Saturday, June 30, 2007

When I wished I was bionic (and why I love my pancreas)

I was a big fan of the Bionic man tv series when I was a kid. I had the Steve Austin toy doll with the red jumpsuit, the Bigfoot, and a caveman guy called"The Intruder" who was kinda neat. I was even a member of the fan club! Got a signed poster, a few newsletters, all that! My Steve Austin guy came with removable bionic arms. You could swap in other arms for whatever the suituation called for. One arm had a scuba mask inside it, another arm had a gun, etc. They had this great idea to use rolled flesh-colored rubber on the arm so it would roll up and down like a foreskin (I'm not joking!) to reveal the tools beneath.
One day (I forget how old I was, Season 1 I guess, - someone can figure that out, I was born in 1969) I took a bobby-pin and tied it to a piece of thread and attached the free end of it to a carved out cavity in my running shoe. This was my attempt at fashioning a bionic recharging device. I guess I saw Steve plugged into a wall socket that week on the show.
So, being the stupid kid I sometimes was, I headed up to the bathroom on the 2nd floor and calmly jammed the widened prongs of the bobby-pin into the two open slots of the electrical wall socket. There were blue sparks! Good thing I had tied it to the bobby-pin because I was able to pull it out before the burn marks became "too" noticeable. Still, there was a bit if browning there that went unexplained for decades(grin). Feeling fully recharged I went downstairs, told no one, and never played with electricity again until many years later.

The whole reason I was reminded of this childhood episode was because one of the guys in my French class, who is diabetic, did a presentation on type 1 diabetes (his type) and he has this sorta electronic pancreas on his hip with a cord that runs straight into his body somehow. It feeds him insulin all day. If he eats something with carbs, he types it in and it gives him a burst of insulin. He has to wear this thing 24 hours a day for the rest of his life. Pretty serious stuff!

I love my panchreas....

Friday, June 29, 2007

The need for a new Ufo

I'm not gonna use my wife's cookware for the next time I need a UFO. Last time I used two stainless steel bowls duct-taped together hanging from fishing string on a green screen. We're going high-tech this time round after I did some poking around and found this clip on Youtube. It's not mine, I think it looks GREAT and is exactly what I need. I like that he racks the focus in and out (maybe a bit too much) to make it look real, as in, typical guy with a video camera he doesn't know how to use yet!

Check it out!

I got some Nurbs to play with!

I'm pretty sure he added some trees in Maya to let the UFO appear behind them for just a sec, and it also may explain the great reflections from said trees coming off the UFO itself.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Greenscreen test - Gopher popup

It was either this or dig a huge puppeteering tunnel underneath my front lawn. I'll bet the guys who did Caddyshack would have loved this. The gopher hole is made out of expanding monofoam carved and then spray painted with glue and a healthy coat of dirt thrown on it(with tufs of fake plastic grass). It sits on the lawn doing nothing and my gopher is inserted via green screen. The green is keyed out using the Keylight plugin in Adobe AE and you get this... kinda..

I need to work on matching the colors from the studio to the outdoor set. Hmm, a shadow would be good... Some dirt/dust thrown up when he pops. I used a garbage matte to outline the top jagged lip of the whole.

On Caddyshack most of the gopher stuff was done on a soundstage. I can think of only a few scenes where the gopher actually interacted with Bill Murray in real life and I'm sure they had some tunnel dug out on the other side of a hill where some guy could shove his hand up the puppet's butt to work it while Murray tried his best to kill it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Studio Zartimus - green screen

My green screen arrived on Friday! Look out ILM! It was a pretty good deal from Image West TV on Ebay. It was the 10x10 stand and a 10x15 foot green screen that all breaks down nicely into a great kit bag. Now I can do all sorts of freaky stuff on a set and sub in whatever background I want. It looks good even on my crappy old DV one CCD vidcam. I do the keying in After Effects with the keylight plugin. I have to play with the lighting more, but the plugin lets you get away with a lot and you can mask off whatever it didn't catch.

I'll have to do some practise vids with it, like put the kids in outer space, underwater, walking up the side of the house or flying like superman. The only drawback is now I don't have any excuse to actually hit GrizzlyG with an SUV in the next Trailerpark Geocachers Bigfoot movie!

For a good idea of what you can do with a home DV screen and Adobe After Effects, check out one of my favorite sites, Andrew Kramer's Video Copilot tutorials , especially the one on basic color keying ( it's enough to make me want to go buy a plastic airsoft MP5 machine gun!).

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Gone fishin' at Petrie isIand! (caught squat!)

I've caught a total of three fish in all my years of fishing at Petrie Island and didn't add to that total yesterday.. It's weird. You see people fishing all over the Island so what's up with that? I don't think I've ever seen anyone pull one outta the water there either. It's a conspiracy!
We did see a raccoon though. I tossed him our uneaten bait.

The next day we went fishing on the front lawn (I let my daughter cast with a Gardenia hose connector I could have lent Lenzspot when he borrowed my pressure washer to do his deck(grin)) and had much better luck.

When one cast went awry and fell into the street, we almost caught a car!
It ran over the line, caught it a bit and.. well.. You can't set the drag on 6 pound test for a car. It just can't be done. Maybe if I had a fighting chair and aircraft wire..

Oh well.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Government french 101

For the past long while I've been in level B French training, trying to get to a working level so I can communicate more effectively in the workplace in my 2nd official language. The proficiency rankings are as follows:

"X", you've never spoken french in your life(or you try and you're really really bad),
"A" you know enough French to get your face slapped ("voulez vous" , etc.. etc.. insert sexual verb here),

"B" you're pretty good as long as you're talking about simple things in the past present and future tenses(you can do a lot with this), Imparfait ("she was singing") and passe composé (she sang) are key here.

"C" You can discuss Hitchcock films in great depths using very fancy stuff like the Plus Que Parfait (" bla bla "had killed and eaten Mr Smith"), The Future Anterier, ("the suspect by this time will have killed and eaten Mr Smith") The Conditionelle (polite stuff like "would like to kill and eat Mr Smith"), Conditionelle Passe ("would have eaten and killed Mr Smith"), the Subjunctive (- very tricky and my favorite, QUE this QUE that..."I am happy that you are killing and eating Mr Smith").

"E" Exempt. You speak like a pro!

"P" You speak like a pro and know exactly why (the translators are this level, they know all grammer rules inside out. I find most "P"s come from France around here, but there's a big number of homegrown folks as well, including some for whom English is their first language. - IMAGINE THAT!)

I had my first oral exam yesterday (it's always funny to say that.. "Oral Exam"! hehehehe) and I passed at a B level. While this was expected and is generally a good thing, in the end I need a "C"(grin).

Now I go in a "C" accelerated class for 2 months and we'll see what happens!

"On va voir!" (that is future proche, "going to.. bla bla bla"my best friend in the course, you use the verb "aller" au present and tack an infinitive on the end of whatever verb you're talking about in the future" Easy as spit.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fixed the Xbox 360 3RLOD!!!!!!

I can hardly believe it. Yesterday my xbox 360 was strewn across the basement floor in about a zillion pieces, heat sinks, t-8 and t-10 bolts all over the place. Little bits of metal everywhere as I drilled all kinds of holes in the case and guts and ripped out the fan grill in back in an effort to get more air moving around in there.

After a trip to The Source (heatsink paste) Home Depot (useless! no metric machine screws there! is this Canada or what?) and then Canadian Tire (they got metric, shoulda gone there first!) and $10 in nuts and bolts and washers later, I started in on replacing Microsoft's stupid X-clamps in the 360 with a home-brew design I got off a website. The MS X-clamps are a stupid design flaw that fails when the motherboard warps due to excess heat in the box when it starts pushing too many polygons around on the screen. The GPU and CPU move due to the warping and lose contact with the pins and you get the famous 3 ring lights of death and a $500 doorstop if you voided the warranty by not keeping your paws out of the console like I did when I first got it.

Thank god for sites like Xbox-scene! It was good to know that 300 people in the world had the same problem I did and only 16 of them didn't get it working after the fix. Microsoft's evil plans for global warming foiled again! (you should see how hot this thing gets!)

This will alleviate much anguish in the Zartimus household as the eldest could not play her Surf's up game for 3 days!

It's good to be a geek!

Happy Birthday to me! (last week)

Just developed the pictures now (I mean, just pulled them out of the digital SLR). Nice Batman cake eh? I think I'm gonna epoxy that shield to the front of my car! I got Bongos, a Rush tab guitar book, a Buck Rogers DVD and my wife bought me a GREEN SCREEN! Which will be a lot of fun for video compositing.

Too bad these things come only once a year!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Attack of the Canadian Geese!

Brought the family down to the banks of the Ottawa river today, where hundreds of geese shack up when it's not wintertime. I've done it a few times before with my kids but this time my wife came along and the geese were especially feisty. That is to say they kind of attacked us and tried to kill us for our food (not really). They were anxious to get some grub and I had brought some yucky flax bagels someone bought by mistake that weren't going to get eaten anytime soon.

After the first wave my family took refuge on top of some rocks while I snapped pictures, but things calmed down after that. You can't fight nature, you have to go with it (grin). The Geese put up a brave front and hiss and spit sometimes, but it's usually for the benefit of the other geese, or gulls, or ducks, or whatever comes over when there's free chow to be had. The best behaved birds of the bunch were the baby geese.

The location is just off the Ottawa river parkway west of Parkdale near Statcan were I work.

If you go, bring food!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Xbox 360 3 rings of death!

My X-box 360 showed the infamous 3 lights of death yesterday. Not good. The early 360's were plagued with some overheating problems which appear to warp the motherboard and make it so the pins of the CPU and GPU don't maintain a good connection, giving the 3 "General Hardware failure" lights. I was reading that Xbox 360's returned to the factory for repair are coming home with fancy new heatsinks so I guess that's Microsoft's way of admitting there is a problem. Mine's way-off warranty though. So what's a fella to do?

There's something called an X-clamp replacement that combats the MB warping I'm gonna try, thanks to the good folks at xbox-scene. I've got my fingers crossed!

Thanks for nothing Microsoft!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Spongebob ate my Ipod

Yesterday after I picked up my kids from daycare, I was getting out of the car as I do every weekday, one kid's backpack over one shoulder, my bag and the other kid's in one hand, groceries or something else in the other hand, Ipod in my teeth, etc. A typically normal day. Only this day I got creative.

My eldest's backpack is a sporty Spongebob number, with a handy see-through cargo netting pocket on the front. I swung it into place, unclenched my teeth and let my ipod in it's body glove sheath fall into the fresh-air cargo pocket to free up my teeth to hold my front house key (I have a system). This is the first time I've done it and I was thinking of adding it full-time into the rotation! It's handy! (un-handy actually, sorta.. teethy).

But today I understand what a BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD idea it actually was. You see, this morning I didn't need my Ipod. I had volunteered at my youngest's daycare to go visit a hobby farm on the Quebec side. So I wasn't grabbing Mr Ipod this morning to listen to some Yngwie. or that latest Lee Child audio book in the car, which was a good thing - 'cause Mr 30GB Ipod Photo went to grade 1 Glen Olglvie Public school in my kid's backpack in the cargo pocket!

About 15 minutes ago I went looking for it so I wouldn't be scrambling around in the morning and it wasn't where I ussually leave it. I took a seat in the memory cinema (now in IMAX!) and retraced my steps. "Hmm, when's the last time I saw it? Hmm, getting out of the car, dropping it in the front see-through mesh pouch of Jade's backpack...."..


But I went to look for it and it was still sitting there, perfectly visible from 20 feet away! Since today was an activity day for the youngest my wife picked up Jade right after school, limiting the backpack's travel a bit. I'm not sure it would have survied the after school program...

So I was Stooooopid and now I'm a bit smarter. Normally I'd look at the positive side of a missing Ipod and think "Upgrade!" but it hurts more when it's your own damned fault.

Thank you Spongebob, for watching over my Ipod!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Mr Lee's cat camera - see what cats do during the day

Courtesy of Mr Lifto. Man what a cool idea. This guy (in Germany I think) put a modified digital camera on his cat and it takes a picture every two and a half minutes. He lets the cat go outside with it and then he checks it out when he gets home and posts the best photos of the day on his website. I had no idea how often cats hook up with other cats. I'm not sure if it's for cat sex or just to hang around but man, very interesting. Mr Lee the cat met other cats everywhere, under cars, in the forest, in alleys, under porches.

Check his website out!

If he wasn't in Germany I'm sure there's be pictures of him crapping in my kid's sandbox.

That gives me an idea. I should tie a camera around MY neck and take a picture every 2.5 minutes (under cars, in sewers, in trees). Maybe my next geocaching night.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Vampire security guard

One night at work many years ago, one of my servers blew a drive and I stayed late to replace it and redo the mirror. Since I was already there I started another preventative maintenance task of sorts to take advantage of the down time window and something screwed up and I ended up being there until 2 or 3 in the morning (unplanned maintenance = unplanned trouble). So when I had put everything back together again and was certain that everyone would be able to work when they came in the next day I called it a night and headed downstairs to the security guard post to sign out.

I didn't really even look at the security guard because at 2:00 am they are just sorta part of the government decor right? Plant, chair, desk, security guard... As I was digging out a pen I heard a funny sound coming from part of the decor. It was a "Kaaaazing..." and something shot over the desk and landed on the sign-out sheet. It was a little circlet of silver metal.

I picked it up to look at it. It wasn't quite round, it was sort of a spiral cut at both ends. It was a bit warm. I looked down at the security guard and did a double-take.. He was an odd looking fellow. He was young but looked old, if you can picture that and he was smiling sheepishly with very long incisors.

'Vampire guy' - I thought.. It looked like he had gone to the dentist and had them filed into points, or maybe they were just naturally that long. He had black fingernail polish on very long natural nails (I notice nails. I'm a fingerstyle guitar player with a set of long nails on the right hand and cut short on the right. Every now and then I get some gel fakes put on if I'm playing somewhere. Try it sometime, not many guys do, get made fun of in Vietnamese, it's great!).

He had some funky rings on too, like Yngwie Malmsteen, one on every finger. Some neat long dagger earring dangling from a chain that they'd probably make him take out of he were working the day shift and a strange white shirt under the blazer, kinda like the puffy pirate ones Jerry Seinfeld wore once on his show. His nametag said "Horrace".. The kicker was the Ann Rice novel on the desk next to a bunch of tools, a long thick rod and a spool of metal.

"What. ... are you making???" I was incredibly interested because I make all sorts of weird stuff myself. As soon as I said that it was like I was his second-best friend or something because he launched into a huge explanation.
"Chainmail" he responded gleefully. He pronounced the "mail" part differently like "Maille" or something.
"You take a metal rod and you coil this wire around it and then you cut the coils with tin snips and you knit it together. "I'm working on a coif!" From the looks of it a coif was some kinda chain-mail hat. "I just finished this cod piece!" That thing looked to be some sort of medieval jock in case you got hit in the schnutz by some Knight.

Veeeeeeeeeeeeeeery interesting! I really was truly interested. I started telling him about my bullwhips and the Australian plaiter's guild and HE was genuinely interested. I asked him what hell it was for and he explained that he was a medieval re-creationist and he got together with friends on the weekend and they wore the stuff and hit each other with these big rattan swords.

MAN! This gets better and better!
"I take Kendo at the Takehashi dojo in Chinatown, are those rattan swords kinds like bamboo Shinai's?"
" Not really." he goes.
The swords they use don't give at all and you can get hurt if you don't pay attention. That sounded real interesting! I asked him how he learned to make chainmail and he said he had a booklet some local guy in the Ottawa Valley had made. He offered to make me a photocopy. I said that would be cool!!!!!!
I started to tell him my name and office number but he held his hand up and said "You're and you work on the 10 floor of the JT, Section C4 in Services Science & technology division..." (I hadn't signed the sign out sheet yet and I had been in my closed server room when the other security guard did the 10th floor floor patrol). ...


The next day I had a photocopy of a booklet on how to make chain-mail on my chair. At break I told the guys the story and one of them said "Maybe he IS a vampire and he like, knows who you are because while you were working in your office he flew up 10 stories outside the building and hung there in mid-air keeping an eye on you!"

I didn't work any
OT for awhile after that.

I saw the guy at work quite a few times afterwards, always on the night shift after the sun went down. He really didn't go out in the sun much.. About 3 years later I opened the newspaper around Halloween and he had been interviewed for some 'people who live and act like they're vampires' story. Interesting people in this city...
So, sorry to the girl with the same last name as Horrace the vampire security guard on Kirok's facebook friend list. Didn't mean to freak anybody out with a stray email(of course, I'm a vampire sometimes too though...)

The sandbox - clarification

Yes, the sandbox... A clarification to my previous post entitled, "scaring the shit out of the neighbor's cat who likes to shit in my kid's sandbox". It's not really a sandbox, it's more like a small provincial park. Here's a picture of the dump truck load of sand I filled it with. It came from Petrie Island so it's pretty nice freakin sand!

It is dug to a depth of two feet all around, is surrounded by cedar posts and took me a LONG long time to excavate and get rid of the earth. I loaded 10 trailerfuls of earth and debris. My house is built over an ancient Indian airport because I found all kinds of chunks of asphalt and crap while I was doing it.

Each cedar post is 2 feet 4 inches long and has a piece of 2 foot rebar pounded into it at the bottom about 8 inches (drill hole, pound rebar, rinse and repeat ad nauseum). This is spiked into the ground with a sledge hammer then each post is nailed to it's neighbor with a 12 inch spike going sideways(it's very solid!).

Since I'm a geocacher I know lots of good places to get rid of stuff (old appliances, bodies, big piles of dirt) and I started dumping my fill at the closest Minto construction site where they were building some new houses.. That is, until a security guard pulled up after my 3rd load and told me to go away or he would call the police and charge me with illegal dumping. At the time I laughed at him because I couldn't picture the 911 operator taking his side. I kept going and told him with a straight face. "Buddy.. I own a Minto house. This is a Minto construction site. I'm basically giving them back their own FREAKING DIRT! Fuck off, call the national guard if you want, I'm gonna keep right on goin.. " And I did. He was a big fat guy crammed in the cab of this really small truck and he was eating something chocolate in bar form. He got on his radio.

When I went back again with load #4 I drove in the back way along the fence to see if he had actually called the police and sure enough, there was another security guard truck and they had parked in the entry way and were blocking my way in. I forgot about that place and went to spot #2 which was workable as long as you could empty the damned trailer out in about 10 minutes. Uggg. I did 7 loads like that...

SO that's the provincial park in our back yard. When the kids grow out of it we'll turn it into a small beach/volleyball court with a firepit!

So.. No,, I can't cover it with anything. It's very inviting. Now that you've all seen it I'm sure some of you must feel the need to come over and crap in it (maybe just Lifto!)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Scaring the shit out of the neighbor's cat...

This is my neighbor's cat. I don't know which neighbor exactly, but I'm sure it's somebody close. I took the photo from my kitchen window this morning. This cat likes to use my kid's sandbox as it's personal toilet and this makes me kinda mad.
I'm getting sick of raking the sand each day they go to play in it because they invariably find some brown squishy smelly stuff and hand it to me and ask "Oohhh, yucky, what is that Daddy?"
"Ohh, that's cat clay, give me that. Ok, go inside and wash your hands, daddy will get the rake..."

I guess the cat doesn't know any better, hey, If I was outside somewhere in the forest and came across a huge toilet in the middle of nowhere that dwarfed my own at home (or urinal.. yeah, let's make that a huge urinal, I don't have one of those at home. That's why they're so fun to use at work) you can bet I'd give it a go if nature called.
So it's not the stupid cat's fault. I'm not a cat person. I'm a dog person. Dogs actually like human beings whereas cats couldn't give a hoot about whether you lived or died. I guess this makes cats slightly psychopathic. I don't hate cats really, not since I saw this documentary on them and found out what killing machines they are. If you keep track of the small animals and birds a typical outdoor cat kills, they run up some huge numbers!
So back to the cat. It's not exactly the cat's fault it shits on my property, it's the owners that let it walk around outside and crap wherever it the hell it wants. I guess they like it that way, keeps the crap outta their yard and cuts down on the smell all cat owners contend with by keeping a box of poo inside their house.

But the owners weren't in my backyard this morning. The cat was.

I was in my bathrobe, eating my fruit loops when I saw the cat so I took a picture. Then I grabbed my bullwhip, quietly slid the door open, and snuck out. I closed the door, tip-toed a few feet to get a good running start and was on top of the cat before it really knew I was there(grin). The cat did a quick double-take with a very strange expression on his face, like a conceited "Oh, it's just a human. what the hell does he think he's doing? AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!". It's eyes got HUGE!

I thundered down on it and it turned and leaped 5 feet vertically up in the air trying to jump over my fence as I let a nice big sonic boom go off under his butt(a bullwhip crack can break the sound barrier, 700 miles per hour). His huge jump didn't work because I have a six feet PVC fence(grin). It smacked the top of the plastic scrambling at it trying to hold on like a cartoon cat and slid down with me almost right on top of it. The cat jagged and got by me and sprinted 60 feet to the front gate in my fence where he probably squeezed under to gain entry, but it wasn't thinking straight. I got another crack off about 4 feet in back of him. I wasn't trying to hit him, I just wanted to give him something to remember (if I would have hit him I wouldn't have gotten the nice big loud bullwhip crack I was going for). Instead of going under it leaped vertical again (the gate is 6 feet as well) and did the cartoon shuffle and slid down and hit the grass. He jagged again (he was scared shitless at this point) and ran the 60 feet back where I had first cornered him and turned left down to the back of my garage. That was a really bad idea because that's a dead end. I turned the corner and..

It was gone.

Hehehehehe. I think it squeezed under my fence and got into the other neighbor's yard or it had gotten really smart and hid under my deck. In any event, mission accomplished(for now).

I wonder if he'll be back.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The damned ducks!

My god. Get the fork..... The NHL gives you a gift and relieves the Ducks of it's 2nd best defenseman and the SENS don't take advantage.

The Ducks are just one goal better than the Sens game in and game out. We're done. Not gonna win a game with 4 shots on goal in a period with 3 players in back of the damn net most of the time. No one seems to want the puck.

That's one thing I remember from some old Oilers documentary during their 3rd cup run. Messier and Gretzky and everyone are sitting around some poker table discussing how goals happen and what makes a good goal-scorer and Gretzky ends the discussion by saying something like:

"I don''t care what the other team is trying to do. I want that puck. That's MY puck."

That's how the Ducks are playing. Selanne, Getslaf.. they scare the crap outta me every time they hit the line. Any one of the Senators scare the heck outta me every time they hit the offensive line. Which one is gonna cough it up this time and cause a turn-over the other way!!!!!!

I guess we have to contend ourselves with knowing the Sens made it to the final. My other favorite team, the Habs didn't even make the playoffs! (wait till next year!)

Flamethrower test

Fire!!!!! Preproduction test for TPGMB2. Can't really burn down my whole backyard.. Particle Illusion is a really fun program!