Some of my favorite things in 2010

Last year I wrapped up 2009 with a couple of lists of my favorite things – and it was fun! So I’m doing it again for 2010.

My 5 favorite songs of 2010
Based on how I feel today, it could change tomorrow… The first two were actually released in 2010, the other three are older, and one is very old! And the last one is from a local San Diego band!

My favorite blog posts by other people in 2010
A very long list – just like last year!

And finally, my 5 favorite photos of 2010
My choices for this year are all really simple – deceptively simple. I shot more complex stuff, more artistic, more ambitious work – but for some reason these five images speak to me in a way nothing else did this year. I love these five!

Purple Wildflowers in MenifeeYellow Wildflowers in Menifee
Wildflowers in Menifee, 3/28/2010

Nathan / Photo: Cheryl Spelts
My nephew Nathan, 8/11/2010

Miss American Coed
Miss American Coed Pegeant Queen, 9/18/2010

Malibu, California
Malibu, California, 10/8/2010

Happy New Year!

What if I (didn’t) push myself everyday?

I walked half-a-mile today. Seriously.

The last time I journaled on this subject, I’d walked 1.1 miles, and it was hard, but doable. And I was all geared up to push myself everyday. So what happened?

Does it really matter what the details were? I think in a way it does matter. The details are not extraordinary. Soooo not! There was no big thing that derailed me – just normal life got in the way – and isn’t that what I’m trying to change? Change the way I live, and in the process change my life?

So I need to look at all the messy reasons and not-so-extraordinary details. And since this part of my blog is hidden, I don’t have to worry about becoming one of those people who drone on and on about how they’re going to do something, and yet never seem to get down to doing it. If I’m honest, I might actually be one of those people, but because this part of my blog is hidden, I don’t have to worry about anyone else finding out! I figure if you’re reading this, you love me enough to have poked around and found this post, and if so, I can live with you knowing that I’m struggling a little at moving beyond talking, into actually doing.

Okay, so for the reasons… The last time I posted was after walking 1.1 miles, and that was also, not-so-coincidentally, the last time I walked. That same afternoon I stepped on a thorn that pierced my shoe and went into the ball of my foot. It hurt that night, and hurt worse the next day, so I decided not to walk – and that lasted for about three days. Then I got the flu, and I just could not get myself to get out there and walk, even once the worst had passed. Then we got the mega-storm that flooded the streets – and no way was I going to go out walking in that – especially since I hadn’t walked in over a week – what was one or two more days? Then it was Christmas, and once again, if I’ve taken this long off from walking, what’s another couple of days?

Finally yesterday I had had enough – I needed to walk. Yes it was cold, yes it gets dark really early this time of year, but I knew I needed it – so I walked a quarter-of-a-mile. That was all I could do. It had been 19 days since I last walked, and the flu really got to me, so yeah, a whole quarter-of-a-mile.

But today I did half-a-mile, and today it was not only cold, it was also raining, and the wind is whipping like mad. And half-a-mile is twice as far as I went yesterday. So I’m good!

Nineteen days ago I wrote about how remarkable the human body is – how if you push it a little, it responds so beautifully, and you get stronger and stronger, and can go further and further. I really do believe that. Hey, I went twice as far today as I did yesterday, so I got proof! I have no doubts about my body, it’s strong and healthy and will get stronger.

Where I do have doubts is with my motivation – and that’s hard for me to admit. I was at a workshop a couple of months ago, and someone who didn’t know me very well was listening to me ramble on about some aspect of my life, and she said, “so you lack motivation?” and I was soooo quick to rebut that! I’m ambitious, I accomplish things, I’ve done lots of things I’m proud of. I work hard, really hard. But she kept at it, and she twisted my words around, and she made me see that no matter how much I believed it wasn’t accurate, it might be just a little bit true. I’m still turning that one over in my head, two months later, so it’s not fun to see it crop up in other areas – like in my commitment to walk more.

And now see? I’ve been droning on and on about this for way too many paragraphs, becoming one of those people… Forgive me?

Why is a unique name important for an artist?

If I could give new, or even not-so-new artists, one piece of advice, it would be that you’ve got to have a totally unique name.

If you want to blend in, and not stick out, and not be found, then a name that is fairly common and shared among multiple people is fine. And many many people fit that scenario – I know that! But if you’re an artist, and you want a career, then doesn’t it make sense to make yourself easy to find? When someone Googles you, don’t you want them to find YOU – and NOT the guy a few towns over who shares your same name? And don’t you want your domain name to be the same as your name? Isn’t that easier, simpler, and more elegant? Somehow, RobertSmithArt.com or RobertSmithPhoto.com don’t pack the same elegant punch as just RobertSmith.com, do they?

I’m lucky – I was born with a unique name. I didn’t ever have to think about changing it or adding to it, and I didn’t have to deal with all the repercussions of changing my name. So lucky!

Spelts flourSpelts, used as a last name, is not at all common. It’s of English origin, and comes from a kind of wheat – merriam-webster.com calls it an ancient wheat, dating back to the 12th century, but I have some in my kitchen pantry right now – so it may be ancient, but it still exists today. And it’s healthy! Wikipedia, which spells it as Spelt, says… “Spelt (Triticum spelta) is a hexaploid species of wheat. Spelt was an important staple in parts of Europe from the Bronze Age to medieval times; it now survives as a relict crop in Central Europe and has found a new market as a health food.” I then had to look up “relict crop” and Wikipedia defines it as “a crop which was previously grown extensively, but is now only used in one limited region, or a small number of isolated regions.”

So the crop is rare, but not as rare of those of us with the last name.

When I was growing up we used to joke that there were only about fifty people named Spelts in the entire United States – and we were related to all of them. I have a Spelts family tree from before I was born, and most of them lived in Nebraska – which is where my Grandfather was born – and then our small branch in San Diego, which included my Grandfather and his brother, and both of their families.

When I first got online in 1996, I remember searching for Spelts, and discovering that our joke about being related to the all fifty of the other people in the world with the same last name, wasn’t that far off from reality. In fact, in the 2000 census, there were only 304 of us counted. It’s a very rare name.

The most common misspelling is to put a Z on the end, and get Speltz, which is actually the Germanic version. Similar, but not the same – and not quite as rare.

When I was ready to register a domain name for my photography business, part of me wanted to register spelts.com, but I ended going with my full name, cherylspelts.com and then my brother registered spelts.com – which was good because it kept it in the family! And for years those two domains dominated the top of the listings if you searched for Spelts – we both beat out any pages on the grain! The grain now beats us both, but for years, my brother and I traded off on the top position.

But having a unique name isn’t just about the last name. You can have a fairly common last name, and as long as it’s paired with an unusual first name, or vice versa, you’re good! Or you can take two not-so-unusual names, and pair them, and come up with something unique. It doesn’t really matter how common or uncommon your individual names are, what matters is that the combination – your full name – is unique.

In my case my first name is fairly common. Cheryl is of French origin – it comes from the French term of endearment, Chérie, which means dear one, or beloved. There’s no record of it being used in the current form and spelling before 1920, but it made the top 100 names for girls between 1944 and 1979. And paired with my unusual last name, I have a full name that’s almost totally unique. I know from that old family tree, that at one time I had a relative by marriage somewhere in Nebraska who is older, also named Cheryl – but I’ve never found any sign of her on the Internet – maybe she remarried and changed her name? Or maybe she just lives a very private life? Or maybe she never changed her last name to Spelts in the first place – just because you marry a Spelts doesn’t mean you have to adopt the name? Or maybe she’s no longer living – that family tree was created a long time ago! So for all intents and purposes, at least online, I have a totally unique name. If you want to find me, it’s very easy!

Which brings me to a little story – about someone trying to trade on my unique name…

I used to own over 50 domain names – and while I did sell one of those domains, I never bought them for that purpose. I used or planned to use every domain I ever registered. But over time the number of domains I owned grew, and it was time to let some of them go. About that same time I decided to pull my fine art photography under the same domain as my other work – it had been under it’s own domain, since fine art and other kinds of photography don’t tend to have much overlap – and at one time I thought it was best to keep them separate – but things change, and I was ready to combine it all here, on cherylspelts.com. So I let that other domain go. And I did it with very little thought, because seriously, who else but me would want it? It was a variation of my name, and since I’m the only one with my name online, I felt totally safe abandoning it.

Ha! I was not safe at all! Turns out there are idiots out there, eager to make a profit in totally unethical ways.

I regularly Google my own name – I did Search Engine Optimization professionally at one time, and I still love to watch how I rank for different search terms, including my own name. So it didn’t take long for me to discover that someone had bought my old domain, and put up a site about photography on it.

Seriously? A site about photography? On a domain that included my first and last names with a dash in between? It was one of those ugly template sites, with 160 pages! Clearly created to capitalize on any traffic that might come from the use of my name, in the hope that those visitors would click on the ads, and generate revenue for the new owner. It had a contact form, which of course didn’t go to me, and it had links to “new work” which wasn’t my work at all, and actually flirted with the edges of porn.

I tracked down the new owner through WHOIS and wrote a polite email, assuming she just didn’t know better, and explained how it was not legal for her to trade on my name. She wrote back that she had randomly chosen my name and randomly decided to put a photography site on it, and wasn’t it funny that I actually had that name, and was actually a photographer, and maybe the universe was trying to tell us something? Random? Really? She really thought that I’d believe she randomly registered and built a photography site, on a domain using my name? But it gets better! She then proceeded to school me on how I’d had multiple chances to keep my domain, and I must have ignored the notices, and so it was my own fault I’d lost it – but she’d sell it back to me, if I’d reimburse her for her time and effort. It’s a fairly common scammy practice… pick up expired domains and then “sell” them back to the previous owners, who are desperate to get them back and are willing to pay hundreds of dollars to get their sites back. But me? I didn’t want the domain back – I purposely let it expire, and I didn’t care if she owned it – I just didn’t want her trading on my name. She could own it – no problem there – but she absolutely could not use it for a photography site.

Once she realized that I wasn’t going to go for buying the domain back, she switched tactics and wanted me to pay her just to take it down – she wanted $300-$500 or possibly more, she’d have to think about it. Her exact words… “If You want the site down, its is fair to expect you to purchase it from me. If not, then I do not HAVE TO take the site down.” Punctuation hers, not mine.

I let her know that what she was doing was extortion, and was illegal, and she came back with “There are many other people with the same name throughout the world” so she figured, I wasn’t the ‘sole owner’ of the name even though I was given it at birth. Guess she didn’t do quite enough research! I wrote back that I am indeed the sole owner of the name, since it’s an unusual name, so that argument doesn’t fly.

She was located in Australia, and obviously felt safe in playing this scammy little game, since the distance was so great. But guess what? Extortion is illegal in Australia too. And I fully intended to contact the authorities in her area – which may sound like a hollow threat – what can I, all the way in Southern California really do about a problem in Australia? And would the Australian authorities take it seriously enough to do anything? But did she really want to test it? Evidently not, because once she fully understood that I was serious, and I wasn’t going to bend, her photography tips site with 160 pages, and links to borderline porn, morphed overnight into an equally scammy site on beading.

I can live with that. It’s not a perfect solution – you can still find her site when you Google my name – but it’s not a photography site. And no more links to borderline porn! Not even close to perfect, but definitely livable.

Moral of the story?

First, if you have registered variations of your domain name, even if you don’t need them anymore, think twice before letting them expire!

And second, if you have an unusual or unique name it’s a lot easier to fight this kind of thing. If I had a common name, I wouldn’t have been able to fight this without the use of lawyers. And even with a lawyer it’s unlikely I would have won. But because I have a unique name, it was simple!

Thanks Dad and Mom for giving me a unique name! The Internet and online marketing wasn’t a consideration back when they named me, so I’m grateful I got so lucky!

But if you didn’t get so lucky, and if your name isn’t all that unique, and if you’re an artist? I’d seriously consider changing your name – or adding to it – or anything – just make it unique.

Just as your art should be unique, so should your name be!

And me? If you scroll to the bottom of this page, you’ll see the TM mark next to my name in the copyright line. Yes, I am trademarking my own name. I never imagined it would be necessary, but getting burned once is definitely enough.

A Little Update…

Tracii Guns / Photo: Cheryl SpeltsA site called Mystic Metal in Australia did an interview with Tracii Guns back in August, and included some of my images of him and his band, LA Guns. I love the image of Tracii they chose, so I’m glad they gave me an excuse to use it again, in this post!

And in June The Quietus did a really interesting interview with Tracii, and included one of my images of LA Guns.

Then in October, Loud Magazine, in Australia, did an interview with Tracii, and ran the same image of the band.

And one final, little, silly tidbit… I love that my name is showing up on sites like bestbuy.com, cduniverse.com, fye.com, pricegrabber.com, buy.com, artistdirect.com, sears.com, and dozens of other big sites because of this CD – it’s fun!

What if I pushed myself everyday?

I walked 1.1 miles today!

I didn’t add the extra distance on purpose, I thought I was trying a new route, and I got down the street a little, and realized it didn’t go through, so I had to turn around, which added a little extra to my distance.

The interesting part is that it wasn’t any harder than one mile was for me yesterday.

The human body is amazing! Really! I’m always amazed the day after I push myself to do something, that very next day if I do it again, it’s easier. Our muscles really can improve after just one time. So I fully expected my one mile walk today to be a little bit easier – and I was looking forward to it. And I figured it would just keep getting easier and easier, until it felt comfortable. And THEN I’d push myself again!

But today, wasn’t any easier because I added that one-tenth of a mile – in fact, it was just as hard as the day before had been. But the BIG difference, is that for the same amount of effort, I went a tenth of a mile further. Interesting!

What if I pushed myself everyday? Yes, everyday would be hard and I wouldn’t get to enjoy those days when it gets a little easier and starts to get comfortable. But, the tradeoff would be improving faster. Pretty nice tradeoff. So maybe it’s a good idea?

But what are the risks? Well, if it’s tough everyday, then I might get tired of pushing so hard. If it’s too unpleasant, I might give up entirely. On the other hand, if I go too slow, and don’t push myself as much, then my progress will be slower, and then I run the risk of not seeing enough positive change, and so giving up.

I think I’m going to go for the middle – take the best of both – and make it work for me. I will plan on pushing myself everyday – adding a tenth of mile each day. But if I ever have a day where I don’t want to walk at all, and feel like it’s just too tough – then on that day I won’t add any additional distance – I’ll just stay where I was the day before, and enjoy the fact that it’s a little bit easier the second time.

I admire those people who decide to do something, and then just do it. They don’t need to think about motivation or losing interest, or wonder if pushing too hard will backfire. They’re super-humans! But I’m not one of them, and I know that – so I do think about these things – a lot!

Walking A Mile

I walked a mile today! That may sound like not much, but to me, where I’m at right now, it’s major!

I keep reading that for most people, if you walk an hour a day, everyday, eventually your weight will normalize. Walking longer is fine, but one hour of walking is what a normal body seems to want, each and every day.

I’ve been walking around the block, maybe once or twice a week, for several months now – a route of .7 miles – and it took me about 15 minutes, which is pretty slow. But I could do it comfortably, and I was okay with it. But then I kept seeing that one hour a day figure, over and over, in different places…

I knew I could get through it – the difference between .7 and 1 mile is minimal – right? But it might be tough. And in fact, it was tough – but I did it!

And with that, I’m just a little bit closer to getting to that magic one hour a day figure.

Trying Something New

KeysIsn’t my new house key great!

I loved my old keychain – it was a silver heart – freeform, and unique – it looked hand-forged. I bought it just as I was making the big leap from the corporate world to my own business, and all the years I carried it around, I loved it. But on moving day, when other people were using my keys, it got lost – and I’ve felt like something was missing ever since. And I couldn’t seem to find anything to replace it. It was so unique, and so special… I don’t want just an ordinary key chain.

But then in Home Depot of all places, I saw these blank keys… and I knew I’d found my answer! I won’t replace my old keychain until I find one just as special. But in the meantime I’ll get an extra special house key cut! And you know what? In the week that I’ve had my new aqua fleur-de-lis 3D house key, I haven’t missed my old heart key chain at all.

I think sometimes I get so caught up in the way things have always been, I might miss out on something else that might be equally good. Or maybe just a fun change? Who says I need a keychain at all? Why not go without? Why not do something different?

So in the spirit of trying new things (and hoping I end up loving them!), I’ve added two new trial features to this blog. One is a log of miles walked and the other is a secret for now – but I’ll tell later.

Here’s to shaking things up a bit and trying some new things!

PS: To anyone who’s worried about how safe it is to post an image of my keys on the web – I altered the key blades in Photoshop – so it’s not possible to cut an accurate key to my house or car, using this image. The rest of the image is as shot though!

100 calorie cookie packs

I think one of the most insidious things about swearing off desert, is that it often leads to those 100 Calorie Cookie Packs – yeah, they are low calorie, but there is absolutely nothing in them that is good for your body. All those chemicals? Just a man-made pseudo food.

If I’m going to give my body something that bad for it, I’d rather it at least taste good – so I’d much rather have one super-luscious REAL cookie with fat and sugar for my 100 calories, than have a whole handful of fat-free sugar-free pseudo cookies.

Me, Today

Me, Today“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Elliot

Consider this day one. A new and fresh start.

Basic ring light shot, that really shows what I look like – not too artistic – just documenting where I am today.

This project is about being what I was meant to be – and documenting the journey. It could be the most important and interesting thing I’ve ever done.

All I have to do is start to walk, and take photos of myself, and walk a little further each day, and take more photos, and eat a little less, and walk a little further, and let the art take over…

Ring light is interesting – and perfect for this use. It’s a beautiful, soft, glamorous light – think Pamela Anderson on Dancing With the Stars – word is she only allowed interviews with journalists who would use ring light on her. It super-flattering on some faces – including mine and Pamela Anderson’s! But that doesn’t mean it hides details, or that it leads to blurry soft focus – far from it! If you get close to an image lit with a ring light, you can see every single eyelash, every single strand of hair, and every single thread that makes up the fabric, in the clothing. It’s good with the details!

So, ring light is perfect for me right now – it’s flattering, and allows me to make pretty images of myself. But it’s also scrupulously honest – in other words, good for the documentation part of this project.

Day one.