So much happening in 2017

I’m glad I took the last few opportunities to get y’all caught up on my leukemia journey. Since then, a bit of a set back, with some alarming side effects have occurred. I won’t hold back on this one. (As if I ever really do.)

A few weeks ago, I started having what my team calls cognitive episodes. I’d get confused, lost in my mind, and in the real world. Side note, I recently installed a looping “security camera” on my windshield, but because of my cognitive issues, it was working, but not correctly.

So driving around town, the video shows, that years of good habits, actually made me drive  instinctively safe. What video was viewable, knowing that I was very “out of it”, I witnessed zero laws being broken…by me. 🙂

However, it WAS clear, I was not here.

I had a pretty upsetting night a couple weeks back, that kinda started this whole thing. I’ve said before this journey can by 5 steps forward, with 2 steps back. These last few weeks have been textbook, “2 steps back”.

This night I’m starting with, I was supposed to pick up my kids, and we were going to a movie and dinner. I never made it. The few video shots I could decipher, trying to do the most basic thing, I clearly just could not get to my destination. What makes it worse, is that I was instinctively using Google Maps. While normally I don’t “need it”, I use in case one of the oh so patient kids texts me while I’m headed to get them, then I use Siri to tell them exactly when I’ll arrive. So, the security video I can see me “following” Google Maps, except I wasn’t. I can literally hear Google Maps say, take the next left at XYZ street. And on the video I make no effort to get into the left hand lane to turn. More often than not, I make a right hand turn. The whole thing was one giant poo sandwich!

After a while, the kids start texting me, but because I’m driving, and have learned without thinking about it anymore, I didn’t reply. But thank God, Deanna borrowed one of the kids’ phones, where I still share my location so my kids and I can track each other, and Deanna started just watching me. FYI, I am glad she did this!

It didn’t take her long to determine that I was whacked. So she called me. I answer. She gently tries to say, she thinks I’m confused and suggests I just park the truck. She’ll come get me. Confused, I do it.Oddly, I’m in front of a fire station. Don’t think that was an accident.

In short order Deanna arrives. She comes to my truck, and I don’t remember the conversation. She said I was a little upset, and hesitant with her. But ultimately I did what she was asking, get into the passenger seat. She jumped in and drove. The next few hours are sketchy for me. But in hind sight, some of the details started coming back. So what’s next is more a recollection of what others said happened, I believe them.

I may even need to be reminded, if after I publish this and someone who was with me remembers it differently. I now know, just forget what you thought happened, and accept the other version. It’s most likely right.

I think…Deanna took me to the local Santa Maria hospital ER. Where I was triaged and ultimately taken back and a litany of tests began. After a while, Deanna had to go, and I think I was alone for a bit. I think someone else visited me, but I’m not sure. Working the ER that night were a few friends from church, one is an EMT and the other is a youth group friend of my teenage daughter, who is a volunteer. I recall they each made polite efforts to say hello, etc. Neither were “assigned” to me, I think, so their stops by were when they were near me. However, the EMT friend, I feel, made a stepped up effort to make sure I was OK.

There was no “room in the inn”, upstairs, so I went to a newer adjunct area officially still in the ER, but with hospital like beds, and a few better/more comfortable features. I’ll take anything over and ER bed. I spent the night there, zero complaints.

After the folks from upstairs paid all their visits, etc. I honestly don’t recall how long I was admitted, I could be off by even a day or so. Either way, after taking with my medical team at UCLA, all agreed that I could be released. The only thing they found through their testing, was an elevated liver and ammonia levels. The ammonia level was the most likely problematic issue

A few days at home, and UCLA scheduled me for a clinic appointment. More on that, in the next post.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 6: PROPER EXPOSURE USING THE HISTOGRAM

When I saw this challenge, I fell in love with it! I did have any what to shoot though.

I shot stuff all week, even today. I used 4 different cameras, of various calibers even a 35mm film. After all I acquired, I decided to go with a shot I made today.

Once all was said and done, going with this photograph, it was shot with my iPhone 6+

(Exif Data) iPhone 6+, f/2.2, 1/20th a sec, ISO 80, 29mm

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 5: Year of the Rooster

At the outset of this week, I was flabbergasted about where I might capture a nice photograph of a rooster.

But then I remembered this little known cultural fact in the small village of Arroyo Grande, just about 20 minutes north of me, where this flock of roosters, who’ve been a bit tamed, hang around a nice walking party with a decorative bridge.

I had my roosters!

I hope you enjoy my contribution!

 

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 4: Rule of Thirds / Toys & Games

FujiFilm XT-1, 35mm, Lightroom, Aurora HDR, Luminar

Just as soon as Eric posted this week’s theme, I knew what I wanted to capture. Our normally boring Central Coast weather has been so dynamic and beautiful. I knew that the Guadalupe Veteran’s Memorial was going to be my subject. The potential skyline drama, the numerous headstones with history and pop, I knew I might create something nice.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 3: SELF PORTRAIT WITHOUT SELF

 

FujiFilm XT-1, 35mm, processed with Lightroom, Aurora HDR, Noiseless, and Snapheel.

 

This week’s theme called for a self-portrait, without myself.So, the goal was to represent me in a way that did not include me. Right away I knew what I wanted to photograph. These pair of objects represent me well. I hope you enjoy them!

It has been entirely too long…

Friends, as I was poking around my blog, I realized that the last real update to my Leukemia Journey was April of 2016. Wow, it’s already the 10th of January in 2017. I should be ashamed. So many wonderful people have been keeping up on me, yet are only getting little updates on Facebook. It’s time for an update.

2016, medically wasn’t so bad. I really did not have any setbacks until the end of the year. The week before Christmas my liver and bilirubin levels began to climb. Eventually, they peaked too high, and my Nurse Practitioner at UCLA contacted me and informed me that I would need to come down for an admittance. So the evening before Christmas Eve I packed up and headed southbound. Early in the morning on Christmas Eve, I rolled into UCLA and was in a bed up on my old floor, 6 East, at about dinner.

I ended up being there for a week. Released on New Year’s Eve, I was able to head back to Camarillo and crash at my parents’ place for an extra night.

With some additional personal life issues, it ended up being an odd blessing that I was distracted from what could have been a more depressing time for me. The loss of my dear Aunt Jan, which I have already blogged about a few posts back, and the changes to my immediate family situation really could have been a worse time for me. Yet the Lord in all His sovereignty and wisdom saw fit to comfort me and show me how to rejoice in His glory at the time we celebrate His birth, His coming into our world…Emmanuel, God with us.

For that, I am quite grateful. Thank you Lord.

The medical jargon is basically that my continued struggle with Graft Versus Host Disease (aka GVHD) had flared it’s ugly head, and sent me back into the hospital, so they could pump me up with more meds, and get it under control. While my steroid induced diabetes had almost abated entirely, and I was on the cusp of going off steroids entirely, I’m back on high dose prednisone again, ravaging like Hulk Smash inside, with a devouring appetite again. So I’m back to constant diabetic maintenance and injections and watching my diet more closely. If that’s the worst of it, I’m still doing just fine.

Today I feel real good, physically and medically. I was able to remain active in the hospital, and I’m keeping my activity level up now that I’m back home on the Central Coast. Every few days, I sleep a bit extra, to help replenish. I’m back to walking shorter walks, but it’s not as hard to keep motivated as it was during the year last year. I will admit, one of my struggles during 2016 was maintaining the motivation to get up off my butt and get healthy again. In fact, that very well may be the single worst issue I did not deal with well, during that whole year.

To bring this to a close, I feel great! I’m excited about what 2017 has to offer, and look forward to what the Lord has in store for me and mine.

Love to y’all!

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 2: WE ARE WHAT WE EAT

As a 2.5 year old bone marrow transplant recipient, there is something cathartic about making my own bone broth for use as a base in homemade Pho soup. I roasted this before crock potting it into a tasty bone broth. You are what you eat. 🙂

Helping a friend…

***If you don’t want to learn about using a Google Docs, and a few of their free tools to make a Google Slides presentation, skip this post***

OK, a photography friend in Texas has asked for some help. Sometimes the tools at hand the the easiest. Feel free to use this slapped together tutorial for your won purposes, hopefully not for a last minute memorial service like this one is designed to help.

Forgive any bad grammar or insufficient screenshots. I did my best, and I pray that I have provided a service to help honor someone’s recently passed on loved one.

First you’ll need a free Google account

Gmail, Google Docs, whatever. Most have one, if you don’t, get one anyway, best online email, etc..(Unless you’re John Podesta, and you keep your password: “password”. Then you don’t deserve to use technology…ever.)

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Next, search for Google Drive.

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Go there.

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Create a new folder.

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Give it a title, I’ve chosen “Funeral”. (Don’t think I’m morbid, I just woke, and I’m trying to be efficient.)

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Now just drag and drop your images from anywhere off the desktop, a disk, folder, wherever they are currently. Don’t worry, you’ll have a chance to organize and even edit them.

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They’ll auto load. You have a few options on organizing them here. But no drag and drop to order them yet.

From here we look at editing the photos, if they need it. Cropping, and all sorts of easy options are available with the two different apps. I took a screen shot of the more advanced editor Pixlr Editor and the easier Pixlr Express. The second one has almost every tool the regular Joe might need.

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Here’s the more complex one, Pixlr Editor.

And here’s a shot of the easier, Pixlr Express.

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Notice the “Save and Replace” and “Close”, at the top right. Once you make your changes, and Apply them, choose those options and return to your Google Drive folder to see the changes.

Now we head over to Google Slides, to make the presentation.

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Upper left hand corder, once Slides opens, Click on the Orange Logo

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It’ll change to this…

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Choose Photo Album.

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And we’re off with their suggested template.

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Just start customizing. Depending on your experience with PowerPoint or other presentation software, you’re left with your experience. If you don’t know what you’re doing, let’s just take what they give us and start making it out own. I changed the name of the Presentation to “Jan’s Funeral”. I deleted two of their three initial images.

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I resized the last photo’s box in the template.

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then right clicked to choose to “Replace Image”.

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Here you can change over to your Google Drive, and find the image folder you already made with your own images.

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Here you’ll see one of my “own” images inserted in place of their sample image.

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I continued on with this, slide by slide, keeping some template slides, and right clicking to delete others. Once you’ve inserted/imported all your images, you’re basically done. Fine tuning becomes your own prerogative.

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At this point, you have a few options. Most of the time the end result is a desired presentation file, like a PowerPoint or to even just run the slide presentation from within Google Slides. That can be done either way. You can simply export your Google Slides presentation to a PowerPoint file, or choose to play it by clicking on “Present” button in the upper right corner, which will start playing it.

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Or you could even “Publish” it to the web. There’s a few choices, but the Facebook option may end up being the most common one. Most of these choices will also give you the slide time duration and even the option to loop it during playback.

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No matter what choice you make, I think we’ve solved our problem. You have a last minute need to make a photo slideshow, with free online tools. Please ask questions, and I’ll be happy to investigate further, or include better details.

Since today’s problem includes helping in a time of sadness, I’ll add my condolences to the family of the recently passed. May God bless their memory.

 

Take your camera!

Attention Photographer friends, your smartphone is good, but not great! I love taking photographs with my iPhone and processing them for fun. It’s a great exercise, and I generally love the outcome. With the skills I’ve acquired through the years, post processing my photos with decent software, I’ve grown to learn how to use not just fun filters and presets with apps on my phone, but even use a few apps that give me really great control over the final image.

I’ll write another post about some of those tools soon enough. But this article is to encourage you to actually take your camera with you everywhere!

I know it can be tedious. You don’t need all your lenses and gadgets all the time. Toss a good prime lens onto your camera and just keep it with you. You don’t need your bag and all the other gear. Just get used to having the camera ready. Leave the settings on your most common settings, and all you need t to do is grab and go.

My only dSLR, aka decent camera that matters, is a FujiFilm XT-1. I keep my 35mm f/1.4 lens on it, without a flash or speed light. I keep it on Aperture priority mode, set to the widest aperture, slowest shutter speed and smallest ISO, 200.

Now that you’re convinced, you should think about keeping it safe. For me, there was a time that I had a dSLR and a CCW with me at all times. (See my job history to better understand that.) So, I wrestled with having two high dollar items, one of which HAD to be concealed at all times. Through this highly practical few years of double “carrying”, I learned a few things I can pass along.

First off, I often carried my weapon “off body”. It’s an option that many women face when concerned with carrying a concealed firearm. I made this decision, and it didn’t take me too long to decide, I hated not having my gun on me. So, the method I had chosen, albeit at very good one, ended up not being my best solution.

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I basically carried a man purse. A Maxpedition Versipack. In a sweet deal, I contacted LowePro, and they sold me the guts to a camera bag, with interchangeable hook and loop (aka Velcro) slots inside. It fit perfectly into the non-padded Versipack. I had a quasi-secret camera bag that was truly designed for carrying a concealed firearm. It was my man purse.

The biggest thing we can take away from that experience is that you can get creative in how you transport and store your camera, in light of my challenge to you to always have your real camera with you.

I found a few articles that address what we’re talking about, and I think you’ll enjoy them. The first one is clearly geared towards women, but I think we all can benefit from the discussion.

The next two articles will contribute a little more.

I think the biggest ideas to take away from all three articles is the notion that you’re hiding your gear in plain sight. Now, I NEVER hide my gun in plain sight. If it’s not secured in a holster on my person, it’s secured in a locked safe, loaded or unloaded.

But obviously, with a camera we’re able and willing to take a greater risk. No one is going to steal our camera permanently harm someone else or themselves. After all, a camera is just a thing we could easily live without.

I have a couple of single camera LowePro cases, that are clearly camera cases. They are great. One is standard black, and the other is a nice blue. But, they don’t really encourage, DON’T STEAL MY CAMERA, from the front seat of my truck. And let’s be honest, what I’m saying is keep your camera with you at all teams, I’m saying have it ready all the time. Does that mean take it into work? Probably not. Many cannot even do that. During my career, we weren’t even allowed to have our personal cell phones, let alone a smartphone at work. (That’s a separate issue we chat about another time. Yes, I have policies that are basically named after me.)

So let’s look at what my over all point. Having your camera available all the time really does mean having it as ready as possible during the normal throws of life. When I’m on a road trip, the camera is within reach at all times. If I see something, having the camera packed away is just another excuse to NOT stop and use it. Once thing I’ve always appreciated about my loved ones is that they’ve never made me feel bad for wanting to stop and create a photograph. And I’ve tried to remain just as available for my teenage daughter, who also loves to create beautiful photographs.

So now I’m considering alternate methods of storage and transportation. Just like I might consider a center console lockbox for my firearm to be readily accessible to me as I drive, I might consider some sort of hide in plain sight for my camera.

I think I’m going to start with something low target, like a simple reinforced cardboard box, with your typical camera bag foam padding inside. Clearly LowePro offers these inserts. And as you’ll see in one of the other articles I linked to, so does a company called MountainSmith. There are others, but I’ve used MountainSmith backpacks from my earliest days of backpacking, and I will not attest to any higher quality product that takes a massive beating, and the company that backs it.

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This setup will allow me to have my camera hiding in plain site, and make it less attractive for those wanting to smash and grab stuff from my unattended truck. I’m used to having a high situational awareness as it is, just carrying the valuable items I already carry on a regular basis, so this will not increase my nervousness at all. I’m already there. But now I’ll also have my favorite tool for creating great photographs with me more often.