Nikon Image Space – A free service for Nikon users

  • Do you own a Nikon camera?
  • Do like to share your photos with friends and family?
  • Need a cheap way to share these images privately and en mass?

If you answered “yes” to these questions then Nikon Image Space is for you.  Nikon Image Space is a photo sharing service provided by camera manufacturer Nikon for use by its customers.

Access photos from your computer, smart phone, or tablet—anywhere, anytime.

Access photos from your computer, smart phone, or tablet—anywhere, anytime.

It’s free to sign up.  Free accounts have 2GB of image storage space.  There is also a subscription version of this site if you need more than 2GB.

Photographs can be organized into to albums that you can share or unshare with the click of a button.  Shared albums get their own url which you can send to whomever you want.  Recipients will then only be able to see the images you specifically shared with them.

Nikon Image Space2

And if you want to geek out there’s also a Report section which provides you with statistics such as:

  • Number of Photos
  • Number of Views (from those you send the album links to)
  • Which cameras and lenses you used the most to take the uploaded images.  And how this compares to the overall NIS user population.
  • Your Average Focal Length, Aperture, and Shutter Speed and how each of these compares to the overall NIS user population.
  • And even what camera and lens you use the most vs. the overall NIS population
See how you stack up to the rest of the NIS world with Reports

See how you stack up to the rest of the NIS world with Reports

As the official event photographer for my office I use the site regularly to upload images from our corporate events and share them with executives.  Plus it comes in handy for sharing images from family outings and hobbies, too.

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Discover hidden attractions in your state

Summer’s fast approaching.  Need something to do with your kids now that school is out?  Like to seek out new adventures for just you and your partner?  Think you’ve seen everything and been everywhere in your state?  Think again…

There’s a great website called Only In Your State that helps you discover the hidden gems in each state.

OIYState

You can search by state to find all kinds of interesting and special attractions…  Unique restaurants, hot springs, swimming holes, covered bridges, seasonal attractions, train rides, and more.

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Tips on Pumping Gas

I was doing a little spring cleaning of my personal inbox recently when I came across an email about pumping gas.  It was allegedly written by a 31-year veteran of the petroleum industry.  I say “allegedly” because it was a forward of a forward of a forward of an email, so who knows where it really originated from.

Anyway, I thought I’d share the little nuggets of wisdom here while I still had it within reach.  Take the first tip with a grain of salt since I’ve read elsewhere that time of day & temperature don’t play a significant enough role to matter.  Tests were conducted to debunk this, so again it may or may not be valid.  The other 3 tips I can see working.

My biggest issue, however, is that I live in NJ where it is technically against state law to pump your own gas.  There is no self-serve option here as fuels may only be dispensed by “trained professionals”.  (stop laughing!)  That law is also the reason our gas is so cheap here – the insurance rates for gas stations is less than other states in the union since we disallow self-serve in favor of these “professionals”.  (I said stop laughing!)

Anyway, here are the 4 tips on how to best pump your own gas:

TIME OF DAY MATTERS – Only buy or fill up your car or truck in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold. Remember that all service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground. The colder the ground the more dense the gasoline, when it gets warmer gasoline expands, so buying in the afternoon or in the evening….your gallon is not exactly a gallon. In the petroleum business, the specific gravity and the temperature of the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, ethanol and other petroleum products plays an important role.  A 1-degree rise in temperature is a big deal for this business. But the service stations do not have temperature compensation at the pumps.

SLOW DOWN – When you’re filling up do not squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to a fast mode. If you look you will see that the trigger has three (3) stages: low, middle, and high. You should be pumping on low mode, thereby minimizing the vapors that are created while you are pumping. All hoses at the pump have a vapor return. If you are pumping on the fast rate, some of the liquid that goes to your tank becomes vapor. Those vapors are being sucked up and back into the underground storage tank so you’re getting less worth for your money.

DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOU’RE ALMOST EMPTY – One of the most important tips is to fill up when your gas tank is HALF FULL. The reason for this is the more gas you have in your tank the less air occupying its empty space. Gasoline evaporates faster than you can imagine. Gasoline storage tanks have an internal floating roof. This roof serves as zero clearance between the gas and the atmosphere, so it minimizes the evaporation. Unlike service stations, here where I work, every truck that we load is temperature compensated so that every gallon is actually the exact amount.

AVOID THE TANKERS – If there is a gasoline truck pumping into the storage tanks when you stop to buy gas, DO NOT fill up; most likely the gasoline is being stirred up as the gas is being delivered, and you might pick up some of the dirt that normally settles on the bottom.

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Thank you for almost shopping with us

I love using sites like ebates.com to get discounts on my online purchases.  But there’s also another way to save while shopping, especially if it’s a site you’ve never done business with before.

Most businesses monitor their site traffic.  If they see someone almost complete a purchase (add items to their cart, enter their contact/shipping info, and then leave the site without clicking through to the end) it gets their attention.

There are many reasons why someone didn’t complete the purchase – ran short of time, better deal elsewhere, computer issues, etc.  Without knowing the real reason a sale didn’t go through, the business will try to entice the purchaser back by sending them a discount coupon good towards their next purchase.

The discounts vary by company but I’ve received discounts of up to 20% off by purposefully cancelling my purchase at checkout.  The most common coupon – at least with my own experiences – is $10 off my next purchase.  Usually that’s enough to incite me to go back in and complete the sale.

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Free Artist’s Statement Generator

Exhibiting artists are sometimes asked to supply an “Artist’s Statement”.  This is a document between 1 and 5 paragraphs in length introducing them as an artist, and explaining why and how you make your art.  It may pertain to a particular work, or to the artist’s entire body of work.

Here is the “AS” I submitted for a show I’m participating in in Westfield, NJ next month:

Photography has always been very personal to me. I use it not just to document but also to explore the world around me and record those experiences to share with others. My unique perspective is shaped by interests as diverse as geology, drag racing, and steampunk. I don’t limit my photography to specific genres or styles. Instead, I let each experience speak to me in its own way. Topics I have covered extensively in the past include farm life, abstracts, and motorsports.

Not too fru-fru,, right?

Some artists ramble on at length for 4 or 5 paragraphs about their inspirations and how it SO affected them and what that did to their frontal cortex, blah blah blah…  For me, short and sweet seals the deal.

For those wishing to (or required to) give longer prose about contextual this-and-that, there’s some easy ways to do it:

  1. Plagiarize someone else’s
  2. Make up a bunch of convoluted sentence about how you are SO talented, how you are SO affected by your experiences, and how your work is SO pushing the boundaries of modernism/post-modernism/experimental/abstraction/etc.
  3. Let someone else create it for you.

I was tempted to go the 3rd route when I came across these 2 resources – artybollocks generator and 500 Letters.  These sites allow you to get as crazy as you want.

Artybollocks Generator (http://www.artybollocks.com/#abg_full) – This site provides a more tongue-in-cheek take on Artist’s Statements than does 500 Letters.  There’s even an option to create Statements for Twitter and produce your very own Artist Certificate, perfecting for framing to show that you are indeed a certified artist.

Artybollocks Twitter Statement and Certificate generators

Artybollocks Twitter Statement and Certificate generators

500 Letters (http://500letters.org/form_15.php) – Enter in some basic biographical information, check off a few boxes about your favored mediums and themes, and the system then generates your own Artist’s Statement.  Like Artybollocks, you can keep refreshing the screen to generate new variations of the statement.  There are also several dozen example statements inside the right sidebar which you can also peruse and draw inspiration from.  Perfect for someone who likes/needs long-winded statements.

I haven’t used either site for an actual Artist’s Statement (yet) but it’s very tempting.

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Free wine! …and art, too

Photography has been an interest and a creative outlet for me since I was little.  Last year I joined a photography group to re-spark that interest.  The group is big on exhibits.  Every month there’s another exhibition or 2 that the group is hosting.  And members frequently take part in other group and singular exhibits.

Seeing the different photographic styles and learning about their processes is stimulating.  I treat the exhibitions as a continuation of my high school Visual Communications class assignments.  I’ll occasionally submit pre-existing photos for consideration but I also supplement those entries with new work inspired by the theme of the exhibition.  Some of my best work has come from pushing myself to create images worthy of the exhibitions.

Another great part of art exhibitions is the Artists’ Reception.  AR’s give the public an opportunity to meet the artist(s) and view the artwork.  Conversely, artists get a chance to show off the work they spent so long perfecting.

There’s also an unspoken extra bonus in attending an AR… FREE WINE AND FOOD!  It’s traditional for the presenting artist/group to have a table laid out with drinks and appetizers as a thank you for coming out to their AR.  I don’t take advantage of the service, nor do I attend AR’s for the beverages, but I do appreciate it.

When 2 of my pieces were excepted into a gallery show in Maplewood, NJ there were enough of us chipping in money towards the AR that the resultant spread was pretty extensive.  I had no issues with helping make sure that there were few leftovers when we closed the gallery that day.  🙂

If you ever attend an AR help yourself to the food and drinks – even if you don’t know any of the presenting artists.  It’s there as a thank you for coming out and supporting the arts.

…plus it’s delicious!

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Important Website for Weather Alerts and Product Recalls

A few years ago I signed up for free adverse weather alerts from emergencymail.org so I can be ready for hurricanes and the infamous NJ “pre-Halloween” storms.

It’s a great site – and for more than just weather.  Plus, you can tailor it to whatever state/area you live in.

You can customize the alerts to get only the ones that matter most to you

You can customize the alerts to get only the ones that matter most to you

Their mission: “Provide notification to citizens of local, regional, national and international critical news information utilizing the Internet, electronic mail (email) and wireless in a secure and expedient manner”.

Recently they began also providing Recall Notices as part of their program:

Some of the latest recall notices on the emergencyemail website

Some of the latest recall notices on the emergencyemail website

So far I haven’t been affected by anything in their recall lists, but each time that I receive the email notification I still make an effort to check it out as soon as possible.

One recall that I’ve paid particular attention to is the Takata Airbags.  As you may know, Takata has been under fire for knowingly supplying defective airbags which have resulted in several deaths and many injuries.  It’s an issue that hit home recently when a friend of mine was injured from not just one but two defective Takata airbags.

I did not know this, but on the newer Ford Mustangs there is an airbag under the driver’s seat.  When the seat on my friend’s 2014 EcoBoost Mustang started to warp from the airbag under it he brought it into his local Ford dealer to have the airbag replaced.  Instead of replacing it they told him everything was fine and that they were only going to replace it if there was an actual problem.

Fast forward 2-3 weeks later… He’s slowing down to a stop behind a woman at a red light when his Takata under-the-seat airbag exploded, sending metal and plastic shrapnel throughout the cabin.  He ended up rolling into the car in front of him.  He was already at a greatly reduced speed so no damage occurred to the nose of his car but the bump somehow caused the Takata airbag in his steering wheel to explode, sending more shrapnel at him.

He’s doing better now but you can still see the scarring from the debris.  We’re all just very fortunate that this explosion didn’t occur while he was doing 65 mph down the highway.  If it did, he likely wouldn’t still be with us.

Ever since then I’ve been checking and rechecking the airbag recall list to make sure none of my family’s or other friend’s vehicles are on the list.  I did catch 1 car that a co-worker had just purchased from a used car dealer that had made the list.  Recall notices are usually sent by car manufacturers only to vehicles’ original purchasers or those who purchase a used car directly from a branded new car dealer.  But if you buy a car second-hand elsewhere you need to stay on top of the research yourself.   My co-worker was completely unaware that his car came equipped with Takata airbags until I showed him the list and he contacted a local Mercedes dealer right away.  Fortunately for him, Mercedes had stopped using Takata airbags in the middle of his car’s production year and his car was built after that cutover.

If you own a car produced between 1999 and 2014 I recommend that you check the list.

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I Read an Interesting Article on Super Savers

“Super Savers” are those who put away far more money into their retirement accounts than the national average for a person their age.  I, however, am a super saver – seeking out the best ways to get my money’s worth on purchases without resorting to outright austerity.

I just read a short but interesting article on Bankrate.com about those so-called “Super Savers”.  What hit me were these statistics:

Interesting statistics from Bankrate.com

Interesting statistics from Bankrate.com.  Click on the image to be sent to the original article.

I started seriously putting away money in my mid-30’s – much later than the three people highlighted in the article.  And I only contribute 8% of my pre-tax dollars into my company 401(k) – a LOT less than any of those 3 folks or what “financial experts” recommend.  Yet I took advantage of other ways to make my savings grow:

  1. ROLLOVERS – I rolled over my 401(k) from my old employer into an IRA.  The timing wasn’t great – it was right after the market crashed in 2007-08 and my 401(k) got clobbered.  But I was also limited in how I could manage the regrowth of that money through my former employer’s program.  So, I bought some great MLP stocks with excellent dividends, a great business model, and cheap shares.  Add to that some mutual funds and blue chip consumer goods stocks and I was on my way.
  2. TAX BREAKS – A few years ago the IRS decided to let everyone transition money from their tax-deferred IRAs into post-tax ROTH accounts and then claim only 50% of that transfer in each of the next 2 year’s tax returns.  I took a small percentage (I forget the amount, maybe 20%) and rolled it over.  I would have done more but I didn’t feel like going broke paying back Uncle Sam come tax season so I moved what I could afford to move.  Now that money can grow interest free.
  3. CASHING IN MY PENSION – Last year my former employer surprised me by offering me a choice of cashing out my pension, rolling it into my private IRA, or sitting on it and collecting those pension payments when I’m old & gray.  After discussing this with my tax accountant (H&R Block is the best!  Anyone near Morris County, NJ should use George Connelly in the Morristown office!) we decided that the best thing for me to do is opt for the IRA rollover.
  4. SLOWLY INCREASING MY ROLL – My current employer matches 80% of what I contribute to my company 401(k) up to the first 6% of my gross salary contributions.  And for a long time I kept to that 6%.  But as I got a better handle on my expenses and cleared out a lot of high interest debt I then upped that contribution to 7%.  And then last year I increased it to 8%.  This year, though, I kept to 8% and changed my Withholding instead to put more money in my paycheck now rather than wait until April to receive it back in a lump sum from the IRS.
  5. PERIODIC REINVESTMENTS – With the exception of my Berkshire Hathaway Class B shares, all of my other stocks pay dividends.  Once each year I’ll take the cash amassed from those dividends and invest in something new.  I take my time researching different companies and when I find something I like at an attractive price I’ll jump on it.  Over time the dividends from that stock will also contribute to my cash holdings which will then be used to buy something else.  Wash, rinse, repeat.
  6. AUTOMATIC REINVESTING – Some stocks and mutual funds allow you the option to have dividends and other distributions reinvested back into that vehicle.  My AT&T stock is set up like that.  Most of my mutual funds are, too.  And the reinvestment may result in only fractions of an additional share, but those fractional shares do add up quick.  And the more shares I get, the more I have contributing to the bottom line which buys me more fractional shares.  And so on, and so on, and so on…

I still have a way to go before I can quit my day job but I’ve already built up close to $200,000 dollars across all of my investment vehicles.  Not bad considering how late I started.

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TD Bank tells customers to ‘keep the change’

I just got some bad news… TD Bank is permanently shuttering their Penny Arcades.  For years it’s been a convenient (and fun) way to deposit large amounts of pocket change.  You’d pour the coins into the sorter and it calculates the quantity and value of the coins which can then be redeemed by a teller or deposited into your account.  It was also free to all TD Bank account holders.

An added benefit of the machines was all the foreign coins I’d find on the interior magnet and in the reject chute.  I’ve found coins from all over the world – India, Japan, Mexico, England, the Caribbean islands, and more.  I have almost $15 in Canadian quarters, nickels, dimes, and quarters, plus a Loonie.  It was always a thrill to use the Penny Arcade because I never knew what extra goodies I’d walk away with.

Unfortunately, a lawsuit in NY brought on by Jeffrey Feinman, who claims he was short-changed.  This lead to increased scrutiny by the media.  After an internal investigation over the accuracy of their machines (they already had a very structured daily testing & cleaning program in place at each branch) TD Bank decided to shutter the machines for good as they couldn’t satisfactorily prove that their machines were 100% fail-proof.

“Recent accounts regarding the performance of our penny machines have led us to reassess this offering,” Michael Rhodes, head of TD Bank’s consumer bank, said in a statement. “We have determined that it is difficult to ensure a consistently great experience for our customers… we have decided to retire the [coin-counting] fleet and provide alternative coin-counting solutions to our customers.”

TD customers can still deposit coins but will now need to put them into paper coin rolls first.  There’s also Coinstar and counters at PNC Bank.  Unfortunately, Coinstar is only free if you have your change converted to a gift card.  There is no option to have it sent to your checking account.  And I don’t have an account at PNC Bank, so that service will not be free for me either.

Like Hydrox Cookies and Sara Lee Chocolate Swirl Pound Cake, another favorite bites the dust… 🙁

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1918-D Buffalo Nickel

One of my many hobbies is metal detecting.  That’s where you use a handheld electrical instrument to detect metal objects in the ground (coins, military buttons, colonial artifacts, gold nuggets, etc.).

Unfortunately, thanks to my day job, racing, other hobbies, and life in general, if I get out to “hunt” 6 times in a year that’s a lot.  So last year I joined a metal detecting club to meet other detectorists and talk shop, compare finds, and improve my technical knowledge.  And, yeah, live vicariously through the other members – most of whom who are retired and would love to show you what they pulled out of the ground earlier that morning while you were busy in your office cubicle.  (Jealous much, Mitch?)

Envy issues aside, it’s been a great experience so far.  I’ve never had much luck finding anything of significant age or value out there.  My oldest coin is a Lincoln cent from 1938 which I found on a property dating back to the mid-1700’s.  So it’s pretty eye-opening seeing everyone else’s finds – Spanish Reales, Large Copper Cents, Mercury Dimes, Walker Half Dollars, you name it.

Two weeks ago we held our annual club picnic and private “hunt” at a beach in NJ.  In the hunt a large area is cordoned off on the beach and plenty of coins, tokens, and jewelry are hidden under the sand.  Active members who paid a nominal extra fee for the picnic could then use their metal detectors to search for these items.  Uncovered tokens could then be exchanged for raffle tickets to win plenty of great prizes that we had left over from the previous year’s events.  The fee goes towards covering the food, picnic area rental, and any extra coins & prizes that the club didn’t already have in storage.

I had helped with their “open hunt” last fall – where non-members pay a more substantial amount of money for 4 rounds of heavier competition against others for more valuable items – but had never participated in one myself.

It was a great learning experience.  I couldn’t detect, scoop the sand, pocket the loot, and move on as quick as the old pros but I still came away with 3 Buffalo nickels, a bronze small cent from 1896, a small sterling silver ring, a 1 oz. pure copper round (coin) and 7 tokens exchangeable for raffle tickets.  I also came away with valuable experience learning how to beach hunt.  I didn’t win anything with those raffles, though in a separate raffle that day I did win a 1 oz. silver round worth about $18-20.

I definitely got my money’s worth from the experience.  But tonight I discovered that I benefitted more than I previously realized.

Buffalo nickels (also known as Indian Head nickels) were produced from 1913 to 1938, at which point they were replaced by the Jefferson nickel that we all know today.  When “Buff nicks” wear down from handling one of the first items to disappear is the production date which is located under the Indian on the obverse.  Dates are key to determining any coin’s value as some years and facilities had shorter production runs than others.  Without a visible date there is usually very little chance to figure out its scarcity.   “No Date” coins typically sell for much less money and can usually be found in a local coin dealer’s “junk bin”.

One of my Buffaloes from the club hunt appeared at first to be a “no date”.  There was quite a bit of wear on the coin and predictably the date was worn away.  Tonight I took a closer look at the coin.  Using a magnifying loop revealed very little until I wet the coin.  Bringing it back to the loop and catching it at just the right angle in the light I was able to very clearly read “1918”.  On the other side of the coin was a tiny “D”, indicating that it was produced at the Denver mint.

With almost 80% of the coins that year produced in Philadelphia, the Denver edition is a much tougher find.  And because of this the Denver coins are worth much more.  You can get a Philadelphia Mint copy in the same condition as mine but with a clearly visible date for about $8.  With the little D on the back?  At least $25.

Not bad for a former junk box coin!

I occasionally find Buffalo nickels in my pocket change or in coin rolls from the bank.  Now that I know how to overcome the “no date” dilemma I’m going to have to keep my eyes peeled the next time one of them shows up.

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