Tuesday, May 31, 2005

During this past week, we have successfully completed a few necessary tasks such as beginning our prenuptial (pre-incorporation?) financial meetings, some medical stuff, and of course the continuation of the ongoing discussions of the shelves in the livingroom, and of shelving generally.

If you've ever had a student loan or married someone with a student loan, you can guess how frightening that particular discussion was. Particularly for me, as I am the one who has incurred said loan. But as with most issues, better to face it squarely now despite the discomfort.

I also discovered that many of Juice's "Mister Herman's Cat Games" can be effectively applied to humans. For example, while I don't have the heart to carry it out, I may have threatened to play "No Sleepy Limey" when Someone was napping on the High-Gravity Couch. I may have been threatened in return not only with "No Sleepy Yankee" but also "Sleepy Yankee Surprise."

I did, however, find it fun playing "Pet The Limey To Death." Turns out this combines well with a loud rendition of Abe Simpson's quote "I'm gonna pet you raw!"
In the nearby neighborhood park last night, TheLimey and I saw a number of (probably) college students engaging in some kind of informal running and shrieking event. "Gothlympics," I opined, spying one young man with severely (or severally) pierced ears, goatee, and giant baggy black jeans entirely unsuited to running.

Naturally, this led to a discussion of what kinds of events the Gothlympics would have. TheLimey suggested "Speed Tattooing," while I thought there would likely be "Team Eyeliner Application."

There's gotta be something involving piercing, but I haven't come up with it yet.
I have made some progress on the Giant Video Conversion Project (GVCP) front.

Having tried several apps that edit either movie clip content or various movie/data files (including Gordian Knot, Auto Gordian Knot, Moviemaker, and a few others) I have settled on AutoGK as being most useful for my purposes.

The apps that edit the content of movie clips (Moviemaker, Quicktime Pro) are certainly fun, but don't really suit my ultimate purpose of GETTING A &*%$ 2-HOUR MOVIE FILE ONTO A SINGLE DISK, dangit. (Can you tell the means has far outstripped the end at this time?)

I think Gordian Knot might be best, but there are some things I still can't figure out about it. However, AutoGK is so far doing just what I need it to do (compress my MPG-2 files). Maybe if I were more technically sophisticated, I would scorn it, but it seems pretty cool for now. And it's free! (If this whole deal works, I am so going to donate to Len0x, the creator of GK.)

At this point, I could now theoretically capture all my videos onto files that would each fit on a single CD, but they could only be played on my computer (they're avi files). This might even be acceptable as a final outcome. (It is still progress, as before I would have needed 2 disks for most movies regardless of the format.)

Now all I need to do is see if I can do a conversion for burning that allows the resulting CDs to be played (as VCDs) in a standalone DVD player. For this part of the project, the instructions suggest using Nero. While it's $80-$100 new, it is also available used on Amazon and eBay for a lot less. (I paid $13 including shipping.)

So basically, I am waiting to get this app in the post. Then, if I can indeed create VCDs that will play in the DVD player, I'm totally golden. If I can't, then I'm still pleased, as I can at least have a collection of all my movies, albeit watchable via computer only.

If this all works, I will post a summary of the how-to.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

If you are the one person on the face of the planet who doesn't know that Revenge of the Sith contains the genesis of Darth Vader, then this post contains a spoiler. Unfortunately, you already read it, so now you might as well continue.

TheLimey pointed out that in the scene where the new Sith gets his Darth name, his evil mentor [dementor?] really doesn't take the opportunity to be menacing at all. As he says "You shall be Darth...Vader" his pause is ripe for Monty Python-esque farce. "You shall be known as Darth...Bunnyrabbit. --No! I mean, Vader." "You shall be known as Darth...Nicely. --No! I mean, Vader."

What bothers me is that while two of the Darths (Vader and Sidious) have perfectly good evil names apparently created by removing the "in-" prefix from words with negative connotations, this whole "Darth Maul" thing came completely out of the blue. It should have followed the pattern, if I can call two instances a pattern, which I can't.

This leads inevitably to which other Darth names they could have chosen instead of "Maul" (I won't even go into the dopey Maul character itself).

For example, using the negative-word protocol, we could have had "Darth Terrogator", "Darth Vective", "Darth Jection", "Darth Quisition", "Darth Culcation", or "Darth Cendiary". Or alternatively by just using any ol' word beginning with "in-", we could have had all sorts of great names.

This is where it gets fun:

For starters, there would be "Darth Timacy", "Darth Termission", "Darth Testines", "Darth Troverted", "Darth Tolerable", "Darth Terpretation", and "Darth Vigorate". Then we could go on to "Darth Boardmotor", "Darth Dependent", "Darth Controvertible", "Darth Hibitions", "Darth Diana", "Darth Dy 500", and so on.

The possibilities are endless!

(I will let TheLimey post the ones he came up with, so as not to steal them.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Over the weekend I kept thinking of things to blog, but now that I'm here in the lab I can't really remember them.

Except the incident in which I set up PCTV to record some shows one evening through my VCR (which I normally use as a tuner for my TV), and then forgot and left the VCR tuned to the wrong channel. So, I captured about three hours of stuff I had absolutely no interest in seeing.

Also that I just now, in my late thirties, read the Tripods series. I liked it a great deal. At first, I just read a few pages a night before dropping into a dead sleep, but over the past week I somehow found time to become engrossed in the books and devoured them. For my next catching-up-on-teen-classics trick, I will be reading Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence. (Why is it a sequence and not a series, anyway?) From the few pages I've read so far, it's very like the Narnia chronicles. Which is fine with me; I'm not looking for great literature, but entertainment.

This morning I accidentally printed out a short list of student grades on the front of one of the precious Invitation Envelopes that I left loaded in the printer last night.

D'oh! (Okay, who wants that one?)

Oh yes, and we saw three films in three days over the weekend. I was pleased with Star Wars, perhaps by comparison to the recent ones. Moreover I was very, very happy about Hitchhiker's Guide. I think I would go see it again. (Not to leave you in suspense, we also saw Kicking and Screaming with the young football coachees en masse. It was cute.)

Friday, May 20, 2005

This is the week when all the baby squirrels born about 6 weeks ago are doing their first explorations of the scary below-tree area. It has been very fun for me when on campus to watch their first clumsy, coltlike endeavors that inevitably end in scampering back to the tree full force. For example, in trying to not get caught by The Scary Blowing Leaf or The Scary Car Noise.

I got to see the mama of a singleton sitting in the grass at the base of their tree, grooming the the little one as s/he clambered all over her and clung for all the world like a little monkey to her front. S/he ran for the safety of the tree when confronted with The Scary Flying Peanut, though Mama ran over and grabbed it.

There was also a treeful of four siblings of varied courage whom I began teaching about getting peanuts from strangers (all the wrong messages, I know). They didn't seem to connect the human throwing things with the food that began appearing about the foot of the tree, but in time, they will.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Let's Just Agree to Call Her Candy

I can find just as much material referring to "Candace Bergen" as to "Candice Bergen" in a general online search, but the ABC official cast bio listing for Boston Legal refers to her as "Candice",* as does that [fount? font?**] of all media, allmediaguide (movies domain), (for whom I used to edit copy, BTW).

Therefore I am going to go with my catfight searcher and use "Candice".

*You may notice that I have lately just given up the fight and begun using that British-variety inside-the-other-punctuation-marks type of quotation mark, whatever it's called.

**I want to say "font", but I feel the uncomfortable semantic clash of its old-fashioned meaning and the meaning that refers to Garibaldi 12 or Helvetica 8 Bold.
Although mine don't ever seem to be as good as Library Liddy's, I still get some amusing search terms from time to time. Today's are: "albino panther"; "woman are evil" (those who think women are evil don't seem to know that there is more than one woman); "Candice Bergen catfight"; the omnipresent "UTI treatment"; "nonwords" (yay!); and whoever the heck keeps looking up "old-tyme porn".

Speaking of nonwords, I heard an almost nonword. Well, it's a word, but a flagrantly misused one. "Contents".

As in, "taking my words completely out of contents".

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

In the continuing saga of my attempts to reduce my VHS tapes to digital format, I have made enough progress to know that there is a LOT more to this than meets the eye. It sounds simple enough: play a tape, capture it in digital form, and then freeze that for later consumption.


It appears that The Industry in general try to keep things from being that simple [paranoid interpretation] in order to reduce copyright infringement. Also, despite looking like the really simple little objects we treat them as, CDs and DVDs are actually incredibly complicated wads of numbers and calculations and so forth [technical interpretation].

I have managed to capture various items such as an episode of Monarch of the Glen, my Yoga for Du mmies tape, and Nanny 911, etc., and burn them to CVD for later (somewhat blurry) viewing. I've been able to play these in both VCD and SVCD format on TheLimey's DVD player. (This bodes well for the future, when this will be the thing I play my movies on.) I have also been able to play them on my computer.

I have had a crash course in the basic characteristics of MPEGs (-1, -2, and even -4) as well as some issues regarding the differences between VCDs, SVCDs, CDs, DVDs, and even weird things like XCVDs. Not to mention a beginning understanding about some coding issues regarding MPEGs, and some of the grey-market applications with which a person might modify their characteristics.

The reason all this information is even necessary is that I don't have a DVD burner, so I must burn the MPEGs as a CVD. Now, it turns out that a 1-hour program fits snugly on a standard 650-700 MB disk if you're using cruddy MPEG-1 format. This means that a standard 2-hour movie requires two CDs.

I also tried capturing a standard 2-hour show in the much nicer MPEG-2. This format would have taken 4 CDs to record!

This would all not be that big a deal (except for the whole "changing the disk in the middle of the program"--remember laser disks of the '80s? Heh) -- except that I think I probably have about 300 VHS tapes to transfer. Even at 50c a pop this would mean $300 in disks alone. For that price, I might as well buy a dang DVD burner.


It looks as though there are some ways for an intrepid person to get into the MPEG files and fiddle about with them before burning them, in order to burn a 2-hour file onto a single disk. Possibly even MPEG-2s.

I think I have found some ways to do this, but all of them involve manipulating the guts of files whose surfaces I have barely even seen before. I am not sure if this is easier or harder than one of you programming types attempting self-taught psychoanalysis. At least my MPEGs are unlikely to harm anyone but me if I miscalculate. (That's what I'm telling myself.)

I think I will probably use the instructions I found for altering MPEGs with Gordian Knot (after killing off that clean-removing DAE spyware/adware, of course). While Gordian Knot is meant for those with DVD burners, it looks like one can use it just for editing MPEG files.

I like the PCTV USB2 for capturing MPEGS, but for burning them---eah. It seems to create files that make my computer hang up permanently instead of playing, although they play fine in the standalone. Also, the files burned thusly all lose exactly 30 seconds, for some reason, AND the PCTV burner renames them unimaginatively as "Track 1, Track 2", and so forth.

I have found that if I capture them with the PCTV and then burn them to disk with plain ol' Sonic media burner (bundled with computer), the disk works as it should in the computer, and the tracks remain their original length, as well as retaining the names I gave them when capturing, such as "DrWho_Dalek_1".

However, I have not yet had a chance to try these Sonic-burned disks in the standalone. Hopefully it will accept them as it did the previous ones.
I've been selling off some of my possessions on eBay as a way to whittle them down before the big move in August. What I've learned is that if you're not careful (or ridiculous) about how much shipping you charge, you may end up paying someone to take your stuff. For example, I did sell that Borg-head collector's mug, but after shipping to California, I basically made $2 from the sale.

I also sold a big poster for $15. Unfortunately the mail store said that shipping for it would be $52. !!! Good grief. I have told the buyer that I will have to refund his purchase price if I can't find a vastly cheaper way to send it.

This drastically affects my plans to sell off all those Beanie-Baby gifts that should have been gathering value all these years, but in actuality have been gathering only dust and are worth about $2 each (from what I've seen in others' listings).

I am also having that terrible feeling of having so many things to catch up with that when I anxiously awake before my alarm or even dawn, I already feel behind. Unfortunately, most of it is not stuff I can take home, but rather stuff that has to be done in situ. Dangit.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The other night there was a stranger rape (as opposed to the far more frequent rapes by those who people know) in the building where my department is. In fact, the floor just below mine. And it wasn't even dark out at the time--maybe 8pm, if that.

There was a student working in the biology lab and her lab partner left briefly to get something to eat, and that's all it took. It sounds like the attacker may have been scoping out the situation for a while; who knows. I can't tell you how many nights I've spent alone in that building working on my data and pacing the halls while taking phone breaks. Everybody's a little weirded out, but nobody's talking about it. This is somewhat strange for a psychology department.

Today I accompanied my clinical supervisor to a debriefing for some people who work in the building. But really, it could have been any of us--he could have chosen any floor. I think we should have a debriefing amongst ourselves, too.

I'm feeling pretty resentful that I now don't feel I could comfortably work alone in my own department, should I choose to. Or walk home across campus in the evening, let alone at night.

Even if they catch this particular assailant, it'll be all the campus women who are paying with our freedom, once again.

The wedding singing went well, although I was a nervous wreck up until the moment of the actual singing. (In truth, I was pretty cranky for two or three days beforehand.) However, no one seemed to care or even know about my made-up part of the responsorial, including the priest.

It's just too bad that they didn't feel like singing along to the chorus that was already in the songbook. I think one guy in the entire congregation sang along. (Instead of making up the verses only, I could have made up the entire thing and it would have turned out about the same.)

At the reception, several people individually felt compelled to tell me they felt guilty about not joining in on the chorus, but felt they should leave me to do the singing. In other words they were chicken!

A goodly number of people also mentioned getting goosebumps during the Ave Maria. As a good clinician, I should have inquired about other symptoms such as nausea, shaking, hot flushes, heart palpitations, chest pain, a sense of suffocation or choking, and other symptoms of anxiety. However, I forgot to do so in my relief at having finally finished.

The bride has since reported that scores of people have been asking her if I "do weddings". But you know, I tried all that before grad school, and it didn't go anywhere. At least I don't have to sing at my own wedding, as Argotnaut did at hers. Sheesh! Talk about piling on the pressure.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Today I trained in the use of some instruments for assessing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It was tiring, as any new job is. Even if this isn't strictly a job, but rather volunteering in order to help a colleague with his dissertation. And also to rack up some assessment hours for the next time I try to apply for internship.

The omniscient receptionist/secretary/executive assistant/whatever had a little goldfish in a little bowl. She informed me that his name was "Gil" (or perhaps "Gill") but that his nametag was away due to fishbowl cleaning.

"Ah--I can tell what nationality he is, then," I replied.

"What's that?" she asked, cocking her head.


That will now be placed on the new name tag.
Tomorrow is the day I sing at a friend's wedding. In addition to the aforementioned Ellens Gesang, the priest is also having me do an alleluia (which consists of singing "alleluia" a few times) and a responsorial (which consists of me singing something that the "audience" replies to, also in song).

Not being nor having been raised Catholic, these are not exactly familiar things burned into my memory. After the wedding rehearsal, I took home the church songbook in order to practice the chosen responsorial. Since I read music at about the same level that someone who only knows the alphabet reads normal words, I had to be pretty creative and persistent to figure out which notes were there on the page.

It wasn't until last night that I realized those were only the notes for the chorus that the congregation sings back to me: the verse that I sing by myself was simply printed out in words--there's no music! (I wondered why the 12 notes of the chorus wouldn't accommodate the 16 or 17 syllables of the verse.)

Naturally, I decided I'd just have to make up a verse. I'm very glad that I have that little recording wizard application, because it allowed me to sing and record a line, then pause it, then sing the next line and pause it again while I picked out the notes.

I ended up with an MP3 of the whole song (albeit a bit clumsily sung) as I've written it, so I can burn it to CD and hopefully into my memory as well by listening to it over and over.

Today I will be working at a nearby hospital with a colleague who is collecting research data so I won't have much chance to sit around listening to it before tomorrow, though. Yikes!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I have been running out of my favorite non-steroid inhaler (Serevent*) during the past couple weeks, meaning I've been reduced to digging out some shoulda-been-thrown-out-last-year canisters.

If I weren't singing in that wedding this weekend, I probably would have temporarily gone back to the steroid inhaler. But it messes with my voice in the way that running over a saxophone with a car does. Sound still comes out, but the range and quality are severely affected, and it takes more effort to even get sound to come out. It feels uncomfortable. (And I'm sure as heck not going to use steroids long-term, considering the associated bone density problems and low birth-weight concerns.)

So I grudgingly (it costs about $100) came to the conclusion that I will have to get a refill on the Serevent, because my lungs aren't better enough yet to entirely do without.

I called the University Health Center and left a message asking if I could get any samples of Serevent, or if I needed to actually get the scrip filled. I asked about the samples because I had gotten samples of some other meds earlier this year (steroid inhaler, Singulair), although I knew that I had used up my quota for those particular things. Therefore I wondered if I still could get samples of Serevent, or if it was a blanket moratorium on all meds.

So the nurse returned my call an hour or so later.

"It says here," she began normally enough, "that you want samples of Serevent."

"I also see on your chart," (here she began scolding me outright,) "that in February of this year we told you that you could no longer get samples--"

(--here I tried to interject that I knew I had no more samples of those other meds and simply wondered if that also applied to meds of which I had not yet gotten samples, but she overrode me--)

"--and also that We discontinued you on the the Serevent."

"We" did?? Huh.

From what I remember, and I remember a lot, what actually happened was that the student-docs and their supervisor tried to convince me that it was in my best interest to basically use steroids forever, and I disagreed, although I was certainly willing to use them in a crisis. This does not mean that "We" mutually came to a health-care plan that excluded Serevent.

And this nurse wasn't even present for those visits. How presumptuous of her to take absolute ownership of my health care (or should I say "symptom care") in such a way. I'm thirty-seven years old, for Pete's sake, not a teenage freshman.

And how dare she treat me like I was trying to pull some kind of scam for simply asking if I was allowed to get Serevent samples! Dang.

I bet she goes home and bosses people around and they resent her for it.

At least, I hope they do.

At least the pharmacy still had my prescription when I called them.

*Apparently I've gotten over the whole thing where Serevent has been shown to cause asthma deaths.
I just realized that my time is running out fast for fixing something dumb I did with my domain name last year.

I've had that doctorlizardo.com (where all my stuff is hosted) through Yahoo Geocities for a while. Last year about this time I got a notice that my license on the domain name was running out and I'd better renew it posthaste.

Now, normally I do look at forms and things extremely closely and thus avoid being scammed. And I wasn't exactly scammed... But I did end up unbeknownst to me switching my domain name registration to some dang Australian registry service, instead of simply renewing it where I was, which is clearly what they intended to make me think I was doing.

So as of tomorrow my time on that Australian registry is up if I don't cough up some USD into their Aussie coffers. Now I have to figure out how to get it back to Yahoo--or whatever--in a day.

It's one of those things that I know enough about to screw it up, but then only really learn about it in depth when I'm trying to fix whatever I did.
It started out as a cold day, but has warmed up to only somewhat chilly. At least the sun is shining, and it's not snowing and/or sleeting as it has been the past few days.

Furthermore, I got the replacement charger for my phone, which is here in the computer lab with me sucking up juice even as we speak (so to speak).

Not to mention, it's been a multi-squirrel morning here on campus. Some very pregnant-looking ones out there, including one mom-to-be who was too hungry to be satisfied with just one peanut and juggled several small ones at once before hopping off. I also got a glimpse of just one chipmunk before it saw me and dived down its tiny hole next to the walkway.

Nevertheless, I tossed one tiny peanut down the hole. [shaking fist] "You won't get away from my feeding you!"

Can't get "Fly Me to the Moon" out of my head. Especially the string-plucking parts. (I feel like I should be wearing a lemony chiffon dress that floats around me when I hear that kind of music.)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

It's a good thing my neighbor has wi-fi, so at least I have internet. I feel so cut off without my phone. I don't have a landline, I don't have an office phone, I just have my cell phone. So being without it is beginning to make me feel kind of panicky. I know--people did without them for millennia. (But don't you think you'd like to have a cell phone if you were somewhere hiding from a cave bear?)

Anyway, I feel lonely, even though I'm not in much less contact with humans than usual.

* * * * * * * * * *

So, now I can make copies of my VHS tapes and then sell off the originals on eBay. (What would be unethical, for those of you who are wondering, is if I made copies and sold the copies on eBay.)

Considering that people sell $1 spells on eBay, fer chrissakes, as well as telephone "aura adjustments", perhaps I could make CD recordings of a relaxation session and sell those (containing long and short versions).

Not DVD movie clips, but only because I would have no idea what to wear for something like that.

And no video camera.

Or maybe I could do wedding drafting.
Now for the fun stuff.

My having a ridiculous number of VHS tapes (fig. 1) ...

Fig. 1: Many of my VHS tapes are on this shelf. But not all of them.

...combined with my upcoming move into a rather small space considering the number of residents (fig. 2) ...

Fig. 2: TheLimey trying to create enough space for all my books.

...means that I have been considering how to transfer the content of my VHS tapes to DVD. After looking into it at length, I have decided to go with the Pinnacle PCTV USB2.

I decided on it because I need a fast and easy way to make the transfer. I love that it's USB. True, firewire is better for audio/video stuff, and USB is a step down from that. But USB is a step down from "professional filmmaker" to "normal person creating stuff at home for their own use", so it's a step I'm glad to make.

Plus, not too many PC manufacturers are coming out with standard firewire-enabled products (as mine isn't). It's also a lot less costly than those standalone analog-to-DVD units. (I got mine new on eBay for $70USD including shipping!)

So. I got it for the whole transferring business. However, it turns out it has a lot of other neat-o capabilities. For example, it's a TV tuner on its own. This means you can take it travelling (I'm assuming you'd already be bringing your laptop) and never miss an episode of Dr. Who (as long as you are in Canada, where they still have decent programming on network TV.)

Not only that, you can view --I don't know, four? five? --channels at once in different windows on your PC screen. Or, as they advertise, "watch the game in a minimized window while you work!" (I have already allowed that TheLimey may take it to work to show off these capabilities once I get it set up.) Of course, you can then record what you're watching and capture still shots, too.
I accidentally left my phone on all night after yapping on it yesterday at length. So I thought I better charge it up during the day today, but...now that I've unpacked my weekend bag, it seems that what I have always feared has finally happened. I finally left my charger at TheLimey's. And we won't see each other for another five days or so.

I bit the bullet and ordered a replacement overnighted to the psych department (in case I'm not home to sign for it, as usual).

Of course, after I put the order through the site gave me a message that they are experiencing trouble processing credit card orders, so if I haven't gotten an email in 24 hours I should assume it went through.

Well, thanks for letting me know beforehand! That gives me plenty of time to fret and wish I'd used another company while not knowing if I'll get it tomorrow or the next day or not.