Month: September 2007

Weekly Update: Ambivalent

I’m feeling a bit ambivalent this morning about my week — probably because overall I’ve had a great week, but I feel rather tired and a little bit grumpy this morning so I think that’s coloring my recollections.

  • Fitness and health: I’m keeping very detailed track of the food I eat and planning very detailed menus. We made it out to the gym only once this week; it’s extra-crowded because students are back in town and apparently have nothing to do except go to the gym. I was hoping that I’d be back into a regular fitness routine by now, but I’m giving myself some grace because this food thing is really sucking up a lot of my time and mental energy. Maybe next month!
  • Routines: I’m still managing to fill out most of my bubbles.
  • Custom Shadow Box: This past weekend I designed one side of a brochure. This weekend, hopefully I’ll be able to work on the other side! In the meantime, I haven’t even attempted any of my other mini-goals this month but perhaps I’ll check one thing off my list and send follow-up emails after I post this blog.
  • Branding: Big fat WHIFF. I had meant to use two hours on Monday to tweak the blog/site design but I ended up working extra-long hours instead. This looks like another weekend project but I would like to spend some time with Steve, so maybe not.
  • Work: Quite productive this week.
  • Personal: This week has been very good yet also challenging in some areas. Today, especially, my patience is already at its limit (and it’s only 7:42 am). I feel like I’m in a spiritual/character growth spurt as I grow to meet these challenges; so in the long run, it’s a good thing, but I’m definitely going through some growing pains! (Gratitude journal still going strong.)

Thanks to everyone who has commented this week: Arianne, ramsesoriginal, Mike Compeau, Mike Rohde, Angela Yee, Gilda, Amanda Farler, Brian, Diana, Brian Green, Natisha Melchor, ClickerTrainer, Penny, and Kate Davis.

Web design: The EHR Group

I wrapped up a web design project a couple months ago for The EHR Group.

Original EHR Group web site Mike Uretz, the Executive Director, came to me with a several-year-old FrontPage web site. Mike thought the web site looked dated and wanted something more contemporary. As his business consults with medical professionals about what electronic health record system would be best for them, he wanted his web site to appeal to both people who would be familiar with technology but also to be easy enough to navigate for people who weren’t very computer savvy.

I started out with some rough greyscale screenshots to provide different layout options. These are some of the ones that weren’t chosen:

EHR Group wireframes

The chosen design used tabs to help indicate the section and had both dropdown menus and left column submenu areas to provide obvious ways for a user to navigate the site.

I then started to work on some rough ideas for the home page layout, then worked on color schemes, shown in the screenshots below:

EHR Group color ideas

At this point, Mike still wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted on the home page. He had some ideas about the types of content areas he wanted but hadn’t yet pulled together the specific marketing text and messages that he wanted to convey. My initial round of screenshots had used a wireframe concept to lay out the content areas, using grey boxes and short placeholder text to delineate content areas. However, we hit an impasse as Mike expressed dissatisfaction with the direction of the design. Both Mike and I were still feeling each other out and trying to figure out how to best work together and communicate; it took a few phone conversations for me to realize that Mike was a very visual person and actually didn’t work well wireframes and content placeholders. So, I asked Mike to develop the specific content and wording he wanted for the home page while I built the HTML and CSS for the other pages. Then we went back to redesigning the home page, which went a lot better once he could see the actual content in the screenshot.

EHR Group home page layouts

Below is the final result for the home page. Mike liked heavier use of graphics for the home page, including the two bottom left graphics, which we used in the other pages as well.

EHR Group home page

I had tried using smaller graphics to accent the pages initially, but Mike thought they were too artificially slapped into the content area. He liked it much better when I tried putting a larger graphic into the background behind the text. Each page has a different image related with the content.

EHR Group about page

By the end of the project, our working relationship had smoothed into a good flow. I understood Mike’s communication style; he was able to trust my design and working process. We were both very happy with the final result, which allows Mike to use Microsoft Expression Web to make minor changes to the wording himself. This is a project that I’m excited to add to my portfolio and which has taught me many valuable lessons about customizing my process to fit the needs and personality of the client.

Weight Training Workout Sheet v2

I’ve revised the weight training workout sheet:

Revised weight training sheet

  • Categories have been changed to chest and shoulders, arms and back, legs and abs.
  • Each column now has both weight (w) and reps (r) for three sets so that you can vary your weights and reps.
  • Out of necessity, there are five columns instead of seven.


Weight training workout sheet v2

  • Weight Training Workout Sheet v2weight-training-worksheet-v2.pdf
    The PDF is editable in Illustrator, if you’re the kind of person that likes to customize things.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

See original post for usage examples.

Exercise in Photo Editing

I thought some people might be interested in seeing some examples of photo editing. As I mainly work in web design, I have an easier time with photo editing because web images are relatively low resolution and don’t require as much painstaking attention to detail.

Below are two photos of a condo development and some comments about the process.

Here is the original photo. I was asked to remove the tree on the right side, and, of course, straighten the photo.

Original photo

I used the Crop tool in Photoshop to crop the photo, rotating the cropped area to straighten the building. I also used the Levels command to lighten the picture slightly.

Straightened and cropped

I created a new layer and then worked on cloning the sky to cover up the tree (the cloned areas are tinted green). The clone tool has an option where you can “select all layers” — this allows you to clone from below layers onto a new layer. By cloning onto a new layer, you don’t “mess up” the original photo and can make edits more easily later. This is one example of nondestructive editing!

I then used the marquee tool to select a part of the building (the next “section” over) that didn’t have a tree over it and pasted it into a new layer (tinted purple). I created a layer mask for that layer and carefully blended out the edges.

Edited photo

Here is a closeup of the photo with tree:


And a closeup of the edited sky is below. The landscape is a bit blurred together, but when shrunk down to web resolution, it doesn’t really matter.

Closeup edited

And a closeup of the edited building as well:

Closeup edited

Now, the final picture at approximately the final dimensions:

Final photo

The next photo was a bit more challenging. Here’s the original:

Original photo

Unfortunately, the marina buildings (with the red frame and yellow stairs) were blocking the specific units that needed to be shown in the image. I was asked to do some “Photoshop magic” to show those units as well as get rid of the light posts — the one on the left of the building, and the one sticking up right in the middle.

I worked a little differently on this photo. Instead of working first with a high resolution photo, I worked directly with the smaller web-resolution photo size. I wouldn’t recommend this, but I was basically short on time and needed to work faster! (So, no close-ups for this picture.)

Cropped photo

First, I copied the middle two floors on the left side and pasted them onto a new layer (purple). Moving these down “one floor,” I was able to get the bottom unit to show up. I used a layer mask to fade out the edges, then used the Warp Transform command to add the tiny bit of perspective needed for the bottom floor to look “right.”

Creating a new blank layer, I used the clone tool to remove the light posts. You can see the edited results in the pink-tinted layer.

Unfortunately I had no idea what the bottom part of the building looked like just below the windows and balconies. I copied the middle bottom section (where the formerly edited light post used to be) with the bottom wall and balcony shadow and pasted it twice to continue the wall to the left (yellow). Finally, I removed the marina buildings by grabbing a piece of the retaining wall into its own layer, then stretching it and masking it (green).

Photo editing

And here’s the final edited photo. It’s a pretty rough job, but again, at web resolution, it doesn’t matter too much and gives the viewer a decent idea of what the building looks like!

Final photo

Shameless plug: I have a few tidbits about photo editing in my book, The Photoshop Anthology, which is written specifically for web developers/designers who want to learn more about Photoshop. Through the different solutions presented in the book, I talk about the clone tool, layer masks, and the other tools and techniques mentioned here. If you found this article interesting and would like to buy the book, please consider purchasing it through my affiliate link above!

Reading: Pregnancy, Bourne

Finished reading:

I’m listing some of the pregnancy-related books I’ve read or started over the past several weeks that I didn’t want to share about before breaking the news. 🙂

The Miracle Within by Jack McCubbin, M.D. – This short book of gorgeous and incredible photography and inspirational quotes provides a succinct summary of fetal development from conception to birth.

The Bourne Ultimatum by Robert Ludlum – The third book in the Bourne series. As I’ve mentioned before, the plot of the books are completely different from the movies. In this book, Carlos the assassin (from Identity) is on a mission to try to kill Bourne and his family. On top of that, the ex-soldiers who were part of the same covert operations group that Bourne used to be in have formed a global, powerful, dangerous network. They’re also after Bourne, afraid that he’s going to expose them. Dead bodies and explosions abound.

This is the last of the Bourne books written by Ludlum — there are two more, written by a different author (The Bourne Legacy and The Bourne Betrayal) that I’m not interested in reading. I found the plots of the three books quite thrilling, although the writing style bugged me — the characters tend to speak in italics and exclamation points and “darling” seems to be the only affectionate term used by couples.

With a bookmark:

(Books I just started reading, or books I’ve been “reading” for ages. Most recent first.)

  • The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Body, Soul, and Baby by Tracy Gaudet
  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway
  • The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
  • A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

In the library book box:

  • Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer

Planning detailed menus for glucose intolerant folks, i.e., me

I have “impaired glucose tolerance,” which is a step below gestational diabetes. The pregnancy hormones in my body are causing my insulin to not process sugar as well as it usually would. Left unchecked, and by “left unchecked” I mean if I continued my ramen-eating habits as they were, I could very possibly develop gestational diabetes, which would pose some mild-to-serious problems for myself and the baby (fat baby, hard labor/delivery, future risk of diabetes, post-birth dangerously low blood sugar for baby, among others).

While some health care providers simply advise diet modification for women who have IGT, my health care provider deals with it aggressively by putting me into the same type of lifestyle program that I would be in if I had gestational diabetes, minus any medication or insulin shots. The “program” involves:

  • Testing my blood sugar (yes, poking myself with a small needle gun) four times a day — once when I first wake up (between 8-10 hours since I last ate), then once an hour after breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Meeting with a dietitian to learn the types of foods I can eat and can’t eat, and how much I should eat at a time
  • Planning very detailed menus — or at least keeping track of what you eat — to try to balance the appropriate amounts of starch, protein, fat, milk, fruits, and veggies
  • Phoning or emailing blood sugar results for accountability and for the dietitian and nurse to make sure things are going well

As someone who already tries (but is not always successful) to eat according to the food pyramid guidelines, I’m familiar with the concepts of serving sizes and food portions. The food categories for this are a bit different, however, based on the amounts of carbohydrates in the food. Some of the major differences:

  • Only milk and plain yogurt count as “milk.”
  • Cheese (including cottage cheese) counts as “protein.”
  • Potatoes, beans, corn, squash, and starchy vegetables count as “starch.”
  • Nuts count as “fat.”
  • And some things I can’t eat at all, including fruit juice, sugar, syrup, honey, and sweet sauces.

Each day, I want to have a total of 7 starch, 7 protein, 3 milk, 2 fruit, 5 veggies, and 3 fat, broken down across six meals (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack).

With all those numbers to keep track of, of course I needed to make a spreadsheet!

I started by making several sample/inspirational spreadsheets in Google Docs to try to come up with nearly-complete meal plans of foods that I actually have around the house and would eat. I kept “dinner” options blank but assigned the values that I would shoot for during dinner. I’ll continue to make these inspirational worksheets as I think of more foods.

Here are two samples that I put together:

Sample menu 1

Sample menu 2

Then, I made a detailed menu for the rest of the week by copying some of my sample ideas over and adjusting with a dinner menu plan that would work for me and Steve. My numbers aren’t always going to be perfect, but I’m trying to get close, and I can probably also adjust the day-of as needed.

  • Thursday dinner: Five-spice prawns over cabbage (and fresh bamboo shoots my aunts brought me from Taiwan)
  • Friday dinner: Butternut squash soup, broiled salmon, and steamed broccoli
  • Saturday dinner: Breaded pork cutlets, more broccoli, and brown rice.

Week menu

Planning 3-4 days at a time is probably going to work the best for me so that I can work with what we have leftover in the fridge, so I’ll have to reserve part of Saturday and Wednesday mornings for menu planning!

Weekly update: Life happens.

I lost six work hours this week from having to go to the hospital clinic, first for a three-hour glucose tolerance test (at least I got some reading done), then for the dietitian/nurse/midwife appointment. With an increased project load, this week has been more stressful than most.

  • Fitness and health: Missed both gym days this week because of meetings and hospital visits. I did manage to go on two short walks – yay! I also spent a big chunk of Wednesday evening putting together some sample daily menus to plan some options for breakfast, lunch, and three snacks to balance out my carbs, protein, fat, milk, veggie, and fruit allowances (with generic values assigned for dinner). Then, I used some of those sample menus to plan out detailed menus for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. This is starting to turn into its own post so I’ll stop here for now — let’s just say that I’m excited to meet the challenge of detailed menu planning!
  • Routines: Fairly good this week minus exercise.
  • Custom Shadow Box, Branding: Nothing this week, although I have planned to work on a brochure this weekend for Custom Shadow Box.
  • Work: More work, less time to do it. I also started teaching a six-week online class for PixelMill (about transitioning from Microsoft FrontPage to Expression Web) and the first week went well.
  • Personal: Still keeping up the gratitude journal and taking care of myself!

Thanks to this week’s comment-posting readers: Entropicon, Penny, Kristof Beirnaert, Marcia (Organising Queen), Mike Compeau, Samantha, bijouhamtaropika, Splash/ClickerTrainer, Britt, Kate Davis, Doodah, David, and Robert A. Mowrey.


I didn’t post a blog yesterday because I was working on full speed to get as much as I could get done before going to my doctor’s appointment.

Okay — technically, I had two appointments, and neither with a doctor. One 2-hour appointment with a dietitian and a nurse, and a second 20-minute appointment with a midwife.  Steve left work early to meet me at the hospital. We got to hear our baby’s heartbeat at 11 weeks. Exciting times!

This is my first pregnancy, so everything is new and shiny, from the first ultrasound where we saw a tiny blip on the screen which was the baby’s heart, to the 3 hour glucose tolerance test I had to sit through, to the small feelings of queasiness which come when I’m hungry.

I’ve had a fairly easy time so far with minor nausea, although we joke that I’m like a “normal person” now who needs a lot more sleep than I used to get. More sleep = less productivity, but that’s the way it goes. Life got a bit more complex yesterday when I found out that I have impaired glucose tolerance (one step below gestational diabetes). Our health provider handles IGT aggressively (thus the two-hour meeting with aforementioned dietitian and nurse) so that the chances of developing gestational diabetes is lessened; I have to make a very detailed menu plan for my six small meals a day and test my blood sugar level four times a day with a cool glucometer that looks like a shiny mp3 player. (Shiny gadgets make me happy.)

Unfortunately I don’t think it’s kosher to plan one’s own baby shower, so I won’t be designing any cute or elegant baby shower invitations anytime soon. 🙂

Very venemous vitriolic invective

We have one kitten (Puddle) left! Saturday’s adoption fair was a huge success; three of our kittens got adopted out. I think it helped that I stayed there the whole time to answer questions and “sell” our kittens. People seemed to like knowing that I had hundreds of flickr photos to share with them.

I posted a craigslist listing for our last kitten on Monday. Here’s the text of my posting:

We have a two-month old male white kitten with ginger-striped tail (and slightly ginger-toned ears), blue eyes. Gorgeous and friendly with a mellow personality and the hugest purr you’ve ever heard! He is litter box trained, neutered, vaccinated, and ready for a good home.

He will be at the SPCA adoption fair on Saturday, September 22 at the Davis Petco (1341 W Covell Blvd # B, off of Covell exit on Highway 113), from 12 pm – 3:30 pm. The SPCA adoption fee is $90, which covers neuter, vaccinations, feline leukemia etc. testing, and microchipping.

Email me if you’d like to meet him in person before then!

Later in the evening, I got an email with the Craigslist post in the subject line. Excited about a possible kitten inquiry, I opened the email but a flood of bitter, angry words poured out, burned through my screen, and scorched my keyboard, sent by a lady whom I’ll call “Judy:”

Why do you ask so much? Plus, in Sacramento they give SENIORS a discount, but you don’t. Why is that?????? There are tons and tons of FREE kittens and adult cats on Craigslist. I know the low cost spay & neuter clinics aren’t that much. It is no wonder you have so many cats that need homes. How ‘bout getting these UCD vets and vet students to donate neutering and spaying for “the animals sake”???? And, on top of the fee, you make such a big deal out of applying and qualifying. Yes, I know what you say, and your reasons. And, a simply short form, and a vet’s referral would suffice!!!!

I will never adopt my next kitty from you people, with what you make us go through. and the fee you charge.


“Judy’s” Pet Sitting service also. Plus I’ve owned and loved many kitties until they were old and gray, and I love them dearly until they are gone.

Sad to say, I couldn’t help but, well, laugh. I immediately fired off a reply:

Hi “Judy”,
I’m sorry you are so upset. I am not actually part of the SPCA, just a foster family for the kittens that we happened to find. You might find it more helpful to talk to someone who is actually part of the SPCA.

But as it usually goes, immediately after pushing the “send” button, a slew of other great email responses with better grammar came to mind:

Dear “Judy”,
I’m sorry you are upset and that you spent so much energy writing an email to me, but I am not part of the SPCA and have no control over their policies so it was pretty much a waste of time for you, although rather amusing for me. We found a mother cat and kittens and have already adopted four kittens out through the SPCA, so it seems that others don’t share your opinions.
Hope you have a wonderful day.


Dear “Judy”,
You sound very angry. Why don’t you go to Petco in person and tell the SPCA volunteers exactly what you think of them? It seems that you don’t have a problem expressing yourself, but unfortunately I’m not the right person to talk to as I have nothing to do with setting the adoption fee cost or procedures for cats.

Or, in haiku form:

Dear Angry “Judy”,
I regret to inform you
That you have mis-shot.

Though you are outraged,
The SPCA I’m not…
Though I am flattered.

I hope you treat cats
Better than you treat humans
Within an email.

With my best regards
To your poor question-mark key
Which seems quite abused,


I haven’t yet heard back from “Judy”. Too bad. We could have had a wonderful relationship.

On a more serious note, however, we chose to not give our kittens away for free but to adopt them through the SPCA because of the “rigorous” application process, which ensures that the kittens are really going to good homes and not becoming fighting dog bait.

Feel free to post your own haikus, limericks, or other responses (keep it clean, folks, my niece sometimes reads this site!) as a creative exercise.