Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's Resolutions 2012

I figured it might be helpful to actually write my New Year's resolutions in a place that is readily accessible, so here it goes:

  1. Lose 10% of body weight (current weight 196.2 lbs, target weight 176.58 lbs)

    Supposedly you can get quite a host of health benefits by losing just 5% of your body weight, but I figure that losing 10% is still pretty reasonable when paced out over the course of a year and will make a huge difference in how I look and feel.

  2. Finish at least three songs.

    My music stuff has been going slower than I had hoped, but I absolutely have not given up. I think getting three songs in final form by the end of the year is a doable goal, especially now that I have all this nice, new equipment. There's one song in particular at the top of my todo list ;-)

  3. Improve my German.

    It's really a struggle to keep my German fresh now that I'm out of college. I have been trying my best by listening to lots of German-language music and reading the German World magazines that Brenna's folks got for me last Christmas, but I feel I should step it up a bit and try using Live Mocha tutors. I have my first session scheduled for this Sunday at noon. So excited!

  4. See a therapist.

    I've been thinking about this one for quite a while and I think it's time I saw one. I don't really feel like talking about why here. It's not really anything dire or bad, but I just think it would be helpful.

  5. Run in a 5k

    I've done the Couch to 5k running plan more times than I'd like to admit. I will be restarting it very soon and I think actually running in a 5k race/fun run/whatever would help me to stay motivated and possibly encourage me take on longer distances. I enjoy running when I'm in shape, but it's kind of a hard thing to get back into when you've been away for a long time.

  6. Build a 3 month "cushion" fund and start an IRA

    I've been reading an interesting book called "Get A Financial Life" that is all about how to lay a solid foundation for your financial future when you're in your 20s. Pretty much the first thing they tell you to do is to save up three months of living expenses in an emergency fund and contribute to either a 401(k) or IRA. Since my work does not have a 401(k) (at least not yet), I want to start an IRA.

  7. Start an account at Pima Federal Credit Union

    I've been meaning to do this for ages. It's located on the way to/from work and has good marks. I like credit unions in general (been a happy Desert Schools customer for years), but I really want to have an actual branch near where I live.

  8. Research testing methods for web apps.

    I really want to learn all about Selenium and PHPUnit. I think it would help a lot at work.

  9. Write something cool/fun in Ruby/Rails and host it on AWS.

    I was reading "Pragmatic Ruby" some time ago and then work got busy and I never really finished. I'd love to actually do some real coding in Ruby/Rails to get a better feel for the language. Additionally, I want to host it on Amazon Web Services to learn more about cloud-based hosting.

Bonus: Get Scuba Certified

I've always wanted to go scuba diving, but never took the time to learn how to do it. I absolutely loved snorkeling when I was in Hawaii, so I figured why not take things up (or down as it were) a notch?

Well, that's all I can think of for now. I think I will try to make blog entries for each one I finish.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fine, Steve Jobs! Don't take my money...

From the new iTunes EULA(gy):
"Purchases or rentals (as applicable) from the iTunes Store are available to you only in the United States, its territories, and possessions, and are not available in any other location. You agree not to use or attempt to use the iTunes Store from outside of the available territory. Apple may use technologies to verify such compliance."

Well, looks like I'm going to have to take my business elsewhere and buy mp3s from Amazon...

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Black Death?

The last few albums I bought have come directly from iTunes. Despite the convenience of being able to have an album after just a few clicks of a mouse, I resisted purchasing mp3s, etc for a long time for a variety of reasons, restrictive DRM being chief among them. However, since iTunes has dropped DRM and I'm now the proud owner of both a Macbook Pro and an iPod (I know, fast on my way to becoming a fanboy), I felt more comfortable buying mp3s. However, when Triptykon announced that their debut album would feature an extensive color booklet with artwork by HR Geiger, I knew I had to get a physical copy (Note: it looks like you can download it at Amazon but not iTunes). I mean, I get all the great artwork plus a physical backup of my purchase should my hard drive and iPod somehow simultaneous bit the dust, right? Oh how wrong I was.

I came home from Saturn (basically the German equivalent of Best Buy) with the disc in one hand and some Turkish baklava in the other. In short, I felt how God must feel when he's about to hear new work from Tom G. Warrior AND eat a tasty treat. As I have no other means of playing CDs, I put the disc into my computer. After a few whirs and clicks, my beautiful, new CD was spat out mockingly by my computer.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the bottom of the CD was black like that of a PlayStation game. Curious to see if this had anything to do with it, I googled "'black cd' macbook." Sure enough, there were quite a few forum posts of people complaining about not being able to read black CDs on their Macbooks. However, the majority of them were complaining about not being able to use burned CDs. Something really smarted about buying the fancier, more expensive version of a product only to have it not work. At present I have found no solutions.

Frustrated, I downloaded the album in a manner that would definitely be illegal had I not purchased the CD and hopefully is considered understandable given my current predicament, although I'm sure if the RIAA reads this they'll try to have me water-boarded by Toby Keith and Dick Cheney. I almost feel like posting a whiny comment on the band's myspace, although I'm sure thousands of CDs have already been printed and of course this really isn't the band's mistake but Apple's.

Moral of the story: if you own a Macbook and want the new Triptykon album, you'll either have to buy it on Amazon or get a turntable and buy the vinyl edition.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Milo and Otis

Dear Sir or Madam:

I have been searching your website (as well as others) for information regarding the film released as "The Adventures of Milo and Otis" in the United States. As the film is rather old and comes originally from a foreign nation, I realize that it is impossible for your organization to certify that no animals were killed or harmed during filming, however many (like myself) enjoyed the film as children and would like to know what, if any, position the American Humane Society has on the treatment of the animals used in this film. A note that is purported to be from your organization appears to be circulating the internet (eg as the first comment on this blog) without proper citation. In fact, the only cited opinion I can find on the matter comes at the very end of the film itself, in which the filmakers state "the animals used were filmed under strict supervision with the utmost care for their safety and well-being," a reassuring, but unsettlingly vague, assertion.

I'm sure you're very busy, but I would sincerely appreciate your organization's thoughts on this matter. I loved this film as a child, but would not like to support animal abuse, however indirectly, by purchasing it as an adult, were the animals featured mistreated during filming.


William Simpson

Dear Mr. Simpson,

First and foremost, please forgive me for the delay in responding back to you. Nonetheless, thank you for contacting American Humane’s Film & Television Unit. It’s so nice to hear from someone who cares so deeply about movies and animals. In response to your inquiry, yes, what you found on that blog is indeed our official statement with regard to the animals from The Adventures of Milo and Otis. As you know, we were not on set for this two decade old film, therefore are unable to speak to the quality of care the animals received or how the animal action was achieved. Also during that time, American Humane did not have as much international coverage as we do today.

Our thought on the matter, Mr. Simpson, is of course we certainly hope that this production did not harm any animals but, again, as we were not there as a credible witness we unfortunately have no way attesting to that. However, that said, we have been protecting animals in filmed entertainment for 70 years now and we are tremendously dedicated to our mission which is very near and dear to our hearts. Our continuous efforts in educating productions about the importance of having one of our Certified American Humane Animal Safety Representatives™ on their sets to ensure that “No Animals Were Harmed®” is something we work on every day. We are the only ones in the world that have the sole authority to monitor animals used in productions, working on over 1000 productions a year, a large percentage of those being international. Within the past two decades we have made concerted efforts in covering international productions, putting that at the top of our priority list these past couple of years having been to various countries protecting animals used in film such as Morocco, New Zealand, Mexico, the Czech Republic, China, and the Caribbean.

I’d like to thank you Mr. Simpson so very much for your concern and compassion for all animals. Please be assured that over the years American Humane has made great strides in overseeing international productions involving animals and continue to do so with your valuable support of our vital work. As a 132 year-old humanitarian organization we appreciate hearing from compassionate and responsible people such as you.

Dog Bless,

Lisa Yassa

Statement of The American Humane Society Regarding "The Adventures of Milo and Otis"


The Adventures of Milo and Otis is a Japanese production released last year in the U.S. It is an epic fairytale about the friendship between an inquisitive cat and a dog. The only characters are animals. According to the production company, they all belonged to Hata, a zoologist and one of Japan's most noted authors of children’s books. According to information released on the film, Hata started developing what he calls "Mutsugoro's Animal Kingdom" on his private island where he has 300 animals including cats, dogs, horses, foxes, deer, raccoons, bears, and bison. He wanted to make a film about his animals, so he hired a crew to live on his island. They spent four years, and shot 400,000 feet of film, then spliced it and made it into a picture. Hata was also the writer and director of the film. Dudley Moore did the voice-over for the animals in the American version.

The main character is a cat (played by 27 different cats). The picture shows no animals being injured or harmed. However, before it was released in the United States, AHA heard rumors that some of the cats had died during the filming. We have attempted to investigate this through our contacts in Europe who normally have information on movies throughout the world. They had also heard the rumor, but were unable to verify it as being true. We have tried through humane people in Japan, and through another Japanese producers to determine if these rumors are true but everything has led to a dead end.

The picture was released in Japan in 1986. The following Japanese Humane Societies allowed their names to be used in connection with the picture:

Japan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Japan Animal Welfare Society

Japan Animal Protection & Administration Society

Japan Veterinarian Medicine Associations

Japan Pets Association

We will continue to seek information and will notify you if we find something that substantiates the rumors. In the meantime, if you should obtain some concrete evidence of abuse, we would appreciate your advising us. Thank you.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Found it!

Okay, I found the corresponding Lovecraft excerpt to my Grabkapelle experience:

"At last he saw the tower plain against the southwest, and a huge stone bulk rose darkly at the end of an alley. Presently he stood in a wind-swept open square, quaintly cobblestoned, with a high bank wall on the farther side. This was the end of his quest; for upon the wide, iron-railed, weed-grown plateau which the wall supported- a separate, lesser world raised fully six feet above the surrounding streets- there stood a grim, titan bulk whose identity, despite Blake's new perspective, was beyond dispute.

The vacant church was in a state of great decrepitude. Some of the high stone buttresses had fallen, and several delicate finials lay half lost among the brown, neglected weeds and grasses. The sooty Gothic windows were largely unbroken, though many of the stone mullions were missing. Blake wondered how the obscurely painted panes could have survived so well, in view of the known habits of small boys the world over. The massive doors were intact and tightly closed. Around the top of the bank wall, fully enclosing the grounds, was a rusty iron fence whose gate- at the head of a flight of steps from the square- was visibly padlocked. The path from the gate to the building was completely overgrown. Desolation and decay hung like a pall above the place, and in the birdless eaves and black, ivyless walls Blake felt a touch of the dimly sinister beyond his power to define."

-HP Lovecraft, "The Haunter of the Dark"

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Son of The Haunting In Karlsruhe

Okay, I took some pics and put them on facebook. You can view the album here

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Haunting in Karlsruhe

I generally consider myself to be a relatively skeptical person. Although I don't spend every waking moment in a state of profound Cartesian doubt, I am generally fairly quick to dismiss claims of the supernatural, unless they are backed up by a peer-reviewed scientific journal....but since that kind of thing doesn't happen, allow me to paraphrase a truly great film: I do not believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster or the theory of Atlantis. But sometimes there are things in this world that just seem to have a certain preternatural darkness about them.

Today I went running (okay, jogging....okay, fine, it was the Couch to 5k plan) and decided to make things a bit more interesting by taking an unknown route in the Schlossgarten (the big park around the palace). After hitting a few dead ends and almost getting run over by an absent-minded bicyclist, I began to notice an unfamiliar Gothic spire poking out of the trees ahead. I finished my allotted running time before reaching it, but decided to keep walking to get a better look.

What I saw was something almost out of an HP Lovecraft story: a crumbling, neo-Gothic structure seemingly alone amidst the trees, with a kind of quiet aura surrounding it that almost made me forget that I wasn't far from a major street. The gargoyles adorning the eves were positively grotesque (which is to say, totally awesome and really fucking metal \m/) and some of the windows had been broken out. The first word that came to mind was "cathedral" because we Americans are really quite easily impressed when it comes to things that are old and Gothic-looking, but upon further inspection the building seemed to be much too small to be described as such. The sign out front cheerfully suggested another word: "Grabkapelle." That is, a "sepulchral chapel."

Reading further I discovered that it had been built after the Grand Duke's youngest son died unexpectedly at a young age and had been built away from town so he could rest "in the solitude of the deep forest." A paper taped to the building itself offered a € 500 reward to anyone who had information regarding a man who had been savagely beaten by two unidentified people in the vicinity of the chapel. At this point I was expecting to hear a clap of thunder, see a murder of crows take off whilst cackling mercilessly and then catch a faint glimpse of an ethereal little boy in a blood-stained white tunic only to have him disappear into thin air in the blink of an eye. Seriously, it's hard for a situation to get any more haunted house than this.

I decided to have a look around and walked around the whole structure. At certain angles the various ornamental flourishes seemed to clump together in an almost menacing fashion. Upon reaching the front door of the chapel again, I realized I was not alone. Some one was sitting on the bench. He was...completely unmenacing in every way and that's about where my haunted house story ends.

After leaving, I couldn't decide whether or not I really, really wanted to stay away from it or really, really come back to it. I have decided the latter since the picture on its Wikipedia page is not appropriately menacing. As tomorrow is Saturday, I think I will probably go out and try to take some scary pictures. I'd like to avoid any demonic possession or savage beatings, so I will probably go during the day. Anyhow, that is all for now, hopefully I will get some cool pictures.