Why Image Masking Is Necessary

In Post-processing, it is nearly impossible for a designer to avoid using the image masking features and methods. Image masking opens up a new window of endless editing effects and a dedicated designer is bent on taking every single opportunity.

Sound knowledge about these options and functions will ensure a satisfying end result. Now to address the question at hand:

Non-Destructive: As opposed to erasing a background using the Eraser Tool, masking technique does not obliterate the image details. They are cleverly hidden below various layers so that they can help us out in case we need to make changes. On the contrary, the Eraser tool permanently deletes these pixels and it is close to impossible to bring those back in case a tweaking is required.

Transitions: The basic or simplest function of image masking technique is to have a “hide and seek” effect in some areas of the photo. This transitioning effect can be created using brushes and gradients for soft masking. This requires delicate strokes and soft brushes. This transparency of pictures can be controlled. The opacity level can be adjusted to suit the photo and its background. This is not the only technique for achieving this effect, but it is the simplest.

Editing Specific Areas: Many times we are faced with projects where we need to edit a small portion of the photo; such as, changing the color of someone’s clothes in a photo and fixing shadow/light issues. You can use masking techniques to highlight the portion and edit it as you wish e.g. color correction, brightness, contrast, exposure, shadows etc.

Removing / Replacing Background of Translucent Objects: Masking is an easy option when it comes to removing backgrounds of translucent objects. Any object with any level of transparency can be isolated from its background by careful masking. Even in cases of semi-transparent clothes’ photos, this technique can be applied.

Single Advantage of Clipping Mask: Clipping mask, when compared to Layer Mask, has the advantage of making different areas visible by simply moving the clipped image. It can be determined by the user which part of the background they want to be visible and which part they don’t by using clipping mask. Other than this one advantage, regular layer masking is more than good enough for most masking work.

Creating Collage Photos: Collage images are fun and it is even more interesting when you play with the masking tools while making a collage. Interesting and cool effects can be made by using a number of pictures and masking them. Soft brushes in varying gradients and hues of gray will definitely make these blending smooth.

How To Lead A More Effective Team By Disagreeing

It’s great when people agree with you, isn’t it? It’s a wonderful validation – of your thoughts, your ideas… of you. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Yes, it’s great when people agree with you.

Except it doesn’t move the needle. Especially when the agreement comes too early.

There’s a great scene in the old TV series The West Wing. Leo McGarry is the Chief of Staff to liberal Democratic president Jed Bartlet. In this scene, Leo is offering a job to wickedly smart conservative Republican Ainsley Hayes. Ainsley is confused as to why a liberal president would want a conservative Republican working in the White House. Leo then says a line that I think should be committed to memory by every leader at every level:

“The president likes smart people who disagree with him.”

If you’re a leader, substitute your name for “the president” (unless you happen to be the president, in which case you should probably still substitute your name, because referring to yourself by your title is stupid and pretentious). Let’s just make it simple. Here’s the new sentence:

“I like smart people who disagree with me.”

I want you to make that one of your primary leadership mantras. “I like smart people who disagree with me.”

If you want to build your muscles, you do resistance training. The resistance can be in the form of weights, elastic bands, or your own body (for example, when doing pushups and pull-ups). Resistance makes muscles stronger.

Even the best ideas benefit from resistance. This resistance comes in the form of pushback by a smart person. Even if the smart person is just playing devil’s advocate, the challenge serves a purpose. When an idea is challenged, one of three things will happen:

The idea will be reinforced.
The idea will be reevaluated.
The idea will be abandoned.

Any of these three is preferable to the idea being blindly accepted by a team that’s either too intimidated to question, or too disengaged to care.

When an idea is challenged, it is examined. This examination will find one of three things about the idea, which correspond to the list above:

The idea is sound.
The idea is flawed but can be improved/fixed.
The idea is flawed, and cannot be improved. (Even in this case, though, the “bad” idea could be the spark that leads to the “good” idea.)
Agreement is a good thing, but not when it’s automatic; not when it’s a rubber stamp.
Agreement is a good thing when it comes at the end of smart debate. Agreement is a good thing when it rises out of disagreement.

Broadway In Chicago’s The Pirate Queen

There is a new production by Broadway in Chicago called “The Pirate Queen”. This musical is a must see for everyone. The book is by Alain Doublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg. The music is by Claude-Michel Schonberg and the lyrics are by Alain Boublil & John Dempsey.

Nothing was spared in producing the lavish new production. Everything about the play was excellent: Music, lighting, choreography, staging, sound, costumes, sets, and story line.

The entire production was a success and the audience expressed their satisfaction with standing ovations. Not only was the production excellent but the acting was superior at all levels. The actors really make you feel as though you were part of the action.

Briefly the story is set in Elizabethan England where friction is set between the Irish and the English. Captain Dubhdara is the head of a clan that is set upon keeping the English off of their land. A pirate that has a daughter, Grania, who he dearly loves and who eventually becomes in charge of the fleet of pirates to defend Ireland from England. The story goes on with Grania’s personal affairs leading to a final meeting with Queen Elizabeth I.

The action is ever present and the dancing outstanding. In particular the bar scene in the First Act was very lively and the dancing was outstanding. At times the audience felt like they wanted to go on stage and join in the dance. It was all very moving and exciting. It was a pleasure to be there.

What to Read and When

Either you need information or you desire entertainment. In either case, a young person’s time fills with activity. Yet, young people stumble and fumble through their early lives because they have not experienced the pitfalls and rabbit path trails of work, love, finances, and real estate. Young people should read voraciously to get an edge on what comes next in their lives. An older person might have more time in the day, but less time in life. Older people possess the wisdom to be selective in their reading. Rather than seeking an edge of knowledge, an older person might juice more sweetness from life by identifying with a fictional character who came out on top by living a moral life in spite of torment and misfortune.

Consider this: regardless of your age, the media bombards you with plenty of information on daily news that will enable you to converse socially. Are you an online social media aficionado? You know that it only takes a few glances and a tiny bit of reading to keep up with current events with your friends. In your profession, yes, you should read to advance your knowledge, but realize that by only reading yesterday’s technical guidance, you neither prepare well for today’s technical problem, nor do you advance technically for tomorrow. Besides that, the technical go-to-person in a company receives visits from people who have technical problems. Unless that person interacts socially with the managers and employees, he or she will not be remembered for promotion. However, the technically astute person who brings fun, happiness, charisma, and stands like a moral rock, might slice through company politics like a hot knife through butter, to advance beyond his or her peers. Read fiction to learn how to be that person.

Why read a made up story? Most fiction writers create interesting stories based on what they know – things that have happened to them. The singer, Prince, famously said, “Before I dreamed it, I lived it.” He meant that he had a better story to tell through song because he sang about things that happened to him. You learn his story, appreciate his experience, and possibly get an edge for yourself while he entertains you with his song. You can get that by reading fictional stories too. Don’t limit yourself to stories that closely align with your life. It will do you little good to read what you have experienced. Instead, if a writer piques your interest in the first five pages of any genre: thriller, mystery, romance, science fiction, drama, history, or comedy, acquire and read that novel. Especially, if you feel a hook in your mouth that pulls you into wanting to read the rest of the story, do it. Don’t walk away with regret.

The time and setting do not matter. A 200-years-ago story on the planet Mars can be relevant to you today, as well as entertaining while you read it. You will perk up when you read about a character who faces a nasty experience similar to one that happened to you at work or at home, yet, he or she determined the effect wanted amid chaos, planned, then acted on a plan that switched them from victim to world-shaper. That information may be far more useful to you than today’s news story or your friend’s latest Facebook photo. Like Prince, you might live it, then dream it. Find a lifetime of free fiction novels online, but understand that inexperienced authors break into the writing business by giving their work away. Don’t deny yourself the better read by being stingy with vending machine snack money. #TAG1writer

Disaster Recovery Plan

A disaster recovery plan is a documented process to recover and protect a business IT infrastructure in the event of a disaster. Basically, it provides a clear idea on various actions to be taken before, during and after a disaster.

Disasters are natural or man-made. Examples include industrial accidents, oil spills, stampedes, fires, nuclear explosions/nuclear radiation and acts of war etc. Other types of man-made disasters include the more cosmic scenarios of catastrophic global warming, nuclear war, and bioterrorism whereas natural disasters are earthquakes, floods, heat waves, hurricanes/cyclones, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, tornadoes and landslides, cosmic and asteroid threats.

Disaster cannot be eliminated, but proactive preparation can mitigate data loss and disruption to operations. Organizations require a disaster recovery plan that includes formal Plan to consider the impacts of disruptions to all essential businesses processes and their dependencies. Phase wise plan consists of the precautions to minimize the effects of a disaster so the organization can continue to operate or quickly resume mission-critical functions.

The Disaster Recovery Plan is to be prepared by the Disaster Recovery Committee, which includes representatives from all critical departments or areas of the department’s functions. The committee should have at least one representative from management, computing, risk management, records management, security, and building maintenance. The committee’s responsibility is to prepare a timeline to establish a reasonable deadline for completing the written plan. The also responsible to identify critical and noncritical departments. A procedure used to determine the critical needs of a department is to document all the functions performed by each department. Once the primary functions have been recognized, the operations and processes are then ranked in order of priority: essential, important and non-essential.

Typically, disaster recovery planning involves an analysis of business processes and continuity needs. Before generating a detailed plan, an organization often performs a business impact analysis (BIA) and risk analysis (RA), and it establishes the recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). The RTO describes the target amount of time a business application can be down, typically measured in hours, minutes or seconds. The RPO describes the previous point in time when an application must be recovered.

The plan should define the roles and responsibilities of disaster recovery team members and outline the criteria to launch the plan into action, however, there is no one right type of disaster recovery plan, nor is there a one-size-fits-all disaster recovery plan. Basically, there are three basic strategies that feature in all disaster recovery plans: (a) preventive measures, (b) detective measures, and (c) corrective measures.

(a) Preventive measures: will try to prevent a disaster from occurring. These measures seek to identify and reduce risks. They are designed to mitigate or prevent an event from happening. These measures may include keeping data backed up and off-site, using surge protectors, installing generators and conducting routine inspections.

(b) Detective measures: These measures include installing fire alarms, using up-to-date antivirus software, holding employee training sessions, and installing server and network monitoring software.

(c) Corrective measures: These measures focus on fixing or restoring the systems after a disaster. Corrective measures may consist keeping critical documents in the Disaster Recovery Plan.

The Plan should include a list of first-level contacts and persons/departments within the company, who can declare a disaster and activate DR operations. It should also include an outline and content stating the exact procedures to be followed by a disaster. At least 2-4 potential DR sites with hardware/software that meets or exceeds the current production environment should be made available. DR best practices indicate that DR sites should be at least 50 miles away from the existing production site so that the Recovery Point Objective (RPO)/Restoration Time Objective (RTO) requirements are satisfied

The recovery plan must provide for initial and ongoing employee training. Skills are needed in the reconstruction and salvage phases of the recovery process. Your initial training can be accomplished through professional seminars, special in-house educational programs, the wise use of consultants and vendors, and individual study tailored to the needs of your department. A minimal amount of training is necessary to assist professional restorers/recovery contractors and others having little knowledge of your information, level of importance, or general operations

An entire documented plan has to be tested entirely and all testing report should be logged for future prospect. This testing should be treated as live run and with ample of time. After testing procedures have been completed, an initial “dry run” of the plan is performed by conducting a structured walk-through test. The test will provide additional information regarding any further steps that may need to be included, changes in procedures that are not effective, and other appropriate adjustments. These may not become evident unless an actual dry-run test is performed. The plan is subsequently updated to correct any problems identified during the test. Initially, testing of the plan is done in sections and after normal business hours to minimize disruptions to the overall operations of the organization. As the plan is further polished, future tests occur during normal business hours.

Once the disaster recovery plan has been written and tested, the plan is then submitted to management for approval. It is top management’s ultimate responsibility that the organization has a documented and tested plan. Management is responsible for establishing the policies, procedures, and responsibilities for comprehensive contingency planning, and reviewing and approving the contingency plan annually, documenting such reviews in writing.

Another important aspect that is often overlooked involves the frequency with which DR Plans are updated. Yearly updates are recommended but some industries or organizations require more frequent updates because business processes evolve or because of quicker data growth. To stay relevant, disaster recovery plans should be an integral part of all business analysis processes and should be revisited at every major corporate acquisition, at every new product launch, and at every new system development milestone.

Your business doesn’t remain the same; businesses grow, change and realign. An effective disaster recovery plan must be regularly reviewed and updated to make sure it reflects the current state of the business and meets the goals of the company. Not only should it be reviewed, but it must be tested to ensure it would be a success if implemented.