Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Blast From The Past

I have been updating many of the profiles for the different sites I use and while working on my Google profile I did a search and came across one of my first websites. I began this site in late 1996 and I quit updating it in 1998. Back then I was trying to build myself up online as a fine artist. I put a lot of effort into hand coding this site in notepad and making what I thought at the time a good site. After running through it though, I can't believe I ever published it.

So, I have a dilemma of sorts. I like it being as is for personal history, the place I got my start online, etc. My problem with it is the site comes up in the top ten Google search for my name. I could possibly change it and get new traffic from the old site. So, my question to you is do I change it or do I leave it be and let it stay personal history? Or, as a third option, leave it pretty much like it is just update it to today's Internet standards, keeping the same theme and adding new works to the gallery?

My final problem with all of this is the site is hosted on the free account site They have these big advertisement banners on top and bottom of every page. I think I could redesign the site and make it look pretty good, add some functionality to it, update all the info and works, and make an interesting gallery site for my fine art. But, I would have to deal with those banners, they are large and in charge. Another small problem is the link on google leads to the old URL system on not the newer system so they could drop the old directory system sometime and I would loose the rank advantage of Google. Anyhow, if you wish to check it out head on over to Tijir's Art Gallery.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

31DBBB Day 16: Solve a Problem

The sixteenth days challenge, Solve a Problem - 7 Ways to Identify Reader Problems [Day 16 - 31DBBB], is to identify a problem my readers might have and solve it. I think I might fail this one. I am working on digging through data on the blog and such and don't know that I can figure out a problem my readers might have. I am not giving up on it, I am just not getting it done today. This whole 31DBBB process is turning into real work, which I am glad of. I just do not have as much time as I would like to do it right. I am very busy with work for a client that is time sensitive and I can't take time away from it for working on my personal blog. I am keeping a list of the things I need to do to finish the challenges, I just won't get them done in the thirty one days.

Monday, April 20, 2009

31DBBB Day 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15

Due to work and the kids I have fallen behind in my 31 Days to Build a Better Blog postings. I am combining five days in one post to catch up. Since all of these challenges were related in some way I think this will work out fine.

  • The eleventh days challenge, Come up with 10 Post Ideas [Day 11 - 31DBBB], is to mind map ten post ideas. The process is fairly straight forward, you write down the past five post topics and mind map (brainstorming) extended ideas for the posts. I am working on this and will try to get it done in a day or two. Did I mention I am real busy with work? Yeah, so I will work on this as I get time.

  • The twelfth days challenge, Develop an Editorial Calendar for Your Blog [Day 12 - 31DBBB], is to take the post ideas from the last challenge and create an editorial calendar. I won't get to this until I finish the mind map but I think I will end up doing something along the lines of a certain type of post per day. Such as my #followfriday Link Luv posts.

  • The thirteenth days challenge, Take a Trip to the ‘Mall’ and Improve Your Blog [Day 13 - 31DBBB], is to go people watching. It's an observation exercise. I must say, this one threw me until I read further into the challenge. You watch people shop and take notes on what they are doing, buying, seeing, etc. Then you sit down and go over your notes and see if you can find lessons to apply to your blog. I will try and do it this weekend. Not sure I will find the time but I will try.

  • The fourteenth days challenge, Update a Key Page on Your Blog [Day 14 - 31DBBB], is to decide what key pages might need a refresh on your blog. I have been working on this since I began this challenge. I added an about me page back to the blog, I have been updating the sidebar and will continue to do so and I am working on updating the gallery to something more aesthetically pleasing which I hope to have done by this time next week.

  • The fifteenth days challenge, Find a Blog Buddy [Day 15 - 31DBBB], is to find someone to collaborate with. It's more than that though, it's someone to bounce ideas off of, help encourage when things get slow, partner with on stuff, etc. This will probably be the harder of these five challenges for me. My blog is not really a niche blog other than being an artists thoughts about stuff and showing off my work. I have posted in the 31DBBB forums to try and find a blogging buddy, we will see how it goes.

So, there you have it five days that kind of all fit together. I will be working on these things through the week as I have time as well as working on each new challenge as they are posted. Pile on top of that my make a living work and I am swamped for the week. Hope the kids can entertain themselves a little more this week or I might not ever get caught up!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Earth Day Design

Last night I got a little restless and felt like creating something that had nothing to do with work or clients. So, I sat down and checked my messages over at deviantArt and read a message there about an Earth Day contest dA was hosting. I decided to see what I could come up with on short notice. Six hours later I had Earth Day Buzz, a text art globe of the Earth using many of the buzz words or slogans from Earth Day.

I have also uploaded it to my gallery, after speaking to the contest holder to make sure it was OK, and have shirts and other products available with the Earth Day Buzz globe on them. If you are shopping for an Earth Day shirt or poster, please stop and check it out. I am thinking of doing a wallpaper for download as well, though it will be a bit more than just the globe. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. Go to Earth Day Buzz or Earth Day Buzz in white and click on the image if you wish to see a larger version or download the full sized image (2644 x2500) by clicking download.

#followfriday Link Luv for April 17, 2009

Once again it is time for recommendations. Every Friday I will be making a post linking back to my commenters web site as well as posting my #followfriday recommendations for Twitter. This week I have had a couple of commenters.

First up is Sheryl Loch of Life as a Wham blog. Sheryl covers the subjects of Family, Natural Health and Marketing help on her blog.

My other commenter this week was George Ford of the Addanac City comic strip. Check out the daily adventures of Hank Addanac. Pretty funny comic strip, good for a daily chuckle.

On Twitter this week I recommend following these people:
So, there you have it. My #followfriday luv of this week.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

31DBBB Day 10: Moniter your Niche

The tenth days challenge, Set Up ‘Alerts’ to Monitor What is Happening in Your Niche [Day 10 - 31DBBB], is to set up a Google alert for keywords in your niche and maybe a vanity alert as well. This is something I have been doing since the day Google Alerts opened. I get five or six daily emails about gaming, technology, art, my name and Grand Gravey. This is a great idea for anyone, not just bloggers. For bloggers though, it will definitely help you stay on top of what topics are being discussed in your topic of interest. You can go to Google Alerts and have it send you emails as things happen, once a day, or once a week. I would suggest the once a day option, the as it happenes option will end up spamming your inbox with a lot of messages.

Here are more articles about my participation in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

31DBBB Day 9: Join a Forum

The ninth days challenge, Join a Forum and Start Participating [Day 9 - 31DBBB], is to join a forum and participate. I am a member of many forums relevant to my blogging topics, I just do not participate as I used to. I will make it a point to start participating in forums again once or twice a week. This used to bring me some traffic when I was active so I know it works. It is also entertaining to communicate with others who have the same interests as myself.

Here are more articles about my participation in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge.

Grand Gravey Podcast?

I signed up for voice services at Odiogo. The service transcribes your blog posts into audio format with an almost human but still computer-ish voice. With the plug in for blogger it lists a link to each audio file just under the title of the blog post. Over in the right panel down around the subscribe link is a link to be able to download or subscribe to all the Grand Gravey podcasts. I didn't think about it as a podcast until I had signed up for service and checked out that link and saw you could subscribe to my blog through various services such as iTunes and Zune. Let me know what you think of the service, if you decide to use it. I listen to every post now, after the podcast becomes available, helps me to hear mistakes in my writings if I hear it out loud.

Monday, April 13, 2009

31DBBB Day 8: Interlinking Blog Posts

The eighth days challenge, Interlink Your Old Blog Posts [Day 8 31DBBB], is to go through my old posts and add links to other old posts or new posts on the same topic. I have done this on and off in the past to relevant topics and will continue to do so. I went through all the 31DBBB posts today and interlinked them using the label/tag/topic link. I do not think that this is what was meant when linking posts to other posts but on such a large series of posts I think it is best. As I have time I will go through some of my older posts and link them up as well. This is a great thing to do for SEO if nothing else but it can help readers to find other things on the same topic you have posted about. Of course at anytime on any page in my blog at the bottom of each post is a list of topics you can click on that will take you to a list of posts on that topic.

Here are more articles about my participation in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

31DBBB Day 7: Link Post

The seventh days challenge, Write a Link Post [Day 7 31DBBB], is to write a link post. I have been writing a link post every day of this challenge by writing about the challenge itself and linking back to the daily assignments. I know it is not the intent of the assignment to use it as the link back but I did not really have the time to site sit down today to research and write a decent link post. I will get busy on the link post and tomorrow's assignment tomorrow. I am just to worn out to do much else tonight.

Here are more articles about my participation in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

31DBBB Day 6: Tips and Tuts Homework

Blah, I dislike homework, always have since the beginning of my school days. Well, this isn't actually real home work is it?

The sixth day's challenge, 27 Must Read Tips and Tutorials for Bloggers [Day 6 - 31DBBB], is a reading assignment. Darren has posted up links to some good articles on many different blogging subjects all to do with growing your blog, making money from it, or getting more readers, etc. There are some really good articles here and if you have a blog, I would highly recommend reading them. I am not done with all of them but it will take me the day, between family breaks, to get through them all and I am not sure I would have time later to post. If I find the time later I will update this post with some thoughts on what I have read.

Here are more articles about my participation in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge.

Friday, April 10, 2009

#followfriday Link Luv for April 10, 2009

I have been thinking about this throughout the day and I have decided to combine commenter link luv with Twitter #followfriday. So, I will be posting my commenters links and my recommendations for Twitter each Friday in one post.

This week I had one lone commenter, Eric Miltsch, from a site about the virtues of buying used cars. The blog is much more that just about used cars though, Eric has posted links to articles about automobiles then adds his own thoughts about the articles.

On Twitter this week, I recommend the following people to follow:

  • @murnahan - Social Media Marketing, friendly and tweets good links.
  • @DesiznTech - Web Designer, friendly and tweets good design tutorial links.
  • @knikkolette - Artist and Interior Designer, friendly and tweets interesting links.
  • @bkmacdaddy - Web and Graphic Designer, friendly tweets.
  • @katharnavas - Web and App Developer, tweets interesting links.
  • @weblittlepieces - Service, tweets interesting links.
  • @patternhead - Website, tweets designer resources.
  • @murdamw - Website, tweets interesting iPhone resources.
  • @Poage_Photo - Photographer, friendly and interesting tweets.
  • @AddanacCity - Web Comic Artist, following Addanac City antics.
So there you have it. #followfriday Link Luv from Oh, before I go I am testing a new footer in my RSS feed, if anything looks out of place in the RSS reader you use let me know and I will adjust it as needed. Thanks for reading the site and entertaining me on Twitter!

31DBBB Day 5: Email a Blog Reader

The fifth day's challenge, Email a Blog Reader [Day 5 - 31DBBB], is to email a reader who has commented and tell them thank you for stopping by. What few readers I have do not usually leave an email address, they leave links to their sites. So, I went by one of the sites and found a Twitter link. I thanked him for stopping by and commenting. Then I followed him on Twitter.

I think I am going to take this a step further and start a Twitter tradition on my blog. On Twitter #followfriday is a fun tradition to participate in. Every Friday you post a list of people you follow that you think others should follow. On Fridays on my blog I am going to post links and a small blurb about my past weeks commenters and their sites. I will not point to spammers, in fact I delete spam comments immediately but anyone who stops by and leaves a good comment will receive a comment and link back in a post.

I will do this until it either becomes so huge it is a problem or I can't find the time to do it. If I have no commenters for the past week I also will not make a #followfriday post. If you are interested in joining in, all you need to do is leave a comment and I will give back some link luv at the end of the week.

Here are more articles about my participation in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

31DBBB Day 4: Analyze a Top Blog

I was not going to post about this but I decided going into this I would post about every single assignment. If I skip it I will just be letting myself down and I try very hard not to do that.

The fourth day's challenge, Analyze a Top Blog in Your Niche [Day 4: 31DBBB] is to do just what it says. I don't think this blog really falls into any certain niche so I checked out a couple of different type blogs including a couple or artist/designer sites, a gaming site, and a tech site. I spent hours pouring over a couple of them and the conclusion I draw is this. Most of these sites exist for a reason other than personal blogging as mine does. They have some kind of budget for advertising to pull in readers and they have daily posts on good subjects.

I can work on some of the things I saw such as regular posts and maybe come up with a small budget but I am not sure that is right for this blog, at least not yet. Once I get into blogging daily again and have decent posts with good subjects, I will consider some advertising. I will be working on the blog and I hope it will be enough, at least for now, to pick up more readers.

Here are more articles about my participation in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

31DBBB Day 3 : Promote a Blog Post

I finished up my assignment from yesterday today and posted it here: 15 Great XNA Tutorial Sites. I started several of these type of post yesterday but I ran into problems every time. For example I was going to post 10 great places to download desktop wallpapers but I was overwhelmed with the amount of websites that do only that. So I decided to list blogs like mine where they gave away wallpapers they created. It was very hard finding quality sites that do so. I am not saying they do not exist, what I am saying is Google has been dominated by free wallpapers dot come sites, even for blogs. So the XNA sites is a topic I knew well and decided to go with it.

The third day's challenge, Promote a Blog Post [Day #3 - 31DBBB], is to promote the list post I posted. Darren describes eleven ways to do this:

  1. Pitching other bloggers. I partially did this, though it was another of my old blogs not another blogger. Will approach more in the next day or so.
  2. Social Messaging. I posted links to the list post on twitter under the #XNA and the #XBLCG topics. I had one follower retweet.
  3. Social Bookmarking. Did not do this.
  4. Internal Link. I went through all my old posts dealing with the topic of XNA or making games and added a link to the post.
  5. Newsletters. The post went out by RSS feed and I have a couple of subscribers through email, not sure if that counts.
  6. Other blogs comments section and forums. I have started this, posted on the challenge post as instructed and I will go comment on some XNA centric blogs/forums where others are discussing tutorial sites.
  7. Email signatures. Not applicable for me, did not do this.
  8. Followup posts. Technically the list post is a follow up post from earlier posts on XNA communities, I will post another soon on XNA resources other than tutorials and link them up.
  9. Advertise the post. I have no budget for spending on advertising but I will dig deeper and see what can be done.
  10. Approach mainstream media. This post is not mainstream media ready nor do I believe it will be a topic they would cover.
So, there you have it. Day three is pretty much done. I am going to go post on some blogs that might value the list post I made and see if I might not get a mention. Other than that I am done with promoting this particular post. I have a few other ideas on promoting posts but do not wish to try them out just yet until I do some research. I will do a follow up post if I ever get to them. I am looking forward to tomorrow's challenge.

Followup: After submitting the post to the different social bookmarking sites my traffic jumped up by 300% on the post and traffic on the rest of my site by a little over 30% for one day. I will keep monitoring traffic and post a second followup after a week.

Here are more articles about my participation in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge.

15 Great XNA Tutorial Sites

I have compiled a list of fifteen great tutorial sites for Microsoft's XNA Game Studio used to create games for the Xbox 360, Windows, and Zune. This list is in no certain order though the first few are all about beginners.

XNA Creators Club's getting started page has a couple of beginners guides. One for 2d games and one for 3d games. If you haven't seen these in your quest to learn XNA you really should drop by and check them out.

XNA Developer Center contains all the technical specs of XNA including a programming guide, XNA Class Libraries, White Papers and more. If you haven't seen this resource yet, I would certainly encourage you to do so. is a great place for beginners. The video tutorials are for complete beginners, meaning you have no real experience in coding. The tutorials here are a bit old but are a great foundation. If you know nothing of coding or very little, this is the place to start.

Riemer's XNA Tutorials has tutorials for both 2D and 3D games. The 2D series is a complete run through of creating a game from start to finish. The 4 different 3D series look at different aspects of 3D game programming.

Ziggyware has tutorials on everything from programming to graphics. One of the largest resources outside of the creators club, if Ziggyware doesn't have it they probably link to it.

Blue Rose Games, formally XNA 101, has tutorials covering 2D, 3D, sounds, and much more. There is a good amount of tutorials here.

XNA Resources has many good tutorials and other resources for learning and programming games in XNA. One of the older XNA resource sites on the Internet.

RB Whitaker's Wiki is a fairly large tutorial site. Many good tutorials here as well as RB's Game Development Kit, a list of free software for game development.

Innovative Games has good tutorials on games engines and game editors as well as other programming tutorials covering different things including advanced ideas such as matrices, quaternions, and Euler angle vectors.

Game Theory has a great series of video tutorials called Building a 3D Game in XNA From Scratch. A definite must if you plan to build a 3D game.

XNA Wiki is a place for XNA Game Studio users to collaborate and share code, techniques, and tutorials to aid others in the pursuit of game development for all.

XNA Development is another great tutorial resource that has been around since the release of XNA. Many good tutorials, sprites and links here.

Virtual Realm has a large collection of XNA tutorials and tutorials for using Blender, a 3D editor and rendering program. Both video and written tutorials here.

Learning XNA - Webcasts and Tutorials has a good collection of tutorials, webcasts, demos, and many other resources. A great collection of examples, code, and snippets can be found here.

Last but certainly not least is Catalin Zima's Blog. A great source of tutorials and how-to articles that covers many things being done in video games today.

So there you have it, my list of 15 great XNA tutorial sites. This is by no means all of the tutorial sites on the Internet, there are a lot of them. However, this should get you started in the right direction and even getting you programming in no time.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

31DBBB Day 2 : List Post

As you may or may not have noticed, yesterday I added an About Tijir to the sidebar that includes the new Elevator pitch I posted about yesterday. I also added the tagline to the top of the blog under the Grand Gravey banner. I think ProBlogger's 31 Day to Build a Better Blog is turning out to be a good project for any blogger to try. If you have a blog I would highly recommend you give it a try.

The second day's challenge, Write a List Post [Day 2 - 31DBBB], is to write a list post for this site. So, in the process of getting started I must first understand what a list post is. Basically it is a post with a list of something as the main subject. Such as a list of websites, a top ten list, a list of reasons, etc. I am working on my list and I will have it posted shortly I hope. Darren at ProBlogger lists three different types of list post:

  • The post as a list - in this case there’s nothing in the post except for the list. The title of your post introduces the topic and then the list speaks for itself. The list can be quite barebones - short and to the point. However readers often like them because of their bluntness and the way that they tell it like it is.

  • Extended lists - this type of post is not dissimilar to an essay or article but the main points are broken down into a numbered list format. Generally there is a heading for each section (highlighted in bold or heading tags) with a paragraph or two under each one.

  • Lists Within Posts - the post you’re reading right now probably illustrates this type well. In this post there are two lists that present ideas in the midst of other content. In a sense the list becomes a way of breaking up your text. I find that often these posts do quite well as other bloggers looking for a quote to share with their readers will many times grab your list.
I am not sure yet which type of list post I will be writing yet, I am still researching what the main theme of the list will be. Once I get that determined I will decide which type of list post I will use. I am going to get busy working on it and I will post it as soon as I am done.

You can find my list post here 15 Great XNA Tutorial Sites.

Here are more articles about my participation in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge.

Monday, April 06, 2009

31DBBB Day 1: Elevator Pitch

I recently signed up at for the "31 Days to Build a Better Blog" challenge. I am using this challenge in a couple of different ways. One is to follow the challenge, do the assignments, and hopefully come out of it a better blogger with a better blog. The other way I am using the challenge is to blog each assignment to get me back in the habit of posting daily. I have really neglected this blog in the past few months. No excuses other than being busy. So, I guess it is time to jump into today's assignment.

The first day's challenge, Write an Elevator Pitch for Your Blog [Day 1 -31DBBB], is to create an elevator pitch for this site. So, I am in the process of doing just that. First thing, what is an elevator pitch?

“An elevator pitch is an overview of an idea for a product, service, or project. The name reflects the fact that an elevator pitch can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride (for example, thirty seconds or 100-150 words).” - Wikipedia

Darren goes on to say:

"On of the most important reasons to do this exercise is that to develop an elevator pitch YOU as a blogger to have thought through and crystallised in your mind what your blog is about." - ProBlogger
So, my assignment for the day is to create this elevator pitch for Grand Gravey. Much easier said than done. I will walk you through the process as I go through it. My first thoughts were "entertainment, inspiration, and information or entertain, inspire, inform" which is what I try to do with this blog. That's very broad and not really very descriptive. How then do I come up with something to work from? Well, what exactly do I intend to do with this blog, what do I use it for? This is my personal blog, I post thoughts, ideas, and works I have created.

Well, who am I? I have tended to hide my identity in the past on this blog. Not real sure why I just thought it was fun to write with anonymity. I am finding I do not care either way anymore so let me introduce myself. I am Tommy Reynolds, a mid 30's artist from East Texas. My interests are art, family, technology, video games, table top games, card games, and blogging. In the past I have written about video games, wallpapers I have created, technology, politics, blogging and other miscellaneous topics.

From that information this blog is about technology, gaming, blogging, and art or wallpapers. So my elevator pitch should encompass these things.
  • Grand Gravey is a look into the life of an east Texas gamer, artist, technophile, and dad. Not really accurate, I do not post many personal things so "a look into the life" doesn't really work.
  • Grand Gravey, insights into technology, gaming, art and family. Well that is better but I do not think it captures totally what I think this blog is about.
  • Grand Gravey: The journey of an artist through technology, gaming, and beyond. That is better, I can work with that.
That sounds like a good tagline for the blog. Now to flesh it out for the elevator pitch.
Grand Gravey: The journey of an artist through technology, gaming, and beyond. Join me as I discuss new technologies, video games, art as I create it, and blogging while attempting to use new ideas and technology to further my understanding and mastery of all these things.
So, there you have it the tagline and elevator pitch for Grand Gravey. If you have any ideas or input for this post for the tagline or elevator pitch or both please leave a comment. Nothing is set in stone. I know this blog is so much more, at least to me it is but describing it in brief has turned out to be more difficult than I thought it would. I have spent the day thinking about it and working on it and have now shared my thoughts and process with you. Just know there were other steps I went through, I have a pad of paper full of failed ideas. What you see in this post are what I worked out while writing this post. I have always worked better under pressure, it is why I work from home with deadlines. Thanks for reading and I will try to post day two tomorrow so long as i have time.

Here are more articles about my participation in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Site Stuff

Wow, 2009 is moving along at an alarming rate! I apologize for the lack of updates this year, I have been busy with living life. I have made a few changes to the site recently though. On the right side of the page I have added Tweets from my Twitter account, GG Twine from the grand gravey Twine, and a couple of new blogs to the Blog Roll.

I will be blogging a bit more soon, besides just the wallpaper releases. I will be posting stuff I come across on the web that I find of interest. That can include anything from gaming, technology, blogging, writing, art, family, or any other random thing. If you have not done so, you should check out Twine is RSS news socialized. Join groups and read news or contribute, even start your own feed. Though it goes much further and does much more. I am just now digging into the capabilities of Twine, come on by and join the GG Twine.

Anyhow, this was just a head up I am still alive post. I have a plan/goal to post once or twice a day and to have new work posted at least once per week. I do not know how realistic that is for me but I am going to give it a go.