Archive: May, 2006

Music update

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 31, 2006, 3:33 PM | comments: 0

I bought three albums the other day from iTunes. These are their stories.

I've tried not to be seduced by pop music, since so much of it sucks. But a couple of months ago, Xbox Live started this "artist of the month" thing with video downloads in HD. You know I'm an HD whore, so I downloaded it. The first was the song "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield. This Brit had the record out in the UK last year, and it was just hitting the states. The song is really positive and cheery, just short of being corny, but the hook was infectious and I was hearing it everywhere (including the airport in Vegas).

I finally did a little research and previewed the other tracks, and liked what I heard. She's a song writer too, which always makes me feel better about a pop singer (that's how I got interested in Michelle Branch and Alanis, among others). So I went for it. It's good stuff. "Unwritten" was totally written for a friend of mine. There's another song called "Silent Movie" that I would love to put in my own movie. It's really above average.

Midival Punditz labels themselves as "Indian Electronica," which is a pretty accurate description. I really dig it because I like the sounds of traditional Indian music and electronic music. It kinda just all adds up. Very spiritual too.

And of course, I got the first Imogen Heap album called I Megaphone. She apparently wrote it when she was 19, and it's very raw with a lot of very edgy textures. Not as polished as Speak For Yourself, but I really dig it. The first track, "Getting Scared," is really good stuff.

Overall, lots of new summer tunes for me.

Venture Bros. Season 1 is available!

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 31, 2006, 2:14 PM | comments: 0

Yikes that's a lot of code

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 31, 2006, 11:33 AM | comments: 0

As it turns out, the I've already missed one of the milestones I set in my last post about my forum app rewrite. Instead of beating myself up over it, I'm just going to pat myself on the back for working on it at all, since this is something I've been wanting to do for, uh, more than two years.

So far, there are about 4,700 lines of code, and 42% of that is test code. I know that I don't write particularly good unit tests, because I just can't always burden myself to think about them the way I should. I test too much or too little. Since so much of testing exercises data CRUD, I can say that it does serve me well in that it's easy to add or remove something and no immediately if I break it. Especially in an application like this, so much of it is data access.

So what do I have so far? Membership, Roles and Profile are good to go with custom providers. They're not fully implemented, because there are certain things that, frankly, I don't need and I'm not going to waste time on them just to say that I fully implemented a provider. I'm not even supporting anonymous profiles. I also have fairly extensive security logging in place, which is something I've wanted for a long time. I think it's up to like 14 events that are captured now.

Next up, probably before I bang out the meaty parts of forums, topics and posts, I want to figure out a clever way to encapsulate permissions. I've never done that very well. You know, based on your roles, what you can read, post to, edit, etc.

The 37signals guys would probably freak out that I haven't done any UI yet. :) Granted, I already have a pretty good idea of what my UI should look like. But for all of their crazy "getting real" talk, I can identify with a lot of what they say. Some of it just isn't practical in real, large-scale software development teams, but there's truth to a lot of those beliefs as well. For example, I agree that meetings are toxic, as they say. On the other hand, I think worrying about scalability later is a bad idea, because if you get it really wrong up front, you're looking at a total rewrite later, and who has time for that?

I hope I can continue to have this level of energy and wrap this project by the end of the summer.

Garbage pickers take the weirdest shit

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 30, 2006, 9:34 PM | comments: 2

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how my grill was basically a big pile of rust and probably not even safe to push gas through. I realized this fully last night when I cooked some chicken on it. What a mess. Alas, it had to go.

So when I got home from work today, I took out the garbage for tomorrow (everyone else put it out this morning, forgetting that the holiday pushed it back a day), and wheeled the grill out there. I figured someone might take it.

I just peaked out the window to see that someone took... the lid. Just the lid. They pulled off the hinge and just took the lid. I suppose if they're looking for scrap, that makes sense, and I wouldn't touch the bottom half either with the three inches of burned barbecue sauce, fat and whatever the hell else fell down there. Still, it's weird.

Stackinator at lunch

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 30, 2006, 1:08 PM | comments: 4

In search of music

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 29, 2006, 3:18 PM | comments: 2

A lot of artists that I've always liked are putting out new stuff again, but I have to say none of it is jumping out at me.

Let's start with Live. Every song I previewed is totally forgettable, and I don't hear anything that hits me like "White, Discussion" or "Lightning Crashes." I'm not saying they need to remake those records, just give me something with a hook.

I was surprised to see that Def Leppard just put out an album of covers. The problem with making one of the best rock albums of all time, Hysteria in 1988, is that they can't possibly ever top it, and everything they ever do will be compared to it. The stuff they put out there after that wasn't horrible, though I have to say that Retro Active in 1993 had some brilliant stuff on it that was largely ignored. I think if they would've "explored" as much as they did on that album, they would've stayed relevant even in the "alternative" rock era.

Jewel put out a new album. I'm on the fence about what I've heard so far. A lot of fans were really pissed off at 0304 because it was very dance-pop, but I kind of liked it. The new album has at least two songs that I've heard live, including "1000 Miles Away" and the awesome "Satellite," both of which are probably eight years old. The problem with the latter though is that it was an amazing song as her and the guitar, and this cut is really layered and shiny. I have a great bootleg of her performing it live. There's also a remake of "Fragile Heart" on the new album. It kind of has a feeling of, "I've got all this shit out there, let's put it together on an album, and really over-produce it." I won't be one of those lame fans who give her shit for trying new things or hold it against her that she's tired of performing "Who Will Save Your Soul," but she just doesn't sound like she has her heart in it anymore. Success, fame and fortune I think changed her.

Good to see that Imogen Heap is still at the top of the iTunes Electronic chart, and they finally posted I Megaphone. (Rearrange the letters... the title is her name.) I also found a link on her site to the amazing cellist, Zoe Keating, who opened for her. How awesome is her hair, by the way?

I did find this amazing album from someone called Midival Punditz. It's electronic, with what I assume is a very heavy Indian influence. Very cool, very spiritual. I also submitted to the marketing machine and bought the Natasha Bedingfield album because, well, it's pretty fucking good. Very European pop, and a lot more edgy than the crap we generally see here stateside.

Blue Man Group touring and stopping in Cleveland!

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 29, 2006, 12:53 AM | comments: 0

Holy shit, I can't even tell you how geeked I am about this...

I will be first in line to buy tickets. If they announce dates for Columbus, Detroit or Pittsburgh, I'll get those too! Dream come true!

They're also putting out some live stuff and video on iTunes from their Venetian show. Awesome!

I can't even tell you how excited I am.

X-Men == Awesome

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 28, 2006, 6:04 PM | comments: 0

So Stephanie and I saw the last X-Men movie today, and wow did it rock. They killed off major characters and everything. It was a lot more dark, like the comic books can be at times. I was very impressed.

And yes, Famke Janssen just keeps getting more and more attractive with age. Fabulous hair in the movie too!

Refinancing ups and downs

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 27, 2006, 6:01 PM | comments: 4

After shopping around, I've found that the best loan deal I can get to refinance the house puts me at the same interest rate, with closing costs of $2,400. I hate how they fuck you with those closing costs. I think we paid $3,000 for the original loan, but that's still too much. My payment will be just a few dollars higher, which isn't horrible I guess.

On the positive side, my credit score is astronomically high. From what I've read, anything over 720 is gravy, and mine is 760. It's calculated in part by how much available credit you have, which seems counterintuitive to me since you could finance yourself to death in one day with all of that open credit, but I guess the banks think otherwise. I'm surprised my score was so high because I carry a lot of debt, but as a percentage of what's available (last check I've got like $50k at my disposal), it's small.

This makes me wonder what would have happened if I didn't get several accounts early on in college and allow them to keep raising my limits. If you don't open those accounts, you're going to be screwed in adulthood when you want to buy a car or a house. For the bad rap that credit cards get, they're obviously a critical tool in building credit. You learn something every day.

You're going to sell sneakers for a living

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 27, 2006, 2:20 AM | comments: 2

I've come to find out that most people, unfortunately, are losers. They're not bad people or people that I don't like, but they are people that aren't able to see life through to make the most of it and be successful, however it is that they might define success (and the bullshit "make money" thing doesn't count as success).

When I started college in the Ashland University radio/TV department, Larry Hiner, the guy who was in charge of the TV stuff, told us at the department meeting that, "Most of you will graduate and sell sneakers for a living." Pretty grim forecast I thought, but I knew that wouldn't include me, so whatever. I didn't know at the time, but he was right about the future of most of the people in the room. I also didn't know that his motivation for saying that, whether a conscious decision or not, was to get us to be involved so we would create programming for "his" TV station. (For the record, the radio guy, Jay Pappas, had a much bigger ego, and was a complete wash-up and douche bag. Thank God that asshole was run out of the department.)

But Larry never went as far as to explain why people would end up selling sneakers. It wasn't because the broadcast industry was tough to get into, though it certainly was. The reason is that most people were pre-destined losers by their own choice. Talent didn't matter. If you didn't have the balls to stand up and chase the dream, then you weren't going to get there.

My motivation was that I loved the technology, though I'd realize later too that it was a childhood dream to be a radio DJ. A lot of people told me that I couldn't achieve my goals. Some very sad people even said my dreams were impractical. (Note to a certain person out there... sound familiar?) The fact that I went from "freshman of the year" (don't remember if it was radio or TV) to not getting so much as a handshake my senior year was a real kick in the nuts. By that time, I had already been working in commercial radio for a year, so I think I was "sneaker proof" at that point. I read about a young executive somewhere that said to let go of relationships that hold you back in your career and personal life, and my relationship with that department was certainly not benefiting me anymore.

A few months after graduation, I moved up to a larger market, bypassing the due paying I was told I had to do, and shortly thereafter I got the full-time gig. Was I any more talented than any of the people from school? I doubt it. I think my talent was working the system and not letting up until I got what I wanted. I once went into downtown Cleveland with a stack of resumes and tapes and went to every single station, uninvited and with no appointments. The station where I got past the receptionist was the one I'd eventually work at. Got lots of doors in my face and people telling me I couldn't do it, but I got there.

As it turns out, radio was not for me, but I got there, and I tried it. Government TV was a sweet gig after that, but the lure of the Internet called me away a few years later. Again, I had no experience, but fast-forward a few years and I wrote a book and can get work any day that I want. Again, my talent had less to do with it than my general persistence to get where I want to go. I know from the people I work with now that I'm certainly not smarter than any of them.

I'm writing this story because I've been talking to a couple of friends lately about their careers. One has been out in the world for awhile, and isn't getting anywhere because of unwillingness to reject roadblocks and press on. The other friend has barely begun a career, and fears that when things aren't going the way she expects, her life will suck. She's very much at a crossroads where she can accept the notion that she's chasing an impossible dream, a thought put in her head by someone who probably doesn't have the balls to really pursue their own dreams, or she can keep going after it until she gets somewhere she'd like.

The important thing to remember as you define success is that you aren't ever heading toward a destination. You sure as hell won't get to that ideal place overnight. That nonsense they tell you in high school about majoring in something and working in it after college is a silly fantasy. The cliche is true, that life is a journey without a destination (save for death). While you may have a well-defined ideal of where you'd like to go, that place might be little more than a rest stop as your needs and expectations evolve. As long as you don't let the world keep you down, you'll get to that spot, or some spot like it. Sometimes, you might end up in a place you never even thought of, and it's better than any of your original plans. Look at me, the happy programmer and entrepreneur who thought he'd own a radio station or something by now.

Just don't be a loser.

Rock The House

posted by Jeff | Friday, May 26, 2006, 5:19 PM | comments: 1

Power failure

posted by Jeff | Friday, May 26, 2006, 12:49 PM | comments: 0

I had plans last night to write some code and make progress on my projects, and do more vacuuming. Those dreams were shattered when the power went out around 9 p.m. Funny how loud the tornado horns are when you have no computers or a refrigerator on.

In the storm, I realized that I was really not ready for disaster mode. Yeah, that's kind of dorky, I know, but I like to know what's going on when things get ugly. The first problem is that the rechargeable batteries for my scanner don't hold a charge anymore. I put regular AA's in it, and that was OK. But then the frequencies I used to scan aren't current. The local police are on a different frequency now, though I was able to find them. There were sirens all over the dark city, so I was curious to find out what was going on (there was a major accident, and someone crashed into a house). The Skywarn ham radio people had nothing to say.

The other problem I had was that I couldn't write code, because my source code database is online, so I couldn't get the latest code. My UPS is old, and I have my desktop on it along with my cable modem and router. I didn't think to turn off my desktop, so it died quickly, and my laptop was no longer connected.

I'll know better next time.

My new vacuum really sucks!

posted by Jeff | Thursday, May 25, 2006, 8:56 PM | comments: 3

And I mean that in a good way. Stephanie works for Bed Bath & Beyond and was able to score me a Dyson. Normally it's $400, but through some employee program I got it for $250.

Let's face it, buying appliances like vacuums is boring and it's hard to justify spending a lot of money on them. Let me tell you, this thing is worth every fucking penny. No joke. You have to wonder how a device that has been in use for decades just became scientifically advanced in just the last ten years or so.

Right up to the point that the canister is full, it sucks as if it were empty. Even the shitty matted down carpet that Pulte installed in my house is pulled up and fluffed, and there are streaks in it. And the crazy ass attachment sucks the cat hair off my red furniture like crazy. I'm in awe. And even more important for me, it doesn't spew any dust back into the air or cause a sneezing fit.

Spend whatever you have to if you have a dwelling. It's worth it.

Stormy sky

posted by Jeff | Thursday, May 25, 2006, 7:22 PM | comments: 3

I feel so dirty

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 24, 2006, 11:47 PM | comments: 1

I've been working in Windows on my Mac for about four hours. I feel so dirty.

I know someone who really would like one of the new MacBooks. ;)

Unexpected event regarding my book

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 24, 2006, 7:26 PM | comments: 0

As I've said before, sales of my book have generally sucked. Again, great reviews and lots of e-mail from people who really liked it, but A-W did an incredibly shitty job marketing it (putting ASP.NET 2.0 on the cover would've been a good start).

Today there was a DHL package at my door. The address was from one of my former instructors from college, back in the old radio/TV days. I wondered what the hell he could possibly be sending me. Aside from a few e-mail exchanges, I haven't really kept in touch with him.

I opened it and found my book, with a request to autograph it. How crazy is that? It's really weird when one of your former mentors now looks to you as an equal, or more.

I don't know if I'll ever write another book, but I'm still very proud of the fact that a great many people are getting a lot out of it.


posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 24, 2006, 2:13 PM | comments: 2

Man am I struggling today. I decided today that I was going to reduce my caffeine intake at work. At home I rarely drink more than 8 oz. of soda in a day, but here I got into the habit of slamming 20 oz. bottles of Code Red. Yeah, that's 275 calories of nutrition-free liquid a day.

But of course I'm having the symptoms now, with the hunger and the headache. That's not fun. But I gotta do it. Work has caused me to rekindle all kinds of bad habits, and drinking mass quantities of soda is one of them. Before you know it I could be eating beef again!

I need a real vacation

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 23, 2006, 1:46 PM | comments: 1

Even though I'm not financially in a good position to do so, I feel like I need to take a nice vacation. Vegas was all about business, and Orlando wasn't long enough to really let loose.

I'm toying with the idea of going back Las Vegas, actually. On my two visits thus far, I've had obligations to go to a wedding or a conference. That's not to say I didn't do entertaining things on those trips, but I couldn't 100% wing it. In a place where there are no clocks, I think that's what you need to do.

Of course, I'm a hotel snob, so I can't just stay anywhere. If I do go to Vegas, I'm fairly certain I'll stay at Ceasar's Palace, in part because I hear they have the most kick ass pools. Being centrally located on the strip helps too (a block from the Venetian, where Blue Man and Phantom play too!).

Naturally, I could go anywhere, and there are many places that I haven't been to, but I guess in this case the reason I want to go back is that I still haven't got what I wanted out of a visit. Does that make sense? I'm not even sure what it is I want, especially since I can't party like I used to, but still.

Turn your MacBook into a Jedi weapon

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 23, 2006, 11:33 AM | comments: 0

Mac people come up with seriously crazy shit.

Weirdest day

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 23, 2006, 1:15 AM | comments: 2

Today was the weirdest day I've had in a very long time.

Another season of 24

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 22, 2006, 11:36 PM | comments: 0

Well, it's over. The final twists were about what I expected, and the ending and cliff hanger were exactly what I predicted after seeing the first episode.

Overall, this season was only half-good. Half of the episodes were boring and didn't advance the story very well. Of course, when they were moving forward, they were intense. The last two hours tonight were better than I expected, even if they were a little predictable.

Maybe I can actually get some work done now that the show isn't occupying my time on Monday nights!

My two jobs

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 22, 2006, 2:48 PM | comments: 1

Today has been one of those days where I'm kind of reminded that my "hobby" Web sites are indeed a business. And with that business, there's a lot of work to do. On a big news days like today, I have to sneak in to check up and see what's going on constantly.

That "job" was enough to help me get by during times that I've taken off from contract work, like the summer I wrote my book, but it doesn't generate enough income to live off of, unfortunately. If I had some real plan in place, perhaps it would, but it's not going to happen from serving coaster geeks, that's for sure.

Since taking on a normal salary job, the first I've liked in about five years, I'm finding it really hard to keep up on work for my own business. It really is like another job.

One of the core goals I have now is to rebuild CoasterBuzz, and re-architect PointBuzz in the process. Both require me to rewrite the forum software, which is starting to show its limits in terms of scalability (not surprising since it's based on code I wrote three years ago). To try and facilitate this, I set some milestones I want to hit, and I've already missed the first one, which passed yesterday. If I bust my ass, I might be able to catch up by tomorrow, but we'll see.

I wish I could find the one thing that would firmly push me into the one job category, but as with many of the opportunities I've had, I think it would sooner just fall in my lap.

Sleepy furballs

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 21, 2006, 8:55 PM | comments: 2

My cool MacBook Pro

posted by Jeff | Friday, May 19, 2006, 11:37 PM | comments: 6

So after my last post about the nut roasting heat of my MacBook Pro, I decided to go for it and replace the thermal compound on the inside of the machine. To my horror, I too found the nasty giant globs of the stuff...

Notice the big globs on the heat pipe at both ends (the Core Duo is on the left, Northbridge in the middle, and ATI graphics on the right). It's so mind boggling to me that Apple works so hard to design a solid product, then overlooks something like this.

Does it make a difference? Huge! I cleaned the surfaces with camera lens tissues, then I replaced the crap with a very thin coat of Arctic Silver Ceramique on each chip and reassembled the laptop. Pegging the CPU cores with some 720/60p QuickTime encoded with H.264, the bottom of the laptop got warm, but not burning hot like it used to. The little strip between the keyboard and screen doesn't get hot either. The warmest spot remains near the power connector while plugged in. What an enormous difference. The fans aren't cranked up either, as far as I can tell.

And I had no screws left over, and I didn't lose any either in reassembling the computer. :)

I got carded

posted by Jeff | Friday, May 19, 2006, 6:05 PM | comments: 3

I was buying some Diet Corona today and got carded. Awesome.

My hot MacBook Pro

posted by Jeff | Thursday, May 18, 2006, 11:15 PM | comments: 4

My MacBook Pro is the best computer I've ever owned, barring none. It's the first time that I've ever bought a high-end computer. Even when I build PC's, I usually do it on the cheap. But this one, I wanted the best to really handle everything I wanted to do. I haven't been disappointed yet, in OS X or Windows.

But the thing has one problem... it gets hot. I mean toast your nuts hot. Like borderline third degree burn hot. Recently, someone ripped theirs apart and replaced the stock thermal paste with some good stuff and made it run far cooler. And it doesn't appear to be all that hard to disassemble a MacBook Pro. Of course, you void your warranty when you do it.

So the tweak monkey gadget geek in me says do it. It's very obviously a lot easier to take apart than my HP was. But if something does die on it in the first year, however unlikely, I can't just swap out most parts like I would a desktop.

Which reminds me, I still need to sell my Dell laptop.

Your life goals in 60 seconds or less

posted by Jeff | Thursday, May 18, 2006, 1:46 PM | comments: 1

With the weather depressing me, I decided I needed to think about life, summarize, and get on with it. In no particular order...

Fall in love, get married again. This is not a priority and there's no time frame, because there's no doubt it'll happen when the time is right. Ideal would be a coaster/volleyball/film dork, but I'm flexible.

Work for me. That's still the most tricky part of life because I won't settle for doing anything other than something I really like. Otherwise I still work for The Man, only The Man is me.

Build wealth. That's not the same as being rich, and it can't come at the expense of living. I know tight-wads that never do anything or spend any money, and they never do anything because they're "saving." Not the way to live when you could die tomorrow. I want to find the balance and live today while getting set for tomorrow.

Make a film. This one I'm allowing myself to slide on a little in terms of a time frame. I want to do it, but I'm not going to try and force myself to make it happen this year. I do want to do a short though (if I ever get a screenplay from someone).

See the Grand Canyon. This one I only want to do with someone that matters to me.

That's the bigger picture list.

The Cavs did the impossible

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 17, 2006, 11:27 PM | comments: 4

The Cleveland Cavaliers squeaked past Washington. The game I went to, I was shaking my head as we left thinking they just weren't consistent enough to really go the distance.

So we drop two games in unholy fashion against Detroit, and I figured it was over. The press and TV networks thought so as well. But they won two at home, and there was hope. Then tonight, they get up by 10 in Detroit, then tie, but pull it out. They're up 3-2.

So now it feels like college basketball, where crazy shit happens that you didn't expect. I thought this would be a short series and I'd lose interest. If we can win and move on to Miami, that doesn't seem impossible. We were 1-2 with them during the regular season.

Adventures in HVX200 workflow with my MacBook Pro and Final Cut Studio

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 16, 2006, 2:50 PM | comments: 4

The week before last I spent some quality time in the field with my HVX200 doing simple ENG work, and a little bit of editing. I didn't have any time to really play with settings or experiment. It was a media event to preview a new amusement ride. These are my impressions.

First of all, P2 rules. When you're trying to get stuff online quickly, I can't imagine a better way to record than using P2. Tape is dead. I bought the camera in part because I needed something quality to shoot HD for the Web (yeah, you could call me an early adopter), and it didn't make sense to me to buy a DVX100 at this point.

The camera itself performed as expected, and like a pro camera. Save for the non-shoulder-mounted nature of the camera, it did everything I expected. I have an Azden AZ-200UPR receiver and a Vidled that I had mounted, and both worked great with the camera, provided it was on the tripod. It gets a little heavy with that stuff if you have to go without.

We shot interviews in 480/30p anamorphic, so we had plenty of space with a pair of 4 gig cards. There is little reason to go to a higher resolution for talking heads. I was doing the interviewing, so the guy I had shooting for me made some mistakes hear and there, especially with focus, but nothing was totally unusable. The overcast skies made for some goofy white balance at times too, but again, it wasn't horrible. Using Compressor to squash the video to H.264 worked as expected, and without issue. The images were a little on the soft side.

I shot some stuff in 720p as well of the amusement ride. First I tried 24pn, figuring I'd go for that "film" look, and I knew immediately that was a bad idea. All of the tips and suggestions you read on this forum about capturing fast horizontal motion became evident, and having no experience in that area, it looked pretty bad. I tried again doing 60p, and it looked fabulous, even using the camera handheld. This compressed really well to H.264, but needless to say, it won't playback at speed on most computers.

In every case, I was unhappy with the black levels in the compressed video, especially when viewed on a Windows machine. That's something I need to figure out. Playing back on an actual HD monitor via Final Cut Pro's full-screen function, it's still not great.

I'm not at all happy with a lot of the images I shot, but I don't blame the camera, I blame myself for not spending the time with it I should have. It reminds me of the crap I used to shoot when I first got an SLR camera. With time, I'm sure I'll figure this out too. As is the case with most things I do, I can't really learn unless I can apply what I'm learning. I have to fail at something worthwhile, I can't just come up with some artificial situation and work from there. :)

Getting this stuff to DVD was a lot more work than I expected too. Exporting cuts out of FCP sequences did not preserve the aspect ratio. Using default settings in Compressor, we didn't get good quality MPEG-2 for the DVD we wanted to send to the park either. Ultimately, I ended up telling Compressor that it was 4:3 instead of 16:9, so it wouldn't cut the resolution down to 720x404. Even then, it was coming out as 640x480, which someone in the Apple forum assured me was still 720x480 internally to QuickTime. Even more weird was the way it treated the 720p stuff when I wanted to compress it for DVD. I ended up having resize it first to an uncompressed Animation movie at 720x480, then compress that to MPEG-2. Going without the intermediate step introduced all kinds of interlacing artifacts that I couldn't account for.

So overall it was a chance to do some experimentation, and as is the case with most first attempts, the results weren't great. You can see the product of some of this experimentation here:

And yes, I know the images aren't great. :)

Still think wiretapping protects you?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 16, 2006, 2:04 PM | comments: 4

In a recent poll, I noticed that Americans seem to be OK with wiretapping without a warrant. Of course, said Americans can't explain how that makes anyone safer.

Still think it's a good idea? What if it's used to silence whistle-blowers working with corrupt or unscrupulous government officials? Are you OK without that check in place?

I'm depressed

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 16, 2006, 1:46 PM | comments: 3

While I might be dealing with some difficult things, it's the weather that's depressing me. It has been cold, gray and raining most of the time for like a week. Seriously, it makes me want to toss myself off of a bridge.

I need sun.

Pay up bitch!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 16, 2006, 12:14 PM | comments: 4


posted by Jeff | Monday, May 15, 2006, 2:06 PM | comments: 2

I am SO fucking hungry. 14 points for the day so far, 12 to go. This first week is going to suck.

See, when I lost that 25 pounds last summer, that was just to get to what I felt was a reasonable goal. I'd like to drop about 20 more to get to my college freshman weight, if it makes sense. I may figure out on the way that would be too skinny for me, and if that's the case, I'll stop and level out. When I look at the pics from that period of time, I was a bit on the skinny side, so we'll see.

I fully expect that I'll drop three, maybe four pounds this week, and then continue on at a pace of one to one and a half thereafter. I guess it depends on how my body is going to react now that I'm in a lower weight range to begin with. It's hard to say, because my waist is down to 34" now, and it doesn't have much room to go lower around the bones. The remaining weight looks mostly like it's my gut, and to a lesser degree in my thighs. That's why I'm being cautious in terms of my goal and what makes sense for my body.

Digestive reckoning

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 15, 2006, 11:00 AM | comments: 0

For about the last week, I've been kicking my body in the nuts by eating shit. Well it kicked back.

So today I'm getting back on the diet. I'm trying to decaffeinate too. I'm am going to be a seriously grumpy asshole today, no doubt.

Return to Narnia

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 14, 2006, 1:45 PM | comments: 1

I watched The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe this morning, first time since I saw it in the theater (I've had the DVD for awhile now). What a fantastic movie. It really taps into so many thing about being a kid for me. I think everyone dreams of having those amazing adventures when they're young. And it's cool that it ends with a Imogen Heap and Alannisannis songs too.

I've gotta get a screenplay rolling here... come on Freeze!

Appliance meltdown

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 13, 2006, 9:35 PM | comments: 0

Buying appliances is something you normally don't do often, and it's usually not something that you get a rise out of either. Unfortunately, a bunch of mine are failing.

First off, my vacuum sucks. Or rather it doesn't, and that's what the problem is. Even with new filters, it just doesn't have suction it used to. It's only about five and a half years old. Stephanie works at BBB, and fortunately she's going to get me the hook up with a Dyson. Hopefully it's the last unit I buy for a long time.

My grill is a mess. Basically everything other than the shell itself is corroded to the point of not being useful. That's kind of my bad, because I didn't understand early on how to take care of it. Now I know better.

My Sony receiver, which is about eight years old, is starting to cut out on the left channel. That's really weird. These kinds of things just don't go bad. You're supposed to get one and it lasts a decade or two. The only reason I bought this one was to get Dolby Digital and DTS, which my previous unit didn't have. I don't know if it's a heat related problem (fewer components these days, but the receiver, Xbox 360 and DVR computer make a lot of heat), but I'm annoyed.

The timing is bad because I'm trying to make quick headway on paying off all of the business debt incurred by gearing up for video. By quick I mean by the end of the year, and that means putting money back into the business from my day job. The vacuum is the only thing I can't not get, so the rest may have to wait.

Mario Kart madness

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 13, 2006, 1:33 AM | comments: 1

Kara talked me into playing Mario Kart over Nintendo Wi-Fi. We suck. We tied twice. But she sucks more because she plays more than I do so she should be able to beat me every time.

Speaking of online gaming... they added Uno to Xbox Live recently. I played the single player demo. I don't imagine it would be all that much fun unless you play people you know. I'm surprised they haven't done some kind of Texas Hold 'Em on there. That would be fun with the voice chat and such.

Veronica Mars season 2

posted by Jeff | Friday, May 12, 2006, 11:36 PM | comments: 0

I decided to catch up on TV shows tonight because my DVR hard drive was getting way too full. I knocked out some Boston Legal and Commander in Chief yesterday. Tonight, I watched five episodes of Veronica Mars, which as it turns out was the rest of season 2.

Man, the last three episodes sure got intense, and the writing really went to a new level. The finale had a really interesting dream sequence that had an alternate reality, one where everything would've stayed "perfect" in her life, including the same friends, and her best friend Lilly (you knew her as Karen in Mean Girls) not having been murdered. Kind of made me think of my own life, how a couple of years will pass and nothing turns out as you expected.

Lots of great twists and turns, and a pretty good cliff hanger too. Tied lots of loose ends together, even from the first season. Can't wait for the DVD, and sesason 3!

Bloggers are humans too

posted by Jeff | Thursday, May 11, 2006, 2:45 PM | comments: 0

I read a lot of blogs (I use Bloglines to aggregate). Most of them are professional blogs about junk that I care about. A few are personal as well.

Catherine asked me a couple of weeks ago why I blog, and I told her that my motivation included several reasons. First is that I like to share with people. I have a comfort level with what's generally OK for other people to know, and I keep the rest among friends, verbally. The second is that it's therapeutic for me. Just typing something out, knowing someone else should be able to understand it, helps me better understand it myself. For me at least, I try not to be too narcissistic, as the audience is not critical to what I decide to write about.

That said, blogging has the enormous power to make "famous" people completely human as well. Robert Scoble is a Microsoft developer evangelist. He promotes the tools and platform to developers and makes sure they have what they need to succeed. He's also a very prominent blogger because he was really the first to break out of the "approved" PR shell of Microsoft. He very openly criticizes his own company, and everyone right up through Bill Gates knows it.

Scoble's mother had a stroke following heart failure. She's in bad shape, and he described the situation in a fair amount of detail on his blog. Posts before and after go into additional detail.

Certainly this is tragic for him and his family, as they now essentially have to watch their mother die, but as an outside observer, it also reminds us of the humanity of "celebrities" on the Internet. They are indeed real people, and the stuff they blog about is likely only a fraction of what their lives are really about.

Something to keep in mind when you're reading a blog. You're probably only seeing a small fraction of what the author is really about.

Live action Mario

posted by Jeff | Thursday, May 11, 2006, 1:17 AM | comments: 3

Stephanie sent me this link... it's kinda funny!

Toner drain

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 10, 2006, 3:56 PM | comments: 0

All four of the "low toner" lights on my printer are currently lit. While I love having a color laser printer (it's more than a year old now), today I learned the true expense of ownership.

I bought a backup black cartridge ages ago. Don't remember how much it costs. Today I bought the other three... for a total cost of $250. Ouch. The printer says each one has about 150 pages to go before they crap out on me. With color stuff to print out soon (like the BeastBuzz name tags), I had to just bite the bullet and buy.

For as much as I want to bitch about it, I've been able to do lots of cool color stuff, including marketing materials for ad sales, color name tags for events, really nice looking letters, etc. Several thousand pages have passed through the printer, so it's not all bad.

HP was clever in the way they built the thing too. Instead of each color having its own imaging drum, there's just one, and it has a life span of something like 10,000+ pages. I don't know what a drum costs, but I think it has something like 6,000 pages to go in its lifespan. I assume the real margin for HP is in the toner, not the printer itself (it has been that way for inkjets for years). Having a networked printer that does like 20 ppm for under $500 is still pretty sweet.

Halo 3 trailer

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 10, 2006, 1:31 PM | comments: 3

Yes, despite being somewhat disappointed by Halo 2, I'm ready to cream my pants after seeing the trailer for Halo 3.

I can't wait to hear that soundtrack and play in glorious HD. Master Chief is looking very kick ass in 720p!

Tapper coming to Xbox Live!

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 10, 2006, 12:07 PM | comments: 1

One of the greatest yet least known arcade games is coming to Xbox Live soon... Tapper! It's the game where you have to give customers beer then catch their empty glasses. A total classic. Microsoft announced it at E3.

Work isn't compatible with eating

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 10, 2006, 11:44 AM | comments: 11

I have been eating like crap lately, especially the last week or so. I'm horrified at the junk I've been putting into my body. And the worst part is that I'm feeling it too, with a lot of intestinal discomfort. I haven't felt shitty like this in probably two years.

And the big thing that has changed in terms of lifestyle is this regular salary job. It's so hard to eat right when you aren't in your own kitchen.

But I don't want to quit my job. It was an enormous adjustment for me when I started, after two years of contracting, writing and such, but I feel like I'm finally breaking out of my experience rut by being in one environment with people smarter than me. The consideration was never financial, and while I could go back to more money for less work, I doubt I'd grow professionally. So quitting the day job is not an option.

All that really leaves I suppose is working the problem and learning how to eat on the run. I suck at that. But my body is telling me to stop putting shit into it, and I'm sure that weight gain is probably next (if it hasn't already started). I certainly don't want to undo what I achieved last year.

Gotta stop going to Chipotle so much.

Hall to freedom

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 10, 2006, 12:03 AM | comments: 0

People still need to get a life

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 9, 2006, 2:22 PM | comments: 1

See: Previous post

Seriously, do people have anything in their own lives to distract them from worrying about everyone else's?

One year, beef-free

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 8, 2006, 5:29 PM | comments: 2

It's hard for me to really believe, but I haven't had even a bite of beef or other red meat in a year.

I wish I would have had my cholesterol checked prior to dropping it from my diet, just because I'm curious. It started out not as a deliberate choice, it just kind of happened. Then I just kind of stopped eating it. My reasons were mostly because I just didn't feel good eating a lot of it, but also because it's not exactly the most efficient food source in the world either.

So in the very short term, I felt better not eating it, even before I started to lose weight.

I still have cravings, for Arby's of all things, and burgers at TGI Friday's.

Three-day weekend

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 8, 2006, 3:44 PM | comments: 3

I just noticed this morning that we have a day off Friday.


Now I feel like I need to find something cool to do.

Beyond TV on an Intel Mac Mini

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 8, 2006, 1:39 PM | comments: 0

I thought this was kind of an interesting story for people that are interested in using the Mac Mini as a DVR computer:

Meeting the challenges of relationships

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 8, 2006, 11:56 AM | comments: 2

Being on the market again has, so far, been a great and torturous experience. That's not a bad thing, exactly, but it sure is unfamiliar territory. Oddly enough, my relationship with Stephanie is probably the easiest one to deal with at the moment. We have no problem pal-ing around like old friends (which makes sense since, after all, we are old friends).

My first significant romantic relationship is/was filled with challenges and a series of difficult situations. Some of that I bring on myself. My new relationship is exciting and new, but I tend to hold back a bit because I worry about things not going well in the long run, or making myself vulnerable. As much as I thought that I had no damage, apparently I do.

But regardless of these challenges, the thing I've learned the most in the last year is that total honesty and disclosure is what makes relationships work. That applies to all types of relationships, including romantic, friendship and even business relationships. Holding things back to spare someone's feelings causes the other person's imagination to run wild and at the same time causes you to invalidate your own feelings, thinking they aren't valid enough to get them out there. Ironically, I think most people would just rather hear the truth, even if it does hurt.

By going through this process of understanding your own needs, wants and how you fit, you get to know yourself better. And this time around, the most important distinction is understanding how you can exist as a solo artist. I don't think you can be happy with anyone until you understand that. Autonomy is a power I think few people every truly master. There's no question that relationships require compromise, but there's a huge difference between compromise and disappearing behind someone else, or worse, becoming someone totally different for someone else. That's a bitch, because it's not easy to be honest with yourself enough to recognize that condition, let alone have the courage to act on it.


posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 6, 2006, 12:53 PM | comments: 7

Piercing bug

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 6, 2006, 10:59 AM | comments: 3

I don't know why, but I have a strong urge to get something pierced again. I can't explain it. Like four holes isn't enough.

I got the industrial eight months ago. I just recently got a new barbell that's a little longer and black, to kind of mix it up. I thought that would satisfy my curiosity, but it didn't.

First of all, I don't know what I'd even get pierced. I've always wanted to get my lip pierced (the vertical variety with a ring). Other people probably wouldn't think much of it, but none of my holes are for other people anyway. A tragus or another industrial would be good too.

But the other thing is that my piercings have all been important and symbolized something. The first two were associated with my realizaton that I needed to better take care of myself, while the last one (two) was for meeting my weight loss goal. I guess just wanting to do it for myself should be a good enough reason. But perhaps I should tie it in as a reward for additional weight loss. A lot of people seem to think the previous loss was dramatic, but I still have a bit to go.

MacBook Pro Windows keyboard mapper

posted by Jeff | Friday, May 5, 2006, 9:58 PM | comments: 0

I found this little utility for remapping the keyboard on the MacBook when you're in Windows:

It works pretty well, and maps the little enter key to a right-click, and the fn key makes the arrow key functions work. The UI is pretty bad, but if I can figure out how to map the F12 key to a Windows delete, I'll be happy.

Skyhawk fun

posted by Jeff | Friday, May 5, 2006, 7:50 PM | comments: 1

Despite the expression, I can assure you that I'm having fun and not actually in pain.

Intensity of relationships, face time and information

posted by Jeff | Friday, May 5, 2006, 4:59 PM | comments: 1

Wow... the last 48 hours or so have been intense for so many reasons and in many different parts of my life. So much to try and think about.

First off, I managed to shoot some HD for PointBuzz yesterday, covering the new Skyhawk ride. The video isn't great, that's for sure, but at least I know using the camera in the field what I can expect. The exposure issues and settings need to be just right, and I'm not there yet in learning what they need to be. But hey, we transferred 59 gigs of data yesterday. Wow!

The media event, coupled with the charity mini-golf thing the day before, got me in front of a lot of very important people, many of which I consider friends. Lots of opportunities for a lot of different things present themselves. I like working a network of people. It's very rewarding for me, even when there aren't any obvious benefits to me right away.

I also learned a lot about stuff going on in the amusement industry that is absolutely huge. When you talk to people from different places with their own angles, and then put them in the same bucket, suddenly things become very obvious. Something very big is going to happen, very soon I suspect. I wish I could say more.

Then there's the intensity of the relationships I have with people in my life. One friend shows the promise of doing incredible things, while at the same time it breaks my heart to see the friend submit to a destructive situation. Another friend is just so intense with me that I'm not entirely sure how to respond. Nothing about the people in my life is ever casual!

So I'm fairly exhausted, physically and emotionally right now. But most of that feeling is positive, in the way you're a little sore after a good workout. Some things still trouble me, but in the grander scheme of things, I think things are good.

I opted not to drive down to Holiday World this weekend because I just can't spend much time there, and the PR rep can't really spend much time with me (understandably so given the weekend). So I'm going to postpone that for another weekend. I need some rest!

Morning drink

posted by Jeff | Friday, May 5, 2006, 10:34 AM | comments: 3