Thank you Al Gore

09.08.09 - Mark

AMC is showing Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea right now, and its one of those movies I had vague memories of but couldn't remember the title. It's an old Scifi flick, and I picked up the movie halfway though, but I've been wanting to see it for a while now, and I was a little disappointed when I saw Netflix didn't have it. turns out that there's only been one DVD release of it and that was a double billing with Fantastic Voyage in 2000. However there's a new version coming out this week, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (Global Warming Edition) comes out June 5th.

I realize the movie deals with a radical global warming, but why on earth would they release any DVD (other than maybe An Inconvenient Truth) as a "Global Warming Edition"? I don't even see anything that remotely resembles mini documentaries on global warming in the otherwise impresive list of special features. I blame the Cult of Al Gore.

Hopefully netflix will buy their share of copies and I can sink my teeth into it.

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Impossible Dreams

01.13.02 - Mark

I love Escape Pod and with the exception of a 3 or 4 episode backlog (that I'll have cleared by Saturday) I've listened to every show since episode 1, and while I've got some favorites, I was blown away by EP105 - Impossible Dreams. I don't know that it's my favorite recording, but it's easily my favorite Escape Pod story to date. I'm not a movie buff like the characters, but I relate, and while listening to it I found myself empathizing with them far more than I do in most fiction. It's been a long time since I've been pulled into a story in the same way as Impossible Dreams (which is a 2007 hugo award nominee ) did, and that easily is worth donating some money to Escape Pod.

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Robots in disguise

00.40.10 - Mark

I'm really looking forward to seeing Transformers this summer, even if Michael Bay has traditionally produced mediocre movies (but with great visual effects) The previews I've seen for Transformers just amaze me. The fluidity of the CGI transformations makes me want to have the highest quality copy available to view frame by frame on a 30" wide screen monitor (which means I will see it in a theater) I didn't even imprint on Transformers as a kid that much. I might have watched a stray episode here and there, but by the time I was really watching Saturday morning cartoons that had moved from the original version and onto the Beast Wars Series and that never really clicked (despite involving both robots and Mainframe Entertainment - the people behind ReBoot)

Still, I'm looking forward to the movie.

As an aside, videos that can't be downloaded suck ass. I had to stop and restart the yahoo streams on my ubuntu linux box before I could watch the trailers (and even then it got cutoff), and the yahoo stream despite opening up quicktime was choking up on my macs.

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Seeing the big picture

17.35.02 - Mark

Today's adventure in photography is panoramic photography. This is a photo of Camp Raven Knob (from the upper knob) that I've been wanting to take for years, but have more or less lacked the experience, tools, and skills to pull it off. That's changed - when I was at the local art council's photography club I knew one of the members had some experience with digital panoramas and asked for some tips after the meeting. The tips were take the photos on full manual controls, take the series in the portrait orientation, then stitch them together in Photoshop by hand - aligning them in layers, then using layer masks to smooth out sharp lines and other misalignments. I have to say that his tips worked out really well, and the results are worth the extra time and effort involved.

Here's the first stitched image, A 15 or 16 image series forming one horizontal row. It's not particularly well suited to serve as a desktop (unless your desktop is a flight simulator or you have 3 or 4 wide screen monitors as your workspace). I took a series with two horizontal rows, but I might try and get a 3 or 4 row series later on. I'll stitch the two row series together next, and if it turns out well that may make a better candidate for desktop images and prints. I also might have to dig around for some QTVR software and use one of the 360 series to make a panoramic movie. For now, I really want to make a panoramic photo into a poster, but I want to have the image first (then worry about finding a reasonably priced large format printer...)

Panoramic photo of Camp Raven knob taken from the upper knob

View Medium (4764 X 1024) Suitable for a multi-screen desktop
View Large (12100 x 2600) Suitable for printing - maybe

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The price of gas is the price of gas

16.55.10 - Mark

I'm sick and tired of people bitching, moaning, and calling for political action over the price of gas. Yes, Gas prices are approaching $4 a gallon, but honestly what can you do about it? What the hell is the US Government going to do that doesn't take us several steps closer to socialism?

If you need the gas you buy it, if you don't want to buy it live without it. It's basic capitalism, which last I checked was part of the reason our government was dicking around in the middle east. I've been filling up my Honda '91 (which only gets about 24miles to the gallon) about once a month. Instead of driving everywhere I ride share, ride a bike, or even walk. If there was such a thing locally I'd consider using mass transit. Gasoline for your car is not an absolute essential, so stop treating it like it is.

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The Airshow

23.29.22 - Mark

It's been about 53 weeks since I last posted a video, and that's far too long to neglect the Media feed, so I present The Airshow.

I took all of the video in it at the Mayberry Air Race a few weeks ago with my Canon S3IS, and finally got around to editing it together today. There wasn't much I could do with the audio (it was at an air show after all, and windy day on top of that) but hopefully the visual style makes up for it. The first part of the movie is from the R/C demonstrators throughout the day, followed by the heavy duty aviation. The last five minutes is from the two shows preformed by The Flying Farmer an 82 year old stunt pilot. His performance is worth the download on its own. The edits are pieced together from the two shows, but I tried to maintain some semblance of continuity. Enjoy (and I promise not to wait another 53 weeks to post another video)

The Airshow (47MB, 320x240 Quicktime, 9 Minutes, 40 Seconds)

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License.

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Laughtracks suck

00.10.17 - Mark

I'm working my way though Sports Night on DVD due in part to the cancellation of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and I'm getting a harsh reminder of how much laugh tracks suck ass. I think it's more or less a dead practice, but any network executive, or even a producer who doubts the ability of their audience to know a joke when it comes by, probably shouldn't be in showbiz. Also, they should remove the damned things when releasing shows on DVD.

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10 years of waiting

04.39.19 - Mark

Starcraft is probably my all time favorite game - ever. If it isn't it's a close second. Unfortunately it's never gone as far as the warcraft series, but hopefully that's changing - if only a little. Today Blizzard publicly announced Starcraft II and it looks amazing. The graphics may be a bit cartoonish compared to the original, but it seems to keep with the same game style. SC2 isn't going to be a MMORPG, just a Real Time Strategy game like the original (I wouldn't like it any other way) but the initial reports suggest a lot more options in play. If it's half as good as the original I'll be quite happy.

The downside to all this is that between Starcraft II and Spore I may have to put together a real gaming box...

SC2 cinematic on youtube
SC2 game play on youtube

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Goober's Pizza

23.43.52 - Mark

Goober's BBQ Pizza I'm picky about my pizzas, but Goober's Pizza a spin off of the already awesome Goober's 52, (warning - sucky hyper annoying flash content at both sites) produces decent California style pizza. They advertise "Chicago style" pizza which on it's own isn't bad, but is far from even resembling authentic Chicago deep dish pizza. Photo at left is the BBQ Chicken California style pizza I split with my brother earlier tonight. It was good.

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Light Drawing

23.49.28 - Mark

A bit of fun with long exposure settings and a mini Maglight. Here's a howto article on Instructables.com

MarkW light drawingiPod light drawing
Furious light drawingFurious light drawing

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Tourist in your own town

23.48.07 - Mark

A couple years ago Mount Airy had some consultants come in to state the obvious for piles of money, one of the obvious (at least to an objective observer) things that they suggested Mount Airy do to increase tourism was to promote tourism within the the city limits to citizens. I think their words were "to be a tourist in your own town" at least for a day or two. Like all reports from outside consultants it was never widely circulated, but I had been interviewed in their research and knew enough to pay attention to the public meetings.

The idea is a good one. Most people who live in one area for a long period of time never realize what their area offers, more so if you live your whole life in the same geographic area.

Andy Griffith Statue in Mount Airy, NC I haven't forgotten this fact (being a non-native helps that) but stay in one place long enough and even the most aware people loose track of little joys. Yesterday I happened to to go the local art council's photography club and as part of their meeting they conducted a brief photowalk. It didn't take time for locals to "welcome" us to Mayberry (can't blame them, what else do you assume a dozen, mostly older, people with cameras are?) I'm not a fan of the whole Mount Airy Mayberry connection, but I can't deny it and too many baby boomers are too nostalgic for Mayberry for it to fade away anytime soon. The walk reminded me of that, but it also reminded me of some of the other little joys the area offers.

So, don't forget to take some time to be a tourist in your own area. Chance are you'll find something interesting.

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02.05.14 - Mark

Wiki is Hawaiian for "Quick", and that is supposedly one of the underlying themes in the various Wikimedia projects. I may have bought into that two hours ago, but I've spent the last 90 minutes fighting with Wikimedia services.

It started out with honorable intentions. I've got a copy of the game Polarity, and like all things involving strong magnets it's fun to play. At some point in the past I got to wondering what kind of magnet goes into the Polarity pieces, so I checked the wikipedia article, which is more or less a stub. I filled this tid bit of information away, until yesterday.

I was bored yesterday and decided to set up my $2 macro photo studio (based on this handy design) and shoot some various objects. Because I've had magnets on the brain for a few days, I though it might be fun to shoot some pictures of Polarity pieces leaning on each other, and about the same time that thought occurred, the memory of the wikipedia stub popped up. A quick check confirmed that the article hadn't been expanded, and that it still lacked any images. So I go and shoot my photos, come back a while later, and I set off on the process of adding them to the Hitchhiker's Guid... I mean Wikipedia.

I'm familiar with the mechanics of wikis. I've got a personal mediawiki install, I've played with a couple other wikis, and on occasion have come close to making small changes to the Wikipedia So it should be easy to upload an image right? Wrong. I spent over an hour reading and rereading help documents and wikipedia style articles on how to upload an image, how to format it in the article, blah blah blah, found out I needed to start an account, did (at wikimedia commons, then started to upload the image before getting confused by the media licensing requirements, eventually managed to upload the image (it's here for the curious) quickly realized that despite the fact that they share databases, I needed another account for wikipedia, got that set up, then spent a bit more time looking at formatting guidelines and help files to figure out how to include the image in the article, and finally (after over an hour) managed to edit my image into the article that had an open request for images.

How exactly is that quick? Wikis are supposed to be Web 2.0, so how come the usability is so slow and awkward? All of the information they wanted when I uploaded the image was single line stuff, but they forced me to slow down and rewrite it in their unique syntax. Where's the clean, easy to follow interactive tutorial or brain dead form to fill out. It would have taken me 90 seconds to do the same thing on Flickr and the resulting upload would have almost exactly the same information. It's a bit insane, and more than a bit off putting. I might help the Wiki if I see some simple change that needs to be made, but I don't see myself contributing that much, even if there are some articles I could really help out on.

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Disc Golf

23.42.53 - Mark

Brother playing hole one at Westwood park's new disc golf course I'm happy, Mount Airy now has a disc golf course - which means I won't have to drive 30-40 minutes to the other public courses (Raven Knob is a bit closer, but technically private and besides I play it frequently during the summers). The new course, installed sometime in the last three weeks, feels short to me, at least when considering the pars, but they're a fun enough 9 holes. I went out today with my youngest brother and Dad, and did alright. I'm rusty but still shot one under, and my brother didn't do too bad for his first time. From what I'm told it was sort of last minute, but if there's enough interest they'll expand it to 18 holes, which would be nice (especially if there's more planing and distance involved with the back nine). My brother and I are already planning on regular excursions

The course is at Westwood Park (google map), just take a right at the entrance and drive to the end of the parking lot, when you're facing the shelter, the course is in the field off to the right. Here are the pars (at least they ones they told me)


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Things you shouldn't share

23.42.13 - Mark

I'm fairly sure I'm on the verge of being sick. One of those nasty bugs where your digestive tract rebels against the rest of the body for a day or so then all body parts involved go on strike until they bank another day or two of sleep. I'm not looking forward to the next day or two, but I'm more or less ready. In a way it's a bit relaxing, knowing that its coming, better than getting slammed by it out of the blue. Anyways, off to battle...

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Frets on Fire

18.35.03 - Mark

I'm not very musical. For a few years I played the cello - badly - but when I moved to NC and a high school where Orchestra got translated as marching band, and I more or less gave it up lacking both instrument and people to tell me what the hell I was doing wrong. Conversely my brothers are both very musical. One brother refurbished a baby grand piano (seen here) then a couple years ago bought a guitar that he doesn't play, but the other brother loves and plays almost daily.

A while back the guitarist (he's also the other gamer in the family) and I were talking about which video game system we'd love to have the most, and while we didn't come to an agreement, he made it clear he wanted Guitar Hero (personally I want to try out Katamari Damari) This has been floating around in my head for a while, but a couple nights ago I stumbled across Frets on Fire which is a cross platform, open source knockoff of Guitar Hero.

I like it, so does he. We've got it on my linux box, and after a little hunting on various torrent sites we've got it loaded up with a pile of songs. While we both suck, we both see the appeal in the game. That and we want guitar controllers (it's like DDR, if you're going to play, don't use a *&^%ing keyboard).

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Flickr Reloaded

22.42.17 - Mark

So I finally got around to connecting my flickr account to a yahoo ID (and got past how stupid Yahoo/Flickr is for forcing that on users) and dug out some of the Raven Knob Photos from last summer (just in time for this summer...) and uploaded them to my account. Anyone who was reading last year has probably seen them, but I wanted to put them up on flickr anyways. I need to stow some other stuff on there, but I'd really like an upload solution that lets me upload full resolution versions to my site, and then forward scaled down versions onto flickr. Its not that I don't like web apps, its that I've got Gigs to spare on my server, and Flickr limits me in a number of ways that fail to justify $25/year (at least to me).

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00.50.15 - Mark

If you want my favorite superhero, it's Batman, but Spiderman is an easy second. Peter Parker is a geek hero, a shy socially awkward kid who after a freak accident gains super powers and uses those powers with his brain to not only create a hero, but also almost manages to balance it with a "regular" life.

The movies have all been enjoyable, and while I can't say they remain true to the comics (I haven't really picked up comics with guys running around in tights), they seem to have the right spirit. Spiderman 3 is no different. It's two and a half hours of fun that doesn't even feel like it's 150 minutes long.

My only complaint with the series is that somehow they keep killing off or otherwise retiring the cool villains. I'll refrain from spoiling it for those of you who haven't seen it yet, but in every film they kill off at least one villain. Even with a wide variety of enemies to work with, not everyone watching these movies is familiar with the comic universe - look at how many people never catch the Stan Lee cameos (which are getting bolder all the time)

With this Spiderman being one of, if not the, most expensive films ever made (story) it wouldn't take too much for the series to jump the shark. I don't want that, but I can see it being really easy.

For now Spiderman 3 is worth watching, and worth watching in theaters. It may be cheaper to get it though Netflix in a few months, but there's no substitute for the big screen.

Aside: Today is Free Comic Book Day. I've been to the local comics place, and I'm not all that impressed with it (back corner on the second floor of a quasi-antique store), but there are a couple more dedicated comic stores in Winston I may try out.

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Hope for the ClampBooks

20.45.47 - Mark

I've learned to live with my iBook, and that fact that the only thing keeping it working is a piece of cardboard. However before the cardboard, there was the clamp. I've tried telling Apple that this is their fault, but they refuse and tell me that I stilled liquids on the motherboard, which is extremely insulting. It has bugged me that there has been a lack of a US class action lawsuit (just as much as it bugs me that one is necessary), but a recently decided Danish complaint case could be changing that.

I hope Apple will fix this iBook. I've always been a strong advocate for Apple, and I lost a good bit of faith in Apple after the way they treated me. Them fixing it would almost make up for it. Even if they don't fix it it's getting time for me to upgrade, but my iBook is still usable, and I'd hate to junk it just to avoid passing on its quirks.

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Burgers and fries

23.54.22 - Mark

Homemade burgers and fries I will never understand why people like McDonalds. Fresh grilled burgers on toasted sourdough bread, DIY fries, and a pile of cole slaw. So much better than beef like substances stored in gallons of preservatives and reheated with an overgrown easy bake oven...

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Green Hosting

01.51.23 - Mark

Green Web Hosting! This site hosted by DreamHost. Dreamhost, my hosting company of choice, is now carbon neutral. As nice as carbon credits are, they're not a replacement for renewable/efficient energy sources, but I can't fault them - they are running a hosting company. An interesting side note is they are also taking steps to reduce their resource requirements by buying more energy efficient servers and taking other measures at their offices. Still green hosting - I'm happy.

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