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Archive for May, 2010


Another Perfect Day at the Stadium…

Monday, May 31st, 2010

We celebrated our son, Avery’s tenth birthday today with a day at Yankee Stadium. We left the house at 9:30AM, got there when the stadium opened, toured the Yankee Museum (including the newly added 2009 World Championship Trophy and a special exhibit on Lou Gehrig, about whom Avery’s brother, Brandon, had recently completed a book report), grabbed some lunch, and enjoyed a picture-perfect afternoon as the Yankees crushed the Cleveland Indians, 11-2. Alex Rodriguez put an exclamation mark on this awesome day with a grand slam home run to blow the game open in the seventh inning.

Our own, personal fireworks came in the middle of the fifth inning when, unbeknownst to Avery, we added his birthday to the list of “Fan Marquee” announcements they make each game:

Click on the picture above for some great shots of a great afternoon at the ballpark…

Categories: Family Matters, New York, New York, Sports Talk | 3 Comments »

A Collection of Photoshop Tutorials

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

When I first became aware of Photoshop, I went out and bought a Photoshop for Dummies book, figuring I’d sit down with the book, the software, and some snacks, and eventually become an expert. As it turns out, it’s hard to understand image manipulation by reading words about it. Some books provide lots of illustrations/screen shots, which is helpful, but still, only marginally so.

A much better way to get good at this stuff is to have a video demonstration running right next to the software. You can see it on screen, pause/rewind it when you need to, and “play along” to see how the techniques actually work. Once I found one or two of these videos, I discovered links to literally hundreds of them. Here’s a list of the ones I’ve used so far, which I’ll keep updated as I find more (so check back here often!):

In particular, I’ll call out two of them: The Photoshop Top 40 playlist on Lynda.com’s YouTube channel is particularly helpful. The instructor, Deke McClelland, doesn’t just tell you what to do, but tells you why you’re doing it and how the tools work to make it happen. Some people might find this to be too much detail, but it suits my learning style well. Deke his own website, Deke.com, which I’ve also added to the list above, if you want more than just what he’s done for Lynda.com.

The other one I’ll call out is IceFlowStudios (this is the YouTube channel, but the videos can also be found at their website, Tutcast.com). The tutorials at this site are similar to Deke’s, but they go into a little less technical detail. If you feel like Deke talks too much, try Howard over at Tutcast.com.

So, there you go. Enough Photoshop tutorials to keep you busy for days. If anyone knows of other sites worth visiting, leave them in the comments here, and I’ll add them to my list. Thanks, and happy Photoshopping…

Categories: Photoshop | No Comments »

My American Idol 2010 Prediction (with a little help from Facebook)

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Crystal and Lee both posted status updates about eight hours ago. Note that Lee has more than twice as many “Likes” and more than twice as many comments. Assuming Facebook is a fairly random sample of American Idol viewers (isn’t basically everyone on Facebook at this point?), I think we have our winner, folks.

Oops – I guess I should have said ***SPOILER ALERT***, huh?

Categories: Primetime TV | No Comments »

Paging Dr. Frankenstein…

Friday, May 21st, 2010

It seems that Dr. J. Craig Venter and his team in Rockville, MD have sequenced the genome of a particular bacterium and inserted that genome into another bacterium to create, well . . . . life:

“We’re basically getting new life out of the computer,” Venter says. “We started with a genetic code in the computer, wrote the ‘software,’ put it into the cell and transformed it biologically into a new species. We’re still stunned by it as a concept.”

With Venter’s breakthrough it’s now possible to splice and snap together genetic material to create a Legoland’s worth of new genetic combinations. Ideally, some of these would have robust industrial purposes, such as manufacturing bacteria that can churn out valuable vaccine components to shorten production times during an epidemic, or co-opting organisms such as algae to pump out new sources of biofuel-based energy. “Just imagine these cells where all we do is put in a new piece of chemical software and all the characteristics of the cell start changing to become what was dictated by the new software,” says Venter. “These are biological transformers.”

What the world needs is more science articles that contain the words “legoland” and “transformers,” I always say…

More to the point, after they’ve created new vaccines and energy sources, one wonders how long the scientists will wait until they attempt to create the perfect woman.

Categories: The Future is Now | No Comments »

Buying Photoshop CS5

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Welcome to a new category here at ISBS, Photoshop. In this space, I hope to post some samples of Photoshop work I’ve done, as well as helpful tips, tutorials, and entertaining stories (like this one) about all things Photoshop.

As you’ve probably guessed, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Photoshop lately, watching various online tutorials and learning to do more with the tool than just red-eye correction and cropping. Suffice to say, the things that this tool makes possible, even to a non-artist/non-photographer like me, are simply astounding. So much so, that I’ve officially promoted the time I’m spending with Photoshop from “interest” to “hobby,” the basic difference being that I can now give myself permission to spend some money on it.

Not coincidentally, the latest version of Photoshop, Photoshop CS5 Extended, just became available for purchase. The retail price is $999 which, in my opinion, is ridiculous for anyone except possibly professional photo-editing shops. However, if you’re a student or a teacher at an accredited University, they’ll sell it to you for $200. And since my wife is currently pursuing her PhD in Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, this becomes an attractive option.

To get the $200 deal, you buy or download the Teacher & Student edition of the software, fill out Adobe’s Proof of Academic Identification form and send them a copy of a valid Student ID at an accredited University. The ID must include your name, your picture, and an expiration date that is in the future. You can fax this stuff in, or you can scan it in and e-mail it to edu-verify@adobe.com. This is necessary, of course, to avoid non-qualified customers from receiving this significant discount.

As I went through these steps, it occurred to me: to verify that my wife is a student, they’re asking me to e-mail them a digital image, representing a scan of my wife’s Penn ID card. A digital image that is easily editable in . . . (wait for it….) PHOTOSHOP!. Not only that, but they’re dealing with a group of people who have already self-selected as the folks most likely to be interested in editing digital images. Perhaps I should send them a student ID with Mickey Mouse’s picture on it, just to make the point.

(NOTE: In case anyone from Adobe is reading this, I did not Photoshop the image I sent in. I will admit I was tempted, but I resisted…)

Categories: Photoshop | 1 Comment »

New York City Sights – Times Square Bomb Squad

Friday, May 7th, 2010

According to the NYPD, every time there’s a high profile incident in the city (like the Times Square bombing attempt from last weekend), reports of suspicious packages, activities, etc. go up by roughly 30%. This afternoon, someone left a cooler in a Times Square pedestrian area, prompting a concerned citizen to report it, which in turn prompted the NYPD to evacuate a three-block area and call in the bomb squad. As it turned out, the cooler contained water bottles and some books. Times Square was re-opened after a few hours of excitement.

While this isn’t funny in any sense of the word, it does provide us with this image, which I can honestly say reminds me of an ad for Toy Story 3, rather than the serious situation that it was.

Just goes to show ya: a picture is worth 1,000 words, but sometimes 995 of those words are wrong…

Categories: New York, New York | 1 Comment »

Holy Dow!

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Those who even casually follow the Dow Jones Industrial Average know that a triple-digit swing (i.e., a change of more than 100 points in a given day) is a pretty big deal, and a change of 200 or more is worthy of a headline. Back in Sept/Oct of 2008, when the financial crisis was at its peak, we often saw swings of 400-500 points in a given day, which was simply astounding.

So you can imagine how strange this is to see (all quotes as per Yahoo! Finance):

DJIA quotes
2:36pm: 10,515.03
2:46pm: 9,872.57
2:56pm: 10,475.13

That’s a 650-point drop in ten minutes followed by 650-point rise in the next ten minutes. The cause was concern over the European Central Bank’s handling of the financial crisis in Greece, and potentially a technical glitch with regard to the trading of Proctor & Gamble shares (P&G is a Dow component).

At any rate, I have a message for whoever invested a bunch of money in the stock market at 2:46pm today:


Categories: Money Talk | No Comments »

The Best of TED: Our mistaken expectations

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Here’s another installment of my Best of TED series, in which I share talks from the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference that have struck me over the years as particularly insightful or fascinating.

This one comes from Harvard psychologist, Dan Gilbert, and deals with how we calculate expected value for a given activity or transaction. Stuff like, “Would you prefer 50 dollars now or 60 dollars in a month?” Like Dan Ariely’s talk that I linked to previously, this is peppered with lots of wonderful examples of decisions we make every day, and how the logical thing to decide would be exactly the opposite. Here’s an example:

Imagine that you’re going to the theater. You’re on your way to the theater. In your wallet you have a ticket, for which you paid 20 dollars. You also have a 20-dollar bill. When you arrive at the theater, you discover that somewhere along the way you’ve lost the ticket. Would you spend your remaining money on replacing it? Most people answer, no. Now, let’s just change one thing in this scenario. You’re on your way to the theater, and in your wallet you have two 20-dollar bills. When you arrive you discover you’ve lost one of them. Would you spend your remaining 20 dollars on a ticket? Well, of course: I went to the theater to see the play. What does the loss of 20 dollars along the way have to do?

Now, just in case you’re not getting it, here’s a schematic of what happened, OK? Along the way, you lost something. In both cases, it was a piece of paper. In one case, it had a U.S. president on it; in the other case it didn’t. What the hell difference should it make? The difference is that when you lost the ticket you say to yourself, I’m not paying twice for the same thing. You compare the cost of the play now — 40 dollars — to the cost that it used to have — 20 dollars — and you say it’s a bad deal.

There are other great vignettes in there as well, followed by a really great Q&A in which Gilbert talks about our reaction to terrorism vs. other things that kill Americans every year (like the flu or swimming pools…), and also a rebuttal of sorts from an audience member who thinks we should stop defining “value” for people and then calling them stupid for picking the option with the lower value. He discusses the inherent value in buying lottery tickets. Really great stuff, IMHO…

Categories: The Best of TED | 2 Comments »