Monday, May 25, 2009

I -heart- Wikipedia

Looking at the previous two posts, they rely very heavily on Wikipedia, maybe even bordering on plagiarism in a few instances. I also quote it in both articles. It occurred to me as I was writing them that they could make this site a bit suspect. I'm sure we're all aware that there are sites out there that get content by copying information from other sites, linking back and forth a lot, all to increase their own search engine rankings. This has even happened to me. Information form one of my older posts got copied and pasted into someone else's 'blog' with a link back to my site.

I'm not too worried about it, but I did give me pause for a second. Really, those posts had to be Wikipedia-heavy, because if it weren't for Wikipedia I wouldn't know shit about alternate calendars or decimal time.

You know how much time I would have to have spent in a library to have gotten the same amount of information? That means, to me anyway, that I wouldn't ever have learned it without Wikipedia. The information doesn't help me live my life in any significantly better way, it's just interesting. As such, it's not worth digging through books for. When it's only a few clicks away though, think of how much more I can learn in much less time.

Thank you Wikipedia, thank you Internet. That's all I have to say.


Decimal Time

Another child of the French Revolution is decimal time. Once again, this is the kind of stuff I love diving into. It's fascinating and it gives me a new perspective on our own system, somethinig that's hard to achieve when most of the world is on standard time.

Decimal time was used in conjunction with the French Republic Calendar. It had 10 hours with 100 minutes, each minute being 100 seconds. By this system, midnight is 10, noon is 5. Weird, huh? A second in decimal time is still called a second (by Wikipedia, anyways), but it is completely different. Standard time has 86,400 seconds in one day, decimal time has 100,000, so their seconds must be a bit shorter.

Here are some conversions via Wikipediaa to put it in perspective:

Decimal to Standard

* One decimal second is 86,400/100,000 = 0.864 standard seconds.
* One decimal minute is 1,440/1,000 = 1.44 standard minutes, or 1 standard minute and 26.4 standard seconds.
* One decimal hour is 24/10 = 2.4 standard hours, or 2 standard hours and 24 standard minutes.

Standard to Decimal

* One standard second = 1.15740 decimal seconds
* One standard minute = 69.44 decimal seconds (or .69 decimal minutes)
* One standard hour = 4,166.67 decimal seconds (or 41 decimal minutes and 67 decimal seconds)

I find this fascinating, and I have to wonder how big a change this must have been (it was 1795 when this was made mandatory), and then of course they had to change back 10 years later in 1805. Nowadays with cell phones and internet conversions it would be much easier to keep track of what time I know it as and what time it is officially. Back What a change it must have been.

Just wanted to throw that in with the calendar talk. More food for thought.


French Republican Calendar

I have to say, for me, sometimes the most fascinating aspects of history aren't the people or the great conflicts, but the different ways people choose to do things when starting with a clean slate.

Take revolutionary France. Once the revolutionaries took control of the country, they started what's now called the "Dechristianisation of France," one aspect of which was the proposal of an entirely new calendar to replace the current Pope-ordianed Gregorian calendar (which we use in the US). Reading about it, a new system would make sense.

Why do we have such a messed up calendar system now? Here are some of the Gregorian calendar's problems, taken from Wikipedia's article on calendar reform:

* It is not perpetual. Each year starts on a different day of the week and calendars expire every year.
* It is difficult to determine the weekday of any given day of the year or month.
* Months are not equal in length nor regularly distributed across the year, requiring mnemonics (e.g. “Thirty days hath September…”) to remember which month is 28, 29, 30 or 31 days long.
* The year’s four quarters (of three full months each) are not equal (being of 90/91, 91, 92 and 92 days respectively). Business quarters that are equal would make accounting easier.
* Its epoch (origin) is not religiously neutral. The same applies to month and weekday names in many languages.
* Each month has no connection with the lunar phases.

I don't care about religious neutrality, even though I'm not religious myself. Christmas isn't rooted in Christianity and most Christians don't seem to mind, why should I mind that my calendar is?

There are a lot of proposed alternate calendars, but only two are seriously considered. The World Calendar, which has 12 months, and two days: Leapyear Day and Worldsday. Those days aren't part of any month, they stand alone as "intercalary days". Each quarter has the same number of days (91), weeks (13) and months (3). 8 months have 30 days, 4 have 31.

Then there's the International Fixed Calendar, which has 13 months that are 28 days each, with one standard intercalary day, placed at the end of the year. Leap day is intercalary as well, and falls after June. The extra month, by the way, is called "Sol," and falls between June and July. This was the official calendar of the Eastman Kodak Company from 1928 to 1989, and it's referred to by some as the Eastman plan.

The main arguments against any calendar change are, firstly, about the general disruption it would cause. There would be a lot of confusion. Of course, many religious groups are against any sort of calendar change, as it would disrupt the dates of their holidays and holy times. The World Calendar and the International Fixed Calendar both have days outside of calendar weeks, yet religions would still have to worship every seven days, throwing them off the days of the week. Also, the International Fixed Calendar has 13 months--13 is a prime number and therefore wouldn't break into quarters, so not good for bookkeeping. Oh, and every month has a Friday the 13th (OH NO!!!!). The good thing is, with technology, converting calendar dates wouldn't be any harder than changing currency is today. A few keystrokes into most spreadsheet apps, or even into Google, and you're good to go.

Really, I'd be down for a completely numeral system. Instead of July 30th, we would have 211 (the 211th day of the year). You can divide that by whatever base you want to assign weekdays, months or whatever. Okay, so that's kind of stupid, but it's so simple, and if we kept that number handy, it'd be that much easier to convert to it other calendars. Leap day would be put to the end of the year, of course. Then again, why not a four-year, 1,461-day cycle? Hmm, I think I'm on to something, I'd better call the President.

Till then,


PS-I'm such a dork, I really love digging through this stuff.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My windshield wipers are making me ill

You read right. The windshield wipers on my car are making me feel kind of ill. Not like I'm going to throw up or anything, just a strong unease. I just now figured it out.

I used to have this plastic night stand thing that I put my cell phone on. My cell doubles as an alarm clock. I've since gotten rid of that night stand, but I just today had my phone (set to vibrate) on a similar plastic surface. I got a call, making the phone vibrate. I felt a general feeling of unease. That finally made the connection for me.

That's right folks, my windshield wipers make a similar sound to my cell's alarm clock vibrating on my night stand. So similar that using my windshield wipers gives me the same sense of unease my alarm clock gives me first thing in the morning. That's weird.

Now that's got me thinking. I've since started using some of my favorite songs as the alarm tone. Probably not a good idea, right? Ugh, what if the damage is already done?


Is it too late for a Meet the Spartans reference?

I posted this on my blog a while ago, when 'Meet the Spartans' was in theaters. I've since wiped my blog clean for various reasons. I was going through the archives and I liked the quote (below) and the article I originally linked to so much that I just couldn't stand to not put it out there again. Slightly dated, still poignant.

So if you, like me, are one of those people who have no desire to ever, ever, ever see the movie 'Meet the Spartans,' then you'll especially like this review.

This was the worst movie I've ever seen, so bad that I hesitate to label it a "movie" and thus reflect shame upon the entire medium of film. Friedberg and Seltzer do not practice the same craft as P.T. Anderson, David Cronenberg, Michael Bay, Kevin Costner, the Zucker Brothers, the Wayans Brothers, Uwe Boll, any dad who takes shaky home movies on a camping trip, or a bear who turns on a video camera by accident while trying to eat it.

He also says the movie is barely 60 minutes, with 20 minutes of credits. I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Yes I can, it's a good thing.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Nerd alert!

You know what? "Nerd" may not be the proper term. Maybe it is for me, I build computers, I drool over new technology, I am a nerd, but I'm referring to my being a fan of Buffy and Angel. I'm not sure if this makes someone a nerd in the traditional sense. Anyway, I was a big fan of Buffy and Angel, the tv shows, and now additionally I'm a big fan of the comic books, Buffy Season Eight and Angel: After the Fall ('After the Fall' is now 'Aftermath'). And here's my problem:

We only get one issue a month. We used to get one episode of the television show a week, at least for a few months straight, and now we only get 1 issue a month. Let me break it down a little further.

Episodes were 42 minutes +/-. I can read through an issue of Angel: After the Fall in 10 minutes tops (the first reading, anyways). Only one issue a month! This really, really, really frustrates me.

I realize that a lot of work goes into a tv show, and more money than goes into the comics. But spread out over a year, 22 episodes is one about every 2.4 weeks. Shouldn't we at least get bi-weekly comics? Really? For me Joss? Please?

Just wanted to get that off my chest.


Time to re-organize

Here's how you know it's time to re-organize: You've lost your car keys, mp3 player, mp3 player charge cord, and cell phone, all many times in one day. Re-tracing my steps no longer works, as all steps lead to my bedroom, which is one big un-organized mess at the moment. I've just combined a bunch of old apartment shit with a bunch of new apartment shit. This doesn't mean my place is a dump now, it means I used to have a place for everything, and now everything's place is stuffed with other things.

Example--since the place where I normally put my keys is otherwise occupied, I put my keys down anywhere, and a quick scan for them is rendered useless by the high amount of other shit. I'm taking care of the problem ASAP. (Just after I write a blog post about it, of course).

Laugh out loud.

I don't care how "hip," or "irreverent" or "entertaining" a financial book is claiming to be, I still never expected it to contain this line:

Listen up, crybabies: This isn't your grandma's house and I'm not going to bake you cookies and coddle you. A lot of your financial problems are caused by one person: you.

Made me laugh out loud. That book is "I Will Teach You to be Rich," by Ramit Sethi, by the way. He has a blog.

The book is really interesting. Like many others have said, the information given isn't anything new, but that's one of the points of his book. Financial decisions aren't that hard, he says, you just have to learn to filter out all the noise like stock tips and get rich quick schemes. Make no mistakes, this book isn't about getting rich quick, it's about saving to be rich later in life, and then not ever having to work again. The best financial advice has been around a while, but it usually bears repeating.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Zoom H4: A Review

A while ago I posted my first impressions of the Zoom H4, but they were only first impressions and I don't know how much weight they would hold with most people. Well, I did some thinking, did some tests, and I've taken that previous post and reinforced it with some experience.

Sorry, I still don't have any of my own audio clips to post. If you'd like to hear it in action, check out this review, which has a few audio clips on page 2. That review is what ultimately pushed me over the edge into buying the H4, by the way, and I have not been disappointed.

That's right, I'm coming right off the bat and saying I am not disappointed. At all. I love this thing. I love the Zoom H4.

One of the things that made me wary of buying it at first was my confusion of the brand. Is it made by Zoom or Samson? It all seemed a little sketchy and fly-by-night at the time. Truth is, I still don't know what the deal is. I'm assuming Samson re-branded it, but it doesn't really matter. As far as I've heard, they're both the same device.

For reference, my old mic was an Azden SGM-2x. I bought it five years ago and today it still it goes for roughly the same price, around $200. It has a shotgun and a condenser capsule. I bought it, online without ever hearing any recordings from it, for it's assumed flexibility. It's been used at weddings, used for some voice overs, and it's even been used on some nationally syndicated television shows. I've put it through the paces, and I must say, it's a decent mic, but it seems to pick up far too much noise, good sometimes but not good for the voice-over stuff I'm working on now. I generally used it with my Canon XL1 and record to DV, or I used my M-Audio Black Box to record to computer.

Here's a quote from my original "first impressions" post:

I was looking into a M-Audio mic, a Luna perhaps, and noticed it needs to be phantom powered. The Black Box doesn't do phantom power, so I started looking at other options. I stumbled across the H4. It looked promising, but I didn't have the cash to spare or the need for it at that time.

Well, now I have both and ordered it yesterday, Amazon got it here today. First of all, genius. Genius. I love this thing already. It looks a little odd, looks a little cheap (and $260 for what it does is somewhat cheap). It has two sockets for XLR inputs. These two sockets also fit a 1/4" jack, so you can use a cheaper mic or plug a standard guitar cable in. That's right, XLR or 1/4" jack in one socket. Pretty slick.

As I implied earlier, it does phantom power, it records on a SD card or you can plug it in via USB and record in your computer. It also has two built in mics, in standard crossed formation, for stereo recording. The chrome mics (and the wire guard around them) makes the thing look like a stun gun. And yes, I have scared a friend by moving as if to press it into their neck.

The H4 debuted, I think, in 2006, and the firmware has been updated as recently as March, 2009. They've fixed a lot of bugs, they changed the whole screen layout so the menus would be easier to navigate, and they added support for SDHC cards, among other things.

Here's what surprised me out of the box: The H4 came with newest firmware loaded on. Not unusual but not standard by any means. It also came with an AC adapter. That's expected but many companies seem to think providing an AC adapter (for battery-operated devices) is optional nowadays. Device came with a 512MB SD card. I knew about this in advance but it's worth mentioning. Device also came with printed manual! Very strange to get a full printed manual, usually you just get a CD and a quick start guide. In addition to the manual, you also get a few pamphlets. One with recording advice, mic placement for certain situations as well as the best mic settings. Another sheet listed all the changes made with firmware updates (firmware changes aren't reflected in the manual, I don't think) as well as the dates the firmware was changed.

Now let's go to the sound. I expected the on-board mics to sound good. There are audio tests floating around, live recordings and such, podcasts recorded on the H4 to check out. I've used it pretty extensively, in the same environment I record with my Azden. Let me just say, the mics on this thing sound great. Amazing. I had to do all sorts of things to keep the Azden for picking up room sound, which I'm sure my own fault for not buying the right mic for what I wanted to do. And SGM-2x was not good for indoor work at all. The Zoom, however, is great. At the lowest sensitivity there is no room noise yet my voice is still fairly loud. There is a lot of noise at the highest sensitivity (duh) and I's bet it would be great for even acoustic live shows. I'm very impressed. As I said earlier, I was going to buy a new mic, now I don't need to.

The biggest drawback I've seen so far is the menu navigation. I know the menus now, but there is a bit of a learning curve. Maybe the curve wouldn't have been so steep if I had read the manual more carefully, but I figured it out eventually. All the buttons are clearly marked, so paying a little attention really goes a long way. As for the amp simulation, I've used it a little playing around on guitar, and it's amp models are okay--fun to play with, at least. Ultimately, I think for practicing I'd use the H4, and for serious recording I'd go to my M-Audio Black Box (which I'm also very fond of).

Another potential drawback is that there are reports that running it on batteries causes a very quiet humming under the recording in certain microphone settings (either with phantom power or without it, I think). I haven't used it with batteries, and I probably never will, but there are work-arounds using external battery packs with the AC port (kludgy, I know). If I ever have problems with that I'll post it, but as I recall the noise was so faint a lot of people experiencing it didn't even notice until it was brought to their attention on message boards.

I just now saw that there's a new model, the H4n, which seems to boast a few more features in an updated form factor. I don't know anything about it, but it looks like Zoom has discontinued the H4, completely eliminating the purpose of this review. Huh. Anyway, you should still be able to find the H4 around for a few more years, and this could mean you'll find it for even cheaper.

Ultimately, the thing that drove me away from other audio recorders is what might drive others away from the H4: it's size. The H4 is pretty large by current DAR standards. Having a larger size means a lot, though. It means all the ports are built-in, no adapters needed. It means there are two large-ish, good sounding mics on this thing. It means phantom power. It means being a little awkward at times, and the H4 does look a bit like a toy. But the sound it gets is really, really good for it's price range. Really. Don't take my word for it, though. Listen. (Link goes to page 2 of previously mentioned review, with audio samples)


Celtx auto-complete workaround...

By the way, I meant to mention this in my last post, but I suppose it's easier to find by itself.

Celtx's auto-complete (character's names and locations) is a real pain. Sometimes I'm ahead of Celtx, sometimes it's ahead of me, so sometimes I need one return, sometime I need two--one for auto-complete (to accept the name you've already finished typing) and another to start a new line. Celtx doesn't have an option to turn that off yet, but I discovered that keeping the cursor in front of a symbol or punctuation mark completely confounds auto-complete, and keeps it from suggesting anything, letting you consistently get to the next line with only one press of 'enter'.

To clarify, write a question mark, hit the left arrow key once so the cursor is behind it, and then for the bulk of your writing you "push" the question mark in front of your text. The only problems so far are with parenthesis (this method messes with the cool way parenthesis wrap around what you type), and scene headings (hitting 'enter' on a blank line makes that line a scene heading, but with a symbol already in that line, Celtx just adds another blank line). Complications included I still think it's easier than battling with auto-complete every time I have a character speak.

Hope it's helpful,


I'm still using Celtx

Yes, I'm still on version of Celtx, even though they're all the way to 2.0.1 now. My reasons? After the fold.

In, I can right click the left pane to add a new folder or item, and in the newer versions (from 1.0 on) you have to use icons at the top of the pane. Why take away functionality? I don't know.

Another reason I chose not to update is that I don't use scheduling and I don't use Celtx's online collaboration tools. I don't use it for anything really but organizing and writing scripts by myself. I used to use it for notes and other things, but I've since switched to The Guide, an outliner.

2.0.1 is also really slow. Slow to load and slow to save, which is only a problem on my EEE 901, but that's where I do most of my writing. On top of that, none of my biggest problems have been fixed. Those problems are, I can't turn autocomplete off, I can't leave pagination on by default for all documents, and...well hey, that's it really.

Another frustration is, the left pane acts in a really counter-intuitive fashion. You can navigate items in the left pane using arrow keys just like I'm used to, with right and left arrows expanding and minimizing folders and their contents, but then when you have a script or other item selected, you can't open it by hitting the 'enter' key. This befuddles me to no end. Why can I navigate by with the keyboard if I can't open items with it?

Anyways, I'm still using, it's the portable apps version found here. It's for Windows, but most Portable Apps (for this launcher) should work in Linux with Wine. In case anyone else is interested in the comparison.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Coolest game ever!!!!!

Hey kids, do you like cool adventure games like Legend of Zelda and Diablo? Do you like comedy? You should check out Dink Smallwood.

Dink Smallwood is an old freeware game (actually it's been open sourced). The graphics are outdated, but the humor more than makes up for it.

Let me set this up for you. You, Dink Smallwood, desperately want to be a hero. Unfortunately, you are a pig farmer. You're dropped into this boring life and eventually find the path to warrior-dom. That's not the cool part. The cool part is the how you can make the choice to be dick in a genre full of do-gooders. For instance, a neighbor is out looking for her pet duck. When you find it, you can yell at it to make it go home...or, you can kill it. Later on in the game, you get the option to tell a local girl that you killed it. Then you watch her freak out and run away in fear.

Your mom dies (totally not your fault...) and you go to live with your aunt and abusive uncle. If you try to stop the abuse, you get killed. If you learn how to exploit a little glitch, and kill him, well then you end up in charge, making passes at your aunt. I know this sounds creepy, but in the context of the gamme, and directly compared with games like Zelda, it's pretty funny. (I just noticed all the funny stuff in this game involves killing.

In most games like this, you end up hitting bookcases and the like while looking for hidden items. In this game, if you try that, Dink will shout things such as "Stupid bookcases". The coolness wears off fast, but it is a nice touch. I don't want to give much more away. Seriously, if you like dark humor, killing ducks and using magic, Dink Smallwood is the game for you.

(BTW, I almost forgot, there are a lot of other "episodes" after you complete the game, lots of people have made their own stories and some of them are pretty good.)

So that's why God hasn't been around...

He's gone to the sharks. Scientists have now seen two, count 'em, two, virgin births by sharks. These are sharks in captivity, no male sharks around, and tests prove the DNA is from only the mother.

Hey Pope, hey Bishops, you think virgin births are so cool? Gonna worship sharks now? Huh?

Yeah, that's what I thought,