Monday, December 04, 2006

It's Snowing!


Now I have to do more work. :(

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Peeking Out From The Madness

"Busy" is an entirely inadequate word. Between my monster of a final film, two upcoming finals (and a non-final test), trying to bang out "Fur Elise" on the piano, co-writing a script about a priest giving a eulogy at the wrong funeral, and making a final decision on a possible switch of majors (more on that later... hint in the tags), I've got something of a full plate at the moment. Oh, and in less than two weeks the semester will be over and I'll be home for Christmas.


Yet, I'm poking my head above the waves for just a second to give a few teaser pics of said monstrous final film. Aren't I nice? Taking time out to give info to the (non-existent) readers of this blog? That's why I'm doing this. For (the non-existent) you. Not because I'm procrastinating at 2:30 in the morning or anything. That would be silly.

The samples, specially chosen to look cool, of course:

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I'm Home!

Sitting here in the Pittsburgh International Airport, home of the opening scenes of Dogma, mooching off the free wireless internet access for a bit since my dad somehow thought my flight wasn't coming in for another 20 minutes...

But I'm back! Let the relaxing (aka all too short and work-filled) Thanksgiving break begin!

Moved to the New Blogger

I've just transferred my account to the new system Google is rolling out for Blogger. I think I've mostly transitioned the old cutomized page template over... mostly. (The dotted lines in the sidebar have got to go, and the POTM, while having slightly better placement, is still as ugly a hack behind the scenes as it always was.)

A few new features to look out for:
  • A better archive system (I think?)
  • Tagging (called "labels" by the geniuses here. I've started re-tagging old posts, but that'll take awhile) Example: This post is tagged "geekery," since my makinga moderately-sized post about a low-level system upgrade shows what an unabashed geek I am.
  • Trackbacks (I still don't know exactly how this works, but most blogs seem to have them, so why not?)
But again, this new system is still in Google's trademark "Beta" stage. So in other words, if anything seems borken in the near future, it's Blogger's fault!

Oh, and yes, I do intend to get back to updating this regularly, unlike most of my friends. It's just been really busy for me lately - I'll cover some of that in the next couple posts, probably.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Still Alive... Just Busy

I'm not even entirely sure why I felt a need to update this blog now, since most of my friends have abandoned theirs, and I'm fairly certain no one reads it anymore. Not to mention that my experience with webcomics has taught me that a multi-month lapse is a very good way to kill off whatever readers one may have had left.

Whatever. Someday, when I've gotten famous, had my run, and fallen out of fame again, maybe I can just turn this into a book. ;)

In any case, it's been incredibly busy since I got back to SU. Most of this is owing to two things: First, the Crime in U.S. Society class I took because it looked interesting turned out to be a huge pain in the neck... and second, we've started production classes!

I won't deny the coolness of finally being able to say "I've shot film!" Even though it's only 16 mm... and I've only shot about 2.5 minutes of it personally... and most of it was half a stop underexposed... and I left the shutter closed for the entirety of one cool shot... and the movie wasn't that great anyway... it's still cool!

But it's also very time consuming, and the lack of immediate feedback is quite annoying. So far I've made one straight, in-camera, black&white, silent dream project (where have I done that before...), and I'm going into production soon on my final project for this semester. It's a bit of a doozy - my teacher still doesn't understand exactly what I'm talking about when I pitch it. I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this one. But that's fun, too, right? Right?

As previously stated, things are a wee bit hectic right now, so I'm going to have to cut this haphazard post short here for the time being. I leave you with a horribly transferred frame of the coolest shot in my dream project:

Yes, that's a forced perspective shot. I feel special.

And I'm afraid that's all you're going to see until I get a proper video transfer done (probably in November/December). This shot was captured by pointing my video camera at the screen of a Moviola, then tweaking the resultant image in Photoshop. A lot.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

End of Summer = Hectic

48 hours from now I should be fairly settled in back at Syracuse. As usual, I am nowhere near ready to go. Much packing still to be done, my second-to-last paycheck to pick up at work, and far too many other assorted odds and ends to take care of before I leave.


The "catch up on everything that happened this summer" post deserves to be much longer than this, but since I'm perpetually short on time at the moment, this short list of the highlights will have to do:

  • Got a job at Arby's, worked 30-40 hours a week.
  • Underestimated how drained working in fast food would leave me.
  • Played Splinter Cell and God of War on PS2. (The latter being a very good game!)
  • Saw a bunch of movies, though not quite as many as I would have liked.
  • Got an old 16mm projector. (It works, but I haven't really had time to properly play with it)
  • Drooled over the Mac Pro's specs, then sobbed at it's price.
  • Got a new widescreen monitor and some sweet new speakers (The widescreen fits better under the low shelves on the S.U. desks. Yup. That's my rationalization and I'm sticking to it!)
  • Hung out with friends - less than I would have liked, courtesy Arby's.
  • Wondered where 3 months of my life went and how I could get them back...
Aaaaaaand that about sums it up.

Bleh, back to packing.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Not Dead

Despite a 3-month lapse in posts, I am in fact not dead.

Just in case you were wondering.

More posts to come. And one more thing...

Snakes on a mothafuckin' Plane!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Overdue Post, Continued

If you haven't already, scroll down and read the first part of this lengthy catch-up. This entry will just tie up the loose ends of what's left over from that one.


I've seen several movies recently. My short takes:

Thank You For Smoking
-- Funny. A very enjoyable movie, but if I hadn't been using a free ticket pass that I had to use up at the theater in Syracuse before it expired this summer, I would probably have regretted seeing it in theaters. It's not that funny. Save the $8-$10 and see it on DVD.

Mission: Impossible III -- Aside from being the most overzealous use of Steadicam this year, I was pleasantly surprised with this one. The plot is deeper and more "important" than previous installments, and J.J. Abrams did a fine job telling the story. If you can ignore memories of couch-hopping and Scientology, this is a pretty good movie, and a good opener for the string of "blockbuster" summer movies we have coming up this year.

Da Vinci Code -- As expected, the book was better. But this is still an engaging movie, and Ian McKellan, as always, steals the show. Probably worth seeing, especially if you put stock in numbers. The second-biggest global opening behind Episode III is pretty impressive. Most of all, don't listen to the protesters. A movie can't tell an intelligent person how to think, and you shouldn't let them try either.

"I Need a Jorb"

Yeeeeeah... As mentioned in my last post, film and developing for next year is going to run along the lines of a couple thousand dollars. Ouch. More than ever, I require summer employment! Unfortunately, I still have yet to have a "real," over-the-table job, what with the W-2's and the taxes and whatnot. Sure, I mowed a few lawns, I've done computer help for the neighbors, and I've helped my dad with some major renovations (cough-roofing-cough) that he was more than happy to give me some decent cash for, as contractors would ask about 10x as much, but I still haven't been "officially" employed, so that pretty much rules out places that require prior experience.

So far I'm filling out applications for places like Arby's, Boston Market and the like. (I will work pretty much anywhere but McDonald's. I don't care how "not bad" Andy says it is...) Haley mentioned a couple other places he's applying last night that I may try as well. I'd like a well-paying, tech-y job like Will and Andy landed, but that's borderline impossible considering my (lack of) employment history. In any case, I need to re-email all the references I used last year so they won't be surprised if their phone rings. (I really did apply at a few places last year, but Blockbuster screwed me over. Long story, for another time...)

*Sigh* We shall see how this goes...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Overdue Post

For no apparent reason, most of my friends (save one) have gotten back into updating their blogs with surprising regularity since summer started, leaving me in the dust a bit, as I kinda dropped off the online planet for the last couple weeks. Time to play catch-up. This one will be long, so I'll break it into sections.

Where The Hell I Was the Last 2 Weeks

Nowhere really. I just kinda did nothing for most of it. There were a couple points of interest though. Last weekend I tagged along with my old Scout Troop to visit the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station. Obviously, we couldn't tour the plant itself, but we did get to watch a presentation on how it works that was simultaneously dumbed-down, yet still over the head of anyone who hadn't taken AP Physics. We also got to see the "simulator" rooms where they train people to operate the plant. It was all very interesting.

Other Diversions (Games)

I also seem to have inexplicably gotten back into the PS2 my brother and I share. While getting him something for his birthday at EB, I spotted a used copy of the PS2 port of Splinter Cell for $3.99, which I immediately snagged for myself. Pretty fun game, even if the parking garage level is driving me nuts. (the lightning gets rid of my wonderful shadows! Nowhere to hiiiiiide!) I also have a strange desire to finally play Final Fantasy VII, but used copies seem to have become collector's items lately (at least on eBay). Plus I need to find my PS1 memory card. I also would like to try out God of War (which I saw at college, and it looked great), Ico (which gets so many "unknown masterpiece" reviews it's silly), and possibly Kingdom Hearts (I just need to know why my future roommate was sooooo obsessed with the sequel). Why the sudden console interest? No idea.

My Final Lightwave Project

I came home on the 6th, but the last project for my 3D class wasn't technically due until Thursday the next week, via e-mail. The assignment was to make 3 images that "show the passage of time." My plan for that project was to do a "Star Wars"-ish scene, as sort of a proof-of-concept for my upcoming fan film (more on that in a future post). The 3 images would be like storyboard frames (or, optimistically, DVD frame-captures) of a sequence where a ship lands. When I left SU, things were looking good, as the ship itself was pretty much modeled (though not textured).

However, once home, procrastination reared its ugly head. Due to multiple entirely-avoidable distractions, I ended up doing the rest of my work on the project the day it was due (at 6pm). For this reason I am, shall we say, less than happy with the final results. The ship still isn't textured, and the surrounding world was made in a few hours. The lighting sucks, and the torrential rainstorm (which would have obscured some other flaws) was abandoned when I couldn't get rain to not look terrible in the time I had.

Meh, here's the results anyway. My brother thinks the first shot looks like a cutscene from Jedi Knight.

Yeah... overly dark, simple, bleh. I didn't even have time to use a good quality level of anti-aliasing like I did on the test render. Maybe someday I'll revisit these, but they were apparently good enough for the class, as seen in the next section...


Everyone else is posting them, so here we go...

Filmmaking: Cinematic Modes -- A
Introduction to 3D -- A
Intro to the Theatre -- A
Adv Acting (Drama Minors) -- A
Writing Studio 2: Critical Research -- A

So yeah. There you have it.

Next Year's Schedule

SU doesn't have a nifty calendar view like some of you (at least, not a publicly-viewable one), but here are my classes for Fall 2006, with the obligatory commentary:

Acting For Directing, T/Th 3:30-5:20 pm
We basically get credit for being the actors in the same directing class that we will be taking a semester or two down the road. Word on the street is that this helps with building a good rapport with the professor. Whatever.

Survey of Theatre History, Mon 6:30-8:40 pm
Another required drama course. At least this one has the same cool teacher we had for our last 2 theater classes.

Basic Social Ballroom Dance, Wed 7:15-8;45 pm (1 credit)
Hey, it's different! Funny story - some guys thought this is a good way to "meet girls". However, it looks increasingly like I already know like 50-75% of the girls in this class. Not that that's a bad thing.

Cinematic Modes of Production, T/Th 6-8 pm
I finally get a production class!!! Yes, the film majors finally get to make movies. Only bad news - although working with actually film is a very good thing to learn, it's expensive as hell. I mean, they charge by the foot for this stuff. Some sophomores I talked to quoted a couple grand for film/developing. Not friendly. I really need a job.

Film Scriptwriting, Wed 2:15-5:05 pm
Again, hooray for more hands-on classes related to my major. And this one isn't even expensive!

U.S. Crime and Society, M/W 12:45-2:05 pm
It's a history class. I needed an elective, and a couple friends and I decided this might be fun.

Piano/Non Music Majors, T/Th 11:55-12:50 pm (2 credits)
I've always wanted to try this. Thanks to some clever talking by a friend of mine, we get to combine these 2 credits with the 1 credit from Ballroom to count as a normal 3-credit elective.

More to Come...

It's currently time for dinner, so I'll finish this post later tonight. Finishing this was interrupted by a last-minute-ish Firefly/Serenity marathon at a friend's house. I'll cover what's left over in another post.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggidy-Jig!

First person to name that movie quote gets... well, nothing actually.

About this time last night I rolled, semi-conscious, into Pittsburgh. I finally got my computer hooked up again tonight, and am already feeling the speed hit of moving from the Internet2-enabled connection of a major university back to plain old Comcast cable internet.

So, my freshman year of college is now "over." (Well, not totally. My last 3D project is due by 6 pm Thursday via e-mail, but whatever.) Now my priorities are to get a job, and move back into my own house (which feels somewhat strange...) But first, I must sleep. It's past 2, and I should work on getting back from a "college"/"quasi-nocturnal" sleep cycle, and into something more "normal" (ha!).

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Hell. Yes.

You keep on shootin' first, Han 'ol buddy!

Original, Unaltered Star Wars Release Slated for September.

'Tis a good day for Star Wars fans, and really, all film geeks. Heck, all geeks period. Scratch that: good day for everyone!

On a totally unrelated note, I have a sinking fear I may not be sleeping tonight, as I'm going home tomorrow, and the majority of my packing is still to be done. Crap.

Update: As of 7:00 am, this dire prediction of mine seems to be true. Fooey.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Film Final SUCKED!

Title pretty much sums it up. Test was on just about the opposite of what he said we should study.


Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Graffiti Wall

This started a while ago, but it's gotten silly recently so I felt I should mention it.

In the covered stairs leading up to Flint and Day, there are a couple of large bulletin boards. A while back, I noticed that one of them had been covered in some unique graffiti: (horrible quality, courtesy my horrible camera phone)

Sure, it's a nice message, although I found it odd (and a bit amusing) that the best way someone could find to express their patriotism was through (admittedly minor) vandalism. As I had just seen V for Vendetta at the time, I briefly thought how funny (albeit somewhat disprespectful) it would be if someone spray painted a giant red "V" symbol over it. However, troop-supporting, law-abiding coward that I am, I didn't seriously consider it.

Fast-forward to the present, and it seems others do not share my hesitation at defacing this defacement, although their reactions aren't nearly as clever as my thoughts were. First it was just someone adding a couple words to make the message "Support our troops OR DIE". Since then, the poor bulletin board has evolved into the unoffical Political Graffiti Board. (better picture, courtesy my real camera)

Am I the only one who thinks this whole thing is funny?

I'll post any new developments if they happen before I leave.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I Feel Special

"CAR 232 - Introduction to 3D Computer Art," the computer art class I've learning Lightwave in, is being offered during the summer session here at S.U. this year. To make people aware of this, the people in charge have been putting flyers all over the Shaffer art building.

One of my renders is on that flyer.

I didn't even know they were doing this, so it kinda took me by surprise when I first saw it. I'm not even in that major, yet they put my work on the flyer advertising the class. That make me feel mildly special.

...and wonder if I was in the right major. :-/

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Even More Lightwave

Earlier this week I finished the landscape image I posted a work-in-progress of in my last Lightwave post. Here's how it turned out:It didn't turn out exactly how I'd originally intended, but overall I like the results. The SasLite grass with the sunset lighting hitting it came out particularly well.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Just some random things of note today. May be updated as new stuff comes to mind.
  • I'm sure everyone has seen those "double entendre" shirts. Tonight in the dining hall I saw one that said "Rogues do it from behind." I don't know if it was a D&D/RPG reference, but I still laughed.

  • So now Facebook has an "I am..." feature. Great, so now I have two sets of away messages (Facebook and AIM) to keep me distracted from my work? I think Sue currently says it best though: "Susanna is happy to see there is one more way for me to stalk people via facebook :)."

  • "Leon" (AKA "The Professional") is a good movie, but I don't know how Natalie Portman's parents let her do it.

  • There were pro-life demonstrators showing off banners of bloody fetuses outside Bird Library today. A news team interviewed us about what we thought, and we said something about how sure the images are kinda disturbing, but they have a right to express their views. The reporter didn't seem happy with us - guess we didn't give her the extremist "sound bites" she was looking for. ;)

I'm sure more stuff will occur to me tonight. Update: Nah, it really didn't.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Deleted Scene from "The Vase"

Stumbled across John August's CSS styles for screenplays, and figured I'd add them to my blog's template. (Yes, that John August, the one who wrote Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, etc. Looks like he's got a geeky side.) Actually, his entire blog should be of interest to anyone interested in movie script writing.

Anyway, in the interest of testing new features, I present the never-before-seen original opening to "The Vase"! I never filmed this because it would have been too hard, logistically, in the time I had. That's why the existing movie starts a little more abruptly than my others.
  • FADE IN:
  • A car comes over a hill and drives towards the camera.
  • JACK is driving. He looks a bit nervous. Not scared, just a little uneasy.
  • JACK
  • Why is this guy following me?
  • Out the rear window we see another car. It's black, plain, and inconspicuously official-looking. Jack glances down, flicking the lever for the turn signal.
  • Stopping the car, Jack turns around to look out the back. The strange car slows as it passes the house, but continues on down the street.
  • JACK
  • (sighing)
  • That was weird...
  • Jack enters through the front door carrying a backpack over one shoulder. Worn-out, he moves over to the couch, dropping the backpack carelessly onto the floor.
  • JACK
  • Man, I'm exhausted.
  • He collapses onto the couch and falls asleep as we:

After that, the movie continues as normal. So there you have it - the mighty "Lost Scene" of The Vase. What? Not impressed? That's OK: This post was really jsut about me playing with the screenplay formatting styles for this blog. They should come in handy next year, when I take my Screenwriting course.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lengthy Lightwave Update

It's been a while since I posted about what I've been doing in my 3D Computer Art class, and with the end of the semester fast approaching, I think it's time for a little catch-up. After my last post, we did a few more fairly simple modeling assignments that I really don't find worth uploading pics of. After that, we moved into rendered images, and things got a little more interesting.

Assignment 3-4 (don't ask)
This had a really weird prompt - we had to create a "self-representation" that combined items that had some importance to us, creating a bizzare creature/character/person that represented our interests. Uh... riiiiiight. We then had to create a simple setting out of additional objects, place the character into that setting, and produce a final rendered output.

After a few false starts (I really hate out-there "artsy" prompts like this), I eventually created this image:

In case you can't tell, the objects included are: video camera, book (on back), keyboard, laptop, LEGOs, pencil (art), light bulb (creativity)... and the hand I made earlier in the semester because I didn't know what to put for the guy's left hand. The hardest part of this project was getting the skelton to work. This was the first character I'd made from a solid mesh, with controlling "bones" inside that would deform the mesh in a "natural" way. Problem was: bones are stupid, and don't know what parts of the body they should affect. I would move the right arm, and half of the right side of the torso would come with it! This project also took waaaay to long to render, as I foolishly modeled the actual raised "LEGO" text on the blocks. I only did it once, then copy/pasted the rest, but the final result added up to a lot of polygons.

Assignment 5
This was a lot of fun. We were supposed to create a scene in which every object was the default "light gray" color. Everything interesting had to be done with geometry, bump maps, and lighting. Since the 3 final renders were to be in black and white, we were told to create 3 distinct, interesting lighting setups. I made a castle/mansion-y interior with a fireplace and whatnot. My first render was a somewhat boring overview of the room lit from various places:

My second render got a bit more interesting, and I played with the volumetric effects Lightwave has (about 1000x more flexible and better-looking than TrueSpace's):

Finally, I decided to try a fairly radical angle with dramatic lighting from the fireplace (turn your head to the left if you don't see it immediatly):

I really enjoyed this assignment, although in retrospect theyre are a lot of things I would have done a little differently, and I never had time to do some of the cool things I planned (chandeliers and such).

Assignment 6
(current project)
We pretty much jsut started this one, so I'm nowhere near finished yet. We're supposed to "...recreate a past environment, room, or space that you associate with." This environment doesn't have to depict a real place, but the final image should "tell a story." The depiction can be abstract, surreal, impressionistic, emotional, or realistic. (Obviously, I chose realism - I want to do CG for my movies, not "explore the human condition" or somesuch) Yeah, this is another wacky "artsy" assignment, but it's vague enough that I can do just about anything and justify it. I chose to depict a landcape scene, with the story being someone who is camping. (for Halapy: I'm basically re-arranging parts of the land around the lake at Heritage, with a few "artistic liscence" additions of my own).

I still have a long way to go, but as of tonight I've made a lot of progress on the grassy hill where the campsite will be (using Lightwave's SasLite hair plugin to make the grass), a pretty decent tree, and a broken-down stone wall. (Why is there a stone wall on this hill? - Because it looks cool there.) Anyway, here's my W.I.P. shot:

Obviously, everything beyond the hill in the foreground is still at a very rough stage. At one point, I tried covering the entire terrain with the simulated grass, but I ran into an internal limit with the SasLite plugin (they have to give you some incentive to pay money for the full version of "Sasquatch"). In light of this, I'm now using the SasLite grass just for the hill, and will find a simple grassy texture map for the rest of the land, since it's too far away to tell the difference anyway.

I also still need to do the water properly, clone that tree about a million times, and add the campfire. All of this while trying to finish my final Writing 205 project, and catching up on play reviews for my two drama classes. This next week should prove interesting...

Saturday, April 01, 2006

An Interesting Day/Night

This is totally random, so I'll just write everything that happened today. Skip to the end for a humorously short summary if you don't want to read. (actually, it might be funnier to read the short version first, then find out WTF I was talking about!)

First of all, I had to get up at 8am (Nooooooo!!) to meet a go to a sophomore's film shoot I'm helping out with. We then spent the next 7 hours or so moving heavy film equiptment all over campus in impossibly warm weather (think high 70s...), sitting on a dolly to provide ballast, telling passers-by not to look at the camera, and sometimes just sitting around waiting for the guys in charge to figure out what they were doing. Tiring, but it was kinda fun, and I got to get a sample of what I'll be doing in my film classes next year. (Their advice? Learn to use a light meter. Doesn't matter how artsy your shot is if the film isn't exposed properly)

Around 8pm I went to see "Horatio Sanz and the Kings of Improv" at Goldstein Auditorium with Mike and Maisha (both from film) and their friend Diana, who happens to be a witch. The improv show was alright, but not quite as great as I expected. Afterwards, I ended up getting autographs from Horatio and the other people he was performing with. (Hey, the opportunity was there, and the line wasn't too long.)

(I was too lazy to get the scanner, so I took a picture with my digital camera)

When the show was over, Mike wanted to do something, so Diana suggested we check out this "Unique Tea House" on Marshall Street. None of us had heard of such a place, but we went to see what she was so exited about.

You can't really blame us for not knowing about this place. It's on the second floor above an Indian restaurant, hidden away behind a doorway labeled for a hair stylist. The only sign advertising it is a smal lighted one about 20 feet in the air, where no one ever looks. Once inside, you find this nice little... tea house, guess. I'll take a picture the next time I'm there, but the whole place has a subdued, calm, eastern feel to it. In addition to various teas, they have these colorful fruit drinks with all kinds of odd things in them, that actually taste quite good. I had something with apple, honey, and a hint of lemon. Unusual ("Unique," even!), but good. The Unique Tea House is definitely one of those little undiscovered gems one finds around college campuses.

We talked about a ton of things, from filmmaking to coffee, to funny "drunk roommate" stories, to Diana's paganism (She's a "good witch" - no spells on other people, but she'll give a free Tarot reading if you like). All in all, just hanging around in a cool place wasting a couple hours in random conversation.

Aftward we met Diana's boyfriend, who seems to share Tony's enthusiam for Kingdom Hearts 2 (although I don't know if Tony can be surpassed in fanaticism... After helping with the film shoot he bugged out in a hurry because he had to "save the Pridelands." "Simba needs me!") The (now) 5 of us talked a while longer while wandering around campus. We actually ended up at an overlook by the College of Law with a nice view of part of the city, and a nearby parking garage that looks really cool at night. After that I came back here to my dorm.

The humorously short version:

Carried heavy equiptment, acted as ballast. Got Horatio Sanz's autograph, and then was treated to some tasty colorful drinks by a witch. Ended up in a parking garage. All in all, a fun day. ;)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November...

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

Yeah, I guess you could count that as an endorsement! Go see V for Vendetta!

...Now I can't get the 1812 Overture out of my head...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Why I Hate US Airways

You know, I used to like flying.

I'm back at S.U. this week after a typically uneventful spring break, but I had a bit of adventure getting here. It's story time...

I was supposed to fly back sunday night on a flight that left at 8:40, and got me here around 10. That was the plan. After my typical last minute rush of packing (made worse by the obsessive need to watch the "Serenity" DVD my dad had purchased before I left) I got to the Pittsburgh airport, made it through security, and sat down at my gate with enough time left to play with the free WiFi.

Close to the time we were supposed to board, there's an announcement saying there's an "overbooking situation" on this flight, and they're looking for 3 or 4 (!) volunteers with flexible travel plans to switch to a later flight. I'd heard this before, and it didn't concern me much since the airline usually finds a few volunteers to keep their compassionless business model running (They'd rather overbook and kick people off a flight than risk having a few empty seats that aren't being paid for).

Unfortunatly, this went differently this time. A little while later, they called four names to come to the counter, and mine was one of them. We were informed that we might get bumped, and that we needed to wait here until everyone else got on the plane. We waited. And waited. While I was talking to another passenger who had been affected (a girl who also went to SU, and had an 8am class the next day), we overheard an interesting discussion. It seemed the plane was supposed to be ready to take off now, but they were waiting on some checked luggage that was late. The supervisor on duty wasn't happy with this, as apparently its against airline policy to delay takeoff for late luggage.

U.S. Airways overbooks its flights, and likes to leave suitcases behind when they don't make it to the plane on time. And they wonder why they're always on the verge of bankruptcy...

Anyway, eventually they mumbled something about being sorry for the inconvenience, and told us we could in fact get on the plane. Awesome! I gathered my things, and headed out to the plane. Since this was a small "Express" flight, standard carry-ons won't fit in the overhead bins. Instead, you put a yellow "Gate-Check" tag on them, and on your way to the plane, hand them to guy who puts them in the back of the plane. At your destination, you pick them up at the gate, rather than at baggage claim. I handed my roller-bag to the guy, and got on the plane with just my backpack containing my laptop and a few other small, expensive things I don't trust out of my sight. I sat down, and breathed a sigh of relief that this trip was finally getting underway.

Then the late luggage showed up.

Apparently, the luggage they had delayed the plane for was quite numerous. In fact, it wouldn't all fit in the back of the plane. The stewardess (attendant? What't the PC term?) started asking people very nicely if they could fit extra bags under the seats and whatnot. She was actually being quite thoughtful, doing everything possible to avoid leaving anything behind.

Then the supervisor showed up. He said that while the plane wasn't overbooked, it was overweight, so the four of us had to get off again. The thoughtful stewardess tried to offer us the choice of having our bags taken off and put on a later flight while staying on ourselves, but the supervisor said she couldn't do that. Dumbfounded, we exited the plane again.

The supervisor merits special mention. Now, most people still seem like people when they are working. Either they are pleasant and trying to help you (like the stewardess), or they hate their job and it shows, or whatever, but you can still tell they are human. Then there are people who come across as company policy books come to life. They aren't compassionate, they don't even offer a sad "I wish I could help" smile to calm you down. No emotion, no empathy. From all appearances, they have no souls.

The supervisor was of the latter type. Think Dick Cheney. Seriously, this guy looked (and sorta sounded) like Dick Cheney. (No joke!) His nametag said "Sean L." because apparently he doesn't have the guts to put his last name behind the work he does.

Once off the plane, I asked whether my gate-checked luggage would be taken off the plane. The supervisor assured me that it would, but that they couldn't just give it to me there on the tarmac (you guessed it: against policy), but that we could get our bags later at baggage claim F. Then one of the workers nearby got the brilliant idea to take our names down so that they could get our bags off the plane. Keep in mind, this only occured to him after the supervisor had assured us that all would be taken care of. Before we could ask any more pesky questions, the supervisor shooed us back into the airport.

At this point, we obviously weren't too happy. I was already planning this blog post. The girl I talked to earlier was nearly in tears after a phone call with her boss in Syracuse who wasn't very understanding that she wouldn't be able to work her 11pm shift that night. A middle-aged woman in our group looked like she wanted to shoot someone. The supervisor gave us a very unconvincing apology for our troubles (again, think Cheney), and then it was time for the paperwork.

If you get bumped from a flight at US Airways, they are "generous" enough to put you on the next flight out, (in this case, at 7:15 the next morning) put you up in a hotel for the night, and give you a $10 meal voucher to use at the airport restaurants. The only real nice thing they give you is a free round-trip ticket to anywhere in the continental US, usable anytime within the next year (except for black-out dates like, oh, any significant holiday). Of course, you have to sign this ticket to accept it - right under some rather fine print that promises you won't sue the airline. Mmmm... extortion!

I took the free ticket and meal, but passed on the hotel; This is my hometown, I'll sleep in my own bed tonight, thank you very much! I called my dad, and told him he had to turn around and pick me up again. The supervisor reminded us that our luggage was at baggage claim F. (How could he be so sure? He hadn't checked or anything.) He also gave us the assurance that you cannot get bumped twice, so we were guaranteed our flight in the morning. (Gee, how nice...) Broken and defeated, we all headed to baggage claim F.

I'll bet you can see where this is going. Yup, my gate-checked roller-bag wasn't there. The other passengers' luggage was sitting on the corousel, but mine was MIA. After a fruitless search, I shuffled over to the baggage claim/customer service desk. I explained the situation to the nice guy behind the counter (at least this one seemed human!), and he went into a back room to check. After a phone call, he told me there had been some sort of "miscommunication," and my bag had stayed on the plane and gone to Syracuse without me.

Damn you, Dick Cheney-alike!!

The man told me that my luggage would be locked up in Syracuse overnight, and I could pick it up when I arrived the next day. I walked to the passenger pick-up area, my mind stuck on the image of an equally-pleasant guy in Syracuse telling my my bag had accidently been sent back to Pittsburgh...

On monday I got up much earlier than I generally prefer, brushed my teeth using my finger as a toothbrush (my real toothbrush was in Syracuse...), and went back to the airport.

My own trip would go smothly this time, but I did get one last glimpse of US Airways incompetence. While wating for my flight, the announcement came that this flight was in an "overbooking situation," and they were looking for seven volunteers to give up their seats. Seven! It seems the flight we had been bumped to was overbooked to begin with, and the four of us were making it even worse! So now, the events of the previous night had affected the travel plans of a total of 11 people. Fortunatly, they got the volunteers, so no one had to go through quite what we had, but still.

I count it as a minor miracle that when I arrived in Syracuse my roller-bag was, in fact, waiting for me at the baggage claim desk. I got a cab, rode back to my dorm, thanked God I had no morning classes on mondays, and collapsed in my bed.

So yeah, not liking US Airways too much at the moment. And Sean L, wherever you are.... YOU SUCK!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Huge X-Men 3 Spoiler Cover-up

As a movie studio, what do you do when the trailer for your highly-anticipated upcoming film reveals something it shouldn't? Modify the trailer, of course! Nevermind the fact that removing the evidence only serves to confirm that yes, that shot did mean exactly what you thought it did.

Bottom line: the trailer that is online now is not the one that was originally posted a couple days ago.


Seriously, this is a big spoiler. Maybe not "I am your father" big, but possibly close. I couldn't even ethically make myself put the images on the front page of this blog, so you'll have to click your way to having part of the movie ruined. If you click any of the links below, I cannot be held responsible for the consequences. You have been warned

In the currently available trailers, the shot around time index 2:16 is Wolverine scratching his way down a wall.

However, when the trailer was first released, that same shot was something altogether different - SPOILER WARNING! Don't click this!!!!.

If you just clicked that second link, I'm so sorry. I won't describe what it is here, but it should be obvious if you look at what's in the picture, what's going on, and what's missing. I can't believe 20th Century Fox let that out, even if only for a short time. My guess - some editor's job is not as secure as it once was after this incident. also shows the original image (SPOILER!) in their flipbook.

There. With as many SPOILER tags as I put in this post, you have no one to blame but yourself. And that dumb editor at 20th Century Fox.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Hanley Films: Coming Soon (Again)

Yes, thanks to Will and his contacts on the AnandTech forums, I now have reliable hosting for again.  Well, for six months anyway.

If you click this link and see a smiley, it means I finally got the stupid DNS settings right.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Penny-Arcade Guys Get Macs!

That's right folks; Tycho and Gabe, creators of the wildly popular and gamer-oriented webcomic Penny-Arcade, have both purchased computers from Apple. Gabe's MacBook Pro (I still think that's a dumb name) hasn't shipped yet, but Tycho has been using his recently-arrived Intel iMac, and has all manner of good things to say about it:

I've used my own Mac for every computing task this week. What I have ascertained is not that PCs as we know them lack good design, but that PCs as we know them have hardly any design to speak of. I'm not trying to be insulting. Use a Mac for a week, and we'll talk again.

(mocking snarkiness follows...)

To my PC-loyal friends: What now, guys?
We are toppling your monuments, your idols, your bastions of power... and comedic sarcasm. People are beginning to see - There's a better way! (And unlike the current Democratic Party, we actually know what we're talking about when we say that!) Resistance is futile. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. With drop shadows, and translucency!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Internet2 is Fun

Seeing as both our schools are on Internet2, Will and I decided to play around with that a little bit. Will had already seen AIM file transfers work over Internet2, but we wondered how well HTTP would work. I fired up the webserver (Apache) on my PowerBook G4, and put up a simple page offering up one of the > 1 gig DV Quicktime masters for my movies.

Wheeeee! Nice and fast. Almost 1 megabit a second, across state lines! (Don't worry, the movie only consists of footage shot by me, and music by Edgen, so it's all legit.)

In related news, the University of Pittsburgh is mean and firewalls thier students so Will can't do this. And they have the same "one computer per residental connection - no switches or routers!" rule that SU has. Pity, since a dedicated server running 24/7 out of my dorm room would totally solve my movie-hosting issues.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Fun With SU's Unix System

I decided to finally get around to seeing what Syracuse is giving me in terms or webspace, of for nothing else than to finally host my movies in a stable place. So, I started looking around the Computing and Media Services site.

Andy is probably the only one who will appreciate this, but I was delighted to find that students set up their webspace through a normal, old-fashioned UNIX shell account! And on a Sun server, no less? Geek heaven!

But here's the fun part: some of thier instructions are flat-out wrong! In particular, once you've logged in, made a public_html folder if it wasn't already there, and created index.html with pico, (Yay pico! More geekery!) you are told to set permissions. I though this seemed like a lot of work for non-UNIX geeks, but at least they spelled out exactly what to type, right?

Well, explicit instructions don't help much if they are incorrect. Check this passage:

changing permissions on files
  1. Change to the public_html folder by typing "cd public_html" and press Enter.
  2. Type "ls -l" to view the folder's contents.
  3. To set permissions for a file within the public_html folder, type "chmod 644 name of file" and press Enter.
    NOTE Replace "name of file" with the actual file name. For example, "index.html".
    To set permissions for all files within the folder, type "chmod 644 *.*" and press Enter.

Nice and simple, right? Problem is, those aren't the permissions you want for public HTML files. "chmod 644" gives everyone read access to the files, but a webserver needs execute privileges to show the page. So if you followed the instructions, then tried visiting your site, all you would see is a nice "Error 403: Forbidden". So I just went ahead and fixed it with "chmod 755 index.html", and now my test page is up for all to see. But someone who isn't a total nerd can't be expected to know that.

I guess I'll have to call/e-mail them tomorrow. Calling might be more fun - how knowlegable of a person do you think they put in charge of the phone? >:)

Friday, February 17, 2006

More Emulator Geekery

In my last post I hinted at my initial playing around with Q - an x86 (and other) emulator for OS X. Well, I got "somewhere" with it, and here's the results.

Warning: the following images depict the results of me being bored, frequently late at night. Emulation of a foriegn processor architectures redefines the very word "slow." We're talking 10x decrease in performance over native speed, easily. On a 1.67 GHz laptop. The tasks depicted cannot concievably serve any useful purpose whatsoever, and were done purely "for the hell of it."

Ahem. Anyway, after several hours, (during which I went to class and did some homework) the WinXP install finished, and I tried to boot it, only to be met by this confusing error during login:
A problem is preventing Windows from accurately checking the license for this computer.
Error Code: 0x800703e6.
Whoops. At this point I figured XP wasn't going to work (though I didn't know why) but I didn't really care since something with lower requirements like 98 would be much more suited for this anyway. With XP giving me problems, I tried to fool around with my Knoppix LiveCD, creating a new virtual machine with no hard drive, set to boot from CD.

Obviously, this worked, but it wasn't pleasant. Those of you who have used it know that Knoppix is pretty sluggish to begin with. Put it on a virtual CPU that would be lucky to get up to 100 MHz-equivalent speed, with only 256 meg of RAM allocated to it, and the experience becomes downright painful. Frozen Bubble wasn't even playable at lowest graphics settings. (Granted, no one uses a PC emulator for gaming, but it's Frozen Bubble!)

After that entertaining but useless experiment, I returned to the Windows issue. Looling through various online forums, I found that the error could be avoided by installing Service Pack 1.

Problem: I have a SP1 CD, so I don't need the internet, but how does one install SP1 if you can't even log-in?
Solution: Everyone's favorite last-resort, Safe Mode!

This did the trick, but do I even need to mention how god-awefully slow it was? Eventually, however, the "machine" rebooted...

Success! The system was beyond sluggish, but it worked, and as far as Windows was concerned, nothing outside of the "computer" it was running on even existed. I was even able to use what is arguably the most frequently-run and well known pieces of Win32 software on the planet:

Although it would be difficult to do much on a slow, emulated system like this, I was suprised to find that, once they were launched, basic GUI applications like Solitaire or MSPaint were actually quite useable. (Here I mean "useable" in the same sense that Doom 3 on a GeForce 4 MX is "playable") Networking even worked, although with no anti-virus, and the fact that Windows update would take too long to be feasable, I wasn't to eager to go online with this. While I obvously couldn't do any gaming on a setup like this (my main reasone for having both a Mac and a PC) I could easily see this sort of solution working for someone who just has one little program that they can't leave behind.

Granted, this is really nothing new. VirtualPC has been around for years, and Microsoft's tweaking of it allows Windows to be run faster on it then on this solution. The main draw to Q is that it's open source, and consequently free, whereas VPC costs $250.

Q is an interesting curiosity on my G4, but on the new Intel-based Macs, it has a chance to really shine. A preliminary Unversal Binary has been released, and users are already reporting that it is quite fast, with the virtual CPU benchmarking as high as 600 MHz on the Intel iMac. If the QEMU Accelerator is ported to OS X/x86, things could really get interesting.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I'm Such a Geek

Just a little teaser of what I'm playing with right now...

I'll post more on this when I get somewhere with it. For the curious: Q Emulator homepage.

I love open source. :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hallmark Day

Instead of merely echoing most of my friends' sentiments, I'm going to do it Film Student style with a movie quote:

"Random Thoughts, for Valentines day, 2004. The day's a holiday invented by greeting card companies, to make people feel like crap."

- Joel Barish, as played by Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The year's off a bit, but it still applies.

Monday, February 13, 2006

It's Not My Birthday!

Past midnight - looks like it's technically no longer my birthday.

Woo-hoo, 19. I can officially do... nothing I couldn't last year. Except maybe buy beer in Canada. So if I go to Canada in the next year, I'm all set.

Thanks to eveyone who wished me a Happy Birthday in person, on AIM, on Facebook or on the phone. Even if most of you will never read this!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Friday, February 10, 2006

Really cool multi-touch interface

I've seen lots of weird research ideas into "alternative" interfaces for computers, but this one seems really, really interesting. It's a touch-panel interface that can recognize multiple contact points at once, and do things based on the movement of both points. For example: if you touch opposite corners of an image and then pull your fingers apart, the image will scale up. If you rotate. Or, (depending on how the software is set up) you could zoom in.

This NYU page has a quicktime video showing some great proof-of-concept programs in action. The "Google Earth"-ish one looks especially fun. I want one!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Lightwave is fun!

Ok, it's been awhile since I updated this (although I think I'm still ahead of my friends with that...) but I wanted to put up some of what I've been working on in my 3D Computer Art class. Lightwave is a much less intuitive 3D program than I'm used to, but it's also a lot more powerful, and I'm liking the control that I have over what I'm modeling.

The first thing we modeled was a mug. Simple enough, but it taught us about lathes, the bend tool, sub-patching, and a slew of other features of the Lightwave interface.

Our next few models were a little more free-form, as we had to make three things from a really crappy poem we had to write. I made a pencil, a pad of paper, and a hand.

Really, I think the hand says it all. I thought I was ok at modeling, (even did some nice low-poly characters for Andy's and my senior project) and I could probably have made something resembling a hand in TrueSpace, but not like this. Well, maybe with a lot of practice, but not in the hour-and-a-half that it took me to do this. I like Lightwave.

On another topic, I've finished watching all the existing episodes of Firefly. Shiny! Very, very good series - Fox executives were fools to cancel it. Of course, this seems to be a theme with them (vis-a-vis: Family Guy). Haley, thank you for having this at the LAN party! Now all I need to do is see Serenity.

Extra fun bit of trivia: This post does not randomly jump from one topic to another...

The visual effects for both Firefly and Serenity were primarily done in Lightwave. :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

'Tis the Season

Looks like none of my friends have done this yet, so I'll be the first to say:

Happy Winter-een-mas!

If you are very confused right now... well, the official site might help you. But maybe not. ;)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Jack Thompson is a terrible human being

Most of you who read this blog also frequent Ctrl-Alt-Del, so you may have seen this on their main page already. In case you haven't I'll just quote Tim here:

A reader has just brought this matter to my attention.


"Earlier this month, gamer named Mitchell S. with the online screenname "Kuja105" who posts on a few online videogame forums (including and committed suicide. On January 2 he posted a message in both forums detailing his intent to end his own life, citing overwhelming complications with school and finances.

A very brief period of initial disbelief was followed by a barrage of replies from fellow forum members pleading that he not take his life, trying to talk him out of it.

For days, no word was heard from Mitchell. Fearing the worst, members and administration from began searching for contact information, spending hours on the phone trying to get in touch with him. Finally on January 4, Ryan K., an administrator at, got him on the phone and spent hours desperately trying to talk him out of it.

Sadly, Mitchell soon ended his own life by consuming antifreeze and painkillers.

Later, members from the site contacted Mitchell's family to find out the grave news. They reported it to their online community, and posted a tribute to their passed friend on the front page of" Full Report Here.

Mr. Jack Thompson then sent in the following letter regarding the situation to, one of the forums frequented by Mitchell, where he was known well:

"Your "gamer friend" will find peace through the Lord, Jesus Christ, but sadly it's too late for that.

There is a void in every heart. You can fill it up with the things of God, or the things not of God. This unfortunate soul chose to fill it up with combat games. The playing of these video games is masturbatory activity, meaning senseless self-stimulation. If you gamers could use a dictionary you would know that that term is not necessarily a sexual one.

The real tragedy here extends beyond the life and death of this one fellow. There are literally millions of young people and young adults whose despair is deepend by turning to the things of this world and then finding them meaningless.

All of you gamers need to put down the controllers and get a life. The utter inanity of the vast majority of postings here shows how vapid "gaming" really is.

You are one of the cheerleaders for this wasting of time and the wasting of lives. Do you feel any remorse for having contributed to this "culture of death?" Of course not. Hey, let's all play MORE games, and ignore all the really productive things to do with our lives.

Let's pretend to be shocked that a gamer might descend into deeper depression, as his gamer "buds," knowing he was killing himself, couldn't figure out how to call 911 themselves for him. That would have involved leaving their computers I guess.

Sad. Sad for all of you."

Ok, so I was well aware that Jack Thompson was an extremist idealogue and an idiot, but I was previously unware that he lacked a soul. Seriously, what kind of person takes the tragic death of a member of a community and tries to twist it to damn the very community which is still grieving over the loss? That's just evil!

I noted how Thompson stole Bush's "culture of life" speil and called gaming a "culture of death". Sorry Jack, but if your "culture of life" allows and promotes the cold exploitation of an individual's death for one's own means, then I want none of it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Dead Pixel Fixer?

I thought WidowPC's dead pixel fixer looked interesting. It's a epilepsy-inducing movie you are supposed to run on loop behind a dead pixel overnight, and it might be able to un-stick it. I have no idea whether or not this actually works, as I've had the incredible good fortune of never owning an LCD with any dead pixels (over an old Dell laptop, a PowerBook, a 19" display, a PDA, an iPod nano, and a cell phone!) but I can't think of how it would hurt to try if you suffer from this all-too-common problem.

This thread on Applegeeks has a couple testimonials that the thing does sometimes work.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Comic, Apple, College, Yay! (or, Yet Another "Update" Post)

It's another multi-topic update post, so I've broken it into sections for easy reading.


First off, new comic on Directionless! That's right, I have real honest-to-God content again, and I even introduced a new character!


Tuesday was the keynote address at the annual Macworld expo, and as usual Apple rolled out a bunch of new stuff. Most interesting among the things announced was the actual introduction of the first Intel-based Macs, specifically, the iMac and the MacBook Pro.

Let me just say this: The name "MacBook Pro" sucks. A lot. "PowerBook" sounded cool. "MacBook Pro" makes you sound like a clucking chicken if you say it too fast. I can understand wanting to drop "Power" from the name since the PowerPC G4 chip is no longer being used, but wanting "Mac" in all your product names was no excuse for accepting such a sucky name. "ProBook" wouldn't have been great, but it would have been better.

Sigh... Name aside, the hardware looks good, although since Final Cut Pro/Express isn't a universal binary yet, it wouldn't do me much good even if I could afford a new laptop. But is is good to see the PowerBook get a big update like this. The G5 is still an awesome chip (That's why Microsoft is using something based on it in the XBox 360) but the G4 was getting more than a little long in the tooth. And Core Duo is actually really cool! Best of all, it seems it's good enough to wow the Penny-Arcade guys!

In other Apple-related news, I used some of my Christmas money to buy another 512 meg stick of RAM for my PowerBook, bringing it up to a Gig. Mmmm.... RAM. :)


Heading back to Syracuse tomorrow, classes start tuesday. The online scheduling system for SU doesn't offer nice online schedules like CMU does (well, it kinda does, but they aren't publicly-accessable) but that doesn't stop me from making my own:

My Spring 2006 Schedule

All in all, a mixed bag. I have no classes on friday, and nothing starts before 12:30pm, which is awesome. On the other hand, on thursday I have class pretty much straight from 12:30 to 10pm, with less than an hour break in there for dinner. Yuck. I got into the "Intro to 3D" computer arts class, so I get to spend 3 hours a week sitting in front of a PowerMac playing with Lightwave, which is cool. Unfortunatly, I also have Writing 205, which is a whole class devoted to research papers.

So that's recent events. Don't expect another update until I get back to college and settled in. Now I have to pack. :(