Monthly Archives: January 2010

More Free Stuff!

I love free stuff.  What’s not to like about it? And with so many really great resources out there, why pay when you can get it for free?  Previously I listed 100 Free Resources for Personal Historians followed by 20 More Free Resources for Personal Historians.  If you know of some free resources that you use and like, let me know. Here’s some more free stuff I’ve found. Enjoy!

  • PagePlus Desktop Publishing Software. “Serif PagePlus SE is the FREE desktop publishing (DTP) software to design stunning publications for home or business with no previous experience! With FREE PagePlus SE you can easily create outstanding menus, greeting cards, posters, brochures, documents and catalogues. Our easy to use free desktop publishing software ensure you create amazing documents for every occasion!”
  • Posterous. “…the dead simple way to put anything online using email…We love sharing thoughts, photos, audio, and files with our friends and family, but we didn’t like how hard it was… so we made a better way.”
  • “The largest collection of free photographs on the Internet (link back and attribution required).”
  • Toodledo. “An easy to use, online to-do list. Get organized, stay motivated, and be more productive.”
  • Smilebox. “…a photo service that lets you quickly turn life’s moments into digital creations you can share with others or save for yourself.  Choose from hundreds of ecard, scrapbooking, and slideshow designs for every occasion. New designs are released every week. Personalize and share your Smilebox creation for free, or select premium options for print, DVD burning, expanded music choices, and no advertisements.”
  • TwoGoals. “Simple web application TwoGoals keeps you focused on only the most important tasks—by creating a page where you can record your two main objectives.”
  • Mint. “Mint manages your money by sucking in data from all your bank, credit card, and other accounts, providing you regular reports on what you’re spending and how to save.”
  • Storybird. “Publish your stories, sell your art, and connect with fans. Storybird is a creative and commercial platform built just for you.”
  • Home Inventory. “Create a home inventory of everything you own on this site, a service of the Insurance Information Institute, and throw in digital pictures or even scanned purchase receipts to make sure what’s yours is yours. “
  • Springpad. “Manage your life tasks with online notebooks filled with lists, photos, notes, and maps/directions you can share with the whole family. Perfect for tracking receipts, planning meals or trips, and getting your house organized. “
  • Timetoast. “… allows people to create interactive timelines, which they can share anywhere on the web. Anyone can join Timetoast and start creating and sharing their own timelines, all they need is a valid email address. It’s completely free!”
  • 200 Free Online Classes. “A high quality education doesn’t have to come at a high cost. In fact, it’s possible to take classes from big names like Yale, MIT, and Tufts without ever submitting an application or paying a cent in tuition. We’ve compiled 200 online classes from these and other respected institutions, and you can take all of them with no strings attached.”
  • Stamina Typing Tutor. “Amusing, yet multifunctional touch-typing tutor with support for several layouts.”
  • Free Audio Books Online. “This is a listing of 60 sites that legally offer free audio books, either for online listening or for download.”
  • GoodSharing. “…a free web service that helps you share your stuff with trusted friends. Founded in 2006, GoodSharing gives you and your friends a place to list items you are willing to share (we call them “ShareItems”), makes it easy to search and request a ShareItem, and keeps track of items that have been borrowed from you.”

Image by iStockphoto

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10 Great Reasons to Visit Victoria, BC.

Victoria harbor with the Legislative Buildings in the background

No, I haven’t become a travel agent!  I’ll admit though that I love to extol the  virtues of  my home town,Victoria. And as a member of the Association of Personal Historians, I’m excited that this year’s conference will be held in Victoria, November 3 -7,  at the famous Fairmont Empress Hotel.

Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia. Named after Queen Victoria, it was established in 1843 by the Hudson’s Bay Company as a fort and trading post. Today it has an  estimated regional population of 326,000.

Here are 10 great reasons for you to come to Victoria.

1. Participate in the APH “Voices of the Elders” conference. If you’re not yet a member of the Association of Personal Historians, I strongly urge you to become one. You don’t want to miss this conference! You can join the APH by clicking here.

2. International travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler ranked Victoria #1 Best City in the Americas (2003/2004).

3. Aptly named the “Garden City”, Victoria has the mildest climate in Canada. Right now the snowdrops are blooming!

4. Victoria is home to Fisgard lighthouse, Canada’s oldest West Coast lighthouse, built in 1860.

Fisgard Lighthouse

5. Beacon Hill Park is  the site of the world’s tallest, free-standing totem pole carved from a single log. Erected in 1956, it stands  38.8-metres (127 ft.) and was carved  by Kwakwaka’wakw craftsman Mungo Martin.

World's tallest totem pole

6. Victoria is “Mile 0″ of the Trans Canada Highway,  the longest national highway in the world,  spanning 7,821 km (4,860 mi.)

7. Congregation Emanu-El is the oldest house of worship in British Columbia and the oldest synagogue in continuous use in Canada.

8. Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest in Canada and second only to San Francisco which is the oldest in North America.

9.Victoria is home to The Royal BC Museum, one of the foremost cultural institutions in the world.

Butchart Gardens

10. The world famous Butchart Gardens are  a short 21 km (12.6 mi.) drive outside Victoria. Located on 55 acres, these sublime gardens are beautiful year round.


Victoria Harbor photo by Gregory Melle

Fisgard Lighthouse photo by Eric de Leeuw

World’s tallest totem photo by Fawcett5

Butchart Gardens photo by Phil Romans

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Monday’s Link Roundup.

This Monday, with Valentine’s Day not far away, take a look at Us: Americans Talk About Love. Another favorite link of mine is Vintage Ad Browser, a great way to idle away the hours. Did you know that Aspironal is “Better than Whiskey for colds and flu”? [from a1928 medicine ad]

  • Digital scribes transfer ancient words into bits and bytes. “In the corner of a quiet government office building, Leah Otak spends her work days in front of a computer and a cassette deck, poring over hundreds of hours of recorded interviews dating back as far as 1986. The interviews contain a massive trove of quickly-disappearing information: the traditional knowledge of elders from the Igloolik area covering everything from shamanism and kinship to traditional navigation methods and hunting and sewing techniques.”
  • Vintage Ad Browser. “This site aims to collect vintage ads from a variety of sources, including comic books, CD-Roms, websites, APIs, your submissions, book, magazine & comic book scans, and more. At the moment, this site contains 123,311 ads.” [ Thanks to Melissa Dopp of Reel Lives Media for alerting me to this site.]
  • Turn Web Pages Into PDFs. “Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way for you to capture a web page in its entirety, either for future reference or for sharing it with your friends without having to start sending links back and forth? I’d like to capture the web page as it exists today. Luckily, there is an easy method of doing just that. is a web service that captures web sites and converts them to PDF files.”
  • A Time-Lapse of a Cover Creation. “After working on the latest cover for Macworld Magazine I wanted to show what is involved in making a cover. I focused on the three main areas: the photography, photoshop and design. I chose a time lapse format to convey lots of information in a small amount of time. The only drawback of time lapse is that since half a day goes by in 30 seconds, the whole process seem so easy!”
  • ZOOM – Music Licensing for Videography & Digital Imaging. “For the first time ever, as a professional producer in the United States or Canada who uses music in the production of wedding and event videos, photo presentations and other related productions, you are NOW able to purchase the rights to use copyrighted music from the artists you choose at a price you can afford! The ZOOM License Bundle makes it possible.”

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The Cluttered of The World Unite!

I don’t rant very often. In fact the last time I ranted was here in December 2008.  I feel another rant coming on. It’s been building. So stand back!

We seem to be inundated these days with exhortations from neatness mavens to declutter and organize our lives for a happier and better tomorrow. The implication seems to be that a cluttered existence is a sign of failing. There’s a whiff of Puritanism to all this. We are told that being cluttered wastes time, hinders our productivity, makes us tired, and no doubt has a detrimental effect on our sex lives. But where’s all the evidence for this? I’ve  never seen any authoritative studies that support the claims made by the decluttering brigade.

I’ll admit that my office space is pretty messy.  At times I’ve  listened to the siren calls of the “tidy” people. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be happier and more productive? But after a few weeks of tidiness things are pretty much back where they started. I used to feel badly about this. It seemed as if I failed somehow to be a productive and useful member of society.

On sober reflection, I realized that being a neatness freak didn’t make me happier. If anything, it made me even more neurotic. “Oh my god! I forgot to clean off my desk at the end of the day!” Despite mounds of books and papers and DVDs  scattered about my office, I still produce good stuff.  I’m  happy. My clients love my work. I love my work. And most importantly, I’ve accepted the fact that being cluttered is part of who I am and how I go about creating.

Let’s leave decluttering for the accountants, surgeons, pilots, and anyone else we expect at least to appear organized and in charge. As for the rest of us cluttered souls, let’s unite in our messiness and proudly proclaim to the naturally tidy,  “Yes, we can’t!”

Photo by iStockphoto

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How to Interview Someone Who Is Terminally Ill: Part Two

The most popular article that I’ve written since starting this blog in 2008 is  How to Interview Someone Who Is Terminally Ill: Part One. I was reading it over and felt there were some additional points I wanted to make.

  • Before starting to work with someone who is dying, be clear what your own feelings and attitudes are around death and grief. Are you comfortable in the presence of someone who is dying? Are you able just to be with someone without trying to fix anything? If you haven’t explored your own feelings, this may not be the kind of work you want to be doing.
  • It is entirely possible that you may not be able to complete someone’s life story before that person dies. How well do you handle  situations  for which there’s no “tidy” wrap-up?
  • Taking care of yourself is vitally important because of the stressful nature of the work. One of the things that I didn’t mention in my previous article  is the importance of having someone to talk to about your feelings. And by this I don’t mean talking about the person you’re interviewing. That should always be in confidence. What I mean is being able to express your sadness, fatigue, anger, loss, and frustration to someone who is compassionate and non-judgmental.
  • For a list of useful books on death and dying click here.

Photo by iStockphoto

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Monday’s Link Roundup.

Among this Monday’s Link Roundup are  two sites that provide some useful advice on marketing with Facebook and building your personal brand. There’s a new television series starting in February called Faces of America that looks promising. My favorite pick this week is What Matters Now, a free e-book organized by Seth Godin. It contains  seventy important thinkers with capsule thoughts on what matters now. Don’t pass it by.

  • Series Explores “What Made America?” Through Genealogy. “Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., whose “African-American Lives” series have been popular on PBS, is working on another genealogy documentary series to air in February and March. “Faces of America” uses genealogy and genetics to explore the family histories of 11 famous Americans, using their ancestors’ experiences to draw a picture of American history.”
  • Using Assessments to Enhance Life-Story Writing. “Came across an interesting juxtaposition of two interests of mine. In an article title How to Write One’s Life Story in which author Christina Hamlett writes: Fill out self-assessment quizzes and introspective writing exercises. In addition to personality tests you can find in consumer magazines and on the Internet, books such as Barbara Ann Kipfer’s 4,000 Questions For Getting To Know Anyone and Everyone, Margaret Tiberio’s The Book of Self-Acquaintance and Dr. Gregory Stock’s The Book of Questions will get you thinking about what really makes you tick.”
  • How to Market Your Business With Facebook. “A growing number of businesses are making Facebook an indispensable part of hanging out their shingles. Small businesses are using it to find new customers, build online communities of fans and dig into gold mines of demographic information.”
  • Writing a memoir: 7 tips for defeating your inner critic. “That’s the nagging voice in your ear that says nothing you write is good or true, the voice that inflicts you with shame and guilt, especially if you’ve experienced trauma, abuse, or loss. The inner critic can inhibit you from acknowledging and revealing — even if only to yourself — what actually happened in your life.”
  • How to Start (or Start-over) Building Your Personal Brand. “A ‘personal brand’ is in many ways synonymous with your reputation. It refers to the way other people see you. Are you a genius? An expert? Are you trustworthy? What do you represent? What do you stand for? What ideas and notions pop up as soon as someone hears your name?”
  • Living Detroit Website Launched. “Wayne State University’s Honors College has launched a new web-based oral history project to gather people’s personal memories of large and small events in Metro Detroit. Jerry Herron, Dean of the Irvin D. Reid Honors College at Wayne State, calls the Living Detroit website a “living record of story telling, people’s memories of the people, the places, the things that have defined this great city of Detroit.”
  • What Matters Now: get the free ebook. “Here are more than seventy big thinkers, each sharing an idea for you to think about as we head into the new year. From bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert to brilliant tech thinker Kevin Kelly, from publisher Tim O’Reilly to radio host Dave Ramsey, there are some important people riffing about important ideas here. The ebook includes Tom Peters, Fred Wilson, Jackie Huba and Jason Fried, along with Gina Trapani, Bill Taylor and Alan Webber.”

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Get Help Now With These Photo Restoration Services.

I find restoring a damaged photograph to its original splendor satisfying work.  I’ve  been using ArcSoft PhotoStudio 5 which came bundled with my Canon Pixma color printer. There is a newer version PhotoStudio 6 for US$80. Click here for details. It’s not as professional or advanced as Adobe Photoshop but it’s easy to use and does the trick.

You can have someone else restore your photos if you’re not a “Do-It-Yourselfer”. I’ve assembled a partial list of companies that provide those services. I haven’t tried any of them so I can’t vouch for their quality. Prices vary depending on the amount of work required. If you use a restoration company and are pleased with their work, let me know in the comment box below.

For those of you who are serious about doing your own restoration, I’ve listed two online courses and a couple of books to get you started.

Photo Restoration Services

  • PicFix Provide price quotes within 24 hrs.

Photo Restoration Courses

  • Photo restoration basics: preserve your family photos. Free, online classes, from HP available 24/7. “Would you like to restore your old, faded photos, edit new photos or learn how to safely store and display your current ones? Learn why photos deteriorate, and how you can rescue them by scanning and making quick fixes using Microsoft® Windows Live Photo Gallery, Snapfish and touchscreen printers. You’ll also learn advanced retouching techniques in Adobe Photoshop Elements and get tips for printing, displaying and backing up your photos.”
  • “Helping you learn, master, and apply digital tools and techniques.”  Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals Author: Deke McClelland

Photo Restoration Books

  • Adobe Photoshop Restoration & Retouching (3rd Edition). “Whether you’re a professional photographer or the family shutterbug, you can’t afford to miss the third edition of the now classic Photoshop Restoration & Retouching. Katrin Eismann and co-author Wayne Palmer have reviewed, updated, and revised every single technique to address the most important features in Adobe Photoshop CS2.”

Photo by Mike Richardson

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Don’t Pass Up This Keepsake.

Keepsake by Marilyn Koop is a must-have for your library.  A friend  gave me a copy the other day and I’ve been totally captivated by it. Each page contains a photograph of time-worn hands cradling a loved keepsake. On the page opposite is a cameo history of the person, a brief story behind the keepsake, and words of advice. There are twenty portraits in the collection. All save two were of people living at the Wellington Terrace, an assisted care residence near Fergus, Ontario.

"This little cup and saucer was given to me by my great-grandmother on my second birthday when we were still in England. My mother used to threaten me: "What might happen to your little cup and saucer if you don't behave?" Winifred Banbury

Marlene Creates, a Newfoundland environmental artist and poet has written of the book:

When objects are keepsakes, they relate most to our hands and our sense of touch. In Marilyn Koop’s photographs, hands are as eloquent as faces. On first glance, many of the cherished objects being held by these elderly people seem quite modest … But on reading these elders’ stories, it turns out that…[these keepsakes] are important not because of their monetary value but because of their history and meaning. I am struck by the profound  human caring and gratitude in these stories. The keepsakes are stand-ins for lost loved ones and times past. Through Marilyn Koop’s photographs and the brief life stories she has gathered, we are given the real value of these keepsakes.

"Henry carved this bar of soap on our honeymoon night in Niagara Falls." Agnes Koop

As a personal historian, I see a number of ways Keepsake can be of value:

  • a gift for special clients
  • in workshops as an example of creative story telling
  • to awaken care facility administrators to the potential of life story  projects with their own residents
  • a source for  reflection on aging, keepsakes, and remembrance

To Order

Contact Marilyn Koop directly at:

Price: Cdn $24.00 includes postage and handling.


Images by permission of Marilyn Koop Copyright 2009

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Monday’s Link Roundup.

Another week and another eclectic mix of links. Be sure to check out 101 Useful Resources for Online Entrepreneurs and Communicating Life Stories. There’s a wealth of information on both sites. One of my favorite links is Days With My Father. It’s an achingly tender photo story of a father by his son.

  • 101 Useful Resources for Online Entrepreneurs. “Every day more and more entrepreneurs are building successful businesses using the internet. There is an abundance of opportunity online and depending on the venture, there is often less cost and risk involved when compared with traditional businesses. There is also a wealth of resources available to help the online entrepreneur to run a business more effectively and more profitably, and we list many of those resources here.”
  • Days With My Father. A tender photo tribute of his father by Philip Toledano. Here’s an excerpt. “My Mum died suddenly on September 4th, 2006. After she died, I realized how much she’d been shielding me from my father’s mental state. He doesn’t have alzheimer’s, but he has no short term memory, and is often lost.  This is a journal. An ongoing record of my father, and our relationship.” [Thanks to Larry Lehmer at Passing It On for alerting me to this item.]
  • Evoca expands global phone recording service to capture family stories. “Using 21st century Internet and phone technologies Evoca launched “Every Day of Listening” to enable family members who are getting together at Grandma’s house or even live across oceans from each other to record using any phone, Skype, and a Browser Mic. With the new shared Evoca Express account feature, creating a family audio memory album is possible whether family members can get together in person or not. Any phone becomes the family’s microphone for recording without any technical expertise necessary.”
  • Communicating Life Stories – Digital Storytelling Oral History. “While there were certainly challenges around the capture of the history, there’s an even greater issue around what to do with it once you’ve captured all the stories…This discussion is targeted to those creating a new oral history program…The mission should be to present stories using rich media that presents itself to the broadest audience possible.”
  • Mosque One: Oral Histories of Toronto’s First Mosque. “ is the first-ever oral history project of Muslims in Canada. It is a window into Toronto’s first mosque, which was an old shop, purchased in 1961, at 3047 Dundas Street West…This website is a virtual museum of the Dundas St mosque.  It is a powerful resource for researchers wanting to learn more about the history of Muslims in Canada, as it compiles relevant photographic, textual, legal and scholarly documents that relate to the mosque.”
  • Greenspace Genealogy. [pdf file] “There are individuals all across the United States who donate their private property to be enjoyed as a public greenspace. Some donations are ambitious projects consisting of thousands of acres that become recreational areas. Others are corner lots, usually referred to as tot lots. There are the conservation and preservation areas, city parks, and county parks. Greenspace Genealogy is their story.”

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What Everybody Ought to Know About a Successful Blog.

If you want a blog that will attract and keep readers, then this is what you need to do.

  • Post frequently. Aim for at least one post a week. Writing once a month won’t attract and hold visitors to your blog. The exception to this rule would be an original, dynamite, must-have  article each time. Then once a month might work.
  • Be consistent. As Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”  Visitors to your blog want to know that they can count on you to deliver.
  • Be personal. The best blogs are those that give you a real sense of the person behind the articles. Write conversationally.  To illustrate a point, use your own experience.  A word of caution: don’t write only about yourself. Unless your life is truly riveting, most people  really don’t care.
  • Keep it short and scannable. The truth is that visitors to a web page don’t stay long. As a rule they want quick, relevant information, presented clearly and succinctly. So use bulleted lists, short paragraphs, headings, and sub headings.
  • Keep it uncluttered. You want to make it easy for visitors to find their way around your blog. You don’t need to hire an expensive website designer. Many of the existing blog templates work well. Just don’t load them down with too much stuff.
  • Use photographs. Photos add interest. They can attract attention to your content and leaven longer articles.
  • Use catchy headlines. Think newspapers and popular magazines when writing your headlines. You want them to be simple, intriguing, and descriptive.
  • Be generous and useful. Don’t hoard your best ideas. Create useful reports and give them away for free. Keep your audience in mind and solve problems they’re encountering.

For more on successful blogging these two sites are terrific: ProBlogger and  Copyblogger

Photo by iStockphoto

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