Meet Me On the Veranda

The combination of old shingles and some recent storms with very high winds led to many of Permian Basin area home with roofing problems.   Although we couldn’t detect the damage, it seems that we were among those.

But it seems that the timing was fortunate — having just finished our master bath renovation about 3 weeks ago, our ever-reliable contractor Truett was available to tackle another project that Dede has wanted to do for several years.   We decided that this would be a good time to cover our patio so the roofing work on that could be done at the same time as the new shingles are being installed on the rest of the house.   Yup, so even while we’re still rebounding & cleaning up from the bathroom redo, we’ve launched into yet another large home improvement project.

Here’s a pre-construction shot of our back yard with the then-uncovered patio:

Backyard patio photo

And here’s a peek at the first day’s progress:

patio cover construction

It’s at odd times like these that my inner nerd kicks in and I start wondering about silly things like the term "patio."   A little Googling revealed that patio is a Spanish word originating in the 1800s that typically refers to a courtyard or paved area adjoining a house.   I also learned that, since we’re covering our patio, it’s now more appropriately considered a "veranda."   While it sounds like a Spanish word — especially when I use my best Antonio Banderas voice — veranda is actually a term imported from India that refers to a gallery or porch with a roof supported by columns.

I like the sound of that.   Veranda.   Who knew we were so multicultural?

I’ll post more photos as this project progresses, but in the meantime, you can peruse our 2Dolphins Resort & Spa page for revealing looks at most of the other areas of our house & ongoing home improvement efforts.
 

Word Up!

Thanks to Brian over at The Cheek of God, I discovered a nifty & free little web-based “toy” by Jonathan Feinberg called Wordle.

Wordle generates very snazzy “word clouds”—a visual depiction that gives greater weight or prominence to words that appear more frequently in the provided source text—and lets you tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, color schemes, & more. It may seem like just a fun time-waster at first blush, but I think you can glean a bit of useful insight with this tool; since it prominently highlights your most commonly-used words, you may discover some interesting vocabulary trends within your writings.

I plugged in a sampling of 2Dolphins posts from the past 2-3 months and here’s the interesting result:

2Dolphins word cloud from Wordle

This reminds me of the Which Words Do You Own? study that I submitted our blog to last year. It’s interesting to see the difference in the word cloud from back then vs. this current one from Wordle.

Tuesdays Are Twos Days

Several readers seemed to like the free applets that I featured in my recent Twofer Tuesday Utility post, so here are two more handy utilities that just might make your day. This time, I’m highlighting a couple of great web-based graphics-editing applications that I’ve been using lately:

  • Picnik logoPicnik is a free web-based application that’ll help you create masterpieces from your digital photographs. After you complete the easy sign up, simply click upload photo from your local hard drive or open your photos from one of the several photo sharing sites that are supported.

    One of the most exciting & useful features of Picnik is that it allows you to crop an photo without distorting the original image proportions. Why’s that worth getting revved up about? Well, that means you can start with an image that’s 400 x 300 px, crop out the portions of the photo you don’t need, and still end up with a 400 x 300 px image. That’s perfect for projects where you need to keep image sizes consistent—like blog posts, for example. This feature isn’t even available in most retail graphics & photo editing packages!

  • Dumpr logoDumpr offers a small collection of (mostly) free web-based photo effects tools. While I can’t vouch for exactly how practical or useful these effects tools will be, they are addictive, fun, & easy-to-use applications that will let you do some very creative things with your digital photos.

    My favorite of these is Museumr which lets you stick your own photo into an art gallery in a modern museum (See below!).   Some of the photo effects available are a tool to insert your snapshot into a paparazzi-inspired scene, create a Rubik’s Cube, change a photo into a pencil sketch, make a jigsaw puzzles, wrap an image around and much more!

Painting of Dede & Liam

A Journey of Discovery, Revelation, & Trivia

Journey logo

Legendary rock band Journey released a new 3-disc album this week aptly titled that contains a CD of 11 new songs, a CD with 11 re-recorded classics, and a DVD of Journey’s Las Vegas concert in March ’08.

The surprising revelation is that this release features the band’s new lead singer, Arnel Pineda, formerly of the band “The Zoo” from Manila, Philippines.   And amazingly, the talented singer was discovered by Journey’s lead guitarist Neal Schon via a YouTube video!   CBS aired the amazing story of the Arnel Pineda’s unconventional discovery on their Sunday Morning show last weekend.

What may be most amazing is just how much Pineda’s soaring tenor captures not only the sound of Journey’s most well-known frontman, Steve Perry, but also much of the same texture & character.   Some say that Pineda lacks Perry’s fire on some of the re-recorded classics but they sound great to me and his vocals definitely shine on most of the 11 new tracks.   Regardless, the similarity of the two singers is uncanny.   I’d wager that most people won’t catch that the new songs are not sung by Steve Perry on the first few listens.   What, not convinced?   Compare the following classic hits as performed then vs. now:

  Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) – 1982

  Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) – 2008

  Faithfully – 1983

  Faithfully – 2008

After hearing those songs, what do ya think?

By the way, I was a huge fan throughout the ’80s and was well-versed on all things Journey, but there’s at least one lingering trivia question I can’t answer:

Their iconic logo first appeared on the Infinity album cover and has carried forward on every album in the 30 years since, but I’ve never heard whose idea it originally was.   Anybody know where or who the scarab-like futuristic insect with bird-like wings logo came from?
 

Makeover Over

shower icon by Simon MirfinDede took the inaugural shower this week in our new master bath!   The renovated bath feels much larger & brighter and we’re really happy with how well the mix of materials complement each other.   Visit the updated Master Bath page for details & photos!

And feel free to roam around on our 2Dolphins Resort & Spa page for other revealing glimpses of our home.
 

Junetipping v2.0

Blogtipping iconWith most of the monthly Blogtipping posts I’ve done, there’s been a central topic or theme to tie together the 3 blogs I’m showcasing.   (It seemed relevant for this past April’s post, for example, to focus on finances for the sake of April 15th a.k.a. "Tax Day.")   However, June’s featured sites don’t really have a unifying theme;   It’s just another grab-bag of assorted, but very worthwhile blogs I’d like to recognize & share:

Glassy Eyes by Ira Mitchell aims to pull the curtain back on the mystifying & monopolistic world of prescription eyeglasses to show you how you can get quality glasses for as little as $20!   (Dede & I hadn’t discovered this blog before we gambled on , but given how well that worked out, I’m likely to try this for myself next time I’m ready for some new specs.)

  1. Ira’s not just talking smack here — he really wears glasses that were purchased online — several pairs, in fact.
  2. He arms you with all the info you need to confidently purchase eyewear online at a fraction of the prices of places like LensCrafters or EyeMasters!
  3. The site is chocked full of research, forums, articles, customer stories, retailer links, & even discount codes!
  • Tip: I’d sure like to see the forums moved from Google Groups to a more capable platform like vBulletin or PHPBB.

[Geeks are Sexy] is a group blog from Canada that focuses on a wide variety of fun technology news.   [GAS] is one of my regular reads because:

  1. Offbeat science & tech news & commentary.
  2. Frequently updated content means there’s always something fresh & interesting to read here.
  3. The website is clean & easy to navigate, but you can also subscribe via email or RSS feed.
  • Tip: Hey Kiltak, maybe you could arrange for more cool freebies like tech vendor swag?

The Art of Manliness calls itself "a blog dedicated to uncovering the lost art of being a man."   Sure enough, it’s an incredible resource for guys — and even has a few things that’ll appeal to gals as well.   There’s lots to like here:

  1. Tons of useful & practical tips & techniques.
  2. Thought-provoking articles with loads of reader comments to keep the conversations going.
  3. I like the classic feel that the old-school artwork & photos give the site’s excellent design.
  • Tip: I can’t think of anything to add — this blog is awesome!

Now it’s your turn!   Have a new blog you’d like to share?   Post a comment!