Blue Skys

22.01.28 - Mark

The best part about living in a mountainous area is that there is no shortage of beautiful vistas. That said I'm sure I'll run out of stunning panoramic images. However that day is not today. This one was taken at Pilot Mountain a week or two before peak color, but there are a few trees that offered some color. I may crop this image whenever I get it printed (the left fence rail bugs me a little bit), but I'm having a hard time deciding where to make the crop, so for now I'm posting the cleaned up, squared off version.

Pilot Mountain Panoramic

Blue Skies at Pilot Mountain
View Medium (3575 x 1024) Suitable for on screen staring.
View Large (9119 x 2612) Suitable for printing.

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Apple Store Greensboro

20.42.15 - Mark

Apple is opening up an Apple store in Greensboro next year, which is a bit more than an hour away. I might go to the opening whenever that is, but the first thought I had wasn't "cool" it was more along the lines of "I wonder what this will do to Cybergear?" (an Apple Authorized Retailer / Service Provider in Mount Airy).

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A voice for pictures

01.29.24 - Mark

Very rarely do I feel like recording my own voice, but when I made my latest panoramic I had a shell script running in the background taking a screen shot every 15 seconds for the 2 hours or so I was working on the image (minus the 15 minutes where I ran out of space to store the screen shots). Stitched together like a time lapse video it provides the basis for a short how to video, just add some narration and maybe some detailed video capture clips and I might have a decent video. In theory not that hard.

Except I'm quickly remembering why every other time I've done a narration, I've started with scripted, practiced, and edited audio, and then cut the video to fit the audio. Going the other way around and trying to coherently narrate a video as it's steamrolling past you and whatever thought you're trying to express doesn't work so well (and is probably why a lot of DVD commentary tracks suck)

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The Panoramic: Season 2

23.36.39 - Mark

A couple weeks ago I made my way up to Raven Knob for some fall photography. I was a few days late for peak color so a lot of the photos I took around camp don't have those stunning fall colors, there were a lot of leaves already down. I have a few photos that still have some great color (and I still need to play with them some in Photoshop) and I still got some beautiful photos, but hiking up to 1860 feet (give or take some elevation) gave me a stunning view of the area, in aggregate fall was still in full swing. This panoramic doesn't come close to doing the scene justice. I sat down on the rocks taking the view in for about 15 minutes before I even bothered unpacking the camera. I'll probably print up some copies of this image like I did the summer Raven Knob Panoramic but it's going to be a while before I order more panoramas, they're not cheap to print. Anyways, enough talk, no point in trying to create 1000 words when the image is worth more than that.

Fall from 1860 Feet

Fall from 1860 feet
View Medium (3175 X 1024) Suitable for a multi-screen desktop
View Large (7453 x 2404) Suitable for printing

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I Came, I Saw, I Shopped

08.21.47 - Mark

Black Friday has come and gone for me. I went out about 4:30am this morning and made my way though walmart, staples, and Lowe's for a few deals. I didn't see any really impressive deals like last year. No $20 hard drives, crazy cheap portable DVD players, or anything exceptionally special. Well aside from the $100 TomToms and other cheap in car GPS navigation systems. If I had money I would have been very tempted to get one. Today's deals weren't a whole lot better than what some good internet shopping yields. Instead I got another (much needed) 500GB external hard drive ($80), a 4GB USB Drive ($18), a couple gift items, and a few DVDs. Nothing special or exceptionally cheap, but hard to beat deals. If you're fast like I am it's pretty easy to move though the crowds and get in and out quickly.

There is something to be said for going out at least half an hour early (as opposed to last year's "on time"). I could have picked up nearly anything I wanted at Walmart without too much fighting, and I was early enough in the Staples line to have had my pick of goodies.

My only real complaint this year is that some people are morally bankrupt at 6am. At staples there were some people who showed up at 5:50 then started acting like they had been standing in line since 5am (or earlier. I showed up at staples at 5:10 and there were a couple dozen people before me) not to mention people who were jumping the gates or trying to get a free upgrade on an already amazing deal.

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Things I've done in the last 60 Hours

01.06.27 - Mark

Since Friday Morning:

I've driven 1171 miles from Mount Airy, NC to Columbia SC, then to Savannah, GA, to Atlanta, GA, Ashville, NC, and finally back Mount Airy (without suffering death or traffic citations)

Slept on a floor (twice)
Saw a Blue Man Group Concert (Amazing)
Visited Friends (always nice)
Walked around on Interstate 77 South (during a mysterious traffic standstill in South Carolina)
Participated in no less than 6 traffic jams (I hate South Carolinian drivers)
Ate plenty of good food (American, Indian, Asian, Italian)
Visited an Ikea (listened to Jonathan Coulton's "Ikea" song on the way in)
Listened to ten episodes or so of Escape Pod and Pseudopod (I should stop binge listening to them)
Listened to lots of music (everything from Rock, to Celtic, to Bollywood)
Managed to pick up my brother from college and return home without killing anyone or crashing the car

It's been an interesting three days

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Funny Pages

02.07.41 - Mark

It all started with a call from Global Frequency, well sort of. Like all good general purpose geeks I like comic books, but I had the misfortune of growing up in the speculator boom era of comics when they became $3 special edition collectibles, were 40% ads, and you had to decide which of the half dozen versions of a character you wanted to read. Not exactly the 10¢ silver age comics my dad used to collect. So mostly I grabbed some comics whenever the local comic store was clearing house, and attempted to find remnant's of my dad's old collection when ever we visited my grandparents (who despite being packrats threw out many of the comics)

But when global frequency came out so did my interest in comics, and I've been picking up a TPB or two every few months (currently more or less in sync with Ex Machina releases, which means I'm due for an Amazon order), getting the occasional graphic novel like The Watchmen or Maus, reading free web comics and using other means of getting comic book fixes. I've considered buying some of the phone book sided collections of classic comics, but they tend to be pretty bad. Black and white on cheap paper in the book the size of a dictionary, so I'm happy to hear about Marvel's Digital Comics. I may even try it out, but I have a tendency to read when I can't get online (or don't want to go online) so the web-only approach is a turn off. Offer a (DRM free) CBR or CBZ subscription based download service and let me load them into a reader of my choice, now I'd pay for that. It would probably boost my book buying too, since I've found a few series where the art is good enough that I only want dead tree editions.

Even if I read online, the flash interface they have would eventually drive me nuts. Compared to ComicBookLover (Mac) or Comix (Linux) it feels slow and cluttered.

Still, I may have to give it a try. While I'm not really into the superhero comics, I do like a lot of Marvel characters, and it would be nice to read up.

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Your vote was foretold by the stars

04.13.34 - Mark

I was looking up how my Senatorial congress critters voted on the Mukasey confirmation (they're for it, which isn't surprising considering their track records) with the Washington Post's Vote Database. It's is easier to use than THOMAS but what I found odd was I can sort by astrological sign, among other criteria of various silliness (baby boomer status, late night votes, political affiliation...) I know congress critters were predictable, but I didn't realize that it was written in the sky.

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Mountains and Butterflys

23.48.12 - Mark

Monarch butterfly at Pilot Mountain State Park Simply because I haven't posted anything to the blog in a couple days.

The Monarch at Pilot Mountain

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You're having a bad day when...

22.48.54 - Mark

I've spent a few hours today looking for some digital photos I know I should have somewhere. There should working copies on one of my main computers (buried somewhere in my distributed Terabyte or so of storage space), and at least one sufficiently current backup, but so far I've been having absolutely zero luck. On the other hand I'm finding some (completely useless) files over and over and over and over again. Add on top of this a couple systems that have some really obnoxious operating system quirks and all of a sudden adopting a Scorched Earth policy followed by a week or two ground up network rebuilding doesn't look too bad.

As Terabyte+ storage solutions becoming more common, backups alone aren't going to cut it, people will have to learn some heavy duty data management skills. That or move everything online and let google try to sort it all out...

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Law of Hollywood #22

18.12.39 - Mark

All remakes suck, it's almost a law of movie making, a corollary to the rule all sequels suck. Yes there are exceptions, but they're generally few and tend not to use a lot of the source material. They certainly don't start with classic examples of great movies either, so I'm really not looking forward to this news about a Day the Earth Stood Still remake, and I somehow doubt the monster that is Hollywood will stop making it if I start yelling Klaatu barada nikto

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Blog Readability

23.13.20 - Mark

Today's random web poll gadget meme thingamabob, which really looks like an attempt to googlebomb some payday loan site (whose link I removed before posting this). Remember, it's not technically spam if the blog's author posts it...

Junior High School

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Steal this idea.

00.49.39 - Mark

It's no secret that if you create something, it can and probably will be pirated. Doesn't matter if you're a bottom rung blogger getting ripped off by spamblogs or a major studio who had a work copy stolen and placed onto bittorrent. The bottom rung blogger most likely will never know that their content was ripped, but we all know the studios and record labels love suing the pants off everyone they can find.

The question becomes, what if you "pirate" this content, and then offer fair reimbursement directly to a studio. Would they accept it, or add your name to the defendants list on the next round of lawsuits?

Fair prices for digital content have already been established, $.99 for that song you can't get out of your head, $10 for the rare album with more than one track worth listening to, $2 for last night's episode of Heroes, $5 or so for each summer blockbuster you want to download - maybe $7 if it's still in theaters.

Now send off a check (or some other traceable form of payment) for that amount, plus maybe some for those copies you gifted your anonymous friends online (based on how much of the file you shared), and see if they cash the check.

If the studio takes your money, hurray, there's some merit to those incessant anti-piracy notices after all. If not, then we get to start asking why the networks falsely claim that they're concerned with the livelihood those who create the content, or why they don't want people paying for and enjoying the company's content in a way that benefits the consumer.

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Don't buy a single vote more than necessary...

22.45.33 - Mark

Google AdWords Screen Capture from 11/4/07

I saw this google adwords block in my rant on local politics. The Hillary block sounds like an invitation to a country club social group, and I find it amusing that I can get local election results on eBay.

“Don't buy a single vote more than necessary. I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for a landslide." -Joseph P. Kennedy (JFK's father)

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Groundhog Hour

01.33.30 - Mark

Physically it feels like it's 2:30 am, but the United States Naval Observatory says it's 1:30am. Gotta love these damned day light savings time changes. The geek in me says cool, free hour, but the fact is it's useless.

While we may have started daylight savings time as a way of conserving energy use, today's society doesn't give a damn. Sure there's the green movement, but look at your average home, office, or school. Chances are you're using artificial light, unless you work outdoors in which case you don't need the government to tell you when to start working anyways.

Shifting around DST this year doesn't add anything to the case for DST either. In fact it probably shows how asinine it really is. I can't count how many devices have gotten fubared by the change, and for no useful reason either. We should have either not changed the time for DST (therefore not fouling up a bunch of devices that had the old dates preprogrammed) or simply get rid of DST (since any device that changes itself allows your to disable DST)

Finally, in our 24/7 world wide economy, I think people know how to make a schedule work for themselves. We don't need to mess with our clocks twice a year when not everyone does the same thing (DST isn't even universally accepted in the USA)

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Political Statements

00.37.41 - Mark

Normally I only rant about national politics, but in the upcoming elections I'm really focused on the local races. My experience has always been that local elections suck. Low turn outs and few races, but for some reason what would normally be a pretty quiet low turn out local election has become a furious wave of ignorance and lies (and a fair bit of namecalling). If you're willing to stretch the truth it's almost as entertaining as a Californian gubernatorial race. We might not have a stripper, but one of the candidates is a belly dancer.

Like California's races, majority of the six candidates for the three city council seats are so ignorant of what their powers would be that it's downright scary, and the few that seem to have a clue about what is involved in city government are proposing ideas that are either totally dangerous dangerous, or your average political promise of change to gain a few votes.

One candidate has proposed closing down a water plant when our surplus of water (even in the current drought conditions) is one of the city's strongest economic selling points, while another (the only incumbent) is proposing an economic development czar, someone who would likely just wine and dine potential employers, when we already have a competent economic development partnership.

At the candidates forum a few weeks ago, many of these potential leaders were under prepared, from not knowing what roles council members play in relation to other boards and commissions receiving city funding. All but one (who lost in a primary election a week later) didn't have any idea about a referendum that would appear on the same ballot they would (those comments boiled down to "I support schools" and "I don't support taxes").

The only thing more frighting than the politicians are the supporters. While it's a little hard to get good information out of either local newspaper, the blog that the Surry Messenger is running makes for some amusing comments, from allegations that candidate A is incapable of working, to regular comments that voting for candidate C is a vote for business as usual. They're demanding the city being in jobs, water prices get reduced, cancer be cured and world piece established. The citizens, just like the candidates have no idea where limit of the government lies. City councilmen don't author the budget, they don't bring in businesses, they don't have much say in big projects. They make formal proclamations and approve rezoning requests (after being advised by the city manager). Their big decisions are about what bagels to order or who makes the first closing remark at the biweekly meeting.

If these supporters put a fraction of the effort they're exerting to elect so-so candidates towards effecting actual change it wouldn't matter if a dog was elected. I'm fairly convinced that Government doesn't solve problems, people solve problems.

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