Archive for September, 2008


Monday, September 29th, 2008

I had this dream, the other night, maybe sometime soon it will make sense to you, although it does not make sense to me. I had a date with a girl, don’t remember/won’t say who, and we went to a restaurant on the top of the Frost tower, the tallest building downtown. It was at the very top, which given the huge glass atrium at the top you would think would be large and glass-covered, but for some reason it was not, a smallish room without windows and intricate pastel wall paper covering the walls.

We sat and ate and had some good wine and were talking and chatting and BOOM a deep, reverbrating impact struck below. The whole restaurant shook, shook as if it were done, and I thought to myself, “Are we doomed? Were we just doomed, dead and don’t know it yet?”. The vibration and the shaking grew and grew, and slowly and then faster and faster the restaurant tilted on its side. The tables were inexplicably fastened to the floor, and as the room tilted to its fullest extent I hung on, watching as the other diners slid below me to the now bottom wall.

I knew then that we were falling, could feel it, and knew that it was only a matter of a very short time before we fell no more. This was it, the cessation of being, the end of me and of my story, and…

Then I woke up.

Fucking crazy, eh? And I never remember my dreams.

Attention Obama

Monday, September 15th, 2008

I have a new campaign slogan for you, one that’s tried and tested and particularly appropriate to your current adversary:

It’s the economy, stupid!

It’s Good To Be Da (Vertical Sync) King

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

So I bought this Insignia NS-LCD42HD 1080p television a while back, and I liked it a lot. The only problem was that it wasn’t designed to be a computer monitor. When I plugged my computer into it via HDMI, it had a lot of “overscan”, where you can’t see the edges of the screen.

Actually, if you took the bezel off, you probably could see the edges of the screen, but I like the bezel. It’s black and shiny, and it probably holds the screen in place, so if I took it off, I’d have to hold the screen up with duct tape, which, while possibly the handiest thing in the universe, is not at all stylish.

With HDMI there are no knobs to turn–no settings to set. What you see, literally, is what you get. So I switched to the VGA input, and that works just absolutely great at 720p. You hit the auto-adjust and everything fills the screen perfectly. 1080p, on the other hand, synced up just fine–I could see my desktop–but the television squeezed it to a 4:3 aspect ratio, like an old monitor or non-wide-screen television. Everything was squished.

I got up on the Internets and I Googled and I Yahooed and I searched high and low. I found plenty of people having the same problem, but no solutions. At least, not any that worked.

Now, back in 1994 when I was a lonely undergraduate I built my first IBM PC from scrap parts I got at used computer stores and bits and pieces I scavenged from work. I installed Linux on it (Slackware, for anybody tru geeq enough to remember) and set up “X Windows”. Back then there was no “system-config-display”; you couldn’t just bring up a little window and tell it what size you wanted your screen to be. Back then you set your screen size by typing a long string of almost incomprehensible numbers into a file. Pixel clock, front porch, back porch, horizontal sync size, horizontal sync polarity, vertical sync size, vertical sync polarity–I remember them all, pretty much.

I had a literally scrap 14″ monitor, and the specs didn’t give much hope of getting a screen large enough to be useful with X Windows. I’d learned pretty early on that specifications were more of a general guideline than hard and fast rules, and I messed around with those strings of numbers for days on end, until I had squeezed every last damned pixel out of that screen.

So when I couldn’t get my new television to show me the picture I wanted, I didn’t have to give up. I have an nVidia 9800GTX video card, and the control center software that came with it has a section for custom display modes. I went in there and I created myself a new custom display mode. Then I clicked on the “Advanced” button so I could see timing specs that were hidden from mere mortals.

I knew I didn’t need to change much, since I could already read the screen. All the sync settings must be okay, and since the screen was centered, those porch settings must be okay too. Heck, since the picture filled the whole vertical screen, all that vertical stuff must be gravy too. All I needed to look at, really, was the “horizontal total”. Something about that number was tricking my television into thinking I had a 4:3 resolution set up. It either needed to go up or down, and I didn’t have to be exact, because I knew if I got it close enough, the auto-adjust would take care of the rest.

So I decided to try down first, because if I’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s to try turning stuff down first. Guitar strings, same thing. It was set to 2576 when I started, so I set the “Timing Standard” drop-down to Manual (not GTF or DMT or CVT or LSD or PCP or 2CB or any of that other shit), and took a guess: 2300.

I clicked the Test button, and the screen immediately became wider and jumped about 5 inches to the left. It was still visible, though, so I accepted the change, and then went into the TV menu: Video->VGA->Auto Adjust.

Perfect. Fucking perfect. Godallmighty luxurious full-screen 1080p perfect.

In a few days Google will crawl this page, and anybody with the smarts to search for the keywords I’ve embedded in this blog, and the perseverence to read down through the self-indulgent drivel I’ve written here will know how to make their television make pretty pictures–all because of me and those hours in my dorm room when I was a kid.

And that’s why, whe the weather’s cool and the moon’s just right, I love being a geek.

Olive Salad Tossing

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

Olive Salad

Chopped me up a bunch of queen olives in brine into a kind of olive salad like you get on muffalettas.

Pan toast the bread, with butter if you want, but not necessary. I used Jewish Rye.

Add up to 1/4 pound of pastrami, pan-fried with horseradish cheddar on top.

Top it off with a dressing of your choice. I went with chipotle mustard, and that was wrong. Something milder would be better, maybe a little aoli.

It’s a sandwich in progress, but the chopped olives are a winner.

Toys Toys Toys

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Those of you who know me well may know that I experienced a devastating personal loss some time ago. My dearest camera, my in-the-dark photo taking magic device, my Canon Rebel XT, took its first steaps on the long, long trek to electronics heaven, where the batteries always put out 7.0 volts, and the adaptive exposure control always works.

It got wet out at the creek, although I didn’t know it at the time, and when I used it briefly a week or so later, something in its cute little head went pop, and it hasn’t spoken a work or a click to me since.

The Rebel XT is a pretty damned magical camera, where 800 and even 1600 ISO shots can make damned fine 3×5s, maybe even 4×6s. It had rocking image stabilization built into the lens, giving you an extra two f-stops of exposure. You could, and I mean this literally, just hand-hold the camera and take shots at night. It would go from completely turned off to ready to shoot in 0.1 seconds, and took on average less than a quarter second to focus on just about anything. It was, without a doubt, the finest camera I’ve ever owned.

I’ll get it repaired or replaced eventually, but I’ve wanted for a while to get a camera with what’s technically known as a big fucking zoom. I also wanted a video camera, so that I can spread the Gospel of Kelly via Youtube. I gots some shit needs sayin’, yo.

My Rebel XT could take a lens that would provide the zoom, and at higher
quality than just about anything else out there, but it would then be
a) a $2100 chunk of metal, b) more than a foot long, and c) weigh about
8lbs. None of this is good, and it still wouldn’t record video. And, while I don’t regret taking my camera out in the field, I thought it would be nice to maybe have a less expensive camera to take, say, tubing with me.

So, I present to you, ladies and gentlemen, my first new toy:

Powershot S5 IS

It’s a Canon Powershot S5 IS. It cost my $350 for an 8 megapixel image with a 12x zoom. The wide end is a wee bit narrower than my old lens, but the long end is 35mm-equivalent 432mm, which is photog-speak for really damned long. It’s no Rebel XT–the images are noisier, it definitely does not take pictures in the dark, and the auto-focus is, literally, glacially slower. Since you’re not looking through a mirror at the actual scene you’re shooting, it’s often impossible to tell if an image is actually in focus. On the plus side, it does shoot some nice video, which I will post samples of as soon as I can, and the images it takes are actually pretty solid. I’ve posted some photos over on Flickr that I took Saturday on a trip to Inks Lake State Park.


So, there is that. It’s a good camera and I look forward to having a lot of fun with it. I also took a few pictures on the UT campus, which can be seen in my photo stream.

I’ll bet, though, I’ll just bet, that when you saw that picture of the S5 above, your first thought was, “but Kelly, if your Rebel is broken, and your S5 is in the picture, what could you have possibly taken that picture with.” It was, wasn’t it? I was right, wasn’t I? I know I was. I am. I’m always right. It’s the great thing about being me.

Anyway, I took that slightly-fuzzy picture with my other new toy, my iPhone 3G.

My New iPhone

I’ll leave further discussion about the iPhone until I’ve had more of a chance to play with it, but my first impression is this: it’s approximately as cool as pastrami * sex. Literally, I’m so fascinated by it that if a generic woman were to say to me, “Kelly, howabout we has us some sex right now, crazy jungle sex with blowjobs in?”, I’d be like, “Naw, I’m kinda playin’ with my iPhone. Maybe later.”

There are exceptions to this rule. Call today to find out if you’re one of them.