Thursday, December 31, 2009

Playing with GIMP

So, I recently re-downloaded GIMP because I heard that they had made the features a little more user friendly and I was beginning to get a little more savvy with image editing software. Well, I decided, for fun, to edit a picture I had on hand just to try it out. I removed undereye bags, whitened teeth, got rid of some blemishes and fixed the eyebrows.

The Original:



The Edited Version:



Thoughts? Comments?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Some notes on my first real decade...

This past week, it very suddenly came to my attention that we are about to end a decade. Granted, this is based on the Christian/solar/Gregorian calendar, so for us Jew-folk it doesn't really mean a whole lot. But it's still kind of fascinating to me for two big reasons: 1) The close of this decade has us all looking back over the past ten years to pick out the cultural phenomena that will come to be known as the markings of the 2000's (Like big hair in the 80's, or the rock and roll of the 60's). 2) This past decade has really been one of enormous change for me, and probably for anyone else in my age group.

First, let's discuss the cultural phenomena. I recently (and when I say recently, I mean within the past week or so) have become acquainted with the concept of "memes." Meme is defined in Wiktionary as "Any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another." It is commonly used to refer to viral internet cultural materials. Things like LOLCats, the Numa Numa guy, and All Your Base. (For more information on various memes, I recommend checking out Rocketboom.) It's these internet memes that I think really represent everything that has defined the past decade. This may not be something to be proud of, but I still think it's true. The rapidity with which these little tidbits managed to spread is a direct result of the changes in communications technologies over the past 10 years, and the content is also incredibly representative of our current culture. The impact that the internet and all of it's components have had on the world is astronomical. Social networking sites like myspace and Facebook have completely changed the nature of interpersonal relationships, and sites like Youtube have revolutionized the way we express ourselves. I think people are going to look back on the aughts as the age of "Lulz."

Now on to me. This past decade I went from being 12 to being 22. I'd say that has to be one of the most important transitional stages of human life, and I guess I kind of see the upcoming new year as being the end of that transition. 10 years ago, I had just switched to Bais Yaakov Middle School and was trying to recreate myself from the little girl that got made fun of in elementary school. Maybe that's the mission I set out on when Y2K came around and the world didn't end. I like to think I was pretty successful. When I compare my life now (stable, married, and satisfied with some good solid friends) to who I was then (lonely, desperate for acceptance and depressed with low self-esteem) I can't believe how far I've come. I'm pretty proud of the person I've become, of the life I've chosen and of the things I've accomplished. I'm incredibly grateful for the immense number of brachos I've been given, from my wonderful, loving husband to my incredible supportive friends and family. From my comfortable apartment (even if it isn't technically mine) to all of the luxuries I get to enjoy on a daily basis (like central heating). And the distance I've come religiously is no small thing either. I'm so thankful that I was able to clear my head a few years ago and realize the incongruities in the way I was living my life. I'm even more thankful that G-d gave me the personal strength and the outside support (in the form of family, friends and that oh-so-wonderful husband) that I needed to make the changes that I had to make to become who I am today.

So all in all, it's been a pretty interesting decade and I'm pretty eager to see what the next one has in store for me. I'm hoping it will include things like graduating college, having kids and getting "real" jobs that pay salaries and offer benefits. (Mmmm...benefits...) Maybe I'll move to Israel. Maybe I'll win the lottery. Maybe I'll change the world. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Children Aren't Alright

Sometimes I get these rude awakenings. These moments where I'm suddenly reminded that I'm really just a kid and that I'm terrified. They come when I suddenly have to face an adult problem, like not having enough money to pay my bills. It ambushes me when I'm confronted with the unknown and it shakes me to my core. Suddenly, I feel this need to crawl into bed and pretend I'm 10 and that mommy and daddy will take care of everything. But of course, that doesn't work. Because mommy and daddy can't take care of everything, only some things. And when I finally creep out from under the covers with bloodshot eyes and tear-stained cheeks, I discover all of my problems just as I'd left them. They all come rushing at me, even the ones I'd managed to temporarily push out of my mind before.

So what's the best way to deal with these problems? The things that I can only wait out and hope everything turns out okay?

Window-shopping therapy, of course. Sometimes it just helps to walk around with a good friend, looking in windows, trying every perfume in the store, and letting yourself have a little adventure. Window-shopping therapy can also be followed by an hour and a half of traffic escapades with Pandora. There's a lot to be said for distraction. All the problems may still be there when you get back, but they seem to get smaller somehow, at least for the time-being. So, to one of my dearest friends, and fellow adventurer, thank you for being there. I owe you one. :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow!

Well, we've got well over a foot of snow here and are expecting another 5-10 inches overnight. I adore snow, so I took a lot of pleasure in sitting in the warmth of my parents' house and watching it come down. After shabbos, we decided it would be simpler to walk home then to dig out their car and get a ride. Luckily, my parents felt so guilty for making us walk that they let us raid the pantry and pick out some things to enjoy when we got home. I grabbed a box of brownie mix, some bags of popcorn, a whole chicken (for tomorrow night?), a bottle of soda and some frozen soups.

The walk home was fun. I've always loved walking in the snow, especially when I'm all bundled up and warm. Some of the drifts were as tall as I am, and I felt this strong need to linger and take in the beauty of the, as yet, untouched snow. Yaakov wasn't in such a lingering mood, though, so we trudged on. I wished I had my camera with me. Smooth, freshly fallen snow has a distinct calming, serene quality, not to mention the hollow silence that tends to accompany it. When I was younger, I used to love to go outside when it was snowing and just lay down and stare up at the gently falling flakes, letting them gather on my lashes. It truly is one of the simple pleasures of life.

On our walk home, we encountered a small group of Israelis who were having a blast in the snow and asked us to take a picture of them. We asked if they'd ever seen snow, and they said, "Yes, many times. But every time it is a blessing and we love it."

All in all, snow is a wonderful blessing...as long as you have nowhere to go. If you can just relax and take it all in with a cup of hot chocolate, you've got it made.

About two years ago, when Yaakov and I were newlyweds (more so then now) we had a day off of school and work because of some snow. It wasn't anywhere near what we have today, but it was enough to close school as I recall. I wanted to play outside but Yaakov wanted to stay in. After a bit, Yaakov got up and said, "Wait in the bedroom and don't come out until I say you can." When he called me out, he'd opened up the curtain on our back window and moved our dining room table so that it was facing it. He'd lit candles and set up several stuffed bunnies around the table. He'd also made popcorn and Tradition soups, and we proceeded to have a nice dinner watching the snow come down. :)

Another favorite snowstorm of mine was many years ago when I got together with several friends to play around in the snow. I don't know that it would be appropriate to recount some of the goings on of that day, but suffice it to say, it was a really fun day which culminated in cold fingers and hot chocolate.

To anyone reading, what's YOUR favorite snow story?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Just another manic Tuesday...

So, a little over a month ago I bought myself an external tablet for my laptop. It's a Genius brand tablet with a pretty big work space and it works very nicely. It came with a photo editing software from Corel that I tried to play around with but found very confusing as someone with no experience. So, I started trying to find some decent art freeware and after doing a bit of research, I stumbled on Artweaver. It's a very impressive piece of software which has all of the best drawing features of Photoshop (a large array of brush types, shapes, textures, etc) but in a much simpler to use form. Unlike GIMP, Artweaver gives you a straightforward setup that even a novice like myself can quickly figure out. So far, I'm really enjoying it and have been able to get started on my web comic. Hopefully, once I've made more than a dozen or so comics, I'm going to set up a website and start posting them. Yay!

In other news, food! Yes, I made latkes twice so far this Chanuka. The first I made on erev shabbos at my parents house. I grated the potatoes instead of shredding them and they came okay, but not spectacular. Then, tonight I made another batch, this time shredding the potatoes and they came out yummy and crispy and everything that potato latkes are meant to be.

Now, I'm lying in my bed and relaxing away my horrible back pain. Yay! :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ok, I was supposed to post by this past Sunday and didn't. Sorry to all of my avid readers! (All two of you.) Nothing very interesting has been going on. The challahs I baked a couple weeks ago came out delicious and I'm definitely going to make them again in a week or so. This time, though, I'm going to make them smaller so I can have more of them.

In other news, my semester is soon to be over. I have my final next Thursday and today was my last day of class. Woot! Following this, I've got a few weeks with no school so I can hopefully get some more work hours in, or at least get some other things done in the free time. Then, on January 17th, it's off to Israel for my brother's wedding (which will be in B'nai B'rak on January 25th.) I went to the dress gemach last night and found a really gorgeous purple dress that looks very nice on me. I just need to get it taken out in the shoulders so I can move my arms. I was surprised how quickly and easily I found something there. Now all I need are shoes and maybe some earrings. In all likelihood, I'll just wear a pair of earrings that I already have, but maybe I'll peek around Target to see if they have anything nice.

In possibly more boring news, I've been working on a Thomas Kinkade 3D puzzle all week. I'm almost done with it, but I think a piece might be missing. I really dislike the puzzle because the pieces don't fit well together and the 3D thing makes it hard to see what's on the pieces. Anyway, it's almost done and then I can take a picture and take it apart and start on another one. It's times like these I wish I had better hobbies. :o\

Well, that's all I've got for tonight. Happy Chanukkah everyone!