A few days ago I uploaded a couple of videos that I did for a short course on Adobe AfterEffects that ended this week. Among them was a nearly three-minute video titled Maker that I had to edit in iMovie after the class ended because I made this mistake: I somehow mixed up the seconds and minutes and I somehow thought I was specifying the running length as 12 seconds but, instead, the animation ended up lasting 12 minutes. So I speeded up the animation in iMovie while adding sound effects.

One of my friends, who was instrumental in getting me into the class, felt that it was still too long for his tastes. So I did an even faster version of Maker just for him. It has a run time of just one minute and four seconds. Well, here it is.

Benjamin Franklin

A Man without ceremony has need of great merit in its place.

When I was growing up in Glen Burnie, Maryland I used to see the Charles Chips trucks come around the area from time to time. I think my parents may have bought a tin from time to time, I don’t remember.

I became more acquainted with Charles Chips through one of my old jobs as a data entry clerk at a now-defunct computer reseller because the Charles Chips delivery man would come by about once a week selling and/or refilling tins. I used to buy the Charles Chips pretzels because pretzels tend to be less fattening and healthier than potato chips. Except my clothes began to get tight on me and I realized that even though pretzels are lower in calories than potato chips, I kept a large tin under my desk and I used to go to that tin eating yet another pretzel several times a day. Naturally I would be out of pretzels by the time the Charles Chips guy made his weekly visits so I would order another tin.

When I finally realized what I was doing, I decided to cut back on new orders of Charles Chips tins to once a month.

It’s been a long time since I last saw a Charles Chips tin. Last week, on the way to attending another weekly meeting for members of my support group for separated and/or divorced persons, I was walking around Wegman’s when I saw Charles Chips tins on sale for $13.

Charles Chips Tin

I didn’t buy a tin mainly because I live alone and those tins have enough food for at least four people. But seeing them in stock was such a trip down memory lane.

Here is the twenty-seventh video in a series of computer animations called The Unicorn With An Attitude that I did back in the 1990’s in an ill-fated attempt to show off my abilities as an artist and a computer whiz in the hopes of either 1) get famous or 2) get a higher paying job than the office administrative work that I was frequently offered.

I created this animation way back in 1998 and I actually uploaded it on various BBS as well as CompuServe. I originally created it as a QuickTime movie using various software for an Apple Macintosh. I have totally remastered it in high definition video using Apple iMovie. As for the music, I used one of YouTube’s royalty-free songs.

“The Little Match Unicorn” is an adaptation of the famous story by Hans Christian Andersen where the Unicorn assumes the role of the little match girl. I did this as a Christmas holiday special. I basically stayed as true to the original story as possible while putting my own twists on it. For the fantasy sequences when the Unicorn lights the matches, I used some stock photos that came with a clip art package that I once owned.

Here is how I originally described this video:

A special Christmas story based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl. Features a special apperance of Newtie from “The Spoiled Brat.”

So, without further ado, here is “The Little Match Unicorn.”

For the past two months I’ve written a few posts about my time in Takoma Park here, here, and here. Well, there’s a reason for that. One of my friends, who works at the Takoma Park Public Library, had urged me to take this short six-week class in how to use Adobe AfterEffects. He has long been a fan of my past animations and he felt that I could benefit from that class and it might even lead to more professional opportunities for myself.

Adobe AfterEffects is like Adobe Photoshop except it’s for video instead of still photos. There’s also an animation component to it as well. I initially struggled with learning the software. Then again, I initially struggled with Adobe Photoshop when I learned it years ago while I was undergoing retraining in Desktop Publishing through the George Washington University’s non-credit certification program. Like what happened to me while I was learning Photoshop, something clicked during one class session and I managed to get the hang of it.

Last night was the final class. I ended up enjoying the class, the teacher, and my fellow students. The only flaw is that the class began at 6:15 p.m. and didn’t end until 8 p.m. so I ended up eating an early dinner when I wasn’t really hungry just so I wouldn’t starve during class time. At least now I can eat my Tuesday night dinners at a more reasonable time (which is usually between 6-7 p.m.).

The first few weeks of the class were devoted to doing some practice projects. The last three weeks were devoted to just one slightly more complicated project where we animated a word. I finished that final project last night but I’m not ready to upload that one online yet because I made a mistake in the running length of the video. (I originally intended for my piece to run no longer than 8 seconds. Instead I accidentally specified 8 minutes, which made the video seem really draggy.) I also want to add some sound effects. I can import the video into iMovie and fix both the runtime and the sound.

At least I managed to compile my first three shorter projects into one video (with a total runtime of less than 1 minute) and I added a song from YouTube’s collection of royalty-free music. The first project was some stock footage of the Lincoln Memorial with the DC flag, the words “DC at Night”, and some wavy lines superimposed on top. The second project was some more stock footage of a bee pollinating a flower while snow falls all around. The third project was a winking face superimposed over some stock footage of some pottery on display in a museum. I initially did the projects in Adobe AfterEffects and I used iMovie to combine the three projects and add the music. Enjoy!

Update Just a Few Hours Later on March 25, 2015: I was originally going to wait a few days before I started to work on that last project because there are other things that I need to focus on (such as filling out tax forms). But yesterday I woke up with this scratchy throat that plagued me throughout the day. I was still determined to go to that last class and finish up my last project and I did so. But then I suffered some kind of acid reflux overnight and I was up for a few hours. When I woke up this morning, the sore throat was gone but my nose was stuffy and I felt draggy. I think I have a cold.

Basically I spent my day just doing laundry while I decided to take it easy. In the process I took a look at the last animation and, well, I ended up importing it into iMovie and tweaking it a bit. In the class I made a mistake where I thought I had specified the running length of my animation in seconds but Adobe AfterEffects ended up rendering a 12-minute animation that was incredibly slow and drawn out. So once I imported the animation into iMovie, I basically speeded up the video first. It was better but it was still a bit drawn out so I cut out some frames. I managed to edit what had been a 12-minute animation down into just under three minutes. Afterwards I added some sound effects and uploaded it online.

As for my last project, we had to take a word and animate it. I chose the word “Maker” because I’ve been seeing the Maker movement sprout up all around me. For inspiration I looked around OpenClipArt.org and I saw a series of penguin clip art that someone named Moini did so I used penguins to spell out the word “Maker.” Here’s the animation below. Enjoy!

I’ve been trying to spruce up my LinkedIn profile and I added some information in the Summary section about myself. Since I could include other media in the Summary section, I decided to make this short promo video highlighting my various abilities. I paired it with this really catchy funky music that I got for free from YouTube. Enjoy!

It seems like lately a bunch of longtime businesses have been closing its doors for good. There’s the Piano Liquidation Center, which became a fixture on Route 1 in College Park for its building and which is currently in its final days of operation before it closes its doors forever on March 31. There’s RadioShack, which had been in business long before I was even born. Even the Kmart in my area is in the process of liquidation as I’m typing this. (I’ve taken photos but I’m waiting until after it closes forever next month before I write anything about this.) I’m starting to think that the economy is getting worse even if the corporate-owned mainstream media isn’t reporting about this.

Last week I discovered yet another casualty. Einstein Bros. Bagels had two restaurants in College Park and Laurel. The College Park location had been around for at least 7-8 years. The Laurel location was around even longer. (I’d guess somewhere between 10-15 years.) I happened to drive by the shopping center where the College Park Einstein’s was and I noticed that the sign was taken down and the windows were covered in brown wrapping paper. Soon afterwards I happened to be in Laurel when I noticed that the Laurel Einstein’s was gone as well.

I tried searching on Google to see what happened but, aside from this article that quoted a vaguely worded press release, there has been nothing about any problems regarding the ability of Einstein Bros. Bagels to remain in business.

I was sad because I always loved their food. While I hadn’t been going there as often after my husband left me (due mainly to tight finances), I still tried to eat there at least once every other month because they provided good food at an affordable price.

I decided to take pictures of the Laurel location because I’ve always liked the building it was housed in. It was a house-like structure that stood apart from the other businesses in the Laurel Lakes Shopping Center, especially with the long-slung rooftop.

photo1

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The windows still had the Einstein Bros. Bagels logo and other related window stickers.

photo3

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I took a peek through the window and I saw how empty the place now looks. All of the furniture and other related fixtures are now gone.

photo5

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It’s a bummer that this had to happen. Only time will tell if more businesses start to close in my area.

My mother-in-law passed away five years ago today. It was pretty ironic that she died just two months after I started this blog so it became the first major drama that I would record in it for posterity. Her death was pretty sudden because she was relatively healthy for a woman who had just turned 77 earlier in the month until the last two weeks of her life so it was a huge shock to family and friends.

My husband and I flew to Phoenix for her funeral then returned. It was such a whirlwind of a trip that I devoted one post to it titled A Special Thank You Note Regarding the Recent Death of My Mother-In-Law.

For the next few years I would get notices from WordPress.com about how that particular post ranked among my most-read posts and the automated message even suggested that I write more about that same topic in order to increase my hit count. The only problem with that suggestion is that everything I needed to say about my mother-in-law’s death I had already written and posted online.

Well, okay, I’ll write one new tidbit. My mother-in-law was the last surviving child of Michael Somogyi, the Hungarian-born researcher who made great strides in the study of diabetes. Today many diabetics benefit from his findings. Which makes my ex-husband his grandson. For the record, I never met Michael Somogyi. He died many years before I even met my future ex-husband.

If I had taken that WordPress suggestion and continued to write about my mother-in-law’s death, I would’ve ended up doing the online blogging equivalent of flogging a dead horse. There are only so many different ways I could write about my mother-in-law’s death without this blog getting repetitive. Besides, I didn’t start this blog so I could write about nothing but dead friends and relatives.

If you really want the play-by-play regarding my mother-in-law’s sudden death, I suggest that you start with this March 21, 2010 entry, then this shorter entry on March 22, 2010, then the original death announcement on March 23, 2010. Finally there is the entry that continued to get a lot of blog hits a few years after her death.

My husband and I flew back to Phoenix just a few months after the funeral to look in on my husband’s stepfather. Not only was he reeling from my mother-in-law’s sudden death (they were married 17 years when she passed away) but he had to deal with doing the things that my mother-in-law used to do (like cooking). I remembered we showed him how to fix simple meals like browning ground beef and making hard-boiled eggs. It was quite a trip since I arrived feeling sick on the first dayI partially recovered on the second day even though I was tired. I recovered by the third day just in time for another crisis where my husband’s step-father had to go to the hospital after he fell flat on his back at the home of one of my husband’s step-brothers. He ultimately only spent a few hours at the hospital and he felt fine after that. We spent our last full day in Arizona going through my mother-in-law’s things and visiting with my husband’s other step-siblings.

Before my mother-in-law moved to Phoenix when she married her second husband, she had spent the bulk of her adult life living in the New York City metropolitan area where she made a lot of friends. Whenever she and her husband made the annual two-week visit to the East Coast, they would visit those friends whenever they arrived in New York. The one thing about having my mother-in-law’s funeral in Phoenix is the fact that many of her East Coast friends were elderly and some of them just weren’t able to make the long travel. So my husband and his sister came up with an idea of having an East Coast memorial service scheduled later in the year so those friends would have a chance to pay their last respects to her.

Except the memorial service ended up being held in Western Massachusetts (where my mother-in-law never lived) instead of New York (where she actually lived and most of her friends did as well) so that service didn’t draw a lot of people. (I wasn’t the one who came up with the idea of holding the memorial service in a place hundreds of miles from where my mother-in-law actually lived during her New York years. The memorial service’s location wasn’t my husband’s idea either, he basically went along with it. I don’t recall him protesting that decision or anything like that.)  It was also difficult getting hotel reservations because it was the time of the year when people descend on the New England region to view the fall foliage.

At least I got to visit a lot of places for the first time in my life including Williamstown and the Norman Rockwell Museum. While we were traveling back via Amtrak, we happened to run into a friend of ours who had boarded the same train when it made a stop in New York City and we offered to give him a ride the rest of the way back instead of having him transfer to a Metrobus once the train arrived at the BWI Airport stop. Then the three of us took a detour to the DuClaw brew pub in Arundel Mills before finally driving home. (Good times, good times.)

Which means that this October will also be the fifth anniversary of the East Coast memorial service for my mother-in-law that was held in Western Massachusetts. Since I wrote about that in the previous paragraph, I got that observance over with so I won’t have to bother with it once the actual anniversary month arrives. (Like I wrote a few paragraphs ago, I’m not really into constantly writing new blog posts about my mother-in-law’s death over and over again.)

I would make one final trip to Phoenix to visit my husband’s stepfather. In January, 2011 my husband and I flew to Arizona to celebrate his 80th birthday. We made a weekend out of it as we did things like playing miniature golf (with my husband’s sister, one of his stepsisters, and her children) and swam in the outdoor community pool in my husband’s stepfather’s neighborhood.

I’m glad I took photos on that trip because it ended up being the last trip I made to Phoenix before my husband suddenly walked out on me later that year (just three months after I went through hip surgery). I haven’t spoken to my husband’s stepfather nor any of his step-siblings since my marriage imploded. I’ve always gotten along pretty well with them. I don’t harbor any ill-will towards any of them and I hope that they are doing well in their lives.

I’ve been seeing a therapist since my husband left and I gained some insight regarding my mother-in-law’s difficult personality. I was pretty naive regarding my mother-in-law and how my husband used to fear any kind of confrontations with her. If I was advising a young twenty-something person considering marriage (which was how old my husband and I were when we were married), I would tell that person to pay close attention to how his/her fiancee interacted around his/her own family members. If there is a family member that fiancee is afraid to confront or talk to in an honest way, that’s a red flag. Even if that family member lives hundreds of miles away, you should take a hard look at that situation because you will have to encounter it over and over again. I know that first hand. (I still remember when she totally screamed at the top of her lungs at me during a family trip to Canandaigua, New York because she didn’t like the way I was preparing corn on the cob.)

Her temper tantrums during family vacations are basically just bad memories for me now and I don’t really dwell on them because I no longer have to go through anything like that ever again.

Sure, it was too bad that she died when she did because she had been looking forward to attending her oldest grandson’s wedding, which was held just a few months after her funeral. (Her widowed husband opted not to go to the wedding that year. I think he was still shocked and deeply upset over her sudden death.) And she also missed out on becoming a great-grandmother when that same grandson became a father for the first time in 2013. But things like that happen in life and there’s nothing anyone could do about it.

That’s about all that I have to say about the fifth anniversary of her death. I’m sure that if I’m still writing in this blog long enough for a 10th anniversary, I’ll be doing something special for the blog anniversary. But I probably won’t be observing the 10th anniversary of my mother-in-law’s death since there’s really not much more to write about it.

I’ll close this entry by providing a few links. When my mother-in-law died, the family requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations should be made to two non-profit organizations my mother-in-law actively championed during the last 10 years of her life. Here are the links to the non-profits in question.

Community Based Services

Phoenix Public Library Foundation

The weather is really getting crazy around here. On St. Patrick’s Day the weather was nice and warm and this pretty purple-striped crocus was blooming in my front yard.

Spring is here.

Spring is here.

Yesterday was officially the first day of spring but you wouldn’t have noticed it looking outside my window because the ground was covered with a half-an-inch of snow and the weather alternated between snow and rain. It was also cold. So my pretty blooming crocus was buried under snow.

Today it’s the second day of spring and the weather has done a complete 180 degree turn. This afternoon the temperature was in the 60’s and the snow had completely melted. I looked outside to survey any damage from yesterday’s storm and I found something interesting. The purple-striped crocus looked totally wilted but another crocus had sprung up next to it—a fully purple crocus.

Crocuses

I took a couple more photos of this pretty purple crocus.

Crocuses

Crocuses

I really hope that all traces of winter are completely banished. But I’m not expecting any complete disappearance of winter until early April. I can only recall one snowstorm in April but that was when I was a young child and that snow didn’t do anything other than partially cover the ground. I haven’t witnesses an April snowstorm since then.

FREE TUTORIALS

15 Modge Podge Comic Books Crafts

Browse other free tutorials previously mentioned in this blog (along with pictures) right here.

MISCELLANEOUS LINKS

This year is the 25th anniversary of Adobe Photoshop. To commemorate this occasion, a few Photoshop experts try to use the original Photoshop 1.0 with varying results.

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