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Friday, May 30, 2003
10:35 AM      

Hoo-wah! Who knew the Photoshop pen tool was so good at making clean selections?! I just spent a little time playing with it this morning, using it to create layer masks. It is the bomb! If you use 'shop, make it a point to figure out how this tool works. Heck, if you ever want to use Illustrator, it'll be essential anyway. Having been through it, I know you have to bend your brain a little to get how it works, but it's worth it. Speed, power, elegance!


Cheat Sheets
Steve Caplin's "How to Cheat in Photoshop" is a really well-written book. If you're interested in using Photoshop to create convincing photomontage, it's the kind of book that will serve as both a tutorial and a reference. The techniques he covers are organized into 2-page spreads that are clear and concise. You can read the stuff on the bus, or try it as you go. Either way, you'll get something out of it.

He repeats useful keyboard shortcuts for emphasis. And, while this is not really a book for beginners, it never feels as though information has been cut for the sake of brevity and it doesn't come off like he's talking over your head. The voice of the text is confident, informative, and encouraging.

Not everyone who is good at something can teach. Not everyone who can teach can write. Steve's writing has all the earmarks of an instructor who knows how to write. Peppered with examples of Steve's own illustrations, it's clear that he's done his homework and knows what he's talking about. He's also not showing off – his topics have direct bearing on the issues that montage artists tackle every day.

I've gotten almost exactly half-way through the book, and I'm already using layer masks differently. Steve's writing has also encouraged me to go back and fool with the pen as a selection tool. I'm coming to like it even more than the lasso. He's also made a clear distinction between quick masks and the other selection tools, and given clear examples of when each is most effective. After seeing them in action, I think I might even have a use for the dodge and burn tools!

Which reminds me – one of the strenghts of this book is that Steve actually shows what it looks like when things go wrong, too. If you've ever used dodge and burn, you've probably seen some pretty ghastly results, especially with skin tones. Steve shows what it looks like when you take the effect too far, and goes on to show how to control the tool.

My favorite sections so far? His thorough coverage of lighting and shadow, his simulation of rain, and his trick for making the eyes look in different directions. His stuff on grafting heads onto different bodies is pretty good, too–especially the color and texture matching aspects.


Attitude adjustment
Things are different. I have the feeling that I've turned the corner on something. My attitude has shifted, as if a veil has been removed. While there are still some [big] outstanding issues in my life, they don't seem as overwhelming as they have. I don't feel so stuck. I'm certain that these won't be the last issues I ever face in life. I just think I'll face them differently from now on.

[ link | e-me ]

Wednesday, May 28, 2003
7:29 AM      


Got this suspicious e-mail this morning.

  • Considering that I never wrote to Microsoft Support, it seems strange that I'd receive a message from them.
  • The cryptic message doesn't specify what information was requested, or what it's in response to. Clearly, the sender wants you to open the attached file – a red flag.
  • A Google search on ".pif file extension" turned up the following info:

    A Program Information File dates back to the early versions of Windows. Basically, it's an information file that when you click on it the information in the file is used by Windows to run some program; including code that can be in the PIF file. It is a potentially dangerous file type and one should never click on one received via E-mail without extensive knowledge of exactly what it will do first.

So, it's probably a virus. Since I'm on a Mac, it wouldn't do much, except maybe launch and infect my little-used Virtual PC environment.

Now, the $50,000 question: where'd it come from?

I looked at the headers and found the following:

Received: from MONTOYA ( []) ... with ESMTP id h4S8j2f06265 for <>; Wed, 28 May 2003 04:45:03 -0400

X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2600.0000

Who's Montoya? Looks like the header's been hacked to make it harder to trace. Since the mailer was Outlook express, it could be that a friend's mailbox was infected, or this could be direct from the source. I'll have to check with Earthlink support to see if they want the message forwarded to them.

Virus writers suck.

[ link | e-me ]

Tuesday, May 27, 2003
7:19 PM      

I got a promotion in the mail from Corel the other day. They're offering a 30-day trial of Painter 8. They're also offering a $149 "upgrade" to Painter 8 for Photoshop and Painter Classic users. It's OS X native, and has some features that even the current Photoshop doesn't match. Interestingly, the new version even is compatible with Photoshop files - it can read layer sets, layer masks, and channels. Looks like a good deal.

By the way, if you decide to download the trial, you'll want a broadband connection and some free disk space. The compressed archive is 90 MB, and it unpacks to about 95 MB.

If you're a Mac user, you probably remember that Corel was marketing its Mac products under the name "Procreate." The cheeky buggers even used a rabbit in their logo. Hey–they say sex sells... Well, Corel's dropped the moniker now. I guess it's a more sober, more responsible time!


More memories

Aside from my friend Wendy that I mentioned yesterday, a lot of people who are not here in the flesh anymore have crossed my mind in the last couple of days. I'll share a partial list with you:

Martha Joseph

Carl Logan

Shirley Logan

Edward Joseph

George Joseph

Amadou Diallo

George Jackson

Kwame Olatunji

Melvin Smith

Peter Nyquist

Columbia, Challenger, and Apollo astronauts

Robert F. Kennedy

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Malcolm X

John F. Kennedy

Every one of them had an impact on my life. Some I remember daily, others visit less often. Some affected my philosophy or politics, others added appreciation for other aspects of my life. They will still be around at least as long as I am.

[ link | e-me ]

Monday, May 26, 2003
3:04 PM      

-- Memorial Day 2k3 --

Remembering Wendy Sternick
Well, I have to say I'm bummed. I was cleaning out an old Mac of mine, and ran across some e-mails from a friend I haven't heard from in a long time. I sent off an e-mail and it came back. I tried pulling up her sites, and they were both gone. Finally, I did a Google search on her name, and got a shock: Mac Central reported that she died of cancer in 2000, about a year after the last e-mail I got from her. Amazingly, the obit said she'd been fighting cancer for 2 years, which would mean that she had been dealing with it for a year by the time of her last message.

Had I known, I'm sure our communications would have been different, and I'm sure she wouldn't have wanted that. She'd written that she was coming to New York for Columbus Day weekend, and hoped that we could get together. She was excited about meeting Denise. Then the trip got cancelled, and I didn't hear anything else.

Wendy was a great lady. She had enthusiasm and integrity. She was a great flirt. I really enjoyed kicking ideas around with her. She was a very smart person, who relied on the input of others, and made them feel smart and welcome, too. She loved to play. I remember seeing a picture of her house. She and her husband had worked their butts off designing it. They had a suit of armor holding a sword as a focal point of the place. You could see it through the window of a central element of the façade. I think she'd even named it.

I guess it's only fitting that I would find myself thinking of her on Memorial Day.


While we're talking Memorial Day, I woke up thinking about how Denise and I spent last Memorial Day weekend in Jamestown, NY with Cindy and the kids. The Jamestown Memorial Day Parade winds through the neighborhoods, and ends at the cemetery, where they actually honor the memory of the people of Jamestown. Fancy that -- an actual memorial. I'm sure that's not a Jamestown exclusive or anything, but Memorial day in New York City seems more like a good reason to have the day off than anything else.

That last Mem. Day was long before the shooting in Iraq started. Still, there was the intermix of patriotism and militarism.

They drove a tank through the streets, showing off how it maneuvers. At that time, I thought of how weird Soviet parades had seemed in my childhood; the Soviets would often parade missiles down the street, and I think the Chinese still do. It seemed to me that Americans did less to promote their military readiness in "civic" parades, but maybe I just never paid attention.


Finally, a hummer rode by with some kids in the back. Yeah, they were enlisted soldiers, but they were just kids. Just about 18, probably no longer virgins, but not really fully-grown and certainly not wizened. Those are the faces of our "men" in Iraq. They look more like that, than the faces in the "Join the Marines" ads or the faces of the newscasters and the corporate big-wigs who consort to send them into harm's way.

[ link | e-me ]

Sunday, May 25, 2003
10:46 PM      

Today's my Dad's birthday. He's one of those model Dads - smart, succesful, dependable, and generous. I know there are a lot of folks out there who aren't as lucky. I got a chance to talk to him on the phone a little today. I know we don't see enough of each other.

Speaking of not seeing enough of each other -- my brother and sister-in-law came into town for a couple of days, and I blew my chance to see them. They're off on a plane again tomorrow. Drat! Might just have to go down to Dallas to catch them before their next trip up north.


They've done it again... The folks that brought you those crazy punk rock kittens wanna take you someplace. I won't say too much... I think they're onto something. It's fun, if a little warped.

Chris reminded me to check out again. There's a lot of fun stuff there.


While we're on the subject of war(ped) two news blips caught my eye this weekend - uh, didn't we already tell the Iraqis to disarm? Wasn't that what all the bombs and stuff were about?! And then, what's this about regime change in Iran? Drop the Q replace it with an N... use the same language and tactics. Mass-market/mass-production warfare. Nice.

[ link | e-me ]
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