Monday, April 28, 2008

Sign of the day

From Stop & Shop, Bay Shore.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

One Secret Bush DOESN'T keep

This question has been on my mind for years. Any doctors out there have an idea?








Saturday, April 26, 2008

That hot dog TALKS!

While cruising around the ville today, I happened upon a service called GotVoice, which converts your voicemails into text and MP3. Sounds interesting:

GotVoice converts your cell, home and work voicemail to text and sends it to your phone and email. It's the quickest and easiest way to access your voicemail…let it go to text.

Exciting, no? But the greatest feature of all is that you can apparently have it read your voice mail back to you! Which didn't make much sense when I first read it, considering that voicemail is already spoken-word. But then I saw what makes this service unique.

Lip-synched Avatars read your voicemail to you. Turn your boss into the devil or your friend into a lip-synched Hot Dog.

Yes indeed. You can now ease the pain of creditor calls by making them look like large, drunken frankfurters.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Gut pitch

This post should be a consumer alert to all concerned clothing wearers. Target's "More Room in Gut" campaign is clearly defunct.

Over the years, I have enjoyed many a piece of fine, cheap clothing from Target. Their shirts have always been ample, and their pants are designed to grow as I grow. But last week, I purchased what appeared to be a nice shirt at Target. It's a nice light green and white gingham number. I bought the XXL just to make sure I'd have, again, plenty of room to grow.

I got home, put the shirt on, The thing was so tight I could barely button it. I didn't want to risk it, because I'm aware of the damage a forcibly expelled button can do to drywall and plaster. True, I could use the shirt as a crimefighting tool ("FREEZE! Or I'll exhale!"), but I am not that community minded.

But how could this be? This is an XXL shirt. I may be grotesquely obese, but I've never not fit into a huge shirt before. I brought out the tape measure. I am currently holding a Gap shirt, XL, that fits great. Lots of room. It's got a 51" gut pitch - the distance from button hole to button. (Just as airlines measure seat pitch, so do I measure gut pitch.) I then took out this Target XXL shirt. Only 47" gut pitch! One size larger, and a full 4" less gut pitch! This is either mislabeled, or the shirts are being marketed to an increasingly slim, fit America. Since I can't visualize the latter without laughing, I'm going with the former.

In summary, beware of Target shirts purporting to be large enough. Keep the gut pitch in mind, and remember that if the Gap is like JetBlue, then Target is more like Delta.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The scourge of DRM

Paying for the rights to listen to a DRM-protected song is JUST LIKE paying for a song, except when it's not and you're about to lose your whole library because you've reached the end of lifecycle support with your vendor. Or, as the "Dear MSN Music Customer" mail I received last night says,

MSN Music is constantly striving to provide you, our user, with the most compelling music experience that we can. We want to tell you about
an upcoming change to our support service to ensure you have a seamless experience with the music you've downloaded from MSN Music.

. . .
I am writing to let you know that as of August 31, 2008, Microsoft will change the level of support to be offered for music purchased directly from MSN Music prior to November 14, 2006. As of August 31, 2008, we will no longer be able to support the retrieval of license keys for the songs you purchased from MSN Music or the authorization of additional computers. License keys already obtained as of August 31, 2008 will continue to allow you to listen to songs on all the computers that you previously authorized for service.I am writing to let you know that as of August 31, 2008, Microsoft will change the level of support to be offered for music purchased directly from MSN Music prior to November 14, 2006. As of August 31, 2008, we will no longer be able to support the retrieval of license keys for the songs you purchased from MSN Music or the authorization of additional computers. License keys already obtained as of August 31, 2008 will continue to allow you to listen to songs on all the computers that you previously authorized for service.
. . .
Please take this opportunity to make sure you have the licenses you need to access your music. As a friendly reminder, please remember
that the MSN Music service allows you to authorize up to 5 computers for songs purchased from MSN Music. You must have licenses for the songs on each authorized computer, in order to be able to play the songs successfully. If you have already played a given song on a computer, then you have successfully obtained the license key for that song. MSN Music keys do not expire. If you intend to transfer a previously downloaded song to a new computer (or an existing computer with a new operating system, such as an upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista) within the maximum allowed limit of 5 computers, please do so before August 31, 2008. You will need to obtain a license key for each of your songs downloaded from MSN Music on any new computer, and you must do so before August 31, 2008. If you attempt to transfer your songs to additional computers after August 31, 2008, those songs will not successfully play.

So just remember. Our licenses don't expire, but if your machine expires (or if you upgrade to Vista) you will lose all of your music with no recourse. Have a DRM day!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Time to take the action?

Because if you are ready to find out why the palm is emerging from the O in STOP, and why the skeleton has wasted his life, click here. Or down there -->

Another reason Bay Shore is great!

Day or night, you can always head on down to Montauk Highway and pick up a nice pack of smooth, refreshing beear cigarettes.

Let's go baseball!

Suppose you're a major beer distributor who really likes supporting professional sports. You've got a whole bunch of posters designed, linking your brand of alcoholic beverage with area athletic teams.

But something goes wrong. You don't pull off that coveted big league sponsorship. You can't make those New York Mets posters for all the local booze merchants. All is lost! it?

Solution: Create completely generic signs celebrating "New York Baseball", a schedule for New York Baseball, and a fan-pleasing pennant with the name of their favorite sport on it!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bush has one dance

It involves relucantly standing up, doing a chicken head movement, and hunching shoulders uncomfortably. Then grimacing for a second and standing up board-stiff before trying it again.

But at least he got to dance in New Orleans! That proves that the city isn't decimated!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ten Questions for John McCain

Just give me a 15 minute interview slot, PLEASE. I just have ten questions. They won't even take the full 15 minutes.
  1. Do you foresee centuries-old conflict between Sunni and Shiite ending when you tell them to sit down and "Stop the bullshit," or have you have some other magical plan now?
  2. Is it ever appropriate to call a woman a c***?
  3. Was it right to attack a nation that we knew at the time had no WMD and no ties to the attacks of 9/11?
  4. You are proud to oppose torture. So why did you vote against a bill in Feb that banned techniques not authorized by the Army Field Manual?
  5. What things has Bush done badly that you are going to do better?
  6. After all your work on campaign financing issues, why did you feel it was OK to withdraw from public financing without FEC approval, and then lie about it? How can we trust you to uphold the law when you violated the one you sponsored?
  7. You have sought the support of evangelicals who say things like Hurricane Katrina was sent to punish New Orleans for its sin. Why did God give you cancer?
  8. Is planning and implementing torture a war crime? If not why not; if so, then who from the Bush Administration should be labeled a war criminal?
  9. Memory loss and cognitive impairment are common symptoms of aging for people in their 70s. What was the previous question I asked you?
  10. 36% of men in their 70s suffer from incontinence. Have you ever worn adult diapers?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Controversy at Guitar Center

The genuine Guns & Roses Slash guitar kit does not contain a tophat, sunglasses, pick, and a strap. Instead, you get a strap, picks, and Slash's autobiography. In this blog's opinion, that makes it about 104% less cool.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Good thing they got this guy writing in the Times

Bill Kristol. Why even bother? Just run another ExxonMobil ad in that slot.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time the last couple of weeks with conservatives of all ages and leanings.

No, really? Bill Kristol hanging out with a bunch of conservatives? What the hell is going on with this topsy-turvy world?

Every time you think the Times is snapping out of it, they run either something like this or, better yet, a unique NCAA bracket that--unlike EVERY OTHER BRACKET in the country--was drawn up to resemble a periodic table.

Lord Hummer's Cup

This year, the Islanders, Rangers, and Devils had a friendly little wager called the Hummer Metro Ice Challenge. The results were based on games between these three great rivals. the Islanders tore out to an early lead, and the Rangers stayed close - both teams beat up on the Devils all year for some bizarre reason.

So anyway, even though the Islanders stumbled at the end of the season, they still split with the Rangers as the season ended, leaving them one point ahead in the Challenge standings after winning the season series with the Rags, 5 games to 3. The Rangers had one last chance, with a meaningless Sunday game against the Devils. Two points would catapult them ahead of the Isles for the Hummer Cup Metro Challenge Cup. But no. The Devils won the game in a shootout, leaving a tie at the top.

The final standings were:

Isles 11-4-1, 23 pts
Rags 10-3-3, 23 pts
Devs 3-9-4, 10 pts

So let's review. The Isles and Rangers tied at 23 points. The Isles had more wins in the Hummer Challenge Cup Metro series. The Isles had 5 of 8 wins against the Rangers. THE ISLANDERS WIN THE HUMMER CUP! THE ISLANDERS WIN THE HUMMER CUP!

Seems simple enough. Then the intrigue started. At the end of Sunday’s game, Sam Rosen comes on and announces “and the Rangers win the Hummer Metro Ice Challenge!” (This is the same genius who announced that the Islanders had been eliminated from the playoffs one week before they ended up making the playoffs.) Someone, somewhere (and I blame the evil James Dolan of Cablevision for this) just randomly decided that the Rangers were the winners despite losing all standard tiebreakers. None of this would be important except that the prize was $50,000 to the winning team's chosen charity.

So now there's a firestorm going on because the Islanders won the Challenge fair and square, but the Cablevision/MSG folks decided to give the charity money to the Rangers instead.

Chris Botta, the media relations VP of the Isles, called the studio immediately upon hearing Rosen saying this and, by his own account, swore out Al Trautwig. Even the Rangers partisans are all saying “What the F?” Botta has mentioned that there is an imminent solution, but we haven't heard anything further about it.

So to summarize: Madison Square Garden/Cablevision made up some bullshit and stole $50K from the Islanders charity for sick children. Way to go!

Better Beamer

As the parents on the hockey team were kind enough to present me with a debit gift card, I decided to drop my new-found loot at B&H. I'd had my eye on a Better Beamer for a while, so I took the plunge.

The Visual Echos FX4 Better Beamer Flash Extender will help increase the reach of the flash and increases the flash output by about 2 to 3 f/stops. It focuses and concentrates the output of the flash into a narrow beam via the fresnel screen that gets positioned in front of the flash. This allows shooting at greater distances and shooting with smaller apertures.

I excitedly attached my Better Beamer to my flash, set it up on my camera along with my BML (Big Manly Lens), and aimed it at a blue jay across the yard. I focused in, pressed the shutter release, and POP! The bird exploded in a cloud of feathers.


HDR quick grabs

Digital SLRs have sensors whose analog output is converted to digital information, generally at 12 or 14 bits per pixel. The common analogy is to think of each photosite on a sensor as a bucket that can hold a certain number of electrons of either red, green, or blue light. Once the bucket overflows, you have a blown-out highlight in that location. (Technically, the sensor doesn't have pixels. Like a TV, an image is interpolated from the RGB values around it.) The larger the sensor on a camera, the more electrons a single photosite can hold. That's why a 6 MP image from a DSLR is always going to look far better, with far less noise, than a 6 MP image from a small point-and-shoot.

Anyway, you have 12 to 14 bits of information converted from each photosite. When that's converted to JPG, you lose some information because a JPG is 8-bits-per-pixel. You may lose some detail in a highlight, or a shadow might be clipped. If you shoot in RAW format, the camera holds the full information coming off the sensor, without converting to 8-bit values.

What an HDR photo does is expand the bits-per-pixel to 24 or 32, and then combines bracketed images to fill in info that may have been missing from a single shot. (Either the highlights overflowed or the shadows weren't exposed long enough to come out.) Once you've done this, you can use software to choose how you want these pixels mapped back to the visible 8-bit or 16-bit space. The result is a compression of the overall dynamic range into values that can be displayed in an image, just like the superior human eye can register them.

Last night I took a series of photos from a terrace in Tudor City. The first shows what a typical photo of the Empire State Building would look like. It is probably eight or nine stops brighter than the nearby buildings, so you can't get both the tower and the buildings properly exposed.

That was the JPG out of the camera. I took the RAW file (16 bits of data instead of 8) and ran it through Photomatix Pro. It expanded the image range to 32 bits-per-pixel, and then let me remap the tones. I overdid the color saturation a bit, but you can see how much more information is stored in the original image, versus what you get from the JPG.

I also bracketed a series of four photos. It went from so underexposed that you couldn't see much beyond the detail of the tower, up to exposed so you could see buildings but the tower was overly bright. I then used Photomatix to pull all the image data from these four JPGs into a single HDR file, and then mapped them all back to 16-bit space. (And then to 8-bit.)

This was a handheld bracketing, so there was a bit of misalignment and probably camera shake as well. This would look a lot better taken from a tripod. But note how you can now see the detail in the nearby buildings as well as the far brighter ESB tower.

I've taken a number of other HDR landscapes, all available in this collection as well.

Eating cessation

After seeing a box of Nicorette patches on Eric's counter yesterday, I started thinking about what happens once someone stops smoking and gains weight. So I've come up with a new idea that I am officially copyrighting, so you can't do it too. Porkarette. You lose weight by attaching small adhesive strips of bacon to your upper arm, where the porky goodness leaches into your skin. Now you'll be able to go all day without a nosh. Available in original or mesquite smoked flavors.

Cheap advertising links

Well, I decided "what the H" and added some adSense links to my page. My goal is to buy a Nikon D3, so start clicking away.

My first five links:

Hillary Clinton Wristband
Hillary Campaign Website
AARP Auto Insurance
Door Replacement
Need A New Garage Door? (Denver area)

I have been crawled for relevance!