Getting to know the new house.
So, what am I doing about it?
- Getting up (Lord willing!) at 5 AM weekdays to get in an hour's walk. After the move it'll be easier, because my commute will be halved.
- Eating healthier! Current research says a hearty, protein filled breakfast may be quite beneficial to losing weight.
- Indulging in lots of fruits and vegetables. I don't think I can go back to my old five-apple-a-day diet, but I can certainly have two! I can also make sure to get some cooked or raw vegetables with lunch and dinner, and make them a larger portion of my meals than anything starchy or carby.
- Getting more sleep. Yes, they say sleep is important for keeping the body machine working optimally. Anyways, who doesn't love sleep?
- Not cutting out the coffee. I may be slowing my progress down, but I really enjoy a good cold cup of coffee - with milk and some Amoretti syrup in it. At the moment I've got Butterscotch, Amaretto, and Raspberry. It's just too good a treat to give up! On the other hand, I almost never drink pop or sugary juices, so I'm not too bad off.
- Weight training. My reading says this can have a big impact on fat loss. And, who doesn't love to be a little stronger? I'm using 25 lb. free weights - we'll see if I feel like going any heavier than that. I'm not out to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
We're moving right along. Christmas and New Year's did slow things down a trifle, but we're on the home stretch now - just have to have the abstract checked out, and we can close.
There had been a small delay as the septic inspector couldn't find the distribution box, and needed to check it before he could sign off on the septic system. Turns out, there's no D-box, and so they had to find and inspect the link-up between the tank and the leach field. All seems well now, though.
I keep bugging everybody with all of my ideas for the house and what improvements can be made. I'm reading left and right about heating systems, since I'd like that replace that in a few years with something more efficient.
My more immediate list of things to do after the house is purchased is:
- Buy new locks
- Buy deadbolts, if they can be easily installed
- Tear out the living room carpet
- Tear out the master bedroom carpet
- Refinish either of those two floors (as needed)
- Buy floor jacks to provide better support for the first floor joists
- Call scrappers to remove the old cast iron, coal-fired forced air furnace
- Have a blast with Sarah decorating and putting things in their places as we progress toward our June 8th wedding! The plan is for her to come over some days on weekends to paint and plan out how she wants things organized.
My concerns at present are with the state of the upstairs plaster, I'll be looking closely at that. Also, given my experiences with floor refinishing at my Mom's house this summer - I'll be renting a floor sander.
I decided to have a little fun, and pulled out my keyboards. Please pardon the dust! The upper keyboard has not been used in some years, and I mean to clean it.
I'm using the free version of the Hauptwerk software, which limits me to a polyphony of 256 pipes. But, it seems like it's enough for now. I've been tinkering for awhile, and opted to record a little.
The stop registration is crude; I have very little control. Hauptwerk makes it easy now to assign unused keys on the keyboard to perform various functions, and since my lower keyboard has 88 keys, I have more flexibility than I used to.
I set two keys to control the pianissimo and forte thumb pistons, so I have two very basic levels of tonal control. When both pistons are off, the registration that I preset can then be used. So, I basically have soft, medium, and loud. Since I have no pedals, I'm also tending to run the 16' stops (those are the bass ones) on the lower, or great, manual - which means it can sound a bit muddy.
Nevertheless, it's grand fun!
I'm buying a house! The mortgage approval came through yesterday, so we should be good to go. I'll be moving in immediately, and then in June Sarah will be moving in!
This cozy little gem is about 1698 sq. ft. (including the enclosed porch), and has about 3 acres of land to go with it. It's an 1860 colonial, with a 3 car detached garage. I was pretty worried about the appraisal coming through high enough to match up with our contracted purchase price - and wouldn't you know it, the house appraised for $500 more than our sale price! That was perfect.
The only downside to the whole thing is that I need to have flood insurance, since the property is in a flood zone. A 100-year flood zone...or 1% chance of flooding every year. Because there's a little creek adjoining the property. There is probably a 15-20 foot drop in elevation from the house to that creek. I personally think the concept of the flood zone is ridiculous - the FEMA map for this area actually shows the flood zone boundary bisecting my property.
I think that after the house is mine, and things settle down a bit, I'll try to have the property re-evaluated. The most recent flood zone evaluation is from 1982.
Nevertheless, after closing I'll be sure to post pictures. :-)
I finally got my hands on a Raspberry Pi B! It has a 700 MHz ARM processor, 512 MB of RAM, Ethernet, two USB ports, HDMI, composite video out, and a headphone jack.
It's beautiful, see?
The first thing I did, was put the Raspbmc software on it. This is a modified Debian bundles with XBMC, which is my media center software of choice.
I have configured the UI to run at 1080p - by default the various XBMC packages for RPI run at 720p for the user interface because of the reduced system resources. I find that 1080p works just fine.
My unit is overclocked to 850 MHz, this is a setting within Rapbmc and is perfectly safe to do.
So, what can I do with this?
I have successfully streamed HD podcasts from my iPhone to the Raspberry PI through XBMC's Airplay receiver.
1080p video decoding is a piece of cake for this thing. I have had no issues decoding a 7 GB 1080p video file over the 10/100 ethernet connecting. A full Blu-Ray bitrate test I have yet to do, however.
I can watch YouTube. Roku's can't do that.
Currently, I'm trying to get my USB wireless card working. This seems to involve recompiling the kernel module for the particular card I have.
If you use Git to clone the Linux kernel sources on the Pi - you will probably need to create some swap space, either on the SD card or a USB flash drive. Otherwise you'll probably find yourself getting errors during the clone process.
Sarah's family has a Kodak Brownie Automatic f/2.3 8mm movie camera.
Original 8mm film comes on a roll, the film is 16mm wide and double-perforated. When you finish the roll, you reverse it to expose the other half. When it's developed, they split and splice it.
It's a fun system.
I ran a roll of film through it this past spring, and finally got around to developing it. The matching Kodak projector isn't ready yet...needs a bulb which is a trifle expensive just now...but here's a sample of the beauty of vintage home movies.
I scanned this in with my HP G4050 scanner, black and white, at 2,400 DPI. The frames on 8mm film are SO SMALL!
mostly done this because my two rolls of slides were also
developed...and I can't for the life of me find the tray for my scanner
that holds the 35mm slides!
The 8mm B&W movie film was developed by Yale Film and Video
in Burbank, CA - I did it mail order, and they were fast! I shipped the
slides and movie film at the same time (the slides went to Dwayne's Photo in Kansas), and both came back the same day.
Can't argue with that!
Slides to come, hopefully...whenever I find my holder.
We'd been hounded for days that we were going to have a disaster as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Praise the Lord, the effects in the greater Rochester area were really pretty mild. Nobody I knew lost power for more than a minute.
That said, the state of affairs in New York City is pretty poor. While the utility status is improving (or, so the news tells me) there's still a lot of folks without shelter, food, or gasoline.Squarespace, who hosts this website, is based in New York City. So it was with great interest that I read their firsthand description of their efforts to assist in keeping the datacenter running, and their customer's websites online. The team succeeded, against ridiculous odds (and flooding) to keep the generator running. So, hats off to them. You can follow their status updates here.
Having worked for a good bit of time on Element 17,
I was anxious to put it out there for people to read. Not right away,
of course, it needed to be proofread and corrected so that a product of
reasonable quality was on the Internet.
So, that's been done.
I may release another version soon that incorporates a few more
changes, but the general story is out there.
Was it easy? In a word, yes.
I used an application for Mac OS called Scrivener.
This has got to be one of the best copywriting pieces of software out
there. I didn't use all of the terrific organizational tools that it
incorporates, but they seem excellent. I found that producing a
Kindle-ready document was easy. Formatting the same document for
CreateSpace (where you can produce print-on-demand paperbacks) took a
little more tweaking, but it was not bad. I'm going over the proof copy
of that now, and spotting a few errors.
Once the Kindle file
is uploaded to Amazon's direct publishing service, it's very quick and
easy to set up the description, rights, and pricing. If you choose to
enroll in the Kindle Select, which means you opt to exclusively
distribute the eBook through Amazon, you are able to engage in free-book
promotions, lend your book through the Kindle Lending Library, and in
some cases receive higher royalties.
A good cover is
all-important. It needs to be eye-catching from the thumbnail that
Amazon uses in the search results. This is something that, unless you're
an accomplished graphic designer, should probably be hired out. There
are many reasonable options for doing this. Being a rebel, and saving up
to buy a house at the moment, I did the cover for Element 17 myself.
That does not mean I can't change it in the future when I can afford it!
the submission is complete, the eBook will go into limbo while it is
reviewed by Amazon. This process could take 12-48 hours, but is usually
less. Mine was up and running in less than 6 hours. Anytime you make a
change to the book, description, pricing, etc. it will need to be
reviewed. The only exception I've seen is when I engage in a promotion
through Kindle Select - those take effect the next day (or whenever you
schedule your promotion for). You get 5 promotional days per 3 month
period. Use them wisely.
The stats: It's tempting to check
your eBook stats every 15 minutes or so after it goes live. You'll
probably be disappointed, unless you've hyped the book beyond belief and
are an established author. Be suspicious of customer reviews within the
first few hours too - I mean, unless there's a speed reader in the
crowd or your book is quite short, not many people are likely to have
read it in a meaningful way. My stats for Element 17 currently stand as
Purchased: 2 (one of them was me)
Free promotional downloads (US & India): 322
Free promotional downloads (UK): 50
Free promotional downloads (Germany): 5
Free promotional downloads (France): 1.
Not exactly top selling. While the eBook was under free promotion, it rose to #6 in the Technothriller genre, and #62 on the Action & Adventure genre (which is of course more broad). I was pretty excited about that!
So, things have settled out pretty much now. I'm learning
this whole industry from the ground up - so it's exciting for me to
grasp new ways to get it out there. The best tool to sell is, of course,
a quality product. I'm learning the writing industry from the ground up
as well. (Well, that's not entirely true, I've known English for many
years! And did a great deal of technical writing which was not all bad.)
In October of 2010, I purchased my Ford Fiesta from Steet-Ponte Ford in Utica, NY. After 23 months, it now has 50,600 miles (and change) on it.
This poor car has been rear-ended twice (both minor, barely caused a scratch), run over a truck tire on the Massachusetts Turnpike (tore off some plastic under the bumper), and just generally done a lot of driving.
It's still the best car in the world to me. I'm averaging 39.1 MPG at the moment, and enjoying the Ford SYNC system...most of the time. I cannot use that thing for directions as it pretty consistently fails. At one point it thought (without telling me) that the GoodWill I wanted to go to was 500 miles away, and was happily guiding me there until I got suspicious and asked it where I was going. ('Route Status')
It doesn't look *quite* so pretty as it does in the picture anymore. It needs a wash right now, but beside that there are three small dents in the hood from stones, a dent in a door, paint chipped off the edge of a door, a slightly gouged armrest in a back door, and a dinged-in front license plate, most likely caused by somebody's trailer hitch.
It's a keeper.
I always want to add 'D' into the model numbers when I discuss cameras. No such addition can be made here, though: the EOS 620 is the second auto-focus capable film camera produced by Canon. It hails from the late 1980s.
I use mine with a Canon EF 50MM f/1.4 lens that I purchased with my 5D Mk. II (now sold to some wonderful wedding photographer folks in Tennessee. Here's their website.
I have actually run a couple of rolls of my favorite Fuju Velvia 100F through this camera so far. I have not, however, developed any of it. There is a notable lack of 'real' photo shops in the area, so I will wind up mailing the film out.
I've also run a roll of ISO 25 orthochromatic film through it, which I can develop on my own once I pick up some more B&W chemistry.
There IS a roll of Fuji ISO400 waiting for me at WalMart...maybe I'll pick it up tonight. Then I have to remember how to use my scanner again!
This camera is fun to use! In many ways, the operation is not all that different from modern Canon cameras. It's simpler because you have so many fewer menus and options to choose from, which I like. Even though my camera is from the '80s, and I bought it for $12 (plus shipping), it works like a champ - the top LCD works - including the Indiglo function - and the shutter fires properly and promptly. The ONLY complaint I have about this camera so far is that the autofocus is definitely first-gen. It's a tad slow, even with the ultrasonic lens, and can't always pick up something to focus on.
Maybe I'll have to get an EOS-3 eventually to make up for it, but this EOS 620 is definitely a keeper.
Photos to come!
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. What it means, really, is that your darks are darker and your whites are whiter - in photography. That said, though, photographers use it now to create all sorts of hyper-realistic imagery.
An HDR image is made by taking several pictures of the same things, at different brightness levels (typically by varying the shutter speed), in order to provide multiple images where there is detail both in the darker areas and lighter areas. Digital cameras in particular cannot capture this full range of lights accurately in a single image.
These images are then combined in computer software, and the result can vary vastly. Here's an example:
We start with these three images:
You can see the differences in exposure between the three. The Canon EOS 5D Mk. II can be set up automatically to take three separate exposures just by holding the shutter down - but this is best done with a tripod.
Now, with a little Photoshop...
From those three source images, a great deal of editing is possible. Because there is so much detail, the exposures can be adjusted such that we are able to retain detail, even if we increase the brightness. The color and other parameters of the photo may also be tweaked. It's definitely an interesting process!
I finally found, amongst the dregs of my cabling boxes, a lead that - with a little trimming - fit the connector on the Remington Rollectric. It's working reliably now. Here's a picture of the outside (I didn't have the camera handy when I dismantled it, but I'll have to take it apart in another post):
The case is not in perfect condition, the cloth is slightly stained, but I honestly feel this was a very elegant product. We'll see how it actually works in the morning. Makes a nice buzz sound, though.
So, at one of my hopefully famous barn sale excusions with Sarah, I found a 1950s/1960s Remington Rollectric shaver. It was only $2.00, so I threw caution to the wind and picked it up. It needed a bit of cleaning, which I did with rubbing alcohol and Windex, and - alas - it didn't work. So, I took it apart, cleaned the motor, made sure everything was in proper order - and it still didn't work. So, I determined the power cord is no good. When I post photos, it may be easy to see why - since the cord gets tightly rolled up to fit in the case, so it's probably damaged the wiring. I was able to run the shaver for a moment with a spare, ill-fitting, power cord. So, I know the razor is good. More photos to come tonight! But, for now, enjoy this ad:
I've been itching to get a really high-quality stereo system. I had considered building one, there's a lot of plans and ideas on the Internet to do that, but I really don't have the time just now. So, I - as I often do - look to the vintage side of things. Typically the quality is better, as long as the object in question has been cared for.
I picked up the tape deck (not that I listen to tapes), at a Salvation Army store for about $10. It works perfectly, and while it's the 'low end' model for it's time, it has all the features I need.
The real treasure is the amplifier. It's a Pioneer SA-9100 from 1973 or 1974. It was a $450 receiver back then, and is considered to be a very good sounding unit. It has three speaker selections, A, B, and C, but it can also output to A+B or A+C. It does 60 watts per channel which, while not a lot, is certainly suitable for most normal sized rooms.
I was particularly drawn to this one by the fact that it has two phonograph inputs. Since I plan to run one turntable for 33/45, and another for 78 RPM records, this is a lifesaver. What's more, there is an impedance selector for the Phono 2 input, allowing it to support a wide range of cartridges. There is support for two tape decks (ostensibly for tape to tape dubbing), though I could see myself using one of the tape interfaces for a CD player/recorder. Two auxillary inputs will allow for an MP3 player and computer input, and it's all rounded out by a tuner input for the radio receiver I haven't got yet.
I'll work on that, but I'm not keen on spending too much more money just now - especially since I don't listen to the radio all that often.
My fiancee's sister kindly gave me a nice Scott turntable, which I've ordered a stylus for. It's quite elegant and has some nice features, such as variable speed controls (one knob for 33, one knob for 45).
I spent this evening neatly running speaker wire into the living room so I can take advantage of the remote speaker output. Works beautifully!
Not bad for an eBay item that was advertised as 'not working'.
I finally got around to developing this particular image. I took this last summer (I can't remember when, but it was during a vacation week, which Sarah reminds me: I had one each in June and July) up on Rt. 8, north of Utica. It's a scenic overlook of the West Canada creek. If you look closely, you can spot a chap fishing. This was taken with my 1930s Kodak Recomar 33, with my usual 9x12cm Efke ISO 100 black and white film. Click the image for a bigger view.
I really need, at some point, to put more RAM in my laptop. It runs well for the most part, but some intensive tasks can bog it down a bit. All in all, it's not bad.
I updated my Apple products to iOS 5, and have started making use of some of the iCloud features. I retain my Google mail, of course, but am trying out the other products like calendar, reminders, address book, and photo stream. I'm very pleased with the photo stream functionality, since it means I'm no longer doomed to email photos to myself to get them on other devices.
Overall iOS 5 seems to be a success, though - I do enjoy the new notification system, and there's just enough other tweaks in there to make it all very worthwhile. I do not see myself upgrading to an iPhone 4S, though. Although, the 8 megapixel f/2.8 camera is a pretty nice touch.
I picked up 110 more 78 RPM records at the Ithaca book sale this past weekend. Almost all are single-sided pre-1920 records, so I'm very happy about that. It seems like the quality of the records gets better every year!
My grandfather is driving an old John Deere, though I confess I don't recall the model. I'm driving a '55 International Harvested 300 Utility.
Such as it is...it hasn't been pulled out in years, so this evening I picked up some fitting pants, and test it out again. As it is, the vest needs some button help. I seem to be cursed in life to sewing buttons on every remotely nice piece of clothing I have.