Trygve.Com > Diary > JournalWeblogDiaryWhatsis - April, 2004
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April, 2004
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the undertaker

because ... well ... why the hell not ...?

it's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.

Thursday, April 29th



These days you get lots of choices when it comes to packing material--packing peanuts, custom styrofoam inserts, expandable foam in a garbage bag, bubble wrap, and the never-recommended-but-still-often-done method of sticking something in a box and letting it bounce around as it may. For some reason, this last technique is especially popular for people shipping movie lights and, recently, a (now well-broken) 21" monitor.

The common denominator for "things shipped rattling around in a box" seems to be that they're heavy and they include a lot of glass. Why this should inspire one to eschew any packing or padding, I don't know, but apparently it does.

But this package I'd gotten yesterday from B&H Photo and Video uses the new "chain of balloons" packing material. I don't even have to open it up to know this.

Personally, I think there's a disadvantage to using this material: you might be able to guess what I'm thinking of by looking at this box. (Though, really, the picture doesn't do it justice; it's like a cardboard ball with eight little nubs where the corners had been.)

At least the contents are well-cushioned.

balloon in a box

I haven't gotten a package packed in this manner that's actually popped in transit, but this one sure looks like it's thinking about it.

Sunday, April 25th


Size the Day:

As long as we're on the topic of whether size matters, I think I'll add the observation that wardrobe departments really should consider paying more attention to sizes--or at least the optimal relationship between actors and clothing sizes.

Case in point: here I was, portraying an airline captain who is supposed to be attacked with an axe in a cockpit. To make it a little more challenging, this scene was being filmed in a real cockpit, which is not a very spacious location, especially once you've added in a movie camera, sound equipment, and a camera operator...most of which are not actually standard cockpit equipment, at least outside of L.A.

That part's not too much of a problem--I'm flexible enough that I don't have too much trouble with small spaces, at least up to a point. Some parts of me don't bend as well as others--my femur, for example--but it still takes some extra effort to stage an exciting action sequence in a space roughly similar to the inside of a VW Bug.

Despite the fact that we were acting inside an area similar to the inside of a VW Bug, I actually bear very little resemblance to one--either the old-style version or the new, updated model. There's got to be a way to get this idea across to the wardrobe department, since the pants they came up with had inseams that ranged from 30" all the way to 32". While a 32" inseam is long enough to keep my knees covered, it still shows a lot more leg than most male airline personel are supposed to.

As far as I know, anyway. Thinking about it, I could imagine that UPS has its pilots dressed in burmuda shorts, but I think they'd have to be brown and not black like the pants I'd been provided with.

 ...pants full of red-colored corn syrup... 

In keeping with the "tailored for a VW bug" theme, though the inseams were sized for someone much smaller than I, the waistbands of the available pants could easily have fit around both myself and another crewmember, possibly two. While I could see how this might not be the best idea during actual filming, it certainly could have made the casting process more interesting.

Unfortunately, I hadn't been involved in that part, but who knows how much fun the casting director may have had with those pants before I'd gotten them?

The shirts were the same way, though not quite as bad: they actually had one with a 34" sleevelength. Still several inches too short, but as long as I didn't need to straighten out my arms, we'd be okay. More or less.

And thus began my brief career as the hunchpilot of Notre Dame.

...which ended shortly thereafter, with my assailant coming up from behind me and nudging me viciously with an axe. That'll probably look okay once it's been edited...action sequences are often shown in slow motion, even if they're not usually acted that way. On the downside, the bloodbag hidden in my shirt failed to rupture properly under the force of the vicious nudging. It did actually break, but it was more of a "squish" than a rupture, and copious quantities of fake blood went running down my stomach inside the shirt and into the tailored-for-a-VW-bug pants.

Hmmmmm. Visually, it could have been more dramatic, but then, how often do you get the chance to be in a real airplane cockpit with your pants full of red-colored corn syrup?

On second thought, don't answer that. I don't want to know.

Tuesday, April 13th


Size isn't everything:

Okay, yeah, no matter what anybody tries to tell you, size matters, it's just that size isn't the only thing that matters.

I guess if you're the type who's only looking for the occasional quickie, maybe the other physical aspects don't matter as much...but if you're in the mood for a long, hard ride, then getting the angle right, not being too far forward or back, all these sorts of things are also important. Otherwise, soon enough, it'll get uncomfortable and then sore and it just won't be much fun any more.

Yes, as you've no doubt realized by now, I finally decided to get a new bicycle.

It wasn't an easy decision, but I've had my old bicycle for something close to twenty years, and I'd bought it used to begin with. I've long since lost count of how many wheelsets I've gone through over the years and how many other bits and pieces have been swapped out, and sometimes it's a challenge to get newer parts to fit on its older frame. Plus, I have to wonder if bicycle technology has improved over the last twenty-odd years; maybe I've been missing out on the new, improved cycling experience that a modern bicycle would provide.

red bike side

Or maybe it's all still the same; there's really only one way to find out for sure.

red bike front

What makes it challenging is that nobody seems to make normal-sized bicycles any more. When you go to a store, they just have rows and rows of itty-bitty bikes designed for someone a foot shorter than I am. I finally settled on a Fuji Roubaix, but the biggest those come in is 64cm (which is what I got--my old bike is 69cm, and even that takes a bit of extra seatpost extension to be big enough).

And so begins my odyssey of bike tweaking to figure out how to get it fitting comfortably. I managed to find a seatpost of sufficient length in my box o' bike parts, but with the smaller frame comes a less vertical seattube than I'm accustomed to...and all the posts I had on hand (whether long enough or not) wouldn't let me tip the saddle forward to a reasonable angle. I could set the saddle to be level, or tip it backwards--in other words, the adjustment ranged from "bad" to "worse."

Fortunately, I discovered that if I took two of pieces of my extra-long seatpost and put them on backwards it became possible to tip the saddle forwards. Whew!

I'm still working on the adjustments; for some reason the saddle still feels a lot less comfortable than I'm used to (even though it's the same saddle), and I haven't decided how I feel about the foot position, which is considerably more forward relative to my hips, also due to the less-vertical angle of the seat tube. The different foot position shifts more of the work onto my quads; I figure I'll try that for a while to see if I get used to it.

I still have to wonder why some global conspiracy of bike manufacturers decreed that all cyclists must be tiny. Even with the extra-long seatpost and with the aero bars extended all the way forwards, I still have moments when I feel like I'm riding a miniature bicycle for the circus.

But I'm going to give myself a chance to get used to it; gotta find out whether the technology has really improved in the last quarter-century.

Saturday, April 9th


Water Whirled:

For a few years now, Denver has been in the throes of an extreme highway makeover project called the T-Rex Project. I'm guessing they picked that name because of how much it looks like some tiny-brained beast with huge teeth and claws rampaged through the city's transportation infrastructure, throwing fragments of partially-completed roadways across the landscape.

The whole thing adds a bit of adventure to getting around in the city, since you never know from one week to the next which highway onramps and offramps will be open, closed, or--for that matter--there at all.

Not being satisfied with the chaos out there, I've been on a bit of an "improve the computing infrastructure" binge out here, which has led to my having far too many computer bits and pieces scattered around while I've been working on the new systems.

More than just bringing in some more modern hardware, my motivation is to get the noise level down in here. By switching the interior network over to gigabit ethernet with a couple of Dell PowerConnect 2616 16-port unmanaged gigabit switches, I figure I can move the big redundant drive arrays down to the basement.

So Kanga mark III, my main general-purpose workstation has just a pair of Seagate ST3160023AS 160 Gigabyte serial ATA drives, chosen more for low noise levels than speed. This'll be the first time in a long while that I've been relying on a computer with just a single CPU--in this case an Intel 3.06 Pentium IV with 2 gig of RAM--for my main workstation. But, to be honest, I just do editing and development; I don't do high-powered stuff like playing video games, so I don't really need the fastest system around.

For the video card, I picked a Matrox P650--little brother of the Parhelia. Not a gamer's card, to be sure, but good for graphic work, plus it's dual-DVI and fanless.

Kanga Mark III
Inside Kanga (version 3.0)

You'll notice, by the way, that I finally bit the bullet and switched to water-cooling, putting everything in Koolance PC2-600B water-cooled cases. It really could still be quieter than it is, but it's much better than it was.

Roo Mark III
Roo (version 3.0)

For the new main video machine, I did stick with dual CPUs, though that was more because I wanted to have multiple independent PCI-X busses, instead of a single PCI bus--and that pretty much meant going with a dual-CPU server/workstation board.

The new Roo is built on a Supermicro X5DAL-G dual Xeon mainboard with 2 gigabytes of dual-channel memory and a pair of 2.66GHz CPUs. The X5DAL-G is pretty minimalistic itself, with next to nothing built in: no firewire, no built-in RAID, not even on-board audio--just USB2 and gigabit ethernet.

But you get dual Xeons, 8x AGP, *and* two independent 64-bit 100/133 MHz PCI-X busses in addition to the usual PCI bus, all in a standard (not extended) ATX form factor.

I didn't put any CD/DVD-ROMs or floppy drives in the case: all the removeable drives are external USB2, which is more convenient and this way I can stow the computer just about anywhere, even if it's not in easy reach. All available internal drive spaces are taken up by the single 160 Gig boot drive and eight 250 gigabyte hard drives driven off the RaidCORE RC4852 64-bit/133MHz PCI-X controller. That works out to be two terabytes of drive space in a reasonably quiet mid-tower-sized box and, according to Sandra, when configured as RAID 5, it's capable of sustained read speeds of 350 megabytes per second--almost three times the full capacity of a standard PCI bus.

Besides the RaidCore controller, there's a Sapphire 9600XT (nothing fancy, but it's plenty powerful enough for video editing and its power/cooling requirements are substantially lower than the 9800 series cards or comparable cards from Nvidia), a ViewCast Osprey 2000 DV Pro card for SDI input and encoding, a MOTU (Mark of the Unicorn) 828 Firewire audio interface, and an LSI Logic U160 SCSI host adapter for connecting the DLT drives.

Water-cooling the xeons makes even a bigger difference than it did for Kanga's single P4, mostly because of how difficult it is to get any decent air-coolers onto a pair of xeons...and the stock Intel xeon CPU coolers are so loud that nearby airports will call and complain about the noise when you run them.

I'm still taking my time switching everything over to the new systems, mostly because I want to make sure I get everything set up the way I want it and additionally because of all the new hardware and software incompatibilities I'm discovering along the way.

Which is why it's like Denver's highway system--you never know from one day to the next where I'll have particular functions running...or, for that matter, where all these cables and such are likely to be going, in between the computers and all the peripheral devices. I just don't have a cool codename for this particular spate of upgrades yet.

Saturday, April 3rd


Something to make you wake up screaming:

And here I was just talking about horror on the internet and I happened to stop by Apple Computer's home page where they had this little image of terror:

It's like Microsoft Office for the rest of your life


That's a thought that could have you waking up screaming in the middle of the night.

Come on, April Fool's Day is over and done with. Don't keep scaring us like that!

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