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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Converge South 2007

16.01.11 - Mark

Ignoring some of the advice given in the Better Blogging Session yesterday at Converge South, I'm not going to try and write a great lead in. There's too many great things to say about the event to even attempt to try and cram it into a single paragraph.

I've been going to ConvergeSouth since it's first year, and this year has been the best by far, the only regret I have is not making the effort to go up Friday for the Journalism and Music.

Session: Social NetworksI found the morning alright as a whole, to me Converge South has always been more about the discussion, and not lectures, and the morning just felt like a series of lectures. There were enough good points raised, and enough scraps of conversations to make waking up at 6:30 worthwhile, but I think that a lot of great questions and conversations were lost to the monologues.

It's established that people are sharing their lives online, how they're sharing their kids lives online from conception on, and how we have golden age grandmas getting their life story online with the help of their families. But what's to say this data will last? Elisa Camahort from BlogHer was talking about how the online content being created now will be the source material for documentarians 100 years for now, but last I checked the standard advice is to upgrade your backups formats every 5 years or so - that's a bit of a difference that in past years probably would have started a discussion and prompted questions like who's done this? How do we archive this stuff, how do we record these stories?

Another topic I think got left by the wayside was activism. There's no doubt in my mind that blogs, social networks, and the internet in general has changed the way activists work. It's reasonable to say the internet is producing bigger, louder, and stronger movements than anything created before the web took off in the 90's, but how does the amount of influence compare? 100,000 emails is easier to ignore than 100,000 people at a protest march.

As silly as the group sing-along was last year, maybe that's what's needed to get the audience talking first thing in the morning.

The AudienceI am glad that someone mentioned the demographics of the audience, and that it did get a group conversation started for a while. One of the great things about Converge South is that it brings in everyone, men and women of different ethnic and social backgrounds. Someone asked why the "missing" group was the twenty-somethings. There were a few of us there, but I think the reason that age group is underrepresented is that blogging and new media is approached differently. The audience at Convergesouth is using higher end tools, Wordpress, Movable type, Typepad, Drupal, etc, and topics they want to cover. People under 30 or so (as a guess), are using free tools like livejournal, xanga, facebook, myspace, and use the same general technology as a journal for a closed network of friends and online acquaintances.

Session: J-School and B-SchoolThe split sessions after the first break didn't do anything for me. I started the hour in J-School and B-School mainly hoping for some insight on how newspapers and journalism should see themselves in relation to the audience. I saw some promise at the start, one of the panelists started out with the question along the lines of What should we be teaching journalism students about blogs and new media? But by halfway though it didn't seem like they weren't really looking for those answers and I walked out. I don't like walking out on sessions, but between what I saw and this description of the session I think I made the right choice.

The alternative session, Images and Video on the Web wasn't much better. I guess it was pretty focused on what Current TV is and why it's different from youtube. At least that sticks out in my mind more than the few notes I jotted down in my notebook. As I understand it they control it and try to filter for "quality" - they're looking for high production standards and facts, but one of the panelists (I think one of the ones from Current) pointed out that the most compelling video in the last 10 years has been pretty bad quality. Cameraphone video clips, stuff shot in movie mode on a digital camera, maybe some lucky guy who had a home video camera on hand at the right moment. The other thing was that the real power is when you turn it over to the audience and let them rework it.

Session: Why Most Web Video StinksLunch brought on some good discussions, nothing really worth commenting on but it provided a good break. Once that was over I went to the Why Most Web Video Stinks. I'm probably echoing the crowd at this point, but it's easily the best session I can remember attending at any Converge South. Tom Lassiter did a great job of balancing being a moderator and being the designated expert. Within the hour we covered everything needed for a good web video, from hardware to scripting and planning to getting good audio and video quality, to editing and publishing. I've posted a few videos and would say I've got intermediate video production skills, so I mainly tried to answer questions and offer tips, but I still picked up a handful of ideas to try out.

Last session I went to was Better Blogging, which had some good tips. Most of them I knew but I sat in and chimed in on some topics. I think that the timing was pretty good on this session. By the end of the day the vibe I was getting is that we're moving beyond the discussions of how do we define what a blogger is, what's this or that technology, and people's obsession with monetization. Those topics still pop up, but they're bullet points rather than chapter headings. The new conversation, and I think more interesting conversation, is "How can I do cool stuff online?", "How do we get other people to do cool stuff too?", and "How do we connect this all together?" If Converge South keeps moving in that direction, and from the wrap up session it sounds like it will, I'll keep looking forward to attending.

Converge South Film FestivalAfter the conference ended there were a number of people loitering around talking. One of the people I talked with was Brian Russell, who organized Podcastercon, and I'm a little disappointed that it sounds dead for now. It had some overlap with Converge South, but brought in a different group of people. Talked with a few other people, but it didn't take long before Jeff Martin suggested regrouping at Natty Greene's on Elm Street, and about 6 of us went over. Beer and drinks until 6 when we broke up to go to dinners. I ended up at the Table 16 dinner, which had an interesting group of people. Upscale place with good food, but next time I'll probably seek out a cheaper dinner. Our table talked for a while and by the time we got out of the restaurant the Film Festival was at least an hour in. The films and vlogs were a mixed bag (true of any film festival) but the event was worth sticking around for. Andy Coon did a great job of putting on the event and had some hilarious films mixed in with some serious stuff. While there wasn't anything I really wanted to get a personal copy of, I've got a handful of ideas kicking around in my head that now need exploring.

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Stuff I Make (and sell)

02.34.14 - Mark

Blogging has been light recently, part of it's being lazy, part of it is working on other websites, part of it is some light changes I made to this site last week.

Some of the cooler or more useful items I create here are going to get passed on to a Goodies section. We'll see what direction it takes, but right now it's a mini store for my Raven Knob panoramic. I'm also making my web development a little more visible but linking to my portfolio. I need to update it, but I've got other projects that need more attention

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My Corner of the Universe

02.10.11 - Mark

I got around to hanging some of the art I own tonight. The art from right to left: A framed copy of my Raven Knob Panoramic (which I've been selling), one of Troop 109's lithograph prints of Raven Knob by Richard Tumbleston, and a personalized copy of Willard Gayheart's "Raven Knob" print.

My little office space, with newly hung artworks

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What to do with a melted pint of Ben and Jerry's

23.39.16 - Mark

Last week the freezer died, or rather a fan cooling the compressor died, the compressor overheated, and the damn thing died, and about 18 hours later it got noticed. More than long enough for the ~4 pints of Ben and Jerry ice cream to melt, and I'm one of those people who hates refrozen ice cream, the texture just goes down the drain, which is what most of the other food in the freezer did.
Ben and Jerry's Neopolitan Dynamite - yum
However, a pint of Ben and Jerry's costs something like $3.50 and as much as I don't like refrozen ice cream, I don't want to throw out $12 bucks of ice cream, so it went back into a freezer waiting for a good idea, or overwhelming cravings to strike.

I think one pint disappeared to the later but tonight's victim was to a very good idea - milkshakes. As expensive as Ben and Jerry's is, it's not my first pick for milkshakes, but it's a great use for a refrozen pint.

I microwaved the ice cream for a few seconds to loosen it up, just to the point where it slid out of the container easily, however I might heat it up a bit longer in the future, just to the point of being soft so the blender doesn't have to work so much. Second add milk, blend until smooth and enjoy.

As for the taste, I'm going to have to explore other flavor combos with generic ice cream. Cherry / Brownie milkshakes are very good.

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22.56.20 - Mark

My camera went missing over the weekend, most likely stolen. Some jerk took it right out of my daypack Saturday around noon and despite a very thorough search it was still missing Sunday, so it's probably long gone. I've passed on the relevant information to law enforcement so its in the NCIC Database, but it's probably long gone.

What's weird is I'm really not as pissed off as I should be about some asshat wandering away with my property. I'm certainly not happy about it, and I kind of feel stupid for not keeping it with me and then ignoring some paranoid feelings I had about the time it disappeared, but I'm far more pissed off with the replacement process.

While it's "covered" by insurance, that insurance is more or less bullshit. To replace a $350 camera kit (camera, 2GB memory card, and a decent set of high capacity rechargeable batteries) I'd have to pay a $500 deductible. I may have failed the occasional math test, but I'm pretty sure $350 !> $500.

I'm not sure I'll be getting a quick replacement. Right now I can afford a Canon S5IS package or be 100% sure that I can pay upkeep on my websites and hold onto netflix for 3 more periods. I'm fairly confident that I can manage both, half of the web site costs come in November, then the rest at the end of December, so I'm pretty sure it could work, but I need to decide if I want to work without a net.

This really is more aggravating than the theft itself.

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23.58.30 - Mark

I really don't like compression fittings, they're a really good example of a technology that doesn't improve on time tested techniques, such as soldering. So after 5 hours of hacksawing, filing, bending, twisting, and hitting on a compression fitting and the pipes I was trying to attach it to I'm simply going to go out and buy some lead free solder and a copper coupling and fix the damned thing in a matter of minutes.

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Burned and lightly salted

00.44.22 - Mark

I've been in NC for 5 years now (almost exactly) but I've somehow never made it to the beach, which is apparently what everyone in NC does. Coming from Iowa large bodies of salt water don't really matter that much and my only experience with the Atlantic ocean up until today could be condensed into it sucks. I had gone on a school sponsored (privately funded) east coast trip in 2000 which included visiting Washington DC, Gettysburg, and other random places with some educational value on the east coast. One of the places the east coast trip went to was Virginia Beach, and of course they checked us into a ocean front hotel. They of course planned on letting us play in the ocean, but for some reason I can't even remember we weren't allowed to go more than knee deep into the water. 93.7 quintillion (I think I did that unit conversion right) gallons of water reduced to little more than a kiddie pool that swallowed a salt truck.

That more or less changed yesterday. While down in Savannah, GA visiting my brother we went to Tybee Island and spent some (limited) time in the water before coming back to NC. We were there right as low tide hit so it could have been a lot more impressive, but I get why NC makes a big deal about going to the beach now. Large bodies of salt water are a whole lot more fun than some pool with a chlorine chemical concoction. Even if I have a sunburn and can use my head as a salt shaker...

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Trying not to kill electrons

00.25.22 - Mark

So in addition to reacclaimating myself to the real world, I've been dealing with broken electronic devices.

Two weeks ago I somehow managed to kill my camera. While it chose a good day to die on me (last day of camp) it's well established that I'm a lot happier when I have a working digital camera. On the plus side Canon's customer service is amazing. I called last Friday and after not arguing with the [knowledgeable] phone monkey, I had the camera packed up and shipped within 90 minutes of looking up the Canon Support Phone number. I've never had that sort of thing happen when calling tech support. Assuming they don't take forever to fix my camera, I've got another reason to love Canon.

The other dead electronics I've dealt with this week is my 91 Honda Accord's stereo, which has been dead for so long most people who get in it have become accustomed to not even trying to coax it into speaking. Rather than trying to fix the factory head unit I opted to install a new Sony stereo that has an iPod dock connector. I probably had about half a dozen people tell me to get it professionally installed, but in reality all it required was splicing together a dozen wires (I used crimp connectors, but if I was doing it over would solder and heat shrink it) then put it in place of the old stereo. Cosmetically it could look better, but I'd rather have a few cosmetic blemishes than fork over $75 (or more) and have it look a little nicer. Besides, installing it boosted my confidence on working on cars. While I've got no problem ripping into delicate electronics like laptops and iPods, cracking into my car was a little more daunting. Might be the fact that I don't place my life at risk when I use my computer...

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Some weeks later

23.31.48 - Mark

Camp is done once again, and I've been painfully thrust back into the real world kicking and screaming. Well maybe not kicking and screaming, but Raven Knob is not something you really want to leave behind. Fortunately I've got a few camp related projects that should keep me free from a full blown withdrawal. Among other things I did get around to ordering the panoramic photo I took at the beginning of the summer (only about 11 weeks ago...) and sorting out the 4000+ photos I took during the already mentioned 11 weeks. Once some of the chores get finished up (unpacking, catching up on 3 months of news, other random shit) I'll pick up the posting rate. I might have gone to camp, but the rest of the world didn't take the same 3 month vacation I did.

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Three Weeks

01.25.36 - Mark

I figure it's been close to three weeks since I last looked at my site's homepage. I've dropped a couple links, and might have pulled up the admin pages a couple times in that time frame, but taking a look at it tonight, I almost forgot what my own website looked like.

No I don't really have much to add right now. This is mainly a note to prove that I'm not dead - not yet anyways (burnout however, has certainly set in). As one person has described it:

Camp is like a large misshapen bolder thumping down a hill, you can't stop it and it destroys everything in it's path.

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Taken Out

10.56.07 - Mark

Camp has taken a lot out of me (I've been up there for about a month, a solid two weeks more than most people). While I had every intention of making periodic posts here, the time involved with finding something to write about, writing it, lugging the laptop to a place it can connect to the internet, and then posting it is a slightly higher price than I'd like to pay. Instead, I'm enjoying camp as best I can, dealing with tons (~100 in my regular sessions) of bored scouts, making sure the staff I'm responsible for doesn't mess up, taking every opportunity to take photos, and of course, finding every opportunity to catch up on some much needed rest.

One thing I am working on in my little spare time however is making prints of the Panoramic photo I took from the Knob. There's been a near universally positive response to the image, and many of the people who have seen the image want to own a copy.

Anyways, it's about time to go back to camp...

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The worst part of camp...

00.01.27 - Mark

I've been up at camp for about two weeks on and off, and despite working hard it's a rewarding experience (as always)

It's biggest attraction, isolation from the "real world" is also a severe weakness. The camp doesn't place a strong emphasis on outside communication. No TV, impeded radio signals, irregular newspaper deliveries, and practically being a cell phone free zone make regular news a rarity. Fortunately we have a couple of wifi hotspots scattered about camp but the signals aren't great and you have to make it a point to access them and even then news isn't a matter of great importance.

Had it not been for a friend who came up for a night, I could have easily missed the drama brewing between the Bush administration and Russia and I certainly don't have enough knowlege to make any decent comment about the mess.

Ph, and in case you haven't figured it out, this is a semi-formal note to let you know posting will be extremely light for a couple of months. I'm going to try and post a couple times a week, but I doubt that will happen.

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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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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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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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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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Lizard Love

23.50.02 - Mark

Lizard love

Lizards in Love

I've found (and photographed) at least three lizards creeping around in the yard, but these two are the most fun to watch, plus they're so preoccupied that after a minute or two they simply stop caring about any observers. I've got a short video of these two as well. I'll get around to putting together a video sampler in a few days - the S3 really does have a great video mode.

Right now I'm both looking forward and dreading tomorrow. There's an air show at the local airport and I plan on going over with my camera. The only problem with that is that I know going will flare up my desire to learn how to fly, which of course I can't afford...

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