Using Photopin to Find Suitable Free Images for Your Blog Posts

Different people will give different answer if asked what the art of blogging is. Some might say it is the pleasure of running one’s fingers across the keyboard and see words show up on the screen. Others might say it is the thrill of discovering a question they can personally answer in a blog post.

by R. Nial Bradshaw is licensed under CC BY 2.0

by R. Nial Bradshaw, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Some others might find joy in formatting, finding a suitable picture or a famous quote to go along with a certain post. To some people an accompanying picture might be rather low on their list of priority. Some probably think of it last, some might fuss about it early on. It is difficult, however, to find a blogger who says an illustrative picture is not important at all.

Using Creative Commons

Photographs for the purpose of illustrations or accompanying images are widely available online. The question is, are you willing to pay for it? For the most part, photographers are reasonable and a blogger can purchase a license to use a photography at an equally reasonable price.

If you do not have a budget for it, fret not. There are photographers who are willing to let you use their work for free, provided you still give credit and link to their website. This practice falls under what is called Creative Commons licensing where artists let other parties use their work for free in return for attribution.

Types of Creative Commons License

There are different types of licences when it comes to Creative Commons so as a blogger you need to sort out how you are going to use a certain piece of artwork and see if the artist offer suitable licences.

A blogger who would like to make money from blogging is going to need Creative Commons licences that specify commercial permits: CC BY, CC BY-SA and CC BY-ND. (Outside of these are several others that fall under non-commercial permits.)

  • CC BY: Creative Commons Attribution

  • CC BY-SA: Creative Commons Attribution, Share Alike

  • CC BY-ND: Creative Commons Attribution, Non Derivatives

If you are going to simply use a photo on your blog, an image that has CC BY-ND license is good. If you are going to modify, or build upon said image, you are going to need one with CC BY license. If you are going to modify and then distribute said image, you need one with CC BY-SA license. This is to ensure that the original photographer or artist gets the credit all the way down the chain of distribution.

Using Photopin for Faster and More Effective Image Search

Photopin helps you find suitable images by cutting two corners at the same time. When you do image search at your favorite photography sites, you usually plug in a keyword (e.g. “independence”) and then you click search. A selection of images is then presented to you to choose from.

Using Photopin starts out the same: give the site your keyword, it gives you an array of images to choose from. But once your search results come back, you can also click to choose Commercial and Photopin will sort out the images tagged with non commercial CC license and leave you with the ones that you can use for commercial purposes.

Weeding Out Bad Seeds on Flickr

Photopin aggregates pictures from Flickr, a site where arguably the best amateur and professional photographers showcase their work. Some people use Flickr to collect pictures they like as well, while some unscrupulous others use it to pose as photographers. They take others’ photographs, maybe crop out the watermark and upload said images to their respective account.

It is usually easy to sort out which one is which. Real photographers will have the large file(s) of their work; any images that listed a 500+ x 600+ pixels (or even lower resolutions) as their biggest file are most likely stolen. Legit names will have as big as 3000+ x 3000+ pixels for their biggest files.

You can check this out quickly with Photopin. Hover over the image you are interested in, and click on Get Photo. A preview menu will show you selections of image size and you can decide if the Flickr account is legit or not.

Downloading the Image(s) of Your Choice

Once you have found the image you like, do click on it to be taken to the Flickr page where it is originally uploaded. Scroll down to verify the Creative Commons license. Click on the Creative Commons icons if you are not sure what type of CC it is.

Remember that some photographers may not want you to touch up on their work; this is what it means when you find CC BY-ND (No Derivatives). You can use the image for free, provided you don’t change anything, clearly name the photographer in your caption in your blog post and link to his or her chosen webpage. (Sometimes they want you to link to their Flickr page, sometimes they want it to be their personal website.)

If you see an icon with a dollar sign that is crossed, it means it is a CC BY-NC and you can only use the image for non commercial (NC) purposes, rendering it unusable for your blog(s). Unless you have a blog that is not monetized then the image is yours to use.

Click the button Flickr provides to see all available sizes and then make your choice. 500 pixel in width is usually a decent size for a blog post. Click download and you are set. Remember to name the photographer in your photo caption and link his or her name appropriately.

Limitation and Creativity

Driving in Heels Flickr

by Sarah, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Free things are usually limited and it is not rare that a blogger finds herself with a selection of images that is less than satisfactory. When this happens, do try different keywords even if they seem slightly unrelated at first. Independence, freedom, fresh air, open space… use your imagination and most of all, have fun!


Prepared Pianos and Musical Composition

Shirley Thomas

A prepared piano means a piano that has been tampered or manipulated in order to have its sound altered. The term prepared derives from the fact that various objects or preparations are used to effect the change in sound. These objects or preparations are either placed between the strings of the instrument or on said strings.

The technique of using foreign object to effect a difference in the timbre of a piano has been developing itself since 18th century. The term itself, however, was made popular by a John Cage who did a preparation to a piano in 1938, for the music he wrote for Bacchanale.

Bacchanale is a dance by Syvilla Fort and in 1938 it was to be performed in a stage that could not accommodate a percussion group. This became somewhat of a quandary for Cage, whose specialty was to write percussion music. In fact, he had only been writing percussion music prior to this commission.

Cage skirted around the problem by tackling the only instrument available to him, the grand piano. He soon found out that the piano could produce the sound of a whole percussion orchestra, provided the instrument was modified to have what he called ‘an exploded keyboard’.

old piano

One of the more popular preparations to a piano is what is known to the layman as the honky tonk. In the world of piano preparation the instrument that produces the honky tonk sound is also called Tack Piano.

The preparation calls for small nails or thumbtacks to be placed at the end parts of the hammering mechanism of the piano keys, resulting in a brighter timbre and giving off a more percussive feel to the overall sound.

As stated before, the manipulation of the piano to produce a different sound has been seen since as early as 18th century. It seems as if exposure to different kind of music from other countries is one of the biggest forces behind the need to prepare a piano.

By the end of 18th century, Turkish music was all the rage and pianos were made to accommodate it. Pianos would feature padded hammer and pedals so as to be able to effect the bass drum and bells that were the identifying sounds of the Turkish music.

Most preparations are not as elaborate; in fact a large number of piano preparations call only for papers to the placed on the strings, between the strings or at the end of the hammering mechanism of the piano.

Different scores and music call for different, sometimes tiny preparations. It is not unheard of for certain composition to require sheets of paper on every other piano strings; sheets of paper, a single paper, paper clips or even cutlery. It all depends of the music and the kinds of sound the composer wants the piano to produce.

Other compositions may call for the preparation to be done to the strings themselves. Said strings may be subject to some strumming, plucking, bowing or sliding, done using various everyday objects made of plastic, aluminum, or copper.

piano strumming

The smallest changes, however, produce wonderfully various effects. A piece of cardboard under a specific key gave a close semblance to the unique sound of an Indian drum, one that was very much needed by the composer Maurice Delage for his Ragamalika. Delage’s Ragamalika is a composition that is based on classical Indian music, one that is a part of Carnatic music.

Another instance, Erik Satie’s Piège de Méduse, saw the placing of several pieces of paper on the strings of the piano to produce the tinny sound of one of the character in the play, a monkey puppet.

Piano preparation opens up a wide horizon for composers and musicians to explore, try new things and have fun with their writing. It can be argued that with the advance of technology one does not have to resort to skirting around a problem the way John Cage did but perhaps in the eye of the creative crowd, prepared piano can be yet another branch of technology.

Enid Blyton’s Appeal: Why Children are Still Reading Her Books

Shirley Thomas

Enid Blyton started writing books for children and young teens in the 1920s. The settings and environments are naturally influenced by the era and the ones shortly afterward. It is thus quite a natural question to raise: How does she manage to capture young audience throughout the years?

Lots of Blyton’s narrative has something to do with adventure. You are going to a new school, you are visiting new town, you are going on a caravan ride. Unless the children reading her books are the offspring of a rock star or a traveling acrobat, Blyton’s books represent a whole new, exciting world to behold.

There is always promise at the beginning of her stories: there will be new friends, new things to do, new stuff to see. It also goes without saying that the fact that her protagonists are also children works really well. She takes their side, reveling in possibilities seen by young eyes and minds, rebelling at limitations set by pesky parents. The best thing is, even though pesky parents happen, in Blyton’s books adventure still sets sail. To the land of New Things!

children illustration02

The books of Blyton’s targeting slightly older audience, the young teens, deal with mystery and detection. A group of cousins or friends notice something that is unusual in their small town or vacation spot and decide to see what is behind it.

Children are curious and Blyton packaged the unusual and the mysterious very well to pique their interests. Shy, cautious children get to enjoy probing into and solving a mystery seeing as hey, you are simply reading, no harm will befall you. But to go into the books and characters themselves, there are shy youngsters in Blyton’s books (like Anne Kirrin of the Famous Five) who are frequently cajoled and coaxed to come along to investigate a mystery.

Another thing that is particularly satisfactory about Enid Blyton’s mystery is the fact that the characters get to solve the puzzles on their own. That is to say, without the help of adults. Sometimes the adults are conveniently away from home, sometimes clues and helpful information fall into the laps of the youthful detectives but all is done in believable ways and the success is definitely a big brownie point in the eyes of young readers.

children illustration
The books for younger children have lots of delight in them, especially in terms of characters. There are grumpy dwarves, silly elves, kindly ladies who can do magic, careless fairy who is forgetful, little bunnies that trade bags of jewels for a big cake; anything a young mind can think of, Ms Blyton would serve it up in a platter.

The highlights of Blyton’s writing are especially pronounced in her short stories for the young: the characterizations and storylines. While the young teens’ books have some cardboard characters, the ones in her short stories are alive with their quirks, strengths and weaknesses. It even seems as though with the amount of fantasy she injected into these stories, Blyton tried to inject the same amount of realism.

Not everyone is thoroughly good or bad in these short stories, not all stories have happy endings, some even leave out the conclusions to let readers decide on their own as to what is going to happen.

(This raises an interesting question: Why are the stories for the slightly younger audience so much less patronizing than the ones she wrote for young teens? One could argue that the detective books she did were purely commercial,  seeing as there are standalones targeting young teens that are well rounded and well written.)

Food and Friendship
If a soundtrack should be chosen for Enid Blyton’s books in general, that song with Food, Glorious Food line needs to be a contender. An overwhelming number of Blyton’s fans can and will confirm that food is a big part of the experience of reading Blyton.

Interestingly, dinners shared with the parents are hardly ever an occasion. They are observed as a matter of course, with minimum fanfare. The same can not be said about picnics, however. Or meals that are shared with friends or fellow boarding school students. Meals and picnics with friends are elaborately described, the items listed with care, the tastes and the ways of enjoying them are told with glee.

children illustration03

The boarding school stories especially highlights the tradition of throwing (forbidden) midnight parties, where girls sneak out of their dormitory in the dead of the night to have a discreet picnic within the school ground, usually in order to celebrate a birthday. There are tales of parties with abundant food that prompt the girls to eat weird combinations of food; another party sees the attendees actually try and fry some sausages with a tiny stove, yet another party is thrown poolside under the full moon, where students lounge in their modest school bathing suits and dress robes.

For 12 year olds reading these stories, they are nothing short of magical. It is fun, a little daring, but most importantly, it is done by people just like the readers, ordinary students who study and do their homework.

Not all of Blyton’s books have morals in their respective story, even though one could argue that there is one in every story ever told. The commercial ones are fun, formulaic reading and it would be quite a task to find the important message(s) in them, especially when compared to the ones where Blyton did have messages to impart.

The Blyton stories that do have morals are well written, in that she balanced the story telling and the lecture quite nicely. Some have straight narrative, telling and leading the readers toward the right path where necessary; some others are more subtle, relying heavily on effects and consequences to teach her young readers the right things to do.

Another highlight is her ability to do so with charm and a sense of humor. In trying to teach children not to eat sweets too much, she told a story of a wise village woman and her magical sponge cake, which can be eaten to a maximum of three pieces only. When the village glutton eats five of them, he pops his buttons, swells into a balloon and floats to the ceiling while his neighbours jump around below, trying to catch and bring him back down.

Young adult and adult readers may feel a little resentment when they detect lecturing in a reading material but children are more receptive to such messages, in fact they enjoy morals of the story. After all, children need boundaries and limits set in their lives and, up to a point, they like knowing what to do and what not to do.

There are a lot to enjoy about Enid Blyton’s reading. Every reader will have his or her own reasons, which may well change as they grow older and reread some of their old favorites.

One thing is for sure, Blyton’s books are going to entertain many more young readers for years to come.

Alternative Career Path for Actors

Shirley Thomas

Throughout the course of his or her career, an actor may go on to win significant roles, getting recognitions and winning awards. Or he may develop a solid career with interesting parts, respected by his peers but forever missing out on getting an award. Or an actor may have all the talent and yet never catch a break, getting several decent roles but that is it.

Soon age is catching up and even though roles are available for older people, competition is just as fierce, if not more. Some actors leave the industry and become politicians, some others invest and start their own businesses, some stay in the industry and work behind the scene.

Some can not easily get over their love of acting and performing, and they wonder if there are other paths to take for well trained actors who would love to continue practicing their craft.

Step Behind the Camera: Direct, Produce or Write

One of the seemingly natural paths to take for actors is directing. Some actors develop keen understanding on movie directing over the years, some others become interested enough to seek formal training. Either way, becoming a director is not that much of a stretch for an actor. You know what it is like to be on the receiving end and being able to empathize with actors you will be giving directions in the future is certainly an advantage.

Some actors, especially the more observant ones, pick up more than just directional tidbits and understanding. They manage to see the bigger picture and acquire first hand knowledge of how to run an efficient production when it comes to movie making.

They come to know the go to guys, the best locations, the best behind the scene talents to recruit, probably even how much to budget the catering. As these actors transition into the role of producers they continue making movies, still telling stories, but doing it by oiling the nuts and bolts of the mechanism, so to speak.

Most actors do what they do because they love acting, they want to be a part of a story. Over time, some find they have their own stories to tell and that they have clear ideas on how to present said stories in movie form. They either get right to it or take classes on how to write movie scripts.

Actors who turn into scriptwriters have the same advantages as those who turn into directors or producers. They have the insider knowledge of the industry and most importantly, contacts. If you were an actor first, you would likely know which agent or producer to whom you should pitch your story. If you have a number of stories or scripts written and you are perceptive enough about the market, you will know which one to prioritize and focus on.

Share the Knowledge and Skills Set

You may have run the course of your acting career or, unfortunately, never even hit prime time at all. That is not to say you are not a talented actor. There are thousands of capable and decent actors who are unknown and, by Hollywood standards, unsuccessful. Movie stars and good actors are not necessarily the same thing after all.

Having experienced the limelight or not, a good actor is likely to have a thing or two to teach. It could be how to deal with directors, how to manage different projects and still go to auditions, how to prepare yourself for an audition or even the basic skills of speech, movement and expression.

Acting classes and schools may sound like the opposite of what passionate actors wannabe would want to do but aspiring, hard working ones will look for guidance and will likely sign up for some lessons. Savvy, experienced actors are certain to be welcome by acting schools to help train the next generation.

Lend a Voice

Growing old, by the silver screen standards, sees a number of actor taking voice acting jobs. While some are still paid the staggering amount they used to get, it is nevertheless not the same. Not to mention voice acting jobs are not exactly the same pool as regular acting jobs when it comes to size.

One thing you may want to consider is audio book reading. Basic acting skills are highly desirable for professional audio book readers. You need to be able to narrate with the right rhythm and inflections, to speak in different voices and accents, to inject emotions into the dialogs, to generally make listening to the book a pleasant experience.

audio book reading

A lot of people still prefer reading from a physical book, a lot of others prefer reading from an ereader. A lot of yet other group of people prefer listening to audio books, either because they like doing something else while enjoying a book or because it is a necessity due to lack of time or disability.

Audio books enjoy a large part of the market when it comes to publishing industry and jobs as audio book readers are certainly not drying up anytime soon. Naturally there will be competition but a background in acting is definitely a leg up.


Actors are trained in the art of conveying stories and messages through their eyes, facial expressions and body language. This skill is valuable when it comes to campaigns, specifically the visual aspects of such. Well trained actors consistently win roles in advertisements and public service campaigns, regardless of age, gender or physical feature. They appear in brochure, posters, catalogs and even landing pages of websites with high traffic.

Stockphotos and product catalogs need effective modelling as well and trained actors have an advantage when it comes to delivering visual narration that is required.

In the same vein, modelling and acting for corporate training call for decent actors. Case studies and role playing are a large part of corporate training these days. Live enactments are used to maximize trainees’ engagements (as well as minimizing boredom during the training). Actors may find themselves becoming an irate customer dealing with a sales staff at a department store or an employee with distinct lack of discipline dealing with undecisive manager.

With the right agency, good time management, professionalism and consistent performance, there is no saying this could not be a good career path.

Branches in the Industry

Becoming an agent is yet another thing an actor might consider. As it is, however, skills set of an agent come after considerable years in the industry and not from training originally received as an actor. When it comes to branching out in the industry, an actor can practically consider a number of things. Talent management or agency, casting agency, costume design, catering business and many more; the only catch is training as an actor has very little to do with potential success in a given choice.

Skills set acquired during formal training as an actor or picked up working as a professional actor certainly open up a number of different areas from which one can build a career.

If you are an observant and hard working person, it is not difficult to map out alternative career path as an actor.

Madame Bovary, A Change of Mind

I tweeted this list about a week ago – books that I need to finish, books that I look forward to reading and books that haunted me.

Notice that the comment for Flaubert’s Madame Bovary is: the book I want to burn, currently reading.

At the time however, I wasn’t actively reading it. The Wordsworth copy lay somewhere at the foot of my bed, waiting in vain for me to pick it up. The last time I closed the book Emma Bovary had just met Léon Dupuis, after what seemed like a string of dreadfully dull non events that stretched for (hyperbole alert!) hundreds of pages.

My laptop threw a temper tantrum one night last week and refused to start up so I reluctantly picked up the book again and surprised myself by blasting through it to the end in a few hours.

Throughout the course of her downward spiral into ruin, Emma did not change much – she remained fretful, entitled and selfish. Still, as the story progressed I couldn’t help pitying her, rooting for her, even if I knew it was in vain. For Emma, ever the foolish woman, kept on disappointing her reader by choosing the path of the most destructive.

I looked up the reviews on Goodreads the last time I felt the need to throw this book at the wall for its sheer dullness – and was gratified to find a lot of seemingly intelligent people eloquently verbalized the problems I had with enjoying Madame Bovary.

The opposing sides however, were praising Flaubert on ‘a masterpiece’, ‘an ambitious work well executed’, etc.

By the time I finished the novel I saw what they meant. On paper, Emma is not the character you want to love or sympathize with; she’s not even the character you’d love to hate. She’s just an extremely flawed woman who was trapped in a dreadful life, having no fortitude to make the best of it.

So why do I find myself feeling sorry for her and, despite knowing better, rooting for her to finally make a good choice…? Which (spoiler!) she never did, by the way.

It’s a question to which I’ve yet to find the answer. An article I read a while back reiterated how Flaubert said he wanted to see if he could write the most dreadful, unlovable character and still made his readers supporters of said character.*

The only explanation I could offer is that people, whether they want to admit or not, do identify with Emma Bovary.

Not all of us are brave people who do good and generally strive to be a better version of ourselves. Some of us indulge our petulant selves and then throw tantrums when life tells us such practice does not give us what we want. Some of us deliberately choose the worst of choice out of spite toward life, only to find out we are screwing ourselves.

Some of us have seen the chasm that is the darkest of human nature and have been horrified to find that we were actually staring into the mirror.

A train wreck has always been a fun thing to watch; writing one, however, is no easy task. Writing a train wreck about to happen with as much subtlety and refinement is indeed a masterpiece.

*) rephrased somewhat loosely.

The World as I See It – Albert Einstein

Goodreads review

Passion was behind Einstein ideas, a simmering passion that can not be contained by the complexity of his sentences. And of all ideas he felt strongly about, war or rather the argument against it is the one he obviously had at the forefront of his mind.

He expressed his optimism that younger generation might learn from history and past mistakes when it came to war but you also sense his resignation that human nature might not fulfill the height of optimistic aspirations.

He was a consummate optimist, the kind of optimism only invincible 20 year olds are seemingly capable of. And yet he was not devoid of the knowledge that obstacles were in the horizon or that there were other matters beyond; if anything, he was one of the few who could correctly identify said obstacles and put things into perspective.

It was a fascinating read. Here was a person who saw things as they were, was not going to let reality defeat him and was prepared to study the problems and come up with workable solutions.

Moreover, he was not only prepared, he was eager. I had always imagine Einstein to be a curious cat, a trait I fancy we shared, and was satisfied to find that he was indeed a curious person. There were many great quotes in the book referencing curiosity, one of them is this:

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.

It was also reassuring to see that Einstein held art in the same regard he did science. So many people claim to be logically inclined and dismiss art as inferior to science, as if such stance confirms their intelligence.

There was a letter in which he addressed a question about God, which approached the topic in a way I feel a lot of us could find common ground.
He talked of art and music — the way older generation everywhere had talked about current music, which was rather amusing, as apparently Einstein was not immune to the GET OUT OF MY LAWN phenomenon.
He was shown to criticize the media a few times, one instance an anecdote of his own status as celebrity, the other the many instances where the media, in his view, created a frenzy to serve the interests of a few at the expense of the masses.

This led to the topic of war and his effort to encourage serious talk regarding the abolition of same. I found some of these passages to be somewhat naive and I felt bad that I wanted to say, “I told you so,” when his effort fell through and he then had to disassociate himself with organization.

It was not the failure to meet their objectives that caused him to let go of the organization, however. At this point, WWII was approaching and trouble was brewing in Germany, making Einstein feel that the country was no longer home. This was followed by essays on Jewry, another proposal to bring the community in Palestina together and a final thought on Christianity and Judaism.

Initially I thought the book would be fascinating because I wondered how exactly a scientist saw this world, especially a scientist like Einstein. It turned out to be much more than that because it was about a curious person with a capable intellect and an open mind filled with wonder and how he saw the world.

I have always maintained that the most interesting thing about the world is the human beings and I went into this book looking for the human being that was Albert Einstein and I was not disappointed.