Nerd…

I’m a nerd. There’s really no getting around that. But, more to the point, I’m a huge Star Wars nerd. So, when I was reading the Wired website and saw this Finnish photographer had taken a bunch of pictures of his kid’s Star Wars Lego sets in various dioramas, I was floored. These were amazingly well produced shots. So, despite that fact that I’d be blatantly ripping his idea off, I had to try and see if I could do the same thing.

So, what would I need? Well, Lego to start. I haven’t owned any Lego since I was a little kid, and not having any kids of my own, I didn’t really have a reason to. So, off to Toys R Us I went to get some. Much to my shock, I saw the price tag on this stuff; especially the Star Wars sets! But, I wanted to do this, so I bought a couple of sets…not the ones I WANTED, mind you. I really wanted that AT-AT Walker, but it was going to be $400, soooo, no. I didn’t want to get a divorce, after all.

Then there was the learning how to make dioramas. That was actually pretty interesting. Got some foam blocks and paint, and about eight pounds of baking soda to simulate snow.

Fortunately, I already had all the photo gear I’d need. I would have liked to have had a couple more portable flashes, but, again, that whole divorce thing nipped that idea in the bud.

I was seriously channeling my inner child, because I had a blast building those damn Lego sets, and just as much fun screwing around trying to make foam blocks look like snow covered mountains/hills. Anyway, I’m far from done with this, but here’s what I’ve taken so far:

StarWarsLego1SM

StarWarsLego2SM

StarWarsLego3SM

StarWarsLego4SM

StarWarsLego5SM

Ask a question, get beaten up and arrested. God bless America…

Dr. Peter Watts, a 51 year old Canadian science-fiction writer, was found, against all odds, guilty of…well, I’m not sure what. Apparently he asked why his car was being searched at the Sarnia/Huron border, which got him pummeled while still in his car. Then they ordered him out of his car, which he complied with. Then they asked him to get on the ground, and he made the mistake of asking what the problem was. Then they maced him and arrested him.

Despite his attorney completely decimating the border guards testimony (she had accused Watts of choking her amongst other things that turned out to be wholesale lies) and showing how contradictory their written and verbal accounts were, that one fateful question, “What’s the problem?” has made him a felon in the U.S.. I have no doubt he’ll never see the inside of a jail…but, then, I never thought he’d be convicted either. 

Despite this shitty situation, Watts remains very classy and writes about the ordeal on his blog here.

MS Excel = Coronary

Excel should come with a cigarette pack warning label: “If you are at risk of a heart attack, please refrain from using this product” or “This product increases your risk of complete mental breakdown”. Bright red letters. Skull and crossbones. Larger than the name of the product itself. Flashing, perhaps.

I honestly don’t know how Microsoft charges money for a p.o.s. program like Excel. More accurately, I’m baffled that we keep buying it. Nothing I do will change the fact that even if I start with a brand new spreadsheet and manually type the dates in, it will invariably screw them up. It’s  like some sort of universal constant like the speed of light, earth’s gravitational pull, or Kanye being prone to douche-baggery. It completely makes random, arbitrary decisions on what a date is or isn’t no matter what you TELL it to do. If you type 30/11/09 it’s General, if It’s 4/11/09 it’s  a date. And holy ol’ jumpin’ Jesus on a crutch, even if you do get it working in Excel, wait’ll you try importing that sucker into SQL Server. Bravo, Microsoft. Bravo. Top talent at work there.

You can literally spend more time searching for a solution than it would to actually resigning yourself to sitting down and typing the whole thing into the damn database by hand.

Thankfully, I rarely have to touch Excel. But even these occasional brushes with it force me to eject my spleen like the Enterprise ejecting it’s about-to-explode warp core (had to have a geek references for my nerdly brutha’s and sista’s out there).

The Gathering Storm…

I’m pretty excited about the recent news from Tor Publishing. After the tragic passing of the Fantasy world’s titan, Robert Jordan (Oliver Rigney, Jr), in September of 07,  Brandon Sanderson has done an admirable job of picking up the pieces left behind by Mr. Jordan and completing the next installment in the Wheel of Time series which will be in stores October 27, 2009. At the time of his death, Jordan had only one book left to complete the colossal twelve book series that had taken the Fantasy world by storm. But, Sanderson, after taking time to review the extensive notes left by Jordan, and pondering the many meetings he had with the author just prior to his death, decided that he would need three books to finish the cycle. The original intent was to finish the series with A Memory of Light. However, the next book will be entitled The Gathering Storm. Book thirteen, The Pillars of Midnight, is scheduled for late 2010, and A Memory of Light is tentatively slotted for 2011.

I have been a huge fan of The Wheel of Time series since I started reading them in the early 90’s when I was in my early 20’s. Many have called Jordan this era’s Tolkien, to which I whole heartedly agree. Are the books perfect? No. The middle books suffer from a slower pace than the first three books, and has an inordinate amount of detail on secondary and tertiary characters, in my opinion. Cynics say he’s just stretching the series out to make more money. I disagree. Jordan could write anything and it would sell well, so he didn’t need to stretch this series out to make more cash. No, he did what he did with the series because he loved it and it was what he felt he needed to write to do the world he had created justice.

The series has also suffered, some would say, from long spans of time between books, sometimes as long two years. But, lets be fair, shall we? Every one of these books is massive by any standard, ranging from 226,000 words all the way up to 393,000 words. You don’t just rip such prodigious books off in a few months, no matter how fast or organized you are. It’s an exceedingly complex story and keeping all the storylines organized and coherent is a herculean job. Also, to put things in perspective, Tolkien took between 1937 and 1949 to write his famous trilogy (well, they’re actually 6 smaller books, but they were merged into 3 volumes), and they weren’t even published until between 1954-1955…mind you, there was a disruptive German fellow to distract him, and, when not at war, he still wasn’t writing full time since he was also an Oxford professor. But, all that aside, Jordan wrote at a respectable rate. The reason it seemed so long in between books was because they were so damned good that we couldn’t wait to keep reading them. And, lets face it, in today’s instant gratification society, we’re just not used to waiting for anything anymore.

So, all that is to say, I will be buying the book the second it hits the shelf. And, to prepare myself, I’m going to pick up Mr. Sanderson’s first book, Elantris, to get a sense of his writing style.

FotoMagico3 Pro…

I’m currently test driving FotoMagico3 Pro, the slideshow creation software from Boinx. The software is exclusively for G5 or Intel-based Macs, and it’s interface looks like it belongs in the Apple lineup of software. It’s very, very slick and easy to use with lots of handy features to make your slideshow look completely professional. It also exports to almost any major format you can imagine including DVD, AppleTV, iPod/iPhone, a few different HD formats, as well as the ubiquitous QuickTime and MPEG formats. It will also seemlessly integrate with either Aperture or Lightroom2. I haven’t tried to implement the soundtrack to my slideshow yet, so there is still lots of stuff to try out, but it supposedly has pretty good sound editing tools as well.

To Boinx’s credit they did post a warning that the software was designed for OS X Leopard, and while the application works fine in OS X Snow Leopard, there is a problem with displaying  a slideshow as your screensaver. They don’t currently have fix for that problem yet, but their programmers are working on a solution.

As I mentioned, I’m still using the demo version (5 day trial period), but will probably spring for the $149(US) for it since I need it for some wedding slideshows that I include in my packages.

Snow Leopard a success…mostly

Well, I installed Mac OS X 10.6 (aka Snow Leopard) without any issues the other night. I haven’t fully explored it yet, other than to go through my most commonly used programs such as Mail, iTunes, Photoshop, Bridge and Dreamweaver CS4, Firefox, Adium, TweetDeck, FileZilla, MS Word and Remote Desktop. All seem to be working great still. The only glitch is some of my web development add-ons in Firefox are broken, and the software for customizing a new mouse I just bought last night won’t install.

Ah well, minor stuff indeed. I’m sure all the broken things will be fixed soon enough. Patience.

To Snow Leopard or not to Snow Leopard…

I’m relatively new to the Mac world, formerly being a life long PC user. Therefore, after the lessons learned from previous Microsoft installations, the thought of installing a new OS (even if it seems to be more like a Service Pack than a new OS) within the first week of release seems, at best, foolhardy. But, this is an Apple product after all. I know Apple doesn’t ALWAYS hit home runs, but at this point in history they seem to putting more over the fence than Barry Bonds … so I think I’ll give it a try. It seems to be breaking some apps, but mostly it’s breaking add-ons that users have added to their apps. Wired seems to be giving it an enthusiastic claw up, so if it’s good enough for the uber geeks there, well, it’s probably good enough for me. I guess we’ll see tonight.

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/08/faster-bigger-longer-how-snow-leopard-will-improve-your-hardware/