Birthday Freebies

Every year when my birthday rolls around I try to take advantage of the discounts and free things offered by companies. Not all of these will be available where you live, but this is what was available to me where I live (Southern California).

One important thing I’ve learned from doing this every year is that some businesses want you to sign up long before it’s your birthday, so there’s no time like the present if you have a birthday coming up. If you don’t like getting promotions in email, you can sign up with a throw-away address or use Gmail, which routes incoming marketing emails to a “promotions” tab. So here’s my list (and be sure to scroll down to the end of this post and watch the video of my birthday week haul!):

Denny’s — Free Grand Slam breakfast on your birthday. You will have to show proof (driver’s license) of your age.
IHOP — Free Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘n Fruity or other menu item of equal or lesser value.
Red Robin — Free burger during your birthday month.
TGI Friday’s — Free dessert with purchase of entree.
KFC Polly’s — Free chocolate cake.
Del Taco — Free premium shake.
Famous Dave’s — Buy one entree get one half off.
Baskin Robbins — Free scoop of ice cream or one, 3-ounce soft serve swirl.
Rubio’s — Free birthday meal up to $7.
Sbarro — Free NY cheese or pepperoni slice of pizza with purchase of drink.
SpotOn — This is an app that gave me free gifts (cupcakes, ice cream) to many of the businesses I use in the app.
DSW — $5 off purchase
The Container Store — Free gift on your birthday (they ran out and are shipping mine–still a mystery what it is!).
Sephora — free birthday gift (makeup–brand varies from year to year; this year it was Make Up For Ever).
Aveda — free birthday scent added to a product (I chose the “earth” scent and added it to bath salts).
Fantastic Sam’s — Coupon for $3 off adult haircut or $5 off color service.
Zazzle.com — $10 off your next order.

I Felt the Earth Move Under My Feet

That title is so catchy–it would have been great if someone would have put it in a song or something.

First, what does this have to do with art? Why I’m glad you would ask. Nothing, actually. I am thinking of including some regular life-type posts in the blog, in many cases to supplement info in my videos. Other times I want to share things that influence me, inspire and motivate me, etc., both artistically and otherwise. If you only want to see a particular type of post, please choose from the Categories in the side bar. Likewise, in YouTube I have created playlists so you’ll only see the types of things you’re interested in.

So we had an earthquake here in Southern California on Friday afternoon. Improving our catastrophe prep has been on my list for a long time. There’s nothing like the undulations of a moving planet to make you prioritize things! We pulled out our survival gear and took inventory of what we have as well as what we need. My goal is to have two backpacks for each of us in each vehicle. I finished one set, and I made a video to share with you. I should note that the backpacks are in addition to some supplies already in the car, such as maps, more hand sanitizer and sunscreen, and basic car-related supplies like jumper cables.

Here’s the video. You can click on through to the video for some product links. Please share in the comments what you’d add based on your circumstances!

 

 

 

Two Weeks with the Narrative Clip

I wanted to write an update to my Narrative Clip experience as I’ve received many questions and have had more time to get to know my new camera as well as experience wearing it and noting how others react to seeing the camera. (Edit: Read my previous post here). 

Some history: I ordered my Narrative on Kickstarter back in 2012 when it was still named Memoto. I made it into the first round of backers, and my cam was estimated to arrive by February 2013. I ordered the Graphite Gray color option and received my unit on December 10, 2013.

What’s it Feel Like to Wear a Narrative Clip?

I started off initially very aware of the fact that I have a camera on. I learned pretty quickly that I need to have an “elevator speech” ready for those who ask what that thing on my shirt is. My answer has evolved as I hear others’ questions; the current version is something like this:

It’s called a Narrative Clip, and it takes a photo automatically every 30 seconds. Those photos are only visible to me — they don’t get broadcast anywhere. It lets me capture neat things like a beautiful sunset the other night. If it makes you uncomfortable, please let me know and I’ll be happy to take it off.

A couple of people have asked if it records sound, and I told them no, and they seemed relieved. So far no one has asked me to take it off. However, I have some family, friends and acquaintances that I am quite convinced will not be comfortable with the cam, and I will likely either just ask them right away or simply put the cam away when I visit them.

Yes, there is awkwardness around wearing the Narrative. This technology side of lifelogging is so new that there isn’t a guidebook as far as how to handle the privacy issue. We will be the people whose experiences help write that guidebook. I am continually asking myself “is there a reasonable expectation of privacy here?” when I go places. While there are obvious places one should avoid wearing the Narrative (restrooms and locker rooms), there are many gray areas. Just like “common sense” isn’t common, what is reasonable to one person may not be to another.

And there’s the fact that once you’re used to wearing the camera, it’s easy to forget you’re wearing it. I was appalled to realize I had gone into a women’s restroom with my Narrative on. Now, since women’s restrooms (in America, at least) typically have stalls that are private, there was nothing photographed other than a blur of myself in a mirror, I was still feeling guilty and immediately pocketed my Narrative. However, I’m hearing the woman in the stall next to me chatting away on her phone, and that makes me think that the privacy features of our devices and surroundings in general have to evolve. Until then, we users have to be fastidious about when and where we are using our lifelogging gear.

So the psychology of wearing lifelogging devices is complex. I want to be able to wear a camera and forget it, sort of like I do with my Fitbit, but I can’t do so because others are affected. If I forget my Fitbit, at worst, it might end up lost or in the toilet, but if I forget my Narrative, I might end up invading someone’s privacy; that’s a big difference and a big concern to me.

What’s the Experience with the Technology Been Like?

The company has been very communicative and responsive regarding feedback I’ve given them. The downside to being one of the first to receive my Narrative is that I’m serving as a bit of a beta tester. There have been some bugs, as is to be expected with any new software, and Narrative has been very appreciative of feedback and has quickly pushed through software and firmware updates to help correct issues.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a very slow Internet connection. The homeowner has since contacted AT&T and maxed out our U-Verse Internet plan, and the speed test results are still very poor: 5.57 Mbps download and 0.71 Mbps upload speed. To put this in perspective, Speedtest.net is currently giving me a national grade of D and a global grade of C-. Other times that I’ve checked it’s been an F and F+, respectively. Prior to this last upgrade, I was finding that my Narrative uploads were taking hours and appearing to slow down the Internet for other users at home.

Screenshot from Narrative app showing skipped days and a lag (this time on my slow WiFi)

My speed issues aren’t Narrative’s fault, yet the company has made some helpful upgrades to the software that allow users like me to limit the speed when using a slow connection. Most users will have better Internet options than I do, and I’m still able to upload my photos and view them just fine. What I typically do is plug my Narrative into the computer late in the evening and just let it upload the photos and spend the night charging.

I also have AT&T for my phone, and I’ve had no complaints with my phone service. When I’m not using WiFi, my phone alternates between 4G and LTE. Occasionally, there is lag in the Narrative app even when I switch off WiFi on my phone, but for the most part, I can view the photos on the phone just fine. When there’s a delay in viewing the photos on the app, it looks like the pic to the right.

I’ve been wearing my Narrative every day. There have been some unexplained hiccups in the app. For example, I have photos under December 22, and then the next set of photos is from December 25 (see screenshot). What happened to my photos from December 23 and 24? I have no idea.

As far as the quality of photos goes, the outdoor photos typically turn out very clear and true in color. Indoor lighting poses some challenges, however, with the colors in pictures sometimes varying a good bit from capture to capture.

What do I Like Least About the Narrative Clip?

I have faith that the people at Narrative will work out the bugs with missing photos and occasionally photos under the wrong date. My two biggest lingering disappointments are that:

  • I can’t trust that the pictures I want are being captured. For example, the other day, my boyfriend Craig and I went to Newport Beach. We walked down a pier and saw a brown pelican drawing a little crowd. I walked up and stood for a while in front of the pelican. Since I had no way to know if the Narrative had captured the bird, I did several double-taps. Later, on reviewing my photos for the day, there was only one image of the pelican — sadly decapitated. I don’t know whether that image is from one of several double-tap attempts or was an automatic one. Since I don’t yet have confidence in the double-tap photos, I took a photo with my iPhone. I don’t want to have to do this backup with a phone cam, though, and that’s one of the reasons I purchased a wearable camera. I want to have confidence that the Narrative has captured the image. Other times double-tapping has led to fuzzy images of my fingers as I’ve apparently been unable to get them out of the way in time. I’ve tried various methods of double-tapping, and I can’t seem to find a reliable method.

Brown Pelican -- Narrative version

Brown Pelican--iPhone 5 version

  • A wide-angle lens is really necessary. I know Narrative has voiced that they will be coming out with this accessory sometime in the future. After wearing the cam for a couple of weeks, I have many pictures that would have benefited from a wide-angle lens. I’m leaning toward thinking this should be standard rather than an accessory. Regardless of where I place the Narrative, I end up with many pictures of sky. Apparently, this isn’t a challenge only for women.

What do I Like Most About the Narrative Clip?

There have been some expected uses for the camera and some happy surprises:

  • My Narrative has captured some beautiful images. Some of these pictures I would have undoubtedly taken with my iPhone, but others were spontaneous and would have been lost — like reaching across the table to hold my boyfriend’s hand or massaging lotion into his sore hands after he worked all day on retiling our bathroom. In reviewing holiday photos, I see candid images of friends and family that I know won’t be with us forever. I saw myself writing a personal message on my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary card. These are really precious records that I will treasure.
  • I have an automatic record of the process of creating my art. I’ve always had great intentions to photograph every piece of art in progress, but the reality has been most end up without progress photos because I’ve always had to remember to get the camera and then take time to photograph the art. Now I simply review the photos from the day and grab the ones that will make good progress photos. There is no need to interrupt the creative process to take photos.
  • I am made more aware of my bad habits. I’ve had a lifelong struggle with severe nail biting. There have been periods in which I’ve successfully grown long, beautiful nails, and other periods (like now) in which my nails are downright hideous. In reviewing photos, I was noticing just how many images there were of me feeling my nails for imperfections (which then leads to biting). Now that I have an automatic record of my art in progress, I don’t want the photos of nail-bitten hands creating that art. As a result of this increased awareness, I’ve doubled my efforts to reduce stress and conquer this habit once and for all. Will lifelogging tools like the Narrative Clip help change user behavior? You bet they can and will.
  • I am more aware of the quality of my life. We aren’t all Sir Richard Branson, jetting around the world and breaking world records. I have a simple life, but I love my life. Devices like the Narrative make you ask yourself if you’re living the life you want to live. Are you following your dreams? Are you still finding joy in those “mundane” tasks that you have to do every day? After all, even Richard Branson gets stuck in traffic and has to floss his teeth. The Narrative highlights simple moments of joy, and it also makes me want to get out there and live a bigger life — a life worth remembering. Are there mostly pictures of my computer screen, a television or ceilings? Well, then I need to have more balance in my life.

Despite the cons I’ve mentioned above, I am very happy with my Narrative Clip and satisfied with the company’s communication throughout the long wait. Yes, I’ve been as impatient as everybody else, and there have been times when I was really wanting an accurate shipping update. However, I appreciated Narrative’s honesty in admitting that the initial units were not up to snuff. Although I wanted to get my cam back in February 2013 and I’ve missed some important dates (like my only niece’s wedding) that I wanted my Clip for, I am glad they didn’t send out units that they knew were faulty. That transparency did help me be more patient with the wait.

For those still waiting for your shipments, know that we who have our clips are helping work out some of the frustrations you would have with your Narrative. Hopefully, yours will come soon, and you’ll be just as satisfied overall as I am.

I’ll leave you with some Narrative photos (click for bigger image) of varying quality and lighting conditions for you to check out:

I swear I was just spreading them out.

Southern California sunset

I was lying on my back, watching the sunset, when Craig brought me a flowering bird of paradise.

Me writing out holiday cards

 

Costco lady with samples. C'mon, you know you love them, too.

Using a french fry to make a very important point.

Bowl of fruit


Read my previous post: 24 Hours with the Narrative Clip

The Pantone Color of 2014

I think last year was the first year that I ever heard that Pantone declares a color of the year every year. Last year it was emerald. I recall going into a popular beauty store and seeing a big display with the image of a model wearing garish green eye shadow and the mention of “color of the year!” and thought, well, whoop-de-doo.

This year Pantone was a little kinder to everyone in the fashion and style industry. The Pantone color of 2014 is Radiant Orchid. So I breathed a sigh of relief (I would have made designs for any Pantone color, even if it was chartreuse) and set about creating some trending designs.

Here I want to mention something about printing of art in my stores. Some sellers and artists confuse the web color for Radiant Orchid for the print color of the same. Without boring you with the details, suffice it to say that having the color come out as truly “Radiant Orchid” requires choosing the right color values for the right purpose. Since the items I’m selling all will be printed (as opposed to sold as images for online use on web sites), I chose the color values that best represent the usage. This is really important if you want your phone case, pillow, greeting cards or anything else to be exactly the Pantone color and not be mismatched with other items that you may have already purchased. 

It’s a good time to mention that patterns that are really hot right now are quatrefoil (think a sort of 4-leaf clover design that is visible on some old cathedrals) and Moroccan as well as anything geometric.

Ok, so enough of the background. Let me show you the goods already! Here’s a sampling with more coming soon. Click through to easily customize and place your order:

Look at more Watches online at Zazzle

24 Hours with the Narrative Clip

I’ve been interested in lifelogging and the quantified self movement for quite a while. I think my fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Reynolds must have started everything when she had us all keep diaries. As an adult, I still like recording my life and the events and people who make it fuller, and I’m drawn to gadgetry that helps me do just that.

Last year I stitched myself a pouch to wear around my neck; inside the pouch fit my iPhone, and I tried various time lapse apps to take pictures. But I quickly found that having a pouch hanging around your neck isn’t a great way to go through the day. For one, you have a pouch hanging around your neck. It’s rather obvious to the world that you’re some kind of geek who has zero fashion sense. And there’s the fact that if you bought a smartphone you’re going to want to use it for many things rather than just leave it hanging around your neck. Time lapse video apps run the battery down fast, and, in my experience, they’re just not a great method for all-day automated periodic photo capture.

So when I somehow stumbled upon the Kickstarter campaign of the Narrative Clip (formerly called Memoto), I knew I wanted one. Here was a great looking camera in a simple form that would take pics at intervals as well as when I double-tapped it. I signed up and made it into the first round of backers to receive their Narrative Clips.

My Narrative arrived yesterday around noon, and after a short charge and installation of software, I was up and running.

The first day was full of moments of feeling extremely aware that my new toy was attached to my shirt and periodically snapping pictures soundlessly. I saw my boyfriend Craig (who has been a great sport about my lifelogging hobby and a few other eccentricities) occasionally glance at the Narrative while talking with me. If it had been anyone else but Craig, I would have wondered if they were self conscious about the camera. I decided it’s just the newness of my wearing the Narrative that has us both so aware of it; that will undoubtedly change over time.

Since I’m not very knowledgeable about the technical aspects of things like wearable cameras, I’ll share most of the rest of my first 24 hours in photos taken in various lighting conditions with hopes that will give you some idea of the experience you can expect with your own Narrative Clip.

First, I made a quick unboxing video. The Narrative made photos of my making the video about the Narrative; a little woo-woo moment there if you think about it too much.

I’m an artist. I scanned a hand drawn border and then spent time coloring it digitally. The entire process was captured.

When I saw the pics later, I realized that the Narrative may help solve a problem for me. For a while now I’ve been wanting to photograph my art at various stages of progress. Maybe I could simply review my pics from the day and pull a few? I filed away the idea for later.

Craig wanted to go to eat, so we headed to a sushi restaurant for lunch. He ate some of my salad while waiting for his order.

Narrative caught a spontaneous moment of hand holding (awwwww):

Next we went to the Fullerton Arboretum where I had hoped to get lots of great pictures of cacti and succulents (Craig has this thing about plants — more about that later). Instead, I got lovely photos of mostly sky. Apparently I’ll need to try out a variety of wearing positions before I’ll find the best one.

On the way home, we stopped at a used bookstore I’ve been wanting to visit. I spent way too much time there, but did find a great book (Craft, Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco).

Not much else happened on the first half-day. The next morning, I had an appointment to get my car worked on. We dropped the car off and decided to head to downtown LA for some shopping and sightseeing. But there were a couple stops along the way. First, McDonald’s, and then on to see a lady who had posted a Craigslist ad about rare cacti and succulents for sale. I told Craig I’d give him some as an early Christmas gift.

She also had tortoises roaming the yard:

Then it was on to LA. In the city, I took this picture of the Angel’s Flight Railway using the double-tap feature of the Narrative:

At one point we passed an ornate Buddhist temple that I had to see on the inside. The staff of the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple graciously turned on the lights to the chapel so we could view it. Everything seemed to glow golden. I stood at the entrance and walked up the aisle for a closer look. I spent a while there, letting the Narrative take photos and then deliberately using the double-tap feature to take photos. Since I had no way to know whether the Narrative had actually captured things, I took my iPhone out and snapped a couple of photos.

Later, I was stunned at the difference between the photos that the Narrative took and the ones the iPhone took. Here’s the comparison:

Buddhist Temple -- Narrative Clip version

Buddhist Temple -- iPhone 5 version

After the temple, we parked near the jewelry district. We grabbed a lunch of Chinese food in Grand Central Market. In the photos later downloaded, I noticed that Craig started off human-colored and then quickly turned deathly gray (it wasn’t the food, honest). This actually happened a couple of times when I took photos indoors, with some photos even appearing almost entirely grayscale.

After lunch, we did some window shopping in the jewelry district. Craig bought me a pair of earrings (late Hanukkah gift) from the lovely shopkeeper below:

And we headed back home to pick up the car and call it a day.

At home, on reviewing the photos, I noted a few things. Since my Internet connection speed is abysmal*, uploading or downloading anything is extremely slow. It can easily take hours for the photos to upload from my Narrative. That’s not Narrative’s fault, though I hope they can somehow make it so their end works as fast as possible.

Besides the color variation mentioned previously, a problem for me is that the photos in the iPhone app are not all in chronological order. So the visit to the cactus lady and McDonald’s, for example, were scrambled in no particular order. The same occurred with the rest of the trip. Unfortunately, some photos from today were even posted under yesterday’s date. If one isn’t keeping a journal as they go through the day, it might be tough to piece together what happened and when. This is probably my biggest concern of all at this point, but I’m sure it can be fixed in a software update.

I also found that the Narrative did a great job of highlighting some photos that were worth saving (using a feature titled “Trim Moment”), but in checking to see what wasn’t trimmed, I found more photos that seemed of equally good quality. Therefore, that made me want to go through all of the photos (hundreds) to make sure nothing great was being excluded. That would be a slightly tedious task with a fast WiFi connection, but with my current snail’s pace connection, it was quite a piece of work.

Again, the Internet speed issue is not something Narrative has anything to do with. However, the process of combing through hundreds of photos did teach me that I probably am not going to want to wear the Narrative Clip constantly during mundane tasks like driving lest I be left with lots of visor/windshield/sky pics (albeit occasional ones with palm trees) that I need to manually delete in order to more easily find the moments I want to keep. That’s a choice I’m making as a user. If Internet speeds were not an issue, I’d likely go ahead and wear the Narrative 24/7 (minus a few inappropriate occasions, of course). However, I might still be inclined to want to view hundreds of photos to ensure no good ones were missed by the “Trim Moment” algorithm.

Hopefully, the inconsistency with color in the photos is something Narrative can correct with a firmware update. I have seen at least one firmware update pushed through so far, and that gives me hope that they’ll fine tune things as they get feedback.

So my impression after the first day is that I’m really pleased overall. I like the spontaneous moments that the Narrative captures, things I had forgotten (or never even noticed). It’s really interesting to review the photos. I’m excited to explore how I may be able to use the Narrative in recording my art creation process. I love the low profile of my new toy, and the company has been a class act since I took the plunge and invested in them. They even called me after one of my tweets just to make sure I was able to get my Narrative up and running. How many companies do that kind of thing? Not many.

So Narrative, thanks for making the wait worth it. I hope you keep improving this wonderful little camera and lifelogging tool!

*Edited to add: Download speed 1.46 Mbps, upload speed 0.35 Mbps via ATT U-Verse in Orange County, CA