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Archive for December, 2008

Joy – Enough to go ’round

If you’ve been to the movies this week, specifically “Twilight” I believe, then you’ve probably seen this new Coke/Walmart spot we did. It was unveiled to us at the staff meeting and it’s already creating a lot of buzz. The song was written by our own Dave Muhlenfeld who pens (and sings) the songs on freecreditreport.com.

So much buzz in fact, that our web designers put it up on this website:

www.stockuponjoy.com

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We have quarterly staff meetings like a lot of other companies I suppose, but our December meeting is the one most anticipated because it always starts with entertainment. Being the creative place that we are, it’s a given that we’ll have a lot of fun.

Friday’s meeting was no exception. The theme was “Martin Night Live” patterned after SNL, with an opening video sequence on the atrium big screen to rival the one you see on SNL. With the right photography, Richmond looks as gritty and cutting edge as the Big Apple. The show’s host was a guy who claimed to be on the GEICO team, having worked with us for 15 years. Say what? I didn’t recognize him or his name and I’ve been with the company for nearly 12 years. Granted, I don’t rub elbows with the creatives on the 2nd floor, but after all these years I have at least picked up the old timers’ names and seen their faces from the staff meetings. But all he had to do was say “A 15 minute phone call can save you $200 or more on your auto insurance” and the crowd went wild. Yep, he is the voice-over guy. I would have expected someone older and not nearly as good looking:

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Andrew did a hilarious monologue, he could be a standup comedian. A group from our Media office in New York came down and did a skit where they made a commercial featuring all of our clients’ slogans (and since “Virginia is for Lovers” was our creation way back when, they made all the slogans end in “{blank} is for Lovers.” Often, someone in the agency with a secret talent is featured and this year we had an opera singer. Rachel Nahrwold didn’t announce her piece but I heard “La Boheme” in the lyrics which I think were French. The tune was familiar, I just don’t know what it was called. We have a house band and they did several holiday numbers. Oliver McCutcheon sang the national anthem in honor of those fighting abroad. There was a Weekend Update skit and several videos. We are good at making fun of ourselves. 

At noon, the annual Blessing of the Animals was held outside the building at the fountain in the cul-de-sac. I have not brought Joey to this event yet, thinking that having him at the office all day  would be distracting (for me) as it’s our busiest time of year. But because we had new carpet installed in our area of the office Thursday night, I had to spend time unpacking my desk and putting everything away after the 2 hour staff meeting. So, it wasn’t the most productive day for me and probably was the one time he should have come. He could use a good blessing, too.

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Susan Greenbaum provided the entertainment. I just love her. She is so tiny yet she can play this huge guitar.

Photos from the event. The lady with the cat is deaf. The cat is a service animal but I didn’t get the details about how the cat assists her.

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This is so cool!

http://www.geogreeting.com/view.html?yrkzzIUryvsnkICa

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Christmas shopping

John and I did our Christmas shopping yesterday. We have to get our California gifts bought early so that we can get them in the mail to arrive in time. We had flurries/no accumulation in the forecast and by the time we were eating dinner at Cheesecake Factory, the snow was coming down pretty good. It was more than flurries and it did stick to our lawn and bushes. I think this is the first time in the 12 years we’ve lived here that we Christmas-shopped in a snow shower.

FYI: Short Pump Cheesecake Factory is already completely out of Pumpkin Cheesecake and they will not get any more in.

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Learned something new

Just when you think you know everything… 🙂

Along comes something new.

In my research yesterday to find out why my vertical photos were displaying horizontally in this blog, I learned that this is a digital camera thing. Pictures you take vertically are actually horizontal, the camera and your photo software display them correctly so you would never know. I never knew, although my little Kodak camera, for a blip of a second, displays the picture horizontally and then quickly rotates it. I assumed that was a quirk of that particular camera. My Digital Rebel displays them vertically. WordPress software (and I don’t know, maybe all blog software?) apparently can’t read the code embedded in the image telling it the picture is vertical, so it displays it as is.

The way to get around this is to save a copy of your photo and upload the copy. Apparently something happens in the copy process that changes the code or something. It is also recommended to change the ppi to 75 while you’re at it, to avoid saving excessively large photos on the server and ultimately eating up your allotted free storage space. I know, I’m guilty. My workflow has been to copy the pictures I want to upload to a special upload folder and then delete them when I’ve done that. I’ve been too lazy to do that extra image-editing step. So I’ll look into creating a Photoshop action or some kind of batch process in Bridge.

If you know more about this than I do, feel free to post a comment and correct me if need be or expand on my explanation.

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On the Saturday before last, I took a machine quilting class at Quilting Adventures and got to meet fellow Cyberbee Julie. Both Julie and I had camera battery issues and a lady graciously agreed to take our picture and email it to me, but so far I haven’t seen it. So I don’t want to delay this post any longer.

The class was taught by Laura Blanchard, who designs for Red Rooster fabrics and has a line of patterns at http://www.plumtreequilts.com/. Red Rooster has all of Jennifer Chiaverini’s Elm Creek stuff and maybe because of that relationship, Laura has a quilt in one of Jennifer’s books. She teaches a lot of classes locally, I think this is the third one I’ve taken from her. She’s an excellent teacher, I heartily recommend her.

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That’s me on the left side and Laura on the right. Next to her is Julie. I felt sorry for Bronwyn, next to me, as she must have been cold. She wore that coat the whole time. Can you imagine machine quilting in a coat? Peeking out behind Linda (in purple) is Phyllis, who joined the Cyberbees after I told her about us.

As I was extolling the virtues of using Crayola Washable Markers for marking designs, it was mentioned that we shouldn’t use red because there’s just something about red that doesn’t want to come out of anything. That was a good reminder that I should have done an experiment with all the colors in my box. Maybe I just got lucky with the purple one.

So I wrote on a scrap of muslin with all the colors in the box:

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I didn’t stitch anything, just took the fabric to the sink and rinsed it with hot water like I’d done before with my quilting samples. The red washed out pretty easily but the one that gave me problems was the orange. I grabbed my bottle of Palmolive and washed the fabric with it. That did the trick:

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Now I must tell you that to the naked eye (my naked eye anyway) all the markings are gone. But when I brought this “after” photo into Photoshop CS3 and played around with brightness and contrast, I was shocked to see that I could still (barely) read the word orange. I went back to my light box and I swear I couldn’t see it. I held it up to the window, I couldn’t see it. Although I would caution you to test any of these markers on a scrap of your fabric first, I would probably only use the orange if it was the only one I had left.

One other thing we did in class that I wanted to try at home is stitching the quilting design through paper. Laura gave us each a little piece of Golden Threads quilting paper, we marked a simple design on it with a fine line Sharpie (Laura says it’s the only pen whose marks won’t get drawn down into your fabric by the thread) and stitched. It was a fine experience but I wondered if tissue paper wouldn’t work just as well. It won’t. I tried it yesterday and it just ripped up as I went along. It wasn’t worth taking a picture, you’ll just have to take my word for it or try it yourself. 🙂

Here is just a little sample of my class work:

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Newseum

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Saturday John and I spent the day in D.C. at Newseum-a museum of the news. It’s a neat place, filled with interactive exhibits, several theaters with short films, artifacts, a food court and restaurant and a memorial to journalists killed in the line of their duty. There is also a “newsroom” where you can stand in front of a blue screen with a microphone, read the news on the teleprompter and go home with a photo or video of your experience.

I would recommend this as a destination if you’re going to Washington. Devote an entire day because there’s a lot to see on 6 (or was it 7?) levels. It’s open 9am-5pm every day (some holidays excepted) and you should get there as close to opening as you can if you want to see everything and get your money’s worth (and it is worth the ticket price). We have an almost 2-hour drive plus 35 minute Metro ride so we got there about 11 because I can’t get John out of the house on a day off much earlier than 8:30. We stayed until closing and didn’t even stop for a lunch break. We took our time and saw nearly everything.

Check out their website: www.newseum.org.

Click on the photos to see them larger.

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This photo was taken from the balcony on the uppermost level. Newseum is on Pennsylvania Avenue, next to the Canadian Embassy.

I found the artifacts fascinating, like this original page from Gutenberg’s Bible. I swear it looks like it was just printed. It’s part of the exhibit on the history of printing and they have actual books on display that are ancient plus original newspapers from around the U.S. that date back a couple of hundred years if not more.

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There is an exhibit entitled “First Dogs.” I just loved this photo:

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There is an exhibit devoted to 9/11. A wall of newspaper front pages from around the nation and the globe:

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There is a film to watch and the antenna or one of the antennas from one of the towers is on display.

There is an actual news helicopter suspended from the ceiling:

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Newspaper headline bloopers (sorry it’s blurry):

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There is an exhibit about the FBI. One display case was about the FBI in modern culture. I used to have this book LOL:

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There is also an exhibit about Pulitzer prize-winning photographs that is very moving. There is a film where the photographers talk about their photos and the stories behind them.

There is sooo much to do and see in the District. It’s a whole ‘nother world up there, not at all like Richmond. But I always enjoy it, riding the Metro is fun. FYI, we’ve tried several different Metro stations, but our favorite is Springfield/Franconia. It’s the beginning of the blue line on the south side of D.C. which means you have to plan for a long ride into the city but it’s easy to get to and the parking is easy.

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