Tuesday, July 31, 2007

HOME program delivers

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Lillie Tezeno admires the view from the bedroom window her new home under construction on her property in Beaumont on Thursday, July 26, 2007. Tezeno's home is the first of 34 homes destroyed by Hurricane Rita to receive federal assistance through the HOME program.

Saundra Christopher of Baytown (left) has a laugh as her mother Lillie Tezeno (right) inspects her new home under construction on her property in Beaumont.

Please read, "Beaumont woman gets a fresh start..." by Sarah Moore.

Monday, July 30, 2007

PFC Brandon Keith Bobb

PFC Brandon Keith Bobb's brother J.J. Bobb (right) talks during funeral services at the Church of Christ in Port Arthur on Saturday, July 28, 2007. PFC Bobb died July 17, 2007 in Iraq when an improvised explosive device exploded under a Humvee.

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

PFC Brandon Keith Bobb's cousin Ashley Bobb recomposes during the funeral service at the Church of Christ.

Michael Bobb gives a hug to Paula Bobb-Miles, mother of PFC Brandon Keith Bobb, during funeral services at the Church of Christ.

Paula Bobb-Miles, mother of PFC Brandon Keith Bobb, receives her son's medals from Brigadier General Robert Hipwell during funeral services at the Church of Christ in Port Arthur. PFC Bobb was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

U.S. Army pall bearers carry the body of PFC Brandon Keith Bobb out of the Church of Christ in Port Arthur after services.

Video © Mark M. Hancock

Video fades in from black. Click play button to begin.

Please read, "Pfc. Brandon Bobb eulogized..." by Rose Ybarra.

Surface computing could change newsrooms

Who said broadsheet layout was dead?

Fayrouz sent me a link and said she wants a surface computer for her birthday. I told her we need to wait until next year (at $10K, I probably need to win the Lotto first).

It's a new form of computer by Microsoft code-named "Milan." See the Popular Mechanics presentation.

This table-sized unit incorporates an array of infrared cameras to identify a multi-touch interface with a large, high-resolution tabletop screen. Rather than the standard one or two input locations associated with mouse and electrostatic interfaces, this allows each finger touchpoint to track unique coordinates.

This also allows interaction with objects on the surface because the cameras recognize the objects and interface with them. Furthermore, the surface computer allows content to be wirelessly transferred between these objects by dragging the information across the table.

While it looks cool as the "must have" gamer table, it has major real-world applications for newspapers.

If a newspaper invests in a few of these and places them strategically at universities, bookstores and trendy, all-night coffee shops, they could generate significant income.

Brand recognition / subscriptions
Traditionally, newspapers include logos on the sides of the tables to embed brand recognition. It should still be done, however it's now more of a secondary function. Somewhere on the table would be a permanent interactive form to order a subscription to the newspaper as well. Although this is interactive, it's again a minor piece of the puzzle.

What makes this really rock is programming the table to automatically display a fully-integrated broadsheet newspaper edition. It could be programmed to always refresh to the newspaper every few minutes (keep those wandering eyes on the paper).

This way, the tables could be known for the newspaper and could be called "The XYZ News" table (if publishers jump fast enough). This is precisely what publishers want.

Editorial applications
Because the table is large enough, it could easily hold the entire (two page) broadsheet layout. Additionally, the extra computing horsepower would allow the paper to directly download high-res (but protected) versions of all content including layout, images and videos that would play in real-time with original resolution (ja-la-peño, ja-la-peño, ja-la-peño).

Viewers can turn pages with a touch, enlarge images, view videos and read stories - at whatever size they desire. Because it's linked directly to the paper, the layout would be "live" and change as news happens. Breaking news could create an alert, and the paper could change. Videos could be displayed in areas where a still frame would normally go (just like in Harry Potter).

When readers touch the jump link, they're taken directly to the page and the jump headline could flash a few times to identify the correct story. This helps readers stay focused on the story when they might have gotten lost at the jump in traditional pulp papers.

Where the table becomes futuristic is through its interactivity. Some of these suggestions should make traditionalists squirm, but roll with it. The world changed and continues to change faster than we particularly desire.

Most online outlets have moved toward a "good enough" approach. Information is processed until it's "good enough" to present. Then, it's displayed on the Web until the final version is ready and replaces the original post. This approach can lead to errors and wasted time, but it's important from a branding and revenue point of view.

In blunt terms, scoops still matter and are measured in seconds (and ad dollars) rather than days now.

The best way to know what's happening around town is to enlist readers to interact with the newsroom. This must be done in realistic terms rather than mere lip service. When a newspaper reader reports (legitimate) news, action must be taken. Sometimes, the action may be citizen-generated content.

The table itself communicates with digital cameras, cell phones, laptops and other digital devices through infrared technology. As such, a citizen might see a fire and shoot it with a cell phone. Then, they'll know to go to the bookstore (or wherever) to instantly and wirelessly download it to the local paper.

Although this may sound like it's eliminating PJs, it's not. It's actually allowing us to cover the news as it happens rather than rushing to get "anything" onto the Web and missing the actual dramatic moments. Because the paper gets the CJ images first, they have "something" for the Web while we get to work the event for the best image.

Later, the CJ image is replaced by pro images. The paper had "something" before everyone else. The CJ had a moment of glory. The PJ got to work the scene without transmitting and missing the key moments. The readers get immediate information followed by quality information. The finished, historical product hits doorsteps with the best of everything. Everybody wins. The biggest winner is the advertising department, but we'll get to that in a moment.

Additionally, podcasts and freebie MP3s from local bands can be wirelessly copied from the newspaper to iPods, phones and other portable players.

Involve readers
Let's talk a little more about this interactivity. The goal of the table is to compel readers to interact with the newspaper in real ways. They can suggest changes and see the results.

The retired teachers, librarians and professional know-it-alls can point out grammatical and factual errors all day. These can be changed on the fly (when warranted). The end result is a higher quality product for the pulp readers.

Likewise, the readers could interact with reporters before the story goes to print to include unexpected interviews. Anyone sitting at the table can interact with the newsroom.

Who knows, a criminal might be dumb enough to admit something via the comment section. Reporters can get an exclusive interview until the cops arrive. ;-}

Moreover, there could even be a special section just for these coffee table interactions. Reporters could solicit comments and story ideas. Readers could post photos and videos. It could be a community-based porthole into the newsroom. Not only would the newsroom benefit from the interactions, the community could feel an "ownership" of the newspaper's content. This alone could translate into higher circulation and ad rates.

Cool, but how's it paid for?
Simple, each table is located at a specific location and has a specific niche of clients. The university table has the most-coveted male demographic. The bookstore captures a large percentage of the upwardly mobile. A trendy all-night coffee shop caters to both of the above.

This is valuable information for advertisers. They know Page 4A was opened 25 times an hour at the bookstore. So, their ad was seen 25 times. How much is that worth? A buck each? Sure.

For those doing the math, that's $25 per hour times the number of display ads on the page. Even if there are only two ads, that's $1,200 per day. The table is paid off in less than 10 days. More likely, one new table could be purchased per day simply from "temporary ads."

Here's where it gets interesting. Each ad is also interactive. If a reader wants to enlarge an ad, they touch it and stretch it to whatever size they choose. What's that worth? Another two bucks, maybe three?

OK, that's penny and nickel stuff. Where's the real cash? Fine. Let's say the reader wants to purchase the advertised item right there, right then. They whip out their debit card, lay it on the table or swipe it under the table, confirm their info and the advertiser just sold a $5,000 bedroom set. What's that worth? Oh, now we see.

Even if they simply order a pizza to be delivered to the table because they found a coupon, the information about the ad itself is priceless to advertisers.

Let's say the newspaper only got $5 for each sale (although a small percentage plus transaction fees would be a better operating procedure). Either way, the advertiser got a confirmed sale from a reader in a specific location at a specific time.

This is what both businesses want. Advertisers want sales and publishers want advertisers to make those sales. This table gives newspapers the ability to deliver what advertisers have wanted all along. Advertisers will pay for this.

Wise publishers can reinvest this income (easily doubling each month) into more tables until there's enough scattered throughout the city. After the tables are paid off, maintenance and service fees continue, but the rest is profit.

Another option is temporary, targeted ads sent to specific tables. These would also cost advertisers a premium fee and might have a limited number of coupons at a specific (higher) price per coupon. The ad would be replaced with a house ad once all the coupons are claimed.

This could involve including some receipt printing mechanism for only these coupon ads. Again, this is a very powerful computer. It can handle minor functions such as printing receipts.

Newsroom applications
While papers below 50K probably couldn't save enough time to justify the expense of these tables, the 50K+ dailies could.

The most obvious application would be in composition. With the ability to manually manipulate text and graphic elements, layout designers could rapidly design pages and make changes. This would save time and allow for more frequent updates.

Online production
Online producers must coordinate all online content simultaneously. Using a traditional screen is fine to check the user interface, but more organizational space surely would help. This table is perfect for the job.

Baskets track incoming alerts, stories (wire and staff), images, videos and CJ/reader input. The producers can use both hands to make changes, piece together content, package it for the Web. Major changes would only take seconds.

Ready or not, news gathering is heading toward "live." These tables speed along the process, preparation, delivery and interaction.

Advertising department
The ad department needs a table as well to see how their products look. This table can't be connected to the stat counter for obvious reasons. However, it would also make paste-up simple and easy as other departments. As video ads are becoming more important (and lucrative), these tables make sorting and editing fast and painless for both the ad side and the newsroom.

Photo desk
At very large metro papers, the photo desk could use the table to edit multiple contact sheets (PhotoMechanic) simultaneously. More importantly, an interactive map would let assignment editors know the locations of all on-duty shooters. Cop shop reporters (and/or alert services) could report the locations of breaking news.

These alerts could appear on an interactive map and allow assignment editors to send two or three of the closest shooters to the location. Simply press the PJ's location icon and the cell phone is dialed. If the PJ isn't sure how to get to the location, the map is handy and large enough to provide turn-by-turn directions.

VJs could also rapidly edit videos on these tables. Manual cropping tools and ability to display clips like the old slide sorters would make editing fun again. Scoop the video together, add an end tag and post. Yeah baby. :-)

Enough for now,

Sunday, July 29, 2007

AFA Nationals

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Mecca Jamerson of Gardena, Calif. tries to stay cool with a battery-powered fan during the AFA North American Championship softball tournament at Ford Park in Beaumont on Tuesday, July 24, 2007.

Sydney Wilson of the Louisiana Patriots softball team from Baton Rouge watches opponents play during the AFA North American Championship softball tournament at Ford Park.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Cops N Kids Picnic

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Kassidy Duplant, 5, of Groves tours a U.S. Coast Guard boat during the 13th annual Cops N Kids Picnic at Claiborne West Park in Vidor on Friday, July 20, 2007. The event was sponsored by the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Julian Jinks, 5, of Groves looks through a sniper's scope at a S.W.A.T. station during the 13th annual Cops N Kids Picnic at Claiborne West Park in Vidor.

Officer Jeremiah Gunter (left) and Sgt. Thomas Ray (right) answer children's questions at the Orange County Area S.W.A.T. station during the 13th annual Cops N Kids Picnic at Claiborne West Park.

Orange County Sheriff's Department chaplain Mike Eaves slices watermelon during the 13th annual Cops N Kids Picnic at Claiborne West Park.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Recovering coach

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Coach Keith Graham of the Oklahoma Firebirds watches his team play during the AFA 18-and-under North American Championships softball tournament at Ford Park in Beaumont on Tuesday, July 24, 2007. Graham is recovering from surgery two weeks ago to remove squamous cell cancer and have a segment of his tongue and 50 lymph nodes along his neck removed.

Please read, "From Minnesota to Beaumont for cancer treatment then softball..." by Chris Dabe.

Emulate a Web site with Blogger

Kahtan Alamery is using Blogger in an interesting way. He's linked together various blogspot locations (different URLs) to act as a standard Web site. This way, he pays no hosting fees nor throughput fees if his site becomes popular. His example should help out most beginning or generally frugal PJs.

Kahtan stated in an e-mail,
"I started to use Google's Blogger as a back up platform for my Photographs and while I am on the road for extended period of time.
I can upload all my photos to the blog and the files automatically group in folders at Picasa which links back my photos to the blog page. Once there I can use the (slide show embed) as a link back to the blog page.
I used to pay $40 a month to maintain a website.
This is a cheaper and better way to showcase my work, I have my work on line for free, my photographs are organized and archived and I can switch the format from a slide show to blog format in less than a minute when I am on the road and want to turn my blog back to photos and text entries."
Check out his work at www.kahtan6.blogspot.com

For other PJs considering this option, include contact information on the blog to make it easier for clients to hire you or buy your work.

Enough for now,

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jarrah Yvette Davis funeral

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Rhonda Davis, mother of Jarrah Yvette Davis, hugs friends and family outside following funeral services for her daughter at Paradise Baptist Church in Beaumont on Tuesday, July 24, 2007. Jarrah Yvette Davis, 20, and Tamera J. Antoine, 27, were slain at the Cardinal Square apartment complex last week.

Best friends Billie Buckley and Vanessa Bush cry over the open casket of Jarrah Yvette Davis during her funeral at Paradise Baptist Church in Beaumont. Beaumont Crime Stoppers is offering up to a $3,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Please read, "Mourners recall better days..." by Dee Dixon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter Party

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Magician Julian Franklin of Houston takes an oversized playing card away from his rat puppet during a Harry Potter Party at the Port Arthur Public Library in Port Arthur on Saturday, July 21, 2007. The library also had some copies of the last book in the series available for Potter fans to take home for the weekend.

Darby Dugay, 6, of Port Arthur holds the dove of magician Julian Franklin during a Harry Potter Party at the Port Arthur Public Library.

James Harper of Port Neches paints children's faces during a Harry Potter Party at the Port Arthur Public Library. Most public libraries stock the entire series and also have waiting lists for the final book.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pumpin' iron

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

West Orange-Stark High School junior Robert Jiles lifts weights at the school in West Orange on Tuesday, July 10, 2007. Most football players use the summertime off-season to build muscle for fall games.

Lifting belts await athletes at West Orange-Stark High School in West Orange.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sabine Pass FEMA Trailers

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Sabine Pass resident Phyllis Almond is optimistic about purchasing her trailer in the Sabine Pass community on Wednesday, July 11, 2007. FEMA decided to allow some residents to purchase Hurricane Rita-related travel trailers for a fraction of market value.

Video © Mark M. Hancock / DFWmark.com

Sabine Pass, Texas took the direct hit from Hurricane Rita on Sept. 24, 2005. The community was completely destroyed. FEMA eventually issued travel trailers as temporary housing until homes were rebuilt. Most residents still live in these trailers pending the completion of their homes.

FEMA officials recently decided to allow these residents to purchase the trailers for pennies on the dollar. The offer was so good that almost every FEMA trailer resident purchased the trailers.

Some will continue to live in the trailers. Others will use them for camping. All want the security of a place to store and haul their belongings when another hurricane approaches and, if necessary, a familiar place to call home.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Cameron's hermits

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Hermit crabs hide together on a rock near the Cameron Ferry in Cameron, La. on Saturday, July 7, 2007.

A hermit crab holds onto a rock near the Cameron Ferry in Cameron, La.

A hermit crab starts to turn its shell away from the sun near the Cameron Ferry in Cameron, La.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Stephen Jackson basketball camp

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise
Stephen Jackson of the Golden State Warriors encourages players during a basketball camp at the Nederland Recreation Center in Nederland on Thursday, July 13, 2007.

Treylin Dixon, 1, of Port Arthur toddles beside Stephen Jackson of the Golden State Warriors during a basketball camp at the Nederland Recreation Center.

Jackson, a Port Arthur product, is known for the worst brawl in NBA history as well as a gun incident outside a strip club. However, back in Southeast Texas, he tries to encourage and help the next generation find their way.

Please read "NBA's Jackson at Mid-County camp to emphasize the positive by Johnnie Walters.

NFL wants PJs as unpaid billboards

Please read "New NFL Vest Rule (With Sponsor Logos) Has Some Seeing Red" by Donald R. Winslow, News Photographer magazine.

This vestvertising gimmick is too stupid to warrant much of a statement.

Don't bother contacting the NFL. Contact CPS and your Canon reps. Let them know you don't approve of this idea and refuse to buy their products until they put pressure on the NFL to shut this plan down.

Here's the scoop:   people look at our tools because they want to shoot "like the pros." Most pro PJs already shoot Canon. Now, Canon is trying to tick us off. Not wise.

With new technology leading toward single-purpose VJ cameras, Sony and JVC are looking much more appealing than Canon as of today.

If Canon really wants to pay the NFL to lose my business, future sales and the sales of folks I contact in my daily travels and e-mails, it's their option. It's a non-conventional business model. I wonder how well it'll work for them.

Oh, BTW, I've never covered an NFL game. So the vests don't affect me directly. However, it's important for Canon to consider the loss of my business (and every other PJ who doesn't shoot NFL games) in the annual budget as well.

As long as they support this plan, it's already costing them somewhere between $5,000 and $25,000 within the next year. So, they'll need to sell about $50,000 worth of point-and-shoot cameras to make up for the lost sales from me alone. I can't imagine vestvertising creating such a high demand to make up for each staff shooter that refuses to support Canon over this.

Since I didn't mention it yet, let's remember it costs our companies at least $400 to put us on the sidelines for a game. An out-of-town game can cost well over $1K. So, thinking PJs are on the sideline for "free" is preposterous. I certainly wouldn't want to pay $400 to have a billboard slapped on me. Our companies shouldn't want to finance this either.

Enough for now,

Friday, July 20, 2007

Staying on track

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Fourteen-year-olds Brandon Johnson (left) and Katri Jones (right) balance as they walk on rail tracks in Silsbee on Tuesday, July 17, 2007.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Jasper fish hatchery

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Fish ponds are mostly empty at the fish hatchery near Jasper on Thursday, June 21, 2007. The state will truck and release about a million fish fingerlings into Steinhagen Lake near Jasper this week.

A carp eats floating vegetation in Steinhagen Lake. Steinhagen Lake near Jasper was refilled with water after it was drained to kill invasive plant species. During the draining period, many of the lake's fish also died.

Fish ponds are mostly empty at the fish hatchery near Jasper.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Kirby-Hill House museum

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

The Kirby-Hill House Museum and Educational Foundation museum in Kountze has recovered from Hurricane Rita and reopened to guests on Thursday, July 12, 2007. The renovated 105-year-old, eight-room, neo-Victorian-style mansion was occupied by the family until 1990.

Educational program co-director Debra Brown walks past a curving staircase at the Kirby-Hill House museum in Kountze. The house is financed through grants, donations and usage fees.

Kirby-Hill House museum volunteer Sierra Cook, 12, of Kountze reads an etiquette book at the museum in Kountze. The house offers tours throughout the week.

Kirby-Hill House museum volunteer Paige Hasselbach, 12, of Lumberton crochets a pot holder for a friend at the museum. The house is also available for weddings, receptions and operates as a bed and breakfast on the weekends.

Please read "Mansion towers in Kountze for 105 years" by Fred Davis.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Through his fingers

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Port Arthur Memorial's Freddie King (No. 11) misses a pass during a 7-on-7 scrimmage football match at West Orange-Stark High School in West Orange on Tuesday, July 10, 2007. The Texas State 7-on-7 tournament takes place this weekend.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Anahuac Butterfly Count

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Volunteer coordinator Stephanie Martinez (left to right), David Sarkozi of Houston and Stuart Marcus of Liberty examine a butterfly through binoculars during the annual Butterfly Count at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, July 14, 2007.

A Viceroy Butterfly prepares to attack from a leaf during the annual Butterfly Count at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. The count was part of the national butterfly count held each year.

A Giant Swallowtail Butterfly searches for nectar during the annual Butterfly Count at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.

Video © Mark M. Hancock / DFWmark.com

This is part of the "Movie Mondays" series. Please take a moment to click the Google Video link on the video player and vote for this video (or my others).

Please also see "Butterflies Attack," the horror spoof of this video.

Butterflies Attack

Video © Mark M. Hancock / DFWmark.com

This started as an experiment with directly importing sound and mutated into a 20-second horror movie from a flower's point of view. Please see the real video as well.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Chillin' in Nederland

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Lifeguard Sara Hussey, a senior at Nederland High School, watches as Ryan Brown, 16, of Caddo Mills attempts a flip at the City of Nederland Pool in Nederland on Friday, July 13, 2007. Brown was visiting relatives in Nederland.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Overturned 7s

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

West Orange-Stark's Ronnie Dennis (bottom) hits the turf with the ball during a 7-on-7 scrimmage football match against Port Arthur Memorial at WOS High School in West Orange on Tuesday, July 10, 2007. The Texas State 7-on-7 tournament takes place this weekend.

Friday, July 13, 2007

LSC-Orange welding facility

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Jennifer Holliday of Orange (left) and Chris Jones of Deweyville (right) perfect their welds at the Lamar State College-Orange welding facility in Orange on Thursday, July 5, 2007.

Welding students move to their stations after lunch at the new Lamar State College-Orange welding facility. Although the facility had a set back with a location change, it's now operational and training future welders to fill the needs of area businesses.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Fuel Cell & Energy Systems Center

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

Preparations continue for a political tour of the Fuel Cell & Energy Systems Center at Lamar University in Beaumont on Friday, July 6, 2007. The center works on fuel cell, battery and super capacitor research for civilian and military applications.

Chemical engineering professor Ku-Yen Li (bottom left to right) and student Morgan Reed work during a political tour of the Fuel Cell & Energy Systems Center. Lamar's director of the Advanced Laser Electric Power program David Cocke (top, left to right) shows a project to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Representatives Kevin Brady and Ted Poe.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cameron Ferry Wildlife

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

I searched for the elusive (albino) pink bottlenose dolphin twice last week. The first time with Fayrouz and the second time alone. Considering it could be anywhere between Lake Charles, La. and Miami, Fla., I was satisfied to get any surfacing dolphins.

Pinky, as we named it, has been spotted several times at the Cameron Ferry in Cameron, La. The waterway between Calcasieu Lake and the Gulf of Mexico brings an assortment of fresh fish with the tides for the dolphins. Additionally, there's plenty of large ships to race. Consequently, Cameron is a favorite hang out for the playful critters.

Some folks may notice the dolphins have pink bellies. From what I've read, they should have white bellies. Like flamingos and spoonbills, this coloration is because their diet contains so many shrimp, crabs, crawfish and other crustaceans.

I know the music loop is too familiar. I'm working on other options, but this loop sounds both "natural" and "tropical." So, it goes well with the animal slide shows and videos. Work with me for a while. :-)

Please read "Albino dolphin spied around Calcasieu Lake" by Christine Rappleye.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Immature Green Heron

An immature Green Heron rests near the ferry crossing over the waterway between Calcasieu Lake and the Gulf of Mexico in Cameron, La. on Tuesday, July 3, 2007. Recently a pink bottlenose dolphin was spotted near the ferry. It's believed to be an albino bottlenose dolphin rather than the more rare Asian or South American pink dolphins.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

This bird is actually so large and landed so close to me that I had to tilt the camera to fit it into the frame. I couldn't change from the 400mm because it would have split before I had the next lens out of my hip bag.

This is a preview of tomorrow's slide show (no, I couldn't find Pinky). Since I'm going to start posting slide shows on the blog, I needed to set down some guidelines for myself. It's more fun to break my own rules than other people's rules. ;-}

I'll attept to post slide shows on Wednesdays. It's a slow day, so folks may have more time to see them. I reserve the right to post images from a slideshow over several days as I have done for years. A photo a day is difficult enough. Acquiring 50 unique images per day is excessive.

I'm trying to learn Garage Band. In the meantime, I'll post variations of the longer loops. If y'all get sick of the same basic music loops, turn down the volume on the player. But, you're stuck when it comes to videos. :-)

Embed SoundSlides onto blogs

I've mostly been playing around with video and sound lately, but I found a way to post SoundSlides directly onto a blog. See examples (with and without sound).

Due to its low cost and ease of use, SoundSlides seems to be the popular Flash program of choice for most PJs lately. As such, they want to publish these presentations on their blogs. Since most blog-hosting services accept XHMTL now, it can be done. However, there are some tradeoffs.

This post assumes PJs already know how to make slide show presentations and post the code onto a hosting site (company or private). As such, there must be a minimal understanding of HTML code editing. Likewise, there must be a place (other than the blog host) to store the files.

From what I understand, GeoCities (owned by Yahoo) and iWeb both provide free hosting in exchange for some concessions. In other words, read the Terms very carefully before posting copyright images to these free services.

Sure, it's cool to present your work to potential clients and friends. However, it's far more important to protect a PJ's future income. Pay the throughput fees and write off the expense rather than giving away image rights.

How to post slide shows to blogs
The first step is to determine what size player a PJ's blog needs. If the site is a single-image blog, go with the full-resolution version. If it's a multi-day blog like this one, use the small version.

Go to the URL of the page with the desired slide show presentation. Right click (PC) to View Source (or View Source from the command bar on Mac).

In the code, Copy everything from "object" to "/object" (with <>). Paste this code into a post. Type "/embed" (with <>) to the end of the code.

Next, Copy the entire URL code from the presentation location. Paste this code in front of the text soundslider.swf?size=0. Type the forward-slash symbol ( / ) between the URL and the text in both locations (value= and embed src=). This should also work with similar Flash programs.

If using the small version (for multi-day blogs), go to the URL string and remove the text /small.html.

Preview the post for errors. Publish the post. It should appear properly scaled.

Dealing with sound
Always check the sound volume button option to give viewers the option to change the sound level. Also, uncheck the autoplay option on the same page if the slideshow includes sound. An unsuspecting viewer in an office somewhere shouldn't suddenly have a rock concert blaring without warning (not good).

Own the copyright
As pro PJs, we don't want anyone stealing our work. Similarly, we can't be lifting the work of others. Either collect the sound, buy rights, use royalty-free/presentation rights-free sound (royalty-free isn't presentation-free), or build your own music in Garage Band or a similar loop compiler.

Yes, there's a future post on this issue, but I don't have time tonight, and it's extremely complicated. Simply stated: if you're not certain you have every right to post the sound, don't do it. Other people breaking the law on YouTube doesn't give pro PJs the right to break the law too.

Enough for now,

Monday, July 09, 2007

Moving Neptune

Video © Mark M. Hancock / DFWmark.com

This is part of the "Movie Mondays" series. Please take a moment to click the Google Video link on the video player and vote for this video (or my others). Thanks. :-)

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

V.C. Knight, facilities team lead for BHP Billiton Petroleum, poses for a portrait by the hull of an oil and gas platform under construction at Signal International on Pleasure Island in Port Arthur on Friday, May 18, 2007. The Neptune Project hull will begin a move of more than 100 miles on Saturday into the Gulf of Mexico for a deepwater petroleum platform.

The a 15-story, 8,000-ton hull of the Neptune Project, a deep-sea drilling platform, is towed down the Sabine-Neches Waterway from Signal International on Pleasure Island to the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, May 19, 2007.

The hull of the Neptune Project, a deep-sea drilling platform, is towed down the Sabine-Neches Waterway from Signal International on Pleasure Island to the Gulf of Mexico.

John Dan Henry of Orange watches as a shrimp boat passes the slow-moving hull of the Neptune Project on the Sabine-Neches Waterway.