Thursday, August 28, 2008

MSNBC Smackdown!

I've been working like crazy this week with little time for TV. I DID tune into MSNBC's Democratic Convention coverage in the wee hours.

What fun!
Put a bunch of egomaniacal blowhards (A.K.A. "pundits") in a room, keep them on the air for for days without sleep and watch the sparks fly.

Not enough of this on YouTube! But here's a snippet:

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dr. Horrible in My Little Pony Form

Has this all gone too far?
Maybe this whole Internet thing wasn't a good idea...

See the whole collection at

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How to Not Design a Car Window Sign

So while driving today, I saw a car with a rear window ad. It was colorful and presumably informative. Sorry, I don't have a pic - camera was in the trunk. But it was full-coverage white background like those from

It had the phone number in large black type. Good.
Company name was in 3 colors, as was the URL.
There was also an eye-catching graphic in the design.
Would have made a terrific business card.

As a window ad or billboard design it was useless:
  • In the sun, the yellows used in the URL faded into the white background.
  • On the road, people aren't going to remember a phone number. Feature the company name or memorable URL.
  • The company name also got lost due to contrast. It was too small and the glare off the window hid all the light-colored elements.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Idiocy in the Newsroom. It's All About the Conventions, Baby!

CNN's latest poll shows the Obama and McCain tied.
First, I have huge issues with the poll: "1,023 adult Americans questioned by telephone." Really?
Although the pollsters insist that new communications technology doesn't skew their already questionable data, they really aren't counting the related behavioral shifts.
The cell-based people I know under 30 do not answer the phone for unidentified numbers. MUCH more willing to read an unknown SMS, though.

But assuming the polls are correct, CNN's analysis (and other reports I've seen on it) are horribly flawed. They all see the change (Obama was ahead in recent polling) coming from Obama's selection of Biden as running mate.

Perhaps way back on Wednesday, when the story was that the US would pull its troops from Iraq, people started thinking more favorably about the incumbent party? Maybe that could have something to do with it?

I understand where this is coming from. Every political reporter on the planet is covering the conventions, and they are locked in that world for the next two weeks. But really, they should at least try to remember there is a larger world out there.

Dunce Cap image courtesy Oldtimer4267

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Dr. Horrible's bookshelf

One of my fellow Horrible fans called to ask if I could tell what was on the bookshelf in Act2 @ 12:38.

We determined that Billy is a Harry Potter Fan.

  • Red book - no idea
  • Second red book: Principles of ... any ideas? Don't see much in way of descenders. Photography? Psychiatry? Taxidermy? Looks like maybe starts with "B," but too long for Biology... :)
  • The two green books are probably Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • And the two orange books are certainly Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • A Wii-mote! Horrible and Moist in a fierce match of Wii Bowling. You know you want to see it!

What do YOU see in this inkblot?

* UPDATE * Aug 22 2:30
According to the folks over at LibraryThing, the first book is James S. Walker's Physics, and the second is Albert L. Lehninger's Principles of Biochemistry.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dr. Horrible Ringtones

Oh man...
The Bad Horse phone call song is stuck in my head.
I haven't had a song burned into my brain this bad since The The's "True Happiness This Way Lies."

Dr. Horrible receives a call from Bad Horse:
He saw the operation
You tried to pull today.

But your humiliation
Means he still votes "neigh."

And now assassination
Is just the only way.

There will be blood.
It might be yours.
So go kill someone.
Signed, Bad Horse
I now have the ringtone on my phone. Just like Dr. Horrible!

Where to get 'em:

If you have problems getting ringtones onto your Verizon Samsung phone, you can try the method I used.

The site of the MIDI files has a number of transcriptions and MIDI files. Moses Lei has done an outstanding job getting the fans unofficial versions of sheet music and MIDI files.

Of course, we'll all pay for the official versions when they come out.

Now I know where the backing tracks are coming from for all those fan-generated videos...

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Google Calendar in Your Apple iCal!

On July 28, 2008 Google announced support for CalDEV. This means you can securely sync your Apple iCal and Google Calendars.

The process is pretty straightforward.
Basically, add an account to iCal and enter your Google credentials.
They say the initial sync takes "five to seven minutes" but it was more like 4 seconds for me.

The system still has some kinks.
  • Each iCal Account can only sync to one Google Calendar, so if you want to show multiple calendars, you need to create multiple accounts.
  • If you create an event in iCal, Google will show it on the calendar but won't send reminders/alerts. This one is the most serious problem for me.
  • And because of the one calendar per account limitation, you can't create new Google calendars from iCal.
Google has list of known issues:

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A Unicode Disaster

I was making an update to PHP site today: the podcast feed had quit working.
Turns out there was broken markup and all kinds of special characters in the content.
So I created a bunch of filters to scrub the content before sticking it in the podcast.
One of these converted a bunch of diacriticals to plain ASCII. I had the actual characters in the code, so when I went to save the file, my editor warned me about encoding and offered to set it to UTF-8.
All good. Saved away and started debugging the new code.
Then I got "PHP Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (..."
I was stumped for a bit since my header statement was on the 1st line of the program.

After confirming nothing funky was going on with Apache or my php.ini, I remembered the encoding change.

My editor had set the encoding to "UTF-8 BOM."

BOM in this case means Byte Order Mark. It adds a few bytes to the beginning of the file which act as a signature to indicate the encoding and byte order for Unicode characters.
You generally won't see those extra bytes, because a "smart" editor won't display them.
But they are there and messing up the PHP file.

The solution in my case was trivial: just change the encoding type in the pop-up menu to "UTF-8 (no BOM)"

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Terrific web site featuring fan videos for Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog.

I know... You're thinking: "sucky fan art? Lon - don't bother me with this crap."
But these are Whedon fans... I found at least half of this stuff watchable and entertaining.

The good: Rating system for videos. Generally good videos.
The horrible: The "blog" is just the video posts. Forums aren't seeing much action yet.


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Friday, August 15, 2008

Alan Tudyk Interviews Nathan Fillion for Reelz Channel

Tasty treat for fans of Firefly:

Alan chats with Nate about his many projects including Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog. They have short reminiscence about Firefly. Couple of cool guys hamming it up for the camera :)

My favorite question:
Alan: ... Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog... Why.. wasn't I in it?

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

TV sizes

Today's woot ( is a nice refurbished TV. A friend of mine wanted to know just how much bigger than his current TV this new one would be.

So I started in on the math... Said "surely someone has done this online!"

And, of course, someone has: TV Aspect Ratio Calculator

You can also download a nice spreadsheet from This also includes viewing distance.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dr. Horrible for FREE! Right HERE!

Hulu is now offering Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog for free with limited commercial interruptions. And since it's Hulu, I can embed it right here.

Or see it in a larger format (with full-screen options) over at Hulu.
Read Joss Whedon's post over at Hulu.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

G4 Catches Up with Dr. Horrible

G4TV's Attack of the Show had a delightful little segment on Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog yesterday.
Joss Whedon,Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day all appear.

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My 00s Big Rant: Drop the Steel

In the 90's my Big Rant involved how ridiculous it was that every business person's desk in America had a 30-pound chunk of glass on it. Eating up desktop space and energy.
Here in the new century, that problem's mostly gone, thank goodness.

The Big Rant this decade is cars.

Ask someone if they'd mind taking a ton of steel home with them from work tonight. And bring it back to work tomorrow. After they point how ridiculous that request is, point out that they're going to do it anyway.
Why should I move a ton of steel to pick up a burger?
If you think about, modern cars and trucks are amazingly efficient - they get the gas mileage and performance they do while carrying thousands of pounds of steel around.

We have many alternatives. We are wasting an obscene amount of energy hauling this much stuff around.

Photo Courtesy FreeParking

Monday, August 11, 2008

Farewell, Isaac Hayes

I was raised in a Lawrence Welk and Hee-Haw household. When I encountered the Theme from Shaft, it, well, changed my perceptions of what music could be. Nothing against The Sons of the Pioneers, but Isaac Hayes was just a bit cooler!
Isaac Hayes
I don't remember where I first heard the Theme from Shaft. I DO remember going into a record store and buying a 45 RPM single with my own money. The record had been out a few year already, so it didn't break the piggy bank.

I literally wore that record out over the course of a few months.

When I heard the news of Isaac Hayes's death yesterday, I was stunned. Another formative figure from my youth has passed.

Mr. Hayes:
I cannot overstate your influence to me and to American pop music.
You and your music are loved.
Farewell, cat!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Flying Disc of Your Dreams

Quick end-of-day post:

The Discraft Ultra-Star is the standard Ultimate disc.
Team Johnny Bravo is one of the top Ultimate teams - and they have a darned cool logo.

Put 'em together for flying disc coolness:

Get your very own Johnny Bravo Ultra-Star from Wright Life

iTunes track names to Skype - version 1.1

Update of my little Applescript application to display iTunes track names.
Original is here:
  • No more error alerts if iTunes or Skype has issues. Now safe to put in your startup items.
  • Minor code cleanups.
  • Crappy little icon :)
Download it here.

Or look at the code if you must:

global latest_song, moodprefix, qChar
on run
set moodprefix to ""

set latest_song to "iTunes2Skype for Mac: http//"
set qChar to ASCII character 34

end run
on idle
set aplist to my running_apps()
if aplist contains "iTunes" and aplist contains "Skype" then

tell application "iTunes"
if player state is playing then
set current_tracks_name to moodprefix & qChar & the name of the current track & qChar & " by " & the artist of the current track as string
set current_tracks_name to ""
end if
end tell
on error
-- error silently
end try
if (current_tracks_name is not latest_song) then
copy current_tracks_name to latest_song
tell application "Skype"
send command "SET PROFILE MOOD_TEXT " & latest_song script name "iTunes2Skype"
end tell
end if

on error
-- error silently
end try
end if
on error
-- error silently
end try
return 10
end idle
on reopen
tell me to run
end reopen
on running_apps()
tell application "System Events"
return (get name of every process)
end tell
end running_apps

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Rogue Amoeba SoundSource

I maintain two offices: the home office, which is based around a desktop machine with extreme quantities of storage. At the other office, I use my laptop. Because of this, I have a ton of USB devices on a hub, so I only have a few connections to make when I hook up in the morning.

Specifically, I've got three audio devices. Switching between my voice-recognition headset, monitors, and my headphones required a trip to the System Preferences panel.

A little research led me to SoundSource by Rogue Amoeba.

This outstanding extension puts a control on your menu bar that allows you quickly switch audio intputs/outputs and independently adjust volumes.

Best of all, it's free!

See Dr. Horrible for Free (With Commercials)

Now I don't need to lend out my iPod every day.
You can watch Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog over on MySpace with commercials.