Photos: Turn Things Around

phone with vert image

My mom with newest great grandbaby, Wren

We all know how email and texts and tweets have pretty much thrown the English language into a blender.   As a writer I truly fear for the demise of my beloved syntax, grammar and spelling.

Photography and videography may be going the same direction.  The wrong direction.  And by that I mean vertical.

Now that most of the world’s videos and photos are taken with cell phones, they are mostly tall and slender.  Narrow.  Much like the viewpoint they convey.

Think about it. You have tons of pictures of people doing stuff and there is no background, no context, no point of reference.  The only difference between one and the next is the clothes people are wearing.

“Oh, yes, that must be Belgium because I wore the navy Capris that day, see?”

Turn things around!  Literally.

phone with horiz image

Lyla hunting Easter eggs in the backyard.

Sure there are times when you want a close up of your mom holding her newest great grandchild–see my mom doing just that above with new baby Wren.

But shoot landscape (horizontal) whenever possible.  You’ll give your pictures so much more character, you’ll anchor them with time and place, and you’ll imbue them with motion (like the one of Lyla at Easter–running forward with gusto to find her next egg.)

If you are shooting video vertically, then that’s how it will appear on your TV or computer screen.  It will have vast swaths of black on both sides with a tall, narrow picture in the middle.   ALWAYS WHEN SHOOTING VIDEO, TURN THE PHONE ON ITS SIDE!

So much more to talk about, but I feel the need to nuzzle a grandbaby.

Ciao, sweeties
Tech Mom



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Wednesday Wine Pairing and A Cloud Note

TechMom's son, Adam. Happy Birthday today!

TechMom’s son, Adam. Happy Birthday today!

A little something extra to add to our conversation about the Cloud.

Way back in 1996, a group of geeks at Compaq Computer started referring to files that were passed from one location to another via the fairly young Internet as “cloud computing.” In 2006 the term “cloud computing” began to circulate again at Google and Yahoo. Over the next few years “The Cloud” became the term that refers to uploading data from a computer at one location to a computer at another, most commonly as a safe, handy place to store it.

Because (repeat after me) Backing Up is Rule Number One.


Now a word from our cyber-savvy Wine Curmudgeon, Jeff Siegel.

Another study agrees: We buy wine on price

wine genome studyThe biggest surprise in the Wine Genome study from Constellation Brands, one of the biggest wine companies in the world? That one-fifth of us buy wine on price.

“We knew they were out there, but the widening span of the study showed how deeply the recession cut,” said Dale Stratton, the Constellation official who oversaw this version, the third, of the company’s Project Genome, designed to identify the most common types of of wine drinkers based on purchase behavior, motivation, and preferences. “The recession had a big impact and significantly changed consumer spending habits.”

Stratton laughed when I asked him about this. No, he said, it’s not that Constellation (whose brands include Rex Goliath, Mark West, and Robert Mondavi) didn’t expect price to be important. Rather, it’s that price-driven wine drinkers were the biggest category of the six, doubling the number of  Enthusiasts — those who “love everything about the wine experience,” including researching purchases, reading reviews, and sharing wine with others. In other words, the Winestream Media’s audience. The other thing to note here? The Enthusiasts account for 15 percent of profit, compared to 14 percent for the Price-Driven group. Harrumph.

The study, which updated a 2004 effort, is full of surprises — unless, of course, you visit here regularly (and you can see a nifty infographic describing each group here):

• The third-biggest group, at 19 percent, are Overwhelmed, which means pretty much what it says: “I don’t enjoy shopping for wine, and find it complex and overwhelming. This, says Stratton, reinforces the need for wine education, not only for consumers but for those who sell wine — distributors, retailers, and restaurateurs. Hearing this was surprising enough, but I almost dropped the phone when Stratton said that winespeak is one of the reasons the overwhelmed are overwhelmed. Maybe, he said, retailers and wine writers should find simpler terms to use.

• Women, who have traditionally skewed higher for wine purchases at the lower end, are becoming more important at the higher end. The Enthusiasts, who were about 65 percent male in 2004, were close to 50-50 this time. “This means more women see wine as a hobby,” says Stratton, and that means more women attend tastings and shop at wine-specific retailers.

• Wine snobs, called Image Seekers, are still with us, and in a big way. They account for 18 percent of wine drinkers, but contribute 26 percent of profits, more than any other group. Given the wine they drink, that’s probably not surprising.

• Welcome the Millennials to wine, in the form of the Engaged Newcomer at 12 percent. This group is young, wants to learn more, and recognizes that wine is intimidating. They also spend more on a bottle than the other groups, about $13.

One other point worth noting: This kind of study is common for consumer packaged goods like laundry detergent and ketchup. That Constellation can do for wine what Proctor & Gamble does for its products speaks volumes about how much the wine business has changed, and that it is becoming more mainstream.

“Wine is increasing household penetration at a good clip, and the audience has broadened,” said Stratton. “And it’s going to continue to change, as the American population changes.”


So, sweeties, go send something to the cloud and reward yourself with a glass of wine. Whether you’re Overwhelmed, an Enthusiast, an Image Seeker, or an Engaged Newcomer, there’s something out there for you to enjoy.

And, Happy Birthday wishes to son, Adam, who loves all things grape-ish.



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Head in the Clouds

cloud-horizonIt used to be that clouds were wispy puffs of water vapor floating aimlessly overhead. Their main job was to produce rain or shade at a picnic.

But now things have changed. People are talking about putting files and pictures “on the cloud.”  Huh?

So is there a big floating storage unit in the sky?  Really? No.

The cloud is something else entirely.  It’s really a huge computer setup in Poughkeepsie.   And one in Cleveland and St. Petersburg and Mumbai and Sao Paolo.  Or wherever, but not up in the sky.

Signals travel over the Internet to these remote servers.

Computer users all over the world either purchase or are given space on these big computer hard drives where it is safe and plentiful.  One popular example is Flickr. When you create an account on Flickr, you can upload a whole lot of photos to their servers. Later you can organize, edit, share, etc. (We’ll talk about Flckr later. It’s very cool.)

The term “Cloud” has taken the place in the vernacular of “Cyberspace.”  And while we like the idea of our important documents, pictures, and videos floating safe and sound in the fluffy nothing of  water vapor, it’s really just boring technology.

I know, disappointing, right? The “Cloud” seems so much more romantic.

Ciao, sweeties,



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So Long, Farewell, Adieu to Yieu and Yieu and Yieu

computer-floppy diskAll good things must come to an end and the same is certainly true of software.  If you still have icons on your desktop from 2003, it may be time for a cleanup. Of course if you still have your computer from 2003, that’s another problem that we’ll discuss at a later time.

Software programs run their course.  New versions come along.  You update your computer and they’re no longer compatible.  You no longer work for the company that had you install that  piece of proprietary software, thank heavens.  You still have a downloaded version of AOL instead of going to   Whatever.

Most software upgrades and renewals will simply install over the older version. Anti-virus programs are an exception, however, and must always be uninstalled before the new one can be installed.  And then there are those old, unused programs you just want to get out of there.  They’re taking up space, slowing things down and they’re untidy.

You know how I feel about that.

So let’s get rid of them:

computer-control panel          computer-uninstall2

  • Click on the little Windows orb at the lower left of the screen
  • Click on “Control Panel” on the right side of the start menu that pops up
  • Select “View by large icons” in small print at the top right of this window
  • Click on “Programs and Features” in the big list of icons (this BTW is the brain of your computer. Tread carefully here.)computer-program list
  • A list of most of the software in your computer will appear in alphabetical order.
  • Select the program you are going to replace,
  • Right-click that icon and click uninstall. You may be prompted for a couple of additional clicks but the old, worn-out useless program will be removed.

computer uninstall4

You can then install the new program if needed (see the post a few days ago.)  Or just enjoy your new, roomier, leaner, meaner computer.

And toast yourself with a little something grape-ish.

Ciao, sweeties,
Tech Mom

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Wednesday Wine Pairing & Shortcut Icons

   Like little soldiers on my desktop, my shortcut icons are orderly, obedient and ready to spring into action when I need them.

My icons get me to work faster by opening programs with a simple click (or double click.)


If you are lacking an icon you use often, you can get it out in the open:desktop-open programs      desktop-create shrotcut

  • Click on the little Windows orb in the lower left corner of your screen
  • Click on “Programs”
  • Right click on any program in the list to open a cascade menu
  • Click on “Send to”
  • Click on “Desktop (Create Shortcut)”
  • The icon will appear.  Click and drag it where you want it

Please don’t leave it floating out there like Sandra Bullock in Gravity. Tether it to a neat row, preferably with icons of the same ilk:  Office programs together, internet browsers together, media players together, etc.

We’ll talk another day about using your desktop for storage.  That’s just wrong.  And untidy.

And now, a word from our extremely organized Wine Curmudgeon, Jeff Siegel.


Winebits 342: High alcohol, wine real estate,
and the norton grape


high alcohol wineNo more high alcohol, please: The British government, searching for some way to curb the country’s binge drinking problem, wants to limit the alcohol content of the house wine sold in pubs and restaurants to 12 1/2 percent. This is stunning news, even to the Wine Curmudgeon, who thinks lower alcohol is almost always better than higher. Somehow, I don’t think — regardless of any Neo-Prohibitionist developments here — that alcohol limits will ever happen in the U.S.

• More money than they know what to do with: The recession in the high-end part of the wine business is over, if people with more money than everyone else are any indication. The Grape Collective reports that “lifestyle” buyers, who don’t necessarily want to make wine or grow grapes but who think it’s tres chic to own a piece of wine country, are back in the market. Says one analyst: “Lifestyle buyers want a gorgeous house with a vineyard view, and then possibly a small source of income. They’ll generally take their grapes to a custom crush house and either sell or simply give away as business gifts.” The middle six figures will get you something in Tuscany, and Napa is actually a little less expensive. Maybe it’s time for the Wine Curmudgeon to call his Realtor.

You can’t beat the norton: Vinepar takes a look at the norton grape, long one of my favorites and too often overlooked in the U.S. The piece is a solid introduction to the grape, which thrived in this country at the turn of the 20th century and still makes delicious red wine. The best look at the norton? In Todd Kliman’s fascinating book, “The Wild Vine.” Or, as I wrote when I reviewed it, “Kliman offers some much-needed insight into the history of American wine. It’s a perspective that says, ‘Look, pay attention. Long before Robert Parker and scores and California, there was a U.S. wine industry. And if a few things had happened differently. …’ “

Quick, sweeties, go get Todd Kliman’s book and while you’re at it, order a copy of Jeff Siegel’s book, which is a delicious read, full of insight into the wine industry.  It’s full-bodied with a hint of sarcasm.  Not unlike me.  Just click on the link to his website upper right.



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Pushing Past the Fear

Software DiscsScared to death to “download” new software or even install a new program from a disc? You are not alone. All those windows pop up with their warnings and their progress bars, mocking us and our feeble tech-ness.

But sometimes, these things must be done. Like getting your roots done or standing on the bathroom scale.

The two most common ways to install software programs in your computer are from a disc you have purchased at  store or from a download you have purchased online. You may have even purchased the software online and had the install disc sent to you.

By the way, I think the next innovation for computer technology is to be able to insert your credit card into your computer and instantly complete the purchase of your new Steve Madden’s.  But, I digress.

If you have a disc:

  • Insert the disc in the DVD tray, close it and wait.
  • Simple click-through instructions will come up on the screen.
  • Click on “Okay” or “Next” a few times and fill in the info it asks for (your name, email address, phone number and even physical address.) Some of this is optional and is noted as such.

If you bought the program online:

You will find the zipped file in your “Downloads” folder or on the desktop.  Or check for it in the email that confirmed your purchase.

  • Open the Zip file
  • Click on the .EXE file
  • Click “Run.” If a window comes up asking for permission to “allow”, then say yes.
  • Follow the steps as above.

Click Finish. If there’s a shortcut icon on the desktop, you can open the program from there.  If not, click the little Windows orb in the lower left corner of the screen. The program should be in the list. Click it open.

Mmmmmm, inhale that new software smell. . .enjoy.

Ciao, sweeties,
Tech Mom

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Your Computer is Like Your Kids

nortonTurn your back on your computer for five minutes and suddenly it has a runny nose and is too tired to do math. As you probably know by now, computers get viruses, diseases and other afflictions we can’t even pronounce: Trojan.Spy.Ursnif.F. That’s really the name of a virus spreading right now throughout the computer world, and it can do more damage than pairing a Sauvignon Blanc with Boeuf Bourguignon.

A good anti-virus program is a must. I recommend purchasing a full boxed version of Norton, McAfee, Trend Micro, Avast or any of the five or six bestselling anti-virus programs. Most are available at computer and office stores. The basic ant-virus version is usually sufficient, but coming soon we’ll discuss the pros and cons of the different versions of ant-virus software.

You can make this purchase online, however, I constantly get calls from people who make the credit card payment transaction okay but have problems getting the software downloaded and installed, especially with a renewal from one year’s version to the next.

That’s right – from one year’s version to the next. Anti-virus software is good for one year only. At the end of the year, uninstall it completely (yes, I’ll talk about that soon) then install the new one. If you don’t follow this routine over and over again every year (like Groundhog Day), you’re going to have a sick computer.

Next time we’ll take you through the proper ways to install and uninstall software including your very important anti-virus program.

Now, where did I put that DVD of Groundhog Day?

Oh, and speaking of repeating—don’t forget to send me your tech questions and your wine labels!  I’m waiting.

Ciao, sweeties,

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Wednesday Wine Pairings & A Hunky Protector

Here’s a little something to nosh on while you enjoy your wine:

windows wineEven though your computer is protected by anti-virus software*, you still need to run anti-malware occasionally (every few months.)   You can download MALWAREBYTES, SUPERANTIVIRUS and SPYBOT SEARCH AND DESTROY for free on a trial basis, install and run the program when you won’t need your computer for a few hours (not overnight because it will need you to click something every now and then.) This muscled-up program will identify and contain problems in your computer. Then it will ask you if you want the offending files removed. Yes, you do!

You can buy one or all of these if you like, but the trial basis is a full version and lasts a few times. This, along with anti-virus software and judicious browsing and email opening, will help your computer run faster, cleaner, longer.

*Watch for our discussion of anti-virus software coming soon.

And now Jeff’s choice:  Carmel SelecteD Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Carmel-Selected-Sauvignon-Blanc-13-NoVIsraeli wine has a long and mostly obscure history; if it’s known at all, it’s for kosher wine, which has not traditionally been something one wants to be known for. The Israelis want to change that, and made a U.S. tour — with a stop in Dallas this spring — to tell consumers and critics that they’re a wine region, just like any other, and that kosher is not all they do.

In this, the wines we tasted from Carmel and Psagot reminded me of U.S. regional wine from one of the top couple of states. Some were terrific, with varietal character and terroir, but others weren’t far enough removed from the old kosher days. In addition, price — $25 for an ordinary California-style chardonnay? — was as problematic as it is for U.S. regional wine.

Carmel’s SelecteD sauvignon blanc ($12, sample, 12.5%) was one of the former — lots of sauvignon blanc grassiness, some tropical fruit in the middle (melon?), and enough citrus to be noticeable but not so much that it gets in the way. It’s a professional, eminently drinkable wine, and among my two or three favorites of the dozen or so we tasted. That’s not because the SelecteD was one of the least expensive, but because it was one of the best made, regardless of price. The winemaker didn’t try to impose his or her will on the grapes, forcing the wine to be something that it wasn’t. That’s another common problem with regional wine, where winemakers get a style in their head and try to replicate it even when the grapes are best suited for something else.

Serve this chilled, with or without food (grilled shrimp with garlic and parsley? spaghetti with basil pesto?), and enjoy it on a hot summer day. It’s California in style, as many of the wines were, but that’s not a problem with the Selected.

Thanks, Jeff, for the recommendation.
And ciao, sweeties,

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Alert: Phone Repair Scam

Typing on KeyboardBefore we go any further, I have to do a Public Service Announcement. 

In our shop, Dallas Media Center, we also do  computer repair. One of the problems we’ve seen more and more of lately is the result of what I call the Microsoft Phone Repair Scam. 

In this scam, someone (usually from India) calls you and says something like, “I am from Microsoft and we have received a signal from your computer that you have malicious viruses that are going to cause permanent damage to your computer.”

First off, POOH ON THAT!  Microsoft does not receive signals about problems from computers.  Can you imagine how many techs they would have to have to handle millions of computers?

Secondly, Microsoft themselves have said this is a scam. Microsoft does not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer.

Often these scammers will convince you they can repair your computer over the phone if you will just give them certain access information. Then they fiddle around on your screen, wreaking so much havoc that it requires an IT guy to undo.  And THEN THEY TAKE YOUR MONEY. In the worst cases we have seen, these scammers have convinced the poor victims that the scammers will need a payment to fix the problems and they will be more than happy to accept the victims’ credit card information.  YIKES!

Treat all unsolicited phone calls with skepticism. Do not provide any personal information and certainly not your credit card info. If you ever receive these kinds of calls, hang up immediately.  DO NOT BE POLITE TO THESE PEOPLE!


Sorry, I’m going to calm down now with a nice grape-ish beverage.

Be safe out there.

Ciao, sweeties,

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Photo Trouble Shooting: Here Comes the Sun


My granddaughter, Lyla at her first pool party

So, I’m guessing you’re on your way to the family gathering.  Lots of fun in the sun and that’s where the trouble starts.   You’re excited about shooting photos or video (whether you’re using an actual camera–good for you–or your phone–aren’t you tired of everything being long and skinny?) of the kids and grandkids.

Well, here are a couple of things to remember so you won’t be disappointed tonight when you look at the results.

Don’t shoot into the sun.  You’ll end up with a ” little silhouetto of a man.” (Sorry, couldn’t resist. I love that song.) Check to see where the sun is.  Now move so it’s behind you. Yeah, your subject may be squinting, but hey, you’re outside, what did you expect?

Shot against the window

Shot at an angle to the window

Ditto, shooting into a window.   Usually just shifting a little to the right or left will ease some of this silhouetting.

Watch out for deep shadows, too.  High noon will give you dark faces.  A flash will help.

And take a step closer.  The closer you are, the more important your subject.  Step back if your picture is all about the ocean or the mountain in the background.

Have fun! And don’t forget the sunscreen.

Ciao, sweeties,


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