Monday, August 27, 2007

Speaking of spare capacitors...

Here's a cool little thing to do with spare capacitors.

I had an old disposible camera and a electro-zapping fly swatter lying around not doing much. I opened the camera and removed the capacitor. I wired said capacitor in-line with bug zapper once I removed the tennis-racket part. I screwed all back together, and looks like this (click on images for bigger versions):

("Say hello to my little friend." -SeaLab 2021)

Then, Mandy took a picture, dragging the shutter. This my little friend discharging on the metal screen in our den. The funny part was, some dude was sitting on the bus bench right outside of it. I wonder what he was thinking.

(First: The metal screen. Next: The cats. j/k)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Blasphemous Balls

According to a BBC article, US forces have dropped soccer balls from helicopters in south-east Afghanistan for children to play with. These are World Cup league soccer balls, used around the world. This, of course, sparked riots. Why? Because everything we do sparks riots, that's why! Everything! We should stop doing things, damn it. My hatred for the war is well documented, but come on. After reading this article, is there any conclusion to reach other than our cultures do not understand each other?

(Balls of Blasphemy)

The BBC cites the reason people are rioting is because the Saudia Arabian flag, along with the flags of many other members of the World Cup, is depicted on the soccer ball and the Saudi Arabian flag contains the Islamic symbol of Allah. This is bad, according to rioters.

Does anyone think we can do any good over there when we so fundamentally misunderstand each other as cultures? When dropping toys, in an effort to build good will, sparks riots, I think even the most die-hard Blind Bush Follower has to give some credence to the fact that we shouldn't be there. I think it's time we wrap up what we're doing (what we're doing, I have no idea, and never did) and take our blasphemous balls back with us.

I also really like the headline, "Blasphemous balls anger Afghans."

Friday, August 24, 2007

20 Second Transformer's Clip - Follow-Up

BoingBoing has another article up about the 20 second transformers clip. It shows how the theater chain pressured the prosecutor into filing charges. The reader's comment are essepcially amusing: BoingBoing

Thursday, August 23, 2007

DJ Skype!

We just signed up for the Skype service and are in the process of configuring our Phillips phone to work with it. When it's done, we should be able to make and receive calls. We've set up a 616 area code number, so family and friends in GR can make the call for no cost. When we're sure it's working, we'll email everyone with the telephone number. So, if you see any unknown caller IDs (Skype will always show up as unknown) it's probably us testing it.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Follow-up on teen being arrested for recording 20 seconds of a movie

She has plead guilty. Here's a quick summary.

So, what's the deal with this?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Going to the movies is getting scarier.

Flash! MPAA has abhorrent business practices and treats its customers like thieves!!!1!

In an effort to stop copies of their movies from showing up on these interwebs, they have hired a private security force to go into theaters and randomly video-tape patrons watching the movie*. I know, I know. This is really old news, and anyone who is even slightly paying attention would know that the MPAA has lost touch with reality long ago... but still! How this stops piracy, know one is really sure. After implementing this 'security procedure' there were still many copies of available the weekend it came out in theaters.

Perhaps they're thinking recording people will act as a deterrent? Of course, this would only work if the MPAA could afford to put a security agent in every theater during every showing of every movie everywhere in the world. That might curb or stop recording by audience members, but what about corrupt movie chains that transfer films directly to video themselves (this happens all the time in Russia). And even if they could put these video-taping, cold-war era spooks in every theater in the world, then, it would figure that the ill-will generated by movie goers who have paid $12 to be treated as de facto criminals would do more harm to sales than good. I'm not particularly fond of paying for the privilege of having some huge corporation treat me like a criminal.

In another case, a 19-year-old girl was arrested on charges of piracy for recording a 20 second clip of Transformers in a Regal Movies theater*. She was recording the clip on her cell phone to show her brother some of the special effects in the hopes of convincing him to see the movie. How good the movie is, whether her brother is name 'Hank,' and whether she's even breaking a law (20 seconds recorded for personal use could qualify as fair use... or not. Ask a judge.) are all up for debate. The only thing I can think will come from slapping a 19 year old with a $2,500 fine for recording 20 seconds of a movie for the purposes of convincing someone to spend money to see it will create is more ill-will--both on the part of the girl's circle of influence and within the film community at large.

What is wrong with these people? It's clear that they are trying to fail as a business. As a publicly held corporation, isn't it illegal to take steps that purposely cause your business to fail? The shareholders of Regal Cinemas should be punching teeth out left and right.

*MPAA Taping Audiences via
*19-year-old-girl on charges of piracy via Freeculture @ NYU

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Electronic Vibes Mussin' With Our Gear!

To follow up on the last post about the poor iPod, it turns out our laptop has suffered a death of sorts. We bought this Compaq as part of a summer assignment when Mandy and I worked for Hewlitt Packard out of a hotel conference room. They required we have our own computers since we would be working on folding tables and from our homes, they wouldn't be providing computers. We only had one laptop at the time and we didn't think it was up to the task, so we bought a new Compaq Presario from Circuit City for around $1,500. Since purchasing it in April '05 we've had to return it 4 times. The first two were within a week of purchasing it, and those were due to pixel burnouts, which really isn't that uncommon for laptops and they were very accommodating. Incidentally, Circuit City has a great return policy when it comes to laptops--which is why we bought it from them. We returned last winter because it kept randomly rebooting and eventually stopped booting altogether.

When it was returned the work ticket read, "Reinstalled Operating System." We had done that, of course, and it didn't help. Yet, the laptop booted up just fine and worked great until early last week when it completely died again. It showed no symptoms... It had been in perfect working condition three hours before when Mandy was using it. The cause for the death: A dead hard drive. We have a pretty robust back-up policy, so nothing too serious was lost in the crash, but now we have to pack it up again and get, now, our fifth laptop back from the repair shop.

Adding on top of that nonsense, the replaced iPod (twice replaced) from the last post randomly reboots while playing music, so it's back to the shop with that fucker too. Man. I think being at such a high elevation has something to do with our devices dying. It's our closeness to the ionosphere, or something.

PS This is post was written on a our old laptop: Another used Compaq Presario Mandy and I bought from a coworker's friend about four years ago, running Ubuntu Linux, and it works great. Just goes to show... something.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

iPod Come and Gone

For a while now I've been singing the praises of Apple, Inc. I love my Mac. It's stable and lovely. And, until recently, I've loved my iPod. They do what I need them to do.

This spring, the left channel of my iPod started going all fuzzy. The channel would come and go, and as time went by it got worse. Keep in mind, this began to happen after nearly two years of continuous use. And by continuous use, I mean nearly every hour of every day the iPod was playing or charging. I figure, on average, it was playing music 8 hours per day. Also, I'm not the most gentle person when it comes to the treatment of gizmos (electronic or otherwise).

With the impending schooner trip coming up, I wanted to have my iPod fully functioning by the time I leave. So, I sent it in for repairs. These repairs are covered under the AppleCare program (read: extended warranty). I sent the iPod in, and today received a brand new one as a replacement.

I had just begun to sing further praises of Apple when I tried to boot up the brand new iPod. The silver apple of death appeared against a black background and would not budge. I tried all manor of tricks to get it to boot, to no avail. I called Apple again to tell them my replacement needed to be replaced. Mandy, the slueth she is, discovered a Mac store near our apartment. I told the person that I wanted to bring the iPod to the store instead of waiting for the return box to arrive, send it back, then wait for another possible lemon to arrive.

In short, we drove to the store, showed the iPod to a Mac Genius (how arrogant is that?) and got a replacement that actually works.

I'm still singing the praises of Apple because I love the iPod and its reliability. I hope that them sending out broken iPods as replacements for broken iPods is rare and isolated incident. Either way, my music is playing out of both speakers and I'm happy as can be.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hiking Flickr Stream

As promised in a previous post, I am providing the link to a slide show of pictures taken while hiking in Rockie Mountain Nation Park as well as a brief synopsis of the trip. The trail we hiked is called the Granite Falls Trail. It's considered an easy climb. I'm guessing that it is easy compared to climbing Mt. Everest, or something. Honestly, it wasn't that bad. The first mile and a half is tough because it's pretty much a straight climb up at about a 45-degree angle. After that, it leveled out more or less, with occasional tough patches of steep climbing.

Here's a link to the Flickr Stream of the hike. Go there to see pictures of the hike.

After a couple of miles, we hit an enormous meadow, settled in a valley between several large mountain peaks. It was at this point the gravity of where we were actually hit me. Even in area of relative quiet, if I listen very carefully I can hear a train whistle or a truck engine breaking, something that gives away the fact that people are nearby. Not here. It was silent except for the wind blowing through the pines and water running through a small creak. It was really surreal.

We continued on down the path, eventually stopping to eat some high-carb food and rest a bit. Clouds had begun to swell, and we were feeling some rain spitting, so we decided to turn around and head back.

All in all the trip took about 8 hours. Our friend German and his girlfriend Erin took care of us and made sure we made it back safe and sound. We may head back up to the mountains this week for another hike, especially if the weather stays up in the 100s as it has been.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Site Redesign

Yes, this is still DropMyStraw. It looks different because we've chosen a new template to base the blog on. It's not as if we've done any work, so don't be alarmed. The blog still functions the same way with comments, links, and post archives, but it hopefully looks a little more fresh and jaunty. With this redesign, we are now officially moved over to the new Blogger engine. The cool thing about moving over to the engine, is we can execute javascript, html, and embed video clips with much more ease. As time goes by, we'll be adding new and cool elements to the blog as they become available and we have time to customize them.

If you have any suggestions, please drop us a comment.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Loreal Self-Tanning Lotion Breakdown

This is a link to great article on that breaks down all the chemicals in Loreal's Self-Tanning lotion. It's creepy and fascinating.

Wired Article on Self-Tanning Lotion

An update for updates

We've been very busy recently, so the posting has dropped off a bit. I'm still working on Part II of the faux travelogue detailing our adventure out here. I know some of you have written asking where it is. It's on its way.

Mandy and I have been going to a few interviews here and there. Some are promising, but most are looking to just be filler jobs. There is an abundance of work we no longer want to do, but not a lot of what we do.

Mandy has started her 25 hours of observation at a gym about 3/4ths of a mile from out place. That seems to be going well, and by the end of the week, she'll be close to half done. She's still working on getting classes setup, transcripts transfered, and getting in touch with her profs. For the most part, her schooling is shaping up nicely.

This past weekend Mandy and I worked on a 48-Hour Film Project. Our video hasn't been uploaded yet, but when it does you should be able to find it under "Spoken For." I'll post a link when I know it's up.

The 48-Hour Film Project is an international competition similar to the 24-hour festivals we've worked on in the past, except that each city competes against each other and within a city there are no first, second, or third place positions.. This was done partially for the fun of competition, but also to do some networking with the film crowd in Denver. The group we worked with was backed by Uptown 6, a production company here in town. As a result of meeting the owners and getting to know some of the film people, I have gotten some freelance work and may be traveling for three weeks in October to work on an unnamed pilot for PBS. That would rock.

The screening of the films was last night and I have to admit, I've never been more proud of Grand Rapidian filmmakers. The vast majority of the films were lame compared to the work I saw at the 24-hour festivals in GR. I mean, these people had twice the time we did to create their pieces and the majority were incorrectly exposed, not white-balanced, and had terrible audio. And they had 48 hours! All in all it was a fun experience and accomplished the two main goals I had going into it.

On other fronts, we've met some cool people we've gone hiking with. We're trying to start up another chapter of the Cincinnati Cooking Club, and are meeting with a couple people we met at an art gallery opening to cook this Saturday and see if they're into the idea of doing it monthly. I'll post a link to a Flickr stream of some of the pictures we took while hiking in the next post.

We also just received our 10 mega pixel Canon XTi and two lenses. I will post some of the pictures to our Flickr stream and give write a quick review of the lenses and camera when I've had more time to play around with it. In the 24 hours we've had to play with it, I've been amazed. Simply amazed.

I will elaborate more on what I wrote here in the next few posts, I just thought I'd put up a quick update to let everyone know we're still alive and kickin' it in the West.

To come:
1. Pictures from our hike in Rockie Mountain National Park
2. Review of the Canon XTi, Tameron 70-300mm, and the Canon 50mm
3. A video post of a guy having a grand mal seizure right outside our window
4. A video post of us showing you all the apartment, similar to the one we posted back in July.

I'm also posting the following blip on behalf of Chad, who just had his film 'Little Thumb' get accepted in the Battle Creek Film Festival.

"Greetings friends and family,
My film just got accepted to the Battle Creek Film Festival and there is a vote going on to determine the People's Choice Award based on the trailers. I agree, pretty stupid. But anyway, I thought I would put a call out to you all to at least vote for my trailer. Here is the link below. Its on the bottom on the left hand side.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Mandy is Crazy

(I've been playing with Photoshop, trying to achieve the Gnarls Barkley 'Crazy' effect)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sunshine and Dragon boats....

This past weekend we took in another flick at the Mayan Theatre: Sunshine. I would definitely recommend this movie to any sci-fi fans. The acting was well done and the storyline was good...up until the last section. The guy that played Scarecrow in Batman Begins was the leading actor. He did a pretty good job at being a spaced out physicist. The only thing I have to say is get rid of the Boogeyman already - it has already been played out too much and the storyline could be driven without it. Oh well....

Sunday we hopped in our car and drove out to Inesco field where we hitched a ride with the free shuttle to the Dragon Boat Festival. There we partook in Pad Thai and Coconut Curry, the sights: dragon boat races, vendors, and balloon animals, and sounds: Malaysian rock band. The event was held as Sloan's Lake which has a pretty nice park surrounding the lake. So we took this opportunity to walk the park around the lake which was a little over 3 miles.

The shuttle brought us back to the field parking lot just as it was starting to sprinkle. All in all, it was a great time!