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is that it’s my birthday! Woot! After trying to find some cool facts about the momentous day 29 years and with 5 years of experience ago, I found out that I share a birthday with Beckham.

And that was it.

So the big thing on May 1, 19** is that my sister and I were the first set of twins born at the hospital on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

That’s right. Gitmo.

My dad was stationed there a couple of decades ago and mom managed to get the okay after they had been married for 9 months. And no, we weren’t born the moment she stepped off the plane. We showed up a couple years later.

So, happy birthday to my evil twin. I know you aren’t reading this so I can say whatever I want. Mwahahahahaha!*

Let’s get this party started right with a little bit of music! Who needs Pink when we have Dame Shirley? And I actually believe her when she says she has a Mercedes Benz. ; )

All that dancing make you thirsty? Have a drink on me! In honor of my birthstone, I present to you:

Sparkling Emerald Shooter

1/2 oz. Vodka
1/2 oz. Cinnamon Schnapps
1/2 oz. Melon Liqueur

Pour the alcohol into a steel shaker over ice. Shake til you make it (or, less fun but more practical, until the drink is completely cold). Strain into an old-fashioned glass and serve.

Leaving so soon? Well, if you must. But, before you go, don’t leave without your party favor! What kind of  hostess would I be to let you leave empty handed!

Between 12 am and 11:59 pm May 1, anyone who comments on this post, and only on this post, is entered into a drawing for their very own, personalized Mini Me Graphic! Yea you!

I’ll create a minime-zed version of yourself for use as avatars, taglines, or whatever you like for your personal use on the Internet.

The actual drawing will be done on Saturday and posted by the end of the weekend. I’ll use random.org to randomly choose a number from those who post!

Cool, huh?

So, put on a party hat and leave a comment!

* Yes, as a matter of fact, I do have an identical twin. And, yes, she is evil. Like I said, I can say whatever I want since she doesn’t read this blog. I will most likely have to bug her all day by text and IM on our birthday though.

There comes a time when you need a banner, an ad, or some other graphic and, rather than higher a designer, say to yourself, “Gee. That doesn’t look so hard. I bet I could do it myself.”

Uh huh. I can see you blushing.

Okay, maybe it’s not such a bad idea. Technically. In reality, you can get overwhelmed by the software or even trying to figure out the right sizes or eye catching color schemes.

Therefore, to help you along in saving money for your home business, I’ve decided to put together a few links for you to check out that teach you how to do it yourself. I know, I’m a giver.

First, you need a color scheme. Typically, using complementary colors (blue-orange, red-green, purple-yellow) are always a safe bet. Before choosing some colors, though, you should probably have a good idea of who your audience is first. If you are targeting parents, use kid friendly colors (primaries or soft pastels for babies). If you are targeting techies, go for greys and blues. There’s a whole science behind color and its effect on people. Feel free to explore “Color Pscychology Quick Reference Cards” for more information.

If you feel like using more than two colors, though, head on over to kuler.adobe.com, possibly one of my most favoritest sites ever. Each color scheme is about 5 colors each (at least, none are more than 5 colors) and you can search by keywords. For example, in a course I recently built I really wanted the colors of a reading room. So, in the search box, I typed in “reading” and about 49 schemes popped up. You can do the same thing with  “web 2.0”, baby, kid, Internet, and the list goes on.

Mostly, you just want something that goes together well (pleasing to your eye, at least) and doesn’t seem too garish. Try to choose a scheme that has at least one color that sticks out, like a scheme of soft blues with an orange accent color. That accent color will give your graphic, well, an accent to draw the eye of the reader/buyer/customer to where you want their eye to go. Pretty neat, huh?

Okay, so now you have some colors. Whoopeedoo. What are you going to do with them? Well, you are going to hustle your buns over to some very easy to understand and follow along tutorials.

Wow. Does your mom know that you inherited her guilt-inducing sigh of reluctance?

Tutorials are good for you. They provide you with information, can be a springboard for later projects, and grow hair on your chest. Okay, maybe not on your chest but they really do help you learn how to use not only a program but create something from scratch too. Located below are some decent tutorials for you to peruse. If you do not have Photoshop, i.e. if you aren’t a graphics designer and need its features, get GIMP**. Very cool open source program that is similar to PS. And it’s FREE.

We love free stuff.

Not sure what size banner or buttons to use? Wikipedia has a whole section devoted to the standardized sizes of banners and buttons. If you are in doubt, double check the width of your sidebar or whereever you are going to post your images. Asking never hurt either.

The best thing you can do is to look at what is already in place. If there is a certain look to the ads that are going up on the sites you are targeting, then you should probably be developing and designing similar ads. Don’t steal ideas but something in a similar vein is perfectly acceptable.

Another good idea is to look at what the pros are doing. Read “30 Top Web Design Blogs To Read Daily” for some really great eye catching stuff.

And, definitely get a grounding in some of the design principles, CARP. (or CRAP, depending on your sense of humor). C.R.A.P. stands for contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. If you’re going to be doing anything on the web, you probably should have a handle on those concepts.

In the end, if you feel comfy creating your own advertising graphics, then go right ahead. Don’t feel like you are letting anyone down, though, if you decide to hire it out. At the very least, you have a clue about what the designer is talking about when he or she throws about words like “vector” and “raster” and “ppi”.

Have any tips to share? I’d love to hear about them!

** Unfortunately, most of the GIMP tutorials I have come across are not exactly professional quality. Not that really good GIMP tuts don’t exist (maybe) but I’m not linking to the poorer ones here. However, the good news is that GIMP.org has plenty of tutorials at beginner-intermediate-expert levels to get you going. Once you know the basics, you can go through some of the simple PS tutorials listed. The ideas are the same even if the application differs a bit.

don’t panic.

Seriously. Panicking and making noises about the end of the world never helped anyone. The fact is that, although there have been deaths in Mexico, there have not been any in the U.S. At least, not at the time of this posting. If anyone in the States does die because of the Swine Flu, my guess is it’s going to be an elderly person or someone with a weak immune system (e.g. very young children, those with pre-existing conditions).

Feel free to view the H1N1 Swine Flu map to get an idea of where the outbreaks are occurring. Please note that although there are confirmed cases in the U.S., there are only 64 lab tested confirmations in California, Kansas, New York City, Ohio and Texas (CDC – Swine Flu) as of 11 am PST 4/28/09. So take the map with a grain of salt.

Here are some facts about the swine flu:

  • you can catch swine flu from a pig but it is extremely rare since cross-species infection just doesn’t happen that often
  • you cannot get swine flu from eating pork since cooking the meat kills the virus if the pork had been infected in the first place
  • basic hygienic practices like washing your hands and avoiding infected animals or people help keep you healthy

Symptoms are pretty typical of the flu:

  • fever
  • coughing
  • sore throat
  • body and head aches
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • some have diarrhea and vomiting

Personally, if I was that sick I’d be heading to the doctor anyway. According to the CDC, “The swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is susceptible to the prescription antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir.” Good news but I bet the doctor would prescribe them anyway.

So, stop sitting at home anxiously awaiting the Grim Reaper. If you’re so concerned about catching the flu, any flu, use a hand sanitizer, stay away from obviously ill people, and wash your hands frequently. Sheesh. It’s not like the CDC has come up with any new ideas on how to not catch the flu. Use common sense and you’ll be fine.

Or a cute cover. Whatever. 5Minutesformom.com is giving away….giving away.….for Mother’s Day 2009 a brand spanking new, totally adorable, keep you connected HP Mini 1000.

Did I mention that this thing is cute? I just want to hug it, and love it, and call him George.

Here are some specs that I actually researched (from cnet.com):

  • The good: Best Netbook keyboard we’ve seen; thinner and lighter than HP’s previous Netbook; ditches slow Via processor for faster Intel Atom.
  • The bad: Limited expansion options; overly glossy screen; needless proprietary external drive connection.
  • The bottom line: HP may have arrived late to the consumer Netbook game, but by lifting the generous keyboard from last year’s business-oriented model, the Mini 1000 easily joins the category’s top tier.

Feel free to view the complete HP Mini 1000 laptop review at Cnet.com. Lots of cool, if a little TMI, information on this system.

That all being said, 5Minutesformom.com has one at the right price (FREE!) and I’m all about getting good stuff at low prices. If you’re interested in entering the contest, you have until May 9th to do so. Winners will be announced on May 10th. Did I mention that there are more prizes than just the HP Mini?

I would say good luck but that baby computer is mine!

And he shall be called George.
If, at birth, you could select the profession your child would eventually pursue, would you do so? Why or why not? If so, what profession would you choose?
If not, what profession do you think your child might choose based on his/her current interests/personality?

If you had asked me before my first son was born, I would’ve chosen something grand or important or safe like a doctor, dentist or concert pianist. After having three boys, however, I have come to understand that my kids are going to do whatever it is that they want to do without my help or interference. They are three very distinct people with varying interests brought together by genetics, a roof over their heads, and an unyielding love for legos.

Eight years ago I would never had guessed that my eldest son would love turtles or that he would prefer juice to soda (yea for him!). Or that my four year old would love to hum and sing and dance. Or that my two year old can throw a ball at a hundred miles an hour with pinpoint accuracy (big leagues watch out!). I am amazed and awed by their talents and interests. So, my eldest may end up an engineer, my middle son a choreographer/artist/actor and my youngest might just be the next big baseball star.

No matter what they want to be when they grow up, and I expect them to change their minds about a hundred times before that actually happens (preferably before they have their own children), I want them to pursue something that makes them happy. There is nothing worse than going to a job that you hate for the rest of your life. All I ask is that they do that particular profession to the best of their abilities and make enough to live off of so they don’t have to live with me.

Thanks, Karen, for the best questions!

So, what profession do you, gentle reader, wish for your kids?

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