For Bexx

This is a photo of my beautiful niece Rebecca, who is getting married on August 9th, Andy’s ulcer permitting.

Congrats to both her and fiancée Denton, a man whose dashing good looks no photograph could possibly capture. In other words, I didn’t get a good one.


I have many hats to wear. To work effectively means connecting the dots and automating where I can. Work smart, not hard, to get more done.

IMG_2315Take this example. I manage the social media accounts for several companies, and I also have personal projects such as this one. I have to make sure personal and business projects remain separate, and that posts for company A don’t arrive on the sites of companies B through G. Like Ghostbusters, crossing the streams in that way would be very very bad. Posting to each company account manually can eat up a large part of a working week, be confusing and fraught with danger. Triple check everything. Don’t cross those streams. Automate it.

I finally got around to automating my personal stream from this blog to my own G+, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Those will be enough for now, I may add more later. For now, it is enough. Updates to the blog will now post to each connected social media account automatically without me having to log in to each site and copy-paste, repost or retype everything manually.Ideal? No, it’s always best to customise for each platform, but for sheer speed, it can’t be beat.

Boom! Done. I just posted to G+, FB and Twitter. Cool.

Step three toward my plan for world domination is now in place. Only another 147 to go.

Two out of Four ain’t bad…

I have just finished working on the photos from Nick and Elysia’s wedding. I cut it down to 100 keepers which I will send on, and I think they may like some of them.

I also received in the mail yesterday a USB stick with another 600 photos from the wedding photographer. I volunteered to post-process the photos from the day as a wedding present for the happy couple, and here they are. That, guys, is going to take a little longer to work through, but I’ll get to it promptly and have them off as soon as they are finished.

In the meantime, here is a shot I took of the two brothers, Andy and Vyvyan. Andy is quite the challenge for a photographer. As anyone will tell you, the challenge is to try to take a photo he is not in. If he wasn’t so damn photogenic that would be a problem, but he has the knack of making almost any shot look better, even when you can’t actually see the bride in the shot. Because of this unique ability Andy is widely recognised as the most photographed face in Canada, featuring in wedding albums, party photos, cell-phone videos and even, amazingly, other people’s selfies, from coast-to-Canadian-coast, as well as the UK and a large part of Europe. 

Nick_Elysia_Wedding 20140309-104

An ex rock-god, Andy was for several years a licensed pilot and qualified aviation instructor. I went up with him once in a Cessna and it was an experience I will always remember. Most enjoyable.

Andy is father of Nick (the groom) and Rebecca, and husband to Jean. Andy works and plays hard and in his spare time likes to hang around the pool with friends and family. If you are lucky, he will allow you time to remove electrical equipment from your pockets before throwing you in.

In preparation for daughter Rebecca and Denton’s wedding in August of this year Andy has already started work on growing an ulcer, which he may leverage to good effect for sympathy on the day.

Fun with Photos

As you may have read in a previous post, my nephew Nick recently married his love Elysia and Nikki and I were there for the festivities.

I took a few family-style photos which I will be sending their way very shortly. I took two of my photos and worked them into this finished piece. Which may induce some arguments from my photographer friends.


Some of those friends are purists, and quite vocal on the subject of using editing software. They say a real artist (whatever that may be) would never use software, only the camera. They would probably start yelling about realism and artistic integrity or some such nonsense, before looking around for a loom to smash. Pish, I say. My own position is, art is something personal that you create, not something you wave a camera at. Let me explain. Talented photographers stand out from the crowd, not because of their expensive gear, but because of the way they think and manipulate their subjects and their lighting. A great photographer can use a cell phone to create something beautiful. They can do that because they understand that a beautiful photograph is created first and foremost in the mind, before you even pick up the camera.

Which, despite any differences my friends and I have on the subject of whether to use editing software or not, is common ground. Whether you pose people for portraits or take multiple shots with the known intent of compositing them together later, the idea starts in your head. You know how you want the end result to look and how you need to shoot to get it. You have a plan.

I planned this composite. I wanted to juxtapose the symbolic cake decoration against the happiness of the newly-weds. Problem. The wedding cake was a hundred feet from the dance floor with over eighty guests between the two. There was just physically no way to get this photograph in a single shot. So I shot the cake, then moved my butt to the other end of the room to shoot the happy couple’s first dance. I took both shots in to Photoshop and spent a couple of happy hours creating variations on a theme until I decided that this was the look I wanted. Great fun.

The point is, there was literally no other way to do this. So this is something a purist would never be able to create.

Which is unfortunate. I don’t feel that it makes sense to close yourself off from new creative possibilities. Live a little, guys. Shake it up. Some creative types use oil paints, some watercolours. Some carve marble, others wood. Some crochet famous historical events. Some use only cameras, others (all professionals) use editing software, usually Photoshop. Some even try crazy new ideas, like painting statues or carving vegetables.

Is this art? Pish, I say again, and that is not an easy word to work in twice. I just know that this is how I wanted it to look. I planned it, I created it and I like it. And that last one, my Luddite friends, is the only justification I need for doing it.

Ultimately, that is the whole point of creating anything. Isn’t it?

My Brother Vyvyan

My brother Vyvyan is a very handsome and charismatic man. Intelligent and well educated, he is also a talented artist, and he himself will indeed be the first person to tell you this. If you encounter him and begin a conversation he may start quoting extracts from the works of Shakespeare and explaining their meaning. At this point a wise listener will offer to buy him a beer, which is a good way to derail his train of thought.

I am told that we are visually similar, which I think of as a compliment. I am also slightly taller than him. I don’t get to say that about many people.

My brother Vyv is a very handsome chap.
My brother Vyv is a very handsome chap.

Need glasses

Well, at the ripe old age of 51 I am reluctantly forced to face the inevitable. My eyesight is not what it used to be.
At the age of twelve I could see power lines on the horizon. At the age of twenty one I could see the threads on shirts from across the room. By thirty I needed to be at arms length to do that.
By the time I was forty I had bigger concerns and ignored the steady decline that the years impose on us all.
To the present day. I type this at the bar. I cannot clearly see the keyboard I am typing on. I wish I could blame the beer. But I can’t.
I can still read a license plate from a hundred feet but the truth I don’t want to face is that I sometimes have trouble reading my phone. I have reading spectacles I picked up from the local drug store. I don’t want to wear them, and I kid myself I don’t really need them. But I do.
Perhaps this is natures way of hiding the wrinkles from me when I look in the mirror.

Windows XP and Office 2003 Support Ends April 8, 2014

Many businesses, schools and government offices still use their beloved Windows XP operating systems and Office 2003 because they are reliable, run all the software required, and upgrading could be a painful process. It took several years to get all that software set up and these venerable systems are not quite ready for retirement yet. Are they?

Unfortunately, Microsoft will cease support for these time-served workhorses on April 8. This is a logical business decision dictated by simple economics and market forces, though many have criticized Microsoft for dropping this beloved combination of OS and software. Really? Hey, even a new car warranty runs out eventually. Why should Microsoft expend resources on outmoded technology? If they did, we would all still be using Windows 95 and that would not be fun for anyone. But I digress…

xp-eolNot everybody can simply upgrade to a new operating system or Office suite. Apart from the software costs, larger organizations have service contracts tied to their current systems. What exactly does this cessation of support mean to those still tied to and dependent upon XP and Office 2003? Well, first of all, don’t panic. Everything will continue to work as it does now. I have reassured several people on this point, worried about the terminology used by Microsoft.

‘End of Life’, as it is referred to, is simple industry speak which means Microsoft will no longer provide any support. Nor will they create or release updates, bug fixes or security patches, for their decade old operating system and Office suite. It does not mean you need to rush out right now and buy new computers. That said, it may be a good idea to do so, as there are security implications you need to consider carefully if you plan to keep using Windows XP or Office 2003, either in your organization or at home.

So. To recap, neither Windows XP nor Office 2003 will receive any updates at all after the April 8 deadline. Ever. Microsoft, to be fair, have been exceedingly loud and clear on this, so any resultant fallout after April 8 is definitively not their fault. Any security holes discovered in the future will remain open. Forever. Microsoft knows this, which is one reason they are pushing users to upgrade and avoid any risks.

Hackers know this too, and it is believed that many have at their disposal a number of zero day (AKA presently unknown) vulnerabilities which will let them easily break in to these old systems: They are simply waiting to launch their attacks until April 9. At which point they may copy your data for later resale, steal your identity, empty your bank account or install the ransomware we have often discussed. Ah. Yes. This could be a problem.

Dialling back the paranoia a little, in simple terms, it comes down to this: In the absence of the benevolent hand of Microsoft (there’s a phrase I never expected to find myself writing) your security now rests firmly in your own hands. You’re on your own. If there are security holes yet to be discovered (zero day), then whatever security you have implemented yourself will be the only line of defence, so please do not take this situation lightly.

We strongly urge Windows XP and Office 2003 users to beef up their security as much as reasonably possible, adding antivirus and firewall protection if you have not already, and if you are a business you should revisit internal security policies and practices. This is always good practice and should be done regularly, so it represents no additional workload.

Though the best defence is without doubt a physical upgrade of equipment and software, (to continue to receive security and bug fix updates), this situation need not be the end of the world. Carefully considered and well implemented actions now will reap dividends later and may mitigate (but not eliminate) some of the potential for issues.

Keeping your computers disconnected from the Internet may seem drastic but it will stop any bad guys getting to your machines or your data from outside. Many larger facilities use sub-networks which explicitly do not have Internet access, for exactly this reason. On such networks the likelihood is far lower that any security issues will be encountered, though of course never one hundred percent. No guarantees.

Each scenario is unique. Home users should do some research and ask knowledgeable friends (and I do mean knowledgeable, not just that loud-mouth know-it-all buddy we all have). Maybe get a professional around for coffee and a chat. For businesses, the cost of hiring in a consultant for the day is a small expense in comparison to the price you pay after a successful hack attack. An IT consultant may see things your own team did not and can often offer alternate options you may not have considered. This may be a worthwhile business expense. Again, each scenario is unique. Each person and / or organization must make their own determination how best to proceed, but again we strongly urge consideration of all available options…including the option to upgrade.

If you must continue to use these products, cover your bases. On April 8th make certain to perform every last available upgrade as there will never be any more. Then, start backing up your data and operating system. I strongly urge, as I always have and always will, a full and complete backup of everything. Because I have seen what happens when you don’t bother. So backup, then backup your backups, and back them up too. And put them in a safe. I neither joke nor exaggerate. I could tell you some horror stories. If the worst happens, you will be glad that you took the time and trouble. If you need help with any of that, well, this is not a pitch but you know who to call, right?

In conclusion, the end of support for Windows XP and Office 2003 is not necessarily the worst thing in the world, but it really should be given due thought, in advance of the fast approaching April 8 deadline.
Please, do not ignore this ticking time bomb, or it could be the most expensive conversation you never had.

Congratulations to the Bride and Groom

On Saturday March 8th, 2014, at 3:30 pm or thereabouts, at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel in London, Ontario, my nephew Nicholas James Green married Elysia Margaret Chopra.

The edible Nikki and I were in attendance, of course, and both enjoyed the festivities immensely. From the pre-wedding drinkies at the hotel bar to the farewells and closing ceremonies, coincidentally also at the hotel bar, the event went without any noticeable hitches, so I am glad to say that I lost that bet with myself, and I owe me $10. No punches, no fights, no hair pulling or hurling of drinks. No inappropriate pairings of tipsy guests. No exuberant dancing on tables leading to accidental injury. No singing of songs to make your grandmother blush. Actually, from that perspective it was quite boring, as weddings in our family go. Which is to say that in every other perspective it went exactly as it should have.

The ceremony was flawless. Bride and groom both glowed, particularly the groom, oddly enough. The usual components were in place: Top table, speeches, first dance, food and drink aplenty. It was a very nice day. Nikki and I wish to thank the parents of the bride, Pawam and Elaine Chopra, for their invitations and their hospitality. It was a pleasure to meet them both, as we welcomed their daughter into our family.

The photographer had a moment of panic when the camera in use announced it was full, just as the Father – Daughter dance started. The extra memory card they brought was not in their pocket, but back in the hotel room. As the nearest sober guest with a decent camera I was dragged up to take emergency photos and I was happy to oblige. I did get some rather fine shots on the day, including the one you see here.

Due to a hitch with the actual wedding ring it was not ready in time, so for the ceremony a different ring was used. During the reception the real ring arrived. This photo is the moment when the real ring was finally placed onto the finger of the bride by her groom, on the right hand in Indian style.

Nick_Elysia_Wedding 20140309-131

The cash bar at the ceremony didn’t have draft beer, so Nikki and I spent half the day running downstairs to the main bar, where they did have draft beer. If any other guests noticed our absences, we were unaware. It was commented at one point that we had been gone for over an hour. We did not notice the time passing as we took the party with us and everybody was deep in conversation. Certainly the bride and groom were too busy socializing to notice, though the way they looked at each other you would think they were the only two in the room.

It only now occurs to me that during those downstairs absences we may have missed some of those traditional wedding calamities listed above.  Bum.

Without further ado, on to the main point of this blog post: Here’s to Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Green.