January 2007

Monthly Archive

I’m leaving on a jet plane…which means I have to pack again…

Posted by Office-Bob on 29 Jan 2007 | Tagged as: General Craziness, The Church of Pyro

I’ll be heading to Lake Havasu City, Arizona in a couple of weeks to attend Western Winter Blast 18 which means I have to start thinking about packing. I’m also thinking about having to leave the house around 4 am so I can be at the airport by 5 am for a 7 am flight…but I’m trying not to think about that as much (yawn).

The last time I attended WWB I took my regular suitcase plus a smaller bag which contained my safety gear, plus my laptop bag and another bag for my camcorder; while I’ve since invested in a Pelican case that holds the laptop and camcorder and will fit under an airplane seat, I definitely want to reduce the amount of stuff I’ll be taking.

Now that I know the WPA provides hard hats and safety glasses for the range volunteers I don’t have to bring my own, and I don’t need to bring my steel-toed boots, so that will get me down to one suitcase - but there’s a balance to be struck between taking whatever basic clothing is needed, plus some “good clothes” for some social events I’ll be attending…and then there’s the question of how many pairs of socks and underwear do you take when you’re away for a week - do you take enough so you don’t need to worry about laundry, or do you wash your dainties in the sink and hang them to dry on the shower rod? Do I take my rain gear just in case there’s a repeat of the torrential downpour of 2 years ago, or do I resort to the “engineer’s raincoat,” aka large garbage bags, which I can buy down there?

I’d heard about a site, One Bag, which discusses “The Art and Science of Travelling Light,” and I checked out their information about bundle wrapping which is supposed to help reduce wrinkles and creasing. I did a dry run on the process today and while I’d originally planned to take pictures of the process, I decided against it because I came to the conclusion that while bundle wrapping can certainly be useful in the right circumstances, it really doesn’t do much for me because my suitcase is large enough (although within airline guidelines) that I’m able to lay my clothing down (mostly) flat, which means not a lot of wrinkling, which means the main reason for doing it is gone.

I thought that there might be a space savings of some sort in the suitcase but as far as I can tell, it didn’t change - while there was extra space on the ends of the suitcase because the bundle was tied down in the middle, it was thicker than the normal packing process so the free space hasn’t changed as much as it’s been relocated.

One good thing that did come out of trying it out was that I realized that with my new, pared-down clothing inventory, I’d have more room in my suitcase to bring back various pyro-related souvenirs (Dear TSA - no, I am NOT carrying any illegal items in my suitcase or carry-on , KTHXBYE)

It was certainly an interesting experiment, and if my suitcase was smaller I could see doing it, but as it stands right now bundle wrapping isn’t going to save me any time, effort or space…plus, it would have meant I’d actually have to do some ironing on my kilt to fix the pleats.

Popularity: 18% [?]

BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK!

Posted by Office-Bob on 23 Jan 2007 | Tagged as: Rants

DISCLAIMER - my sympathies are with the friends and families of the missing and murdered women in this case, and my comments are in no way meant to minimize the situation.



Got it? Okay, on to the rant…


It’s only the second day of the Robert “Willie” Pickton trial, and I’m already sick of the way the media is covering it.

It’s not due to the graphic details of his alleged crimes that are finally being released - although I do wonder why we don’t have a publication ban on this trial when Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka’s crimes were kept (mostly) from the public eye - it’s the incessant need the news media feels to discuss everything, no matter how big or small it may be.

Yeah, yeah, I get the “public’s right to know” and all that crap, but do we really need to have TV reporters meeting with court staff to discuss the upcoming media briefing?

Sheesh - it makes me long for the good old days when the reporters were going on and on (and on and on and on and on) about Stanley Park…“Hey, you dadblamed kids, get out of my windblown tree!”

I’ve decided that if the media is going to publish every little thing about the Pickton trial, then I’m going to use this wealth of information to get a piece of the action. Therefore, I am formally announcing my plans to create a children’s book titled:

Where’s Willie?

Page 1 will show the courtroom layout; the kids can try to find Willie amongst the lawyers and spectators.

Page 2 will be a layout of the property where you look for Willie amongst the buildings and vehicles.

As far as the rest of the pages - well, we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what graphic goodness the media provides.

Who knows…maybe I’ll make it a pop-up book where you can open the freezer lid and see what’s inside…or should I save that for Where’s Willie, Volume Two, so I can include a diagram of his (very likely) new home in prison?

Popularity: 29% [?]

Yo-ho-ho and a spindle of blank CD-Rs!

Posted by Office-Bob on 19 Jan 2007 | Tagged as: Rants

I have a DVR that I mostly use for timeshifting because there are a number of shows I like to watch that are either on opposite other favourite shows, or they’re on when I want to sleep (Yes, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, I’m talking to you - while I love youse guys, I loves my sleep even more).

Season 2 of HBO’s ROME started last Sunday, and I had set up to record it because I wasn’t going to be able to watch it “live” - however, when I went to watch it later I found that only the first minute had recorded and the listing on the DVR menu had some funky sort of error message - CP-D. I figured it was pilot error and I’d messed something up, but I wasn’t too worried because I knew I could try again later in the week. Of course, “later in the week” was when other programs I watched were on so I had to record it again.

I tried watching the recording the next day, and…sumbitch, same problem and same error message.

I didn’t think I could have messed up the recording twice, especially since I had recorded other shows in between trying to record this one…and then it struck me - “CP-D” most likely means “Copy Protected.”

There have been times when I’ve had so much stuff backlogged on the DVR’s hard drive that I’ve wanted to burn some programs onto a read-write DVD (for later viewing or for watching downstairs because the TV there is bigger - the DVR is in the bedroom) but there has been a copy protection scheme in place, and I’m fine with that - after all, the system has no way of knowing that I’m going to erase and reuse the DVD-R/W after I’ve had a chance to watch the content.

I am, however, pissed off when I am not even allowed to timeshift programming - something that’s been taken to court and upheld as Fair Use - because somebody’s worried about me ripping them off.

I’m sure that someone would argue that I can still record to videotape if I wish to timeshift, but I would counter that I should not be restricted to a specific type of recording media when the principle behind timeshifting is the issue.

I am also tired of having to pay a “levy” on blank “audio” media because the Canadian version of the RIAA believes everybody who uses blank media is a pirate and must be made to pay for their sins, whether they’ve committed any acts of piracy or not.

I found a torrent of ROME so I was able to watch it (man, those Romans are a surly bunch!), but it got me to thinking…if it wasn’t for lame stunts like removing my ability to timeshift TV programs, I would never have looked for a BitTorrent client for the Mac, never downloaded ROME, never tasted of the forbidden fruit.

Perhaps I should embark on a life of piracy, making illegal copies of music, movies and TV programs while distributing them as far and wide as I can? Hell, if Jack Valenti can publically admit that he loans out “Academy screeners,” stuff like this should be a cakewalk because I’m not even living in the US!

I wonder if anybody has done a study as to whether or not the continual erosion of Fair Use rights has led to an increase in pirating - I wouldn’t be surprised if there is such a study and if not, well, I think it’s about time some young rebel with fire in their eyes does so.

Mark my words, those who would unfairly restrict content access - if you continue to treat people like criminals, we will see no other option than to behave in the manner you expect because you have left us no other choice.

Hell, countries have fought Wars of Independence over things such as unfair rule of law…and you, despite your egomaniacal desires, are certainly not any sort of legitimate government.

Popularity: 20% [?]

“The horror…the horror…”

Posted by Office-Bob on 15 Jan 2007 | Tagged as: General Craziness

While I love my parents, I have to admit that their lack of technical savvy gets to me sometimes. If you’ve ever heard a comedian talking about how his parents’ VCR is always flashing 12:00, you’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my folks.

Their first VCR came with “cue cards” that spelled out, in pictures and with arrows, in what order you had to press which key to record and play back…they had problems with it.

Remember VCR Plus+, the technology that was supposed to simplify recording by allowing you to enter a 6-digit number and the machine would do the rest? They had problems with it.

When they bought a DVD player and needed it connected to their TV, guess who got to do it on one of his visits? If that wasn’t enough, I had to write down detailed notes on how to switch between TV/VCR/DVD, how to use the multi-function remote, etc. - and I kid you not, the instructions began with “Press the ‘ON’ button…”

When they decided to get a computer I actually considered entering the Witness Protection Program because I couldn’t deal with the idea of having to provide tech support for them while living 4 hours away…I’d already done my tour on the helldesk phones and at least back then I was getting paid.

Surprisingly enough, the computers are one area that they have had very few problems…but that’s countered by the fact that they use AOL.

Dialup.

I just got back from a weekend visit that was supposed to happen at Christmas but was delayed because of the recent bad weather we’ve had. I figured there’d be some piece of equipment I’d have to deal with, what with it being Christmas and all, and I was right - but setting up a multifunction printer in my dad’s home office was just the start of the fun to come.

The MFP was a breeze and with the exception of the software install taking close to an hour (at least the manual warned it could take a while - yes, sometimes I do indeed RTFM) I was finished quickly…but it wasn’t until I had occasion to go into the living room when I saw what would prove to be my toughest parental challenge yet.

An iPod Nano.

My parents now own an iPod Nano??? Why the hell did Dad not mention this the night before when we were talking about technology and I showed him my 30GB iPod? Even a “Wow, that’s a lot bigger than the one your mom got for Christmas” would have been a nice warning.

You know what this means, don’t you? I have to install iTunes.

In Windows.

Over a dialup connection.

Never let it be said that I run away from a challenge (well, okay, never let it be said that I ran away from this challenge); I girded my loins and prepared for battle.

The first problem occurred when I discovered that both USB ports on the computer were taken up; one by the mouse and the other by the printer. Since iPods these days use a USB connector, this meant I wasn’t going to be able to connect the iPod and while I was initially elated that I had dodged a bullet, my mom informed me that I could use their laptop for this task.

Well, damn, there goes that excuse.

We got out the laptop and I began the laborious process of downloading iTunes over a dialup connection that was, if I remember correctly, hovering around 28 kbps.

TIME REMAINING: 2 HOURS 54 MINUTES and counting…egads. Bear in mind that I still had the drive home to deal with and I wanted to make it across the border before it got dark.

I decided that I would at least plug in the iPod to get the battery charging and to my surprise, when I did this, iTunes started! Upon reflection I should have considered the possibility that it had already been loaded because Mom had said that they’d had someone load some Christmas music on the iPod for them, but I had erroneously concluded it had been done on another computer. Cancel the download and we’re ready to import some CDs that my dad had set aside for me; mostly jazz, but also some country and (shudder) trucker songs.

I’m primarily a Mac user by trade although I know my way around Windows fairly well, but the next issue I encountered wasn’t related to platform, it’s because of what I think is a stupid piece of programming by Apple…did you know that if you’re not connected to the internet, iTunes can’t read your CD and enter the album/track information? That’s right, if you’re not online all you get is “Track 01, Track 02…” and if you import the CD you’ll have to enter all of the information manually.

I think you can see where this is going…since there was no way I was going to be able to instruct my parents on how to enter CD info as well as show them how to import CDs and create playlists and upload songs to the iPod, I decided to inform them that they’d need to log into AOHell before they imported another CD.

Since Dad was watching the Chicago-Seattle game at this point, I had Mom sit down beside me and I instructed her on the finer points of using iTunes and the iPod, including knowing which soft button ejects the CD or the iPod (I think I only had to tell her what, 6 or 7 times?), where things plug in, what the various sounds/messages mean and so on. I also had her taking notes as we went, and I even had her perform the tasks herself…although she’s not terribly proficient at using a laptop trackpad, she managed to get the job done.

The end result is that I managed to get 8 CDs imported, 5 playlists created, and all the songs transferred over to the iPod.

My sanity is still shaky enough that I will not recount trying to explain to my mom the concept of how many songs can fit on an iPod…the scars are too fresh. I know it’s marketing BS but when she asked me how many songs could fit on the iPod I left her with the impression that 1000 = 1024.

Trust me, it’s easier that way…on both of us.

Popularity: 13% [?]

Music to my ears

Posted by Office-Bob on 11 Jan 2007 | Tagged as: General Craziness

I’ve been buying a number of CDs lately, and I thought I’d let you see where my tastes are wandering right now:

THE TIME MACHINE (Russell Garcia)
This is a replacement for a cassette version of the soundtrack to the George Pal movie; while the CD doesn’t include Garcia’s score for ATLANTIS: THE LOST CONTINENT, it does contain extra cues that weren’t on the original tape. A nice upgrade to my collection.

FORBIDDEN PLANET (Louis and Bebe Barron)
This is another upgrade, this time from vinyl - sure, I could have just ripped this to my computer but it’s nice to have a copy that is (currently) unaffected by dust, plus it saves me the rip/conversion time.

DESTINATION MOON (Leith Stevens)
Same situation as above, although I was a bit upset when I saw that this CD used different cover art than the original LP I already own - however, when I received the CD I was delighted to find that they included the original art on the back of the cover booklet! Guess which version I’m using?

LIFEFORCE (Henry Mancini and Michael Kamen)
Another upgrade, but this takes the score from a single LP to a double CD because it includes all of Mancini’s original music (a lot of which wasn’t used) as well as Kamen’s additions from when he was brought in after Mancini opted out of redoing his score to match the heavily edited movie.

PAN’S LABYRINTH (Javier Navarrete)
I haven’t seen the movie yet (although I’m such a Guillermo del Toro fanboi that I certainly will) but the score is great; it’s mostly comprised of gentle, haunting melodies while still bringing in motifs that convey the mood of the period (the Spanish Civil War, during which time this story is based).

BARENAKED FOR THE HOLIDAYS (Barenaked Ladies)
This was given to me as a Christmas gift; it’s great to listen to the BNL put their own style on some holiday classics in addition to providing some new tracks.

TOM & JERRY AND TEX AVERY TOO! VOL. 1: THE 1950s (Scott Bradley)
A 2 CD compilation of music from a number of classic T&J cartoons. Bradley is frequently overlooked when it comes to cartoon music even though he wrote more original music for MGM than Carl Stalling did for Warner Brothers. A nice hit of nostalgia!

CHRISTUS APOLLO (Jerry Goldsmith)
The jury’s still out on this one; there are 2 great individual pieces (Music for Orchestra and Fireworks) but the title piece - a poem by Ray Bradbury that’s been set to music by Goldsmith and narrated by Sir Anthony Hopkins - is going to require at least one more listening before I can decide how I really feel about it.

TWO STRING QUARTETS/SONATA FOR TWO VIOLINS and TWO CONCERTOS/THEME AND VARIATIONS (Miklos Rozsa)
I like Rozsa’s film scores (while they can be a bit overblown at times I blame that on the subject matter he was usually dealing with - after all, religious/historical epics aren’t known for their subtlety), and his orchestral works are also great.

Popularity: 13% [?]

At least I know I’m not completely stupid

Posted by Office-Bob on 08 Jan 2007 | Tagged as: Uncategorized, General Craziness

This week marks what is, to me, a momentous occasion: I can now use formatting quicktags in WordPress.

To some of you this may seem like a crazy thing to say but if you’re a Safari user like me, you know that it wasn’t until the most recent release of WP (2.0.6) that quicktags have been available to Safari users.

(If you’re still living under a rock, Safari is Mac OS X’s built-in web browser. Yes, I use a Mac; leave the platform wars elsewhere.)

I’d tried installing the WYSIWYG plug-in but had had no luck in getting it to work which I assumed was due to my own incompetence, but now I know that my incompetence had nothing to do with it…which makes me a happy bunny.

I know that in the grand scheme of things it isn’t a big deal, but if it means that I won’t have to refer to the various HTML “cheat sheets” I keep handy so I don’t have to manually code things like image links and the like, it’s a big win as far as I’m concerned.

Now, I can click a button and have things like:

  • Bullets
  • Quotes

    Italic
    and Bold

    without having to spend time trying to remember what code is used for which.

    Okay, I’ll admit that it’s easy enough to remember HTML for bold and italic, but that’s not the point. Sure, it’s somewhat lazy - after all, we’re not talking about a lot of typing effort - but as far as I’m concerned anything that streamlines the creating process is A Good Thing.

    Popularity: 21% [?]

    Welcome to 2007 - now stop honking at me and learn how to drive.

    Posted by Office-Bob on 05 Jan 2007 | Tagged as: Rants

    When I opened the front door to grab the morning paper I was greeted by about an inch of snow, with more coming down. I wasn’t terribly concerned, though, as I didn’t have anything planned this morning.

    My wife, however, had other plans and asked me if I’d be willing to drive her downtown to work in exchange for buying me breakfast; since the prospect of someone else preparing breakfast for me sounded nice - not to mention I didn’t feel like going to the trouble of making coffee this morning - I agreed to this plan. We took my car (Corolla wagon) because it’s heavier than her Geo Metro and therefore better equipped to handle adverse conditions.

    We made it down the hill from our house to Barnet Highway and that’s where the fun began.

    First, I had to deal with merging onto a road with someone coming up in the lane I was trying to merge into; for a few moments I wasn’t sure if he understood the concepts of traffic safety but fortunately he either decided to take his foot off the gas or the Car Fairy smacked him in the head with a dead mackerel, because I was able to merge without incident.

    After a bit of travel it became clear that there were going to be problems, and the radio confirmed that further along Barnet, people were having problems getting up a small hill; this was right about the time we hit the stop-and-go traffic. Since we were still rather far away from the hill in question we decided to cut our losses and turn around, go home and wait for the roads to clear.

    I found an intersection and made my escape from the crawling horde and headed back to sanctuary; while the road was less travelled in this direction it was level and the fresher snow didn’t give me any problems.

    The next challenge was getting up the hill that is immediately after the turnoff to my house; since the turn onto the road is greater than 90 degrees and means a smaller chance of success making it to the top in snowy conditions, I’ve found that the best tactic is to drive past the turn, turn around at the first available intersection and come at the hill from the other direction; making a left turn onto the hill gives you a better chance to make it all the way up since you have a straighter “go” at it. Here’s a picture to help you understand what I mean (click to enlarge):



    I’d started slowing down to make the turn onto the intersection and was doing everything right - signals, light pressure on brakes, no sudden moves of the steering wheel…

    …when I hear the beepbeepbeepbeepbeep of some dumbass behind me who’s finally realized that a) I’m slowing down/turning and 2) he’s following too close for the road conditions.

    Fortunately there was enough time and distance between us that I was able to complete my turn without being rear-ended; I turned around, headed back home and successfully made it up the unplowed hill.

    While I’d much rather avoid accidents completely, at least in this situation there wouldn’t have been any question of fault on my part.

    I’d like to think that the twit who didn’t know how to drive was sufficiently frightened to change his driving habits (and, I can hope, his underwear), but I’m enough of a realist to know that it was more likely that he was swearing at me for having the sheer, unmitigated gall to dare to impede his progress on a snow-covered road.

    I hope that when (and I’m sure it’s “when,” not “if”) that jerk finally has an accident, he manages to do it without involving other people/vehicles.

    Popularity: 18% [?]

    The Paper Chase - Pyro Style

    Posted by Office-Bob on 02 Jan 2007 | Tagged as: General Craziness, The Church of Pyro

    Now that the last fireworks show of the “season” (New Year’s Eve) is over, I wanted to tell you about the fun I had getting my show permit this year.

    This was the 6th year I’ve done a show for this particular client and despite the remote location and usually inclement weather (if it’s not cold, it’s cold and wet), it’s something I look forward to for a number of reasons:

    1) With some minor exceptions (salutes and shells over 6 inches), everything is hand-fired - by that, I mean I’m out there, flare in hand (well, at the end of a long holder), lighting individual fuses and feeling the THUMP as each shell fires.

    2) The scenery is beautiful; The image below will give you an idea is to where I’m located (click to enlarge):



    3) The people are very nice; they put me up for the evening on one of their boats and provide me with food and drink (although, of course, I abstain from alcohol until well after the show); this year, it was a lobster dinner, very tasty.

    4) Most importantly, they dig the mortars in which means I don’t have to…needless to say, this makes me a happy pyrotechnician.

    I knew the permit application process was going to be a bit more difficult this year, not only because I didn’t have very much lead time (about a week) but because I’d been informed that I needed to deal with a different fire dept. than in the past - previous permits had been issued by the North Vancouver Fire Dept. but according to the Commodore of the yacht club, the property was actually under the City of Coquitlam’s jurisdiction.

    Armed with this information and all of my supporting documents (permission letter from the yacht club, proof of insurance, copy of my Display Supervisor license and a list of shells being fired) I handed it over to the Coquitlam FD on December 22nd…

    …only to be informed on the 27th that it wasn’t their jurisdiction and I should contact the GVRD (Greater Vancouver Regional District).

    I did a little research and found that, indeed, the land where the yacht club’s outstation is location was in fact in the GVRD “Electoral Area ‘A’,” whatever that means, so I called the GVRD…

    …and was told that they didn’t handle permits and I’d need to contact the provincial Ministry of Forests.

    I called the MoF and talked to a very helpful gentleman there who said he’d look into it if I’d send him copies of the paperwork (thank goodness for scanners and e-mail)…

    …and was told the next day that they couldn’t issue a permit because there wasn’t enough time to do a site inspection, and I’d need to talk to the North Vancouver Fire Dept. because they’d be the ones responding to a fire anyway.

    Okay, so now I’m back to where I started but since I’ve dealt with the NVFD before I should be fine, right?

    Right?

    Um…nope.

    Apparently, despite being issued permits in the past a site inspection was never done, and the captain now in charge of Fire Prevention (the section that handles fireworks permits) wasn’t about to issue a permit without seeing the site; while I completely understand the need for this and his reasoning behind it, we’re now down to the 29th of December with no permit for a show scheduled to happen in 2 days. Solution? Pay a fee to the NVFD so the captain could spend his day off doing the inspection and take him up there by boat…if he was okay with the layout and satisfied that I could meet all safety requirements, he would hand over the permit - and it also gave him a chance to meet me in person.

    We went out on the 30th, the location was checked, I answered some questions and finally, satisfied that I knew what I was doing, the permit was handed over - we were back in business!

    The show went well although I had a few duds because of an impromtpu downpour that soaked some of the fuses, but most of the shells went off and the big finish - an 8-inch shell - was as spectacular as we’d hoped. The customer and audience were happy, I was happy (although wet and cold), and it would appear that we’ll be able to forgo the site inspection next year as long as the same captain is working in Fire Prevention - however, I will make sure we apply for the permit in plenty of time in case they want to look the place over again because, if they do, with enough advance notice they’ll come out in the NVFD fireboat and we won’t have to pay to have the inspection done.

    Happy New Year!

    Popularity: 18% [?]