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Saturday, January 4th, 2014

Subject:A Rant on Commerce
Time:9:53 am.

So, let me put on my Andy Rooney hat (again) for a second.

(Disclosure:  I also posted an abbreviated version of this rant on Facebook earlier today.)

I've been looking periodically for ice melt for the front steps.  I don't want a 20lb bag of it, I want a plastic container with a lid I can open and shake a bit out.  Unbelievably, the only place I found this was at Target five days before Christmas, and I wasn't standing in line for 20 minutes for a $6 jug of salt.

Incidentally, Lowe's, Home Depot, and True Value down here all want to sell you $15 handheld crank spreaders you'd use for grass seed or fertilizer, plus the 20lb bag.

Well, last night I thought I'd stop back in at Target and pick up the container of ice melt that I wanted.  I was disappointed but unsurprised to find that they were sold out, but the real irritation was the fact that I had to ask a Target team member to figure this out, and said member was annoyed because clearly he had been asked this same question at least a dozen times.

With that set up, here's my curmudgeon rant, which is two-pronged:

Why do stores go so far out of their way these days to hide the fact that some items are out of stock?  Are they really that compulsive that they need all the shelves to appear fully stocked at all times?

I mean, I get that this is entirely due to our modern Just-In-Time system:  Stores keep much less stock "in the back" than they used to, some corporate inventory system allocates stock inventory, and the warehouses keep only enough stock to fill orders, and the manufacturers set up their production lines to make only enough to fill the orders they have.

So in many cases, even if a local store owner looked at the weather and said, "Gee, I could order 250 more jugs of ice melt and make a killing next Tuesday" they don't have the authority to do that.  Even if they did, there's no room for it on the truck because the delivery is already optimized for a full trailer, there isn't any extra in the warehouse, and the place that makes it doesn't have the workers to start up an extra line to make more.

I had the same discussion two weeks ago with a manager at Trader Joe's.  A couple of weeks back, spoothbrush sent me out to see if they had any cocoa truffles left, because they are amazing.  I asked if they still had any and the guy laughed at me.  He said that corporate puts in one order and they get what they get.  "Buddy, I could have sold another 5,000 of them, but the store gets what it gets," he said.

But back to stocking the shelves.  What's wrong with allowing customers to see that you're out of something?  Especially when it's an item that's popular and timely.  Wouldn't an empty shelf with a little sign saying "Sorry, we're out of ice melt, we'll have more on Monday" take some of the pressure off the floor workers?

Plus, I wasted 15 minutes walking the store looking for it before I stopped someone.  Which I guess is in Target's best interests to have happen, thinking I might see something else I would want to buy.  But now I'm vaguely irritated I can't find any trace of it -- or where it ought to be, so I'm predisposed to be less kind to the staff than I otherwise would be.  And if I hadn't asked, I could have just as easily walked away thinking "Gee, Target must not ever carry ice melt at all, I won't think to look for it there in the future."

Gah.  I walked out of Lowe's because I thought the $15 spreader was gouging, but if you figure the value of the time I've burned between the trips to Target and writing this, I should have just paid the man and gotten on with my life.

Comments: Read 3 orAdd Your Own.

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Subject:Best TV Intros
Time:10:15 pm.
So I was talking with rakko78 recently and the TV show "The Fall Guy" came up. This prompted me to say I thought it has one of the 20 best title sequences of all time. Not only does it have a catchy theme, but the clips match the lyrics pretty well:

So, gentle reader, while I'm thinking about this, give me some nominations for best TV intros. Tell me why it's good! And feel free to name shows you think have overrated titles too.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Subject:Troubleshooting the BVU-870
Time:11:15 pm.
Mood: crazy.
So, some time back I wrote an article about my attempts to obtain higher-quality video output from my old warhorse 3/4" deck (see Stupid U-Matic Tricks). The one thing about documenting my efforts is that it pulled together a lot of useful information I simply didn't have before. Like information on other gear out there that was available on eBay to do the job for under $100. That was valuable.

I wound up getting a Panasonic UTP-2 transcoder to supplement my homebrew solution. Once I had it up and running, I decided I should at least attempt to apply the scientific method to things to see how my handiwork stacked up to a pro solution. So I hooked my cables back up and dug up a tape with color bars on it. I turned on my trusty BVU-870, and... well... The AUTO OFF indicator lit up and the LED counter started blinking weird characters. It wouldn't load a tape and it wouldn't pass video. And since the universe tends toward maximum irony, it had to happen at that moment.

I power cycled the unit several times, and eventually the LED display stopped lighting up at all. This wasn't at all good. And the only help I got from my old friend Google was a suggestion that the moisture sensor thought there was condensation on the video heads. I read through the service manual and found nothing helpful either. I sent an Email to an old TV engineer I know who used to work with a lot of BVU-800s and he had never run into anything like it either.

I had other things to do so I set the problem aside, occasionally turning the unit on and off to see if anything changed. Nothing. A few weeks later, I took a trip to see my folks in Illinois. While I was there I took the opportunity to pull all the boards from my spare machine which lives in a closet there like a heavy but benign troll. Swapping them all out when I got home made one difference. Now every light on the control panel lit up. But it still wouldn't load a tape.

Finally I pull the thing out of my equipment rack and break out the "THORY OF OPERATION" manual (Engrish or Typo -- YOU DECIDE!) and decide to track down and basically short circuit the moisture sensor to see what would happen. That's when I stare at the fuse panel on the back and decide to take a peek inside. And sure enough, there's a 5V fuse which had blown out.

A trip to Radio Shack and $3.50 later, and my BVU-870 runs like a champ. Which makes me simultaneously grateful and annoyed, because I could have fixed it a month ago if the symptoms would have pointed me more firmly to check the fuses. I mean, why the hell should I expect there's a bad fuse when the machine powers up and the fan starts running?? Or something in the troubleshooting section of the service manual, maybe? Not to mention the time I spent digging out and packing up the spare boards to bring back to New York, which now are in a box here in the apartment taking up precious space. Not to mention I now have a U-Matic deck spread across two states and I won't be able to use the spare in a pinch since its guts are a thousand miles away.

Oh well. It works again and now I can do some tests.
Comments: Read 23 orAdd Your Own.

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Subject:Classic DW Core Characters & Concepts
Time:1:15 pm.
As a follow-up to my last post, I got to thinking about how even if I were going to introduce someone to the new Doctor Who, that I would still prefer to introduce certain core concepts from the series, well, from the classic series.

This is in part because I'm a believer in context, but also because while the new series gives you enough to go on, for the most part it doesn't fill in the backstory very much on a lot of topics because it doesn't have the time. (The Cybermen being an exception -- their alt-universe backstory reboot is actually pretty good.)

But this got me to thinking. Say you have someone who has enough general idea of what DW is about simply by being exposed to fans for a time, and you want to introduce them to a particular pillar of the show. Which stories would you pick? Never mind whether the story is considered one of the series greats or not, it just needs to have a reasonable entry point for a newbie. Mostly I'm thinking about the major villains, but also things like the Time Lords and regeneration.

The Daleks
The obvious answer here is to start with "The Daleks", but I reject it. For one, a lot of the early Hartnell era is an acquired taste to begin with. And for two, the Daleks came to be portrayed rather differently as the series matured. If it still existed, I think I'd say "The Power of the Daleks" because it builds up so well to showing the characteristics that define them. "Resurrection of the Daleks", "Revelation of the Daleks", and "Remembrance of the Daleks" are both fantastic, but bad for introductions since you need to know about Davros to understand why there are two Dalek factions. Jon Pertwee and Terrance Dicks never really believed in the Daleks and it shows. So that leaves the superlative "Genesis of the Daleks". Even though the sort of prologue at the beginning is easier to understand if you know who the Daleks are, once you're past that you get a good buildup of what they're about and you meet Davros at his 'best' as well.

The Cybermen
This one was tougher than I thought. Obviously "The Tenth Planet" is out -- unless the BBC gives us an animated restoration of Episode 4 in the near future. And that's kind of sad because it would also be a good candidate as a regeneration story. There's "Tomb of the Cybermen" which is good (and a great showcase for Pat Troughton's Doctor to boot). "The Invasion" could work, too. There's a part of me that wants to use "Earthshock" since it's a good reintroduction, but the whole Adric thing would confuse a new viewer. "Revenge of the Cybermen" and "Silver Nemesis" are both crap... And "Attack of the Cybermen" works best if you already have seen the B&W stuff. I guess I will settle on "Tomb of the Cybermen" after all, because it fills in the backstory better than "The Invasion".

The Master
I really feel like this is a case where you begin at the beginning and "Terror of the Autons" is the place to start. I can make a case for better 'Master' stories but Roger Delgado was the first and the best, and the interplay between him and the Doctor is magnificent here. "The Deadly Assassin" is fantastic, but it really isn't the character's finest hour. And "Logopolis" is far, far too chock full of other things going on to start someone new on for this purpose. I'm sure that someone reading this will be utterly baffled that I didn't pick "The Daemons", but just don't see that as a great place to start.

The Time Lords
Although I keep wanting to come back to "The War Games" since it introduces us to so many things about them, I have to go with "The Deadly Assassin" as it really marks the start of the 'modern' interpretation of Gallifrey which has been built upon ever since. Which makes for an interesting recursion: How do you introduce a story to a newbie about the Time Lords when you sort of need to know about the Master already, and how do you show a newbie a story about the Master when you sort of need to know that he's a Time Lord?

This one's a bit tricky, because ideally you want a story that explains regeneration, not necessarily a story where a regeneration takes place. There's an urge here to go with the whole "The Keeper of Traken"/"Logopolis"/"Castrovalva" arc except this would make our excerpts very Master-heavy. It'd also make for a marathon of 12 episodes. And as great as "The Caves of Androzani" is and despite it having what I think is the best regeneration of all of them, like much of '80s DW it does sort of act like you already know the concept. "Spearhead from Space" would be a good candidate, but I discount it since there isn't an actual regeneration scene. So despite the atrocious alien-world sets I think I'll settle on "Planet of the Spiders".

Ah, UNIT. Here's another one that begs a knee-jerk nod to "The Daemons". And it does showcase the so-called 'UNIT Family' (The Brig, Sgt. Benton, Capt. Yates, Jo, & the Doc vs. the Master) but it really isn't a very good story for UNIT as an organization as they're pretty ineffective throughout. Although, if I ask the question 'When was UNIT effective?' does not bring a story immediately to mind -- with the exception of "The Invasion". But since UNIT is really a Pertwee-era thing, I would reject that. "Inferno" perhaps? "Spearhead from Space"? How about "The Mind of Evil"? Or maybe "The Daemons" after all. Huh.

So that would be 0 Hartnells, 1 Troughtons, 3 Pertwees, 2 Tom Bakers, and 0 Davisons, Colin Bakers, and McCoys. Interesting, that.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Subject:Mmm, Pinups
Time:6:30 pm.
Mood: geeky.
So, I'm a fan of the classic pin-up. Here are two websites that show the model's photo and the finished product which makes for a really cool behind-the-scenes reveal.

Comments: Add Your Own.

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Subject:"My Sarah Jane"
Time:10:45 pm.
Mood: sad.
If you're a Doctor Who fan and haven't seen the BBC's tribute to Elisabeth Sladen, it's very well done and worth watching:

I got my "Planet of the Spiders" DVD from Amazon which I'd had on preorder for months and watched it this weekend. I was reminded how Sarah Jane really is the Gold Standard when it comes to companions.

Rest In Peace, Lis.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Subject:Civil War Beards!
Time:6:30 pm.
The Smithsonian has a poll to see which Civil War figure has the best facial hair.

You can vote HERE.

Appropriately, good ol' Admiral Burnside has quite a lead so far.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Subject:The Mysterious Locking 7-Pin DIN
Time:6:30 pm.
Here's another set of technical tidbits I wanted to put together in one place given how difficult it was for me to find accurate information when I needed it.

There is a hard-to-find connector used for interconnecting older professional videotape machines which confusingly is used by multiple (partially incompatible) video standards.

This "dub connector" as it is commonly referred to began as a forerunner of today's component video. It was intended to be used for direct machine-to-machine connection to improve the quality of videotape duplication. Usage was pioneered by the U-Matic family of videotape recorders and later found its way into subsequent generations of professional analog VTR families including Betacam/Beta SP and VHS/S-VHS. (If anyone knows whether the M/MII format included this connector I'd like to know.)

Originally, the connector was used to keep the luminance (luma) and chrominance (chroma) signals separated, but as true component video came into professional use a variant pinout was developed to take advantage of the existing hardware design. In some cases, like Betacam, the dub connector matched the U-Matic format's output to ease the transition between formats. In other cases, such as S-VHS, the same cable and pinout was used but the chroma signal was modulated at a different frequency. In fact, depending on the product family and variant there are several possible frequencies in use: 629 kHz, 688 kHz, 3.58 MHz, 4.43 MHz. And that's just for NTSC! PAL has its own set of frequencies. So although the video quality obtainable from the dub connector is far superior to composite video, the adaptive reuse of the connector type can make using it for digitizing archive video a daunting challenge! In many cases some form of conversion may be necessary for use with a capture card and in most instances a custom cable will be required.

In all cases though, these machines use what is called a Locking 7-Pin DIN connection, so named because it has a ring that locks the connector in place much like a BNC connector does for composite video. This connector is currently made only by Hirose Electric. Here is a diagram and pinout for the two versions of the standard:

Locking 7-Pin DIN
Part # RM12BPG-7SPart # RM12BPG7-PH
Female Locking 7-Pin DINMale Locking 7-Pin DIN
 1Y SignalY Signal
 2Y GroundY Ground
 3Head Switcing Pulse (VHS)R-Y Signal
 4NOT USEDR-Y Ground
 5C SignalB-Y Signal
 6C GroundB-Y Ground
 7Control-LNOT USED

I hope this helps someone else down the line as there is a huge amount of misinformation out there regarding this, especially for people with first generation JVC S-VHS units with this connector. As Y/C interconnection became standardized with the 4-Pin Min-DIN S-Video cable, there is a tendency to assume that all locking 7-Pin connectors use the U-Matic dub signal standard. The fact that the connector may have a nonspecific label ("Dub" by itself isn't terribly helpful to a newcomer) which does not specify the signal format just makes it worse. But the good news is, every variant I've researched is pinout-consistent so the most likely outcome of connecting two incompatible components with a properly wired cable will be monochrome video, or at worst, simply no video at all.
Comments: Read 2 orAdd Your Own.

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Subject:Outsmarting Sony (or, Stupid U-Matic Tricks!)
Time:12:45 am.
Mood: accomplished.
So, part of the reconfiguration of my edit suite/man cave has been to recable everything to use S-Video instead of composite video for the highest quality video I can get from my collection of professional and prosumer gear. This was pretty easy on the S-VHS front since that's where S-Video was developed to begin with, and my Betacam deck does S-Video natively as well. Same with my Hi-8 camera.

This left one format conspicuous by its absence -- my trusty old BVU-870 U-Matic deck which was designed and built before the idea of S-Video (Y/C 3.58) output was conceived of. However, U-Matic machines did use a special 7-pin component output (officially Y/C 688 but generally just called "Dub") which was intended as a short cable, straight-through connection for tape duplication. And while the luminance (the high-detail B&W part of the video signal) is identical in output to modern S-Video, the chroma (the low-detail color part of the video signal) is encoded differently and is not S-Video compatible.

Now, years ago there were two companies who made gear that would transform dub output to S-Video but it was never made in large quantities and is now very hard to even find information about it. But while Googling I found a forum posting with a not-very-detailed account from someone with a different model unit than mine. He was able to attach wires to specific points on the circuit boards inside the unit and obtain a Chroma signal that was actually S-Video friendly. Since I have the service manuals and wiring schematics for my machine, I spent a night pouring over the diagrams until I found exactly which circuit boards I needed to study and some likely locations where I could "steal" the signal. My guesses turned out to be pretty shrewd because I was able to get a watchable signal the first time. It wasn't perfect, of course, and it took a few more tries to find the best points to tap the signal from, but suddenly I was getting video that was visibly better quality than anything I was used to seeing from the U-Matic format!

From there, it took me three trips to the local electronics shop to figure out what I actually needed to wire things up permanently, and I spent a night Googling just to find that special 7-pin connector so I could obtain the luminance signal from its proper location. Ultimately, I decided to use female BNC connectors so I could use my existing video cables to run the separate chroma and luminance signals to the rest of my gear. After a couple evenings with my soldering iron I'm proud to say I have something that looks pretty damn good and works a treat!

Here's where I pull the color signal from the Chroma Decoder board's test points. Only after spending an hour trying to find the test points from the schematic did I realize the service manual also included a map of the circuit board.
The custom cable feeds out the back of the unit to this nice connector.This takes just the luminance signal off the Dub Out port.

To give you an idea of just how much of an improvement this makes, here are screenshots from the composite output (above) and the S-Video output (below) from the same segment of videotape. Note how much "cleaner" the color bars are!

And lastly, I've captured one frame of video using both sources and made a composite using a checkerboard pattern to show off the differences. I deliberately used a low-quality piece of video which has been copied several times from a very old (1973) source tape. This is why the S-Video output appears much grainer than the composite video. But even so, look at how much more detail is in the reporter's jacket!

Damn, I'm proud of this!
Comments: Read 48 orAdd Your Own.

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Time:12:05 am.
Team name from Trivia tonight: "Jingle my balls and I'll give you a white Christmas"
Comments: Read 1 orAdd Your Own.

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Subject:The Wheel of Time (Has a Flat)
Time:12:01 am.
Mood: thoughtful.
Okay, so one of the oldest recommendations I've had for reading since I left college was Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series. I've had it filed away for years and years and never really did anything about it, even after I was prodded into doing more than re-reading The Lord of the Rings every year. Well, a couple months back I had the opportunity to pick up The Eye of the World for 50¢ at a book sale and so I decided to give it a shot.

And wow, am I really not a fan.

I'm kind of surprised by this given how well I've taken to authors like Mercedes Lackey, David Eddings, and to a lesser extent LE Modesitt (to speak only of the fantasy genre). But overall I found this book amazingly boring and derivative.

Cut For SpoileryCollapse )
Comments: Read 6 orAdd Your Own.

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Subject:Coffee, Tea, Monster?
Time:9:30 pm.
Mood: nerdy.
So, this specific piece is going to be far out of my price range given it's from a website with the word "art" in their name, but the concept is awesome and would be useful for entertaining in our apartment setting.

Looks like the real deal can be had on eBay or at airline outlet stores, too...
Comments: Read 2 orAdd Your Own.

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Time:11:15 pm.
Mood: nerdy.
I was browsing some pics and decided this one would make a cool userpic, given I haven't changed it in years.
Comments: Read 1 orAdd Your Own.

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Time:9:00 pm.
Mood: mellow.
I'm drinking and cruising eBay for a frame synchronizer and recovering some video files I shouldn't have deleted. I have iTunes playing back Don Williams and Tony Booth and marvelling at how good the stereo separation sounds on my speakers tonight.

Damn, I was lucky to get to see part of his penultimate show before he stopped touring.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Time:8:30 pm.
Mood: hopeful.
So, all of a sudden there's massive movement on the video front. Thank the trial version of Premiere Pro CS4 for that.

I realized I had forgotten about the little Sony media converter that I bought last year. Give it analog video on one side, and the computer thinks it's hooked up to a DV camera. I bought it to be a portable solution so I could digitize tapes still in Illinois with my laptop rather than having to ship boxes and boxes of tape here just to capture and throw away. I'd never really thought about it this way before, but it does exactly what my capture card does except for the hardware accelleration which was badly needed in 2001 but not so much today.

So I did a test and captured the same piece of video with the Pinnacle DV500+ using Premiere 6.5 and my Sony DVMC-DA2 usning Premiere Pro CS4, synchronized them, and played them back with a partial band wipe so I could compare the quality of the two clips. Although my old Pinnacle card gives warmer skintones, it also tends to crush blacks so overall the DA2 gives slightly better output. Ultimately, this means I can pull the capture card and not really miss it. In a lot of ways, that's good. I was always a little concerned that Pinnacle never provided a standalone codec, so there was a possibility that sometime in the (near to mid) future I'd be unable to play anything I'd captured with it, although my cousin was able to read the files just fine without the codec so maybe that isn't a problem after all.

Given that Premiere Pro seemed suddenly like it was the key to clearing a variety of longstanding hurdles, I tried hooking it up to my Panasonic AG-7750 (SVHS) and even my old Sony BVU-870 (U-Matic SP). To my delight I was able to control both of them from within Premiere Pro. Suddenly, it looks like I may be a software upgrade away from having the fully functional edit suite I've only been trying to build since, oh... 1998.

I picked up a Western Digital 1TB drive for $99 and have been digitizing video all weekend. Except for having to go back and re-capture half of what I did because at first I was grabbing 12-bit audio instead of 16-bit, it's all worked a treat and having my software tell me I can record 50 hours of video (after capturing about 12 hours already) gives me a lot of elbow room to work with. I also scored a Hi-8 camera from eBay for $60, touted as being one of the best Sony ever made with pretty much all the technical bells and whistles I could ask for, so I'll be able to easily capture that format also. I'm greedily eyeing Betacam SP decks, too, now that they can be had for under $300 (which is two fewer zeroes from when they were new, thanks).

The only question I'm left with is what signal method to use for when the time comes to digitizing my vast U-Matic collection. Both my DV-500+ and my MVMC-DA2 take Composite and S-Video, which is great quality and supported by all my gear except the U-Matic which predates JVC's invention of S-Video by about five years. U-Matic has a separate "dub" cable which doesn't follow the same format and it appears no one has built a converter for it (although I read a tantalizing article describing how it could be done). My AG-7750 has both Dub and S-Video connectors, it may be possible to loop the video through. However, the BVU-870 also has a standalone time base corrector which really makes a difference when it comes to cleaning up the video on the old beast. It's possible that the processed composite signal could be more stable than the unprocessed dub signal. More research will be needed here.

But in any event, these are crucial decisions I'm making now which will have profound implications on what I can accomplish in the next year in terms of clearing out the backlog of video I have. Movement is good!
Comments: Add Your Own.

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Subject:Rating Doctor Who
Time:11:30 pm.
One of the the things that has been of interest to me when it comes to my most favorite shows is the whole best/worst episode rankings (or if you prefer, classics/clangers). Back when I was huge into The Simpsons, I spent a lot of time creating and maintaining my personal Top 5 list. Back then it was a lot easier for a show with 6 seasons as opposed to 27. If you asked me for my Top 5 for DW's classic years right now off the top of my head, I'd have to give you these, in no specific order:

  • The Talons of Weng-Chiang
  • The Caves of Androzani
  • The Power of the Daleks
  • Genesis of the Daleks
  • Inferno

    Of course, this is a knee-jerk crapshoot because as soon as I got past the first 3, I had another 10 stories come to mind that are all awesome. Some of them are ones I like (I have a soft spot for "The Keeper of Traken", for example) and there are others that I believe are well written ("The Curse of Peladon"), and others that have great production values ("Warriors' Gate"). I'd really like to quantify an analyze this, and then to be able to filter the result. It's not hard to guess that Robert Holmes will easily rank as my favorite writer, but do I actually have a favorite director? Phillip Hinchcliffe is unquestionably my favorite producer, but how does Innes Lloyd compare to, say, Graham Williams?

    To that end I've built a spreadsheet that lists each serial, writer, director, script editor, producer, and primary director. I plan to go through and rank each serial based on a handful of categories so that I can manipulate the result to see what really rises to the top and under what circumstances. I'm trying to decide what these categories should be -- without reaching the point of overkill. Writing, Directing, and Acting seem to be easy starters, probably also with a subjective Like category. But I'm not sure those would all measure what I want. "The Tenth Planet" has some stylish direction but the sets are uninspired. "Mindwarp" has a great concept but the Trial scenes gut much of the story. The Doctor is cracking good in "Tomb of the Cybermen" but Kaftan is awful -- I'm not sure how to balance that.

    Any thoughts from the peanut gallery?
  • Comments: Read 2 orAdd Your Own.

    Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

    Subject:The Sesame Street Meme
    Time:11:00 pm.
    Sesame Street Meme

    Part 1: Do you remember these milestones?

    1. Olivia Joins the Cast (1976). This was before me... I don't remember a Sesame Street without Olivia.
    2. Mr. Hooper/Mr. Hooper's Death (1983). I remember Mr. Hooper and hearing that he had died, but because we were visiting family over Thansgiving I don't think I ever saw the actual episode dealing with his death.
    3. Elmo Joins the Cast (1984) Bah, Elmo. I dislike what he has done to the show's dynamic. If I could eliminate four things about modern Sesame Street, he would be number one.
    4. Snuffy Is No Longer Imaginary (1985). I didn't see this happen but I always felt encouraged by imaginative play because of Snuffy. Another of the four things about the show I would change.
    5. Maria and Luis Get Married (1988). Nope... By this time my brother was old enough that Seasme Street was no longer on in the house. But I'm glad to hear it happened.

    Part 2: List five musical numbers which have stuck with you over time. Link to a video if you can!

    1. The Alligator King. This is, for me, my all-time favorite musical number from the show. I get a chill whenever I hear it.
    2. Pinball Number Count. neuracnu once posted a link to someone who made a real clock based on this. I may have to replicate it when I have a basement in need of a clock.
    3. Do De Rubber Duck. The "Rubber Ducky, You're The One" song doesn't really do it for me, especially since I've heard this reggae version. Although the chorus poking their heads in the bathroom and looking in the window is sorta creepy.
    4. Sugar Beet. Even after not seeing this for years if it gets in my head I can't get it out.
    5. I Don't Want To Live On The Moon. There's something about the melancholy in this song that has always fascinated me.

    How about you?
    Comments: Read 1 orAdd Your Own.

    Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

    Subject:Requiem For A LaserWriter
    Time:9:30 am.
    Ah, progress.

    At the end of 2001 I was sick and tired of my string of HP DeskJet printers. The print heads would clog, the ink would smear, and I wasn't about to spend money on a flaky print server to put it on my 10b2 network. So I decided to step into The Future and I bought a printer on eBay. A very large, very expensive, very used printer: It was an Apple Color Laserwriter 12/600, kissing cousin to the Lexmark Optra C and decommissioned from MIT, of all places. I got it for $1000 which included 2 extra fusers, and 2 spare toners each for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Network ready and 110lbs before you added consumables, it would print a blistering 3 ppm in glorious 600 dpi color while sucking down enough electricity to power a small town.

    Back when I still had a subnet of public IPs, I opened it to the firewall and had it installed on my work computer. If I saw stuff that was interesting I would just print it right to my own living room. And since we were recently engaged at the time, Larissa would periodically print cute notes and things while I was at work or asleep. After that, it came with me from IL to NY where it took up residence in the back corner of the mancave. And apart from not being able to run the printer and air conditioner at the same time in the summer, it did a nice job most of the time and while it wasn't photo-grade by any stretch of the imagination it nevertheless created some very good looking printouts when everything was working well.

    Of course, that was the trick. Every few months it'd go a bit funny -- it'd print too heavily or leave streaks on the paper, and since it required a resevoir of fuser oil, that would sometimes leak or otherwise make its way onto the page. Plus, with a whopping 28MB of RAM and PostScript Level 2 printing, anything complicated or with fine detail would sometimes take literally an hour to print. If I took the time to fuss with it for a while I could always get it back to printing right. But it was requiring service more often, and tended to spoil print runs greater than 5 pages. If Larissa wanted to print last minute things for her classes or resumes or anything like that, the output just wasn't up to that kind of spec anymore.

    So a few weeks ago we wound up discussing what to do about the printer situation. At first, we talked about maybe getting something with the cash we get from the folks at Christmas, but given that the 12/600 was at the point of needing me to get under the hood again, we started looking around with the idea that we'd jump on a good deal. It really didn't take me all that long to narrow down the field. My requirements were pretty simple. I wanted color laser with networking and duplexing. (I'm addicted to duplex printing thanks to my HP 4025dn at work.) I've worked with a couple of Brother laser printers and was not keen on having one at home (they work great but seem to malfunction in maddening ways). And HP's duplex color models were way out of my current price range.

    That pretty much left Lexmark, who apart from being behind the innards of my trusty LW 12/600, made the venerable Optra R series that I was able to deploy and service with great success back at the TV station. And to our delight, not three days later we discovered that Staples had the Lexmark C543DN on sale for $299 -- before a $50 trade-in. Now, part of the printer upgrade scenario I worried about was disposal of the old beast. No one on eBay would pay the shipping and I couldn't see anyone in the right mind wanting even to cart it away on Craigslist. I didn't really want to just heave the thing into the dumpster either, on general principal let alone not wanting to put all that plastic and toner into a landfill. So $250 and not having to worry about the disposal seemed like a huge deal.

    So our friend Brian came over and we huffed and puffed and carried the old thing out to his SUV and down to Staples. And now we have a shiny, little, fast, quiet new printer which doesn't trip the circuit breaker. Of course, I won't be able to replace all the toners for $50 on eBay like I could with the 12/600. But being back to having professional-grade printing right in the apartment is outstanding.

    Comments: Read 3 orAdd Your Own.

    Subject:15 in 15
    Time:12:00 am.
    The rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen albums you've heard that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.

    In no particular order...

    1The Key's In The MailboxTony Booth
    2When A Man Loves A Woman (The Way That I Love You)Tony Booth
    3Greatest Hits Volume IIIDon Williams
    4Pickin' On NashvilleThe Kentucky Headhunters
    5Diamonds & DirtRodney Crowell
    6CoreStone Temple Pilots
    7Metallica (aka 'The Black Album')Metallica
    8NWA And The PosseNWA
    9FloodThey Might Be Giants
    10Gotta Get Over GretaThe Nields
    11If You Lived Here You'd Be Home NowThe Nields
    12No FencesGarth Brooks
    13Balto (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)James Horner (and Steve Winwood)
    14TenPearl Jam
    15Doctorin' The TARDISThe Timelords (The KLF)

    Swiped from slipjig and rafaela.
    Comments: Read 1 orAdd Your Own.

    Friday, August 20th, 2010

    Time:5:45 pm.
    I ordered new glasses today, first new pair in five years. This stuns the people at my eye doctor's office when I complain that I only got 5 years out of my current pair (I got 10 years out of my previous pair). In any case, it'll be quite an upgrade.

    I'll be going from these Nautica frames to these Silhouette frames. Based on the trial pair, the new titanium rimless frames promise to be almost feather light.
    Comments: Read 2 orAdd Your Own.

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