Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The End of a Fish Tale

This morning, in typical fashion, our silver tabby, enjoyed his favorite pastime, watching our goldfish, Gil.

I recently received a Nokia Lumia Icon from Verizon Wireless, and took the opportunity to record a video of them together, then shared it on Facebook.



It turned out to be the last video taken of him while he was alive, because Gil died tonight. He was 17 years old.

He came to our home in a bag filled with 25-cent feeder goldfish we purchased to feed our pet tiger salamander. 

It all began when our oldest son, Andrew, was in the seventh grade, and decided he wanted to create a “stream” as a biology project. We started with a single tank, rocks, sand, and a pump to create a waterfall and eventually had three fish tanks populated with frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, snails and more!

Then unexpectedly, the salamander metamorphosed from aquatic to terrestrial, and would no longer feed under water.

And when that happened, we had one feeder fish left — Gil.


Gil was a survivor. On February 28, 2001, the Nisqually earthquake shook Seattle. Gil, our dog Rusty, and I were in the kitchen as cabinet doors flew open, light fixtures swayed and the house shook. Water from Gil’s bowl splashed its way onto the counter and into the silverware drawer.

He survived the introduction of two kittens to our household. Hunter had no interest in him, but Grey decided Gill was the most fascinating show on Cat-TV.

Gil lived through Andrew’s four-year absence at West Point, and deployments to Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and South Korea. And he lived long enough to see our youngest son, Charley, graduate from the University of Washington, and move out on his own. 

Gil greeted each day with enthusiasm. He wasn’t fancy, but he was quite handsome when the sun glittered on his orange scales.

It's kind of weird to feel sad about a goldfish, but I am. I'm grateful to him for providing us with his cheerful presence the past 17 years. 

Rest in peace, Gil.
March 24, 2014



Friday, January 31, 2014

Seattle-landia


Seattle is nestled between two incredibly beautiful mountain ranges and bordered by Elliott Bay.

Seattle is innovative. Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstrom, UPS, Microsoft, Costco, REI, Boeing and many other companies, began here.

It's a big city, but it is still a place where people wait for the light to turn green before they cross the street.



Waiting for the light to turn green on Denny St. in Seattle by Terri Nakamura

I don’t think of Seattle as a trendy place, but I do have friends who have to jump on every new thing,

When Rolfing was in, they were Rolfed. Eggs and butter were banished for years. When low-carb diets were de rigueur, they eschewed bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. When colonics came along, they had their innards flushed. Personal trainers, massages, French manicures, vegan or raw diets, yoga, Pilates, spinning, rock climbing...the list goes on.

Maybe my standards are too low, but I’m basically happy with the way I am. Alone among my friends, I don’t dye my hair. And sure, who wouldn’t love to lose 10 pounds? I tried the Atkins Diet for a few months, but it proved to be too much for me to stick with it.

Recently I had lunch with a friend who follows whatever direction the wind blows.

We met at the Hi Spot, a favorite Seattle breakfast place once featured in a Good Morning America commercial. My standard order, the Northwest omelette with country fries and homemade whole wheat toast, arrived. She ordered soup.

Currently she's on a “raw” diet. She told me how much better she feels and about the weight she's lost. 
I think she was famished. She polished off her (not raw) soup in minutes. 

She told me how much she likes colonics, and described the facility she visits—lined with bays where people have their guts power washed, side-by-side, separated by curtains.

Thought to self: Do we really need to be discussing colonics during lunch?

As she watched me eat, I offered to share my meal. We continued talking as she helped herself to part of my omelette and some home fries. Thought to self: She is delusional.

I felt like I was living an episode of Portlandia.

But that’s Seattle.




Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Seattle Needs Ride Sharing



The City of Seattle is in the process of deciding whether or not to eliminate ride-sharing services such as Über, Lyft and Sidecar.

Is that a good thing?

If you've ever watched Portlandia, you have an idea of what it's like to live 200 miles north. Seattle is very open and progressive, but at the same time it feels the need to regulate almost everything. Our City Council can get bogged down on inane issues, such as spitting in public parks.

However, when communication delivery shifted from print to the web, would it have made sense for the Seattle City Council to regulate online information sources in order to keep local  printers in business? Of course not.

Which brings us back to getting around town.

The taxi industry is in revolt over the unfairness of competing with ride-sharing enterprises. Taxis are subjected to layers of regulation, where ride-sharing entities are not. It makes sense to analyze the different requirements for ride sharing and taxis, and do what is reasonable to level the playing field.

But another part of the equation is that the taxi industry hasn't adapted to change. It's difficult to compete with Über, which lives on smartphones, and for a reasonable cost, provides instant communication, safety, and timely responses to its customers.

Instead of discouraging new, faster and cheaper ways to get around, shouldn't Seattle be looking at ways to improve options for consumers, cultivate employment, and identify ways to bolster local government through the taxes it collects?

Seattle is a welcoming environment for people of all stripes. It is an incubator of innovation. Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Costco and many other trailblazing companies began here. And some have crushed, or at least dented, their competitors. 

I think ride-sharing services should be allowed to operate. Having said that, I'd like to add they should be subject to oversight, be licensed, insured, and pay taxes.

To survive, a business needs to be nimble. It may be time for taxi companies to evaluate their business models to compete with ride sharing. It could be a win-win for all.

Do you have ride sharing in your city? What do you think?

To see Conan and the stars of "Ride Along" use "Lyft," click the link below:



Above: Robert Deniro in Taxi Driver via Columbia Pictures Corporation 



Thursday, October 31, 2013

Technology to Love or Loathe



I'm a long-time consumer of new technology, which is unusual since I'm old enough to be the mom of a huge percentage of people on social media!

Many of my peers are befuddled by technology and social media. Some have joined Facebook and Twitter and now blog, and some are now using tablets, smart phones and e-readers. I have been often asked for help and advice.

This year I've had the opportunity to access new products, from portable drives to smart phones, back up batteries and gadgets. 

Some have been amazing and great; others have been okay, and yet others have been disappointing.

I'm writing this recap of some products I've either purchased, funded, or have been given to test this year. I hope you find some of my opinions useful!

Samsung Galaxy S4
photo: Verizon
Smart phones:
I'm a long-time iPhone user (currently using the iPhone5), but recently was given the chance to use the Samsung Galaxy S4. It was my first encounter with the Android operating system. 

Those already familiar with Android will find it to be a terrific phone, and if you are into social media, (FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) the apps are a snap to use.

Our oldest son has one and loves it. The camera shoots photos with clarity and true color, and for viewing media, the screen is huge. I use my phone as my camera, so I was impressed with the quality of images I shot with this device. Also, the Android Play Store has a ton of applications available. But would I recommend it to my friends? Most of my friends are 40 and older. Even though it is a terrific device, it's really for tech- and Android- savvy people. It is less intuitive, and I think many of them would find it challenging to use. 

LG G2
photo: Verizon
The second phone I've been testing is the LG G2. It's another phone based on the Android operating system, but for some weird reason, It is much more user friendly. Part of it is because it offers tips that explain how to do things—usually as you are in the midst of tapping, swiping and otherwise trying to figure out how to do something. You read the tip in context of your actions, and can choose to never see it again, or allow it to pop up again if you find yourself in the same place. There are tons of great features about this phone, including the camera, which is 13 megapixels (MP). Thirteen MP cameras sell for $230 to $1900. Of course a camera phone doesn't have the variable controls of a real camera, but wow—the LG G2 has some pretty amazing features. Would I recommend this to my friends? If they are at all tech-savvy, I would say yes. 

PowerBlock
photo: Griffin
Battery back up:
I'm one of those people who feels nervous as my phone battery approaches the 20 percent mark. So I've been a long-time user of back up batteries.

The first I used is the Griffin PowerBlock, for around $50. The great thing about this battery is, it's TINY. You can keep it in your purse or pocket and attach it to your iPhone when your battery is low. It didn't fully recharge my phone, but got me through some close "calls" (so to speak). It's not a serious battery, but good in a pinch. I can recommend it on that basis.

The second, third and fourth are manufactured by NewTrent. 

iMirror
photo: New Trent
The first New Trent battery was the iMirror (6000mAh) Heavy Duty 2A/1A Dual USB port battery. It's fantastic. So great, in fact, that I purchased several and still use one and gave two to family members. It would fully recharge my iPhone three or more times, and the dual USB ports meant it could also recharge my iPad. It is relatively small (about the size of an iPhone 4S). In terms of power, it can provide you with about 26 hours of video playback (movie) time. I paid around $80 each at the time, but you can now find them on Amazon for $38. Would I recommend this to my friends? Yes, but New Trent has a newer model that is less expensive and has more power. (see below)

iCarrier
photo: New Trent
The second battery pack, the iCarrier Heavy Duty Dual USB 5V/3A (12000mAh)was given to me by New Trent as the random winner for a blog post comment. It's a stronger battery that can recharge your phone up to six times, and also allows recharging of both phones and tablets. The problem I have with it is, it's big. I mean, thicker clunkier and heavier. Plus it has an auto-shut off to prevent overcharging your device—which is good and bad. It means it might recharge to 99 percent instead of 100 before shutting down. Would I recommend it? Sure. But just recognize it is a bigger, fatter battery, so make sure you have a big purse! 
PowerPak 10.0
photo: New Trent

The Powerpak 10.0 Dual USB (10000mAh) is the third New Trent battery I bought. This is a terrific battery priced at $36.95 on Amazon. This battery provides the equivalent of 43 hours of video playback and is slightly thicker than an iPhone 5 in a Speck case. its height and width are smaller than either the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the LG G2 — in other words, highly portable. It can recharge your phone up to 5 times. This has been an amazing battery. 

GADGETS

A couple of cool things I've been given to try include the Belkin NetCam and the Belkin Wemo Switch. Wow. Both of them have been terrific! Both have apps available that you install on your smart phone, and you can control them from wherever you are.

Belkin Netcam HD Wi-fi Camera
Belkin Netcam HD
photo: Terri Nakamura
The Belkin Netcam HD Wi-fi Camera with Night Vision came in really handy recently when I was on vacation in Hawaii. Even though our 26-year-old son was housesitting, he would forget to turn on lights. I was able to check in via the camera and see it was 9 PM and the house was dark. I texted him, "Did you remember to turn the lights on in the dining room?" and he would text back, "Are you watching us on the camera?!" You can set it up to message you if it detects motion. And the night vision is very cool. In pitch-blackness, you can see what is going on from wherever you are. I think this is a really nifty thing to use for home security, or if you're curious to see what your pets are up to while you're at work!  

Belkin Wemo Switch
Belkin Wemo Switch
photo: Terri Nakamura
A terrific adjunct to the Belkin Netcam is the Belkin Wemo Switch. Let me just say, I plugged it in to an upstairs lamp, and seeing the downstairs was dark, was able to at least turn on a light upstairs, all by using my iPhone.

The beauty of both Belkin devices is, you can have multiple devices set up around your home and control them with your phone. I think it's a good value at about $50. 

The Ready Case
Ready Case
photo: Ready Case
The Ready Case is something I funded on Indiegogo. I opted for the 16-gigabyte (GB) version. You're probably wondering why I would need to specify GBs for a phone case? The reason is, the Ready Case offers a lot of features, kind of like a Swiss Army Knife, and it includes a USB flash memory stick that doubles as a stand, several lenses (macro, wide and fisheye), and a combo blade, screwdriver and bottle opener. CRAZY, huh?

I liked the concept of it a LOT, which is why I funded it. But once I had it in my hand, I had problems with it. I loved the memory stick, but had a lot of trouble removing and replacing it. And as far as the multi-purpose blade, I don't know what happened, but it fell off and it's now lost. The case itself leaves an exposed area on the back of the iPhone, which made me feel nervous. It was an opportunity for the phone to be scratched or damaged. The lenses were very cool, though! As much as I love the concept, I don't recommend it. 

3-in-1 Universal USB Charging Cable
3-in-1 Universal Cable
photo: StackSocial
Twice I've been able to buy this nifty 3-in-1 universal USB cable through StackSocial. At $19, it's terrific because it works with iPhone and Android devices, and is even compatible with the older Apple devices requiring the 30-pin connectors. It could be available elsewhere, but I've found some great deals through StackSocial, so check them out for future opportunities to buy this cable! 

I've funded a variety of projects on Kickstarter, too. You can check them out, and feel free to ask me about them!

Do you wait to adopt, or are you on the bleeding edge? What are your favorite new devices and gadgets? I'd love to know what you're using; what works, and what doesn't!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Gamification of Social Media?


Why I think Empire Avenue is a legitimate tool.

More than two years ago I began playing Empire Avenue, a social media game where players invest in each other similar to how one would invest in the stock market. It's been a long journey of learning and fun. During that time I've made many new friends, gained a tiny bit of insight into factors that affect the real stock market, and learned how to help influence what happens in the social sphere. 

Created in 2010, there was a great deal of excitement when Empire Avenue made its splash into the social media mainstream in the spring of 2011. Well-known people in social media jumped in, and many are still active players.

Last year some of them stopped. One player told me he thought it took too much time.  And certainly in the beginning, it could be time-consuming. Others could never really figure out how to play, and although they are still there, their accounts are dormant. 

As Empire Avenue has continued to evolve from strictly a social media stock market game to a social media tool, some perceived Empire Avenue in a negative way.

This new perception came about with the advent of "missions," which offers rewards to players who complete tasks.

Some people perceive missions as "buying influence." But some of these same people are also buying followers and retweets on Twitter; likes on Facebook, Googleplus and Instagram; and any number of other actions that can be purchased using sites like Fiverr.

Here's is an example of Fiverr:  http://bit.ly/199aVe6

There are players with armies of fake accounts they deploy to amplify their own content to make it seem like their content is popular. I've actually seen it happen and asked one well-known person what was up? He never responded.

And why is it okay to buy likes, followers and retweets, or to maintain a bunch of fake accounts, but it's not okay to be perfectly transparent in asking people — real people — to view, like, comment on or share your content?

Billion-dollar companies including Intel and Nokia are using Empire Avenue to increase engagement. I have used Empire Avenue to direct interest to my photos on GooglePlus and Facebook. Some of the people who have completed my missions become "sticky," meaning—they actually come back to view my content on their own steam, without being rewarded. This conversion occurred because they could see my content was good. But they might not have discovered it without Empire Avenue.

I had a terrific conversation about some of these topics with Reg Saddler, (Forbes Most Influential People on Social Media Top 10 List 2011), and John Aguiar (Forbes Most Influential People on Social Media Top 50 List 2013). One thing we agreed on was, retweets don't mean much unless they drive traffic.

So in this regard, I believe anyone who is interested in building a social media presence, or directing attention to a cause, or amplifying their own, or others' content, Empire Avenue is a great tool. 

Just as Triberr asks everyone in each tribe to retweet a new blog post, Empire Avenue gives people the ability to do the same. The big difference is, almost no one on Triberr ever reads the blogs they retweet. But the players on Empire Avenue who are asked to read and comment on a blog post, actually read and comment. Sometimes they even subscribe — because they WANT to.

I think Empire Avenue is a legitimate way to generate interest in social media content, Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaigns, or to educate people about Alzheimers, autism, cancer research and more. 

To those who have turned away from it, I think it would be worthwhile to revisit it. 

But only if you want real people engaging in — and amplifying — your content.

———


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Miss Manners


When it comes to navigating the social maze, it helps to know someone who is omniscient.

After college, I had a roommate we affectionately called "Truck." 

Truck was petite and pretty, and had the most insanely beautiful eyes in the world.

Being a New Yorker, and having been raised by a very proper Austrian mother, Truck knew everything about correct behavior. When she moved to Seattle, she was much more sophisticated than anyone in our group of laid-back Seattle friends. It was like she was adult and the rest of us were still figuring things out.

And she knew obscure things for someone our age to know: She knew an oriental rug should have a pad; she knew burned food was carcinogenic; she knew how to COOK.  Her mom worked for a major publishing house in New York, so she was very well read. She had impeccable manners and a vast knowledge of etiquette. 

When we worked on a magazine together, some of the guys in our office called her Miss Manners. She took it all in good stride.

My parents taught me what was proper behavior—to always write thank you notes when a gift or courtesy was extended; table manners; to show respect, etc. But some other useful things my parents didn't think I needed to know, I learned from Truck.

In thinking of how much she taught me during our friendship, I realized sometimes it takes someone like Truck to teach you what is the right thing to do. Without the Trucks of the world, people haplessly make mistakes and sometimes even offend people simply because they don't know any better.

With information so readily accessible, one might think people in general would have a greater awareness, but sadly it seems to be just the opposite. It's appalling to send a wedding gift to someone and not receive even an email to say thanks. Or throwing dinner party and getting crickets when it comes to acknowledging the time, trouble and expense incurred on their behalf.

Maybe it's because some people feel they are entitled to all they receive and are under no obligation to acknowledge it.

It truly is a mystery to me.

Everyone enjoys being thanked. It is a matter of good manners. Truck knew all.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Instagram Shots — Before and After

I love Instagram, the smart phone app! It is one of the coolest social media platforms as it allows us to express who we are through the photos we take.

Through Instagram’s built-in filters and additional applications, it’s possible for an average person to look like a professional photographer. It’s great to see your images come to life!


Also, Instagram is a terrific social channel for discovering people and communicating with them. You can participate by posting photos; by following the photo streams of other users; by liking and commenting; or simply participate as a spectator. In any case, you will be treated to new and interesting photos every moment of the day, and can converse with people, unhampered by a 140 character limit.

Having spent a great deal of my life standing beside photographers as I direct photo shoots, it’s a lot of fun to actually be the shooter. I’ve not read any “how-tos” regarding Instagram, and came about the following suggestions through trial and error. So, I’m by no means an expert. But if you consider a few of the following tips, you could end up with even cooler pictures than you would otherwise.



What should you shoot?

You can shoot anything and everything. A couple of people I follow post ONLY photos of their pets. Some people shoot pictures of food. One friend shot an amazing series of African violets. It can be anything you like — family photos, pictures from your vacation, social gatherings, pets, cityscapes, found objects — really, the sky’s the limit!

When I’m out and about each day, whether it is heading to a parking lot after a meeting, shopping for groceries, or just going for a walk, I have my iPhone in my pocket. And if I see something that strikes me, I’ll stop and snap a photo.

Instagram has caused me to view the world in a completely new way, because all around us there are interesting things.  I’m a firm believer that almost every average-quality photo, even of the most mundane subjects, can be processed into something pretty nice on Instagram.



Shoot images that are in focus.

Most photos will look best if they are in focus and at least somewhat well lit. When a photo is blurry or too dark, sometimes cool effects can result, but often it just looks like a dark, blurry, grainy picture.

It’s easy to throw something OUT of focus on Instagram, but you can’t really make a blurry photo sharp.

To focus on the iPhone, tap the area of the screen you want to be sharp. The camera focus box will appear, and the lens will adjust.  If you are shooting with the benefit of a tripod or mount, or by resting your phone against a solid, plumb surface, like a table or wall, your shots will be in focus. If your shots are hand-held, the key is to be as still as you can. If you anchor your biceps against your body then hold your breath when you shoot, it improves the chances of a sharp picture.

A sub-category of shooting sharp, in-focus photos, is shooting straight. For example, when you shoot a lake, and the horizon line is leaning a bit, it can look odd. The same goes with buildings. So if you find you can’t shoot a straight picture, skew the angle on purpose. It can result in some great photos, and purposely tilting the shot releases you from trying to establish a parallel line.

Because this picture was in focus, nice details in the leaves and colors could be enhanced.
Even a puddle, if it’s in focus, can turn into something nice.
This image was in focus and well lit, so looked good with no filter.
Lighting Considerations.

Because Instagram has incorporated the ability to correct lighting, you can take under- or over-exposed photos and still make them work.

It’s possible to save a lot of dark photos with Instagram’s brightness adjustment, but it’s helpful if you have some highlight and shadow detail in the first place. If you shoot during the day with available light, you’ll probably be fine. At night you might find your images become grainy. I’m not crazy about the way photos look with a flash, so I usually try to shoot with available light, even at dusk. But this application is so forgiving, that even if you don’t start out with a reasonable shot, you can often adjust it to work.

It looked like there wasn’t enough light in this photo, but the filter enhanced the sky and building details.
This shot was washed out with too much light, but the saturation was adjusted in Instagram.
Shot at dusk, the building looked dark and flat, but the detail was enhanced through filtering.







 Shoot wide.

This is one of the options I frequently ask of any of the professional photographers I hire. Normally I’ll ask for a range from close-up to wide, horizontal and vertical, but by shooting wide, it gives you the flexibility to find a good crop in most any shape. Instagram for the most part is a square. I almost always start with a vertical picture because it’s my preference. Having room around the “live area” of the photo means flexibility in cropping, which can often save a mediocre or crummy photo.

Basically a pretty dark and junky shot, but cleaned up okay once it was cropped and filtered.

The rogue yellow daisy diverted attention from this amazing flower. Lit well, this required no filter. 
I cropped out the train cars in the distance to emphasize the dynamic lines of the tracks.


Enlargement and Cropping and filters

The final piece of advice is to look at images in a new way by experimenting by enlarging and cropping your images. If a photo is boring, see if there is part of the image that is salvageable, or if there are extraneous things in the shot that detract from the photo, get rid of them. Sometimes you know exactly which filter you want to use and other times, it’s fun to try the image with different filters to see what you will find.

This original looked hopeless, but the flag was usable. Combined with this filter, it looked vintage.
Cropped so the focus was on the logo on this vintage fire truck instead of the building around it.
This tree was neat, but had unattractive junk around it. A tight crop saved it.

Are you ready?

Having offered the preceding suggestions, I really don’t think there is a right or wrong way to shoot photos for Instagram. Some of the weirdest pictures can become wonderful. Just enjoy the surprises you discover once you’re processing your photos, then share them for others to enjoy!

Do you have a favorite filter, or favorite auxiliary application to use with Instagram? I would love to hear what they are!

Happy Instagramming!

——————

You can find me on instagram at: ink361.com/terrinakamura

Let me know you found me on this blog post and I'll be sure to follow you back!