Saturday, March 02, 2013


Today while the boy is napping and Linzy is out doing some errands, I was doing the laundry and ironing a few new dress shirts that came out of their initial wash still wrinkly. It reminded me of long ago in junior high economics when we had been given an assignment to do the laundry at home.

My recollection is that I was fine with doing the laundry itself, but adamant that I wasn't going to iron any of my Dad's dress shirts. After all, I said in what I am sure was an imperious tone that only a 14 year old can manage, that's what permanent press means. It's permanently pressed. As long as you use the right cycle and take it out of the dryer while it is still warm and spinning, no ironing required. My parents, who dutifully ironed those shirts every week, disagreed. But, it was my assignment, and so I set about to prove no ironing was required.

Of course, as any lazy laundry-doer would expect, the shirts did indeed come out more-or-less OK without any ironing. Perfect, no, but good enough. And from that point on, my Dad's shirts no longer got ironed each week. With two working parents and two teenage kids, good enough was, just that.

Why exactly being annoyed at having to iron those dress shirts today brought back memories of Junior High, I'm not sure. But I suppose I should say "Sorry Dad" and "You're welcome, Mom".

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Monday, April 09, 2012

Small Victories

With the proliferation of devices in the house that are capable of playing video files, as well as the lack of a TV in my exercise area, recently I decided to undertake a project of converting all our DVDs into MPEG-4 videos. It is somewhat like a crazy flashback to circa-1999/2000 when I converted all my CDs into MP3s. All the hallmarks are there.

The tantalizing prospect of technology that almost does what you want it to do. The need to have a workflow of several programs working in concert to really convert things correctly. All you young whippersnappers probably don't even remember when ripping a CD required a whole separate program rather, and getting track titles/cover art was an adventure in itself. That's pretty much what mass converting DVDs is like these days.

Anyways, the process has been going reasonably well and I'd gotten through about a third of our DVDs. Emboldened by my success, however, I fell prey to thinking that the only right way to convert The Godfather: Part II's two discs was by combining the two resultant files. I mean, having two files is just a relic of limited storage media. As soon as we're talking video files there is no reason you shouldn't just be able to merge those files together and make a single 3 hour 20 minute file with the whole movie the way it was meant to be viewed.

Oh, how silly.

It turns out that, despite the deceptive simplicity, this is nearly impossible. The Internet is rife with programs claiming the ability to do this, and even more forum posts from joker #1 claiming program Y was able to do it, and joker #2 claiming that it didn't work for his videos, and shill #1 advocating for a paid program that is just a thin wrapper around GPL software.

Over the past three or four days I tried every suggestion, half-baked scheme, or sequence of multiple programs to no avail. Some of the programs came frustratingly close. Able to merge the m4v files successfully, but re-encoding the video and thus wrecking the quality, able to preserve the quality of the video but splicing the audio tracks on-top of each other so you hear both halves of the movie in the first half and silence in the second, misaligned audio, or just straight-up producing corrupt files.

Yesterday evening I was ready to admit defeat and import the two individual video files, when I realized there was one dark alley even I had not been desperate enough to travel down: MKV containers. If you are familiar with the nerdier corners of the internet, you might have heard of it, but suffice to say up to this point it's been relegated over to the 'technically superior but basically unsupported by real devices and thus impractical' corner of the video world.

But in my desperation, I went there, and much to my pleasant surprise tonight I was able to use MKV as a waypoint to support the merging before converting things back to m4v. The actual process involved some trial and error, but in the end accomplished everything I wanted done and I am now the proud owner of a perfect-appearing single complete Godfather: Part 2 video file.

In case you are silly enough to follow me down this path, here was the process:

  1. Ripped the DVDs to the computer as normal
  2. Converted the DVDs with Handbrake as normal except selected MKV containers instead of MP4
  3. Used mkvmerge (GUI) to add the first MKV file and append the second MKV file into a new combined MKV
  4. Used mkvmerge (GUI)to load the chapters from the combined file, rename the last 14 chapters to be numbered sequentially after the first MKV file's 16 chapters, and write the new chapter 1-30 back into the combined file
  5. Used Yamb unsuccessfully to convert the MKV file to MP4, but used the command-line's it generated for the next two steps
  6. Manually ran mkvextract to extract the three tracks (one video, two audio) from the combined MKV. This was required because Yamb was using the mkvinfo 1-3 track numbering while mkvextract wants 0-2
  7. Manually ran mp4box to mux the three tracks into a new MP4 file. This was required because the syntax Yamb generated for the -par parameter was incorrect and :par=40:33 needed to be appended onto the -add for track 1 rather than being a separate argument.
  8. Imported the new MP4 into iTunes as normal

And that, dear reader, is what passes for 'easy' in Internet Video Nerd land. Luckily I am very capable of deriving satisfaction from that sort of triumph over technology. So now it's time to go back and re-do my LOTR extended edition files into the three four-hour behemoths Peter Jackson intended.
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Sunday, January 15, 2012

What Not to Do

Let's say, hypothetically speaking, that you are on a Delta flight from Minneapolis to Paris, flying in a 2/3rds full 767. That leaves plenty of space free on the plane, and so people can spread out. Thus, for example, when there are two people in a set of three seats in the middle of the plane one might expect that the random guy in the middle would move to the open aisle seat. Leaving a luxurious cattle-class seat worth of no-mans land in-between passengers.

That might seem obvious and perhaps every other row in the plane would recognize the optimal positioning. But dear reader, there is in fact another option:

You could stay in that middle seat, with your bulky shoulders and jabbing elbows punishing the unfortunate soul assigned to sit next to you. After a while when you get up to go to the bathroom and you come back, stepping carefully over that empty seat on the aisle to plop back down in the middle, that other passenger might say something like "Why aren't you sitting over there?". You could then answer "Hmm, I don't know. I guess I like this seat". It's a good effect if, as you are sort of testing out the arms of that middle seat while describing your eternal love for it, you jab the other passenger in the side with an elbow just to remind him that this is your assigned seat and by god, you aren't moving.

I'd just like to say: Please, don't be that guy.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Temperature Change

DSC_8046I was copying pictures off the camera today for the first time in quite a while and discovered this picture from less than a month ago. Besides Elijah's hilariously suspicious expression, I thought it was interesting that just a month ago the weather was such that playing in the kiddie pool on the deck in shorts and a t-shirt was still appropriate.

Today, on the other hand, was nice for a bit while the sun was out but definitely felt like fall. I suppose the fact that I was in Nice two weeks ago and Atlanta last week didn't help make the transition from summer to fall less shocking.

For reference, the weather in Nice was as amazing as advertised despite mid-September being 'after' the peak summer holiday season. I could definitely get used to 75 and sunny every day. I have no idea what the weather was like in Atlanta because I literally did not go outside from the time I arrived on Monday to when I left on Thursday, which I am pretty sure is not healthy. Unfortunately since the summit took place in convention facilities attached to the hotel and the schedule went from 7am till about 12:30am every day, that left no free time.

Next week I'll continue to ensure that my body has no idea what season it is, with a trip to San Francisco. All things considered, it could be far, far worse.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Future Career

DSC_7670My rediscovery of a camouflage hat in a basement box of paintball supplies, coupled with my vast experience in watching Swamp People episodes, has reassured me that if my career in middle management doesn't work out I can always take up gator hunting.

Treeshaker! It's a treeshaker!

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Brazilian Beef

My trip to Brazil that was supposed to happen this week and next was canceled at the last minute, last Thursday. While I'm disappointed to not experience South America/Brazil and to not be able to help with the problem which necessitated the trip, I'm certainly not missing being gone from home for two weeks.

I was, however, looking forward to trying the cuisine in Brazil, which is rumored to be quite good. On Friday, this was highlighted when an e-mail chain was started by some co-workers that I was going to meet for dinner while in Sao Paulo discussing just what high-end restaurant we should go to. The decision was for Brazilian Barbecue. Something that was awesome in it's Minnesota imitation, so I can only imagine what the real deal is like. Alas that experience has been postponed, potentially indefinitely.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011


Over the weekend the popular activity seems to have been attempting to buy Twins tickets. Instead of using some sort of sensible system, such as letting you pick games and buy tickets, instead the Twins used a useless and ineffective virtual line system and a website built out of chewing gum and bailing wire.

My parents spent hours waiting in the virtual line, only to eventually get to the site and still be unable to buy tickets due to high volumes (isn't that what the line was supposed to prevent?). Linzy and I also waited in line, but never moved, until eventually going out and back in got us right into the site around the same time my parent's four hours of waiting got them in.

But then once you got the the actual site I was never able to actually buy tickets. My parents were able to after trying again and again, but my patience ran out after an hour of trying different games and sections over and over, always getting an error message saying that the request couldn't be processed due to high volumes.

Eventually I was so frustrated at the wasted time that I just went and bought the tickets (which were a gift) at Stubhub in about 10 minutes. Sure I paid a gross mark up over tickets that I likely could have just purchased directly from the Twins on the same day, but Stubhub had a website that worked, the Twins did not. And at the end of the day my time was worth that premium.

What is so hard about making a website to buy tickets? Let people pick them, give them a time limit to buy them, and then either complete the sale or put them back in the pool. There is no need for a virtual line, and you certainly should expect when you only allow single game sales on a specific day that there is going to be a flood of people buying tickets. It was sort of like Best Buy being shocked that on Black Friday there were lots of people looking to buy cheap laptops. Seriously, a virtual waiting line?

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