than hundreds of dollars is that his photos are having to compete with tens of thousands of other people's photos who are doing it in their spare time.

In the article John even went on to complain about people putting free tutorials online that allow people to learn from someone else's 20 years of mistakes.

The business is changing. But more than that, it is changing in a way that allows more people to become customers of the business. Proponents of royalty free sites such as istockphoto.com all say this.

Kelly Thompson, vp of marketing for www.istockphoto.com says, "What's really exciting is the small and medium businesses, the nonprofit groups, the church groups, —they flock to us by the tens of thousands, and they’ve never bought a stock photo before."

Antagonists of royalty free like, Betsy Reid, executive director of the Stock Artists Alliance said, "If IBM wants to use an image for an international campaign, no photographer in the world was ever going to offer it for a dollar,"

This is disingenuous at best. Companies big enough to international campaigns can get in to trouble by using non-exclusive stock images. Microsoft has had several screw ups because they cheaped out and didn't get exclusive rights to stockphotos on various occasions. Had microsoft purchased exclusive rights no one would have been the wiser. Large companies with international campaigns need to be sure that they are the only ones using the picture. Royalty free does not do that. If a right leaning political party use a royalty free photo of a family, there is nothing stopping a left leaning party from getting the exact same photo for their ads.

In anycase, I would like to be making something from my photos rather than nothing. Sure it might not be worth pouring hours and hours into it, but it is worth having as a hobby and doing it little by little to build up a portfolio big enough so that it doesn't matter how little each download pays.

-Gary

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I Sell Photos

I got a cheque in the mail today for $150 (approx. $200 aud). I sold two photos to a home decor magazine. They were photos I had of Perth. They wanted one, but I gave them five suitable shots to choose from and they decided on taking two!

I haven't seen the magazine yet, I'm pretty sure it is a quarterly and it may not have been published yet. They're going to send a copy to me.

It is really nice to sell a few photos.

I'm still looking for practice models.

-Gary Milner

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I Get Promoted

I spent most of the day doing data entry. I was recording what customer's photos were on what backup DVD. There are only a few more backup DVDs to be entered now, and then we'll be caught up for a couple of months.

Anyway, my boss asked me if I was interested in doing some camera work and invited me to be a photographer for the coming school shoots. They're starting with CHHS in a couple of weeks. The first week of school in fact, during registration. They go youngest to oldest.

I told him that I would. I think that it will be fun.

Taking Pictures

I got a new job today. It looks like I will really enjoy it a lot and learn a lot while I am there. Today was my first day and it looks like my main duties will be pretty repetative, but I think I will enjoy being there quite a lot.

In other news, I'm looking for people willing to model for me. You get free portraits worth mega bucks, and I get to practice posing you and photographing you. I'm looking for individuals, couples and small families. The only requirement is that you are in Medicine Hat.

Leave me a comment, or leave a message at my parent's or inlaw's house and we can set up a time.

-Gary

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Bike Race

I'm thinking of sponsoring an underground bike race that goes from the teepee to Echodale, before the end of summer. The prize would be a slush at Echodale. I'm thinking I could get a few guys to enter.

I've been riding my bike a lot lately. By a lot I mean I've been on two or three rides around town in the last month. Medicine Hat is so small that bike riding everywhere is well within the relms of being realistic and an effective form of transportation. It can't possibly take more than an hour to get anywhere in the city by bike, and possibly much less. I think I'll time how long it takes to go to my parent's house from Tracie's parent's house.

There were a few times in Australia when I should have bought a bike. I should have bought one my first week in Perth and the same in Sydney. A bike in those two places would have served me really well.

Jeff says that he should have bought a bike his first week in Quebec too. He figures he could have purchased a bike for $25 then sold it for $25 when he left.

If you're interested in my little race, leave a comment or email me.

-Gary

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Lethbridge

I went to Calgary on Saturday night to pick my brother up from the airport. He was on a flight home from Quebec. An interesting thing about the Calgary International Airport is that it has two domestic terminals. One on each end of the building, with the international terminal in the middle.

It makes perfect sense to me, do design an airport this way.

I didn't know which side he was on, and of course i didn't know that there were two domestic terminals. I saw that his flight had landed, but I thought it might take a while to taxi and get off the plane. As time passed, I thought that I should walk all the way down to the other end several times, but changed my mind as I got to the international terminal. Finally I just went all the way down and Jeff was there.

The next day, we did a few errands and took a few pictures. I stayed another night and we had a really good time doing lots of stuff. It had been a long time since I last saw Jeff.

I would have liked to stay longer.

-Gary

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Becky the Model

The other day, I did a photoshoot with my sister-in-law Becky. I was doing a back to school theme so that I can have time to upload them for the graphic designers to do their projects before it is actually time to go back to school.

Becky is a good looking model, I only wish I was better a helping the models that work with me pose. I just have no idea. I really need to work on it, because although some portraits make good stock photos, you really need to have the models doing something.

I did a fashion shoot for a feature on 'fashion' for the Gauntlet, but being inexperienced myself and having inexperienced models hampered how good I could have made the photos.

I just realised that it is August first, hopefully it isn't too late already. Being August I have another month of success at istockphoto to report. July was my best month ever. I had 63 downloads over 31 days, I have 67 photos available for download, and 30 photos waiting for inspection. I have another 30+ photos to upload as soon as my upload limit is reset in a few days. I made $24.60 which is more than double the previous four months combined. I had my single highest day of downloads with seven and I also reached 105 total downloads.

I also was emailed a link to where one of my photos was used, http://arthritis.about.com/b/a/257354.htm This was the first use of my stock photos that I have encountered. It was nice of about.com to email me the link.

I'm so pleased with the photos I did of Beck, that I'm sure that August with be another istock best month ever if they sell even half as well as the photos of Tracie.

-Gary Milner, Stock Photographer

Sunday, July 30, 2006

In The Wake

Tracie and I had a great trip all around Alberta this week. We went to see my sister's family for a couple of days. Eric and Ryker are looking really great! They are so much fun to play with.

We brought Ryker a couple of presents and he loved all of them. He has so many toys already, I was worried that they would just get mixed in with the rest.

After staying with Jackie and Glen for a few days, we went down to Raymond for Tracie's Cousin's baby's birthday party. We stayed in Raymond for a few days and had a really good visit with Tracie's grandparents. We showed them a good portion of the photos and they wanted to hear all about our trip.

We picked raspberries, choke cherries, and apples at their house. It was a pretty big job, and there is still plenty of picking left to do. I'm sure that we could get at least three times the amount that we did, if we were to go again.

Kelcey was sad to see us go, but we assured her that we would be passing through again in a little while when we go to Cardston to see Tracie's other grandparents.

-Gary Milner

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Jump!


Jump!
Originally uploaded by Jackie Hutch.
Gary and Tracie are up visiting and it is very fun to have them here. Gary loves taking photos and also posing for photos. He is a very great photographer, I think he's making me look bad. However, he has been doing it for about 7 years now and I've been trying to encourage him to go pro. Which just means get paid for doing it. I suppose he's somewhat of a semi pro because he does get a few pennies for his photos on I-Stock.

Tracie and I were discussing the importance of making decisions. We both find it highly irritating when people are indecisive. Well, not necessarily irritating, but frustrating. It's even frustrating to myself when I'm having a hard time making a decision because it's a waste of time deciding. I'm just glad my husband pointed it out to me because I would be wasting a lot more time on decisions than need be if it weren't for him explaining this to me. The sooner you make a decision the quicker you see the outcome which can be very rewarding if you are making good quick decisions. I think the reason it takes people so long to make them is because they are afraid to fail, afraid to make the wrong choice. But you can't succeed if you don't try. I think people need to be more in tune with there instincts and try relying on them a bit more.

Thanks for listening, and have a great day.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Floating in the Dead Sea


Floating in the Dead Sea
Originally uploaded by Bob Milner.

Jane and I couldn't walk on the water at the sea of galilee but as you can see I had partial success at the dead sea. Jane on the other hand only had as much faith as a grain of mustard seed which may be enough faith to move mountains but is not enough to walk on water.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Cousin's Kids

I had dinner with my parents, an aunt and uncle and a cousin. I took a series of pictures of my cousins kids. I can see why my sister likes taking pictures of kids so much.

The two girls were very nice and very friendly. I consider myself to be pretty scary to little children, but they didn't seem to be very afraid. They were happy to play with me and give me hugs.

-Gary

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Back in Medicine Hat

We made it back to Medicine Hat early yesterday morning. It hasn't really changed all that much, which is great because it is all so familiar to me.

I rode a bike across the city with my sister-in-law Becky. It was a really good time. I haven't seen so many pickup trucks with one or more dogs in the back in a long time and don't get me started on all the mullets!

It's awesome! Hillbillies everywhere!

I feel so at home.

Megan and Dann's daughter Eva is cuter than ever. She is almost three now and can talk. She warmed up to Tracie and me right away. Later in the evening when I got to their house, Eva had a blanket over her head, pretending to be a ghost chasing Tracie. Eva has a great imagination.

It is so good to be home.

-Gary

G'day Canada!


Welcome Home
Originally uploaded by Tracie Milner.
After a very long couple of flights, we're back in Canadia. It's only been one day but so far things are really good.

My parents picked us up at close to one am after our Air Canada flight was delayed by about an hour and a half and we drove straight to Medicine Hat sine they both had to work the next day. Thanks mom and dad.

After sleeping in most of the day, I finally woke up around 3pm to my sweet little niece yelling "Open the door". She wasn't talking at all when I left so it's very fun to have complete conversations with her. I took her on a long walk this afternoon and we saw beavers and spiders and a train, and she didn't stop talking the whole way.

I went and saw my sister Megan's new kitchen since they won the $50,000 dream kitchen makeover. It looks stunning. I'm so happy for them. They showed me the video that Chat 6 & 3 made and it showed the whole process which was really good.

My first impressions are this:

-Canadians don't think they have accents but they do. Thick ones. They sound wonderful to me. Comfortable and relaxed...every last one.

-The sun stays out late. It was around 8 or 9 pm when I went for a walk and the sun was still way up in the sky. I had forgotten that. It felt like mid afternoon. The sun in Sydney was fully set at 5 pm during winter, and even in summer 8 was about the latest it stayed out.

-Sandflies suck. I already knew that but I had mostly forgotten about them.

-Driving back on the right side of the road will take a bit of getting used to.

-Everything else seems about as I remembered it. It doesn't even feel like a year has passed. I feel like I just went on vacation for2 weeks and came back.

-I'm very tired, but it's nothing the right drugs won't fix ;)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Damascus Gate

We decided to stay in Jerusalem for the rest of our time here, and it has been very fun. Yesterday we went to the old city and walked all around the outside of it. It was a big walk, and very hot. We had taken water with us, and it was a life saver. We had planned to walk through Hezakia's Tunnel... but we didn't really know how to find it. Under the political circumstances, I wasn't sure how safe it would be to walk through there anyway. We have taken lots of pictures--there are lots of good photo opportunities here!
Yesterday, we saw the Church of All Nations, and it's right next to the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Mount of Olives. It was the Arab Sabbath, and there were lots of police at all the Gates to the old city. We walked back to our hotel through the Arab section and a lady warned me to watch my bag because it wasn't completely safe where we were. She said some people in that section were drug addicts, so please watch my bag. I had bought a little T-shirt for Ryker and it was just hanging on my arm.

When we came to the Damascus Gate there was some interesting "goings on". There were huge crowds of Arabs trying to enter the old city about 1 p.m. to go to church. I was told that anyone entering must show ID and no one under 45 years old is allowed to enter on Friday unless they live inside. There was a bit of confrontation across the street of Damascus gate... there were loads of police and two police riding large horses and the horses had helmets to protect their eyes and faces. Some people were shouting insults to the police and there were lots of news media people taking photos. I wanted to but just didn't feel comfortable doing so. Now I wish I would have. Dad was very curious and wanted to stay and watch up close, but I was anxious to put some distance between me and the friction.

We have been enjoying all the food here in Israel. There are lots of fancy restaurants, and we have been trying a few of them.

We have also had a really pleasant time walking everywhere here.Today we went to the Museum of Israel. It is Saturday, and it is the Jewish Sabbath. Practically everything shuts down on the Sabbath. We walked there. It was about a 40 minute walk, and although it was hot, there was a nice breeze. And you take in so much more when you walk rather than taking taxis. We have only the best to say about the museum. It is huge. There were so many things to look at, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, a huge part of the museum had Peruvian artifacts. There was too much to even remember. We forgot to visit the "Bread" Display, and we were planning to see it for sure. By the time we left the museum, we were beat and we were very happy to pay a high price for a taxi and get home!

We're really enjoying ourselves... the news today is that Tiberias was bombed. That's very unsettling. Makes me wonder if Jerusalem will be next! Hopefully everything will be okay till Sunday when we fly out at 10:40 a.m. on EL AL (Delta).

I'm A Fan of Your Work

Tracie and I went down to Tokyo to do some souvenir shopping. I saw a department store with these fans hanging and went in to take a photo and was quickly accosted by the photo nazi who made it clear there wasn't to be any picture taking inside the store. It's a good thing too, because I was actually casing the fan department for a robbery.

We didn't find much by way of souvenirs but we did find a few good postcards. We've been slowly writing to people for the last few hours. Unfortunately we will see all the people in Canada that we are writing to before they get the cards.

Our time in Japan has just flown by. It is weird how I feel that we've been here a long time, but a really short time just the same. I'm excited to be coming home.

I really can't wait to show everyone my photos, although I should probably choose a bunch of photos to show rather than just go through them all. Several thousand is to many to show.

-Gary Milner

Friday, July 14, 2006

Pachinko

To play pachinko, you insert money into the machine and you get small steel balls. You turn a know on the lower right hand side which shoots the balls rapidly into the machine, much in the manner of a pinball machine only rapidly with multiple balls.

The balls drop through a series of pegs and you score points when the little metal balls pass through certain gates. It is a form of gambling, but winnings are paid off in more little metal balls, not money. You trade the balls for prizes such as cigarettes, lighers or small toys. Although it is illegal, there are usually rooms close by that will purchase the prizes for cash.

Wikipedia says that no pachinco parlor without a cash payout window has ever been documented, so while it is illegal, it is at least tacitly tolerated.

It is a lot like the game Plinko on the Price is Right, only slot machine sized with much more Las Vegas style.

-Gary Milner

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bombs From Lebanon

Hello everyone,
We came to Jerusalem today. We took a bus to Tiberias and then another bus to Jerusalem. We had lunch at the Central Bus Station and took a taxi to our previous hotel. Luckily they had room for us.

We walked to the old city and had a leisurely good time. It's quite a little cooler here in Jerusalem than Ein Gev. I saw the weather and it said 27 today here in Jerusalem.

We were shocked to hear that there were bombs from Lebanon in Safed or Safet :( however you spell it... I'm not sure if that was today or yesterday, but we were there yesterday afternoon about 1 or 2 p.m. and it is only 20 miles from the Lebanon border. Our Tour Guide was talking to all the soldiers and shopkeepers, but we had no idea what he was saying since we only speak English. He spoke to us about how bad the situation was since 7 soldiers had died, but I really didn't have any idea of the implications.

Love Mom

This time it's personal

We were in a real nice mountain top town called Sayfed yesterday and sometime after we left, the town got hit by Katusha rockets which killed and injured some people. This time it's personal. We were twenty miles from the Lebonon border at that time but now were back down south in Jerusalem. On the way to Jerusalem we saw tanks going north on flatbed semi's. There is lots of soldiers leaving Jerusalem and we assume that they are going up to the border as well.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Climbing Mt Fuji

It isn't every day that you get to complete a lifelong dream. Yesterday was one of those days for me. We climbed to the top of Mt Fuji. It was one of the best hikes I have ever done and also one of the most difficult.

It was different from what I expected it to be like. There was a lot less snow for one thing. They say that there is snow on the top all year round, but from what you see in most photos of the mountain, or at least in the photos I've seen, I expected to be walking on snow for most of the way up. In fact, there was very little snow at all, and even then only in the most protected part of the mountain.

People make a big deal of it being very cold on the mountain, but Tracie and I got by with jogging pants, sweat shirts and hoodies. I would have like a toque, but my hat and hood were good enough. Gloves would have been nice, but only for holding onto the guide rope. My hands did get a little cold at the very top, but pockets are more than enough to keep them warm.

I knew Fujisan is a volcano, but I guess I was expecting it to be different from what it was. Maybe more like a regular mountain. The lava rocks were a pain to walk in because it was really loose gravel all the way up.

The crater at the top caught me completely off guard. I expected there to just be a peak or dome at the top. Every photo there is of it, shows a traditional cone shape with a somewhat flat top. I guess I just didn't connect that with a crater.

After doing a search of mountains that I have climbed. Mt. Fuji is at least 2700feet higher than anything else I have ever climbed. In fact, this climb starts higher than a lot of mountains in the Kananaskis.

The whole time going up, I was think about all the times I have seen photos of it and contemplated climbing it myself. It is something that I never thought I would be able to do for several reasons. I never really expected to come to Japan and it seems that I heard once that you weren't allowed to climb it. Having climbed it, I feel very accomplished, and although it was very hard work, I would love to do it again.

There are several routes to the top of Fujisan, and some are a lot easier than others. We took the difficult one that would be impossible for a lot of people. Make sure which one you choose is the best for you. One other thing, give yourself enough time to climb it. It took us 4 hours and 45 minutes. We were going a little faster than a lot of the other people. It wouldn't be unreasonable to do it in closer to 6 hours. We had heard that you could make it down in an hour and a half, but that must have been a different route. It took us 2 hours 15 minutes and we were absolutely cruising. We couldn't have gone much faster and to do it in less than 2 hours would be amazing, not to mention somewhat dangerous.

If you don't give yourself enough time, you'll miss the last bus back to the train station like we did. We ended up calling a cab which cost us 11,000 yen, which is $110. Don't miss the bus!

Fushimi Inari Shrine

We went to see the Fushimi Inari Shrine two days ago. It was pretty amazing. One of the most incredible things there are the thousands upon thousands of arches That form a tunnel to near the top of the mountain. Almost the entire path is covered by these gates taht were purchased by both companies and individuals (at great expense) in the hope of incurring the blessings of the gods.

There is no dout that this giant shrine was incredibly expensive, not just to build, but to maintain. Many of the arches are in need of repair. As we were walking around, I couldn't help but wonder if something like this could actually be feasibly build because of the great expense it would occur. Parts of it definatly look like they are privatly owned, and although it would be possible for one family to put it together, it would take a lifetime or two or if they actually are privately owned, several generations must have built thir home and yards bit by bit over the decades that pass.

This is definatly something that people should see if they come to Japan, especially because it seems so much different than other historic sites which can blend together after seeing more than a few of them.

-Gary

Tiberius

Yesterday, July 12, we headed for Tiberius with full intention of renting a car which we had reserved by internet, to tour with overnight and while we were waiting for a bus to Tiberius a car signalled, slowed and pulled over and then drove away. We figured out after he left that he was actually offering us a ride. Then when the next car came along, Dad put up his thumb and a couple from Paris pulled over and gave us a ride to Tiberius. That was a godsend, because it was dreadfully hot waiting for the bus, and who knows when it would have actually come... we had already been waiting 10 to 15 minutes when we got the idea of hitching a ride! We had a really interesting visit. The wife only spoke French--Tracie you could have had a good visit with her!

Anyway we got dropped off at the Tourist Center which hadn't yet opened even though the hours indicated that it should have opened half an hour earlier. Just as we were discovering the Car Rental Place, a Taxi driver accosted us and insisted that we ditch the rental car and come with him, so that we could have a guide. We had a super fun day in his air conditioned taxi. We visited Mount Tabor, the Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha (the loaves and fishes), and Safet or Zafet, depending where it is written, which is a city of artists. There was a lot of interesting stuff to see there and we really enjoyed ourselves.

There were huge tour buses travelling through the skinniest streets imaginable and it was unthinkable for them to even try, but they seemed to manage without scraping the sides of their bus... although there were many scrapes on the buildings and you could see evidence of many mishaps. Passersbys always directed when we were watching.

After lunch, the driver offered to take us to the Golan Heights Vineyard and Winery. I wasn't interested, but Dad consented. Luckily for us, the Winery wasn't taking tours so we went to the Olive Oil Factory next door. We watched an informative and entertaining video about how olive oil is produced and the by products of olives such as soap. After sampling the various scents of olive oils we bought a bottle of our favourite.

The churches and gardens at all the stops are beautifully kept and we are having a wonderful time. In some ways we wish we were here with an LDS tour group, but it is very nice to have the places all to ourselves, as was the case at all our stops today!

Shalom Elechem.
Love Mom

Sea of Galilee

As luck would have it, we met a girl, Georgia, from New Zealand
yesterday who has been travelling in Israel for the past 5 1/2 weeks
with her mom and brother. We mentioned that we'd like to see more
around the Sea of Galilee but we didn't have a car. We had a really
interesting visit with her for nearly an hour, and this morning we met
her and her mom, Christine Bell, at breakfast and they invited us to
join them while they toured entirely around the lake stopping at a few
of the holy sites and praying.

We gladly accepted their invitation, and for three hours had a wonderful visit and tour. Christine had been living in Canada with her children in Redwater, an hour north of Edmonton, studying the bible, so she knew a lot of interesting stuff to share with us. We had a very good time, and around noon when it was getting quite hot we came back to the Holiday Resort Kibbutz and Dad and I went to the Fish Restaurant for lunch. We haven't gotten up the nerve to order the St. Peter's fish--it's a full fish, head on... but maybe tonight we'll buy one to share. We're very sceptical about whether we will like it, but we think we should definitely give it a try!
-Jane

The truth this time

We went on a private tour today around Galilee today. We saw magnificent scenery today and many revered holy sites such as the mount of beatitudes. Perhaps the most interesting place we went was to was the city of Zefat which is very ancient and now home to a colony of artists. Zefat is near the lebonese border. We saw helecopters heading towards lebenon while we were there and some fighter jets yesterday heading north directly over the sea of Galilee. While we were eating some delicious swarma's in a little cafe in Zefat two tired soldiers came in and told what was happening at the border. Jane and I couldn't understand because all the talk was in Hebrew but our driver told us that seven young israeli soldiers had been killed between yesterday and today and everyone in the cafe was very visably upset. We also saw lots of military traffic on the road heading north. We weren,t able to go to one our promised destinations today because the driver said it was too hot there,meaning that it wasn't safe to go there. I'm going to stop now and Jane and I are going to go jump in the sea of Galilee.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Istockphoto Update

Selling stock photos is going gangbusters for me. Let me just give you an update on how things are working out.

  1. April : 4 Downloads 4 uploads
  2. May : 7 Downloads 25 uploads
  3. June : 30 downloads 14 uploads
  4. as of July 11 : 17 downloads 24 uploads
I averaged one download per day in June, and I'm beating that by 70% so far this month. The best thing is that the stock photos I've uploaded this month are better than the ones I had last month and they've only been approved for a few of the first 11 days this month. I'm averaging 39.7 cents per download since the start. The web designers and their low res downloads are killing my average. I need print designers to get cracking to bring the average price up a bit more.

I was reading the istockphoto forums and someone, some sort of wine snob, was complaining that 99.9% of the photos with people drinking wine show them holding the glass by the bowl, not the stem. There were a few useful comments, and I'm sure that over the next few days a hundred or more wine shots will show up with the people holding the stem, but it quickly turned in to a jokefest about the photographers drinking straight from the bottle or box. The point I'm trying to make is that with a little research before the photos are taken, the photos become much more valuable. What winery wants to show hillbillies not holding the glass propperly? It is the same with everything else too.

Tracie has helped me a lot in this manner. My best sellers are her dressed in her nursing scrubs. The first batch were fine, but they were just a woman wearing scrubs. The next batch are even better though because Tracie helped me with the poses and props, because she actually knows what nurses do, while I don't really know. I'm sure the new ones will far out pace the old ones over the next few weeks.

If you are a designer that needs cheap stock photos, check out istockphoto.com. There might even be a link in my ads on the left hand side from time to time.

-Gary