the mountainfolk of wal mart

Long entry today, some boring some not. Hit it:

This weekend I up and torrent’d the entire Dick’s Picks series, which I already own, but figured would take longer to rip than just download. I wonder if that’s illegal? Likely so. Anyway, now that my “big storage” has evolved to 3/4 of a terabyte, I don’t mind holding multiple gigs of Dead shows – it was harder to stomach previously when >10% of my entire drive was live Dead shows. The Dead have always been pretty progressive with their intellectual property: allowing taping, abiding trading tents, restoring and releasing live shows on CD and radio broadcasts, etc. They even offer digital downloads on their website, in multiple formats – including FLAC and WMA-lossless. Pretty much anything you can buy, you can download (prices are equivalent to buying the actual discs). Not bad dead, hopefully we’ll see more of this. I’d honestly think I’d be more likely to purchase digital copies of albums than buy CDs – maybe it’s because online money seems all “virtual” and just spends easy…

New dads out out there, especially those of little girls, I got a question for ya: How’d you get back into… taking care of business? I mean, dang… the third trimester was… slow, at best; and the doctors, in their infinite wisdom, mandate a six week moratorium post-baby. So, how? How? When? Where? For crap’s sake, I have trouble when the cat saunters into my action – I can just feel those judgemental green eyes on me whenever she’s in the room. Aware of even cat eyes, you can imagine what having an infant daughter in the house is like – it’s just not fair. I’m reminded of the opening scene from American Beauty: a father, starting off his day in the way I’m sure many fathers occasionally do… at least that gives me hope that one day I’ll learn to live within these strange new boundaries which have been imposed upon me. There, I wrote around the whole thing – had that drafted for a couple weeks and was just trying to find a less-sensational way to do it. I think I managed it, eh?

This weekend, I lost a good bit of the hate I’ve been harboring in my heart for Wal Mart. I hate Wal Mart, get the “creepies” simply walking those carny-filled aisles, staring up at the double-overhead stacks of cheap, Made in China, merchandise. I’d be willing to wager that even the Wal Marts in the Hamptons is full of gut-over-pantline, sparsely-toothed, barefoot mountainfolk (I don’t know what “mountains” have to do with this, but the word “mountainfolk” was too awesome not to get into this sentence). Anyway, let’s move off my hatred (lest it return with a vengeance), and get onto my newfound appreciation for the small-business-raping beast.

Sharaun and I have several family members who are computer… challenged. All the digital pictures in the world mean nothing to someone who can’t check e-mail. These people can’t be bothered to log onto the internet, they’re probably too busy getting up to flip their LPs over, filling their iceboxes from the truck that comes by, and hauling their wash back and forth to the stream. Making fun of old-timers aside, it really is a shame that we couldn’t get some visual aids to our kin, and I figured, in this digital age, there must be a way to transmute these new-fangled “paperless daguerreotypes” into something our dinosaur relatives could enjoy. Wal Mart to the rescue! Wal Mart allowed us to upload pictures of our choosing and print them at any store across this great nation. Our e-nothing family could then crank over the horseless carriage, strap on their motoring goggles, and sputter right in and pick them up – pre-paid for by us. The prints are excellent, and the price is right. Using Wal Mart’s handy service, we were able to get photos in the hands of our family in hours, thus moving Keaton from their imaginations right onto their refrigerators.

Wal Mart, I take back (some) of those nasty things I said about you. Who cares if you smell like Filet-o-Fish because there are McDonalds’s inside of you? And, where in the rule book does it say cashiers should be able to make complete sentences with their mouths? Nowhere, that’s where. Anyway, I hope you’ll forgive me… I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t buy 1000 nightlights for 17¢.

Wait wait wait – I started this whole “we can print pictures from Wal Mart” deal to talk about some great new software I found. Let me explain: when there’s not enough natural light for photos, most people like to use the flash. I hate the flash on my camera, it’s too “flashy,” and paints the photos in some eerie, undead glow. So, I tend to turn on all the artificial lights in the room and take the photos in manual mode at a higher ISO speed equivalency. This works great, but the indoor lights tend to make the photos yellow (a white-balancing issue). I used to live with this, because the yellow tint isn’t all that unattractive, I had no idea how to fix it, and it’s still worlds better than the flash. Just recently, I discovered the “tungsten” white-balance setting on my camera. This special white-balancing mode for indoor, tungsten-type, bulbs completely eliminates the yellow tinge to my flashless photos. Using manual mode with white-balance in tungsten mode, and the ISO speed set to 400 – I can take great flashless photos that mimic natural light and are well balanced in terms of color. This makes me extremely happy.

Wait wait wait – I started this whole “I found the right way to white-balance” deal so I could talk about some great new software I found. Since Sharaun had grown tired of yellow-tinted baby photos, the tungsten-balancing was just what I needed to appear a baby-documenting genius. Problem solved for the future, I now wanted to try and address the yellowy images we’d already taken. Used to be, back in the day before I got clean, I’d use my pirated copy of Adobe Photoshop and choose “auto levels” and “auto contrast” to do quick fixes on poorly shot photographs. However, since I went all freeware and open-source, I don’t have a “one click” photo fixit app. Enter the app that spurred the last four paragraphs of tangential blather: PhotoFiltre. Talk about a full-featured photo editing application, this thing does things both novices and experts would expect to pay dollars for – and it’s completely free for personal/non-commercial use. Installing it merely for its automatic level/contrast controls – I was blown away by what all it could do. If you’re looking for a nice, free photo retouch/editing tool (not necessarily a Photoshop replacement, for that use the GIMP) – this is it.

By the way (nerd stuff ahead), that “Dave goes freeware” thread I linked above is pretty out of date. CDBurnerXP Pro is still great, but the Cheetah software is probably just as nice and slicker looking. There’s now a completely viable free alternative to Norton Ghost by way of DriveImage XML installed on a WinPE bootable disc (try Bart’s WinPE) – although TrueImage is still good if you want to make runtime backups. And, turns out the K-Lite stuff has some bootlegged junk in it, but it doesn’t matter because you don’t need it if you run VLC Media Player. And FileZilla is better than WSFTP LE. So, there you go – a little freeware update for the conscientious nerds out there.


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2 Replies to “the mountainfolk of wal mart”

  1. Another interesting thing about most higher-end digi cams is that they also let you do a custom white balance as well. Just fill the frame with a white object (i.e. piece of paper or cloth) and set the white balance to that and you’ve got the proper color balancing for that particular lighting scenario. You can do a lot of photography lighting effects from within your camera by playing with the white balance.

    BTW, your mom’s comment was the best ever! LOL =)

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