Do you ego surf?

I do. I’ll admit it. And I bet you do too….

And sometimes I find cool stuff! Like today. I don’t know if it will last – Google has a tendency to make changes and adjust their results continually – so not everything sticks. But I’m sort of hoping this change sticks around! If you search for my name right now on Google, there are Image Results, right in the middle of the regular search results! Now, it may seem silly to get so excited over that – I mean, so what? So they included a few photos in the main search – big deal.

But in my world, it is sort of a big deal.

Google Results

I’m a photographer – so I want my images to show up when you search for my name – that’s a great thing! So that’s the practical reason why I care.

In the more ego-driven part of my mind, I care for entirely different reasons. As a former SEO Pro, I still am avidly interested in how Google presents their results – I notice when they add to, or change, or tweak their results, even slightly. And in the past I’ve only seen Image Results as shown above when you searched for fairly high-profile people. So when I saw the results for my name, I instantly started to search for my friend’s names, and guess what? I found nothing. Then I started to search for the names of people who are somewhat well-known in certain circles – other photographers with higher profiles than mine – and still found nothing. Then I searched for people with even bigger names, and still nothing. In other words, I may be the least famous person on Google with Image Results showing in the middle of the regular search results!

Why does that make me happy? Well it sort of tells me that while I’m no longer a practicing SEO Pro, what I’ve been doing is working – and that makes me super happy. It’s GREAT to see positive results come from your expertise!

Ego surfing is definitely the norm – make no mistake, everybody does it! And my fun new status may disappear tomorrow – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it did – but for today, it’s a sign that I’m doing something right, and believe me, I’ll take it!

Green Tea

Green Tea // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsI’ve never liked coffee or tea. I was a waitress for years, working mostly breakfasts – since it’s the most profitable time period, but don’t tell anyone! It’s one of the best kept secrets in the restaurant world… So I served more coffee in a few years than most people have seen in a lifetime. And smelled it. And cleaned up the grounds. But I never got hooked on drinking it. And tea held no appeal at all to me. I was always a Diet Coke drinker! Even for breakfast! I loved that big dose of caffeine and the taste – definitely a Diet Coke girl!

But times change, and two years ago I gave up Diet Coke. I still drink it occasionally, socially, but it’s not my daily drink anymore – more like my monthly splurge drink!

And I love water, so I haven’t really missed having a “drink” anymore – just give me some water and I’m happy.

But I keep reading about the health benefits of Green Tea…

And it would be kind of nice to have a drink again…

So, I decided this morning that I’m going to learn to like Green Tea.

But is taste something you can just decide? I mean, seriously, is taste a static thing? Can we decide to change what we like? I’m not sure, but I’m going to try.

I decided to start with one cup of regular strength tea, and then add enough water and ice to make 32 ounces. In other words, I decided to start with an extremely diluted version of tea – more like tea-flavored water. And it’s not bad! It’s not good either, but I don’t mind drinking it. And does it really matter if I drink one cup of full strength tea and my regular amount of water separately, or if I combine the two?

I also did a little Googling and found some tips on how to make Green Tea – from what I’ve read the key is to not get the water too hot – 180°F is perfect – and to only steep it for two-and-a-half minutes. If you use too hot of water or steep for too long, it supposedly gets bitter.

I knew that Green Tea is a powerful antioxidant, and that supposedly people who drink it have lower occurrences of heart disease and certain kinds of cancer. And during my Googling I ran into lots of references to Green Tea being good for weight loss – though I’m not sure that’s been proven conclusively yet – but hey, if it is true, that would be great!

I don’t know yet if it’s possible to change my taste, and learn to like Green Tea, but hey, it’s worth a try… Wish me luck!

Going Away…

My Mom is moving to Seattle and I’m sad! Seriously, I hope she hates it and moves back soon! But I sort of doubt that will happen… She’s on her way to start her dream job – preschool teacher to a class of four-year-olds. And perhaps even more importantly, my seriously cute nephews just happen to already live in Seattle, and I’m way too old to compete with their cuteness. Just click here to see what I mean. Seriously cute!

So to celebrate her going away, we threw her a little party tonight. It was especially small since the aforementioned nephews are already in Seattle and my other brother and his family are way down in San Diego, and my other nephew is far far away on a big adventure in Kentucky – so it was just Mom and Grandma and me! But that’s okay, we had dinner and cheesecake and we laughed a lot. It was a good night!

Mom and Grandma

Cheryl Spelts

Me, as shot by my Mom – she’s getting pretty good!

Chocolate Cheesecake

Chocolate Cheesecake makes any party better…

Mom and Grandma and Me

And this one was taken by the hostess. And yes I really am that much taller than my Mom and Grandma – they’re both under 5’3″ and I’m a little over 5’9″ – I have a tall Dad!

I’ll miss you Mom!

Most Popular Posts

Photos by Cheryl SpeltsAs I blogged a little over a month ago, one of the reasons I redesigned my blog was because I wanted to showcase my Most Popular Posts – and if you scroll to the bottom of the page and look in the footer, you’ll now see exactly that!

The rankings are determined by a combination of factors – like how many times a unique visitor views the post on the front page of the blog, how many times a post is viewed on it’s own page, and how many times a post is viewed in a feed reader. I wish it also took the number of comments into consideration, but right now it’s not – but that’s okay, it’s still a pretty good representation of what is popular on my blog.

Since the feature is so new, and it’s only been collecting data for a little over a month, newer posts of course have an advantage. Every time a unique visitor views the front page, all the latest posts collect some points.

But are the latest posts really the most popular? Actually not. Because I can see my traffic stats, I’ve known for a long time that there are some older posts that get a lot of traffic. One old post in particular gets twice as much traffic as any other post on my blog.

Here are the top ten posts on my blog, if you only look at single post views – not front page views or feed views.

Single Post Views

  1. Backstage at MTV’s Rock the Cradle
  2. Fallbrook Film Festival, Adam McKay
  3. Just a little tease…
  4. Lukas Rossi | So This Is Christmas
  5. Fallbrook Christmas Parade
  6. Marty Casey in Pacific Beach
  7. Fallbrook Film Festival, Opening Night
  8. Hot New Band! Quietdrive!
  9. Marty Casey on the Sunset Strip
  10. Um, artists are different…

So what’s so interesting about that list? Well it’s heavily weighted toward celebrities, and nine of the top ten are posts with mostly photos and very little text. In other words, my visitors would rather see my photos, than read my thoughts – which I guess isn’t all that surprising!

The top slot is taken by my backstage documentary of MTV’s Rock the Cradle – and it generates twice as much traffic as any other page on my blog. Why? Well the show featured the children of Olivia Newton-John, Kenny Loggins, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, and other celebrities – and if you google for images of some of those celebrities, you’ll find the images from that post – which leads to traffic.

Next up is a post about the Fallbrook Film Festival, specifically the event with Adam McKay, who is an A-List writer and film director. His first big gig was as a writer on Saturday Night Live and he eventually became the head writer. Then he moved into films with writing partner and actor Will Ferrell, with Elf in 2003, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy in 2004, Talladega Nights in 2006, and Step Brothers in 2008. And once again, if you google for images of him, you find my images. Cool!

The number seven slot is also from the Fallbrook Film Festival. Why? Well it features photos of Chase Masterson, who was on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for five years and General Hospital for four years.

There are also three posts about Marty Casey (1) (2) (3), one about Lukas Rossi, and one about Quietdrive – which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, since they’re also some of my own favorite posts.

Perhaps a little surprising is how high my post on the 2007 Fallbrook Christmas Parade ranks – but the 30 days measured were the end of December and the beginning of January, so that post is more likely to do well during that particular time period – and there are sites linking to my image of the Budweiser Clydesdales and to the image of the guys in the Mini Cars. Who knows? But it’s popular!

The last post, number ten, is the only recent post and the only one that’s all text and no images – so it will probably drop out of the top ten soon! But I love that it’s there now, because it’s cool to think that a few people are reading my words, as well as looking at my images!

So what does all this tell me? And how will it impact what I do in the future? Well actually not much. I mean, is it really all that surprising that people Google the names of famous people? Not really!

But that doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s fascinating to find out what other people look at on my site. I love seeing what’s most popular!

Um, artists are different…

Everywhere you go this time of year, the talk is all about resolutions and goals. Some of it has been reminding me, once again, how fundamentally different artists can be from non-artists. Not always, but sometimes…

Over the holidays I overheard a conversation between two non-artist friends, about one of my artist friends – someone they admire – and they were saying how hard the last year must have been on him, since “X” project didn’t work out quite as hoped, and “Y” project was on hold, and who knew about project “Z” – since he hadn’t talked about it in months? Such a rough year, hopefully the coming year would be better!

Honestly, I was baffled – they never even mentioned projects A, B, and C – which were all wildly successful – and if you’re going to measure someone else’s year, shouldn’t you consider the really big successes too? That seems sort of basic – right?

But the part that really got me was the way they wrote off X,Y, and Z as disappointments, when in reality, my friend produced some damn fine work – work he’s proud of – and just because it somehow didn’t connect commercially, or the project is on hold, that means it’s a disappointment? No! Absolutely not.

Damn fine work is damn fine work. If you stretch and grow and create something new and wonderful, and evolve as an artist that counts. Not all projects connect in the same way with the public. Or end up financial successes. Sometimes brilliant work never even gets completed – it gets stalled for some reason. But does that make it less brilliant? Shouldn’t you still be proud of brilliance, even if it’s in an unfinished state at present?

It’s called artistic fulfillment – and it’s a driving force for some of us – more so than money, or status.

But here’s the thing, measuring worth based on something other than money or status isn’t limited to artists. I’m sure if you talked to real estate agents, some of them would be irritated if they were judged solely on the number of houses they’d sold that year – what about their impact on the families they helped in finding that perfect new home? Doesn’t that count? Or what about teachers? It’s not the number of students they taught. There’s more to it – right? What about software engineers? Isn’t it better for them to write fewer lines of code that do more, and fight bloat? Bottom line, it’s ridiculously difficult to evaluate the “goodness” of someone else’s year, if you don’t really understand their world.

These two non-artist friends are good people, and they care about our artist friend – they just have no clue what’s important to him, and how he evaluates success. He actually had a phenomenal year in 2009 – and more of that kind of “goodness” is lined up for 2010. If only they could see that…

Quitting the band?

Josh with his Guitar // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsI’ve never played Rock Band, or Guitar Hero – but I’m deeply interested in the whole phenomenon of music video games. If you know me, you know why. I used to own a domain name – ROCKBAND.COM – and I had a great site that promoted indie and unsigned rock bands for nearly ten years. Then in early 2007 I got an email from a video game maker, about to debut a new game, and you can read about what followed, here. It’s a good story!

So yeah, I’m interested! Especially interested in the huge sales numbers… In 2008 music video games collectively made 1.5 billion dollars – that’s a staggeringly large number! Trouble is, in 2009, that collective number was less than half what it was in 2008. Evidently, once a customer buys a unit, there’s not much incentive to buy another – even the latest version of Rock Band, The Beatles: Rock Band, has sold less than 800,000 units since debuting late last year.

But Mike Schuster on Yahoo Finance had an idea I liked on what might take the place of plastic guitars and drums on gamers’ wish lists. What did he suggest?

“Hopefully, actual musical instruments.”

I think I could learn to like that! Very, very much!

And the photo? It’s my nephew Josh, from last summer – with an actual musical instrument… and he knows how to play it!

A Big New Decade

I’m still not sure how we’re supposed to talk about this new decade – are we saying twenty-ten or two-thousand-ten? My friends seem evenly split on the issue – I polled them in person, on Facebook, and on Twitter… so clearly, I want to know!  The best suggestion I got was just to say it in French… “Deux mille dix” See, instant sexiness, bound to make the year better!

But going into a new decade demands more than just knowing how to talk about it – it also demands a new plan – right? Do you really want to go into a brand new decade doing the same old things, thoughtlessly? Isn’t it sort of important to reflect and evaluate and evolve? I think so.

The thing is, I’m a little scared.

Don’t get me wrong, I think you have to push sometimes to make things happen – and that can be scary – so I’m used to embracing a little bit of fear. And honestly, when I break it down, nothing I’ve got hovering on the horizon is all that scary – but add it all together and it becomes a great big intimidating plan that honestly feels just a tiny bit overwhelming.

I remember where I was at the turn of the last decade (and last century!), and I really only had one goal. I wanted desperately to go from feeling like a girl with potential, to feeling like a full-blown artist, who could make things happen. And guess what? Somewhere in the last decade that happened – beautifully – and effortlessly. Like it was meant to be. But really, how could it not be meant to be? It was my heart’s most honest desire at the time…

My heart’s desire going into this decade though is a little more complex. I want more. As in more, more, more! Not just a little bit, but a lot.

Artistically, I want to build my body of work, with new images that really challenge who and what I am. I don’t just want more of the same, I want evolution as an artist.

Financially, I want success. At least some success in the financial arena. It’s not something I was much interested in previously, but after the last couple of years watching so much financial turmoil in the world, I’m suddenly wanting more success and more money.

And lifestyle-wise, I want a home. Something permanent and forever. I’ve flitted and floated and had lots of wonderful adventures over the years, but I’m feeling a desire to settle in one spot now and grow some roots.

See, none of that is all that scary, and I am talking about a whole decade – not just a year – right? Well yes and no! I’ve got plans to move forward in all three of those areas really soon. Lots of plans. Big plans. And yeah, it’s just a little bit scary. But scary can be good – it’s a sign that something big is about to happen – and in my opinion, that’s a very good thing!

So what have you got planned for this big new decade? Whatever it is, I wish you lots and lots of good luck! Especially, if it’s just a little bit scary…