I’ve become a bad blogger!

Yeah, so where’s the blog been lately????  Well, work has been crazy and I’ve been training a lot on the bike (leaving me exhausted at the end of the day), so not much blog action gets done.  But I’m going to try and ramp back up again.  So, if a picture is worth a thousand words, this has pretty much been my life recently.


First GoPro HD Movie

So I finally finished pulling together my first little (which turned into bigger than anticipated) movie using the GoPro HD camera and iMovie 09 (see previous post). Just as I was wrapping it up I noticed some advanced tools (like adjusting the opacity of cuts) but I simply got tired of messing with the movie so I’ll save those features for future little movies.

And by little movies, I literally mean little movies. This one is too long. I’m thinking shorter cycling-related scenes and fast cuts. Nothing that lasts this long. . . it’s just too long for my self-prescribed adult-onset ADD to handle.

Oh. . . here it is on Vimeo.

The Fringe, Episode 20: Brown Betty = Fail

I’ve been into the Fringe again and it’s picked up some good momentum this season. I’ve enjoyed the emotional struggle (or maybe the moral obligation) Walter has been having with determining whether he should tell Peter his (Peter’s) true origins (spoiler: Peter is not Walter’s actual son, but an alternate Walter’s son from an alternate universe). The struggle and weight on Walter, as well as the strain on Walter’s relationships with Peter and Olivia, have been a nice, but subdued, subplot. However, with this last episode, Brown Betty, I’m afraid the show has derailed and this subplot has taken over as the new theme.

Episode 18: White Tulip seemed to hit a high water mark in terms of story telling for this season and I was looking forward to more episodes like that. I think what disappointed me most about Brown Betty was the fact that this episode was so cheap and non-creative. (I enjoy the Fringe partly for its creativity.)  Anna Torv recently had a bit-part in the HBO series The Pacific (Peleliu Landing) wherein she played the movie star Virginia Grey around period 1944. Did the Fringe crew simply not want to change her hair style and decided to make a 1940s film-noir type detective story based on her hair? And then did the Fringe crew say to themselves, “Hey let’s do something really wacky and make this a musical episode like Joss Whedon’s done on Buffy, Angel, and that really funny Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog!” Whedon’s perfected musical episodes but the Fringe crew failed to deliver. (Coincidentally, yesterday NPR ran a year old broadcast of This American Life in which Whedon performed a song from the DVD commentary of Dr. Horrible spoofing the idea of DVD commentaries. Fringe crew: Please note that Whedon’s DVD commentary is done as a musical, further indicating that doing musical episodes is not original.) As a side note, I must admit that having Walter sing, Head Over Heels by Tears for Fears was pretty, pretty good.

I guess the last thing I found disappointing about this episode was that I could not connect emotionally with it. It was just too silly. The glass heart? Breaking it in two to share? Comparisons to the game Operation? Bzzzzt. I’d previously been emotionally moved by the struggle Walter’s been having in earlier episodes. In the final scene of White Tulip I sensed that he’d reached some peace and there was some emotional catharsis on his part associated with the sign he’d received (and had been seeking). But Brown Betty just didn’t do it and sadly derailed the momentum the show has been building. And from the previews of next week’s episode, I’m not so sure the series is getting back on track before the end of the season. Sad (pathetically not emotionally).

Preview of Coming Attractions

I recently (and finally) purchased a GoPro HD video camera. The camera’s been on my list of things I’ve wanted to buy for about a year now. I just hadn’t gotten around to pulling the trigger until I discovered it was available at REI and I could combine my 20% off coupon and yearly dividend, which resulted in a sizable discount. So I picked it up and ordered a 16GB SD card. (Note: Photo is not of my hand, freaky thumb, foreign coin, or camera… I was just too lazy to take my own photo.)

I have a few filming ideas in mind (mostly cycling-related), but initially I wanted to take it out for a test run. What better place (or controlled environment) than good ‘ol Hains Point. I was heading down for a time trial workout anyhow so I brought along the GoPro. I placed the camera in different locations on the bike and did laps at speed, filming different perspectives. For example, I placed the camera on the stem, forward facing, and did a lap or two. Then I placed it out near the brake lever (facing forward, then facing rearward) and pounded out a few more laps. I switched camera locations a couple more times and did a few more laps. I ended up doing 8 or 9 laps at speed and capturing quite a bit of video.

Pulling everything together using iMovie 09 has been (as Sir Alex Pline predicted) a time suck. I’ve put together a pretty coherent series of clips but now I need to add a soundtrack and do some additional tweaking. At any rate, here’s a 22 second Vimeo preview clip (from the cutting room floor and poor quality because I haven’t decided whether I want to invest in Vimeo’s HD fee. . . still figuring this stuff out).

I’ve been pretty impressed with the image quality (outside Vimeo) and the ease of use of the GoPro HD. Figuring out iMovie 09 cold has been another thing though (and trying to synch up a soundtrack has been a little frustrating). I think I might want to eventually move to Final Cut Express at some point but for now I’m just trying to figure out iMovie 09. Stay tuned for more stuff.

The Worker and the Collective Farm Woman

My quest to see the sculpture The Worker and the Collective Farm Woman in Moscow, Russia has finally ended!! I’ll occasionally travel to Moscow for work and a few trips ago I was in a van heading to Star City. I glanced out the left window and saw a huge sculpture off the side of the highway that looked so incredibly Soviet that I wanted to track it down and take some pictures. There wasn’t time on that trip and I was so unfamiliar with Moscow that I probably wouldn’t have been able to locate it if I’d tried. Well, on a subsequent trip, I traveled to the All-Russian Exhibition Center to try and find it and it was gone!!!

A little history and what happened to the disappearing sculpture: The sculpture itself was originally made from stainless steel (still is) in 1937 by Very Mukhina for the World’s Fair in Paris and later moved to Moscow. The sculpture is one of the most admired examples of Soviet socialist realism. The 80-foot sculpture depicts the two figures striding forward, both with arms raised; the man holding a hammer and the woman holding a sickle to form the Soviet hammer and sickle symbol. In 2003 the sculpture was removed for restoration (the reason I couldn’t find it) and replaced in December 2009 on a new pavilion. I guess I could’ve seen it the last time I was here, but the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics (which is in that area) was closed at that time so I didn’t venture off in that direction of Moscow (particularly since it was February and very, very cold).

I’m super psyched that I was able to track down the sculpture on this trip and snap some photos. I love finding old Soviet era stuff in Moscow. I remember going to the Bolshoi Theater a few trips ago and being overwhelmed by the Soviet symbols on the inside of the theater. And during my last trip I visited the Sculpture Park (formerly known as the Park of the Fallen Heroes) which was filled with a collection of old Soviet statues and sculptures. To me The Worker and the Collective Farm Woman, however, is almost the pinnacle of that era (particularly with the hammer and sickle symbolism and because of its prominence and size). At any rate, I’m thrilled to have finally seen this sculpture and to have snapped some photos.

Thanks for reading and checking out the photos it took today.

Continuum of Caring

I had a minor heart attack a few days ago in the office. I thought maybe I lost my Continuum of Caring. Back up a little: I recently purchased a new home computer and I had all my files transferred from my old computer to the new computer. So the other day in the office while I was staring at my white board I thought, “Hey, I wonder whatever happened to my Continuum of Caring? Did the file get lost in the transfer??” Not that losing the continuum file would be like losing something critical, it’s just that. . . .

Back up a little more: Several years ago someone came into my office and we were having some abstract discussion. Who knows what it was about (maybe work-related, maybe about George Lucas, maybe the ranking of Star Trek movies). At any rate, the discussion could’ve gone something like this:

The other person: “Well, I could care less about that.”

Me: “Oh…so, in fact, you do care, just not very much.”

The other person: “No, I don’t care at all. . . I said, ‘I could care less.'”

Me: “You mean you couldn’t care less. Like it’s physically impossible for you to care less. Because what you said is that you cared at one point, don’t care much now, and could actually care less in the future.”

The above conversation could’ve continued going back and forth like a tennis match, but you get the idea. It’s similar to when someone says to me, “I don’t disagree.” This forces me to immediately reply, “Oh good, then you agree!” Typically the other person will then say, “No, I just don’t disagree.” And then this conversation goes back and forth until I finally say, “So you just can’t slice the argument thin enough to actually agree?” Other person: “No.” (BTW, I find the phrase “I don’t disagree” to be such a Washingtonian non-committal piece of garbage that I really get irked when people use it. Simply take a stand but don’t get all double negative wishy washy.)

But I digress. . . . At any rate, I developed my Continuum of Caring to 1) point out the difference between “could care less” and “couldn’t care less” and 2) to show people on the scale how much I care about a particular topic they are trying to explain. If a conversation goes on way too long (e.g., George Lucas is a genius because blah blah blah blah blah who gives a crap), I can simply stand up and point out on the continuum exactly where I care about the issue (thanks to my usually pessimistic attitude, it’s down at “couldn’t care less”). In all actuality, I rarely use the continuum, because I’ve found peoples’ reactions to be less than embracing. I mean, really, who wants to receive the following message (as I stand and point to a piece of paper on my white board):  “Excuse me, allow me to illustrate how little I care about what you’re talking about.”  That really never goes over very well.  It’s really a last ditch effort to end a sadly ridiculous conversation about nothing important.

So here’s the full blown continuum: Continuum of Caring. It’s several years old now and holding up okay, but in reading it again, I suppose it could use some revisions in some of the statement or arguments. I’m sure someone will poke holes in it. I’ve never claimed it’s perfect but it gets the point across and you get the idea. . . and it’s true about that idiot Jar Jar Binks.

Like an Old Blanket

Well, the past couple of days have provided a great opportunity to actually get OUTSIDE and ride. So I’ve taken advantage of this warmer weather to commute to and from work like I normally would be doing this time of year. Driving to work this winter has been making me crazy. I realized I hadn’t ridden to work since around late November of last year (although I’ve been riding indoors on my rollers). This was in part due to my little altercation with a car which kinda messed up my hand for about six weeks. And then it got cold (and I turned extra wimpy) and then all the snow came. Needless to say, one week led to another and I ended up missing a significant amount of road time (that’s sad).

Sometime last year I decided I wanted a smaller commuter bag. I had been using my mammoth Ortlieb messenger backpack. And because it was so large, I wasn’t always careful with what I packed around, meaning I’d just throw whatever in there I could fit (MacBook Pro, work papers, entire change of clothing for work, lunch, extra bike clothes, the kitchen sink, whatever) and nearly 30 lbs later I’d be hauling all that around VA, DC, and MD. So I figured I’d downsize and economize on what I carried around. (Believe me, I’ve tried this before.)  So I purchased a Timbuk2 commuter backpack and tried that a few times. It seemed to do okay and it didn’t even get too scuffed up when I laid down (is that right, laid down?) my bike in November.

However, when I recently started commuting again, I noticed the Timbuk2 was actually pretty small. I tried jamming in all the usual things but I couldn’t fit in everything. I forgot some stuff the first day and had to leave some things at work because they wouldn’t fit. So I pulled down out of the attic my trusty Ortlieb messenger bag, put it on this morning, and it felt like wrapping myself in an old blanket.

I realized I’ve been using this bag for about 10 years (sans the times I’d think I’d find something better).  We’ve actually been through a lot together: Cold, heat (with lots of sweat), and unexpected torrential downpours (keeping everything completely dry inside). The bag is nearly bombproof. About seven years ago, while riding to work, I slipped on some ice and my bike whipped out from underneath me. I hit the ground hard, got tossed over, and then I spun around on my Ortlieb like a turtle spinning on its back (and nothing happened to the bag!).

As goofy as it looks, and as goofy as I look wearing it, I’ll keep the Ortlieb (again) until it finally wears out and then I’ll probably replace it with a more current version. I hope I can return the Timbuk2, or sell it on eBay.