For four years, I was spoiled by the easy access to Adobe Creative Suite and Mac computers – two technology favourites in creative professions – that came standard in my university’s labs.

When I left though, it was just me and my old Windows 7 PC, and I still had a music magazine website to manage that was about to switch to WordPress.com.

I had become a publication’s web producer, now working entirely via telecommute, with less-advanced tools at my disposal while managing a more-advanced website.

When the designers that my publisher hired handed the new website over to me, I found myself in a lot of situations where I needed to really improvise on how to best maintain our online content, how to best present it and solve technical problems along the way.

But, through trial and error, I like to think that I made it work and did my part to earn our website a brief slice of international attention in the digital publishing realm for it.

Web production work for publications entail plenty of photo resizing, so I'm on PicMonkey.com a lot, which is pretty amazing for a web browser tool.

Web production work for publications entails plenty of photo resizing, so I’m on PicMonkey.com a lot, which is pretty amazing for a web browser tool. Demo picture courtesy of Horror-Con.

This is why I dig free, open-source software and online browser tools so much: If one can live with using numerous freebies that can only do a few tasks, but do them well enough to get the job done, one can thrive in today’s information economy without spending a dime to work some telecommuting magic.

Some of these I already knew about, but others were found via Googling various tech support forums with keywords in threads relevant to my own technical problem at the time as I worked.

Are you on a budget and in charge of preparing and publishing your website or blog’s digital content? Here are the tools I use to make the music magazine’s site I manage the finished product that you see today.

OpenOffice.org – A free, open-source office suite that reads and writes MS office files. For those of you who are editors, MS Office’s Track Changes feature also has no problem “understanding” OpenOffice.org’s Record Changes option. There are versions for all three big computer platforms – Windows, Mac and Linux.

Dropbox.com – Needs not much introduction, really. You can store a lot of stuff on the cloud before you have to start paying for more space.

FileZilla – A free FTP client for all platforms, if your organization still stores their files that way.

PicMonkey.com – It’s no Photoshop, but it does the job with basic editing and resizing for the web and has a very “playful” interface. There is even a Scale Image option if you have to crop an image to a very specific set of pixel dimensions.

stock.xchng – A royalty-free stock photo website that serves as a free answer to similar ones such as iStockphoto. Of course, you’ll want to be cool and credit the site and its user.

FastStone Image Viewer – This does more than just view pictures, it can do editing too. In the event that you’re given a web-unfriendly image file such as .RAW or .TIFF, you can save it as a .JPEG, .GIF or .PNG. As well, you can edit the amount of pixels per inch for photographers concerned about uploading high-quality, printable images online. Sadly for Mac users, it seems to be for Windows only.

Boxoft Free PDF to JPG Converter – Self-explanatory. Ideal when in a situation where you need to convert a PDF into a JPG image. For Windows.

TextFixer.com – Ever been in a situation where you were tasked with copying and pasting text from a PDF but the lines and paragraph breaks still show up inside your WordPress post? This website can remove those pesky breaks, as well as do other things like alphabetizing and Word Doc to HTML converting.

So I hope this helps. If the same suites, such as Adobe Creative and MS Office, that you’d work with in the office are not in your budget for purchasing for your home computer, these are a few free alternatives that you too can use to help make your next, and best, blog or company post.

After all, we sometimes just have to use what’s given to us and making the best out of those tools is what builds something great.

Advertisements

In my first post on this subject, I explained that I help build our fringe suburbs as a drywaller and snap photos for people who’ve always lived in the inner city to show them the scale of what goes on in our fringes.

Calgary, as you well know, is a city that’s always under construction — so much so that it has an informal title of being the construction capital of Canada.

Love it or hate it, just for the scale of all these houses being built all around us alone, our outward growth as it happens could almost be considered a Wonder of the World.

Here are eight more snapshots that I’ve taken in Calgary and surrounding communities.

Bust out the soccer ball, kids. This greenspace in Mahogany looks fairly recently landscaped. Note some houses in the background are still in the framing phase, so residents of that street will still have to bear with construction vehicles for a while.

Bust out the soccer ball, kids. This greenspace in Mahogany in the southeast looks fairly recently landscaped. Note some houses in the background are still in the framing phase, so residents of that street will still have to bear with construction vehicles for a while.

On the other hand, unless the kids get permission to play in the dirt, this street in Auburn Bay, alos in the southeast, will have to wait for their greenspace still. The street here looks 100 per cent complete with both semi-detached and single-family homes, with the South Health Campus looming overhead.

On the other hand, unless the kids get permission to play in the dirt, this street in Auburn Bay, also in the southeast, will still have to wait for their greenspace. The street here looks 100 per cent complete with both semi-detached and single-family homes, with the South Health Campus looming behind.

Speaking of playing in the dirt, one concern about living in fringe suburbia is teaching kids the importance of safety. I've seen instances of children playing in construction zones or even climbing in waste bins. I forgot which neighbourhood this was, but it seemed strange that the backyard of this lived-in house adjacent to lot foundations yet to be dug was not totally fenced off, so I snapped this.

Speaking of playing in the dirt, one concern about living in fringe suburbia is teaching kids the importance of safety. I’ve seen instances of children playing in construction zones or even climbing in waste bins. I forgot which neighbourhood this was, but it seemed strange that the backyard of this lived-in house adjacent to lot foundations yet to be dug was not totally fenced off, so I snapped this.

Just because a house's possession date has been met and the buyers have moved and settled in doesn't mean that all the work is 100 per cent finished. Generally, presumably because the backlog of work is so huge, it might be a year or maybe two before one's yard is landscaped. This patio furniture sitting atop a deck surrounded by dirt and earth piles demonstrates this fact. These residents' lawnmower will probably have a very fine layer of dust to wipe off by the time they can bust it out of the garage for the first time.

Just because a house’s possession date has been met and the buyers have moved and settled in doesn’t mean that all the work is 100 per cent finished. Generally, presumably because the backlog of work is so huge, it might be a year or maybe two before one’s yard is landscaped. This patio furniture sitting atop a deck surrounded by dirt, construction debris and earth piles demonstrates this fact. If they have one, these residents’ lawnmower will probably have a very fine layer of dust to wipe off by the time they can bust it out of the garage for the first time.

Depending on where you are in Nolan Hill in the northeast, you can get a view of the actual literal fringe of the city. In this snapshot, suburban meets rural with both single-family homes, mid-right, and acreage properties (you might have to squint) in the background in the upper left, captured in the same frame.

Depending on where you are in Nolan Hill in the northeast, you can get a view of the actual literal fringe of the city. In this snapshot, suburban meets rural with both single-family homes, mid-right, and acreage properties (you might have to squint) in the background in the upper left, captured in the same frame.

The near-complete house on the upper-right looks a little lonely. It'll be a while before it's surrounded by more homes. I forgot where i snapped this, but it was somewhere in the southeast.

The near-complete house on the upper-right looks a little lonely. It’ll be a while before it’s surrounded by more homes. I forgot where I snapped this, but it was somewhere in the southeast.

Please slow down: Construction workers by be bouncing a basketball on their break. It's generally uncommon for all street signs to be installed on streets that are still, for most part, a construction zone. This was taken in Sunset Ridge in Cochrane.

Please slow down: Construction workers may be bouncing a basketball on their break. It’s generally uncommon for all street signs to be installed on streets that are still, for most part, a construction zone. This was taken in Sunset Ridge in Cochrane.

Got money? This is a property being built in the wealthy acreage community of Morgans Rise in Springbank. Between it, Mystic Ridge, Blueridge Estates, Lynx Ridge, Stone Pine and others I've probably missed, we have a lot of very wealthy people living next door to us in country estate communities just a five- to -ten-minute drive past our city limits in places like Springbank and Bearspaw. To the south of us, there's also De Winton and Heritage Pointe.

Got money? This is a property being built in the wealthy acreage community of Morgans Rise in Springbank. Between it, Mystic Ridge, Blueridge Estates, Lynx Ridge, StonePine and others I’ve probably missed, we have a lot of very wealthy people living next door to us in country estate communities (some of them gated) just a five- to ten-minute drive past our city limits in places like Springbank and Bearspaw. To the south of us, there’s also De Winton and Heritage Pointe.

This was originally posted on my J-school classmate’s blog, Hipster in a Tub.

At this point, I think it’s crucial that any friend of Kevin Rushworth should take a moment to copy/paste this post onto their own blog and spread the word within their own networks.

The more people read, the more people with help, money or things to offer can reach the person affected.

Kevin, if you are reading, we’ve got your back!

dsc_0068

Friends, former classmates, strangers, neighbors and colleagues:

I know we’re all busy with our day-to-day lives but I’m inviting you to take the time to read the following message. For those of us who have not been directly affected by the Alberta floods, it’s hard to picture and understand the devastating consequences of the flood. But the reality is that some have lost everything, including their vehicle and all of their belongings.

Kevin, my good friend, former j-school buddy and the hardworking Editor-in-Chief of the High River Times is one of them.

On duty in High River, Kevin saw the water levels rise at a rapid rate. He had to be rescued along with other residents who were still in the area at the time.

His car keys vanished in the overflowing river, his basement suite was completely submerged along with the High River Times office, home to Kevin and Kevin’s staff.

What’s really upsetting is that Kevin had literally just moved in his new place and had a house-warming just a couple weeks back. He had bought a brand new bed and new furniture and all his belongings, including his beloved books are now gone. He was able to save his camera and his laptop computer but that’s about all, folks.

Now, if this has happened to you, you understand how disheartening of a situation this can be. If you were not affected by the floods, I’d like you for a minute to put yourself in Kevin’s shoes: You’re starting out a new job, in a new town, and you have just settled in. And now, everything is gone.

Yes, it is only “stuff”, and what truly matters is that Kevin is OK.

However, I think it’d be amazing if we could come together and help Kevin out in this time of hardship.

I’m inviting every one of you to make cash donation – minimum of $10 plz – , or cheques to the name of Kevin Rushworth. Ikea gift cards and gift cards to the mall for new clothes welcomed too!

Kevin is one of the most hard-working and reliable person I know and I know he’d be the first one to be of helping hand if one of his friends were in a similar situation. Open your heart and help a friend in need. If you do not know Kevin in person but have been touched by his story (http://www.calgarysun.com/2013/06/24/reporters-life-washes-away-in-flood), do not hesitate!

Contact me via phone at 403.903.0898, via Twitter @ClaireMig or via email claire.miglionico@gmail.com for more information on where to drop off donations.

Sincerely,

Claire M.

This has been my first trek back to the downtown area since the evacuation on Thursday evening.

Despite it being in my blood to document major events as they happen in any way I can – via photography, reporting, social media, whatever – this time it felt different. I wondered if I was just playing the grief tourist in showing myself around. During my trek east on Memorial Drive where around Fifth Street NW onward was still flooded – it hit me.

Call it a form of survivor’s guilt – not in the classic sense but rather “property survivor’s guilt”; feeling bad that my home came out OK. I’m nestled back down in my sleepy southwest suburb where basements seem unscathed and – bottled-water buying instances aside – it’s like nothing catastrophic in my neighbourhood had ever really happened (and that’s the case). Many people on the other hand, and not just in Calgary, have to rebuild their whole lives.

I shed a single tear for my city today but I’m sure those affected have cried far more than that.

When I couldn’t go any further east of Memorial at around Second Street, I made the long trek to the downtown core on the C-Train line.

On the west end where there’s still power, it was so quiet that the beep-boops of the walk signals were echoing through the air — only a few other curious souls (fools?) in my company. East end looks fairly dried up now – Olympic Plaza too – but seeing pieces of debris and driftwood still laying around at City Hall was just amazing.

Clean up crews are now hard at work.

Looking down from the Victoria Park station walkway on Macleod Trail, there was no water at the entrance of the grounds, though it seems a lot is still submerged.

On 17th Avenue S.E. nearby the station, there was little more than a few ankle-deep puddles left but noticed the silt line on street signs was at least as tall as I was.

There were signs of things starting to look up, however.

An elderly gentleman was mowing his lawn in Sunnyside, the water pumps are there, some bars on 17th Avenue were open and I couldn’t give away my extra water bottle – the police and city workers in our city centre have enough. All I had left to offer was a handshake for them and some money for the Red Cross the moment I arrived home.

This will be my third and final gallery on the #yycflood — I think it’s time for us to focus on #yyccleanup.

I’ll give the Winebar in Kensington the final word.

winebarkensington_wearecalgary

Despite the insane water levels at the south end of the Glenmore Reservoir just on the northern end of Oakridge, residents are still walking, cycling and bringing their little ones out to play at South Glenmore Park – but overhearing people talking, all that’s still on everyone’s minds, understandably, is the flooding situation.

The wildlife seemed curious as well, including the geese, crows and even a beaver.

The most immediate sense of the scale that I first saw is how much the water has risen by looking at the docks at the Glenmore Sailing School: as I show you in one photograph debris washed ashore were mere feet away from where the sailboats are parked.

Pieces of the dock are floating nearby as well.

There are pieces of entire trees ashore and as one person I spoke with put it best: What are these trees’ stories?

Walking west on the lower hiking trail became a little too slippery and narrow for me to keep walking after about 0.8 km without risking a misstep and falling into the drink with $3,000 worth of gear on me being lugged around. Some joggers kept going that way, but I was alone with pricey equipment and a dying phone battery: Better not take any chances.

I’m currently just wrapping up a late lunch at the Point & Feather just across the street from the park’s entrance.

Here’s my gallery of the aftermath. Photos taken between late morning and early afternoon today.

If you are a local media outlet interested in using these, help yourself: Credit to Shane Flug, please.

Looks like Day Two of my Sled Island photography trek for my music magazine I work for has been cut short.

At around 5:00 p.m., I stopped at the Palomino to photograph the first band of the evening there and got aquainted with a fellow who told me he was evacuated from his apartment in Mission.

I went over to the East Village for the Block Party on 5 St. S.E. and Confluence Way, having a good idea it wouldn’t be a matter of if the place would be evacuated, but when.

Sadly, this was the case. Downtown Calgary is now under an evacuation order and here I am typing this back home from my pub in Cedarbrae.

The photos below are quick, close frame-by-frames of a section of scaffolding of the new St. Patrick’s Island bridge under construction nearby giving way to the rushing, rising waters of the Bow River nearby the Block Party. It happened at 6:56 p.m. I took them from the south side of the river with my zoom lens.

There are other photos taken moments later as well, including what appears to be construction debris floating by, an idea of how much the river is rising and a bylaw officer telling a performer atop the Red Bull Tour Bus at Sled Island’s East Village Block Party that it’s time to leave.

Be safe tonight, Calgary.

I describe myself on my Twitter bio as a mediocre voice impressionist.

I’m good enough at it to make people laugh, but I’m at no point where I could be a professional voice actor – though maybe a coach might tell me otherwise if I ever met one.

I can do Krusty the Clown’s trademark laugh OK but can’t get his speaking voice right.

Nonetheless, I have a few that are winners.

My construction boss cracks up at my impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger: “GO! RUN! Get to za choppa!”

Just last week, an old classmate from journalism school I met up with giggled at my impression of an impression: 1980s-era Eddie Murphy impersonating Bill Cosby in his classic stand-up film, Raw: “I would like to talk to yooooou… aboooout some of the thiiiings… that yooooou do in your SHOW.”

And one thrash metal guitarist I know (presumably jokingly) wrote on my Facebook that he would follow my impression of Metallica frontman James Hetfield if I ever took it on tour: “YEAH! YEA-HAH! YEAH! SogimmefuegimmefiagimmethawhichIdesiahhh OOOOOOOOO YEA-HEEHHH.”

Still, I think of impressions as a pretty low form of comedy most of the time – it’s a cheap and easy laugh you can get out of people without putting much effort into writing original jokes. I remember watching episodes of Last Comic Standing and people who resorted to Schwarzenegger impressions during auditions wouldn’t make it further.

But hey, if it makes your buddies laugh when you’re out drinking and there’s enough liquid courage flowing through your veins, then why not have some fun with it?

Seldom do I hear an absolute, spot-on, indistinguishable-from-the-real-person impression from even the most successful of comedians. What matters is the delivery; have a reason to do it.

For example, unless you don’t mind awkward stares, you wouldn’t bring it out of nowhere. Wait for some conversations like discussing favourite movie scenes and those sorts of topics.

And when you do your impression – and it really does help – visualize the character you’re impersonating in your mind. It is acting, after all, so try to be that person.

Start by repeating some of your favourite lines from their respective film or TV show. Pay particular attention to how certain syllables of the character’s words are delivered.

Just one word of caution for you lushes out there – don’t fall into the trap of thinking you sound better when you’ve been knocking back a few, odds are you don’t or just sound the same with a slight slur.

Your vocal range and tone is unique, so try sticking to characters within that range. Doing high-pitched squeal-ish voices seem to make my throat hurt after a while.

If you have a few voice impressions that you can pull off quite well, leave me a comment, I’d like to hear from you.

Here are a few more of mine I can somewhat pull off.

• Yogi Bear: “A-hey-hey. What do we got here in this pic-a-nic basket?”
• Mario: “It’s-a me, Mario!”
• Smeagul/Gollum: “Preciousssss…”
• Hank Hill: “Bwaaaaaaahhh!”
• Lieutenant Dan Taylor: “They gave YOU… an imbecile; a moron who goes on television… and makes a fool out of himself… in front of the whole damn COUNTRY… the Congressional Medal of Honor…”
• Don Pardo: “It’s Saturday Night Liiiiiive!”
• Vito Corleone: “I’ll make you an offer that you won’t refuse.”
• Comic Book Guy: “Worst. Episode. Ever.”
• Duff Man: “Duff Man cannot breathe. OOOOOOH NO!”
• A 1980s-era California surfer guy: “Gnarly, dude.”
• Metallica’s Lars Ulrich: “Hey, Flug. F**kin’ what kind of bulls**t f**kin’ impression of Hetfield was that, huh?”

WATCH: The Man of 101 Voices, 101 More Voices and 101 More…er Voices (it’s all the same guy).