Monday, December 24, 2007

Where Did All The Blog Postings Suddenly Come From?

Or maybe you hadn't noticed. But for those of you who have...nothing since April and then...blammo, a bunch in a row online as of Christmas morning.

Here's the deal. I've been nutzoid busy since May...yeah, since May, I'm serious. I haven't had an inclination, opportunity, or enough time to rub together to actually post things on the blog (which is RSS'd to Facebook, too.) However, all of this hadn't stopped me ranting to other people on email, of course.

So, what you're reading lately is some of my more lucid ramblings that I sent to others during that time. That's the why the dates span the year - they're actually accurate (Blogger lets you change the date to the time you wrote it, versus the time you posted it.)

Soon, it will be year-end clean up the blog time, but I'll probably leave most of this stuff up here for now.

It wasn't that busy a year, after all, was it?

Happy holidays and Happy New Year to all...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cheap Political Ads

I've noticed lately that it seems everyone is doing the "clean background, slide some still photo of your most un-favourite politician around the screen and add some text that moves, too, then finally add a narration" kind of thing in their political spots. I see it on the telly all too frequently.

It's not what I would call the highest production value, any of it, but Goddess knows it's cheap to produce. It goes back to the

"Manny's Blowout Carpet Sale
This Weekend Only
Everything Must Go!"


commercial that's essentially a bunch of stills of Manny's place, an explosion animation and a screaming Everything Must Go graphic with narration and music. The lowest form of commercial, in my view. All of this appeals to the lowest common denominator mentality.

Ooo, I can be bitter when I've only had one cup of coffee on a Sunday morning, can't I?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Windows Vista - Bah!

Bought a new desktop PC box for the office on Friday. It comes, of course, with Windows Vista. What a pile of shit. MS has managed to take a perfectly good OS (XP), pretty it up with cutsey pop-up semi-transparent Windows, and then add so much security crap in it, it makes it almost impossible to use.

Oh yeah, they managed to hide really useful things like "add/remove programs" and "Programs" (you know, from the Start menu?) in curiously new places, too. In other words: take a well known layout, and f*ck with it because it would be a cool idea to do so, and we can. Let's not take useability into account, or anything sensible like that.

Latest fun: even though I have administrator rights, all file folders are "read only", right back to the C:\ drive itself. Trying to 'uncheck' the "read only" box, works, until you hit "apply" and close that setup Window. Opening it again, shows...surprise! We were only foolin' - your stuff is still "read only." Tee hee. So how, exactly, am I supposed to do any work? I was shocked that Vista pulled this stunt, but apparently, it's a well known 'security feature' on the forums. Everybody hates this. [Blogger's note: apparently, I found out later, that this checkbox doesn't really do anything anyway, so it doesn't matter where it's set...so why do they have it then???]

If you're more than a level 0 Windows/PC user, this OS will drive you nutz. You've been warned! >:(

Fortunately, you can "end run" most of this garbage if you know what you're doing. I'm managing to turn most of its "features" into XP-looking and -feeling equivalents. And I think I found the master "security switch" and shut that off, so I can actually do some work. Sheesh.

[Blogger's later note: Finally, one of my most important pieces of software, Streamulator, wouldn't run on this box, because the software developer actually expected Microsoft to be sensible about things and allow him to do basic things, like, oh, I don't know, make a directory, maybe? Jeremy wracked his brain over this one for weeks and only a couple of weeks ago (December) did he manage to crack the code. There's no reason they had to make it this difficult just to do work on the computer!]

Monday, October 29, 2007

Why I Haven't Blogged Lately...

This fall was the insanest eight weeks ever. I don't know why it was so busy, but I ended up working evenings and weekends about 55-65 hours a week during that period. Last week I finally calmed down, and this week is also more or less clear.

I have 15 MRPs (Major Research Papers) this year to go through, and the mid-year proposals come in this weekend. I only have four Practicum groups I'm advising even though there are 21 projects, but that's because there are five advisors this year. (Bless 'em.) As you'll recall, I completely re-wrote Practicum this past summer, and it paid off for both the students and the profs - things are going much more smoothly this year. It's also two semesters now, so you get a mark each semester - the first semester is pre-production bible and shooting; the second is post production and EPK and final project.

Insane...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Well, *That* Was A Mercury Retrograde I Won't Soon Forget...

The Practicum course handbook has blossomed (bulged?) from 53 to 107 pages. Er, the students said they wanted more guidance... :-) Seriously, I'm really pleased with the way it's turning out - the Human Dynamics handbook has a few changes, too. Today I have fun - design both of the covers.

Anyway, yes...what a retrograde. One night I saw several of my friends at my local pub, at total odds with one another - just amazing to watch. Talk about mis-communication. It all worked out well, but wow. It was almost like our world of immediacy and cellphones made the communications worse among all of them. Wild.

And...I lost my first major computer file during a retrograde. It was four day's work on the Handbook - gone, poof. I'd done a hard drive backup, but unfortunately that was accomplished just before I started work on the re-writes. Fortunately (perhaps because it was a re-write, a re-evaluation of what was in the book, re-vision, re-etc.) I managed to get a "file fixer" program from Corel's website that at least brought back the whole book just enough so I could save it in Notepad as plain text. I spent a couple of hours putting back in the headings and formatting, but that beats four days of re-write down the tubes.

I just sat here this morning, staring at the screen and simply said, "Hmm. Now, that's not good..." It was actually quite humourous...if you find that sort of thing funny.

If some of you reading this have no idea what I'm writing about, type "mercury retrograde" into a search engine and find out more...

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Malware Blues

I swear, the Internet's not really safe anymore, it seems. On an average day, I'll do a few google searches for information on benign things like SMPTE television standards, HDTV, and so on. The next time my adware filter is run (it runs once a day, automatically) it's found a whole batch of new nonsense (mostly cookies, but once in a while adware and malware.)

I guess it's sort of what the doctors have always told us about bowel movements - it's good to flush out your system at least once a day.

I've stopped worrying too much about visiting the 'wrong' sites, because I'd never get any work done otherwise. Problem is, when you're googling to find real information, you never know whether you're going to click over to a goldmine of decent technical information, or some ad-filled piece of crap that only has links to more ad-filled pages. My life is a researcher these days, so I've just had to stock up on anti-virus and malware tools and hope for the best. This stuff seems to catch the problems, and even IE7 and Mozilla seem to stem the flood of pop-ups. I haven't seen one of those in a long while, although these browsers send me a message like "This website is trying to close this tab. Do you want to close it?" Of course, I click "no" (*duhh...*) and then shut down the offending page. Beats the old days of continuously ALT-F4'ing until you got ahead of the stream...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Living In America

I believe it was Chuck Jones himself who said that, to create wonderful characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and many others, he simply observed the people that were around him and imitated them in his animated creations. Chuck, of course, lived in California. Nevada is right next door. And I've often found that Las Vegas is an incredibly rich cartoon of human caricature:

* the Stetson-wearing cowboys
* the rich bitch self-entitled 18-year-old bride to be (and her equally bitchy entourage of screaming girlfriends)
* the loud dumb jock ("who gives a fuck about anybody else?") and his weekend tour group of buddies
* the skanky-dressed (with the boobalicious outfits) party of girls "weekend fun" tour group
* the blonde, leather-skinned, too much jewellry goldiggers
* the middle Americans, coming to Vegas to spend money they really don't have and can't afford in a desperate attempt to win happiness at the tables and slot machines

...and so on. White, Black, Latino and Asian. All shapes, all sizes.

Welcome to America.

A Country At War?

It occurred to me last night, while sitting at the bar watching all of the gambling, the drinking and the general partying, that...this is a country at war. But it's not acting like one, at least not in Las Vegas. Or maybe Westernized cultures at war don't act the way they did in, say, 1943.

That was a time of austerity, saving bits of string and aluminum pots, and rationing of basic foods. War drove the economy...or did the economy drive the war? Probably a little of both. Now, they seem to be unrelated. War affected everyone during WWII, and was a unifying force in the countries involved.

Now, if anything, does war drive the country's citizens apart? There are definitely Americans who believe that they are doing the right thing, being involved in the Middle East. While others, clearly, don't see the point.

But unlike WWII, where most Americans believed that being involved in ridding Europe of Adolf Hitler was a good thing, Vietnam was another story. Lots of dissention there. Today, there isn't nearly the visible dissention that there was in the mid-1960s (there also isn't a draft, which probably has something to do with it.)

It's almost as if today's Americans don't really protest too much, or question too much, because perhaps they feel there isn't a whole lot they can do about it anyway.

So...party on.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

NAB 2007 - Tales From The Road

NAB 2007Day two of the main NAB show (the conference itself has been going on for a few days, but the exhibit floor opened up yesterday) and, it's yet again a brave new world for us electronic media types.

Forget videotape, as I said last year, only this time, it's for real - there are RAID and SATA drive systems everywhere. You simply store all of your material on a central server, and that's now a given. Sneakernetting videotape around a teleproduction plant is dead (the audio people have known this for years, but it's now video's turn at this reality.) Analog video is dead - America is gearing up for the shutdown of all analog television transmissions on February 17, 2009, and the NAB has even set up a website to inform everyone about it. We know that Canada is years (light years?) behind in their own deadline, but it's going to affect us, whether we like it or not. The question is, in what way? I'm still not sure.

I have taken my first year students' advice, and am snapping dozens, if not a hundred or so, new photographs for the new edition of the video technical theory textbook (hopefully to be written this summer.) The way things are going, I'm going to have to throw away half of the textbook (unless I want to include some history, which I suppose I should do...). Anyway, it's dramatic. The rate of change is far above anything we have known in the industry up to this point. TV students and recent grads - get ready to never, ever, stop learning for the rest of your lives.

Gratuitous NAB crowd photo enclosed...click on the picture for a bigger view.

L8tr...from the field...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What Gender Is Your Brain?

What Gender Is Your Brain?

***Your Brain is 60% Female, 40% Male***

Your brain is a healthy mix of male and female
You are both sensitive and savvy
Rational and reasonable, you tend to keep level headed
But you also tend to wear your heart on your sleeve

The whole list of Blogthings is here...

L8tr...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Second Life

Thank goodness that Ivor Tossell of the The Globe and Mail did a review of Second Life. Now I don't have to spend countless hours roaming through that world. He sums it up (alternate link) with:

"Second Life is what you get when you cross a dollhouse with a chat room. Every user gets a doll to play with. You give your doll a name, and you can dress it up in as many outfits as you like. Then you move your doll around a 3-D world, and when you run into other people's little dolls, you type messages to them...That's pretty much it. As best as I can tell, they talk to other dolls, purchase doll clothing and have awkward doll sex. Second Life is stuffed to the gills with places -- like virtual nightclubs and virtual clothing stores -- that sell doll clothing and promise doll sex. In fact, most of the Second Life world is sparsely populated, except for these places...There are fantastic people out there, and a cross-cultural online chat is every bit as much fun as it was 10 years ago. If you can find it through the crushing sameness of Second Life's vain, libidinous dollhouse, it can be a real-world pleasure." (not trying to rip off Ivor, or the Globe and Mail, but I wanted to get the essence of his article before it went offline.)

So, there you have it. Any Second Lifers out there?

L8tr...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Dana's Streamulator

If you're in third or fourth year (or a grad) you probably have no idea what this is. For the last couple of years, we've been experimenting with "online office hours" which is a very cool way of giving students the opportunity to ask questions in an online forum before each mid-term quiz. There's lots of archives at http://www.ryecast.ryerson.ca/facultystreams/users/danalee to give you some idea how this looks. We had the last one tonight. Thanks to Jeremy Littler at DMP at Ryerson for allowing me to be a beta tester for all of this. I even wrote a paper on it, which was delivered at a conference in London, England last summer. This has been an incredible experience to develop something first hand. Totally cool. Check it out.

L8tr...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

XTC Radio

Favourite tunes: XTC Radio (http://www.xtcfm.net). 24/7 electronica, commercial free. I've been listening to it for years. I've set it up through RealPlayer, and it's great. Decent NRG music that helps me get through marking papers, and general foolishness. Check it out.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Burst Blogging

As you've probably noticed, I do "burst blogging" - that is, you won't see anything here for a month or even two, and then suddenly I'll put in a whole bunch of entries.

This is representative of my life (and indeed, of many people's lives.) Life goes through lulls and peaks. During the peaks, who has the time to blog? But I keep a little "blog list" about things that pique my curiosity, so that when I get a moment, I can sit down at the computer and write them all up - in a burst. Thus, 'burst blogging'. Hey I wonder if I'm starting a new vernacular phrase here?

Of course, my life isn't in a lull at all right now. Yesterday, I just received 165 mid-term papers to mark, and it's only four weeks to the end of the semester, so I'm completely swamped. So what am I doing on Blogger this morning?

Procrastinating...of course!

L8tr...

Right Name, Wrong Place

I'm writing this entry from my office at Downtown University. As many of you know, I moved my office last fall to one which doesn't have an outside window, but rather, has a view onto the main west entrance hallway to our building.

A few moments ago, a 50-something chap walked into the building, and knocked on my window:

"Yes?"
"Hi. I saw the name Rogers on the building..."
"Yes?"
"And I'd like to know it this is where I can sign up."
"Sign up for what, sir?"
"Cable."
"Uh, sir, this building is the Rogers Communications Centre, but it's part of the University...it's not Roger's Cable."


This is a true story - I can't make this stuff up.

L8tr...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Roatan, Honduras

Went to Roatan for Reading Week. Check out the huge page of pictures, and the occasional movie. Brilliant place, I highly recommend it. It's basically a scuba and snorkelling place but, given that we don't do either of those things, a great place to hang out. The scuba / snorkelling people are very cool, and laid back. Super vacation!

Facebook

Hey, got Facebook? I have. I was convinced by a recent grad of mine to join up. It's kind of weird, actually. I think the goal (if there is one, in fact) is to line up as many friends as possible. I'm not sure why this goal is, but it's good clean fun, and doesn't take up much time. You'd be amazed at who will find you.

Try it!

L8tr...

Tenure

Well, it finally happened. I received my letter from the Dean last Thursday. I'm officially tenured faculty. Which means I won't be lining up for the dole queue next September (see "Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy" if you're not from the U.K., and not sure what that means - it's Trillian's line...)

Basically, this means that I have a fulltime job - there will be no more wondering if I'll be working at Downtown University next fall (D.U. is a euphemism for a popular downtown Toronto university, that way, I can't get into trouble for mentioning where I work, and then be fired...see QueenofSky, and others, for further information...)

L8tr...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Worldwide Friends and Associates

I finally got around to updating the "world map - who's been surfing my page?" scripts on this page and on my textbook home page. Geo-loc went mams skyward for the longest time, and now it requires strange SQL capabilities on my server, so nuts to that. You will see I've pasted in MapLoco script on the pages I want maps for. We'll see how it performs...

On a somewhat related note, I was finally convinced last week to join Facebook. There are, as of this writing, 29 Ryerson RTA grads out there, 69 current students, and, as far as I can tell...no staff or faculty, except moi. Already three of these have requested friend status...

I'm not sure about social networking sites. I'm a bit of a one-way street Net person these days. I publish from time to time, surf like crazy, but don't "network" in that sense of intense online communication. Articles have been written about how "email is your parents' IM" and all that. So, yeah, I'm an email kind of person - call it a generation gap. Of course my parents are the snail-mail generation. They don't even have a computer.

I used to have IM open all the time. It's still sitting in my system tray, but I practically never open it now. I guess when I'm at the computer these days, I'm not into multitasking - chatting while trying to get other stuff done. The computer has become more of a tool, and less of an entertainment and social networking machine. That's a shame, really.

That wasn't always the case, as a few of you will know. When the Danacam was up and running, IM was open, email was open, and the Internet online community was a constant circle of people humming, pinging, and generally getting in my life all day long (and frequently through much of the night as well.) Then I settled down and got domesticated. Other things take your time, and you're not, omg, always at the computer any more.

The computer in my apartment was treated as a different appliance back then. It was a constantly active connection to everybody. In a way, I was ahead of the curve. People would check the Danacam first, then call me if they knew I was in. The cam and the email and the IM simply meant that even while I wasn't near it, I was still interacting, or at least plugged in, with the rest of my online community. After all, when you're living alone, you may as well take advantage of the connections with other people that are there.

None of this is a "good thing, bad thing" concept, just simply that people make decisions at different times in their lives to do different things. Nothin' wrong with that. I live in a two-storey house now, not a one-room bachelor apartment. I also have to take into consideration the privacy concerns of those living with me. In other words...share and get along with those I'm living with. Despite my days of doing what I wanted, when I wanted, totally under my control, I realise that the simple fact is, most of the time in your life...it's not about you.

L8tr...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

TVOntario Best Lecturer - Final Update

Readers will know that I was nominated for a TVOntario Best Lecturer award last spring. And, I was fortunate enough to make it to the Top 30.

But alas, it was not to be. They've announced their Top 10 finalists, and Ryerson University will not be in the running this time around.

Thank you to everyone who has given me support and encouragement over the last several months - it was fun while it lasted.

L8tr...

Publish or Perish - Does A Blog Count?

Astute readers of this blog will recall that I presented a paper in England last July, as part of my "publish or perish" requirement for tenure (no, I still don't know whether I have tenure, but I'll let you know if that happens.)

At the time, I wrote about how backward academia still seems to be, with paper being the primary medium of dissemination for written work. I found it somewhat antiquated that, in order to show my work in a "provable" form, I had to lug around a phonebook-sized proceedings text while I backpacked for a week in England. Why, I asked, wasn't this available on CD-ROM? I mean, really now...

Ivor Tossell in the Globe and Mail on December 29th, page R21, published an article entitled "What's next on the Net" [link may not work in the far future] where he wrote, in part,

"But could blogging spread further into the academy? Academics, who spend decades credentialing themselves, harbour deep suspicions about the Internet, that place where grade-schoolers get to write the encyclopedia. (And then their undergrads turn around and cite Wikipedia as an academic reference.) Indeed, academics have every reason not to blog, from the thought of giving away their ideas unbidden and unpaid, to the vagaries of citation in the Web's free-for-all of ideas. But attitudes evolve, and as a new generation starts snuffling around for tenure, expect it to treat the Web with more engagement than detachment. An academic who blogs expertly in her field could become known beyond what the conference-and-paper circuit alone could provide her with. Academia can either retreat further into a closed world of isolated journals that provide its currency of prestige or it can start to incorporate more open forms of publication as part of what it chooses to respect. My prediction is that over the years, a well-read blog will become the ultimate accessory for the up-and-coming thinker, if not a basic requirement for respectability. Putting a respected blog -- not just any blog, mind -- on your CV will look good instead of goofy. Publish or perish, I'm told, is the academic mantra. I'm not sure how that mantra's going to adapt, but something's gotta rhyme with 'blog.'"

[Apologies for the long cut and paste, but I wanted to ensure that readers here could get the context of what he was saying, if the link disappears...]

I agree with Mr. Tossell. I truly believe it's about time that alternate, electronic forms of writing should constitute viable academic work. And why not? The whole idea of information and its distribution has changed significantly since the middle 1990's. I've been publishing a website of one kind or another since 1999 - most of it personal information, admittedly, but it would be a snap for me to start up a totally academic site within this domain. It could even be peer reviewed, if necessary. This should be easy to arrange among academics worldwide in the late 2000s.

So what's stopping us?

L8tr...

Happy New Year 2007

Time to archive and update the blog, it seems (last entry October 25th???) As usual, the previous five years' worth of blogs can be found by clicking on the links on the right side of this page. And, as usual, I've kept the last couple of entries from 2006 on this page.

A few things on my mind...see today's other entries.

L8tr...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

TTC Escalators: Stand On The...?

Stand Right
Something strange is going on in the Toronto subway system. For years, we've had these signs on all the escalators encouraging people to "Stand Right, Walk Left". And lately...they've been removed!

Does that mean there will be chaos on the escalators? People will be pushing and shoving each other, and pandemonium will surely ensue. Lest you think I'm overly dramatic, others feel the same way!


The Washington, DC website www.standtotheright.com
The argument gets quite heated on this thread
Some good English humour about the whole situation here
Of course, London Underground has an entire Tube Etiquette page

Sunday, October 22, 2006

10,000 Flushes

Somehow, in the last short while, this blog has surpassed the 10,000 viewings milestone.

Ten thousand???

I remember when one thousand people had wandered by, and how significant that felt.

So what am I gonna do when it reaches one hundred thousand...