December 2007


Click “more” to see a list of all of the interesting web sites I found this week. I keep track of my favorite sites using del.icio.us, a free web site where you can access your favorite links from any computer and share them with friends. You can also see all of my favorite links (not just the ones from this week).

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Ever since I got a digital camera, I’ve been searching out efficient tools for managing and processing all of the pictures we take. Considering how poorly I’ve been doing at updating the kids gallery lately (or *not* updating it, if you want to look at it that way), you might think I’ve been doing a rather poor job of searching, but that’s beside the point. For quite a while now I’ve been using several small programs to do various tasks. I had one that had a nice interface for cropping, another that had a good tool for resizing, and several more for other small tweaks. That was working pretty well, but it was a bit of a hassle to have to move through several tools in order to get things done.

A few days ago, though, I found a single tool that does almost all of what I need to do, and that tool is the FastStone Image Viewer. It loads quickly and has a fairly straightforward user interface. Both the cropping tool and the resizing tool are nice, and it does lossless JPEG rotation, including automatic rotation based on the EXIF tag. I’ve been able to remove four separate tools and replace them all with this one. I still use Lightroom for my RAW images, but the FastStone Image Viewer is the only tool I need for basic operations on JPEG images. The program is free for personal use, but I went ahead and purchased a commercial license for it anyway because I appreciate what the author is doing.

Charis has four manger scenes that we set out at Christmas (we seem to add at least one more each year). She asked me to play manger with her the other morning, and the picture below is what we came up with. She wanted to get all of the figurines from two complete manger sets all onto one small cardboard stable. She kept rearranging everything for about five minutes in an attempt to get everyone on the board. Near the end of her arranging, she said, “This chicken needs to be next to the tiny baby Jesus,” and then moved Joseph away to make room for the chicken. When she was finally finished, she looked over her work and said, “Dad, this manger is really, really crowded.” And I guess she was right.

Crowded Manger

Crowded Manger Overhead

Click “more” to see a list of all of the interesting web sites I found this week. I keep track of my favorite sites using del.icio.us, a free web site where you can access your favorite links from any computer and share them with friends. You can also see all of my favorite links (not just the ones from this week).

(more…)

Joy and I saw a production of “A Christmas Carol” last week, performed by the theater department at the nearby university. This is the third show we’ve seen there (previous shows were “Into The Woods” and “Honky Tonk Angels”), and each of them has been incredibly professional and well done. This particular production featured quite a few actual Christmas carols sung by the performers between parts of the traditional story, which was kind of neat. It was enlightening to see a fairly faithful retelling of the original story, especially in light of the severely dumbed-down Disney and Muppet versions that have taken over television in more recent times. The story is really quite a powerful and emotionally engaging tale of redemption, and a needed reminder of Christ’s coming to redeem us in the midst of the commercialism of the Christmas season. I’m really glad I had the chance to see it.

When we celebrated my birthday a few days ago (32!) Charis was pretty excited about everything. She and Joy baked me a cake, which Charis chose to decorate with blue icing and lots of dinosaur sprinkles, because she figured daddy would definitely like dinosaurs. When it was time to open presents, Charis asked if she could help me open them. While she was tearing off the paper she said “This is fun!”, and then once we had all the paper removed and the box was revealed, she excitedly said, “Oh, dad, I think you got a package!” After I opened the box she asked, “Can I get in it?”, because for some reason the crazy kid really likes to stand or sit in boxes. Who can explain it. So considering how excited Charis was to open someone else’s presents, I think she’ll have a pretty good time on Christmas. :-)

Joy and I went to see an Anuna concert a few weeks ago. They are a Celtic group that I had never heard of until they were one of the events in our season subscription. As it turned out, they were really good. The group is made up of about 15 singers, pretty evenly split between men and women, and four instrumentalists (guitar, harp, violin, and percussion). They don’t perform only traditional Celtic music, but also medieval and sacred works in various languages. I’ve always wondered how this kind of music would be performed live, and apparently this is how you do it (and do it well).

Some of the pieces were stunningly beautiful. “Marble Halls”, “Pie Jesu”, and “Greensleeves” were particularly good, but the highlight was “Jerusalem”. For “Jerusalem”, five female vocalists came down from the stage and positioned themselves around the lower floor of the theater, spread throughout the audience. Then they sang in what can best be described as a kind of round, while walking slowly around the theater aisles (not in a circle or anything, just kind of randomly). The unamplified voices swirled and soared, completely surrounding you with voices from every direction. I think that was possibly the most ethereal, beautiful music I have ever heard performed live. Really, it was truly amazing. If you ever have the chance, Anuna is a concert you don’t want to miss.

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