Smooth skin Photoshop tutorial

I’m rewording Nahla’s “Retouch Skin” tutorial in gooder English so you too can easily touch up your photos and ensure that your wife will hate you for exposing lines and blemishes. Look carefully at the photo above.

1) Open photo in Photoshop and duplicate the photo layer (you’ll have two layers of the same photo).

2) Select the History Brush Tool
3) Select your bottom layer
4) Filter > Noise > Median…
5) Drag the Radius slider until the subject’s skin is smooth. It will be blurry but don’t fret.

6) Go to your History palette

  • Check the box to the left of the Median history item
  • Select the history item (should be “Duplicate Layer”) above the Median history item

7) Select your top layer (the normal, unblurred layer)
8) Use your History Brush Tool and select soft brushes to “paint” smooth skin

The Apple market and Macintosh and iPod price points

I refreshed today to read the updates from Steve Jobs’ Macworld Conference and Expo keynote address. I was quickly reminded why I finally decided to switch to the Macintosh: iLife. Most people use their personal computers for, um, personal things. Now that everything is digital (when was the last time you took “film” to Wal-Mart to get “developed”?), iLife has everything you need at a price that most can easily afford. iLife can create movies, audio recordings, DVDs and organize your photos and digital music files with ease. Actually, what really sold me on OS X was when John showed me Exposé, which I still use regularly. And of course there is the stabilty of the Mac’s operating system which is just unnoticed gravy for me now.

My mom e-mailed me a couple weeks ago and asked, “Have you downloaded Google Earth yet?” To which I replied, “No. They don’t have a version for the Mac.”

I have my home office Windows computer that’s still an okay machine. I could have installed Google Earth on it but I was honestly afraid that if I did, my ethernet card might run the risk of no longer being recognized by Windows XP, or that my CD burner might actually catch fire. That would require me to endure the painstaking and arduous task of replacing hardware and ultimately, reinstalling Windows XP.

Today Apple announced the newest iMacs and the brand new MacBook Pro, both with Core Duo Intel processors. I bought a G5 iMac for my work computer a couple months ago. It is the gold standard for a desktop PC. As are most Mac owners, I was somewhat upset when the new iMacs were announced with the new Intel chip architecture. I told my office manager, “GOD XXXXXX XXXXX XXXXXX XXXXX MOTHER XXXXXXX IT’S XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX SHOULD HAVE XXXXXXX WAITED!!!” But we were all told that Apple and Intel were partnering up last year. Caveat emptor.

What is this new processor that makes the 2006 Macintosh computers so super sweet? Well, I’d tell you about benchmarks and stuff but, I really don’t understand benchmarks. When I think of benchmarks, I think of what a notch in a headboard means to homeless people.

I easily spend 12+ hours a day in front of a Mac. I’m a geek. Albeit I could probably be doing more productive things in those three hours at home in front of the computer, but somewhere down the line I inherited a geek gene. I went so far as to interview my own family as to how this advanced-thinking lineage was passed down.

“Dad, what is it that makes me fascinated with the world of technology and how it will change generations to come?”

“Mmmhmmm. Some people call it a sling blade. I call it a kaiser blade. Mmmhmmm.”

Since my wife has a degree in photography, I gave her a nice digital SLR camera for Christmasâ„¢. I personally think Aperture would be a great application for her as she’s a little hesitant about breaking back into the world of photography and digital photography is a whole new, unadventured world in her eyes.

Aperture would run great on a Core Duo MacBook Pro versus my 1.2 GHz G4 iBook with 1.25 GB DDR SDRAM. The MacBook Pro is a notebook computer that can easily replace a desktop computer. It has benchmarks!! It’s a great machine and I would love to have one. I would love to have one so much that I just know I will lose the battle when I propose to my wife that I HAVE TO HAVE ONE for my thirtieth birthday. Just think of a notebook computer that is 4-5 faster than its predecessor. It’s Double True! No, it’s Quadruple True!

My biggest hesitation about buying my first Mac was the price. I honestly don’t think I would have bought one myself but I kept bitching about how my Windows computer had so many problems and how an iBook would be so great to have that my wife gave me one for our anniversary two years ago. Since then I cringe when I have to use a Windows PC.

But still, the Macintosh, and even the iPod pricepoint are hard to swallow for many. I’ve come to two difinitive conclusions since becoming a die-hard Mac fanatic: time spent maintaining your PC and Apple’s packaging.

If you sit down and figure out how much you make an hour assuming 1) you know how to determine your hourly wage (if you’re paid a salary) and 2) you actually have a job, it’s astonishing how much time you can spend on Windows updates, virus scans, add/remove programs, msconfig, regedit, scanning for spyware and malware, patches, networking, crashes, BSODs, drivers and watching heavy eyelid-inducing CES keynotes using Windows Media Player, you’d realize that you’re losing time and money. If you can estimate that you make ~$20 an hour and spend three hours a week maintaining your Windows computer then the need for the switch is obvious. You need an iProduct.

My boss handed me his company nearly two years ago. I didn’t know jack shit about running a company and since then have learned a lot by trial and error and very hard knocks. One of the first things I learned on my own was cutting costs. One of our biggest costs was packaging and shipping. We handle all fulfillment in-house and we used to have custom boxes made for us with our nice, big corporate logo stamped on two sides of all of our boxes. After some research I quickly realized that our customers don’t care what our boxes looked like or how they were branded. I 86’d the box branding and found a new vendor that sold standard and comparable-sized boxes and I saved the company 70% in fulfillment.

I remember buying the G5 iMac at the Apple store in Barton Creek Mall and how it was invigorating, ego massaging, if you will, and, at the same time, embarassing to lug and stagger though the mall and through the parking lot with a large and clunky branded G5 iMac suitcase box in my hand.

I bought an HP DV-something-or-other model notebook PC for one of my salepeople from a brick and mortar CompUSA a year ago. It came in a standard, brown box with a thermal printed “HP” logo and model number on the exterior. I didn’t care that it came in a brown box. My employee didn’t care. Our potential customers didn’t care either.

Apple should do the same thing. We know what we’re buying when we visit a retail store or order online. That’s 70% percent that could be shaved off somewhere along the conveyor belt.

Steve Jobs, that’s seventy percent, not deem. Either way, Apple’s stock went up $5 today and I’ll buy a Core Duo one day. Call it a benchmark.

Dinner for a triple decader

It seems like only 24 years ago my mom would ask, “What do you want to do for your birthday?” to which I would shriek, “SHOWBIZ!!!” Showbiz Pizza was the kid-friendly, adult-nightmare where kids held their birthday parties. There were games, prizes, polyurethane cheese pizzas, pitchers and pitchers of Mr. Pibb and automated characters that sang songs at set intervals. Showbiz was bought out years ago by what is now Chuck E. Cheese’s. It employes the same formula for childhood enjoyment. When I was a kid the adults were allowed to smoke, drink, use intravenous drugs and watch pornography while the children laughed and hugged keyboard playing gorillas and rats in cheerleader skirts. I firmly believe that this is why most of my generation doesn’t have ADHD.

My day is coming. In five years I will find myself with my child, among hundreds of other screaming three-foot people, at Chuck E. Cheese’s wondering, “Did I leave my syringe in the mini van?”

My thirtieth birthday is sixteen days away and if you know me, you know I have a penchant for a well-prepared dinner. I have decided that I will have this dinner on my birthday. I have limited my choices to the select top 10 restaurants in Austin as dictated by the Austin American-Statesman. Chuck E. Cheese’s wasn’t on the exclusive list so I am looking at all of the restaurants at which I have not yet eaten. Money is no option because I will only turn 30 once and after our child is born in April I am certain that the majority of my nutrition will be prepared by the renowned Chef Boyardee.

  1. Driskell Grill – We ate at the Driskell Grill for our anniversary last year. The meal took too long and this establishment is too fine dine for what I want for my birthday.
  2. Aquarelle – I don’t want French food for my birthday.
  3. Café at the Four Seasons – I’m willing to bet I’d have a perfect steak here.
  4. Hudson’s on the Bend – We’ve eaten here many times. I want something different although I’m not ruling out a tried and true.
  5. Jeffrey’s – We’ve eaten at Jeffrey’s before.
  6. Café 909 – I don’t think I want to drive home from Marble Falls and turn around and drive back to Marble Falls to eat. That and the last girl I fired works at Café 909 and given the restaurant’s intimate setting, it’s very possible that we would cross paths or better, she would be our server and spit on my sweetbread.
  7. Uchi – I don’t want sushi for my birthday. The last time I had sushi on my birthday I drank enough saki to where my feet bacame numb and I fell down a flight of stairs right out onto South Congress.
  8. Zoot – I am very much entertaining the Chef’s Tasting.
  9. Wink – Wink has an excellent daily menu that might make for an interesting evening of culinary enlightenment.
  10. Little Texas Bistro – It’s close to home, the menu is short and sweet and features some great entrees. The last time I called I was laughed at for not making my reservation a week prior.

So it’s either the Café at the Four Seasons, Zoot, Wink or the Little Texas Bistro. Or Hooters.

Keynote blues

FoxTrot by Bill Amend

I woke up this morning thinking, “Oh, please please please be Sunday.” Reality immediately set in and I stumbled out of bed. It took me until the time I got out of the shower before I remembered that the MacWorld Conference and Expo started this morning. I quickly became excited because I knew, come late morning, I would find all kinds of information about Steve Jobs announcing new iProducts during his highly anticipated keynote speech. It was my excuse to use the Apple iGift iCard that the girls at the office gave me for Christmasâ„¢. I’ve been itching to use that card but have anxiously waited until this day. It was going to be a joyous Monday.

I waited for a few hours before checking any reputable websites only to realize that Jobs’ keynote is tomorrow. D’oh.

Bambi beware of latest military technology

I spent the better part of last Friday evening and this past Saturday morning installing a hardware device that uses the latest military technology on my truck. If you know of my luxurious 1993 4-cylinder Toyota mini truck with a custom JB Weld dashboard modification, you know that any form of military technology was a must-have.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you and to have installed on my deer-shaped bumper: XP3 Corporation’s The Hornet Electronic Deer Avoidance System. I will henceforth refer to it as THEDAS because acronyms are the essence of military technology. I received THEDAS as a thoughtful Christmas present from my parents because they know of the deer ridden highway on which I commute to and from work and they know that deer don’t like military technology, as some studies indicate.

“Every year there are more than 1.7 million reports of automobile collisions with deer” according to the folks over at XP3 Corporation. That’s a lot of reports! I hit a deer over a year ago and didn’t report it. I wonder how many of us there are out there. I wonder if there is a support group for people who don’t report automobile collisions with deer. I wonder how many reports were submitted by the deer themselves.

Without getting into great detail, here is how I installed THEDAS. I mounted “The Hornet” to the right of my truck’s radiator and angled it, as advised, at a 45-degree angle to the road surface. I grounded the device to the frame of the truck, insulated and ran the lead wire through the engine compartment through the firewall to the switch and then the switch to the 7.5 amp radio fuse on the driver’s side kick plate.

I turned the key, flipped the switch and what was heard was the latest military technology. Beeeeeeeeeep. I ran inside to get Elise so she could witness my craftsmanship and hear the latest military technology.

“That’ll be great if the deer hears it four feet from your truck.”


The latest military technology sounds like a muffled microwave timer’s beep in a constant and monotone mode. I immediately questioned the latest military technology as the sound that was emmitted didn’t even phase the cat. In fact, Riley was drawn to the constant beep coming from the front of my truck. I found solace in that THEDAS employs Sonic Systems Wave Variance Tuning. If I had to guess what Sonic Systems Wave Variance Tuning is, I would say that it is the Sonic version of Wave Variance Tuning and will vary its pitch accordingly in relation to the number of deer running toward the highway, incoming wind velocity, barometric pressure and GPS firmware upgrades. After all, it IS military technology.

After all of the hard work I put into mounting THEDAS and the complex wiring that could easily land me a cush job as a design engineer for Lockheed Martin, I found out that deer avoidance systems are a crock of shit.

All hope is not lost. I could resort to previous military technology as did this Arkansas man: “Before he discovered deer whistles, a supervisor for an Arkansas utility came up with his own plan to scare deer off the dark country roads. He taped the barking of his neighbor’s dogs, rigged an amplified speaker to the front of his truck and then broadcast the tape as he cruised down highways.”

The XP3 Corporation claims that “The Hornet Electronic Deer Avoidance System, used with driver awareness, will reduce your risk of hazardous animal/vehicle collision by more than 70%.” According to the product packaging, “driver awareness” means driving with care, using headlights and blowing the vehicle’s horn at the first sighting of an animal.

I have and will continue to use my “driver awareness” in an attempt to avoid a collision with animals on the highway. It will be comforting to know that Riley will now be able to hear me coming home in the evenings and he can meet me in the driveway. Hopefully he won’t run out into the street to sniff the front bumper of the truck while I’m driving. Dualy note: blow vehicle’s horn upon first sighting of an animal. And that is the latest military technology.

Fanatic goat

My alma mater is represented by a goat. Not even a cool goat but instead, a “hilltopper”. I don’t even know what the hell a hilltopper is. A frolicking goat atop a hill?

I hated 93% of my college experience. It wasn’t until the end of my tenure that I gained something from the ivory towers of the university. Now I can’t remember what that something was. It wasn’t the school so much as it was the decisions I made for myself during those five years. St. Edward’s is an excellent university, chock full of values, excellent curriculum, staff, hilltoppers, monthly alumni donation envelopes, a mission statement and if I had to do it again, I would.

I don’t even know where my diploma is. I think it’s in a box with a Marcy Playground CD and a bubble jet printer. I sincerely value my college education. It taught me that in order to get a great credit score you can assume a large student loan debt and spend the next 10 years paying it off. I also learned how to think. That’s what St. Edward’s boasts. It’s their motto. “Learn to think”. It’s right there on their website. Without my college education I wouldn’t be able to think or come up with with an alternative and, in my opinion, the better motto: “We are the Hilltoppers, the mighty mighty Hilltoppers. Everywhere we goOOO, people wanna knoOOOW who we are, so we tell them, We are the Hilltoppers, the mighty mighty Hilltoppers…”

What this all really boils down to is what we all know to be the most important aspect of life. College football. St. Edward’s doesn’t have a football team. However, back in the early part of a time we called “the nineties”, we did have a women’s softball team that would have made for a fantastic Big 12 defensive line.

So it is here that I will shed the cobalt and gold, or is it cornflower and mustard?… whatever the colors of the mighty mighty Hilltopper and bleed burnt orange. In the name of college football, of course.

Hook ’em.

Ever take it off any sweet jumps?

I went for a nice & hard bike ride yesterday. I hadn’t ridden in a while so it goes without saying that I quickly became winded and my legs started burning after the first fifteen minutes. I rode all the way down Escarpment, then all the way east on Convict Hill to MoPac and then all the way back the way I came. I ventured further south to where the new Escarpment Village is being constructed.

As I was making my way toward Escarpment Village, I was traveling against traffic. Once I crossed Salcon Cliff Drive the bike lane became “one way” with clearly visible and freshly painted large, white arrows pointing in the direction opposite in which I was traveling.

I pedaled upon an older man who was decked out in all of the latest “I wish I were Lance Armstrong” biker garb and a bicycle that probably cost more than my college education. His loose, fatty flesh flailed in the wind as he gasped up the hill. He saw me coming from the opposite direction and with a tomahawk arm gesture he began signaling to me that I was going the wrong direction. My iPod was blaring whatever song was on but I could make out his lips saying, “YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!!!” As we neared each other I could begin to hear him through my earphones, “THIS IS ONE WAY!!! YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!!!”, still waving the tomahawk arm. And he was really angry and mean about it as he kept yelling at me. There was no one else on the street. I was by no means in his way. It was just Loose Lovehandles Lance and yours truly in a joust. As we finally met and pedaled by one another, he came to the end of his “…WAY!!!” I pulled in as close to him as I possibly could, leaned over far enough to where my breath could have knocked him off of his LiveStrong 900 and yelled, “REALLY?!?!”

I should have fallen over and sued him for his sweet Spandex.

Lonestar Rollergirls

Commercials for Rollergirls have been running for the past few weeks. I had to conciously remind myself to watch the season premiere tonight. Kirk e-mailed me last night to remind me to watch it. I met April aka “La Muerta”, manager of Putas Del Fuego and her husband, Ritz last spring at Sam Hill. It was hilarious to hear them talk about how sick they were of the A&E crew following them around everywhere.

So I watched the season premiere tonight. After the first 15 minutes I was going to change the channel because I thought it was going to be Laguna Beach on roller skates. Then the “game” was explained and I was hooked. Competing in a roller derby has to be an absolute rush!

It was really great to see some Austin landmarks and girls with bruises and scabbed knees “jamming” each other.

Over the past few years I’ve noted the roller derby ads in the Austin Chronicle but never made it out to a bout. Hopefully Mrs. Preggers and I can go to one before the hype sets in. If not, and if the next episode is better than tonight’s, I’ll entertain TiVoing the series.

Year of the Nilla Wafer

Man, did I feel like crap when I woke up this morning. It wasn’t that I rang in the New Year too hard, it was because I ate a Freebirds burrito with extra Death Sauce late yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday started with my stumbling out of bed and grumbling as I walked outside to take down all of the Christmas lights. After pulling down, packing up and putting away all of the lights, I washed the two trucks and then drove to Freebirds to get an early dinner for Elise and me.

Preggers went to work for a little bit and then to the grocery store. While she was gone, I read some riveting literature on breast feeding and then took a nap. When she returned, we got dressed and headed over to Kirk and Lanessa’s neighborhood for a small New Years block party. It was one of the more conservative New Years parties that we’ve been to in a long while. The kids, most of which being girls, singing in unison songs from the Black Eyed Peas and Gwen Stefani outnumbered the adults.

Lanessa and Elise

Since Central Texas is under a burn ban, there wasn’t much fireworks other than singing girls with sparklers. We rang in the New Year at midnight and shortly after, Elise and I headed home, both took our Geritol and went to bed.

We headed out this morning to return a glider chair that we bought for Elise. We then decided it was time for yours truly to tour the new Whole Foods. I think everyone else in Austin had the same idea. Whole Foods seems like it is great but it was so chaotic there that I didn’t have a chance to take it all in. That and being repeatedly bumped into by the patchouli people really got my goat. It was impossible to “shop” – the task at hand was to avoid making physical contact with any one. We did make out with some blood oranges, guajillos, tomatillos and a bag of sea salt pita chips.

The two things I like about Whole Foods is how groceries are organized by geographic regions. I spent most of my browsing time in the Mediterranean aisle and the Texas aisle. Yes, Texas is a geographic region. The other great thing about WF is all of the ready-to-eat foods. We walked in circles, bumping into people, eyeing the mini-restaurants and buffets, trying to find what we wanted to eat for lunch. We both decided on salads and I had a small bowl of chicken chipotle soup. The soup was good, the salads were nothing to write home about.

I was hoping my first experience at the new Whole Foods would be like a kid in a candy store. Instead I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

So Festivus is over. Next up on the calendar: The Rose bowl and then Josh turns 30.

Happy New Year!

2005: A year in review

January: We were asked to be Godparents. I was inspired to try harder in the kitchen.

February: Elise turned 30. The IRS stuck it to us. I wrote a poem. Tom died.

March: I had a hard time getting sleep. The kitchen was overrun by ants. Elise became a famous caterer. I blacklisted Dell.

April: Elise posted a story on We met Bill “Here’s Your Sign” Engvall. I made the best pizza. We ate terrible steaks. We went to the prom. I revisited kindergarten. The Baptists were angered.

May: I was constipated. I almost threw up on my Godson.

June: Hartz decided to stop production and sales of its lethal flea and tick drops. I decided to build a deck. I did what EVERY employer should do. I joined a cult.

July: We went to Las Vegas. We went to Cabo.

August: I got us out of a timeshare contract. I almost spent too much on deck furniture. I sold my trusty Shadow on eBay. I did a cooking demostration for a gaggle of chicks.

September: I realized that I don’t know anything about local geology. I decided upon the way of the cow for the afterlife. I went fishing. We saw Journey. I prepped for a hurricane. We had a nice anniversary dinner. Riley ate some more orange Jell-O. I told the Internet that Elise is pregnant.

October: I fired my assistant. We went thuggin’. Elise wrote about Halloween.

November: I lost hearing in one of my ears. I tested for my fourth star. I became a Chef Moz editor. Tapioca balls. We discussed hypnobirthing. We did that Thanksgiving thing.

December: Our baby struck a pose. Camela died. I saw two girls smoking pot on the way to high school. There was a lot of pirate treasure. I found a name for my band. I decided to go for my third degree black belt. I pissed off some pregnant women. We did that Christmas thing.