2006.11.24

Slow Moving Hordes

11.48.12 - Mark

Thanksgiving brings together large numbers of very slow moving people, and I can't easily blame it on the Turkey. Normally I'm lucky enough to not have to do any traveling around the holidays, but this year my brother needed to be picked up from Savannah, GA for winter break Wednesday morning, and while I can drive the required 12-14 hours in a day, it is not fun. While getting down there was easy enough, coming back Wednesday was insane. What was 6 hours going south suddenly became over 8 hours coming back thanks to some insane traffic patterns.

I'm not talking about a handful of idiots driving under the speed limit either. Every single time we hit a major city the interstate highways suddenly became Interstate parking lots. One segment around Charlotte was bumper to bumper traffic four lanes wide crawling along under 10MPH for 12 miles. (We did some rough math and guessed that was nearly 24,000 people stuck in northbound gridlock). Once it cleared, there was no sign of an accident, no speed traps or construction or bad road conditions. It just cleared up magically. And we had similar experiances in at least 4 other places (thankfully they were not 12 miles long). It wasn't uncommon to see car lights going to either horizon, miles and miles of cars waiting to move a few more inches before stopping again. I've seen traffic move faster on highways burried in several inches of snow and ice. Completly fucking insane.

Of course thats before Thansgivings. Today is the ultimate consumer holiday, Black Friday As a geek its up there with Halloween and Talk like a Pirate day as favorite holiday. Portable DVD players for $20, ubercheap desktops and laptops, nearly free after rebate optical media (black and otherwise) and dirt cheap disk drives. It's a great time to stock up on parts for a year, and one that I tend to take advantage of. Last year I got a late start, doing most of my work after 8 AM. This year I started just before 5 AM. The crowds were mindblowing. One big box store had a line for registers wrapping all of the main isles, and plenty of people packed in around the merchandise. At a Target store that opened at 6, I got into line at 6:08 and was walking in as a decent flow of people with carts overflowing with spoils were walking out. Fortunatly things were peaceful, otherwise you very easily could have seen fights over avalible shopping carts, let alone products.

While it can be stressful when everyone else is as slow as a lava run, my slothiness in getting to some of the stores wasn't entirely unproductive. I walked into my main target store (Staples) for a hard drive and a couple other things at a quarter to 10, and while all of the $20 200GB hard drives were off the shelf, the ones that had been reserved freed up at 10 - and I still get the rebates.

If nothing else, Black Friday is an experiance.

Link | 3 Comments |


2006.11.18

Too long

00.19.02 - Mark

It has occured to me that its been well over a year since I last went camping. Sadly its been even longer (at least another 6 months) since the last time I really went camping, pitching a tent or building my own shelter out of rope and timber. This is easily the longest I've been without camping in nearly 10 years.

Link | 0 Comments |


2006.11.15

Second Sign of Winter

23.47.35 - Mark

The signs that winter is fianlly coming in vary from place to place, and even person to person. For me, I just passed the second major sign of winter today.

The first is the need to actually pull out a long sleeved shirt and wear it all day. I can make it for most of wall with tshirts and a light jacket, but a couple weeks ago we had a cold front that got me to slip on a long sleeved shirt for a few days.

The second sign I passed today when driving to and from class. That sign is enjoying the directional blast of dry, stale scented heat generated by a car's heater in the middle of the day. I can live without an AC unit in the car, but growing up with Iowan winters, you always checked to make sure the car's heater worked well.

I suppose the third sign is ice and/or snow. I suspect that that will hit my part of North Carolina in a few weeks. At least I hope.

The one thing I really miss about the Midwest (other than good pizza) is Winter. Mount Airy has more than one season, but I like to have something more than a week inbetween Fall and Spring.

Link | 0 Comments |


2006.11.13

Unplugged, Unshocked

10.09.50 - Mark

Every once in a while I get hit by the fact that I'm outside anything resembling cultural norms. The fact hit me a few times this weekend. It's first blow was Friday night when I went to see Borat. I know several people who have described it as disgusting, who have suggested that it should be NC-17, or suggested that parts of it may have gone too far. Except for the 70% of the time they were laughing like crazy. Personally I didn't think it was great. Yeah it had some good lines that I may joke about with friends, and I got a few decent laughs out of it, but overall it wasn't extremely satisfying. Sort of a weekend afternoon movie feel too it, good enough to watch, but not enough block everything else out.

When you get to the disturbing, disgusting, and generally sickening stuff people complain about, I really didn't feel disgusted. It's stuff that I can easily do without seeing and hearing, but it wasn't that shocking to me.

The other strike was when messing around with MacHeist. I kind of got interested in the MyDreamApp thing they finished up a few weeks ago and had the oppurtunity to check out to start playing this alternative reality sort of game they've developed. I play this hidden message type web games on occassion and while some of them do have some pretty good challenges in them I've been finding them largely unrewarding. In the example of MacHeist, of the three prize pieces of software I now have free licenses for, none of them really appeal to me, which is almost hard. I've been a junkie for mac freeware and shareware since I first connected to AOL over a long distance line around 1995.

In the end this doesn't really matter, I'm perfectly fine being outside the box, as long as I have a decent idea about what the inside looks like.

Link | 0 Comments |


2006.11.08

HSU's Funniest Class Videos

13.01.15 - Mark

Supposdely my Advanced Web Graphics class is out of Flash. Except we're not. While we have had the test, our next assignment is to create a screencast based on some of the small projects we did during the flash section.

Personally I like video, and along with audio, it has been horribly neglected in the Web Technology cirriculum. The term podcasting had already emerged when I started the degree program, and by the time we started doing serious work with multimedia, video blogging was starting to emerge in a big way. At one point I was watching vlogs before going into a class where I was learning how flash was the be all and end oll of web multimedia. I have tried mentioning how blogs, wikis, podcasts, and video is to teachers, and it has produced off the cuff lessons, but goes largely ignored in favor of our "authoritative" textbooks.

What's worse is while he has the idea thing going, it ends there. Like any good PHB, those of ous left to do it are short on details and specifications, and flooded in jargon.

If I don't try and do a 24 hour movie (and maybe if I do) this weekend I may just rig my Pismo with flash and a copy of snapz pro and go about this assignment on my own.

Link | 0 Comments |


2006.11.07

Elections. Bleh!

01.36.17 - Mark

Today is election day. I'm honestly not looking forward to it but I've finished researching the canidates that I can/are worth while. Aside from the local paper being almost entirely offline tonight and the local gov site making it a pain to find the sample ballots (for some reason they choose to develop a flash based website in a county where majority of users are lower income families and dialup is common). Even if I can't get my head around voting for judges, I think I've made OK decisions there.

I know I'll complain about elected officials and the like when they are actually in office, but it stikes me that one of the main reasons people may be discouraged from voting (at least for canidates and not party tickets) is that its near impossible to tell candidates apart. 99% of the sites and ads I've seen all boil down to the same 3 second blurbs. I support family values, I'm a strong leader, I care about the community, blah, blah, blah. I don't want to hear what some campaign advisor says will get votes, I care about issues and candidate viewpoints.

I despise my current congress critter Virginia Foxx because in every correspondace I've had with her she keeps backing the Republican lines about securing our borders and fighting terrorism. Not only am I more likely to get killed by drowning in a supersized soda than I am in a terrorist attack, I'm not willing to sacrifice my personal freedoms and rights for her so called security. Then again I'm not big on the idea of fencing in the United States either. If a candidate tells, or better yet shows me that they care about those or even similar issues I'll give them my vote (and happened at least once when I was researching the candidates)

I wish more people would vote and vote wisely. Unfortunatly, its too complex, too uninformed, and most of all, too fake.

My name is Mark Welker, and I approve this message.

Link | 1 Comments |


2006.11.05

Five Years in waiting

01.51.38 - Mark

Five years ago when Apple released the first iPods and I was still really active with Applefritter I remember the first comments being about how fast it would be hacked, and I was personally itching for someone to do a clear iPod mod. At the time, I had a wicked obsession with Apple's design, from the box you get it in to the parts you probably should never see (like the smiley face on the bottom of the 7200 motherboards). I also liked clear cases. To a lesser extent both are still true today.

Unfortunatly, the clear case mod idea was shot down pretty quickly when I was in a chat room while someone else was doing a live discetion/review of their brand new First gen and commented on how the white portion was molded into the clear outer plastics. At least, it was until today.

iPodmods.com has made an announcement that it will be selling Clear front panels for iPods. 4G, nanos and video iPods are first up. I won't be modding the video I own (not yet at least) but my existing 4th gen actually needs a new front panel (at least I think that's whats broken this time) so I may be jumping all over this in a few weeks.

Link | 0 Comments |


2006.11.04

Fast. Cheap. Good?

01.24.33 - Mark

Apple is running the Insomnia Film Festival next week. One film, maximum length of 3 minutes, and no more than 24 hours to write, shoot, edit, and publish it in. Dave Slusher at least, thinks I should enter.

I've heard of similar events, and some of my videos have been done inside 24 hours so I am sort of thinking about entering. I've got a list of concerns, I won't post all of them but it boils down to the Fast, Cheap, Good Trilemma, but the challenge is intriguing. I suppose we'll see within a week what I decide to do.

Link | 0 Comments |


2006.11.03

Confessions of a waking mind

10.49.50 - Mark

Its dark. Thats good, it hurts waking up in a really bright room, then again its going to sting like hell in here once I have the body turn the light on. Do I really want up? I'm still a bit tired. What time is it? 9:36? Stupid clock doesn't say AM or PM. It was late when the conscious mind finally fell asleep. Three, maybe 4 AM. PM wouldn't be out of the question.

I don't remember the alarm going off. Did he set an alarm? Yes, for around noon - wasn't much to do today. Did I turn it off? We've turned it off without remembering before. Musle memmory can be a dangerous thing. It has been a while since that's happened, but not out of the question. It's too quiet to be PM. No tv, no one walking around upstairs.

Did I sleep though Friday? That's happened before, crashing for 24 hours or more. Really uncommon, that usually takes a couple nights of crappy sleep - strings of 60 to 90 minute naps. Even on the long haul sleeps we wake up a couple times, at least enough to vaguely remember doing so. Not likely, but maybe this is one of those times?

I really don't want to turn on that light. He'll gain full control, if we do. Maybe there's something else. Eyes are blurry, must have slept with the contacts in again. Oh well, they're doing the job. There's a bit of light cracking in onto the far wall. That's pretty uncommon, at least when we usually wake up. The angle of light means it is, without a doubt, morning.

Now the question is which morning. I still can't remember an alarm. I tell the body to roll over and grab the iPod he uses as an alarm. Nice thing about the video iPods is multiple alarms. Lately we've been setting one for late morning, and another for early afternoon. If the desk clock is right, its too early for them to have gone off today - whatever today is. The body's right hand is pressing down on the click wheel now. Again. Fuck.

Nothing comes up. Is the battery dead? Did it play though Friday? Damn it. We didn't have a lot to do on Friday, but there were a couple things. Decision time, we can wake up a little more and find out what day it really is, or we can go back to sleep. This is taking too much effort. The perils of sleeping in a basement room I suppose. The body is still on its side. Oh well. I have the hand look for and connect the iPod's charging cable, I think. It fails. I have the body turn on the lamp. Ouch.

Stupid light stings like hell for a few seconds, even with an arm and a pillow partially shielding them you still need to wait for the pupils to adjust. Once they do I have the body look over the edge of the bed for the right power cable, then clear it from the small rats nest of wires on the floor. A few seconds later and we have it connected to the iPod. It's waking up, I'm waiting. It's up, we check the time and date. It is Friday, so I've only had 6 hours of sleep.

He's almost too conscious to go back to sleep now, at least easily. Too much stimulus and moving around. Besides, then I'd need to go though all this again in a couple hours. Screw it. We turn off the alarms before rolling back into the bed and letting the conscious mind gradually take over for the day. He'll get up and moving soon. we've already started screaming for a caffeine fix.

Link | 0 Comments |


2006.11.02

Live on the scene.

00.32.45 - Mark

I've been checking in on the Eastern Guilford High School fire by flipping onto the local news stations this afternoon. Unquestionably its a serious problem that the school will have to deal with over the next few months, and in all likelyhood - years.

I'm not going to try and compare this to any thing I've ever seen, heard, or experianced, as it would be stupid and wouldn't end well (I've never figured out the whole school pride thing), but I'm deeply interested in the news coverage as the events unfolded.

I first heard about it after fliping on the TV this afternoon and catching a sound bite from the local Fox station. It hooked me pretty quickly (what red blooded American isn't grossly infactuated with live disaster stories?) and I sat around watching it for a few minutes.

I don't expect great production values from the local TV stations, and would probably go nuts trying to engineer live TV, but the first thing that struk me is that there was a lot of fluff. Anchors talking about observations from a staging area hundreds of feet from the activity. My timing was fairly good as it didn't take long for the on-the-scene crew to start finding people to talk to from firefighters and parents, but the questions, again were weak.

An on camera interview with a parent picking up her children started with "First of all, what does it smell like?" Of all the even slightly relevent questions to ask a parent of a student whose school is on fire, "What does it smell like" ranks up there with "What does smoke look like?" and "Is fire hot?" as bad questions.

I turned it off shortly afterwards, but checking back later on I didn't hear many good questions. I understand its live TV, events are happening in real time, and new viewers are turning in constantly but news is supposed to be new. I'd like a little more than "Just the facts' mam.". It reminds me a lot of the 9/11/01 news coverage, when I spent most of the day watching a looping videos of a plane crash I saw live.

I suppose the point I want to reach is, is if media, new, old or a hybrid, is really capable of reporting news in real time?

Old media is good at getting a couple of basic facts out to the masses quickly, but is often little more than "something happened - fluff story at 11" while new media is huge ammounts of information distributed acorss hundreds of human filters before good stuff comes to the surface. The hybrids, so far I haven't seen much more than a thank you for reporting this story.

I'll admit that this isn't my typical beat, but it is something to think about (if any of this post makes as much sense as I hope it does).

Link | 0 Comments |