NaBloWriMo is ended

This is the last day of November.  My attempt to be a more prolific writer at this blog was not as successful as I would have liked it to have been, but I think it’s been a good month for the blog, over all.  I’m in the middle of a fun lottery-related post that should go up next week, though I was hoping to make it part of NaBloWriMo.  Sadly, I’ve run out of time to check over it again and make sure the math is half right, so it’ll have to wait.

Next week, I’ll also try to work up a final Month of November Word Count for this blog.  In the meantime, I’m taking the rest of the day off.  See ya in December!

Charity Overload

This will sound incredibly harsh, but what the heck:

I’m sick of giving my money to every charity that begs me for a dollar.

This is the worst time of year for it, too, as every store you walk into will have someone asking for money outside the front door, or a cashier asking if you’d like to donate a dollar to whatever cause they’re supporting this week. When I said “no thanks” to one of the latter yesterday, she was done with me. She went immediately from cheery and peppy to quiet and angry. I could tell. But if I’m running into the store to get something that’s on sale because I can save a buck there, what’s the purpose if I donate that buck?  I don’t even know anything about the organization that I’m giving money to.  How do I know I’m getting the most bang for my buck? I know, I know. I’m a Scrooge. Bah humbug. Mean ol’ Augie.

This isn’t to say I’m against donations. I do it on my own time and in my own way. And I always give to the Salvation Army once or twice at this season every year. The problem is, I’m passing by that guy now three times a week outside the supermarket. I almost resent having to pass him up every time because it makes me feel guilty about not donating.  I’m taking the other door out to avoid him all together.

When I see the Girl Scouts parked outside selling cookies at other times of the year, I drive down the street to the next grocery store.

I also make a habit out of instantly shredding the five thousand return address stickers I receive from charities each and every month. They’d make a lot more money for their cause if they’d stop sending me money grabs every week. Aren’t we all supposed to be hard-core environmentalists now? Why are charities still killing all those trees on the off chance that a random piece of mail I send is returned to sender?

Am I alone? Am I a Scrooge? Or are we hitting charity overload?

It reminds me of P2P and music — people who share music freely on P2P networks are statistically proven to BUY MORE MUSIC. Mayhaps I’d donate more to charity if they weren’t constantly begging me for it. That random dollar they get from me today makes a $20 check from me later much less likely. Is it time for charities to radically rethink their fundraisers?

Link Dump – With Commentary

  • Metallica is premiering their next single as a Rock Band download.  Just a rumor at this point, but pretty clever, if true.  No, it won’t last that way for long.  People will figure out how to rip it, share it, and pass it around.  That’s not the point, though.  Video games are now music industry promotional vehicles.  Pretty interesting.
  • Thinking about the Apple TV. . . I’d still like one. I have video podcasts I’d LOVE to watch on my TV, and I know there are HD podcasts that would look great up on there, too. But, in the end, I just don’t need it. Can’t justify it. I’m doing fine with a DVR and a TiVo, thanks.
  • Dilbert‘s Scott Adams realizes his blog is detrimental to business. Sad. I do have to wonder, as a blogger and a ten year columnist, if he isn’t being a tad touchy with regards to those who tell him they’ll never read his stuff again. This is the internet — someone says that every week. Then they come back the next week to tell it to you again. And the following week, and the week after that, etc. etc.
  • Every now and again, an idea so obvious is explained in such striking detail that you slap your forehead and wonder why you didn’t think of that before. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Jack the Ripper is Lewis Carroll. Yes, the guy who wrote Alice In Wonderland.
  • Nintendo is having a very good month. Insanely good. Best Month Ever for Nintendo. They sold more than a million units between the DS and the Wii, last week. I wish I bought that stock a couple years ago now.

Bag of Money for Nintendo

Here’s an idea for one of those theoretical bags of money that Nintendo might be leaving at the side of the road:

Everyone talks about downloading additional songs for Guitar Hero III like it’s the holy grail.  Mine is somewhat different: I want to see GH1 and GH2 released for the Wii.  For those of us who’ll be playing GH for the first time seriously on the Wii, we’ve never played the whole game for either of the first two additions.  Why bother nickel-and-diming us with a buck a song when you can just repurpose the old extant software and hit us up for $40 a pop.  As long as it works with the current guitar — or even with a little reprogramming so that it does — it would be a great value for new GH fans.

Windows Troubleshooting

Computer Randomly Plays Classical Music

During normal operation or in Safe mode, your computer may play “Fur Elise” or “It’s a Small, Small World” seemingly at random. This is an indication sent to the PC speaker from the computer’s BIOS that the CPU fan is failing or has failed, or that the power supply voltages have drifted out of tolerance. This is a design feature of a detection circuit and system BIOSes developed by Award/Unicore from 1997 on.

The funny thing is, this is SERIOUS. Not a gag. It comes straight from Microsoft’s own site.

I guess printing an error message to the screen was too hard. . .

Update: An anonymous commenter below pointed out that this is not strictly a Windows problem, and would happen on a Linux box, too. My humble apologies to Microsoft.  It’s still a funny bug report, though. =)

New DVD Releases for 27 November 2007

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday now behind us, Christmas season is here. Be sure to check out all the store circulars and keep a watchful eye on your favorite web sites. Amazon, for one, is doing some amazing daily deals on different DVDs. (Yesterday, they offered the complete BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER TV series for under $100.) But other website are deep discounting DVDs, as well. This is as good a time to catch up on those releases you missed earlier this year as it is to focus on the new. Any TV series that’s had three or four seasons released to DVD is likely to have its first season deeply discounted. Hot movies from the summer are bound to be loss leaders. Keep an eye out.

In the meantime, here’s what’s new this week:

  • Futurama: Bender’s Big Score

It’s another one of those FOX animated series that just won’t die. Like FAMILY GUY returning to glory, FUTURAMA is getting its second chance now with a direct-to-DVD movie release. It’ll eventually be broken down into individual episodes, but this is the only way to see it for now.

  • Waitress

Cover art looks like a chick flick, but Keri Russell is kind of cute. And Andy Griffith is in it. MATLOCK and FELICITY, together at last!

  • Mr. Bean’s Holiday

It got wretched reviews, but it’s still Rowan Atkinson doing physical comedy for an hour and a half or so. Can’t be a total loss, right?

  • Bratz

Did you know they made a live action movie out of a toy line designed specifically to corrupt our nation’s female youth?

  • Hot Fuzz

This is a three disc edition, for those who couldn’t get enough of the movie during its original DVD releases not all that many moons ago. . .

What else excites you for this week?

Posted in DVD

The Shot – 25 Nov 2007

There’s a flaw in the concept of the show that’s becoming apparent now. That is, the photographers aren’t given enough instruction or help. This week, they all failed to highlight the hair on the models they were shooting. The hair stylist stood to the side of the stage looking at the pictures as they came up and criticizing them for the camera, mocking righteous indignation over how awful the whole thing was. But he never told the contestants that. He didn’t work with them. He didn’t suggest anything except, at the start, to say, “This is about hair. Bouncy, shiny hair.” Not much help at all. I can’t blame the contestants for being lost and focusing on how cool the tech was. It was a 90 camera bullet time rig setup. That’s a quick $360,000, assuming Canon 1D Mark III cameras. That IS seriously cool.

Robin is fast becoming the snob of the group. I loved it when she talked about how her concert photography experience would help her photograph beach volleyball. They showed some of her blurry concert photography to prove it. Problem is, concert photographers are stuck in the pit in one location with little room to move. At best, they can move laterally back and forth, but their angle never changes. MAYBE they get to stand off-stage, but it’s all locked down pretty tight. There’s a vast difference between shooting THAT and a beach volleyball game. Sure enough, she stood stock still far off to the side of the volleyball court and took shots of players standing around, just like rock stars in concert. ::sigh::

I’m beginning to think that Jason is the only talented and sane one on the show. Dean is a brute. Airic is a horn dog. Maria is lost.

It’s a shame.

Video iPod rants

iPod Video Gen 5.5I have what I guess would be called an iPod Video. It’s a 30 gig jobber that plays video. I’m sure it’s a solid two generations out of touch by now, but there are some things about it that drive me nuts:

  • This is probably a feature by some standards, but not by me. When I’m in the Music->Podcasts directory and chance across a video podcast, I would like to watch the video with that click. I don’t want to listen to the audio-only. Logically, I can understand it. If I’m in the “Music” directory, I should expect to hear only audio. But from a purely pragmatic end-user experience, a podcast is a podcast. If I click on a podcast and it’s of the video variety, I want to SEE something. I don’t want to have to click back 3 levels of menus, then back down through Videos->Video Podcasts to get to see the thing I should have been able to see 5 or more clicks ago.
  • I don’t think I ever want to listen to just the audio on a video podcast, so this feature makes even less sense.
  • Pause/fast-forward/rewind works oddly during video podcasts. It doesn’t allow me to rewind sometimes. I can circle my thumb around the scroll wheel a few times to rewind by a couple of minutes, but the second I let go the video starts playing stubbornly from where it started. Sometimes, I can click on the center of the wheel after scrolling back a little to “stick the landing,” but that’s iffy.
  • When I’m in the last minute of a five minute podcast, if I pause it for too long, it autocompletes the video and pushes me out to the Video Podcast menu. When I hit PLAY again, it starts at the beginning of the podcast.
  • Video playback is a slow-starter. Not a major problem, but an annoyance I should mention while I’m listing them all.
  • Finally, when I listen to an audio podcast, I’d appreciate seeing the right cover art for it. It’s completely random, but there are times when the wrong podcast’s cover art shows up on screen while a completely unrelated podcast plays.

The latest from Twitter

Every now and again, I post a compilation of potentially interesting recent Twitter posts I’ve made. These are thoughts that wouldn’t sustain a full blog post, but might be topics for discussion. So, please, discuss. You can follow them in real time over here.

  • The iTunes store can be a sad place. So many podcasts that never made it past four episodes. . .
  • General Hospital fans, place your bets: Is it Luke or Coop who’s been murdering people?
  • That last post about General Hospital was #666. Uh oh. . .
  • @jbacardi – actually, one soap opera rumor site has a theory about the currently story line that’s not too far off from Satan. heh heh heh
  • Excited about new comics-related project. Mum’s the word. . .
  • Was rejected by a whole new stock photo site. It’s pointless trying to get into one without an SLR
  • Hooked on Nellie McKay’s “Testify” song. A rousing little ditty, it is.
  • It’s good to have Dave Ryan back in the booth with Randy Pederson in those PBA TV finals on ESPN.
  • Man, it’s been a while since a diabetes cure was announced. We’re overdue for three more to round out the year.
  • Prepped some appetizers for T-Day tomorrow. Ate one, put one on the platter. I’m gaining five pounds BEFORE I hit a slice of turkey.
  • Black Friday SLR camera sales are more expensive than the prices at Amazon or any reputable on-line camera dealer. Shame.
  • An ad for BARBIE: ISLAND PRINCESS just aired during the parade – a minute after the BARBIE: ISLAND PRINCESS float did their performance.
  • Meanwhile, you can’t air an ad for a Batman comic book with an episode of the Batman animated series. Hunh
  • Bindi Irwin – Croc Hunter’s daughter – is doing a song and dance at the Macy’s Parade right now. It’s a bit creepy.
  • Survived eating TWO Thanksgiving dinners today. Mission accomplished!
  • Spent a half hour tweaking T-Day pictures. Uploaded to Kodak Gallery. They all look like crap now. Gray, colors washed out, ugly. ARGH!

Attention Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Users

Lightroom for saleHowever nice the auto-Flickr exporter is, don’t upgrade to 1.3 yet.I’ve had some terribly disappointing problems with the latest version of Lightroom when it comes to exporting pictures. After exporting them and uploading them to Ofoto, they look like crap. Washed out. Ashen. Grey. Horrible. The exported images look fine as JPGs on my local machine, but the end results on the website look horrible. I’ve looked through multiple browsers (Flock, Firefox, Safari) on two machines, and the results are the same.

When I tried some tests on my other (older and slower) Tiger-based machine using Lightroom 1.2, the pictures look fine.

I’m still investigating this, but it is troubling. I’ve tried exporting with a variety of options changes, from dots-per-inch to file size, and the problem stays the same.

I thought it might have something to do with color profiles, but changing that doesn’t make a bit of difference.

I’m perplexed.

The benefits of a tripod

I’ve read and listened to a lot of photography experts in the past couple of months.  The one thing they all agree on is that a good tripod is a must.  The other thing is that you should pick up a Nikon or Canon SLR if you’re serious, but that’s a whole ‘nother post for another day.

Blurry TreeI saw this in action on Friday while putting up the Christmas tree.  I took a few pictures of the decoration in process.  First, I took a pic of the bare (artificial) tree.  I took a few.  I took them in burst mode.  I was standing about six feet away from the tree.  I tried with and without a flash.  Every picture I took came out with the lights looking light round blurry things.  It was annoying.

I took the cardboard box the tree came in, stood it on end, and perched the camera onSharp tree top.  Suddenly, the picture was completely sharp.  You could make out every branch, and the lights were sharp and crisp.

I’m a believer. I’m investing in one this holiday season.

Click on the links above to see the full Flickr pictures to back up what I’m saying.

The Christmas Tree Is Up!

Angel on the Christmas Tree

Mrs. VandS and I had a lot of new ornaments from our wedding.  The wedding shower included a special “Christmas Ornament” theme back in the spring.  So we needed a new tree to take all of that, in addition to my boxes of Looney Tunes ornaments throughout the years.  7 feet worth of artificial pre-lit Christmas tree was erected at Casa VandS yesterday, and it came out pretty well.  The only things to suffer were my hands, that got scratched up and bloodied like you wouldn’t believe — use gloves when putting together an artificial tree, people!

In any case, this is the angel atop the tree. She’s not new, but I’m happy that she’s sitting up straight, for the most part.

Come back tomorrow for a special presentation on hand-holding a camera versus using a tripod.

Friday Link Dump