Monday, December 28, 2009

"Bloom County: The Complete Library Volume One: 1980-1982" Review

This review originally appeared on Amazon.com. If you want to buy this product (and you should!!) Please click on this link right here.

The reason I'm including this review here, is that the images I uploaded onto Amazon were reduced dramatically in size.

And as usual, CLICK ON THE IMAGES FOR A LARGER VERSION. You'll be able to see the paper's grain on these shots!!





SUMMARY:
2/3 of book is unpublished material from the early years!
6 strips never before in print anywhere
13 samples of Academia Waltz (Berke Breathed’s first strip, whilst in college)
Factoids on sidebar to keep book relevant for future generations
High Quality Construction & Paper
Only one Problem: Image quality not as good as “Loose Tails”

STORY:
I just finished reading Vol 1 today and it’s incredible. It is much, much more than I expected. Because I started reading Bloom Country in about 1985, there are entire story lines that I’ve missed that were never published before. Binkley’s mother is in this book. There are a lot more Limekiller strips, and a lot more strips of the royal family. You finally meet the landlord. Probably 2/3 of this book was not in “Loose Tails”. And this book doesn't even get all the way through "Loose Tails"!

CLOSER TO AUTHOR’S INTENT
Additionally, I noticed that some of the lines changed. I think some have been restored to their original lines before an editor got to them. Case in point: when Opus calls in to Donahue, the punch line in “Loose Tails” was that the show was on Nun beating. In Vol.1 , the punch line is Husband Beating. Looking at booth, it would appear that “Loose Tails” was doctored.

PHYSCIAL BOOK CONSTRUCTION
It’s nearly perfect. It’s in chronological order, and the Sunday strips’ color are very good.
It’s not too heavy, like the Far Side, Calvin & Hobbes and Dilbert 2.0 collections. The pages are very thick and sturdy. Are they archival? I’d have to test their ph, but I think it’ll last a long time. There’s even a built in bookmark.

NOT SCANNED CORRECTLY
The ONLY thing keeping me from giving this book 5 stars, is the fact that the image quality is not as good as the original compilation, “Loose Tails” by Little, Brown (out of print). Even though they mention the quality being lower for some of the older strips, I can’t give them a pass on this, because I have better copies of many of the strips myself! (again, Loose Tails)

I will attempt to upload close-up comparisons of a portion of one panel of Vol.1 & Loose Tails. Please note that these images are part of this review, and therefore are allowed according to the copyrights listed on both “Loose Tails” and this publication.

Most strips in this collection are decent, but feel a little fuzzy. This is something you’ll probably only notice if you have this collection side by side with “Loose Tails”. However, some strips are truly bad.

Cases in point of two of the poorer scans:
Vol 1 pg: 172 punch line “Leaving a trail of slime wherev-“. Compare to “Loose Tails” on page 24.
Vol 1 pg: 198 punch line “Boo”. Compare to “Loose Tails” pg 47

Other printing notes:
Straight lines above the page numbers are halftone, and therefore are also fuzzy.
Blacks are not 100% black, but a little lighter. Could be because of matte paper.

Calvin & Hobbes Complete Collection, The Far Side Complete Collection & Dilbert 2.0 do not suffer from any of these problems.

Berke; please insist that they fix this problem in the second printing (yes, I'll buy it, too) and all further volumes!

I hate to sound like a know-it-all, but when I published an independent comic book with a friend, we were able to test different scanning techniques for comic art. So, these notes below are for the publisher. They really, really need to fix this for their second printing of the book, and certainly, ALL future editions of the complete library need to have this fixed!!

Publisher: Whatever resolution you scanned the images, triple it! For the daily strips, it looks like you scanned the original artwork with the grayscale setting, then converted it to black & white, and printed it halftone. You need to scan them in Black & White (each pixel is either black or white, and no gray scale). To make this work, the scanning resolution needs to be really, really high! For a color or gray scale image, you can usually get away with 300 dpi. This will NOT work for Black and white scans!! You should scan the original artwork (the stuff Berke drew, NOT from another compilation or newspaper) at least at 800 dpi before you reduce them! The final resolution needs to be anywhere from 800 - 1600 dpi. If you need better copies, I'll lend you my copy of "Loose Tails"! Your collection is going to be the definitive collection of Bloom County! Do it for posterity! Do it for the children!

Yes, I'm a fanboy, but I assure you, I wasn't one of the people who camped in front of Berke's house waiting for this to come out (really!)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Wonders in Ice

Last week when we were in Colton, it got really cold out one night. The next morning, my daughter and I took a ride on Grandpa's four wheeler to check out the property. In the plowed field, there were literally acres of ice crystals like this. They were each about 1 1/2" tall. These photos were actually taken near my parent's house. I wonder why the crystals form like this. It looks like there was a little rock or piece of dirt on top of nearly each crystal. When they grow, they grow straight up. It's only after they are stepped on do they fall over like this. (Ravenna's feet in photo)

AS ALWAYS, CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE!



Straight Crystals:



_____________________________________________________

Today, my daughter and I took down our new dome tent.



We had some black plastic on the ground, where ice had formed. This particular piece was very interesting, because it looked like it trapped a little rainbow inside of it. I have no idea how if could reflect like that. Maybe there was some oil on the plastic & it is acting like a mud puddle. Maybe there was a pocket of air or water inside, and that pocket acted like a large rain drop. Maybe that particular part of the ice was shaped like a lens. I don't know.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Roadside optical illusion #1

This really is the second roadside optical illusion, but as I didn't have a camera for the first one*, I'll call this one the first.

I was sitting at a Vancouver, Washington Burgerville (click link *after* looking at photos below)when I took this photo, just off of 1-205's exit 30A. By the way, I totally recommend this fast food restaurant. The servers were very friendly, and their communication skills were great. Also, this chain buys from local suppliers whenever possible. It's a bit pricier than other fast food joints, but you do pay for quality.

Take a quick look at this picture. At first glance it looks like there is a retro store outside, perhaps catering to the tourist crowd.



I first noticed that something looked wrong with the mountain. It wasn't supposed to be there, and if it represented Mt. St. Helens, it should be missing it's top. Then the store looked a bit flat. But, the sky's color matched up exactly with the side window. Something was clearly wrong, although with a nasty head cold & road weary eyes, I wasn't sure what. I took a step forward, and saw what was up. It was a mural on the side of a building. The perspective was somewhat close, but the sky color was perfect! And, the clouds were really, really well done!

I had to go grab my camera and take these shots. Thanks to the patrons & staff for being understanding :)



*A Taco Time, I think north of Seattle. While I sat, I looked out the window, and saw two people eating in their PR Cruiser. When I looked behind me, I saw the same people. Turned out that their reflection in the window, and the bench seating in this Taco Time lined up perfectly with the car parked there.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This site might just come in handy

I found this on a Mocap email thread:
smallparts.com/
"The Hardware Store for Researchers & Developers"
Looks promising :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

The true meaning of welding

Welding is sewing for guys!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

My cross to bear

At the last minute, I decided to spruce up our house for Halloween. The lasagna gardening patch that Alyssa is working on reminded me of freshly buried bodies, so why not a cemetery? I then waited a few days, as I was feeling pretty sick (still am today, but better), and went out on the town to buy some fake gravestones. I got the last one at Target on the 30th ($5), and then headed over to Display & Costume to pick up a few more. Talk about busy!! They had a parking attendant directing traffic! Their styrofoam gravestones were $20, so I opted for two of their $3.75 ones (pictured below)



As we were still short on graves, I made some iron crosses to practice my welds. Best weld is pictured below. If I didn't botch the end with the extra MIG wire it would have been darn near perfect.



I then hid some LED lights behind bricks & aimed them at the crosses.

Alyssa had just bought an LED candle holder, which I placed in front of her creepy painting. The height was perfect for the lamp!

We closed the curtains, and back lit them with 25 watt florescent lights that I put in the flood lamps I usually use to take Art From Scratch pictures with. I covered them with red gel filters.

At night, it actually looked somewhat impressive! The way the colors came out on this photo remind me of Tim Burton's style :)

Yes, I did some Photoshop work, but not too much. I used a tripod & shot 3 images at different exposure settings, then blended them together for the best lighting. Otherwise, the door & windows would have been blown out. I also gave it a slight vignette at the edges to highlight the center more. Click on all images for enlargements!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Ultimate Conspiracy Theory

This is it. The most frightening theory out there. Most people can't handle it.

Are you ready?

Here it is:

There is no conspiracy. There are no secret cabals controlling the world through international banks, no UFOs beaming thoughts into our minds via telephone lines, no pink lasers from other galaxies affecting global warming.

People just do stupid shit. Repeatedly. And when people react to each other's actions, patterns will appear out of the chaos, making it appear that something was planned all along. It wasn't. No one is in control. No one, good or evil, is looking out for you (except God if you believe in him).

People are just being people. You think something is fishy in the social strata you don't belong to (upper or lower)? Statistically speaking, you'd probably do the same thing in their situation. Doesn't make it right, but that's how it is.

Be it welfare moms milking the system, or oil men getting together and setting prices it is the same underlying principles of hard coded, human behavior.

Hell, I even used to brag about how I figured out the broken credit system at the UofO, and how I was able to graduate with a BS in Fine Art without having to take Calculus. Guess what? The only person I shortchanged was myself.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The 'real' conspiracy??

My real fear does not stem from the government, but rather large corporations, banks & insurance companies. Here's my conspiracy theory: Ever notice how a president gets into office and almost immediately changes his tone & back steps on proposed changes? Maybe the secret service isn't just there to protect him, but to watch him. To make sure he doesn't get too far out of line. Maybe the military industrial complex really *does* run things, and the president and family is held hostage.

I don't believe this theory that I made up. I think what really happens is that he becomes privy to more information than we have, and his opinions change. Maybe there's some really, really bad people in Gitmo, and releasing them would be the wrong thing to do for our safety, but we don't have enough information on them to convict them of anything yet. Back peddling ensues.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

1st Weld!



I bought a used MIG welder from my friend over the weekend & finally had the time to try it out. This is the first weld that I tried on it, trying to set the wire speed, etc... Not too bad considering it's been at least 5 years since I've used a MIG, the metal was really dirty, and my clamp wasn't the right one for the job.


It'll make a nice logo change above :)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sunny Day Real Estate


Alyssa & I just got back from the Sunny Day Real Estate concert. They started their set right on time!!! They didn't make us wait too long!!! If for no other reason, this band was teh awesome!!

Read Alyssa's review

She thought I'd mess with their name like I did with My Bloody Valentine, but the only thing I could think of was "Suni Gay Trill Relate", and that neither makes sense nor describes the event accurately.

I'd never heard really their music before, except when they were wafting from her speakers in the house. So, every song was pretty much new for me. After the show I found out that they started playing in 1994. That explains why all the young kids there were cool with these guys looking older than me. I love it when you can have a bald lead singer, and he's still hip.

About the music:
I liked most of it, even if it there wasn't as much variety between the songs as I would have liked. Within each song, there were wonderful dynamics... but each song, even their ballads followed the same structure.

They were incredibly tight. Like James Brown backup musician tight.

The lead singer reminded me of my late great uncle Larry, with overly broad shoulders, a very slight hunch, and a solid colored T-shirt that hung too far from his neck. So, I kind of expected him to be leaning over egg salad and playing cards with my family at a reunion. But he sang instead.

Their guitarist reminded me of a very happy go lucky guitar playing roommate of mine in Eugene. This one was a bit more spastic. His face held much more contrast on stage than the other players.

The Venue:
The Paramount just put their new sign up, but didn't turn on the lights. I think they're holding out to raise $150,000 before they do. Hey, the old sign used to cost them $25k a year in electric bills. If they wait 6 years before turning it on, it will have paid for itself ;-)

There was a club near the restrooms, astonishingly called "The Paramount Club" We walked in and were stopped. We were told rather snobbily that it was a private club. I was not impressed. It was mostly empty.

The interior was exquisite, of course. I kept looking at the gold leaf on the walls. Textures everywhere! The sound was incredible where we stood. (Center orchestra pit general admission, about 15 people from the front of the stage)

Where we were standing, the place smelled like Diamond Dry, (ground up corn cobs for those not in the know).
I'm guessing that was from all the rain tracked onto the old floor. Or possibly from the guy next to me.

It was really hot and humid in there, and on occasion we'd get a light wafting of cool air from the ceiling. I wish we had that the entire time, instead of every five minutes.

The crowd was mostly younger than us, I'd say just post college age.

They went out of their way to dress down and uglify themselves. All ill-fitting earth colors too warm for the venue, eyebrow rings, thick rimmed glassed. I felt like I took a time machine back to the beginning of the grunge movement. But everyone was very nice.

There was a couple in front of us, and the girl was obviously into the music and her date a lot more than he was into them or her. She was filled with nervous energy, and kept scratching his back to the music. We also noticed that she liked rubbing his butt. To the right of us was a shorter couple. The girl next to me kept trying to crowd me out, and it took until about mid show for me to realize that it was so she could get a better view. Every time I go to a general Admission show, I dream of having everyone line up from short to tall, with the tall people in the back so everyone can see. That's how it'd work if we had a *real* fascist in office!! (So quit complaining folks)

Like everyone else there with an 'eye'Phone, I felt obliged to snag a couple shots of the band. But I didn't. Take any photos. I just happened to find one on the internet when I came home tonight. Of the same show. I took one of the shots into Sketchbook Mobile tonight. Since it doesn't handle horizontal shots well yet, I had a lot of extra canvas to play with. Behold it's glory.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Head of it's Time

I just read the wiki about a TV show in the 60's that only aired one episode "Turn On".

Is it just me, or does this sound similar to a fast paced Monty Python mixed with MTV to you?

Anyone know where to find a copy of the actual episode?

Cheers,
Troy

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Weld Rainbow Makes For Neat Logo

I haven't done any metal work for quite some time. One of the big reasons is that I've been waiting to get some of my welding gear back from a friend who lost it in his overcrowded basement. (Yes, I'd still like it back, thanks)

I finally gave up and bought a new pair of oxy welding goggles. I took a close up of the metal's discoloration after I made a really large weld.

The bar was salvaged from the Freemont transfer station, languished in my garage for a few years, then had it's nasty rust knocked off with a grinder about a week ago. I then welded a bunch of stuff to it (The weld was about 2 inches from the discoloration). I absolutely love weld discoloration. It's like God's extra rainbows of love for people forced to breathe metal fumes all day.

Below is the unedited photo:

Friday, October 2, 2009

What I did while my wife was on Vacation in Delaware



(Picture from Ballinger Lake Golf Course... where I didn't go, but wish I had!)

Alyssa & Ravenna visited her folks & grandparents on August 29 - Sept 5th.

I don't usually blog during when one of us are on vacation, due to my paranoia about the whole world knowing when the house is vacant most of the day. So, now that it's been several weeks, here's the sordid details of my bachelor shenanigans while the girls were out of the house.

Saturday 29th:
I drove down to the airport to drop them off at 9AM
At 10 AM I was back up in Seattle, at my Lodge's special meeting to confer EA degrees on some new brothers.
Then I drove back down the highway again to Olympia to meet my friends Jason & Heather and Alex & Amanda, and Jason's two friends. We went to the Chehalis Garlic festival later in the day. I got home around 11PM, and although I *was* planning on going to a party held by one of my Lodge Brothers, I thought being able to drive home safely took priority (sleep deprivation!! I don't drink that much!!)

Sunday 30th:
I woke up at 5AM, and picked up Brothers Yuri & Coe to go to Roots to help cook breakfast for 25 homeless youth. We were there from 6AM - 8:30AM. We got our own breakfast afterwards, and then I went home and took a nap. Later in the day, Yuri & I went to the driving range. It was his first time ever to try golfing. He chipped a shot into the hole on the putting green on his first try!

Monday the 31st:
I was at work until really late. Depressing to go back to work while the wife was out enjoying herself :(

Fast forward to Thursday:

After work I walked part of Bellevue's Golf course, to get ready for the upcoming company tournament. My body thanked me for the exercise. Ever get that great feeling after working out?

Friday the 4th:
I took work off & spent some time at PAX. There I met Tejeev Kohli, one of the creators of "Tag: the Power of Paint" . I also saw Gabe & Tycho give a Q&A session, which is always the best part of PAX for me. Because there was a break out of Swine Flu in an Eastern Washington University, I was super paranoid, and washed my hands a lot. Later in the week it turned out that a LOT of people got Swine Flu at PAX, but not me (here's hoping I continue to avoid it)


Saturday 5th:

I went golfing at Bellevue Golf Course with my neighbors, Rick & Denise, and played the front 9. I then came home & did some additional cleanup and then picked up Alyssa & Ravenna at the airport.

It was a great week apart, but I really missed them:)

Cheers,
Troy

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Weird Shit Part 1

Thought I'd start compiling all the weird things that have happened to me. I'm sure there's a completely reasonable explanation for all of them, but the easiest one I can think of is "God has a serious sense of humor".

When I was an incoming Freshman at the UofO, I had to choose a locker in the arts buildings, to keep my art gear. There were hundreds of lockers that were available to me. The first one I opened had a piece of notebook paper in it that said "Reserved for A. McFarland"

Shocking.

Being that I am in fact "a McFarland", I felt like it was perfectly OK for me to take the locker. I later found out that someone named "Aaron McFarland" was planning on attending the UofO for his sophomore year, but never made it. I *still* have that piece of paper somewhere, and if I find it, I'll scan it & update this post.

Sidenote, My wife's name starts with an A. Is it possible that the paper held a prophecy, saying that in fact *I* was reserved for her?!?!

The mind boggles.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Food of the Gods Part II

OK, here's the anti-ostentatious meal number 2:

On the morning I was to be made a Master Mason, I knew it was going to be a long day. There were to be ten men raised that day (7 in our Lodge & three from other Lodges. Details here: June 2009 Trestleboard ). And I need to snack constantly, or suffer from low blood sugar evils such as shakiness and general crabbiness.

To aid me in the endeavor, I made a meal fit for such an event:

Note, I would have preferred to use Marmite, but substituted Vegemite as I was out.


All the ingredients:
Toast, eggs, Vegemite, Almond Butter, Mayo, Braggs Liquid Aminos, Tillamook cheddar


Nearly assembled in all its splendor:


Complete with 'uber-secret' symbology. As in not secret at all. Go check wikipedia or "Freemasons for Dummies" for details on the meaning of the square & compass... although the knives & forks also have a special meaning to Masons ;)

Don't worry I'm not breaking any vows here even if I did tell you about them. Brother Chris Hodapp is just so much more elegant than I :)

Food of the Gods Part I

Alyssa told me that some of her friends post photos on Facebook of ostentatious photos of food that they've either cooked or had when they went to a fancy restaurant. To counter such foolishness, I thought I'd post some of my own down to earth/bachelor style creations. Tonight's was this:

Spaghetti (with a little salsa thrown in), cut up hot dog (I got the idea from SpaghettiOs with sliced franks), and grated cheese on top.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Conspiracy Theories Pt2



Artist's concept of a catastrophic asteroid impact with the Earth.
Image courtesy of NASA

Welcome new Facebook followers!

Here's my second, and quite possibly most earth shattering theory to date:

In the 1994 movie Nostradamus, he finally comes to grip with his visions by scrying into a pool of water. On the surface of the water we are shown various events in history.

This is done by overlaying stock newsreel footage over the water (WWII, Hiroshima, Vietnam, etc).

It made me think that perhaps the real Nostradamus did exactly the same thing. He was able to look into the future, but the only thing he could pull out of it was stuff that was either broadcast or shown in theaters!!

So, all of those disaster & end-world scenarios he saw? Trailers for Deep Impact, and The Day After Tomorrow

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Conspiracy Theories Pt. 1

I had a friend who recently talked to me about his worry of Planet X
Here's more links:
yowusa
Universe Today

A more rational link
Wiki

Anyway, we started swapping conspiracy theories, and I related one of my favorites that I made up:

In Fingerprints of the Gods, Graham Hancock makes the case the when the polar caps grow too large, the extra weight of the eventually throws off all of the earth's crust & the whole crust shifts as a whole in a cataclysmic event. Then the ice, no longer at the poles, melts and the area area that now occupies the poles freezes. This is cyclical, and has already happened many times in the history of our planet (according to Hancock).

My pseudo-science counter-theory is this: a select few people on earth know about this huge impending cataclysm, and out of the kindness of their own hearts, have encouraged the accelerated use of fossil fuels & the wide scale manufacture of green house gasses to prevent the poles from building up too much ice. These people, oil tycoons, the Bush family, Saudi rulers, etc... appear on the surface to be greedy, colluding, shortsighted nimrods, but they hold their tongues and let their reputation be tarnished, lest the truth be found out and worldwide panic & rioting ensue.

This might sound far fetched, but it's the only reasonable explanation to account for their odd behavior.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Enjoy Burning Man from the Comfort of your own Home!

I got this off of a Burning Man mailing list. If anyone knows the original author, please let me konw so I can give proper credit!

The original author is unknown

* Tear down your house. Put it in a truck. Drive 10 hours in any direction. Put the house back together. Invite everyone you meet to come over and party. When they leave, follow them back to their homes, drink all their booze, and break things.
* Pay an escort of your affectional preference subset to not bathe for five days, cover themselves in glitter, dust, and sunscreen, wear a skanky neon wig, dance close naked, then say they have a lover back home at the end of the night.
* Stack all your fans in one corner of the living room. Put on your most fabulous outfit. Turn the fans on full blast. Dump a vacuum cleaner bag in front of them.
* Buy a new set of expensive camping gear. Break it.
* Only use the toilet in a house that is at least 3 blocks away. Drain all the water from the toilet. Only flush it every 3 days. Hide all the toilet paper.
* Set your house thermostat so it’s 50 degrees for the first hour of sleep and 100 degrees the rest of the night.
* Before eating any food, drop it in a sandbox and lick a battery.
* Mail $200 to the Reno casino of your choice.
* Make a list of all the things you’ll do different next year. Never look at it.
* Search alleys untill you find a couch so unbelievably tacky and nasty filthy that a state college frat house wouldn’t want it. Take a nap on the couch and sleep like you are king of the world.
* Shop at Wal-mart, Cost-Co, and Home Depot until your car is completely packed with stuff. Tell everyone that you’re going to a "Leave-No-Trace" event. Empty your car into a dumpster.
* Spend thousands of dollars and several months of your life building a deeply personal art work. Hide it in a funhouse on the edge of the city. Hire people to come by and alternate saying "I love it" and "this sucks balls". Blow it up.
* Cut, burn, electrocute, bruise, and sunburn various parts of your body. Forget how you did it. Don’t go to a doctor.
* Walk around your neighborhood and knock on doors until someone offers you cocktails and dinner.
* "Downsize" last year’s camp by adding two geodesic domes, a new sound system, art car, and 20 newbies.
* Lean back in a chair until that point where you’re just about to fall over, but you catch yourself at the last moment. Hold that position for 9 hours.
* Don’t sleep for 5 days. Take a wide variety of hallucinogenic/emotion altering drugs. Pick a fight with your boyfriend/girlfriend.
* Set up a DJ system downwind of a three alarm fire. Play a short loop of drum’n'bass until the embers are cold.
* Have a 3 a.m. soul baring conversation with a drag nun in platforms, a crocodile and Bugs Bunny. Be unable to tell if you’re hallucinating. Lust after Bugs Bunny.
* Spend a whole year rummaging through thrift stores for the perfect, most outrageous costume. Forget to pack it.
* Read "Dhalgren" by Samuel R. Delany. Read "The City Not Long After" by Pat Murphy. Cut off the bindings, throw all the pages up in the air, and shuffle them back together. Reread "The City After Dhalgren" by Samuel Murphy. Burn it. Read the ashes.
* Listen to music you hate for 168 hours straight, or until you think you are going to scream. Scream. Realize you’ll love the music for the rest of your life.
* Spend 5 months planning a "theme camp" like it’s the invasion of Normandy. Spend Monday-Wednesday building the camp. Spend Thurs-Sunday nowhere near camp because you’re sick of it or can’t find it.
* Bust your ass for a "community." See all the attention get focused on the drama queen crybaby.
* Get so drunk you can’t recognize your own house. Walk slowly around the block for 5 hours.
* Tell your boss you aren’t coming to work this week but he should "gift" you a paycheck anyway. When he refuses accuse him of not loving the "community".
* Ask your most annoying neighbor to interrupt your fun several times a day with third hand gossip about every horrible thing that’s happened in the last 24 hours. Have them wear khaki.
* Go to a museum. Find one of Salvador Dali’s more disturbing, but beautiful paintings. Climb inside it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

First 100 days comparison

I remember reading somewhere years ago that George W took the most vacation days during his first 100 days in the history of the presidency. I'm not verifying that, but here is the total figure for his 8 years: 487 days at Camp David.

According to Washington post Dan Froomkin, he spent over 879 days (or partial days) at Camp David or at his ranch. I'm sure he worked from those locations, at least part of the time.

Anyway, Here's a link comparing bush's first 100 days to Obama's
Politicususa
Huffington Post

General Political Weirdness

Recently, a few things have been grabbing my attention. They seem like mycelia; a little here & there, getting ready to bloom into one cohesive conservative fungus.


May: The Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights:

Gun rider on this bill allows gun owners to bring concealed and loaded weapons into national parks and wildlife refuges as long as they are permitted by the laws of the state in which the park is located.

August: Guns at Obama Speeches
Protesters at Obama speeches carrying unconcealed weapons, such as AR-15s. One carried a sign saying "It Is Time to Water the Tree of Liberty," a reference to Thomas Jefferson's quote that "the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

I'm not a gun control 'advocate', but if a bunch of liberals tried doing the same thing at a George W. speech, they would have been arrested & removed (and probably ruffed up in jail).

Birther's Defacto Call for Revolution
From their poorly constructed, weak logic web page:
"“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775"

Elsewhere on their webpage under acceptable use, they attempt to copyright everything on their page, and by continuing to read it, you agree to abide by its terms. However, the quote I supplied from their page is in the public domain. If I had the same amount of paranoia, false bravado, misguided judgment, and time & energy as they do about discrepancies like this, I would construct an argument about how they are trying to copyright the public domain as well as limit the rights of people who seek multiple viewpoints. But I'm tired, and have a life.

Anyway, is it just me, or do you see a trend here? My suggestion: Obama, please don't go camping on a national park near birthers anytime soon! And if you do, leave the girls at home. I see a potential for a national tragedy.

Blog After my own Heart

And you know the quickest way to a man's heart is his stomach (or rib cage if you're the violent type)

Insanewiches

Example of the type of sandwich you might see there:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lotte's Memorial

Last weekend, the we went down to Portland for my aunt Lotte's memorial service. She had passed away in Georgia a couple of months ago, but most of her family lived in Oregon. Her husband Bill flew out & arranged a memorial service with the help of Lotte's daughter & my Mom. I want to thank Bill again for the memorial. It really helped the family to get together and celebrate her life.

It was great to see my cousins and other family members again.

I debated making this two separate entries, because I have a bunch of commercial links to the places I visited below on the same weekend, and don't think that gels really well with a tribute to a family member. But, I'm tired, and want to wrap up this blog entry.

So pretend the entry ends here.
=======================================================================


New entry:

We also had a few few firsts this weekend:

Ravenna had her first sleepover, and it was a success! After the memorial service, she went with my sister & her cousins back to their house, while Alyssa & I met a friend of mine at Powell's Bookstore.

We then walked down to Voodoo Donut & waited in line for one of the weirdest & most rewarding donuts I've ever experienced: Grape Ape.



I saw this artwork there, and it reminds me of something done by an artist I know but can't quite place the name. If anyone knows who did this piece, please tell me!



On the way back, we visited Jackpot Records, where I got a CD by the band Satan's Pilgrims (MySpace link) Their music is perfectly represented by their album cover! Retro goodness!



On Sunday, I played nine holes with my Dad at Springwater Golf (no webpage, but at this web listing). It was the first time I ever beat my dad at a sport in recent memory! Yea, I'm working out my issues, and smoking him on a golf course is a great way to do it! I'm not saying I played well (I only shaved 3 strokes off my game compared to the last time I played there) but does that matter when you've got gloating rights!?!?! I think not.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Why I'm not going to buy a hybrid any time soon

I was talking with a friend over an aggressive quesadilla the other night, and told him about my new job and it's long commute. I mentioned that my Honda Element gets about 19 miles to the gallon, and my wife's Ford Focus gets about 26 MPG. By driving it to work, I'll save about $250 - $300 a year.

He suggested we trade in the Focus & get a car with better mileage, like a used Scion xA, Honda Insight, or old Civic.

So, I looked into it.

I found a used Honda insight in my area for sale for about $9500, which is estimated to get 51 miles per gallon. I've driven one before, and thought it was not the safest car on the road, but I couldn't find a car with better mileage out there, so thought it would be good to test out the math on it. Presuming we could sell my wife's 2000 Focus for $4000 (a stretch), and we dicked the guy down to $9000, that would mean we'd pay $5000 to trade.

If you go to Edmonds.com's True Fuel Calculator, you can find out the how much money a vehicle will burn in gas in a year & the estimated cost. So, if gas is $2.90 a gallon, I would save about $368 a year in gas if I switched from our Focus to the Honda Insight. (presuming 7000 miles a year, as it is mostly a commuter car, and our road trip car would still be the Honda Element)

So, how long before we break even?

5000/368 = 13 1/2 years! Yikes!

Ok, what if gas goes up to $4.00 a gallon?
I'd save about 508 a year.
5000/508 = 9.8 years! This does not include any repairs needed to the car.

So if you really hate burning gas, go take a bus, bike or train. Or just walk.

If you are in the market right now for a used car, by all means, consider one that gets the best mileage possible, particularly if you drive more than we do.

If you are thinking about getting a new car, also consider how much energy & CO2 it took to make the damn thing. Here's a website with such information, but there may be better ones: Green Car Guide

But if you have a car that gets 26 MPG, and are not going more than 8000 miles a year in it, you should just keep it as absolutely as long as possible.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bugs

Ravenna and I found a dead beetle in our backyard. I put it in a jar & photographed it. Below is the image, with a couple of different styles applied to it>

Auto levels:




Manual Levels (ultra blue mix):



Sepia tone. Because the image already looks creepy, might as well go for broke.



These images make me realize that I really need to spend a bit more time in Photoshop & learn some new techniques. Nothing I did here was new. I pretty much used similar techniques back in 1998.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Copy & Paste from a Copy & Paste of a Facebook Page that was taken down Repeatedly

I. HATE. CENSORSHIP.

I have NO idea if any of the information below is factual or not. I am simply putting it up here for a matter of record, as this page has been taken down REPEATEDLY over the last few days. Will lawyers come after me for posting this text as a matter or record? I do not make any statement to it's truth or untruth. I simply want it up for others to confirm or deny it's allegations.

Stay Tuned. All text beyond the line below is NOT MY OWN.

____________________________________________________________________


REPOST BY ANOTHER USER BECAUSE THE ORIGINAL WAS HIJACKED: I AM NOT THE ORIGINAL ADMIN/CREATOR OF THIS GROUP, BUT I FEEL IT DESERVES TO BE PUT BACK.

NOTE: INVITE ALL THE ORIGINAL MEMBERS YOU CAN! WE NEED TO GET THIS BACK TO THE NUMBERS THE ORIGINAL HAD.

IF THIS ONE GETS HACKED/REMOVED, THEN SOMEONE PLEASE CREATE ANOTHER, AND SO ON.

YOU CAN'T STOP THE SIGNAL.

AND I WILL OFFER NO RETRACTIONS AND NO APOLOGIES.

FREE SPEECH IS UNIVERSAL.

LIVE WITH IT, WEINERS...


NOTE FOR THE LEGAL VULTURES:

I AM NOT CLAIMING MICHAEL WEINER IS INVOLVED WITH ROCKSTAR PERSONALLY. I DON'T CARE IF HE IS/WAS INVOLVED WITH ROCKSTAR OR NOT. HIS WIFE AND SON ARE, AND THAT IS ENOUGH FOR ME TO WANT TO BOYCOTT THE PRODUCT.

YEAH, GUILT BY ASSOCIATION. MY CHOICE, MY OPINION.

BELOW IS THE ORIGINAL GROUP DESCRIPTION:

Hi all,

As the creator of the original "Don't Drink Hate. BOYCOTT ROCKSTAR" group, I've created this group to publish a public apology and retraction as forced by the law firm representing ROCKSTAR*.

But before I do, let me explain what led to this.

One month ago, my friend showed me a little article filled with quotations from Michael Savage Weiner and his son Russell Weiner. I was utterly disgusted. Then I read that Russell Weiner was the CEO of Rockstar* and his mom Janet Weiner was CFO . After more readings, I made a PERSONAL CHOICE to BOYCOTT all ROCKSTAR* products.

I made a group to let others know and be able to make a similar choice if they wanted; the group was formed and it quickly grew to over 12,000 members. In it, we put together a list of quotations from Michael Savage Weiner as well as his son that we strongly did not agree with.

We also put commonly known information such as the fact that they co-founded the extremely conservative Paul Revere society, which openly calls for actions such as “Eliminate bilingual education in all states" and "Traditional Marriage." More easily proven information was included as well.

Then, on May 27th, I woke up unable to log into my personal Facebook account. It was disabled. This is my new account; I lost all my photos, friends and priceless memories. I sent multiple e-mails to Facebook without any response. And then upon inquiring, I found out that the facebook group was suddenly taken down without my or any of the administrators' knowledge (As an update, as of yesterday, after my friend's hard work with connections at Facebook they suddenly reinstated my old account. However, as happy as I am, I find this very troubling on many levels in terms, especially because I still have not yet received a satisfactory explanation.)

A few days later, I received a lawsuit threat from the law offices of Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard & Shapiro, LLP -- Robert Shapiro was one of the attorneys who successfully defended OJ Simpson.

I researched, and apparently other individuals -- primarily bloggers and reporters (e.g. SF Examiner's Kelvin, wiqaable.com, gaywired.com) had received threats of legal action as well.

Now here I am.

And I've been forced to make this apology.

I've been forced to make "an immediate public retraction..." and "apologize for the business libel you committed against ROCKSTAR."

I've been "advised that ROCKSTAR will pursue all necessary legal action to redress the violations of its rights, including, without limitation, an action for general, special and exemplary damages and equitable relief."

----------------------------------------------

To THE ATTN OF: ROCKSTAR* / Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard & Shapiro, LLP

Let this group and this statement stand as evidence of an apology. As Facebook disabled the original group without my knowledge, I suggest you contact them if you want me to be able to message all the members of the original group:

I, Charles C. C. Tsai, hereby apologize for the alleged business libel that I committed against ROCKSTAR* and publicly retract, through Facebook's own unexplained deletion, the statements from the original Facebook group.

----------------------------------------------

Now, I personally also apologize for the following:

I apologize for having an opinion.

I apologize that I created a group as a means to explore my FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

I apologize that the over 12,000+ individuals in that group were SILENCED WITHOUT EXPLANATION.

I apologize for STANDING UP for my communities and the communities that I consider myself an ally to.

I apologize for being DISGUSTED by the statements, beliefs, thoughts and actions of two INDIVIDUALS: ROCKSTAR* CEO Russell Weiner and his father, Michael Savage Weiner. Let me repeat, two INDIVIDUALS.

I apologize that you feel the need to THREATEN and SILENCE individuals & organizations that you know are POWERLESS in comparison to your various forms of capital.

I apologize that you seem to be confused by the semantics of the word "co-founder" in the sense that Michael Savage Weiner and his wife Janet Weiner IRREFUTABLY CO-CREATED / CO-INVENTED / CO-FOUNDED the ROCKSTAR drink alongside current CEO RUSSELL WEINER.

From ROCKSTAR*'s OWN archived WEBSITE:

"I was very fortunate to have been raised by two of the leading herbalists in the world, Dr. and Mrs. MICHAEL WEINER, Ph.D. ... From my earliest walking days, I remember exploring the jungles of the South Pacific on expeditions WITH MY PARENTS. ... MY FAMILY HAS taken that spirit and experience - their lifetime journey - and DEVELOPED the most complete, most unique, most powerful, and most honest energy beverage ever created: ROCKSTAR." - CEO RUSSELL GOLDENCLOUD WEINER

http://web.archive.org/web/20021211144041/www.rockstar69.com/new/rockstar.html

After reading the above, I apologize that you, Michael Weiner Savage, feel the need to LIE, as you told the SF Chronicle in May 2009 that "I had NOTHING to do with the founding or CREATION of Rockstar."

I apologize that legal threats WILL NOT FORCE me into SUBMISSION.

I apologize that I will not be silenced.

I apologize that the incredibly smart, strong willed and amazing individuals and communities that dislike your CEO Russell Weiner, his dad Michael Savage Weiner and his mom CFO Janet Weiner will NOT go quietly into the night and will too NOT BE SILENCED.

I apologize that I will, WITHOUT ANY DOUBT, continue to BOYCOTT ROCKSTAR* as it is MY OWN PERSONAL CHOICE TO DO SO.

And, lastly, I apologize for any additional semantically puzzling words this note may have presented. Please realize that I have sensitively taken this into consideration through capitalization and repetition.

Yours truly,

Charles C. C. Tsai

----------------------------------------------

For more information to further understand the context of this apology:

"the truth about rockstar"
http://www.thetruthaboutrockstar.com/

"official rockstar website"
http://www.rockstar69.com/

"michael savage banned from britain" - huffington post
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/05/michael-savage-banned-fro_n_196631.html

"the guardian on michael savage" - the guardian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2009/may/06/michael-white-michael-savage

"dear rockstar, please don't sue us" - wiqaable.com
http://www.wiqaable.com/2009/05/wiqaablog-dear-rockstar-please-dont-sue.html

"Rockstar Demands Retraction from Gaywired" - gaywired.com
http://gaywired.com/Article.cfm?Section=165&ID=23024

"Newsom to return $25,000 contribution from Savage's Son" - SFGate Blog
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/nov05election/detail?entry_id=40574

----------------------------------------------

*DISCLAIMER: This group is in no way, shape or form calling for a boycott on ROCKSTAR, the original group name is being used for identification purposes only. The ROCKSTAR* trade name, company, its employees and beyond are not affiliated with this group. Everything said/written is either my OPINION or straight quotations from other individuals apart of, represent, or are family members to the CEO of ROCKSTAR.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

What is this?? Part II

The sink got clogged up the other day. Pictured is what I pulled out of the drain. What the heck is it??? Normally when I pull stuff out of the drain, it's mostly decomposing hair. This time it was mostly this black stuff. Looks like tar, but breaks up into little chunks when thrown in the toilet. For what it's worth, I saw what looked like the same stuff in a vent pipe on our roof a few weeks back when I was working on it.



For Part I, go to my wife's blog, this entry:
What is this Part I

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Bloody Valentine. More like My Bloody Eardrums

Wow, that makes me sound old!

My wife & I just got back from the concert in Seattle at Wamu Theater, and I've never been to a louder concert. Not Scorpions in the 80s, not Joe Satrianai, not Zappa plays Zappa. My Bloody Valentine. What. The. Fawk.

Some of the security were using ear protection that is usually only seen in an airport or shooting range. They were handing out earplugs free at this venue (good for them!) Their ear plugs, however, paled in comparison to the Lazer Lite ones we brought.

I wore them the whole time and my ears are still ringing, over an hour later.

Concert quirks that I noticed:
When the first band came on, every time a certain bass note was played, my skull rattled. We moved *closer* to the stage & off to the left side. The resonance was gone! As the audience hadn't filled in yet, I decided to meander through the auditorium, mapping out all the skull shattering resonation points. The loudest ones were in the middle, with minor ones spreading out from there. I think it was where the speaker sound overlapped. It was bad!

Why does it take so long for the band to come out once the sound check is over? Every show I've ever been to is like this!

They pointed the strobes (I counted over 20) right at the audience. I never could really see the band. After a while, I just closed my eyes, and enjoyed the patterns inside my eyelids from the strobe effect. Too bad they never had it go fast enough or last long enough for a good effect.

Most of the visuals that I could see reminded me of failed animation projects I did in college, in 1992.

This show was similar to the art show I put on in college, where the entire show was only viewable from one glass window. Our mutual goal: See how much the audience was willing to put up with to enjoy our art.

As curmudgeony as this sounds, I actually had a really good time! But I think they enjoy assaulting the audience. with an over load of light & sound. Serves us right for still listening to 80s music ;)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Why I'm addicted to email

I figured it out: The reason I'm addicted to email is that my brain expects the rules of normal conversation to apply. They don't. Unlike a face to face conversation, I don't necessarily get a response quickly. All the while, my brain is pinging my consciousness to find out what the response is so I can reply to that, or act on the new information. Multiply this by the number of email threads I'm keeping up with on a day to day basis at work and at home, and you'll see why I never feel settled or content. There's always hope that if I check my mail, I'll get that final response on the final thread, and all will be well. Even if I am up to date, it's hard to know this for certain, so the sense of incompleteness lingers in my psyche.

I think a study of people who are addicted to email and chatting should look into how those people normally communicate. Are the folks who can chat for hours with old friends the worst when it comes to this? Maybe I just need to learn to be complete with incompleteness in my life.

So, what do you think of that? I'm waiting for your reply :)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

1 GB vs. Commodore 64's memory




In the 6th grade I got a Commodore 64 from my parents. The best decision they made, ever. It taught me that video games, are really, really fun. That, and it put the seed in the back of my mind that maybe someday I could actually make games for a living.

Many of the games I played on my trusty C64 had incredible depth. (here's a third C64 link)

The original Sid Meier's Pirates and Defender of the Crown come to mind, as well as Jumpman & Jumpman Junior.

Looking at my keychain flash drive the other day, I decided to make an image visually comparing 64K to 1 gig. It's an 1024 by 1024 image (not including the outline), with each pixel representing 1 KB. the little 8x8 brown spot (inspired by the color of the C64's case) in the upper left represents the C64's memory (click to enlarge).

Enjoy:

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Enough with the Halos Already!

I hated it when I saw them on W. I hate them just as much on Obama. Is some AP photographer just trying to be cute? Stop it already!








Another blog thread about them here

Here's one from a conservative blog, with a nicely rebutted comment from an Obama supporter

If people want to idolize a president, the best way is to do something like this (Anyone know who made this image? It's all over the web, and I couldn't find the artist's name)

Hold Obama's Feet to the Fire

I think that Obama has done a pretty good job in office so far, particularly considering the incredible mess that Bush left the nation in when he left.

Side note: in my lifetime, it would seem to be the Republican party's tactic to do whatever the hell they wanted until popular opinion turned against them, and then leave the Dems to spend 4-8 years cleaning up the mess. Blame the mess on them as it manifests itself even more during their tenure, then get back in office and wreck more havoc.

In any case, if you want to measure Obama's integrity according to how many campaign promises he's kept, you can easily do so at this webpage: The Obameter.

Enjoy!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dr. Who Title Sequence Complete Set


One thing I absolutely love about the internet is being able to think about an idea, check to see if anyone has already done it.

I came up with the idea of "3D Minesweeper" a long time ago. A quick Google search turns up quite a few results, some of which were very close to my idea (and all are not as nearly as fun as I thought they would be)

Yesterday, I wanted to see the title video sequence for every doctor along with the different logos used over the years. A quick search on YouTube yields multiple results:

This one looks to be the most complete:

For just the different songs, check this link out (It is missing the end credits song from the fifth doctor, which has a wonderful explosion sound... oh well)

For a bunch of Logos, go here (I got the one from the fifth doctor here):

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Is our government really getting bigger?

Another idea I had recently, but haven't had the time to check the facts & make neat graphs:

I keep hearing from politically conservative & libertarian friends that the main goal of government is to grow itself. These friends of mine to to reduce government interference, as well as the actual headcount of government employees.

I am very certain that the headcount of government employees has grown since the inception of our great union. But, how has it grown per capita? For those folks who think I just made some words up, per capita means 'per unit of population'.

So, if there used to be 100 people in the US, and 2 people were government employees, the ratio would be the same if there were 100,000 people, of which 2,000 were government employees.

I'd like to make a graph of government employee head count over time, along with US population figures, and a per capita number derived. I'd also like this graph to point out any historical points of interests for a particular jump or drop in the per capita figure. Why? What happened? Who was president? Was a new department created? What was the result (did it make America a better place to live for it's citizens or worse?) That sort of thing.

All this requires time, research, and energy. That's why I'm posting it here. If anyone wants to do this before I get around to it, please be my guest! Just send me a link.

Thank you & goodnight!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I Love Marmite!


There once was a gaping hole in my culinary life. It has now been filled. With Marmite. For those who haven't tried it, it can be best described as "Salty spreadable vegetable bouillon" What's not to love? Except for the bitter aftertaste, if you eat it on its own or don't spread it thinly enough.

This is what your tastebuds think they are going to experience after eating about a pound of poutine. But the poutine never quite delivers, does it?

I've had this stuff on toast (it goes great with almond butter on top), on burritos, and today, even on top of pizza. That was a bit much. That's like taking weapons grade plutonium & saying "Hey, let's mix in a little Led Zeppelin." Not safe. For your eardrums or the remaining living members of the band.

If you haven't tried it yet, go get some now.

Now then, anyone in Seattle have a good line on where I could try some vegemite?

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More State/Federal Revenue right here!





I'm not the first one to think of it, but I'll post it anyway.

Obama,if you're really serious about getting our economy back on track, consider legalizing marijuana, regulate it, and sell it through some sort of State or Federal run store, much like state liquor stores. According to 2006 estimates, it's a 35.8 billion dollar domestic industry. And it doesn't look like that figure includes all the Canadian bud making it across the border.

This would accomplish a number of things:
  • Increase government revenue (think of it as a tax on stoners)
  • Would decrease revenue from illegal drug dealers
  • Ensure safer sources of the drug, (if regulated, one wouldn't need to worry about it being laced with anything really harmful, and growing techniques would be monitored as well)
  • Ensure more consistent types of highs and dosages. (THC levels could be measured for specific strains, strains could be marketed for their types of highs)
Way more info from NORML

The only downsides:
  • Republicans and other neo-cons would use this issue to try to defeat you in the next election. Apparently, folks like Limbaugh don't consider their drug habit a problem, but want to prevent anyone else from trying something a lot safer, under the pretense of taking the moral high ground. High, indeed. And although you'd win the stoner vote forever, they are more likely to miss an election than some high strung uptight moral majority type.
  • The illegal drug trade operators might not like you cutting in on their business, and try to do mean things to you.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Apex DT502 Review, North Seattle

I've had a little more time to play with the Apex DT502.  Here's my take on it:

Manual Tuning  
A number of reviews say that this device cannot tune channels manually.  Maybe I don't understand digital tuning, but is seems that it can.  Here's the process:

When it is turned on for the first time, it scans for all channels, and automatically adds them.

You can then go into a menu and remove channels that it has found manually that you don't want.  You can also add or subtract channels from your favorites list.  The removed channels are still in it's memory, you just won't see them until you reactivate them.

In my area (North Seattle), it found 18 channels.  Of those, 13 have a pretty darn strong signal.  The other five (Ion, Qubo, Ion Lite, Worship & Ion W) I decided to remove from the list, as 1) the reception was really bad and 2) from what I saw, I wouldn't want to watch those channels anyway.

Of the remaining 13, there were 8 that I really liked (KCTS Create is awesome!  Seems like nothing but Bob Ross & other cool people hosting "How To" shows).  I made these my favorites.  There are two sets of scroll buttons; one for all channels & one for favorites.  

So, I went from 4 channels to 13, and doubled the channels I like.  Not bad at all.


Screen Zoom
For whatever reason, some channels have black borders on all edges of the image.  That is lame, but not nearly as lame as when I watched Battlestar Gallactica (1970's version) tonight, and there were bars on the sides of it, with a squashed image (everyone looked like coneheads).  Later, on the same channel, a different program had the opposite problem, it was stretched too long.

I think most of these problems are coming from the broadcasters.  The screen zoom function is supposed to fix this, but on every station, it said that the zoom option was not available when I tried to use it.

Other Stuff
It also has parental control options.  I didn't use it yet.  
In general, it's a great box so far.  For more details between it and the other box offered at Best Buy, make sure to read my previous entry.



Saturday, January 17, 2009

Digital TV Converter Box Part 2: Electric Boogaloo


So after my daughter & I left Circuit City with no $250 40" LCD TV with built in digital tuner (darn!), we headed over to Best Buy to buy a digital converter box. Too bad my government coupon expired, but I needed to get one soon.

They only had two models to choose from, the Insignia NS-DXA1-APT  and the Apex DT502.  Their website also sells the Apex DT250, but from what I've heard on the web, it's reception is poor.

OK, here's the plusses & minuses of both boxes if you have to choose between the two:

The Insignia has channel up & down buttons on the box, should you have an unhealthy aversion to the remote control, but only RF out (the single round plug thing with the hole in the middle that outputs sound & TV signal.  Also called Coaxial).  It costs about $60 at Best Buy.

The Apex DT520 doesn't have any buttons on the box other than power, but has Coaxial, Composite (also known as RCA) and S-Video out.  It costs about $50

So, ten bucks more for two buttons on the box, minus higher quality outputs.  I got the Apex.  I've heard it's reception isn't the best, but I plugged it into my Radio Shack Picture Frame Antenna (which for $16 got seriously great reviews) and I went from getting about 4 non-digital channels with crappy reception to well over 10.  This is in North Seattle, so your milage may vary.  I now get a couple of Spanish stations!  Now my three year old daughter can learn a second language by watching soap operas!  Right?

So far, I dig the Apex (tried it once so far).  Setup was easy.  It doesn't mention in the manual how to hook it up to your VCR.  But yes, it works just fine.  In case I'm not the last person who hasn't ditched their VCR, simply plug our antenna into the DT502, then the DT502 into your VCR & your VCR into your TV.  

As all my other TV inputs were already taken up with other stuff, I ended up using the 'crappy' Coaxial output.  It was SO MUCH better than when I had an analog signal.  I'm sure the s-video & RCA outs rock too.  I'll probably never know, because the next TV purchase I make will probably come with a digital tuner, or just be connected to the interwebs somehow in the bright future of tomorrow.

The main thing I can't figure out yet is the zoom feature.  Apparently, some channels in digital have a black border around all edges.  I noticed this on a couple channels.  This box has a zoom feature, but when I pressed the button, I got a "cannot zoom this image' prompt on the tv screen.  Not a big deal; all the major channels are zoomed or are letter boxed.

There's a bunch of features, like "favorites" that I haven't tried yet, but so far, so good!


Circuit City: Liquidation Sale in Seattle/Lynnwood= Suck


My daughter and I went to Circuit City, so I could teach her the fine art of vulture consumerism.  But alas, there was no lesson there for her, except that big subwoofers make scary sounds when attached to DVD players playing horror movies.

Here's the lowdown:
  • CD & DVDs, right now about 10% - 20% off marked price
  • Car Audio 30% off for in dash CD players & the like.
  • TVs:  didn't see any sales reduction.  Maybe 10%??
  • Headphones:  30% off.  Only thing I bought there was a pair of Sony phones for $15 (usually $20 before taxes)
  • All accessories are 30% off (wires, cables, etc) 
  • Stuff over by the camera gear was about 10% off

Ummm, that's about it right now.  I'm sure prices will fall more over the next few days/weeks, but then it'll be only dregs.

Some other shoppers at the store said that their friend in LA went to a Circuit City & most things were 75% off.  Probably a nightmare there too.

The Circuit City website alludes to each store's liquidation being managed locally.  So prices may vary.  At least none of us got trampled to death while we were there :)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Digital Converter Box Bad Day

This was my day today:

We went to Target to get a TV Converter Box.  As I've been hearing, our old Tube TV won't be able to receive a digital signal in mid February, as we don't have cable TV.  I had finally found the $40 off coupon that I ordered from the government a long while back.  I wasn't planning to use it until a few weeks before the switchover anyway, so I wasn't too concerned.

However, when we got there, I realized I left the coupon at home.  So we went all the way back home, I grabbed the coupon & headed back on my own.  Once I got the the cashier, she scanned my card, and then told me that it had expired.  In October of last year.  I asked if the manager could come by & approve it.  She looked at it, came up with a canned & very dry apology saying she could not.

When I read the paperwork of the coupon, it said that it is only valid for 90 days.  My bad.

So, I drove home with no converter box, and then applied for a new coupon.  And as I had feared, the government has run out of funding for the coupons.  So much for me getting my coupon early to avoid the rush!

Anyway, if you haven't gotten your $40 off coupon, you can sign up on the waiting list here: TV Converter Box Program

If nothing else, the government employee who designed the website and did all the graphic design on the coupon itself did a very nice job.  

Anyone know the MPG average for new cars since they were created?


So, I was watching some Donald Duck cartoons from my Christmas gift: The Chronological Donald Vol. 4, 1951-1961, and there was a bit where Donald won a car that got 25 miles to the gallon (in 1951).  Not knowing if it was an exaggeration, I did some research, and found that some cars of that era got that mileage!  

Check out the above Blog for scans of old ads of the time.

I've found one graph that showed gas milage from the early 1970's to the present, but I'd really love a graph that showed milage since the inception of the automobile!  It would be great if it had the highest & lowest milage for each class for new models of each year.

I'm also interested in if any additions to cars have helped or hurt overall mileage (catalytic converters, types of engines, etc)
If there was a big gain or dip in any given year, I'd like to know the root cause.

So, if you have heard of any such graph, please let me know where I can find it!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy Noob Year

Doesn't feel like the new year yet. As far as I'm concerned, it's not the new year until January 20th.

;)