All posts by Carl Green

Photoshop: Painting A Sunset for Facebook

I was recently asked to create the banner for the largest Photoshop and Lightroom group on Facebook. Quite an honour.

I wanted to do something special and came up with a dozen clever ideas, some of which will form their own mini-projects in the future, but in the end I went for simplicity.

The members of this Facebook group (in excess of 210,000 and climbing daily) come from all nations, and joined for a wide range of reasons. Some want to share their work. Some seek praise. Some want help or advice. Others want to critique (or be critiqued), and still others are simply seeking inspiration. Some are professional photographers. Some just bought their first camera. It’s quite the mix of skill levels, styles, nationalities and cultures.

Searching for a theme

With such diversity, creating something that appeals to all could be a challenge. So I went back to basics and looked for common ground. Regardless of background, styles, or skill levels, the one thing we have in common is the love of editing photos.

Whether they use Lightroom, or Photoshop, or both, everyone in the group in one way or another paints with pixels. So, I reasoned, what could be more representative of the group than an image showing exactly that?

This image was shot from the deck of the Chi-Cheemaun ferry on the way from Tobermory, Ontario to Manitoulin Island last year. That was a road trip worthy of many blog posts. My wife and I returned with some amazing memories… but that’s another dozen stories.

The hand holding the graphic pen is my own, photographed with my iPhone while sitting here at my desk. I placed it into the image as a separate layer and masked out the tablet and other parts that I didn’t need.

I used the pen tool to draw a vector mask around the sunset image, which reveals the white background layer I added below it. This now looks like a blank canvas being filled as I digitally paint in the sunset.

It’s a simple but powerful concept that, I feel, resonates with everyone. I’m happy, and so is the owner of the group. Win!Painting A Sunset in Photoshop

Is There Life In France?

The Italian physicist Enrico Fermi (1901 – 1954) created the first nuclear reactor, worked on the Manhattan project, and is one of only 16 scientists in history to have an element named in his honour. It’s fair to say that he’s a big deal in science circles.

One of the many things for which Fermi is famous came about as a seemingly simple question, raised during a conversation with colleagues. It went like this: According to the Drake Equation, the universe should be teeming with intelligent life. The numbers certainly seem to say so. Fermi is credited with asking the question. “OK, if there are so many species out there…where are they?”

This question, known now as Fermi’s Paradox, is a good one. Since there are billions of stars in the galaxy, there is a high probability (now proven by NASA) that some of them will have Earth-like planets. The laws of probability argue that some of those should develop intelligent life. Some may go on to develop interstellar travel in some form. The Milky Way galaxy could in theory be completely traversed in a few million years. So, again… where are they?

Disregarding science fiction instant travel scenarios like Stargates and transporters, we have yet to go beyond theory ourselves. For all we know, our theoretical space travel options may never pan out. They could prove to be scientific dead ends, impractical to achieve in the real world, or as way off the mark as geocentricism and alchemy.

But that may not be the only reason we haven’t met our neighbours. Let’s assume that the universe really is teeming with intelligent life, and ask the same question: Where are they?

This planet on which we live is fairly young, cosmically speaking. Allegedly intelligent life (that’s us, by the way) formed a few seconds ago, in the scheme of things. We went from caveman to spaceman in the blink of an eye.

Before cars, trains, rockets and ships, we had feet and, when we grew clever enough to think of it, horses. Exploding across the face of the planet, we hairy mammals went forth and multiplied. It’s what we do. We did it on every major land mass pretty much simultaneously. There are some thing we do really well.

I am from England. My pre-Roman ancestors wandered around in animal skins and howled at the moon (some still do). For them, there was only day and night and food and sleep and death. And when they reached the shore of the sea, the English Channel, they stopped. That water was an insurmountable barrier. Just like space.

From the famous White Cliffs of Dover in England, it is possible, on a clear day, to see the coast of France. There is no way for a caveman to ever reach that shore. It may as well be the moon.

On the other shore stands another caveman looking over to the cliffs of Dover. He can see it, but not reach it. Both are asking themselves the same question: What can I eat? Cavemen are notoriously practical. Neither can see the other. But my ancestor, while chewing berries, may pause to wonder. Is there life in France?

Or in England? That French caveman probably asked himself the same question. Both would be convinced they were alone in the universe. This same melancholy thought would occur to every caveman on every beach, in every country, across the face of the Earth. There may be countless civilizations out there having that thought as I type. They can see the other shore but think it empty. Now, there’s a thought, eh?

Throughout history explorers have ‘discovered’ new lands and cultures. When my ancestors reached France, they found other cavemen. Marco Polo, Magellan, Columbus. Every intrepid adventurer soon discovers that far away lands are, almost without exception, already populated. Life is like that. And I see no reason to think that this rule should end at the edge of the atmosphere of this small blue rock.

Just because we do not have visitors landing in our parks demanding to be taken to our leaders does not mean that they are not there. It does not mean they can’t see our planet. It doesn’t even mean that they aren’t watching I Love Lucy reruns. It may be that, like us, they just haven’t figured out yet how to cross that sea. This is a young galaxy. Life is young. Give it time.

NASA has identified many planets capable of supporting life as we know it, and finds more every day. We may have already seen the home planet of a real life civilization. We just don’t know it.

For all of our achievement and progress over the centuries, in many ways the human race remain cavemen. So here’s a parting thought.

We’re still on those cliffs looking across to France.
And, perhaps, some other cavemen are looking back.

May 2017 is Mental Health Month

Since 1949 Mental Health America (MHA) and their affiliate network have reached millions, spreading the word and removing the stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental health issues.

The often quoted statistic we are all familiar with is that 1 in 5 Americans experience mental health issues. However accurate that number may or may not be, it’s a little misleading. We’re not all schizophrenic, which is the inference Joe Public puts on it.

The very broad phrase ‘mental health’, actually covers a huge and varied range of behavioral health issues. Eating disorders, addictions of all types, ADHD and anxiety disorder. All these and many more fall under the catch-all umbrella of ‘mental health’. So, now that we acknowledge that the scope of mental health issues covers a far wider demographic than we perhaps first thought, perhaps that 1 in 5 statistic is a little less frightening. A little easier to digest. And that’s good, because the first step to addressing any problem is to understand it.

This year, the theme for May is Mental Health Month is ‘Risky Business’. I’ll let the MHA speak for themselves in this quote, taken verbatim from their web site:

“We believe it’s important to educate people about habits and behaviors that increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illnesses, or could be signs of mental health problems themselves. These include risk factors such as risky sex, prescription drug misuse, internet addiction, excessive spending, marijuana use, and troublesome exercise patterns. We hope the tools and resources that we’ve put together help individuals and communities to raise awareness of the risks that these types of behaviors present – especially to young people – and help people who may be struggling to detect early warning signs and seek help early, before Stage 4.” – end quote.

As individuals, we may ourselves be struggling with inner demons that, if we are ready to accept it, we could use some help with. Most of us probably know others that could use some of that same help, if they are ready to accept it.

Available through the MHA web site is a toolkit which allows individuals and organizations to learn more about a range of common mental health issues, and to become involved in activities that will provide some of that help.

If this is a cause you feel you would like to contribute toward, we encourage you to review this site and information materials. Whether for yourself or for another, any journey starts with a single step. Step one: Understand the issue.

Star Wars Week: May the fourth, fifth and sixth be with you

Star Wars: May The FifthI had a few minutes to spare during a coffee break earlier this week, so gyst4fun (ahem) to celebrate Star Wars week I took my corporate head shot and turned it into a humorous May the Fourth image of myself with Princess Leia style hair. As one of my friends said, ‘You have great buns, man’.

IStar Wars: May The Fifth also made a quick Revenge of the Sith (Fifth, of course). Both were just 10 minutes of  silliness.

To finish out Star Wars week, I spent an hour this morning to complete the trilogy, and finish with the image below: Return Of The Sith.

Saturdays are great. I can go at my own pace and take some time. One hour, 25 individual layers and many tweaks later, I had taken my corporate head shot and turned myself into a Sith Lord, complete with Imperial Stormtroopers and exploding Tie-fighters. Not bad for an hours work.

OK, you caught me: That’s a bath robe. But in my defence, I wasn’t actually the one wearing it. And that lightsaber I’m wielding so casually is made from three separate layers. Looks good, eh? All the lighting effects are done by hand. All in all, I’m pretty pleased with the way this looks.

It’s good, but not perfect. I know that. It’s not meant to be. This was a way to pass an hour on a rainy Saturday morning. If I wanted to spend another hour on it I could have perfected it, but that would have defeated the purpose: To have fun. And it was fun.

If you want a closer look at any of these images, right-click them and Open Image In New Tab (or whatever version your browser offers) to see them in full screen goodness. I hope they are as much fun for you to see as they were for me to make. Enjoy.

May the Force be with you.

Star Wars: Return Of The Sixth

Ransomware Recovery: Know Your Options

Ransomware is a growth industry

A governmental fact sheet from the HHS reports a dramatic 300% increase in ransomware attacks on U.S. governmental systems from 2015 to 2016. There are now an average of 4,000 attacks per day on those government computers alone. This alarming trend extends to attacks (some successful) on mission critical healthcare facility systems, whose requirement for uninterrupted service can quite literally be a matter of life or death. Ransomware, it is clear, is a highly profitable business. Tips for avoiding infection are everywhere.

But what do you do if the worst happens? What do you do if you ARE infected? Continue reading Ransomware Recovery: Know Your Options

Cracked Actor

I call this item Cracked Actor, after the 1974 David Bowie song and film. In the film, a drug addled Bowie plays the superstar to his adoring audiences throughout a live tour. He is clearly suffering on many levels, but you would never know that from his stage performance. He puts on a great show. And that is a pretty good metaphor for life.

All we see is the face a person chooses to present to the world. Not the real person, hiding in plain sight. We may get a rare glimpse through the armour in times of weakness, but normally our smiles stay painted on. Unless and until something shatters inside.

As you go through your day you pass many people, each going through their own struggles. Some big. Some small. Financial worries, addiction, grief, medical problems. It’s a long list. And none of that pain is visible from the outside. Just the smile.

I try to take a breath before hurling anger or bitterness at another person. Though perhaps justified, it may be that the person who just bumped you and spilled your coffee may be coming back from a funeral. The distracted driver that nearly wiped you out could be on the way to a hospital. Take a breath. Take two. You’ll live.

You may one day be that coffee spiller or distracted driver. You could be the addict, the outpatient, the parent. It could be you. Or a loved one. You may never know their stories. And you don’t need to. It’s none of your business. How you react, is.

It costs nothing to bite your tongue for a second. Be a better person. Make the world a better place. Remember this, the next time someone upsets you: We are all cracked actors. Every one.

Cracked Actor, a piece by Carl Green

Training site soft launch a technical success

As part of their ongoing commitment to supporting the Tim Hortons  restaurant group, the Quickservice Technology range of services has quietly been expanded to include a dedicated Tim Hortons training web site where owners and staff members will be able to learn all the equipment and software provided by Quickservice, most notably at this initial launch stage the Point Of Sale (POS) system developed specifically with Tim Hortons in mind, iQtouch.

The site will supplement the 24/7 bilingual technical support help desk which currently supports over 3,500 Tim Hortons restaurant installations. It will be a source of on-demand reference material and assist in the training of new staff members. The site will be expanded over time to include complete courses for Drive Thru Wireless, DVR Security and Timer software, as well as courses for owners on financial, administrative and operational reporting systems.

The site is driven by a complete LMS, (Learning Management System) as used by colleges and universities, and allows for class structures, grading, certification and student histories. Multiple choice questions, quizzes and essays are only three of the full raft of available options around which courses can be created and mutlimedia and video will naturally play a large part in the course structures. Full certification courses may follow, providing owners with the ability to confirm the training levels of their staff, providing peace of mind and measurable educational progression.

Enrollment has already begun, with over 50 students to date and more being added daily. It is envisaged that student numbers will soon be in the thousands and additional course materials and a roll out plan have already been prepared. Filming begins later this week on the very next course, DVR and restaurant security.

Exciting times are ahead.

On a personal note, I am proud to be the developer and administrator (Call me Dean) of this online college.  I look forward to creating the additional courses and materials for the growing student base to explore. It’s all about support, and that’s what I and the rest of the Quickservice team do well.

The site is publicly available, but to access any course materials you will need a login. Those are currently being made available on request to Tim Hortons restaurant owners. If you are an owner and want to enroll, contact the Quickservice team by email to sales@quickservice.com and we will be happy to assist.

So, class is in session. Welcome to college.

http://timhortons.quickservice.com/

A second honeymoon after only three years of married life

On September 21, I and my wife will celebrate three happy years of married life. We’ve actually been together much longer, and yet the honeymoon is not over. In fact, we agreed that our recent road trip vacation to Georgian Bay, Tobermory, Manitoulin Island, Thunder Bay and more was something of a second honeymoon for us.

We snorkelled, diving down on shipwrecks. We swam in crystal clear waters, hiked for miles through forests and across cliffs, even did a little adventure caving. We travelled on glass-bottomed boats and climbed observation towers. We swam in a waterfall, which is where the photo below was taken. And those are just a few of the bullet points. Along the way we stayed in campgrounds, motels and State Parks, staying one step ahead of the heatwave affecting the rest of Ontario all the way. And the wonderful thing about Canada is this: The more you see, the more you want to see.

The trip was around 3,200km, which by our standards is a short hop – our actual honeymoon was 5,800km – but in between 8 hour driving sessions we managed to cram in lots of fun, as well as have time for rest and relaxation. We even managed to visit an Amethyst mine, and picked up some pieces of geological history for the house.

Three years. We’ve done a lot, my love and I. And we plan to do a whole lot more in the next three. Six. Nine… Watch this space.

Happy Anniversary, my love. Here’s to many, many more.

A second honeymoon after only three years of married life.

Life. Funny thing, life.

One year ago today, our good friends Juice and Sweets (Brad and Kim) were married in a beautiful biker ceremony on a fantastic, sunny day. Surrounded by those they love, and by those that love them. It was a beautiful day. Here is the video I made for them.

It was a good day.

On the same day, Nikki and I were waiting to hear whether our offer had been accepted on the house in which we now live. Obviously, it was. During their vows, we got the call. I had muted the phone. Three buzzes while I fumbled the phone from my pocket, and the house was ours! High five and a quiet happy dance, while our friends sealed the deal with a kiss.

Five minutes after that, while we were still happy dancing, I got another call. Literally, five minutes. A lot can happen in five minutes.

That call told me that my 15 year old grandson had died in a tragically avoidable accident. He had been electrocuted while climbing on freight trains. Kyle lost his life while his cousin Cameron performed CPR until the ambulance arrived. While his brother Liam ran for help, Cam kept Kyle going until cousin Kayleigh, Kyle’s sister, came running. Together they kept the CPR going and fought on. Never give in. Never surrender. They didn’t.

But sadly, some fights just cannot be won.

Did I mention, this tragedy struck on Cameron’s 16th birthday?

Today is Cameron’s 17th birthday.

One year on. I’m wishing you a Happy Birthday, Cam, even though I know you don’t want to celebrate it. Rather, Cam has arranged to meet friends and family at a local park to release balloons in remembrance of Kyle.

That says a lot about Cameron. I can’t imagine what he (and the rest of the family, particularly Liam and Kayleigh) went through that day, and during this last long year. Or how they and the rest of the family have coped. One fractured day at a time.

I want to wish Juice and Kim a happy first anniversary. I want to wish Cam a happy birthday, whether he wants me to or not. And I want to mourn Kyle. Honestly, I can’t claim to have known him, and I won’t. I left the UK a long, long time ago when he was only a boy. But I do know this. Kyle left a huge hole. The entire family has been rocked by his untimely death. And no parent should ever have to bury a child. That’s not the way it is supposed to be.

A wedding. A new life. A life lost. All in five minutes. Five. Minutes. On that same day, there were thousands of births and deaths and marriages. Millions of happy and unhappy events. That day, and every day since. And every future day, too. The world keeps turning.

What is the point of all this? I’m getting to that. The point is this. It’s neither all good, nor all bad. In the midst of life we are in death, it’s true.  Enjoy the good, and smile through the tears. There is much pain in this world, balanced, usually, by much joy.

The trick is to never give up. Never surrender. Love while you can. And live. Live and love as though there is no tomorrow. Because one day, there won’t be. And then, the good memories will help get you through. You will need those memories.

So, make some. Go and hug someone. For no reason. Just do it. Put a smile on another person’s face. It feels good. Really. Give yourself, and someone else, a happy memory. Do it. Right now.

Or at least, within the next five minutes.

For Kyle Bradley.
For Kyle