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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Another Party! It's Mom's 77th Birthday Today

    Mom extended her holiday visit to include her birthday, today January 5, and we are looking forward to a day of family celebration with a birthday dinner tonight with her grandson, Christian, and wife, Katie. Who knows, we may even convince her to change her name again!


    Color-tinted photograph of Sue Brown, c. 1940.

    About a year ago, Mom surprised me with the casual remark that her "real" name was not Suzanne, as we all had believed for so many years. Her formal birth name had been, Mercy, a family name of old tradition and also the name of her own aunt Mercy Kinsel MacPhee (of kidnapping fame).

    At the time Mom was born in Olathe, Kansas, her grandfather E.B. Kinsel was living in Los Angeles and very ill from the after-effects of a stroke. Her own mother, Arline, was unable to visit her father due to her advanced pregnancy and age (42 at Mom's birth). Instead, she kept informed of her father's condition by letters from friends and family.

    She also wrote her father to tell him when the baby was born, and that she had named the little girl afer his sister, Rebecca Suzanne. However, Mom's birth certificate listed her name as Mercy.

    Those letters are a snapshot of life in 1933. As grandfather Kinsel lay ill in Los Angeles, his daughters fretted about his health and financial resources. In early spring, he suffered another stroke and passed away in May 1933. Neither daughter was able to attend the funeral, but letters from friends shared details of the sad occasion. Sadly, without immediate family in Los Angeles, E.B. was buried and a tombstone was never placed at the gravesite. (We have plans to remedy this situation!)

    Mom remembers being called variations of Rebecca Suzanne as a little girl. Evenually, it just became Suzanne. As she was preparing for her own wedding at 1953, Arline realized that it would be important for names on the marriage certificate and the birth certificate to be the same. Mom's sister recalls a determined trip to the government offices with documentation in hand to make sure the paperwork was completed before the wedding date.

    Many women may change their surname during their lifetimes, but Mom is the only woman I know who  has had multiple first, middle, and last names. At least, we can still call her Mom and Grandma.

    Happy 77th birthday, Mom, Mercy Rebecca Suzanne Winsor Brown May Freeman.


    It's Party Time in Pasadena

     As my mother-in-law once quipped in her annual Christmas letter, much to the entertainment of her children and grandchildren, "The seats are up all along Colorado Boulevard." Of course, her six grandsons imagined something quite different than the reality of miles and miles of metal and wood grandstands.

    Mom is here from Arizona for a holiday visit and we have just returned from a not-so-quick drive along the route of the annual Tournament of Roses Parade. Our home is exactly one block off the formation area along Orange Grove Boulevard, and three blocks from the actual starting position of the parade. Driving along the parade route is an annual ritual, mostly so we can be mighty happy that we aren't spending the night on the ground.

    Folks typically start coming into town early on New Year's Eve day in preparation for the 12 noon opening of curbside camping. This year, people are prepared for a chilly California evening with barbeque-type fire pits, inflatable beds, lots of blankets, and warm clothes. The mecury will dip into the low 40s which is "nothing" for most of the country, but "freeeeezing" for us.



    Getting ready for the Rose Queen Float!

    We are ready for the expected unexpected guests that usually drop in on New Year's Eve... friends, and friends of friends in need of a warm up and rest stop while checking out the route and watching the huge floats move into position. This will begin after midnight, and is an annual tradition for Mr. Curator and sons. They walk along the formation area with big cigars checking out the floats and visiting with neighbors doing the same thing. Of course, such a late night means they are too wiped out to get up early for the parade itself, but we do usually manage to catch the stealth bombers as they fly overhead to mark the opening of the event.

    I think that all of Pasadena joins the party tonight. There will be thousands and thousands lining the streets just blocks away and at midnight we will be part of the loud shouts and noisemaking to welcome in 2010. Open your window tonight and you just might be able to hear us too!


    It's the Holiday Season at Princess Usha's Orange County Palace

    Earlier this week I was in Orange County to meet my sister and brother-in-law for lunch and she handed me a newspaper feature on the Santa Ana home of Princess Usha of Holkar. It didn't take much encouraging to make a very short detour to drive by the house at Heliotrope and Santa Clara Streets. It doesn't look like the palace has changed much since Mom played with the Princess in the upstairs nursery, although the holiday lawn decorations are surely new.


    Shades, the Magazine, is No Shadowy Publication


    Shades of the Departed Magazine Holiday IssueWith the Holiday Edition of Shades of the Departed Magazine, it is obvious that publisher/writer/photograph/footnote Maven has set a high standard of excellence for this new online publication, and I am excited to be one of the "Shadettes." So much better than being in the "shadows!"

    This issue features columns by Shades regular contributors, footnoteMaven, Vickie Everhart, Rebecca Fenning, Sheri Fenley, George Geder, Craig Manson, Denise Olson, Caroline Pointer, Donna Pointkouski, and a new feature by The Photo Detective, Maureen Taylor. And, oh, my friend, Miss Penelope Dreadful was tickled to write a little something to accompany the cover photograph of Miss Margery Waters.

    Pour yourself a cup of eggnog, put another log on the fire, and sit down with your laptop to enjoy a wonderful winter reading at Shades of the Departed Magazine. Then take a minute to drop footnoteMaven a note to let her know how much you like the project. It is truly a labor of love and a gift to the genealogy community. Thank you, fM.


    A Gift for You to Give Your Friends and Family, Merry Christmas Minestrone Soup Mix

    After years of cookie exchanges, jamfests, and baking extravaganzas, my friend Terry Jaurequi and I found a simple and delicious handmade gift for our friends and work colleagues. We get together to assemble an enormous batch of minestrone soup mix, which we then package for holiday delivery.

    Some years we have added a quick bread mix, or yummy crackers. Other times, we give the mix in a basket or tote bag with a  nice bottle of wine. We have found that our friends like the soup so well they start asking about it right after Thanksgiving.

    Since it is a little difficult to squeeze dried beans through the internet, here is a holiday gift to my genea-blogging friends -- the mix recipe and PDF package tag with cooking instructions ready for holiday gift-giving. Print the tag, assemble the mixes, and you are ready to go. It could be the ultimate re-gift! Stir up a batch of Merry Christmas Minestrone to cook while you make these gifts for your own friends, and enjoy. Bon Appetit!

    What You Need:

    • assorted dried beans, lentils, peas, etc. (1 1/2 cup per mix)
    • macaroni (1/2 cup per mix)
    • 2 sizes cellophane bags for packaging – small sucker size for macaroni, larger for mix
    • Merry Christmas Minestrone PDF cooking instructions to print and add to each mix

    A note on selecting beans – We try to use a nice variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Nine pounds of beans will yield about 14 packages of mix. We like to use black beans, red kidney beans, small white beans, pink beans, green and yellow split peas, lentils, garbanzos, baby limas, pinto. We buy at least 1 pound bags.

    To Assemble:

    Find a huge pot. I use my canning kettle so there is plenty of room to mix things up. Dump in all the beans, peas, and legumes. Mix well using your hands.

    Use a glass 2-cup measuring cup to measure out about 1 1/2 cup of bean mixture and pour into the larger cello bag. A canning funnel is helpful for filling the bags. It’s also a good idea to set the bags in a roasting pan or some other container that will help them to stand upright.

    Pour 1/2 cup of macaroni to each of the smaller bags and fold the top over tightly. Staple closed if you like. Add the small bag of macaroni on top of the bean mixture in each bag.

    Fold the cooking instructions so that the name shows on the front with the recipe on the back and staple to the top of the bag. Add a ribbon or bow if you like; or place the bag inside a tote bag with colored tissue.

    Here is the recipe for each mix that is printed on the PDF, ready to cut and fold for your mixes.

    Merry Christmas Minestrone

    Cooking Instructions

    In addition to this mix, you will need

    7 cups water

    1 large can (28oz) ready-cut tomatoes, undrained

    1 small onion, chopped

    2 tsp. Italian seasoning

    4 cups assorted fresh vegetables, sliced

    1 can (8oz) tomato sauce

    1-2 cups water

    1 lb. cooked ground beef, Italian Sausage or chicken (optional)

    Put water in large pot and add bean portion of soup mix. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 1 to 1 ½ hours.

    Add canned tomatoes (undrained), onion, and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil. Add vegetables, tomato sauce, additional water, and macaroni. Lower heat and cook until macaroni and vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add meat if desired, and heat through.

    Makes 6 to 8 hearty servings.


    Free Slow Cooker Cookbook at the Kindle Store; Act Now, It May Not Last

    One of the nicest surprises about the Amazon Kindle project has been the steady release of titles priced at $0.00. Yep, that is FREE. In the past few months I have downloaded novels, sneak preview excerpts, nonfiction, and now a cookbook!

    Anyone who loves family history probably spends considerable holiday time at the family table. And from the interest in family cookbooks, heirloom recipes, and geneablogger cookbooks, I am probably not alone in looking for simple ways to get delicious meals on the table, especially during the holidays.

    Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker, Recipes for Entertaining by Julie Kaufman and Beth Hensberger was published in hardback and paperback in 2007, but it remains a popular 4-star reviewed slow cooker book. It is now available in Kindle format, which means that anyone with the Kindle for PC or Kindle for iPod Touch or iPhone app can read the book without additional hardware investment.

    I wondered how useful a cookbook would be in digital format and downloaded the book last night. Typically, these FREE titles don’t last long. I can only imagine that Amazon is testing the market publishing more cookbooks in Kindle format, or just trying to promote their e-reader device to the cooking market.

    As you might imagine, a cookbook doesn’t read exactly like a novel, even though they are one of my favorite bedtime genres. If a recipe is well-written I find that I can pretty well guess what it might taste like, and whether or not I want to make it. Of course, chocolate mousse on the page isn’t quite the same as the real thing, but it does save a lot of calories to stick to reading recipes rather than making them.

    Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker differs from many cookbooks because it has an extensive section on choosing and using a slow cooker, especially for entertaining. Because it is written in prose format (rather than recipe format), this section is easy to read on the Kindle. I have used a Crock Pot since its early days in the 70s, but still found some good ideas in this section. I especially liked the charts giving cooking times to convert conventional recipes to slow cooking. I think this section would be especially helpful for cooks just learning to use a slow cooker.

    Following this section, the book moves to more typical cookbook chapters on appetizers, hot drinks, vegetables and other sides, main dishes, and desserts. I found several dishes I would like to try soon, but realized I didn’t want to hand-copy the entire recipe to paper or use my Kindle reader in the kitchen.

    Here is my workaround – I opened the book in the Kindle for PC application, used Jing screen capture application to capture and save each page to my computer, then opened Word and pasted the images into a Word Doc. In Word, I could print the page to use for a grocery list and cooking. Granted, it isn’t as easy as flipping open a cookbook, but it works pretty well.


    I discovered that viewing the pages was even better on the Kindle for PC application than on the actual Kindle because the recipe displayed more like the actual book. This may change when my Kindle device receives the Amazon firmware update which will add features for adjustable margins.

    Easy cooking during the holidays is a Good Thing in my house. More time for research and for blogging!

    You can access the cookbook and application with these links --

    Kindle for PC Application (free) (Mac Version “coming soon”)

    Kindle for iPhone or iPod Touch (free)

    Kindle Wireless Reading Device (6  

    Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker, Recipes for Entertaining


    Gobbling Up Resources at the Los Angeles Public Library with Amy Coffin

    After the turkey and all the fixins’, when attention in Los Angeles shifted completely to the USC-UCLA face-off at the Coliseum, I had a chance to meet up with Amy Coffin, We Tree blogger, and show her a few local sights.

    When I met Amy at the SCGS Jamboree last June, we discovered that she has California roots and present-day family living nearby. We worked out a plan to get together on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, figuring our families could spare us for a few hours by then. I have been on new-grandmother-alert while my son and family are in town and waved farewell for the afternoon to pick up Amy who was staying with her in-laws.

    It was great to meet Amy’s tall handsome son and equally tall handsome husband, and the rest of the clan. The guys were heading for the Big Game with a much-coveted parking pass, game tickets, and plans for a Bruin tailgate party. Amy’s son was so excited that his feet were mostly off the floor.

    When Amy introduced me to her mother-in-law she remarked that her husband’s sister had attended the Catholic girls’ high school where I taught English. Small world!

    We had decided to take a little field trip to the Los Angeles Public Library to check out the genealogy collection. En route through Pasadena, I drove Amy through Mayfield Senior School where I taught, and pointed out a few local sights. Then we hit the Pasadena Freeway for the short drive to the Library. I hadn’t been there in a while and my GPS incorrectly directed us to a spot a few blocks away, but Girl Scout training kicked-in and we found our way to 5th and Flower, home of the LAPL.

    It turned out that Saturday was a great day to visit the Library -- $1 parking at the adjacent lot, light traffic, and the library had been closed both Thursday and Friday. The LAPL web site was informative with clear directions and parking details.

    The building is long and narrow with four floors above the main floor and four levels below. The web site indicated that the Genealogy and History collection was located on the 4th; I hadn’t read carefully enough – the 4th Floor was administrative offices, but the 4th Level (down down down down) was our destination.

    We took the zig-zag escalators to the bowels of the library where Amy was delighted to find shelves and shelves of local directories. We set up at a nearby table and Amy located her Los Angeles ancestors home addresses with good success.

    I didn’t have so much luck. I was trying to find my great-grandfather E.B. Kinsel who died in Los Angeles in the 1930’s. I have the burial card from Valhalla Cemetery in North Hollywood, but don’t know when he came to L.A. or where he was living. Family lore has it that he was living with “that woman” Lillian Garnett. Looking for Kinsel and Garnett yielded no positive results, but a few clues for two women by that name. More work to do. I used both print and microfilm copies of the directories in my quest; the library has an extensive collection of microfilm directories from Los Angeles county and throughout the U.S.

    After a few hours with the directories, we looked around the rest of the floor to discover the wealth of family and local histories available. The library also has a large collection of Sanborn and other local maps. It is obvious the resources are there for another field trip on Amy’s next visit West.

    We headed back to Pasadena just as the sun was starting to set and casting that wonderful late-autumn glow over the San Gabriel Mountains. Thank you for a lovely afternoon, Amy. It was so much fun to talk “shop” and swap tales. Come back soon.


    Thanks for the compliment

    It’s always fun to be “picked,” and even more fun when the compliment comes from someone you’ve never met but with whom you share a bond. I am honored that Leslie Ann at Ancestors Live Here enjoys The Family Curator and has tagged me with the Kreativ Blogger Award, and I was especially delighted to learn that Leslie Ann is an Idaho girl, I am too if only in my heart.

    In keeping with the spirit of the Award, here are seven things readers may not know about me --

    1. I lived in Moscow, Idaho for three years and still miss the rolling Palouse hills.
    2. I won First Prize for my home-canned salsa at the Latah County Fair.
    3. I love icy cold glass bottles filled with fresh milk and a cup of cream at the top.
    4. I have designed counted-cross-stitch patterns for national magazines.
    5. I have made soap from lye and dye from fruit and vegetables.
    6. I live in the second largest city in the United States.
    7. I wish my city ordinance allowed backyard chickens in my neighborhood.

    Many wonderful blogs are already wearing this badge, so I challenged myself to seek out young blogs (less than six months old) worthy of being named Kreativ. In my quest, I found --

    1. Stephen Mills is writing about funeral and mourning customs at A Land of Deepest Shade. His articles thus far have featured poignant photographs and compelling narrative. I’m looking forward to reading more at this site.
    2. It’s great fun to find a new voice with old stories, like Lavinia Schwarz at Hacienda Circle. Monday Maps are just one of her topics. You have to love a lady who writes about her ancestor, “I love my men, but I adore our grandmothers.” Keep writing, Vinnie!
    3. Astrid is documenting her Norwegian and Italian genealogical work at Of Trolls and Lemons, a very creative blog name itself. I especially enjoyed her Treasure Chest Thursday post detailing her grandmother’s jewelry and the stories each piece tells. I hope we hear more from Astrid.
    4. I’m a sucker for word-play, and A Multitude of-sens promises to be a clever blog to follow. Tracy writes “I’ve got Christensens, Johnasens, Petersens, Olsens…”  She has been posting regularly for Tombstone Tuesday, with other interesting topics in-between. I didn’t know about The Locator, did you?
    5. The Professional Descendent researches Scottish ancestors and writes on a variety of topics at her blog of the same name. Don’t miss Dead Woman Walking, the photograph and story of photo enhancement before Photoshop.
    6. I love finding a blog that moves my own research forward, so thank you thank you to Angela who is writing What Was Their Story. I do have Missouri ancestors who have been difficult to locate, and her tip about the Missouri Digital Heritage is a great resource.
    7. Polly Fitzgerald Kimmitt is a busy writer, working on projects for a local online newspaper and keeping up with her new blog, PollyBlog. The tag line explains quite a bit: How to Juggle Genealogy and Life. I look forward to some great ideas here, as well as more beautiful document photographs and careful transcriptions.

    Google Books Settlement Will Bring More Out of Print Books to Family Historians

    As a fan of Google Books, I am pretty excited about last week’s settlement for the class action lawsuit filed by authors and publishers over digitizing rights by Google Books. The preliminary agreement, if approved, will bring more access to full-text books to the public AND compensate authors and publishers. This could be a happy solution for all parties.

    Three years ago, or just about the time Google Books really started rolling with a massive list of digitized books, the Authors Guild and
    Association of American Publishers sued Google over the rights to digitize their works without compensation. Writers everywhere have been watching the results of this action.

    One major result of this settlement is a new expanded Google Books Search which will include out-of-print and in-print books. Authors and publishers will have an option to make books available for print or purchase to readers that are still under copyright but out-of-print. This will be a great boon to researchers, since niche books often have short press runs and become difficult to find.

    Titles for Google Books will come from two sources: The Partner Program (authors and publishers) and The Library Project (world-wide libraries). This will undoubtedly boost the number of books available for search and access, especially older out-of-print books that are being digitized by libraries.

    A second major change is the way users can access in-copyright books, whether in-print or out-of-print. Google Books presently shows snippets of these books; under the new agreement, users could purchase access to the full text through an individual Google Book account, or have access through library or institutional subscriptions.

    Google Books notes that out-of-copyright, out-of-print books will continue to be available for download and printing. The implication is that this service will also continue to be at no charge.

    For researchers, this means that Google Book Search can return results for active, current books, hard to find out-of-print books, and older copyright-expired books all with one search.

    Google Books also makes note that expanded subscriptions for libraries educational institutions and public will also be offered creating “opportunities for researchers to study the millions of volumes in the Book Search index. Academics will be able to apply through an institution to run computational queries through the index without actually reading individual books.”

    I’m not sure what that last bit means, other than maybe researchers will be able to tally volumes in a given category or subject, but the fact that it is included as a distinct item indicates further interest in the topic.

    As part of the settlement, Google Books will also be creating the Authors Rights Registry to assist author-searches and insure that authors are compensated for their work. This may be a bit of a slap on the hand to Google, but can only be good for authors and publishers.


    Tech Tuesday Surprise! It’s Here, It’s Awesome: Kindle for PC App

    This morning Amazon released the Kindle for PC Application, Beta, bringing Kindle content to Windows 7, Vista, and XP desktops, with the Mac Version to follow.

    The clean interface presents with two main buttons -- Archived Items shows the cover image of books purchased or downloaded through the Kindle Store, Home displays books downloaded to the Kindle for PC App. Booklists can be sorted by Most Recent, Title, or Author. Unfortunately, there is still no way to sort by category or subject; hopefully this is something that will be added in a future update.


    Why would you want to read a Kindle book on your desktop, laptop, or netbook computer? Here are a few of my favorite reasons:

    1. Genealogy guides published only in Kindle format, like Nancy Hendrickson’s How to Trace Your Frontier Ancestors are especially useful for their web links, and with PC access I can click directly on the link to visit the recommended websites.
    2. With access to the nearly 400 genealogy books now available for the Kindle I can read, search, and use the links in these books on my PC, iPod Touch, or Kindle anywhere almost instantly. Downloads occur in seconds.
    3. Likewise, my favorite classics, available as FREE etexts at Project Gutenberg are also available through the Kindle for PC Application. I like the idea of integrating my ebooks in one place. Kindle Nation Daily has posted easy instructions for downloading the MobileRead Mobipocket guide and catalog to free books. I can't wait to explore the catalog and catch up on my annual re-reading of Jane Austen.
    4. Ten font sizes and varied words per line make reading on screen easier than ever before.
    5. Read on the iPod Touch or iPhone for awhile, then switch to the PC. The book is synchronized so you can pick up where you left off.

    The biggest drawback to reading on the Kindle for PC is that it's a bit dangerous to read an ebook in the bathtub! Couch Potato Club members, be forewarned!


    Shades, The Magazine Comes Into the Sunshine

    What excitement to wake up this morning to the premiere edition of Shades, The Magazine, now online at Shades of the Departed. footnoteMaven has been hosting an exceptional blog-format publication for some time and the magazine format brings Shades to a new level of innovative design and accessibility.


    Antique photograph enthusiasts and family historians yet to meet Shades, are sure to find much of interest in the monthly magazine. What began as a vehicle for sharing footnoteMaven’s extensive collection of antique and vintage photographs has grown to a publication offering historical research, archival techniques, lessons in photo restoration and digital scrapbooking, and features on innovative ways to use and share photographs.

    As one of the several columnists and writers privileged to be a part of Shades for many months, I am excited about the new format and design. What a surprise, as well, to see the photo-inspiration for Penny Dreadful’s monthly story as the cover photo in this November Issue.

    Congratulations, footnoteMaven! And thank you for making Penny Dreadful a part of Shades of the Departed Magazine. I can’t wait to see what you have planned next.


    Have You Voted Today?

    The polls are still open for the Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs. Cast your ballot and help select the top genealogy blogs to be featured in Family Tree Magazine this spring, 2010.

    Voting is open through November 5, 2009 at the Family Tree website where the nominations are listed in 10 different categories. Voters are asked to select a specified number of top blogs in each category. Nominations in the Photo/Heirloom Category include

    Above the Trees
    Sense of Face
    Shades of The Departed
    The Family Curator
    The Practical Archivist

    A helpful list of all nominated blogs with links is available at footnoteMaven. Congratulations to all the nominated blogs and bloggers!



    No Kindle? No Problem? More ebooks now available for Kindle for iPhone and iPod Touch; PC, Mac and Blackberry Apps on the way

    Members of the Couch Potato Club take note! The ebook reader wars are heating up, which is only good news for fans of public domain ebooks. In recent weeks, Amazon has positioned its Kindle ebook reader to remain a top choice in electronic readers even if you don’t own a pricey Kindle.

    The newest version of Kindle for iPhone and iPod Touch makes the entire Amazon Kindle booklist available on a handheld device at no additional cost, and in a market ploy to maintain market strength, the list of Amazon ebooks now numbers over 360,000.

    To make good things even better, Amazon recently announced the forthcoming Kindle for PC, a free application for Windows PC. The Beta software will allow users to purchase, download, and read books from the Kindle Store, select varying font sizes, and view notes made on the Kindle. Windows 7 users will be able to zoom in and out with a finger-pinch and eventually turn pages with a finger swipe. Way cool!

    Of course, Mac users are already clamoring for a Mac application, and according to a CNet interview with Drew Herdener, Amazon’s Director of Communication, they won’t have to wait long. The Kindle for PC app will be followed “in the the next few months” with Kindle for Mac, and Kindle for Blackberry.

    I have been trying to read ebooks on my computer for some time, but always been frustrated by the uncomfortable reality of either sitting at my desk in front of a monitor or juggling a laptop and trying to “pretend” it was a book. I even tried using a nifty utility eRotate to spin the text 180 degrees on my netbook so it would feel more like a real book.

    Amazon’s Kindle, with it’s totally free wi-fi connectivity for downloading books and its digital ink technology answers the Want List for an outstanding ebook reader. It looks even better recently, as Amazon announced the much-awaited International Edition, and another huge price drop which brings the Kindle in line with Barnes & Noble’s competition, Nook.

    When my book club reading list started to grow, I realized I could save quite a chunk of change by purchasing the Kindle version of the books I needed to read. Most Kindle books are priced at $9.99 or less; this could amount to a considerable savings over $16.99 and $24.99 editions.

    I first tried reading books from Amazon’s Kindle book list on the Kindle for iPhone App available for the iPod Touch. With the quick finger-flick used to turn the page, and the clear sizeable font, it was a good reading experience, albeit somewhat small. I did find, however, that the lighting technology was tiring and I could not read for a long period of time without extreme eye fatigue.

    The Kindle2 reader avoids the visual fatigue issue by using a different technology completely. The text appears on the screen as black words on a white background, just like a printed page. There is no backlight, which is easier on the eyes, and the battery is only drained when the page is “turned,” saving battery power. It is also possible to customize the text size and even enable text-to-speech on many books.

    Lately, Kindle blogs have been buzzing with news of the increasing number of ebooks available at Amazon, and the scores of FREE books available as well. When Wallmart announced that holiday best-sellers would be priced at $10, Amazon promptly announced the $9 price-point for many of the same new titles. The special pricing doesn’t last long, however, sometimes only a few days. With the Kindle for iPhone and forthcoming Kindle for PC, these Amazon specials will be a real bargain.


    Are You Blogging with the Genealogy Blogger’s Almanac?

    Last month, The Family Curator launched The Genealogy and Family History Blogger’s Almanac, a seasonal calendar of blog prompts and ideas for the month of November. Are you a blogger who downloaded the premier November Edition of The Blogger’s Alamanac? If so, how are you using the writing ideas?

    As the days move towards the hectic holiday season, many bloggers find a special need for an editorial calendar in planning and scheduling articles. The Blogger’s Almanac aims to spark your imagination with new ideas and suggest seasonal topics you can write about before the busy holidays arrive.

    I hope you have found it useful, and that the seasonal prompts have helped you with article ideas or with scheduling blog posts ahead of time. Please leave a comment and share how you are using the ideas in The Blogger’s Almanac, or take a few minutes to respond to a brief survey.

    Click Here to take survey


    Family Curator Tours Scan Digital World Headquarters

    After enjoying the convenience and service of sending several panorama photos to ScanDigital for scanning, I decided to take a field trip and see for myself how a mail-order scanning service operates.


    ScanDigital is housed in a tidy brick building one block off Main Street in downtown El Segundo, California. The towering pipes of nearby refineries and the thunder of jets from LAX are in strange contrast to the homey Anytown, USA atmosphere of this sleepy beach town. Some call it one of Los Angeles's best kept secrets, and residents are careful to keep it that way, leaving the noisy trendy beach scene to neighboring Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach.


    ScanDigital, El Segundo, California


    Inside, the office is a large open space with a reception area toward the street and several work stations arranged along both walls in the central area. Today, a young art student is arranging bits of film, old slides, and film reels against a  bright tangerine colored wall; he is filming a short promotional video.



    Photo-Synthesis from Pamela Weiss on Vimeo.

    I am greeted by a young woman who introduces herself as Pam Weiss, Public Relations Director. I explain the purpose of my visit -- could I tour the facility and take a few photos for a blog article? She waves her hand at the interior and smiles. I am surprised. I didn't expect to see so many employees and such a quiet, focused atmosphere


    Workstations around the perimeter of the room are set up with multiple scanners. Pam explains that regular, consumer scanners are used for most orders. At one station, a tech carefully peels  back plastic from magnetic scrapbook pages and places the page on a flatbed scanner. He shows me how he frequently cleans the scanner glass and manipulates software and scanner for the best results.


    Across the room, a young woman oversees a tower of machines, working to transfer the contents from VHS tapes to DVD.


    Home movies can be converted from almost any media to DVD format, ready to view at home.


    As we move around the room, founder Anderson Schoenrock and Vice-President  Matthew Stone come in from lunch and Anderson stops to explain how the business began with co-founder  Mike Mothner to fill a need voiced by Mike's mom for a service that could digitize her family photo collection. According to Anderson, the two tested and rejected high-volume scanners with automatic feeders because of the possibility for damage to the photos. In the end, Anderson explains, they felt that careful hand scanning was the safest procedure for their customer's valuable images.  For the same reasons, Anderson emphasizes that all work is done on-site, nothing is sent out to other contractors. This makes their cost slightly higher than the competition, but customers know that all work is being done in the USA.


    Anderson holds the two oversize colored photographs I delivered for digitizing.


    The company also enforces a rigid protocol to insure that images are not lost or misplaced. Each incoming order is registered online; walk-in customers are invited to use the front desk computer to set up an account, and orders sent by UPS are registered before shipment.


    When an order arrives at the office, it is opened, checked, logged, and placed with shipping materials in a covered plastic bin. A printed inventory tag is slipped into a pocket on the outside of the bin and the container placed in a secure room adjacent to the workroom.


     Each order is stored in individual bins for processing by the scanning technician, then returned to storage until the items are retuned to the customer with the finished digital images.



    An email notifies the customer that the order has been received and is in line to be processed. When the order is ready for work, a technician takes the entire box to the workstation where everything is kept in one place and worked on individually.


    Scan technicians have a choice of scanning equipment to choose from, depending on the size and nature of the images. Gloves are available when working with heirloom photographs, although typically not used when handling plastic covered scrapbook pages.  Photos are generally scanned as JPG images, but Anderson added that special  requests for TIFF or high-resolution scans can be accommodated.


    After scanning, the photos are returned to the bin and the images passed to another technician who checks the order for quality and completeness. Some image touch-ups may be completed at this point, such as general enhancement or blemish removal, although they do not offer full restoration services.


    The customer is notified as the order is completed and the staff prepares the originals and image CD or
    DVD for shipment. Walk-in customers can return to the office to pick up their order.


    I was impressed not only by the personal attention to each order, but by the obvious dedication to offering a high quality product. The young entrepreneurs at ScanDigital and their attentive technicians are a reminder of old-fashioned business sense addressing a 21st century need. ScanDigital's website offers an informative overview of their service and a blog filled with ideas for photo-shoots, scrapbooking, and working with family photographs. You can read the previous article about my experience using ScanDigital's services to digitize my panorama photos here.


    ScanDigital is offering Discount Code to Family Curator readers who would like to try their services. Enter CURATOR10 as the coupon code when registering your order. And, please leave your comments for others to hear about your experience with ScanDigital or other scanning services.


    Note: I was not compensated for this review in any way. The idea for the tour and review originated after reading Twitter posts requesting information or recommendations of ScanDigital. Thanks, TwitterPals!

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