Monday, June 1, 2009

Original Trona Pinnacles Picture

Sunday (31)
Originally uploaded by AlishaV

This is the original picture that I photo-shopped to make the other fantasy land one. I cropped it into a square, lightened it, and then added more saturation to bring out the colors. I think it turned out a bit different but also still had the same feeling as the original picture, that sense of place that is Trona Pinnacles.

The Trona Pinnacles are tufa or carbonate spires near Death Valley in the California desert. They were created underwater 10,000 to 100,000 years ago, when the Panamint Valley and Death Valley were filled with ice age lakes. They are now high and dry though. Click on the picture to see other pictures taken at Trona Pinnacles or check out The Trona Pinnacles for more information about their formation and location as well as a film clip from a Lost in Space episode that was filmed at Trona Pinnacles.

Also, I want to apologize about the last items I posted. When I linked those pictures from Flickr to the blog I had no idea that it was sending out blog posts for each one. I'm so sorry about filling up your in-boxes with several messages like that. Still friends? :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Some of My Favorite Photos

I have thousands of pictures that I've taken, most of them on various field trips through California or other parts of the west. Though we went to some wonderful places full of great possible shots, I rarely get the best pictures since we hurry from place to place and my short legs make it hard to keep up anyways without stopping to take pictures, so most of my photos are taken as I'm hurrying along or even out of the window of the field trip vans. Thus, they aren't the greatest they could be, but there have been some accidents where I got a few pictures that turned out nicely even without planning and tripods and proper equipment. These are a few of my favorite pictures.

The Trona Pinnacles Glowing

The Trona Pinnacles Aglow
Originally uploaded by AlishaV

This was a boring shot of the Trona Pinnacles, carbonate towers near Trona, California that are similar to those at Mono Lake. It was early morning, but a bit past the best time to take a picture so the area was really heavily shadowed with many bright spots. I played with the picture using photo-editing software and brought out that natural glow that was hidden by the glare. I liked the picture a bit, but wasn't really into it until I set it as my desktop background for a while. The different tones the picture takes on as the computer boots up, then warms, then as it gets turned off, makes the picture turn from earliest dawn to sunset at various points and I've just fallen in love with the variations.

Saltpools During Gem-O-Rama

Sunday (70)
Originally uploaded by AlishaV

Red-tinted pools of saltwater in Searles Dry Lake, Trona, California during Gem-O-Rama. We waded through these pools to collect Halite crystals and they may look like blood but they stink horribly. The algae that gives them the red color and the salt mix and makes a terrible smell. The crystals are worth it though :)

Alabama Hills and Moon

Alabama Hills and Moon
Originally uploaded by AlishaV

Camping at the Alabama Hills in California near Death Valley. Though the place has a stunning feel to it, it is extremely difficult to capture that sense of wonder in a picture. I love the color of this shot and the moon in just the right spot about some of the boulders that make up the area.

Double Arch

Originally uploaded by AlishaV

Double Arch in Arches National Park, Utah. The two arches creat all sorts of wonderful shadows and a great little cavity beneath them. I actually have a better picture of it that I'll try to load up later.

Bryce Canyon

Originally uploaded by AlishaV

Bryce Canyon, Utah in May. There was a light snow falling, and one day I hope to get back there and be able to get a shot with the red sediments glowing under a bed of white.

Creek Dividing the Pacific Plate and the North American

Creek Dividing the Pacific Plate and the North American
Originally uploaded by AlishaV

Near Parkfield, California, standing on a bridge looking at a creek flowing down the San Andreas Fault, which is the border between the North American and Pacific tectonic plates. There were swallows swooping all around us and the sun was warm yet gentle. Plus I was hoping for an earthquake :)

Stairway to the Sun

Stairway to the Sun
Originally uploaded by AlishaV

Hiking through the Pinnacles National Monument in California. You walk for a distance through dark caves that contain endangered bats and a whispering creek, and then come around the corner to this stairway up into the light.

Hiking to Red Rock Canyon

Hiking to Red Rock Canyon 4
Originally uploaded by AlishaV

Our paleontology group hiking through Red Rock Canyon north of Reno. I love the colors there and the verticalness of this shot.

Creek Wandering into the Lake

Creek Wandering into the Lake
Originally uploaded by AlishaV

On our trip up Highway 395 north of Reno, we stayed at a pretty little campground on Frenchman Lake. There was snow all along the edges and this creek and baby grass along the lakeshore. We got snowed out the very next day.

Walking Down to the Beach

Walking Down to the Beach
Originally uploaded by AlishaV

Another picture from our trip to Point Reyes last Spring. Walking down the trail to the beach I always take tons of pictures, I love the flowers and little creek that runs along the side, but my favorite part of the trail is when you come around the last bit of the trail and the sea reveals itself.

Chicken Tractors at Pt Reyes

Chicken Tractors at Pt Reyes
Originally uploaded by AlishaV

Movable chicken shelters called chicken tractors or arks, sitting in fields at Point Reyes, California. I took this picture because I love chicken tractors, but looking at it later, loved the clouds coming in off of the ocean over the hills.

Washing Crystals in the Brine

Washing Crystals in the Brine
Originally uploaded by AlishaV

This is a picture from our trip to Gem-O-Rama in Trona, California last October. These people are scrubbing Hanksite crystals free of the mud they grew in using a saltwater/brine solution.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Lately I've been trying out a site I've just found out about. It's called CafePress and is basically selling items through little "stores" on the site. You can sell clothes, cards, and a few other items, either with your own picture on them or a design you come up with yourself. Since I don't have a program like Corel or Adobe, I haven't been able to design anything yet, but I have been using some of my photos to customize the items. Here's My CafePress Store. The site seems like an interesting idea, we decide what we want the t-shirts or whatever to look like, and then if someone buys the item, CafePress prints the item out and sends it to the buyer, without the seller having to do anything. They call this print-on-demand or pod.

There are two levels of stores, a free, basic version, like I have right now, and a paid version, which allows the seller to do more, and that I've been considering. I haven't sold anything yet, so I'm hesitant to upgrade to a paid version, but might do it in the future. Since there's very little earnings on each item and it costs $7 a month for the upgraded store, I'm still trying to work out whether it is worthwhile or not.

One nice thing about the site is that Squidoo is set up to easily display the items in a CafePress store. In fact, that's how I got started with CafePress. While making Squidoo lens I kept seeing the CafePress module and thought that it was interesting.

I like the idea of being able to sell shirts and stuff with my designs on them and without having to keep a stock of already printed out items, dealing with selling them, then mailing them out, but am still feeling my way around. What do you think of the idea? Have you used CafePress? Have any hints on how to use it better?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Flickr: Photos of the World

I am completely addicted to Flickr. Flickr is a great photo hosting site, that is mainly aimed at sharing your pictures with the world. Most other places allow only people you choose to see your photos, some require people to have an invitation to get access, others need the photographer to give permission. Occasionally, they have a way for the photographer to make an exception if they choose, but it's still often difficult for your friends to get to see your pictures. I really liked Snapfish for a while, but having to have everyones email addresses and then sending them invitations to each photo album, which kept getting caught in the spam filter, made it difficult to share the photos. Photobucket was one exception to this invite situation, but their site has always felt awkward and cumbersome to me and while I have an account there, I rarely use it. I do like how easy Photobucket makes it to post photos on Craigslist and other sites and I will be using it a lot more for my Squidoo lenses since I just found out how to add clickable buttons to my lenses using Photobucket.

Flickr allows you to keep pictures private if you choose, but what I like is that they make it easy to share the pictures with anyone that is interested, even if you don't know the person. In fact, as photos are uploaded a few of them will cross a page on the site so people that want to can watch to see if there's something they want to look at. It's actually very addicting seeing what new photos have been uploaded. There are some amazing artists out there, and I've seen some great shots. Flickr images also come up easily in searches, Google, or on site. This makes them great for learning more about a subject or just seeing what's happening in some corner of the world.

The other reason I've come to love Flickr is their copyright policies. Anything put on the Internet has the potential for getting plagiarized, and images are no different, but Flickr makes it easy to adjust what specific copyright you want shown with each image. If you don't want anyone to use one of your pictures, set it to that copyright, if you don't mind if it gets used in non-commercial stuff, set it to that copyright, if you don't care what people want to do to the picture, you can even set it to that copyright. Since you can adjust the settings on each picture, you can easily share the ones you want to share and not share the ones you don't. I frequently use Creative Commons Commercial copyrighted photos for my eHow articles, and Squidoo has a great module to easily feature Flickr pictures so Creative Commons pictures are great for the small writer. To give a bit back I try and make the majority of my uploaded photos Creative Commons as well. I figure if everyone was stingy with all of their pictures it would ruin the great thing that Flickr has going, but of course a few of my favorites I don't allow to be used.

Overall, Flickr seems to be one of the few decent photo sites and I really like it. I even upgraded to a pro account so I could add more than the 200 pictures they allow for the free accounts, and if you know me you know I never pay for stuff if there's a free version. It's great fun to just scroll through pictures and see everyone's takes on the world. Today, in fact, I was searching for a mosquito and got completely diverted by all the images that showed up. There was an amazing shot with an extreme closeup of a mosquito visibly sucking blood from someone's hand. It sounds disgusting but it was so fascinating. I searched for Gem-O-Rama and found a picture taken on the same day I was there and ended up talking with the person about the event. It is so much fun to see the photos other people have taken and sometimes learn the stories behind them. Actually it is so interesting that I have to prevent myself from following picture after picture and not getting any work done.

If you're interested in seeing the pictures I have posted on Flickr either follow this link:
or just do a search on there for AlishaV.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Who Am I Really?

In my last post I was writing about how the Myer-Briggs test categorized me as a INTJ, an introverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging personality. It basically said that I was not comfortable in social situations, was cold and rational, and standoffish.

A Description of INTJs

Some people have mentioned to me that that doesn't sound like me and that they think I seem outgoing and more like an extravert or even an ESFP. I've heard myself described as enthusiastic, smiley, and sunny. So why the difference? Perhaps this quote from the INTJ personality description will help explain:

"INTJs can rise to management positions when they are willing to invest time in marketing their abilities as well as enhancing them, and (whether for the sake of ambition or the desire for privacy) many also find it useful to learn to simulate some degree of surface conformism in order to mask their inherent unconventionality."

Being a cashier for several years, I was miserable, but did very well since I assumed a more outgoing personality in order to sell better. Nicknamed Bubbles, this alter-ego of mine was fun-loving, ditsy, and gregarious, and everything I'm normally not. I periodically pull up this attitude when I don't know what to do and basically hide behind it as though it's a costume. I think that's why my favorite holiday is Halloween, I can play in character, I just can't play myself.

Thinking about it, I've played versions of this happy-go-lucky character for years. In school, I was always the helpful, little teacher's pet and my friends knew me as the outrageous one that was always coming up with stories and weird ideas and acting like a bit of a goofball. Once I decided I wasn't going to school one day and when my mother forced me up and out the door I walked down the street and instead of getting on the bus, I went into the chaparral and spent the day reading. Since that was so fun, the next day I took more books and a sheet to sit on and spent another day like that. The next day, a picnic and more books, and so on. I'm not sure how long it would have lasted, but soon two weeks had gone by and perhaps I would have kept doing it forever, but my mother went to pick me up early from school one day and lo and behold, I wasn't there. On my way back from the "bus" that day, I found everyone panicking, no one knew what to think. The most common reaction was that someone forced me to do it and I needed to reveal the perpetrator. No one believed me when I just said that I had said that I wasn't going to go to school and that I had spent the time by myself, reading. Eventually I ended up telling my friends that it was a hot guy with a convertible, and we spent the days in visiting the city, but it was funny how quickly people believed that pathetic made-up story and how little they believed the truth, that someone would choose to miss school to read.

There are numerous other examples of my anti-social, non-conformist behavior that I wish I felt free enough to exhibit. While reading Robinson Crusoe when I was a child, I couldn't understand why he'd want off the island and wasn't having a great time, I ended up planning out my entire mini kingdom if I were in his place. Heck, I still want a private island. My favorite Twilight Zone episode was the one with the only survivor of an apocalypse going to the library and being able to read as much as he wanted, then breaking his glasses-I really felt for the guy. One of my favorite books is The Stand, and I don't think what happens is too terrible. If I wasn't such a prude about stuff I would be a hippy. I want to have my own ranch and grow most of my own food, my own clothing if I wanted any (what's the point of it?), and basically not have to visit town except once a month or so. Wait, is that my private island idea all over again?

So, I guess the point of the Myer-Briggs test is to reveal who you really are and what you would be like if our society was different. What would you do if our society didn't condemn that behavior?

Personality Type

Someone I know recently mentioned that she took the Myer-Briggs personality test and wondered what other people's results would be like. Well, I hadn't thought about that test in several years.

The basic premise behind the Myer-Briggs test is that everyone can basically be grouped into 16 categories. Your answers on the test are supposed to show whether you are an introvert or extravert (I or E), an intuitive person or a sensing one (N or S), follow your feelings or think stuff out (F or T), and are a judger or a perceiver(J or P). The combinations of letters make 16 different basic types.

In my first year at college I took a class on career planning and they had us take several of those sorts of tests. On the Myer-Briggs test, myself, and three other people out of the entire class were categorized as introverts(I was an INTJ with a close call between N and S) everyone else was considered an extravert. With the extroverts gathered together and the introverts gathered together, it was pretty obvious who was who. The extravert table was full of screaming and yelling and jumping around, and talking about everything yet nothing. Us introverts were talking about nothing as well, but in our case, we were actually not talking. The introvert table was silent as we all stared at each other and waited for someone to start a conversation. We did eventually start talking, but it ended up being about how scary the extravert table was and how glad we weren't in that chaos.

Interested to see what the results would be, if I took the test now, I took a couple of the free versions online. Here are the results of one of the tests:

Introverted 78%
Intuitive 65%
Thinking 88%
Judging 78%

a very expressed introvert
a moderately expressed intuitive personality
a very expressed thinking personality
a very expressed judging personality

and the other test results:

Introverted (I) 68% Extraverted (E) 32%
Intuitive (N) 55% Sensing (S) 45%
Thinking (T) 70% Feeling (F) 30%
Judging (J) 91% Perceiving (P) 9%

Again, I tested as an INTJ with N and S being close to even. Interested in what they think my personality is like based on the results I clicked on type description. It said INTJs are logical, rational, liked lonely walks, was arrogant-seeming, and perfectionists, as well as listing numerous other adjectives. It said a good job for someone with my personality would be a scientist-I'm a geology major who loves to go hiking and looking for information in the rocks. I wouldn't have believed that would be the case when I first took the test and thought I could never have a science-related job since I wasn't good at science. One part listed other people known to be INTJs, such as Chevy Chase, Hilary Clinton, Marie Currie, and Stephen Hawking. Some fictional ones are Stewie (Family Guy), Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice), Hannibal Lector (Silence of the Lambs), Mr. Burns (The Simpsons),and Dr. House (House). All this information was all rather interesting. It seems like knowing who you are and your faults and your weaknesses would be an asset in life.

On a roll now, I looked up more sites about the Myer-Briggs style tests and found entire forums dedicated to different personalities. I checked out one section devoted to INTJs and really realized how I must appear to other people. (Sorry, everyone!) It was interesting seeing people report that they do things that I thought I only did. The slight obsessive-compulsive tendencies, such as eating food in a certain order in certain ways only, the inability to stop what I'm doing while I'm in the middle of something, not being able to start conversations, and the lack of social skills, all seemed very familiar and seeing other people enabled me to see myself much clearer than I could before.

What's your personality like? I don't mean the one you show everyone, but your inner self. Have you taken any Myer-Briggs style tests? As if so, what were your results? Do it help you know yourself better?

If you want to take one of the tests here are a couple of free ones:

Human Metrics Version
Kisa Version

The free, online tests aren't considered as accurate as the original Myer-Briggs test, so if you're really interested in learning more you may want to pay the large fee to take that test. It's a really good idea if you're not sure about anything.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What Are You Doing?

I was recently having a conversation with someone about the uses of Facebook, My Space, Twitter, and Plurk, and other social medium sites. There seem to be quite a few sites devoted to the sole purpose of telling your friends what you're doing and having them tell you the same. I understand, Facebook and My Space have other features, but one of the main uses is to tell others what you're up to. Are we really that interested in knowing when one of our friends goes to the store or is going to walk their dog? Or do we just assume everyone's lives are far more interesting than our own?

I don't know about other people, but I do know that I'm incredibly boring. I don't do interesting things that other people would want to know about. My day goes about the same most of the time, wake up, check earnings at eHow and Squidoo, check my email, start writing, try to eat a couple of times that day, and try to keep my computer working long enough to get something done. There's nothing there that is interesting enough to tell other people about. So, should I be signed up for and using these sites?

Since most people recommend marketing projects through these sites, I've been trying to visit them regularly, posting things several times a day. Not only that, but Squidoo and eHow both have an option to automatically update Twitter each time I work on my stuff and Squidoo does it for Facebook as well. I even created a module on My Squidoo Lens about My eHow Articles that updates automatically every time I use Twitter. For info on doing this check out my article I wrote Make a Twitter Feed of your eHow Articles at Squidoo

Each day I have a battle over posting on these sites though. Not because it's difficult, it's very intuitive, I just don't want to post only stuff that is basically advertisements. To play fair, I try and post interesting tidbits occasionally as well. Not only does this help me follow the letter of the rules at these sites, but it also makes it more likely I'll get fans or followers and actually reach someone with my articles and lenses. The problem comes when I try to figure out what else to post. I can never think of interesting things to post and I end up sitting and staring at the screen trying to come up with something. I usually end up writing something inane and dreading the next time I have to come up with a clever post.

Since I have such a hard time coming up with stuff to Tweet or Plurk, I wonder how other people do it. Are they really interesting people, or do they have this difficulty too? If they're really that fascinating, why are they posting all the time on these sites? It seems as though culture expects everyone to be consistently interesting and to have the time and energy to tell everyone about how interesting we are. I've gotten to the point where I'm just going to try and post whatever I can think of, no matter what it is.

Do you try to answer the question of "what are you doing" by posting on these sites? If so, do you have trouble coming up with posts?

If you want to check out my Twitter, Facebook, and other sites, just follow the links below, but a warning, don't expect my posts to be anything but boring :-)

My MySpace Page
My Facebook Page
My Plurk Page
My Twitter Page

Friday, January 30, 2009


One of my favorite creatures in the world, is one that almost no one has ever heard of. In fact, it may not even be a creature, no one really knows whether they should consider it a creature or a plant. I'm talking about diatoms.

Diatoms are tiny, single-celled organisms that are shown in the picture to the right and are extremely important to our world. They live in the ocean, lakes, streams, and wet spots and produce much of the oxygen that we breathe. Prehistoric diatoms also produced much of our fossil fuels as well. Their benefits to the world don't end there either.

Millions of years ago, in the Pliocene and Pleistocene, diatoms flourished. Great inland seas were everywhere, and the diatoms took advantage of the expanded range by breeding prolifically. As they died, their shells settled to the bottom. Over time, the diatom shells built up into layers hundreds or thousands of feet thick. These layers compressed into a rock, called diatomite, which is mined to produce a material called diatomaceous earth. The picture to the right is that of a diatomite mine.

Diatomaceous earth is used in numerous products, including cake mixes, animal feed, toothpaste, and pool filters. It kills bugs non-chemically, so it's also important to the organic industry. It's not dangerous to people or animals, unless they breath in too much and then it can irritate the lungs, but it does a great job of killing bugs through dehydration. It is considered one of the best desiccants available.

The key to the diatoms' usefulness are their specialized shells, called frustules. Their frustules are made up of silica, so it's almost like the diatoms live in quartz or glass houses. These siliceous shells are covered in tiny spikes that are so small, we large animals can't feel them at all, but they are just the right size to stick bugs and viruses. This makes them great for feeding to animals with worms and sprinkling in the garden to get rid of garden pests and using as a natural pest deterrent. It also makes it a great abrasive which makes it useful in toothpaste. The pile of Diatomaceous Earth in the picture is just a small amount from the diatomite mine in the previous picture.

I love diatoms so much, and they're so important to the world that I've decided to share info on them with everyone. I'm making a Squidoo lens called The Wonderful World of Diatoms and another about Diatomaceous Earth, simply called Diatomaceous Earth. I'm hoping I can share my love of these little organisms with everyone that is interested. Here's what I have done already:

The Wonderful World of Diatoms
Diatomaceous Earth

Check them out and let me know what you think so far. I've barely scratched the surface but eventually I hope to really reveal the secrets of the mysterious diatoms.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Do you, Squidoo?

If it seems I haven't been posting enough here, I have a reason. I've been making something called a Squidoo Lens. Actually, I've been making three with more on the way. Squidoo is an interesting site that allows one to discuss a subject or an idea with the world in an easy to use fashion-even for me, the perpetual internet idiot.

I've been doing it primarily to promote my articles on eHow and expand what they say in an easier to read format but I also love the freedom it gives me to share other stuff. I made one lens about my cats, who they are, where they came from. I added some cute kitty YouTube videos and linked to the two cat articles I've already written. As I write more articles on cats or related subjects I'll just add them to the page.

I also made a lens or page about Gem-O-Rama. It tells a bit about the event, has a bunch of pictures, and will eventually have more information added when I have a chance to write it up.

The newest lens is one I wrote just the other day is called Camping Fun. I'm not exactly sure where I'm going with that one. I may make it about how to start camping but I may also make it about camping tricks I've picked up through the years. It will probably evolve to be a sort of compilation of both with some of the cute stories about things that have gone awry on friends and my camping trips.

Check them out and see what you think:

AlishaV's Cats
Camping Fun