April 30, 2007
The Good Fairies of New York

The Good Fairies of New York - Martin Millar

My wife, Michele, read this book and told me, "It's great, just read it." And so I did.

She's right, the book is fantastic.

A touch of fantasy, a big dose of New York City, a dash of Scotland, a healthy portion of Vonnegut, and just enough rock 'n roll for taste and you've got a fun book. Nothing heavy here, just a light read that will leave you laughing as you turn the page.

I'm usually more of a hard SF reader, but this book was a good diversion on my last trip to London. The story of the fairies and their (mis)adventures left me wanting more. Unfortunately, there is no sequel or follow-up novel, but I (and many other fans) would love it.

The author, Martin Millar, blogs and has a nice site for fans. So instead of the next self-help or pop culture bestseller, check out the fairies.

Posted by michael at 09:28 PM | Comments (0)
April 29, 2007
Foosh Mints

The people are Vroom Foods, makers of the Buzz Bites caffeinated chocolates, sent me some samples to try. They included some Foosh Mints as well.

Now, I'm not a full fledged caffeine fiend, like some people, so this dosage of caffeine is pretty strong in my book. 100 milligrams is a whole bunch of caffeine compared to a can of soda.

They tossed a bunch of other stuff like, Taurine, Ginseng, and some of the B vitamins. The B vitamins are supposed to boost your energy level as well. If you look at what's in most of the energy drinks out there today, it's the same basic list.

The mints themselves are fairly large, I guess to pack in all the caffeine, you need some bulk. The mints themselves taste very much like Altoids with a strong taste. I wouldn't eat them for fun, but if I needed a lift, they'd be great.

Posted by michael at 08:07 PM | Comments (1)
April 27, 2007
Everyone, slow the eff down on the road

Yesterday, I saw one accident on my way home from work. Today, on my way to work, I saw yet another accident.

Slow down people. I'm sick of hearing the now familiar screech-crunch sound.

Just two rules to follow and we'll all be better off.

1) Yellow lights mean slow down, not speed up and go faster.

2) Put down the damn telephone. If it's that important gets a handsfree or pull over. I watched as the crasher did not stop talking on the phone before, during, and after the accident.

That's it, two simple rules and I won't have to through hate in your direction.

Posted by michael at 10:13 AM | Comments (3)
April 23, 2007
Homemade dog biscuits

My daughter Zoe is in the Girls Scouts and recently has been working to help the local Pasadena Humane Society. One of the things they did, besides making cloth beds for cats, was to make dog biscuits.

Michele told me it was easy and that Piper, our dog, liked them. Alas, they were all given away, so I didn't have a chance to see them. I had some free time on Sunday and decided to give it a try.

The recipe is from the Pasadena Humane Society:

2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup powdered milk
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ cup ice water
6 tblsp margarine, shortening or meat drippings
1 egg beaten
1 tsp. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, milk, salt and sugar. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles cornmeal. Mix in egg. Add enough water so that the mixture forms a ball. Pat out with your fingers the dough ½ inch thickness on a lightly oiled cookie sheets. Cut with biscuit or cookie cutter into shapes. Save the scraps and pat them out with the next batch. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Store in zip lock bag in the freezer.

We had also made some baked beans from scratch this weekend, so I had some bacon grease saved from that to use instead of margarine. Everybody loves bacon, even Piper.

I mixed up the ingredients and was a bit concerned over the use of garlic, but when I put the garlic in front of Piper, she seemed to like it.

I mixed things up and got the dough to a good consistency when I reached my first dilemma. I didn't really want to roll out the dough and start using cookie cutters on it. I've done the cookie cutter thing before for gingerbread cookies and didn't feel that a dog would exactly care.

So I reached deep into my youth and remembered the way my Grandmother used to make sausages. She'd mix up the meat, place a small amount into her hand, squeeze, and then toss the resulting shape into the frying pan. I thought that Piper likes sausage, so away I went, making Sicilian sausage shaped dog biscuits.

Onto the parchment paper went the dog sausage biscuits and into the over for about a half hour.

Sure enough out popped the biscuits, and damn if they didn't smell good.

For the real test I handed one to Piper. At first she was a bit hesitant as you can see, but soon was munching away happily.

The recipe wasn't hard at all, so if you have a dog, you might enjoy making your own treats.

Posted by michael at 08:08 AM | Comments (4)
April 22, 2007
Mini Ben & Jerry's

Michele found these mini Ben & Jerry's ice cream cups and the whole family is enamored with them.

I think they come in six packs, but I've never seen them fresh from the store, only scattered in the freezer after the girls have had a first chance at them.

Each cup is around 3.5 ounces of ice cream, a little over 200 calories per cup. Not exactly diet fare, but of you want a taste of ice cream, it's a good way to keep yourself from eating a whole pint in a sitting.

Under the lid is a small spoon to eat with. Pretty handy once you finish to put the spoon inside, recap the cup and no mess.

Personally, I'm partial to Oatmeal Cookie Chunk, but I haven't seen it in the mini cup yet.

Posted by michael at 10:43 PM | Comments (1)
April 19, 2007
Spamalot Rabbit

Posted by michael at 07:51 AM
April 17, 2007
A haiku for NAB

In Vegas but sad,
New shoes are good, but feet hurt
Should have bought socks too.

Posted by michael at 09:41 AM | Comments (2)
April 15, 2007
Blogging NAB - Apple's Announcements

This is what it looks like when I take notes at a broadcasting event.

These are my notes from Apple's presentation where they announced Final Cut Studio 2 and Final Cut Server.

My notes will be decipherable to a TV person, but likely unreadable to others. Welcome to my world.

Apple tells me to not use my laptop during the presentation.

    Final Cut @ 800,000 users

    Final Cut Server -

      $999 - 10 concurrent users
      $1999 - Unlimited users
      Available "this summer"
      Proximity Artbox
      MAM software
        Proxy generation
        Access Controls
      Workflow Automation
      Review and Approve
      Automated encode & publish
      Shot selection
      Rough cut editing
      Save as FCP
      Online/offline workflow

    Final Cut Studio 2 - $1299
      $499 upgrade from Final Cut Studio
      $699 upgrade from any version of FCP
      Available in May
      Final Cut Pro 6
      ProRes file format - 4:2:2 uncompressed 10 bit - "HD at SD file size"
      1 TB to 170GB file size compression
      Support from Sony HDCAM SR & Panasonic AVC-Intra, even Red Digital

    AJA Box - $3495 in July
      IO HD
      601 and HD In and out of ProRes
      Downconversin & cross conversion

    Open Format Tiumeline
      Mix formats, resolutions, and frame rates in a timeline

      Motion compensation

    Editable Motion Templates
      Motion form within FCP
      Replace objects from FCP
      Update all FCP projects from Motion

    Motion 3
      3D tools
      Mulitple cameras & light sources
      Vector based paint
      Match moving - motion path following of any object in the video
      Retiming effects
      Audio behaviors - animations responds to soundtrack
      Truly amazing 3d space visualization tools

    Soundtrack Pro 2
      Alignment of audio effects with video
      Advanced Take Management - dialog
      Surround Mixing
        Stereo & Surround mix in common project
      Conform audio tracks
        Sync changes between pictures & sound with workflow
      Waveform editor w/frequency spectrum view - truly impressive
      Mulittrack audio ADR tools
      Auto conform tool with change tracking

    Compressor 3
      Video encoding & transcoding
      Batch processing
      MPEG, H.264, Telestream plug-ins
      Video effects during transcode
      Almost 3x reduction in processing time from Compressor 2
      Allows use of Motion effects in transcode
      Specific control of multiple processor usage for rendering

    Color - Finish & Color Grading - SD, HD, 2k
      Real time professional color grading for FCP
      Task based workflows
      Familiar correction tools and displays
      Color FX package
      Profiles shared as 'looks'
      8 secondarys

Truly a comprehensive package that any other vendor, especially Avid, will be hard pressed to match.

Posted by michael at 12:58 PM | Comments (2)
Today we honor Jackie Robinson

Today, I am taking time to remember Jackie Robinson, a man of quiet dignity and extraordinary bravery.

Posted by michael at 09:51 AM | Comments (2)
April 11, 2007
Twitter & the New York Times

The New York Times now has a set of Twitter feeds. Follow them, and you get your news via Twitter.

I'll let the rest of the blogosphere blather on about Twitter and it's impact. Maybe they will stop navel gazing about a blogger code of conduct for a few moments to make profound statements about paradigm shifts.

To me, I find the agility of the New York Times to adapt to new concepts to be amazing. Anyone who counts out newspapers as a viable media business is simply wrong.

Posted by michael at 08:41 PM | Comments (5)
April 09, 2007
A post for Mondays
Posted by michael at 04:21 PM | Comments (1)
Help name the newborn goat

One of my fraternity brothers keeps goats at his home. Last night, a momma goat gave birth. Take a look and help him name the goat.

Name This Goat - Newborn Needs A Name! - The most amazing videos are a click away

My suggestion is Inkspot.

Posted by michael at 11:59 AM | Comments (5)
April 07, 2007
Pearls Before Breakfast

Take a moment to read this truly fascinating article about stopping to listen to musicians. (via MeFi)

Posted by michael at 10:37 PM | Comments (1)
April 04, 2007
Making Pastrami

One day while out shopping, Michele bought a corned brisket. She's aways on the lookout for new things and knew that I'd be interested in a whole corned beef that wasn't sliced.

The difference between corned beef and pastrami is subtle. In both cases, a beef brisket is 'corned' by curing it in a salt brine for a couple weeks. This comes from the days before refrigeration, where the use of salt and sugar to preserve meat for a long time was common.

To turn the corned brisket into a corned beef, you boil the meat.
To turn the corned brisket into pastrami, you smoke the meat.

Loyal Cruft Readers will know that I love to smoke meats, so I decided to make pastrami.

Here is the brisket.

To smoke the meat, I needed a pastrami rub recipe to properly season it. I found this pastrami rub recipe and decided it looked good.

* 5 tablespoons kosher salt
* 4 tablespoons paprika
* 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
* 3 tablespoons brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
* 2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
* 1 tablespoon white peppercorns
* 8 cloves garlic, minced

I enjoy making my own spice rubs. It's fun to grind things up and mix things together. The smell is amazing.

The rub is applied liberally to the corned brisket.

And into the smoker it goes.

I hit it with smoke for about two hours and then gave it about 3 more hours of straight heat.

The pastrami looked pretty good coming out and definitely had a bit of the 'pastrami smell'. I was quite encouraged.

Slicing the pastrami revealed a nice look of pink meat, typical of corned meat. Normally cooking meat this long would have turned it gray. Thanks to the nitrates in the corning brine, the color is maintained.

Of course, the real test is the taste. I'll have to admit, I was a little disappointed. While is had a hint of the pastrami flavor, it tasted much stronger of a traditional corned beef. Maybe I should have soaked it in water a bit to release more salt or maybe they had pre-boiled the meat.

We enjoyed the pastrami, but I know I can do better. I will buy a raw brisket and corn it myself this time. Alton Brown, my culinary hero, did an episode on corning beef, and I will follow his recipe.

Let me know if you have any suggestions, I haven't found a lot of home pastrami makers out there.

Posted by michael at 11:32 PM | Comments (6)
Twitter's Secret Plot

I have uncovered the true business plan for Twitter.

Twitter is a front organization for the cell phone battery manufacturers.

Their nefarious plot is to make your mobile phone vibrate so much from Twitter messages that the batteries literally wear out and you need to buy replacements.

Doubt me? Then you come up with a business model for Twitter that makes better sense.

Posted by michael at 10:32 AM | Comments (2)
April 03, 2007
Battlefield 2142 and Vista

For those of you trying to get Battlefield 2142 running under Vista, I feel your pain.

Here is what I did to get it running:

1) Fully install and patch up BF2142

2) Go to the Punkbuster site for BF2142 and get the latest update. I recommend the simple PBSetup program that handles it all for you. Install the latest updates to Punkbuster.

3) Right-click on the BF2142 shortcut and choose Properties. Got to the Compatibility tab and select Run this program as an administrator.

This should allow BF2142 to run and not get you kicked out due to Punkbuster not being able to do it's job.

If you have User Access Control turned on, it will ask you if you allow BF2142 to run as administrator. You have have to say Allow, every single time. Yes, that sucks...

Even with this, BF2142 still crashes on occasion. It doesn't crash the whole machine, and Vista recovers from it easily, but it is a pain. I hope EA releases a Vista patch to help things.

Here's another tip to auto-login you solider. Right-click on the BF2142 shortcut and choose Properties. Got to the Shortcut tab, and add this info to the Target field at the end

+eaAccountName YourAccountName +eaAccountPassword YourPassword +soldierName YourSoldier

You can't avoid the starting movie other than hitting ESC after the earth rises, but then it will take you directly to the BFHQ screen.

This and other command line tricks can be found at the great Tweakguides 2142 site.

Good luck and see you on the Battlefield.

Posted by michael at 10:26 PM | Comments (5)
Burbank Fire

Last Friday, there was a fire in Burbank, very near my office. On the way back from Lunch, it was just starting. This is what it looked like early.

Then it really started going as you can see by the flames here.

The flames created a huge plume of smoke that was noticeable everywhere in the LA basin.

You probably saw similar pictures in the newspaper and on the internet.

What you probably didn't see was the aftermath. This is the same hillside on Monday morning.

So you can tell the extent of the fire's damage, I've made it a bit clearer for you.

BTW, the round roofed buildings in the foreground are on the Warner Brothers Studio Lot.

Thanks to the LAFD and other involved agencies who put the fire down quickly. It was amazing to watch the water drops placed so accurately.

Posted by michael at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)