How to Lead Criminals Right to Your Door

Police officers were at our neighborhood meeting last night. Not because there was threat of a rumble–I’m 54, and I was the youngest person attending for the first half of the meeting–but to share crime-fighting advice. Most of the tips were the routine things like locking your car doors, stowing packages in your trunk, leaving lights on when you’re away from home, and so on. All things most of us know and do on a regular basis.

One tip, though, came up in a side discussion and was something I’d never thought about.

gpsI purchased a GPS device last year when I took on a work contract that involves a great many road trips. I promptly took advantage of the neat Home feature and programmed my home address into the device. When I finish a work assignment, I don’t have to enter my address–I just press the Home button and the GPS maps the route from wherever I am.

It never occurred to me that if a criminal type broke into my car and stole my GPS that my beloved Home button could lead them right to my door! And it would be my rotten luck that it would get all the directions right that time!

Needless to say, I immediately went home and reprogrammed the Home feature to a different address. Now if someone steals my GPS, they’ll think I live at the grocery store a half-mile away. (Which wouldn’t be far from the truth during one of my more disorganized weeks.)

If you have your home address plugged into your GPS unit or smart phone, you might want to change it to someplace nearby.

Ignore: D3P4JMA526PB

Proper Use of Images in Blog Posts, Pt 3, Flickr

Continuing the series on choosing copyright-appropriate images for blog posts, my focus today is Flickr. If you need to play catch up on this series, read Part 1 for a discussion of copyright (and a horror story) and read Part 2 for information on using Google Images.

Flickr is a huge repository of online images and videos, with over 6 billion images on site. Not all of those images are available for public viewing and among those that are public, many are labeled “All Rights Reserved.” We admire those images but don’t use them. Right? Right!

Flickr Basics

Searching for images is easy in Flickr. Say I wanted to find an image representing copyright for this post. I’d just type copyright in the the Flickr search box in the upper right corner of the main page and wait for Flickr to return a grid of images that match my search.

moreinfoEach image in Flickr has data stored with it, including license and usage information. For any image I consider using, I should check that information by hovering over the image and then clicking on the little i icon in the lower right corner of the image. You should see a pop-up box like the one shown below:

Flickr image info some rights reserved

I’ve underlined the license information, which is reserving some rights for the image owner. Just to the left of that is a small icon. If you hover over that, you’ll see a pop-up box that indicates this image is available for use with proper attribution. Or you can click on the part I underlined to see the license with explanations of what you’re allowed to do and how you need to do it. So handy!

The search results for the word copyright returned 6.5 million results, and a good many of those were licensed as “All Rights Reserved”, meaning I can’t use them. Going through each image searching for one I can use is going to get tiresome. Quickly.

To help with sorting out the usable from the ‘hands off’, I’ll use Flickr’s Advanced Search feature. I can not only search for keywords but also limit the search to only those images that have Creative Commons licenses. Ready? Let’s get started.

Finding the Advanced Search Feature in Flickr

There are a couple of ways to do this, the short way and the even shorter way.

Short way: Near the top of your search results page, you’ll see a link for Advanced Search:

advanced search link

Click on it to go to the Advanced Search Page.

Or you can just bookmark the link to the Advanced Search page and start your search there.

Make sure your search term is in the search box and then scroll allll the way to the bottom of the screen for the Creative Commons section:

Flickr Creative Commons filter

Check the box for the filters you want. Usually, I check all of them to ensure that I get an image that I can use in the way I want. (When I applied this filter in my search on the term copyright, my results page went from 6.6 million to 640,000, which shows how many of the original images were NOT available to use.)

Using a Flickr Image

So I’ve decided to use an image. Now what? I left-click on the image and then the Share at the top of the screen:

Flickr share dialog box

Left click in the code box to highlight the text and then either Ctrl+C or right-click/copy, toggle over to blog post and paste it in (Ctrl+V or right-click/paste). And this is what I get:

Copyright Symbols

Ta-da! If you hover over the image, you see the attribution.

From what I understand, that’s enough to meet the license requirement, but I like to take it a step further and include an in-post mention as well. I’ve tried this beneath the image but not being particularly adept at coding, the results aren’t visually pleasing. I’ve also included an attribution at the bottom of the post, but that feels a bit like a footnote and the image owner deserves more than that, in my opinion. Fortunately, there’s an app for that!

Using ImageCodr for Flickr Images

ImageCodr works with Flickr images, checking the licenses for appropriateness and then generating html to display the image, the attribution, the license, and a link to the image owner’s Flickr page. Even better, it’s super easy to use.

Instead of grabbing the html code for the image, grab the link instead. Copy it from the Flickr page, toggle over to ImageCodr Get Code page and paste in the link.

imagecodr get code

Here’s what you get:

image codr html

ImageCodr has checked the license, given me the green light (or green checkmark, in this case) and generated the html. I just need to copy it (I have to either Ctrl+A or right-click/select all first) and paste it in my blog entry. Check this out:

Same image as before, but now I get a clickable link to the Creative Commons license, a clickable link to MikeBlogs Flickr page, and a visual credit for MikeBlogs. No hovering required, and anyone who has thoughts of using the image knows that there’s a Creative Commons license covering it.

An even easier way to use ImageCodr is to drag the bookmark to your bookmarks toolbar. When you’re viewing a Flickr image you want to use, click the bookmark and it takes you straight to the ImageCodr page with the html to use for your blog post. It saves the cut/paste step.

But what if the Flickr image doesn’t have a CC license? Using one of my images, I gave ImageCodr a test:

ImageCodr restriction

You have no idea how happy this makes me! :)

Was this all as clear as mud? Feel free to ask any questions. I’m no expert, but I can usually find an answer.

Finding appropriately-licensed images to use is not that difficult at all. Just a few extra steps is all it takes. I hope you’ll join me in taking those steps and encouraging others to do the same!

Proper Use of Images in Blog Posts, Pt. 2 Google Images

For important information about copyright and fair use, along with a bit of a horror story of improper use of someone else’s images, see Part 1 of this two-part series.

So now that I’ve scared you half to death with copyright concerns, let’s explore a couple of ways to reduce the likelihood that we’ll need to seek legal advice after posting images. Specifically, we’ll look at two of the most popular photo repositories: Google Images and Flickr. Today’s post features Google Images.

Finding Copyright-Appropriate Images in Google Images

In the past, I didn’t use Google Images as a blog image source, because I found it tiresome to click on image after image until I found one that had copyright terms compatible with my need. One day, I got to wondering why Google Images didn’t have a function to narrow down the search, and so I Googled the question. Lo and behold, there is a very simple way to filter Google Images by usage needs, and it’s located in the Settings area of the Google Images results page.

On the Google Images search page, type in your search term and click the blue magnifying glass. I chose “copyright” as my search term, just to follow the week’s theme.

google images search box

You should have a page of image results displayed. At the top of the screen, waaaay over on the right, is the Settings Button. It looks like a little wheel. Or a techno-daisy.

google image results settings menu Click on the wheel to display a drop down menu, and then choose Advanced Search.

This is where it gets fun!

As you see, you can set all sorts of criteria for narrowing your image search (by color even!), but for today we’re most interested in the usage rights filter at the very bottom of the list (naturally):

google image advanced search usage rights menu

Click to enlarge

If you enlarged the image, you’ll see that clicking usage rights filter box displays a menu for selecting the appropriate type of image, based on your needs. If you don’t intend to modify an image in any way, “Free to use or share” is probably enough. Since I have ads on my blogs, which to my mind makes them commercial, I usually choose “Free to use, share or modify–even commercially. (I never know when I might want to plop a quote on an image, so I like to include the modify option.)

When you’ve made your selection, click the Advanced Search button to see only those images that fit your needs. Not so fast, though. You’ll want to take one more step to be sure.

When you find an image that interests you, click on it to display more information, and then visit the page (there’s a button for it) to read with your own eyes the specific statement of appropriate usage. Here’s an example, using one of the results I liked a lot:

wobbling blob of copyright by Abi ParamaguruThis image, titled “Congealed Wobbling Blob of Copyright”, was created by Abi Paramaguru and is used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License. (I include the link to the license so that anyone who comes along and wants to use it can check the license to see if it’s permissible and under what terms.)

I know all of this because it was clearly stated at the bottom of the article in which it was used, a report on issues with Australian copyright law.

That wasn’t so difficult, was it? Plus, it feels good to share the love by bringing recognition to the image creator.

Play around with it, explore, investigate and have fun. And then come back for my next post, which will address the wonderful world of Flickr. Teaser: It includes a handy, online tool for coding your image with all the proper citations!

Next Up: Part 3: Flickr

Proper Use of Images in Blog Posts, Part 1

Since I started using Pinterest, I’ve been exposed to a lot more blogs. It’s interesting to see the commonalities and differences in how blogs in different interest areas are developed. A weight loss blog is likely to have before-and-after photos. A home decor blog will usually have a ‘home tour’ page with photos of the blogger’s home. A writing blog will feature images of…well, usually images of the writer’s self-published book cover. :)

One common habit I’ve noticed across all the various blogging niches is that we generally do a lousy job of attributing images not our own but used in our posts. There seems to be a misconception that if it’s on the internet, it’s free for the using, but that’s just not so. Or we stick an “Image Credit” at the bottom of the post or behind a link and call it attribution. It’s not. In fact, you could find yourself in a whole heap of trouble. If you don’t believe me, read Roni Loren’s story of the nightmare she endured when she unknowingly used an image under copyright by the photographer. She thought what she was doing was okay, and it was anything but. Her situation is not something I want to go through, that’s for sure!

So how do we find and use images properly?

The first step, in my opinion, is to gain a greater understanding of copyright and fair use. I’m no expert (I’m still in learning mode), but I can point you in the direction of some folks who know a whole lot more and have the information to prove it: Smashing Magazine’s “Copyright Explained: I May Copy It, Right?” is a comprehensive, informative, plain English discussion of many aspects of copyright and fair use. Read it. (Hat tip to Lorelle on WordPress for pointing me to that valuable resource and saving me from a potentially costly and/or embarrassing situation.)

Okay, we read it. Can we go find images now?

Not quite. Many images and creative works have copyrights under Creative Commons licenses,so we need to learn more about those. For that, why not go to the Creative Commons website, specifically, the license page. In addition to an explanation of the license process, there’s a good summary of the various types of licenses. Some works can be modified, some can’t. Some can be used commercially, some can’t. And so on. It’s a good resource to bookmark.

One way to avoid issues with copyright is to use works in the public domain. Wikipedia has an excellent list of resources for finding public domain images. Please note their cautionary warning at the top of the article: “The presence of a resource on this list does not guarantee that all or any of the images in it are in the public domain.” It’s still our responsibility to research the copyright.

And one last thing to consider. We can always contact the image source and ask permission to use the image, politely thanking them no matter what their response. :)

Copyright might seem like a dry subject, but it’s important to understand what it’s about. It’s both an issue of respect to our fellow creative types, and an issue of protecting ourselves from legal repercussions.

This series continues…
Part 2: Google Images
Part 3: Flickr

Organizing Receipts

I’m still here plugging away at my organizing tasks, one small step at a time. This week I decided to tackle a long-time nemesis, receipt clutter, and found a delightfully simple solution.

For my own simple purposes, I have three categories of receipts:

  1. Business receipts
  2. Big-ticket purchase rceipts
  3. Everything else

I have good systems in place for the first two categories:

  • Business receipts go straight to the tax folder or, in the case of reimbursable client purchases, into the client folder to await the next invoice. Easy-peasy.
  • Big-ticket purchase receipts get taped to the instruction manual or a large sheet of paper and placed in a folder labeled, oddly enough, “big ticket items”. (I never said I was particularly creative.)

messy pile of receiptsThose work well for me, month in and month out.

For that third category, Everything Else, I’ve played with different methods but hadn’t found a really sustainable solution. Whether I used a file folder, an envelope, a plastic bin, or whatever, I still ended up with receipts tucked in every nook and cranny of my desk and purse. Receipts both old and new were all intermixed in these little tucked away bunches. Messy and disorganized, not to mention totally unnecessary.

Most of my Everything Else receipts are for necessary consumables: groceries, gas, etc. Once I’ve verified they appeared correctly on my credit card statement, there’s really no need to keep them. What I really needed was a simple, short-term storage method, and I think I found it in an post on Homestead Revival. (Who said Pinterest was a waste of time?)

It is with great pleasure I give you my version of Amy’s desktop storage solution:

receipts in a jar

This was my grandfather’s tobacco jar. I remember watching with fascination as he went through his ritual of filling, tamping, lighting and then savoring his nightly puff. He seemed to spend much more time preparing than he did puffing. :)

I’ve had this jar for 25 years, using it to store a variety of household items. Now, it sits on my desk to hold my current month receipts. Each night, I take any receipts from my purse, and if they’re not business or big-ticket receipts, I put them straight into the jar. At the end of the month, they’ll get moved to an envelope in my desk drawer until the next month’s receipts get transferred, and then the oldest will be thrown away. No keeping them for a year (or longer)

Besides having a neater purse, I’ve found another simple pleasure in this method. I love having my grandfather’s jar on my desk! I rarely saw it when it was used for other storage, but now I see it several times a day and use it at least once. The little clink I hear when I replace the top on the jar takes me back to those long ago days of my grandfather’s nightly ritual. And that makes me happy.

Workable and practical storage solutions don’t have to be complicated. This one is certainly simple, and I’m hopeful that it continues to be both effective and enjoyable.

How do you store/organize your receipts?

Flu-fighting Tip: Vicks VapoRub

With the US currently in the midst of a flu epidemic, it seemed like a good time to share a couple of tips for getting some flu relief.

The first tip, as described on A Day in My Life, is good for nighttime coughing:

Rub Vick’s VapoRub into the bottom of the patient’s feet and slip on a pair of white socks. You should see (and feel) results in minutes!

One commenter suggested coconut oil mixed with eucalyptus oil as a more natural alternative remedy.

My grandmother uses “Vicks salve”, as she calls it, by the bucket, so I asked her about it last week. She nodded and said that it’s something she’s done for years, but that it hadn’t worked in a recent nasty bout of bronchitis. She thinks she may have built up an immunity to it. :)

On to the next tip. If nasal congestion is the problem, you can buy some of those Vicks Shower Disks and stand in a steamy shower, or you could make your own disks:

According to Frugal by Choice, all you need are baking soda, water, and a few essential oils to make homemade shower disks. Check out the link for the instructional nitty-gritty.

Obviously, these tips should not be mistaken for medical advice, unless they’re coming from your doctor, of course, but they would seem to do no harm.

I’ve only had the “real” flu once, and to be honest, I was so out of it I can’t remember what I did for relief. Good thing I posted this, so if I ever get it again and can make my way to the computer, I’ll know what to do! Have you ever had the flu?

Favorite Organizing Blogs

I’ve explored lots of organizing/simplicity blogs over the years and enjoy browsing their articles, but there are a few that I read consistently. I think what makes the difference for me is that their tips are practical and affordable. Their solutions don’t require I paint my house in chalkboard paint, buy a $300 labeling machine, and throw out things I love because they don’t match. Some of the bloggers I read have cabinets full of mismatched containers, and I love them for that.

Without further ado, here are my favorite organizing blogs:

Summary: “Unclutterer is the blog about getting and staying organized.”
Sample post: Today’s How to Organize Your Pantry has really useful tips, although this one caught me by surprise:

Blue painter’s tape and a Sharpie are perfect for these tasks. You can stick a piece of blue painter’s tape to reusable containers and then write the information on the tape

I was so sure I had invented that one. :) No matter, it works!

Simple Organized Living
Tagline: “helping you create your best life”
Sample post: I read Organization Should Be Practical Not Always Pretty on the exact day I needed it. I was feeling a bit blue over my house as compared to the home magazines and showplace pins on Pinterest. Andrea’s post was an awesome reminder that those spaces aren’t always practical or realistic for day-to-day living, and that I need to organize my space for my needs.

Organising Queen
Tagline: “get organized. take charge. live purposefully.”
Sample post: 7 Secrets of the Super Organized seems so reasonable, but I’m still 2-out-of-7 on a regular basis. I need to print this and hang it on my wall. Neatly, of course. Not with my blue painters’ tape. :)

I’m an Organizing Junkie
Tagline: “Encouraging others to get ‘hooked’ along with me.”
Sample post: How I Get Away with Filing Once a Year is one of my favorites, mostly because it validates my own methods. :) I have to file 3 or 4 times a year, because my basket starts overflowing. Perhaps I should buy a bigger basket?

Small Notebook
Tagline: “Practical tips to simplify and organize your home.”
Sample post: How to Remove Wallpaper from an Unprimed Wall is a post that I’m hoping will help me with my kitchen remodel. The people who lived in my house before (or their heirs) removed the top layer of wallpaper and then painted on top of the underlayer. On top of all that is a border that doesn’t want to come off. I’m going to try my garden sprayer, and if that doesn’t work, I’m just going to re-drywall.

There are other organizing blogs I like, but if I spent all day reading organizing blogs, I’d never make any progress! If I missed one of your faves, sing out in the comments.

SIDENOTE: I have no idea why my blog is displaying all italics. I haven’t even touched it, I promise! (Or did I?) I’m working on a solution and hope to get it fixed soon!

Tippy Toe Organizing

When it comes to my work, I’m very organized and methodical. At home? Not so much. I’m no candidate for Hoarders, but I definitely could use some improvement. Every year I resolve to get more organized at home and more importantly, to stay organized. I make progress for a while, but eventually I fall back on my previous disorganized ways.

In thinking about this over the holidays, I realized that this stop-and-start pattern was very much like the one I exhibited in my years on the “diet cycle”. I’d try-try-try, but at some point it would become too overwhelming or difficult to sustain, and I’d give up. Same thing with sustainable organization. I figured out how to lose 100 pounds, but I haven’t found the solution to my home organization issues. Isn’t it a pity I can’t use the same principles…oh, wait! ::Is the light bulb over my head hurting your eyes?::

tippy toe organizingFor 2013, I’m going to use the tippy toe approach to home organization. Smaller, consistent steps do add up, and I’m looking forward to applying the same methodology to organizing. I kind of have a head start, in that I’ve got the “small steps” locked up. I just need to connect them consistently. Here’s the starting plan:

  1. List the reasons why. It’s not enough to think them; I need to put pen to paper, list the reasons having a more organized home are important to me, and then refer back to them frequently to keep the momentum going.
  2. Break things up into manageable tasks. Rather than thinking of organizing the whole house, I’m breaking it into smaller projects. Really small. I’ve defined 16 areas, inside and out, and then further broken those into even smaller areas. As I (re)organize each area, I’ll define the process, or “rules”, that will keep it organized. My bookcases, for example, should only require a periodic weeding and dusting; however, I tend to stash small things in front of the books, which makes the shelves look messy. New rule: Nothing in front of the books, even decorative items.
  3. Set action-based goals. There’s an old saying that goes: People want to be rich; they don’t want to get rich. Meaning, we want it to magically happen without a lot of effort on our part. It’s the same with being thinner vs. getting thinner, and for me, anyway, it seems to be the same with home organization. Instead of setting a generalized goal of “being more organized”, which is the result I want, my actual goals require action.
  4. Give credit where it’s due. With the advent of Pinterest, it’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of other people’s organized spaces and to feel as though my own living space is somehow lacking. I need to keep my focus on my successes and to remember that the process is about improvement, not perfection.
  5. Have fun along the way. I don’t enjoy housekeeping so much, so a key for me is to find the fun in the process. With weight loss, I set silly challenges and rewards for myself. I suspect I’ll do the same with home organizing.

Any or all of the above is subject to change, of course, as I work my way through the process. I had success with tippy toe weight loss. Here’s hoping it works for home organizing.

In my next post, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite organizing blogs and websites, but I’m also interested in your tips and suggestions. How do YOU stay organized?

Great Holiday Ideas Courtesy of my Pinterest Holiday Board

I’ll be spending the holidays away from home, so my normal minimal holiday decorating became NO holiday decorating. Fortunately, I can still “decorate” my Pinterest board.

I like this Christmas tree idea, even if it is Martha Stewart’s (meow):

I also love this smart Michael Johansson design:

But truth be told, this chalkboard tree is more representative of me:

This is my favorite kind of Christmas tree:


This is why I love Pinterest–I certainly wouldn’t have four trees in my house! Plus, “de-decorating” is a breeze. :)

I’ve also pinned some gift wrap ideas. First, some repurposing of food containers for gift containers:

This would be cute for giving someone a 6-pack of craft beer, and you wouldn’t need much in the way of supplies:

I laughed out loud when I saw this gift wrap pack on Out of necessity, I crafted a similar gift bag a few years ago when I ran out of gift bags for baked gifts. I used a pencil eraser and white craft paint to make the dots and topped it with a gold or silver foil star I had from a work project. I’d forgotten about it until I saw this product.

Don’t I wish I’d thought to package that idea and sell it for $11.95! :)

To wrap things up (hah-hah, Christmas pun!), here’s a great idea I found just today via Mel’s Kitchen Cafe:

Instead of giving a package of holiday cookies to someone who might be overwhelmed with sugary goodness, why not freeze the cookie dough and put it in a freezer-safe container labeled with instructions on how to prepare later? Genius! Especially, since I am super time-crunched just now, and this will save baking/cooling time!

Wishing you all a very safe and happy holiday!


Make Yourself at Home: Practical Tips for Entertaining Overnight Guests

‘Tis the season for house guests. Not for me, mind you, since all my family is local, but I know that other people are suffering anticipating a houseful of company.

(Just for today, let’s pretend this is my guest room and not one I found on Houzz.)

As if the preparation for weekend (or longer) guests wasn’t exhausting enough, we’re bombarded with magazine stories and HGTV slideshows picturing “the perfect guest room” (like this one) along with tips to ensure our guests enjoy their stay. Some suggestions are very practical (like clean bedding and ample lighting), but quite often they include suggestions for items that are totally unnecessary. Over-the-top, even. Call me selfish, but if I don’t have a mini-fridge in my room, my guests aren’t getting one in theirs. Ditto their very own in-room coffee maker with a selection of gourmet coffees and a snack basket with nuts, cheese, chocolate and imported biscuits.

I prefer a much more practical approach to providing for my guests. These are my tips for making your guests comfortable:

  1. Yes, give the room a good cleaning, air the mattress, and add fresh linens.
  2. Remove any unnecessary items. For me, that would be the treadmill and my workout equipment.
  3. Put a few current magazines and books in the room.
  4. Pull out a season-appropriate extra quilt or blanket for the end of the bed.
  5. Forgo the room fridge, coffee maker, and snack baskets; instead, show your guests around the kitchen and encourage them to help themselves anytime, day or night.
  6. Keep a selection of extra toiletries in the top drawer of the bathroom vanity and let guests know where to find them.
  7. Locate (or have made) an extra key, in case your guests will be going out on their own. Area maps are also helpful.

Maybe I’m just fortunate, but anyone visiting me overnight is close enough to feel comfortable asking for anything they need. And with two grocery stores, a drug store, a Starbucks, and a dozen restaurants within a few blocks, we have easy access to anything I don’t have on hand.

A long, long time ago, I made myself crazy in the anticipation of guests. I scrubbed every inch of the house and fretted every stray crumb or bit of fluff the entire time they were in residence. One day while at an arts & crafts fair, I happened to see a little plaque that read something like this:

What a wake up moment for me (and a heads up for any unexpected visitors)! People were coming to visit ME, not my house! I still cleaned before scheduled visits, but I no longer worried (too much) about anything I might have missed. Instead, I concentrated on enjoying the visit. I think my guests enjoy the visit more, too. Andrea at Simple Organized Living had an interesting observation this week in her article, Why I’m Not Cleaning for Company Anymore: “[Guests] don’t like coming into a home that is perfectly clean. It’s less inviting, less people-friendly, less welcoming.”

I agree! I’m not sure I ever achieved perfection, but for a long time, I wasted a lot of time trying! Now, I just do my best to make it all comfy and inviting, and then I relax and enjoy the visit!

What do YOU do to make your guests feel at home?