Did you know there are rules for screenwriting? Actual rules. And when you don’t follow the rules, you get beaten with a yardstick — or ignored by Hollywood. Whichever hurts worse. Now that I fancy myself a screenwriter, I’ve hired an assistant to help me follow the rules. OK, “hired” is perhaps too strong a word; “downloaded” may be more accurate.

Celtx is a terrific little piece of software, absolutely free, that will write scripts, storyboard scenes and sequences, sketch setups, develop characters, breakdown & tag elements, schedule productions, and prepare and circulate informative reports for cast and crew. (Yeah, I plagiarized that description from Celtx’ website. Ssshhhh.) In between screenplays, it also writes comic books. Not kidding.

Now if Charlie Sheen could just download an assistant to help him follow the rules, all would be well in Hollywood.

Noupe.comMany decades ago, we spent a long weekend in a Lotus 1-2-3 workshop. By Saturday night we were experts on everything spreadsheet.

Now we’re wishing for a weekend seminar on Photoshop…but the local community college is putting all its continuing ed energy into…no kidding…Introduction to Facebook! Become a Mystery Shopper! Cupid’s Cuisine! Sigh.

lynda.comSo we’re finding ourselves having to create our own weekend Photoshop workshops. Fortunately, these workshops are free, and allow us to attend class in our underpants. For print tutorials, we’ve become quite fond of Noupe, and for video tutorials, we’re growing even more enamoured of Lynda. Both resources provide intensive, Adobe-in-a-Can delivery of knowledge by folks who seem pretty knowledgable about their product. Time to dive in now. We won’t come up for air until we’re experts!

Weather UndergroundEver wonder where the weatherman gets his information? “Yesterday’s low was xx degrees, two degrees below our record, set back in 1948, of xx+2 degrees.” I mean, you can’t just know this stuff, right?

Turns out, you can. Courtesy of Weather Underground, the free weather resource that predicts tomorrow’s climate, and records yesterday’s. After typing in your zip code — sorry, people of Mozambique and Madagascar; your weather isn’t good enough to track — scroll down to the History & Almanac heading, and read up on hour-by-hour weather, any day in history. Assuming, that is, that history started in 1931.

We’re taking an online computer art class. Not that we’re any good, mind you. But learning Photoshop and Illustrator has been quite an adventure. Now that we’re hooked, we’re looking around for all the tips and tricks we can lay hands on. That’s how we ran across this tremendous resource: PsDesigning. It’s a collection of very well done Photoshop tutorials with illustrated, multi-step instructions for creating beautiful posters, icons, and web graphics. We’re sorta hooked!

Bed Bug Registry

Back in the early 80’s we had our first bedbug encounter, at a trashy little rathole in southern Taiwan. Head to toe. Those nasty critters left scars! We’d pay good money not to do that again! Fortunately, we don’t have to pay good money. The Bed Bug Registry is willing to warn us for free — well, so long as we stay in the US and Canada, or on a cruise ship. Next trip to Asia, we think we’ll take a good flashlight and a sturdy shoe.

Just when we were about to drop a spare five hundred bucks on Adobe Creative Suite 5, along comes XtraNormal, this crazy cartoon movie maker — and it’s all free — that allows rank amateurs like yours truly to create animated videos just by clicking and typing.  So many funny movies on the site, but here’s one that caused us to laugh out loud.



Mother’s Day coming? Oops. Flowers for mom. Roadside emergency? Gotta have some flares. Laptop speakers not up to par? USB-powered mini-speakers. It’s always something. Every day, one can’t-miss deal for something you didn’t even know you needed. Until you saw it on Woot.

You know you just own too much stuff when you find yourself trolling, just hoping you’ll find something else to buy. Warning: this darn site is addictive.