Sunday, August 31, 2003

Atsa My Dad

Got a picture in the mail the other day, which moved me to get my flatbed scanner and copy of Photoshop 6 working with my iLamp. I did the scan, and now you can see him in the banner photo. Be sure to click on it to see the full image, taken at Lake Louise, Alberta, in July 2003.

Matrix Ping Pong

Okay, I missed this when it was making the rounds earlier (apparently around three months ago), but it's fresh to me, and well worth watching if you've got the bandwidth, even though the picture is really grainy. I wish there were a clean download I could get, it's that fun.

Here is the show, and here is a description of it. I found all this on Boing Boing.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Peek a Boo!

Okay, I decided a banner shot might be a little TMI, so instead, I've made you a little click-through in case you're the morbid type and wanna see my colon snapshots. Soooo, click here!

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Teen Titans

I had another one of those cartoon/videogame crossover moments just now. I was looking up the voice actors for Teen Titans because one of them seemed familiar. The character of Raven is played by Tara Strong, who has worked a lot in voice acting.

But one voice acting gig she has done stands out, and is probably where I recognized Raven from:

Always shocking and amusing to see the cross-over...

<A HREF="">Bringing Down The House</a>

Well this was tons better than Posiitively Fifth Street. I've already noted the flaws in that book (in my opinion, of course). Ben Mezrich makes none of those mistakes, and his subjects are all interesting enough to sustain the book.

This story about how a group of MIT students clean up in Vegas and other towns playing Blackjack ("the only casino game with a memory") is entertaining for it's dramatization of the mechanics employed by the MIT team, and the sheer nerve of the players.

After reading it I understand what is actually meant by 'card counting', and I agree that it is not cheating or stealing. But the casinos don't like to lose their edge, so they reserve the right to bar you if you win too much, no matter how.

Sometimes they cross the line of legality too, as Mezrich relates the ongoing tale of a private investigation firm specializing in tracking card counters, and one agent who uses intimidation and violence to achieve his goals.

Overall, at least three stars.

Current book on the active stack: Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman.

Back From the Maw

The actual procedure of a colonoscopy is much like a flexible sigmoidoscopy, only more so. Whereas the flex-sig was walk-in, bend over, walk out, this time I got hooked up to an EKG, an automatic blood pressure cuff, some sort of finger sensor, and an IV.

They gave me something that made me woozy but did not put me out. The procedure was uncomfortable, sometimes very much so, but it was over soon. It's a good hour and a half afterwards, and I still remember what went on, so I don't think I'm going to have the memory lapse some folks experience with this sedative.

The verdict: completely healthy colon, no polyps! Due to the family history, Dr. Lobiz wants me to do one every five years, but that may back off over time if they continue to find nothing. Anyway, that's behind me.

And I got pictures! If you're 'lucky' I'll scan 'em in and post them as a banner photo where you can't help but notice them.

I'd say that the prep-work (fasting, flushing the colon) was more irritating and inconvenient than the actual procedure. Now I'm rehydrating as fast as I can drink tumblers of water. So until next time, adieu!

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Not Even Stale Bread

It's now been over 25 hours since my last solid food. I've crammed a lot of fluids, including white grape juice and Gatorade, but not any good stuff. And tomorrow I only get water. And then only until noon. Why? Because tomorrow afternoon is my friendly colonoscopy. Or as I like to call it, a visit with the snake doctor.

Part of the prep work includes cleansing my system, so no solids, sodium phosphate drinks to flush the system, and lots of quality time at home! I surprised myself, however, and had a very productive work day, working remote from home. As I've experienced in the past, if I don't actually need to interact with anyone else, the distraction factor is really low.

I'll try working tomorrow a.m., if I'm not feeling too spacey. I've logged a backlog of hours just for this occasion, so I may not even need to declare any vacation time for this, though I'm keeping track...

I don't know if I'll be in any shape to write anything up tomorrow evening, and they tell me that the meds affect your short-term memory, so I may not even be able to give a first-hand account if I want to. Cross your fingers. I know you're all waiting with baited breath.

Britney Ain't Dylan

I'd recently shared with Alan and Tom about how computer tech has gotten good enough that engineers can correct singers' pitch in real-time, allowing Britney Spears to hit those notes even when she ain't havin' a good day. Here I present for your reading entertainment a decent description of autotuners.

Monday, August 25, 2003


I confess to feeling deliciously wicked this morning when I arrived at work. In my leather tote was my Blueberry iBook, on which I keep a copy of all my music (cheaper than buying an iPod, for now).

Posted at every entrance was a stern warning not to connect any laptops to the corporate network until you had gone to your building's virus triage center to get scrubbed.

Yep, I just got on the elevator and went to my office, carrying my 'unscrubbed' laptop with me. It isn't hooked up to the network, but I could, at any time...

MWAH Hah hah!

For the humor-impaired, my laptop is a Macintosh, and can't be infected by the SoBig.F or Lovsan virii. "Now Zoidberg is the popular one!"

Monday, August 18, 2003

iTunes Music Purchases

I've been trying to wait for my bill on a purchase before running off and buying more, and this time I managed. Here's the new stuff:

Apollo Four FortyStop the Rock
Bee GeesStayin' Alive
Billy SwanI Can Help
The CorrsBreathless
The CorrsDreams
The CorrsOnly When I Sleep
The CorrsRunaway
Fred AstairePuttin' On The Ritz
Jimmy CliffGive the People What They Want
Jimmy CliffThe Harder They Come (Reprise)
Limp BizkitBreak Stuff
Oak Ridge BoysElvira (Single)
Soft CellTainted Love (7" Single)
Three Dog NightNever Been to Spain (Single)
Tom JonesWhat's New Pussycat?

A fair amount of pop this time, though some of it's rather old. Stop the Rock was used in a music video at Anime Expo this year, and The Corrs were recommended to me by Alan Matzka while we were listening to stuff on our various portable players at Expo. The Limp Bizkit tune is used in the Red vs Blue machinima. Kiss is to complement my other copy, by The Art of Noise, featuring Tom Jones. Never Been to Spain makes a nice, slow cha-cha tune.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

<A HREF="">Freddy vs Jason</a>

Before today, I'd never seen a Freddy movie. I've only seen one Jason movie, and I only saw it because it seemed like a parody of itselt (this was Jason X, Jason goes to SPACE Space space! ...). That was every bit as cheesy and stupid as I'd hoped. Some of you remember me raving over the silly camp holodeck sequence and the great line as one character gets pulled out an airlock after Jason traps her ("this sucks on so many levels!").

Well, everyone at NOVA was chuckling when Freddy vs Jason started showing up in trailers, so I decided that I wanted to see it, and trundled off to the theatre today after we returned home.

I think Jason X was a lot more fun and silly, despite this one being directed by Ronny Yu. I had fun, don't get me wrong, but overall, it seemed sorta paint-by-numbers. Another one I really needed to see with the NOVA crowd...

<A HREF="">Masters of Doom</a>

The secret to increasing my reading quota is, it seems, getting away from home. I plowed through this book in just the three days we were at the coast. I had no Internet access, wasn't interested in watching television without the remediation of my ReplayTV, and had many idle moments when we weren't walking around Florence, so read I did.

I was in fact fascinated by this book, as I'd never really gotten in on the Doom/Quake phenomenon. It all happened during one of my quieter phases, gaming-wise, and besides, I didn't have an Intel PC during those years. I'm taking away two things from this book.

One, John Romero and John Carmack are both geniuses, but the mid-term success of id was as much survivorship bias as pure sustained innovation. I always got the impression that id was a flawless house of geniuses who never made mistakes. The book shows how far from true this is.

Two, I finally know what 'gib' means in a gamer context. The book refers to victims in Doom exploding, leaving around little bits "like human giblets." This became regular slang, and evolved into a verb. "I gibbed him when he turned the corner."

Now that this is finished, I'm moving on to Bringing Down the House, about a bunch of MIT students who clean up on blackjack.



I didn't hold out any hope that Driftwood Shores would have a broadband connection, and they don't. All they have is a 'data port' on the phone, which means, "dial long distance to your ISP", so I'll be keeping my notes on this trip offline and posting them in one big chunk when I get back.

We left for Florence around noon, and got here shortly after 3pm, as expected. The hotel is pretty nice, we're on the top floor, and have an ocean view. We've just been taking it easy, snacking in the hotel room. Kelly spent around an hour down on the beach diving into the waves, building sand castles, the like. I took around twenty pictures on the beach, including one of a person riding a horse, and a few of a genuine timberwolf, a domesticated animal from a local petting zoo. I knew when I saw it that it wasn't an ordinary dog, and when it came up, friendly as can be, I said, "wow, look at the shoulders on that thing!" Definitely not a dog's.

Kelly didn't get enough splashing in the water, so Jean took her to the hotel pool, and I stretched out because my back was bothering me. I ended up falling asleep, but I still woke up in time to walk over to the pool and watch Kelly swim for awhile. I brought a library book, Masters of Doom, about John Romero and John Carmack, the founders of id Software. Now we're just sitting in the room waiting for Kelly to konk out, and I just finished watching episode 23 of Groove Adventure Rave on my laptop. I'll spend a half hour or so reading, then konk out myself. Later.


Did the dunes today. We mainly went to the coastal dunes, rather than the ones frequented by the dune buggy crowd. I went for a walk in the morning to try to get some exercise, but it turns out I didn't need to worry, as Kelly had me running up and down steep thirty foot dunes most of the morning.

Then we went off to Old Town Florence and walked around for awhile, finally settling in for lunch at a little Italian hole in the wall. Kelly had the 'appetizer' pizza, but it was huge.

In the afternoon we went back to the hotel and let Kelly play on the beach. I'm so sick of bright sunlight, literally. I got a minor sunburn, but my constitution just doesn't sit well with all that sun. In the hour we were outside, I probably got a week's worth of sunlight.

Kelly didn't get enough water though, and ended up back in the hotel pool. After an hour of that, we went back to the room, where Jean and I practiced our cha-cha while Kelly relaxed. Now we're all zoning. After I help Kelly clean her teeth (new braces!) I'm probably gonna watch another episode of Rave...


We've enjoyed ourselves, and are nevertheless ready to go home. I am already half-packed, and planning on showering tonight so that I can just pop into my day clothes in the morning and leave.

Today we went to the sea lion caves, and I tried taking a few pictures. I expect that they'll all be either underexposed (the cave shots) or too far away (the cliff shots). But at least I tried. Then we went to Heceta Head Light House, which was just up the coast. It is named after Bruno Heceta (Heh SEE tah), a Spanish explorer who surveyed the Pacific coast. Finally, we visited the Pioneer Museum, which was more a collection of artifacts from the long history of Oregon and the U.S. than an organized museum. I even found an Osborne computer, a 'portable' I remember lusting after in my larval stage as a programmer. It ran C/PM and was considered a business computer, having a tiny screen which was sufficient for a few rows or columns of a spreadsheet.

This evening we had dinner at Mo's Seafood Restaurant, and now Kelly and Jean are down at the beach while I write this note. Next entry will most likely be back in Tualatin...

Wednesday, August 13, 2003


I watched Versus last night. Definitely a gem in the rough, but pretty close to polished. I have to take exception with the few reviews I read that called it flawed or uneven. If you view it in the spirit in which I think it was intended, it succeeds quite well. Think of it as an homage to early Sam Raimi (around Evil Dead 2), with the style aesthetic of Pulp Fiction, and you're halfway there.

Add in the roots of over-the-top bad-guy posturing and absurd macho street fighting from shows like GTO, and you've come most of the way. In any case, it's going to assume a place next to Wild Zero and Bio-Zombie in my Asian zombie gallery.

I got the two-disc Special Edition, with the director's cut and a disc of extras. I browsed the extras disc, but haven't watched it all. Among other things it includes a short 'side story' film, called "Nervous". The main disc is like four movies in one. There is the version I watched, Japanese with English subtitles. Then there is the English dubbed version. I watched a bit of that for chuckles. It made the movie seem like a Sandy Frank extravaganza.

The other two versions are commentary tracks. I watched a bit of each. The first is a commentary track in Japanese by the director and members of the cast. It's subtitled, and seems like lots of fun. Everybody is giggling and making fun of each other and telling anecdotes about the filming.

The second commentary track is with the director and someone else I didn't recognize, in English. Turns out Ryuhei Kitamura speaks pretty good English. I watched a tiny bit of that, when he was telling how he hired the main bad guy. He was on the set for three weeks before they began shooting his scenes, so he did unit direction for Kitamura, and did all the cooking! Lots of fun to hear stuff like that.

So yeah, Alan, I'm definitely going to force you and Tom to watch this baby. It's not perfect, slows down now and then, but is overall a buncha fun.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

The Coast

I almost forgot to mention this, but Jean, Kelly and I are going to the coast . We're staying in Florence, Oregon, and it is such a relief to be able to drive to a vacation spot for a change. No eight hour ride in the bus that has no rest stops (i.e. airliner), no sharp sinus pains on descent to the airport, no checking and unchecking bags. Can you tell I hate travel?

So we're driving out and taking things at our own pace. I'm packing books and my laptop, and probably video games, for those quiet evenings. The room has a kitchen, so we'll be preparing most of our own food (another problem with most travel, restaurant food tends to make me feel pretty crappy after a couple of days).

Cha Cha

Jean and I have been practicing nearly every day for our cha-cha class. It's lucky for me that Jean has a sense of humor, since I still stumble despite all the practice. I think I've improved some, but I doubt I'll ever go beyond a basic competency.

Last Tuesday was our second class, and I was so befuddled by what the instructors were trying to teach, that I ended up standing on the sidelines while just about everyone else danced. No matter how closely I watched, I wasn't able to pick apart the steps well enough to replicate them, or even imitate them loosely. I was very frustrated. The instructors seem more intent on moving the mid-level dancers forward than helping the hopeless clutzes, and I guess I can't blame them.

We've 'learned' two dances, the Travelling Cha-cha, and the Southern Nights Cha-cha. Jean grabbed another one off the Internet, the Western Lights Cha-cha, and we've been practicing it on our own. Learning a dance step is for me a lot like solving a bug in my product at work. I have to create a model for what I think is happening, and then try to prove it. In this case, I guess the bug is in me, and by modelling the patterns in the dance, I hope to fix the bug in my ineptness. It was just today, after working through the Western Lights for the umpteenth time, that I recognized a symmetry patttern that'd been there all along. It took me days to see it.

Like anything I try to learn, I find the topic coloring other areas of my perception. I've begun to see my music collection in binary: songs that are good for cha-cha, and songs that aren't. Most of my collection isn't cha-cha material. Yesterday I said to Jean that I thought the old song Third Rate Romance would be a good cha-cha song. I ended up hunting down a CD of songs by the Amazing Rhythm Aces (since iTunes Music Store doesn't carry them -- yet) and bought it today. I've got to get the old CD player set up in the basement again so we can practice to it.

We've got one more evening to practice, then it's back to Tuesday night Cha-cha class, for another round of confusion and humiliation. Wish me luck!

Billboard Mis-steps

Apparently there's some kind of promotional campaign to sell more pig meat. Jean and I were driving on I-205 today and I read aloud from a billboard: "Time flies when you're having pork."

Jean looked up in time to see the billboard, and said, "What? That's not even ... stupid!"

Another sale lost...

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Software Links

Just for reference, I thought I'd mention two (free!) software packages I've been meaning to get on my Mac:

  • blender3d, a 3-d modelling application. I don't intend to do anything fancy with it, just noodle about, maybe try to get Kelly interested...

  • MacPython, because Python Rocks!

Friday, August 1, 2003

How To Be A Player

It's just two months shy of three years since I purchased my ReplayTV, so it's appropriate that I now feel free to open it up and tinker. The newer models come with more disk space, networking capabilities and enhanced display features, but mostly, the only thing I crave is more space. This is less to add more programming than it is to record at a higher quality setting, but since I'm now recording a couple of shows that Jean and I watch, as well as my usual fare, having extra space for those shows as well is likely to be a bonus.

I've gotten into the habit of recording all my shows in 'extended' mode, which is sub-vcr quality, and shows noticable digital artifacts, when the action is heavy. The benefit is that my 30GB disk can support around 30 hours of programs. Going up to 'medium' quality would cut that to 15 hours, and 'high' would bring it down to 10 hours.

So I was reading Matt Haughey's excellent PVRBlog (Personal Video Recorder weB-LOG) and followed his link to the ReplayTV FAQ. There I learned that it is possible to upgrade the disk drive of your ReplayTV, just like Tivo owners have always been able to do. The catch is that you have to have a Windows or Linux box with IDE cables to carry out the enhancement.

Now I have a few friends with Windows boxes, but only one of them also owns a ReplayTV unit. That's my work buddy Burr. So I floated the concept of the project to him, and he agreed. We did the first pass over lunch on Monday, me buying a 160GB Western Digital drive at Costco and taking it to his townhouse. It's a good thing his friend John was visiting, because he had some helpul tips that got us unstuck a couple of times.

Unfortunately, I got a little greedy, and tried to use the 'copy programming' option of the cloning program to preserve all the shows on my original disk. It didn't work, and we had to try again today. This time I skipped that step. It worked like a charm, and the whole process took less time, to boot! Granted, there was no programming on the drive when I booted it up, but the ReplayTV OS worked fine, and all my preprogrammed shows were in the 'to record' listing.

I set it up this evening, and sure enough, at 6:30 pm it began recording 'King of the Hill', a show Jean has gotten me hooked on, just like she got me hooked on Lucky.

So how much recording space do I have now? At 'medium', just shy of 68 hours. So I can more than double my capacity while raising the quality of the image. If I continued to use 'extended' I'd get nearly 137 hours, but I doubt it will come to that.