This is Zach's personal blog. If you're looking for his movies, please click here. Otherwise, have fun!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm not dead!

Just not blogging.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

+4 Stamina.

Yes, it's true, K and I have become drawn into World of Warcraft and may soon follow the example of the couple in Korea who were prosecuted for neglect after their child died because they were addicted to WoW.
So if you want this joy for yourself, drop me a line... we have three ten-day trial keys ripe for the taking.  Just make sure to join the Sisters of Elune realm, and look for Emmawyn and Squelchy.
(She's a night-elf, I'm a gnome.  In other words, just like real life.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Can you guess where we're going?

"Zach Brewster-Geisz!  You just finished first in the Daytona 500!  You also single-handedly won the World Series, brokered a peace deal between Israel and Palestine, killed Osama bin Laden with your bare hands, and won the Nobel Peace Prize!  What are you gonna do next?"

See you when we get back!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Not a moment too soon department.

So we bought me a new MacBook Pro yesterday. I went through the whole rigaramole of getting the files transferred over via FireWire, and it went pretty flawlessly.

I figured I'd give the kids the old PowerBook, so I started to reformat the drive, and zeroed out all the data. Then I started the process of installing Tiger.

While the installer was verifying the erased disk, I started hearing a sound very much like a metronome, so I cancelled the procedure and restarted the computer.

Well, turns out I had just had a catastropic hard drive failure--my first ever. So the PowerBook is going to ebay, for parts only.

But talk about dumb luck! My first hard drive failure--the day after I successfully backed it up!

Somewhere, the Devil of obsolescent hardware is firing the dude in charge of timing.

Edit: And it's on eBay!  Bid here if you're interested...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

We get letters!

Robert wrote:
Now, seriously, with your acting career blooming and all that do you really need to be spending another lifetime learning CD4 just to get back to doing what you were already doing with (app that dare not speak its name)?

Come on back! We still love you there. Well, 99% of us do, ok?
Two points about that:
  1. An acting career that is "blooming" in community theater is kind of like being the proverbial "world's tallest midget."  Get back to me when I'm getting paid.
  2. More germanely, I have no confidence whatsoever that said app will continue to be supported on Mac OS X, now that Ken has left; and with other programmers leaving in droves I'm not fully convinced the thing will exist at all in a couple of years.  And besides, the C4D renderer is so much nicer!  Even if I can't wrap my head around its character tools yet, once I do, my work will look so much better it won't even be a question.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Inner necessity...

Vintage article from Joel Achenbach:
Leon Botstein, the composer, says you can't plan your breakthroughs. You just have to keep plugging away, and wait, and hope.

"Breakthrough is not when you want it, it's not when you expect it. It's a function of the constant activity. It is only the constant activity that generates the breakthrough."

And what causes the constant activity? It's not money. It's not glory. It's an "inner necessity," he says. Unless you have this inner necessity to create, you'll probably never do anything of brilliance, Botstein believes.

"Without constant, almost irrational, obsessive engagement, you'll never make the breakthrough," he says. "The difference between you and the person you consider great is not raw ability. It's the inner obsessiveness. The inability to stop thinking about it. It's a form of madness."

So this is what separates the great ones from the rest of the world. It is not simply that they are smarter, savvier, more brilliant. They are geniuses because they can't stand to be anything else.

Just a test.

Woo, hoo!  Compose mode!  It's Safari-3-tastic!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Parallel Play"

This is my son, and in many ways it's heartbreaking, because I don't know if he'll wind up like Tim Page or like the homeless person Page briefly describes halfway through, obsessively scrawling the genealogy of the Hapsburgs on the walls of the New York subway.

The essay does put Page's recent unpleasantness in a new light, though.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Relearning is hard. I really wish there was just a red pill I could take to remember how to design characters, because that's what I need to do for my new short film. But no. I won't even allow myself to hire other artists to do it for me, since my ultimate objective is to learn how to do all this stuff myself. Gah!

And this failure is affecting me in other ways, as well, making me more touchy and irritable. Or is the tail wagging the dog? Am I both irritable and having character trouble because of some other, deeper issue?
All I know is that for the first time since Dad's death I actually Have An Idea, yet it's so so so fucking hard to implement it!

Oh, I really should mention...

By the way, my (ancient!) short film <ESC> was a runner-up for Best Animation at the Philadelphia FirstGlance Film Festival this year. Woo.

God damn it.

I am pissed off at NARAL.

Al Wynn used to be my representative, before I moved to Steny Hoyer's district, and he's every bit as bad as Digby says he is. I was really pulling for Donna Edwards in 2004 2006, and she almost beat him. Here's hoping this year makes the difference.

Here's her website. Donate today if you can.

(Edited to fix the error in the space-time continuum.)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Feast or famine?

Someone explain to me how, after doing virtually nothing "professional" for the past several months, suddenly TWO emails jump into my inbox this morning with what might be significant offers?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I couldn't beat 'em.

The domain is dead.
Long live the domain.

Nothing will show for another couple of days, of course. But alas, someone owns my name now, so I need to set up a whole new one. GAAA!

This also, unfortunately, means I need to re-do my logo and teaser for the top of all my films. But maybe that's not such a bad thing; in fact, maybe it's the kick-start I need to start animating again (not to mention learning C4D in earnest).

Friday, November 02, 2007

At least they didn't say I was a natural nerd.

The Baltimore Sun reviewed Shallowford albeit too late to draw more crowds our way. They liked it, especially our leading lady. But I got a decent notice, too:
Seen last season as Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest, Zachary Brewster-Geisz took on a much different role as sci-fi buff Lonny Hutchins, convincingly portraying a 17-year-old boy experiencing his first love.
Read the whole thing here. It's much more of a proper review than the last one, which was more of a cast list and synopsis.


See my progress and read my excerpt here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Start 'em young, I guess...

K is reading Seamus Heany's translation of Beowulf... to our five year old daughter as a bedtime story.

Five days. FIVE DAYS!

Finally my annoying, lazy-ass domain registration provider has moved my domain's status to pendingDelete. Now only a few days before I can move the registration to DreamHost and be back on-line. What a mess!

Monday, October 29, 2007


Given how spectacularly I've crashed and burned in the past I suppose the realization that NaNoWriMo begins in just a few days should either cause me to shrug with great indifference or run screaming and crying for my smelling salts.

And yet, here I am considering trying again. Will I never learn?

Understatement of the year.

"This is usually the point in the WWDC presentation where Cocoa programmers unfamiliar with Core Animation begin to drool and moan."

Red Sox deviation.

To call me a baseball fan is an insult to both baseball and air conditioners, but I do wonder how Red Sox fans are going to survive with two World Series wins in three years--and one of them a sweep, no less. How do you root for an underdog that's an overlord?

Sunday, October 28, 2007


A couple posts ago I wondered if I'd have an epiphany during the last three performances of Shallowford. I didn't.

You may now return to whatever you were doing.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

And meanwhile, here's my pull quote.

"Brewster-Geisz is especially believable in his role of shy nerd." -- Bowie Blade review of The Battle of Shallowford.

Brother, can you spare a penny?

I'm finishing up a show now, and as always happens when I've just done a show I care about and have invested myself in significantly, I find myself facing a Moment of Truth, such as it is.

The show is The Battle of Shallowford, by Ed Simpson, and it's set during the "Martian invasion" of 1938, that is, Orson Welles' radio broadcast that created an infamous panic. It's a very good script; the broadcast is a catalyst for the events of the play, but it's not the only thing happening by any means. I play Lonny Hutchins, a seventeen-year-old (NO JOKES, PLEASE) science fiction geek. He's a great part to play, but unlike most of my roles, he's not a clown.

This is quite significant, for me. I've played many different roles over the years, but certainly since returning to theater two years ago, my roles have either been classical, i.e. Shakespeare in particular, or caricature, i.e. Renfield and even Algy in Earnest to a certain extent. In other words, I've either been able to hide behind poetry or laugh lines through most of my work.

Lonny is different. There's no doubt that Shallowford is a comedy, but Lonny's a fairly straight role, with only one unmitigated laugh line (and that's only funny in context, not because of inherent cleverness or anything) and no physical comedy whatsoever. He's almost painfully earnest, and goes through significant changes over the course of the show. There's very little stylization or aloofness to hide behind. It occurs to me that this is the kind of part an acting teacher in London (Anna Sullivan, if those in the know are reading this) told me I should be taking, since it's far too easy for me to hide behind technique and language, and Lonny allows no hiding. Shit, it only took me, oh, fifteen years to take her advice.

But now that I have taken the advice, and gotten a taste of it, it has naturally made me re-evaluate so many other choices I've made. (Here's where you can stop reading, long-suffering friends.) For instance, I've told myself again and again that I wouldn't make it as a "professional" actor. And if you define "making it" as Hollywood or New York, of course that's true. But the reason I gave up was not cold-blooded realism; it was simply fear. Fear of auditioning for the most part--and that's something I should explore in another entry--but also fear of what an all-consuming career (and one that leaves me so emotionally fragile!) would do to my family. If you want to work, you've got to work. That's a facile statement, of course, but the fact is (unless I were to get an Equity card and somehow find work on that level) both rehearsals and performances are at night, and every night. Typically you only get one night a week off, and I expect that night is spent preparing for the next audition.

Also, the community and professional theater worlds are different in more ways than just getting paid. I excel at cold script readings. I'm not gonna lie. But I absolutely suck at prepared monologues. Guess what the pros use for auditions, in general (at least at the first calls)? The produced scripts are different, too; warhorses are popular everywhere, but in professional-land, you might well have a chance at a new play, while as far as I can tell, in community theater it's very rare to do a play no one has ever heard of before (which is 90% of the reason I jumped at the chance to do Shallowford).

Truthfully, in a lot of ways I prefer community theater. There's a hell of a lot less pressure, and for the most part the people who do it are just like me--they love performing, but they have other interests. I've met too many professional actors who are just actors, with absolutely no outside interests, who'd sooner read "the trades" rather than a good book or even a news magazine. I find that horribly boring. There are of course boors and assholes in any profession. But in the case of acting, I find it baffling--how can you play a wide range of parts if you don't have a wide range of interests?

So why am I even questioning my path? I'm not sure. After all, my recent success could probably be attributed more to my age and gender than my talent. (A lot more, to be fair--males in their thirties are seriously in demand.) So it's quite probable I'm deluding myself here. But if I'm not, and I've allowed myself to believe I've failed without any evidence... well, that's not a happy thought.

Well, we have three more performances. (Friday at 8, Saturday at 2 and 8, Bowie Playhouse, see the PGLT website!) Perhaps I'll have an epiphany in the meantime.

Friday, October 19, 2007

This made me chuckle.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Adventures in iPod Genius land.

So as I was going home from rehearsal last night, I plugged my iPhone into my car charger, figuring I'd at least be able to put the phone's speaker on full blast, since it doesn't actually play through the car stereo like the iPod. Future reference: don't do that.

I knew the thing wasn't "designed for iPhone," but I had used it before with no ill effect. But apparently, with iPhone firmware 1.1.1, attaching the old Belkin dock connector was enough to, oh, BRICK THE PHONE. So off I went to the Apple store.

The iPod genius took one look at it, noticed the strange zebra stripes flashing above the Apple logo as it booted, and took my information for an exchange. So here I am, writing this entry on a new iPhone.

Now I just have to hope I can jailbreak it again.

Update: Yep! works and I'm reading and hacking away.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Don't blink.

Hey, I'm in the New York Times! Too bad it's too late to do anything about it.

Tears on the keyboard, click click click.

I can't tell you just how disappointed I am that the iPhone is once again a closed system; that Apple saw fit to encrypt its firmware so that all the third-party applications that have popped up are no longer installable. As the author of one of the more popular pieces of said software, I have a dog in this fight, sure. I'll admit it was incredibly satisfying to know that hundreds of people were using and enjoying my Books application. People were sending me thanks left and right, some even sent donations. It was an amazing feeling and could make me all Sally Field on my good days.

More than that, programming on the iPhone was fun. The Cocoa API is just wonderful to hack in. And I may be the only person outside Cupertino who has gotten a UIWebView to work, and damn it, that's important to me. As I've said before, many people have told me they bought an iPhone only after they discovered my software was available. Now, what do they do, Apple?

We can wait and see what the Dev Team comes up with, I suppose. But I'm not optimistic.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Color me impressed.

Well, Amazon MP3 is a big winner as far as I'm concerned. I just downloaded Feist's "1234" for 89 cents, DRM-free. It's only available with DRM in the iTunes store (and for ten cents more), and as a reviewer pointed out, oh the irony--this is the music from the new iPod nano ads. Ha!

I also bought the long version of "Call Me" by Blondie, which isn't even available as a single download on iTunes. That made me HAPPY! (Yes, I admit I feel guilty too, Blondie being the very definition of a guilty pleasure.)

The Amazon mp3s are encoded at 256k (variable bit rate), which still doesn't sound as good as a 256k AAC file, in my opinion. But frankly, the price differential (99 cents for Amazon, versus $1.29 for iTunes Plus) makes the difference. And of course, if it's a choice between DRM and non-DRM, it's a no-brainer.

(I'll still buy full iTunes Plus albums, rather than the Amazon version, though, as the price tends to be the same in that case.)

Long ago I decided that what's good for Apple is good for me. So I'm hoping that NBC/Universal and Apple will work out their differences, and the songs on Amazon will also be available on iTunes Plus. And here's looking forward to the day when all digital music is DRM-free. It's comin'. It's comin'.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The party is almost over.

I was thinking the same thing as Daring Fireball...
... if you have the urge to hack around on your iPhone, you might as well do so now, as I strongly suspect that this week’s imminent iPhone software update is going to render inoperable the existing ways of hacking/jailbreaking the iPhone. Notice how no one’s yet figured out how to install or modify the software on the iPod Touch? Whatever Apple’s doing on the Touch in this regard, I expect them to begin doing on the iPhone this week. (I’d love to be proven wrong.)

So would I, dude, so would I. But we won't be.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Ah, the perils of users.

Here's the problem with non-commercial software, kids. I don't want to implement what everyone is asking for--PDF support in PDF is a horrible format for eBooks--there's no way to reflow the text, since you're basically looking at a picture. I don't want that reading experience for myself. But a lot of people do.

So? What to do about it?

I'm thinking about a tip jar, with a certain amount of money required for me to begin work on PDF support. If I'm gonna do something I don't want to do, I better get paid for it. That seems fair, doesn't it? What do you think?

The number of people using is pretty impressive. And if someone doesn't want to pay me, maybe they'll be motivated to code it themselves.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007



Edit: Shit, I already used that phrase. Oh, well.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


My conquering of the iPhone Developer Paradise continues apace... the various versions of have been downloaded nearly 500 times since version 0.1, and that's only direct downloads from Google Code; the package downloads don't count in that, I think.

I'm kinda enjoying the notoriety. Now I just have to maintain my sanity in the face of all these darn users. Pesky users, interfering with my perfect code...

Monday, August 13, 2007


I've gone and released the first version of, my native eBook reader for the iPhone, and despite being on-line for only 18 hours and heving no direct publicity from me, it's already gotten 50 downloads. That's pretty kewl.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Had a nice dinner last night with Godfrey and his wife, but I'm just hoping we didn't give them fodder for a submission to They'll Do It Every Time:
Mr. & Mrs. Sooperparent always complain that they never have adult conversations because they stay with their kids all the time....

... but when they finally go out with friends, guess who they talk about all night? OHHHH, YEAAHHHH!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Oh, snap!

Sweet! I can use GutenMark to automagically split chapters with abandon, and as a side-effect the books will look much, much prettier! I've already got one book converted...

More Books.

Still plugging along at that iPhone eBook reader. I've now developed it to the point where it can break things down by chapter.

Here's a look at the list of books; note the disclosure triangle indicating you can access the book's chapters (which is just a directory). (I've only split one book up so far--ideally I'd have the iPhone do this automatically, but I think it might be better to have a "server-side" program do that and transfer the resulting files to the phone, à la iTunes.) Here is a list of chapters; the titles are just taken from the names of the text files, so again it's pretty simple. And finally here is a chapter being read; notice that the back-arrow says "Chapters," but it says "Books" if you access a book that doesn't have any chapters.

More to come!


Two headlines in today's Washington Post:
  • Primary Season Getting Earlier
  • Bush May Try to Cut Corporate Tax Rates
In other news, the pope may be Catholic and snowballs melt in Hell.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Books on a Phone, part 2!

Well, I coded my first "app" for the iPhone today, a very simple dealio that presents a list of text files (i.e. eBooks) and presents the one you click on so you can read it. These are eBooks on your phone itself, not the web! Hot darn!

At the moment it's very ugly and kludgy; you don't remember your scroll-point or anything, so if you leave the program to do anything else, you're SOL and have to start reading from the beginning. It only works with text files (no HTML or anything else). And there aren't any chapter divisions yet.

But it's a good first step.

I put a couple of screenshots here and here.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Different ways of seeing the world.

K: You're on Twitter? Isn't that a little too encouraging to stalkers?
Me: I have a stalker? Cool!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

In response to a comment below.

Let me be clear, I don't want to ape Pixar... Well, not really. But I do want my animation to be, y'know, GOOD. And mostly, right now, I think it's fear that's holding me back at the moment. (And before I get deep into this, let me emphasize that I completely agree with Lango that one should make a film to make a film, not get a job; in fact that's my standard answer now when people ask me whether I want a job in The Industry.)

Fear of what? I don't know. I suppose there's a lot of mourning there as well. I was already a bit out of the animation mode when my father died, and in some way that's made thing even more difficult to take up again. That's a kind of fear, isn't it?

But mostly, I'm just bloody lazy, and I want to be fluent in my new software immediately, no learning required. I suppose I ought to start over with C4D the way I started with Hash A:M--slowly and with tiny projects at first. Let "Citizen Kane" come later.

So--back to basics with a small story, just to learn, not to distribute.

But I've gotten so spoiled by all them film festivals!

Speaking of which, on September 28, <ESC> will open the Philadelphia FirstGlance film fest. All my Philadelphia peeps, I expect to see you there. More info is at this link.

A Tale of Two Softwares.

Saw Ratatouille yesterday, and as usual when I see a Pixar movie, I was partly enthralled by the story and filmmaking, yet depressed by the quality of the animation and how far I am from that skill level. Now I know, come on, I'm not going to be able to compete with the best CGI studio Of All Time, after all there are multiple layers of criticism over each animator, which even if I had the skill of the average Pixar animator, I wouldn't have, working alone as I do. Nonetheless, with each passing day that I don't animate, and there have been a lot of them, my skills and ideas are atrophying, and my chances for Making a Splash are decreasing.

I may be so down on it because I made a major purchase of a new animation toolkit a while back, and learning the new skill-set for it is hard. My old software was fantastic for animation, and still is, on balance, but the render times are horribly slow, especially on a Mac. Not to mention, the owner of the company is extremely active in the user community, which would be great if he wasn't such a megalomaniac! I may yet go back to the software, but not back to the community, that's for damn sure.

The new software is rock-solid and renders beautifully, but the animation toolset is primitive, comparably. And animation is what it's all about for me. So I may have no choice but to go back to the old...

In the mean time, I'll find something else to be depressed about, I'm sure.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

And what's with that eye-stick?

We're about a week behind on Daily Shows, and tonight we watched the episode featuring historian Robert Dallek. While his work on Nixon and Kissinger sounds extremely interesting, I have to admit I was somewhat disturbed when, as the interview was winding down, he shouted "EXTERMINATE!" and vaporized Jon Stewart.


I've gone ahead and created a Twitter account. If you feel like knowing what I'm doing at every darn instant of every darn day, go ahead and subscribe at And please let me know if you have been Twittered; as of now I only have one person who I'm following, and I'd love to add more.

Hooray for time-wasters. Now, back to your regularly scheduled iPhone blogging.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Books on a Phone!

One thing which must, must, MUST be remedied is eBooks on the iPhone. I was thinking of creating some sort of WebKit interface (as soon as I learned WebKit, anyway) to allow one to convert Gutenberg text files to a more iPhone-friendly interface on-the-fly. Well, as it turns out I don't have to, because some other people have gotten there first.

For instance, visit, which has hundreds of texts from Gutenberg already available in an iPhone friendly HTML format, as well as small PDF files. The HTML implementation is a little wonky at the moment, but I assume it will get better with time.

The other alternative is, which looks promising according to a brief review in iPhone Dispatch. Alas, I can't evaluate it myself, as they'll be upgrading their servers all weekend.

edit: Matthew (that's Mr. Manybooks himself!) mentions in comments, another alternative which looks very promising. Personally, with the creation of the unoffical iPhone SDK, I believe the best solution would be a custom-made app based on GutenMark. But my ideas have always been bigger than my coding ability...


Not to mention that I've already gotten SPAM, damn it, even though this new address has been online for literally MINUTES and is not listed ANYWHERE on the web. Arrrgh!!!!!

Here's what I was going to say.

One more issue has not to do with the iPhone itself, but with the services Apple has advertised as working with it.

I'm speaking of the free push IMAP email from Yahoo!, of course. Now, I've never used any kind of push email system before. I have no basis for comparison. But Yahoo's taking a hell of a long time to get a mail I sent to myself--and if you don't get mail immediately after it's sent, well, what's the point of push email at all?

Were I someone who needed ultra fast email, I'd go back to my POP account. As it is, I may do that anyway.

Does someone who has used push email before have any insight on this? This isn't a limitation of the IMAP system, is it?

Here's another major problem.

This is rapidly turning into an iPhone blog, isn't it?

Another issue, not related to rgw ipho e itself, but rsthet to the services Apple id attenpting to bubdle with it.

You know what the problem is, right dear rwaders? Thr auypcorrect has crashed again!

At the very leadt i think i know wjat makes it happen. When you scroll within an edit box on a web page, Safari cant handle it. That is, it zcrolls fibe, bit afterward it doesnt correct things. The workarpund us to hit "Done" to dismiss the keyboard, then scroll, then touch the efit box again. A major pain in fhe ass. Time to send s bug teport tp Apple.

As always, ill write this post again once o force quot Safari mpbile.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Let's try that again.

What was I saying?

The iPhone is not, however, the best iPod Apple has ever made by any means. Leave aside the mere 4 or 8 gigs of memory it has--after all, plenty of people own nanos. Rather, I really miss the ability to scan through a song or podcast with the scroll wheel; on the iPhone you're limited to a single horizontal bar in which you drag a ... A... A whatchamacallit. A drag circle thingy. Whatever. The point is, if you're listening to a very long audio file, like a podcast, you're much less accurate when doing so, because there's much less resolution. Trying to skip, for instance, all the disclaimers at the top of "On the Media", which takes up about 45 seconds, is next to impossible. While I'm sure the folks at WNYC are pleased as punch about that, I find it a real drag.

So I won't be abandoning my video iPod anytime soon. But I am glad that I no longer need to sync contacts or calendars to it--not that I used that feature much anyway.
However, the phone is not the best iPod Apple has ever made, despite their assertions to the contrary. One feature I really miss is the easy ability to scan through a song or podcast with the scroll wheel; the iphone doesnt have ascrill sheel, and god damn ir, theauto correction has turned off again! Grr. Anyway, if you cab figure out what im sayying wirhout it, at the very least ktll give an idea of how rhe sausage is made. Im gonna save thus as a draft and ill be back.

Okay, let's see if that made a sifferenxe. Nope!

Noe ive turned the screen back to pprtraot mode. Np better. I think the autocorrect software mudt have cdrashed or something.

oll try to rrweite this post in a moment, oncr i restatt Safari.

All thumbs.

The biggest problem with mobile Safari right now is its stability. Even after the most recent 1.0.1 software update, I still get frequent crashes (in fact, I got one during that very sentence). I really do hope Apple can get its act together soon, because browsing the web with a finger is actually a much more pleasant experience than doing so with a mouse. It's amazing how much more pleasant, in fact--I now find myself reaching for the phone over the computer much of the time, and I don't think it's just novelty. You really have a sense of being deep in the page, and you don't miss scroll bars at all.

In other news, I'm oddly comfortable with the smaller, portrait orientation keyboard, probably because I'm getting quite fast with one-finger typing, analogous, I suppose, with the fact that I never learned to touch-type. Perhaps if I practice with the thumbs a bit more I'll chnngw my mind. Given that last typo was done with my thumbs, though, maybe not. My thumbs are just too big. I wonder if they hired the hand model on the various iPhone videos based on that criterion...


[Sentator Arlen] Specter said Gonzales should not have any say in the intelligence-gathering at issue.... "I think we can do without an attorney general for six months; we've done without one for a long time."

Via TPM.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Okay, this could be a problem. I'm sitting in a park while my young'uns play on a playground, and I decided to do a little iPod listening. Turns out that somehow, all of my music and video was erased from my iPhone at the last sync for some reason!

It better be a fluke. At least everything is backed up in itunes.

Huh! The iphone has zropped auto-correcting!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I am a Phone!

I am typing this on my iPhone, which I decided to buy--8 gig version--as my single gift from my dad's inheritance. He would have approved.

Nonetheless, I think I'll use a real keyboard from now on, although the auto-correct feature is pretty darn sexy.

For someone who never owned a cell-phone before, it's surprisingly addictive to have the Internet in your pocket. The phone, I've hardly used, although I did text-message my brother last night as an experiment.

The horizontal keyboard is a lot easier than the vertical one, and I agree with all the reviewers--why didn't they implement it for more than just Safari?

The mind boggles at the possibilities.

As for the rest of the inheritance, we need to consult a financial adviser.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Back from vacation, in case you're worried (don't laugh, at least one person was). More later...

Monday, July 09, 2007

So! How was YOUR weekend?

On 7/7/07, I went into the hospital for a heart attack.

OK, calm down, I merely suspected a heart attack. What I got was a pinching sensation in my chest and shortness of breath while washing our Chevy Venture in preparation for selling it. What it was, I still don't know; I had never felt anything like it before.

But my EKGs were normal, my chest X-rays were normal, my blood work was normal--my appetite wasn't normal, but that was, y'know, hospital food.

Yes, I spent the night at the local hospital--slept surprisingly well, in fact, considering I had a heart monitor on and a shunt in my wrist (which, oddly, was never actually attached to an IV). And on Sunday, it took so long to get a discharge that I had spent the whole day in bed, not eating much (hospital food!), and when K picked me up around 4:30 P.M. I actually felt worse than I did when I arrived. Not a good advertisement for the hospital, I suppose.

Anyway, it's nothing to worry about. I wish the whole thing hadn't happened. Failing that, I wish I had the talent to write something slightly more evocative about it.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Want an iPhone today?

Better head to Tigard, Oregon, or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, because according to Apple they're the only places in the country that have 'em in stock.

Saturday, June 30, 2007


Have I mentioned that my sister works at the Cube, and was in charge of the iPhone rollout there?

I bet she's tired.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Me voice, Popeye, me voice!

I'm happy to announce that I've finally completed the reading of G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday for LibriVox, and it's available here. You can get versions in MP3 and Ogg Vorbis, and can even subscribe to the 64k mp3s as a podcast. At some point in the future it will be linked from Gutenberg as well, but that's not up to me so I don't know when it will happen.

Also, at some point in the future my voice will be showing up at and the iTunes store--I did a commercial reading of three short stories, woo hoo! More on that as soon as I hear more.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Best last paragraph ever.

Speaking at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser Monday night, Al Gore said that now that Bush has taken up the cause of global warming, the former vice president and environmental activist will redirect his energies toward developing a personal spacecraft capable of transporting a family of four to a distant planet.
Well, I'll be damned, Digby is a woman. Awesome.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Monday, June 04, 2007

Friday, June 01, 2007

Some things you might not know about hybrid cars in general and the Camry in particular.

  1. In the first five to ten minutes, it uses the gas engine just like a regular car. After the vehicle warms up a bit, you can go into "stealth mode," where the gas engine stops running and you're entirely on electric power, under certain circumstances. But if you hit a stop light in those first few minutes, you're guzzling just as much gas as an Escalade.
  2. Despite this, I've gotten "stealth mode" at speeds as high as 40 mph. After you've driven for a while, if you're going, say, downhill, the car will indeed cut out the engine and operate entirely on electricity. And if you have a light touch on the accelerator, it'll continue doing so when you reach level ground. Going uphill will always invoke the gas engine, though.
  3. Watch out for pedestrians when driving slowly. It's amazing just how quiet the damn thing is when the gas engine is off. And if people don't see you, they tend to not get out of your way if they don't hear you.
  4. The economy display is hypnotic. The dash has a section that displays exactly where the power is going--if it's coming from the engine or the electric motor, or if (when coasting or braking) the wheels are sending power back into the battery. Be aware of the road, though. As fascinating as it is, it will not be an excuse in your hit-and-run trial.
  5. The MPG gauge is the tachometer for the '00s. Every car should have one of these, whether hybrid or not. It's a beautiful sight to see when, exactly, you're getting over 60 miles to the gallon.
  6. It starts with a button, and opens with a touch! Maybe Toyota is implementing this with their whole fleet, not just hybrids, I don't know. But there's nothing quite like the X-Men feeling you get when you have a transponder in your pocket and your car unlocks when you touch the door handle. Bizarre...
  7. The nastiest secret of all: despite all the technology, and the advance in years and gas prices, our '94 Saturn still got better highway mileage.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

256k: $1.29. Sharing songs with your wife: Priceless.

Finally, DRM-free music available à la carte. Thank you, EMI. And may the rest of the labels follow. (And I eagerly await Amazon's entry into the fray, which will also be DRM-free and may be cheaper, in fact, than iTunes.)

Now, the question is: do I put my money where my mouth is and refuse to download DRM'ed audio? Make a principled stand, rewarding EMI but shunning the other labels?

Maybe. It's easier to do that than work for peace.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Al-Qaeda's Enabler.

Say what you will about Andrew Sullivan, this post is good enough to merit reprinting in full (boldface mine):
The president's press conference last week left me at a loss for words. Spluttering is not a real response. But how else to respond to a man who has spawned a catastrophe in the Middle East and then behaves as if it's his critics who are out of touch with reality? Then we get this latest news about pre-war intel from the WaPo and the dreadful but obvious reality in the NYT that every road ahead in Iraq - staying or leaving, surging or redeploying - is full of death, terror and chaos. The light at the end of this tunnel is hard to glimpse. But Bush is still proudly digging the tunnel.

What can one say? Well: we can say this at least. The president is right that al Qaeda remains a terrible threat to Americans. He is right to insist on this. But one core reason he is right is because he has been in the White House for the last six years. Al Qaeda surely never had a more helpful man in such a powerful place. After over six years of this presidency, Bin Laden is still at large. Five and a half years after Bin Laden's religious tools murdered 3,000 innocents, this president still cannot find or capture or kill him. Five and a half years after that dreadful day, al Qaeda's reach in the Middle East is more extensive than ever, centered in Iraq, where it was barely existent before the war. Over four years after invading Iraq, the security situation there is as grave as it has ever been. Tens of thousands of innocents have been added to the three thousand murdered on 9/11 - many of them unspeakably tortured and murdered by death squads or Islamist cells empowered by Bush's jaw-dropping negligence. Over three thousand young Americans have died in order to give al Qaeda this victory and this new platform.

Here is Bush's gift to the victims of 9/11: two new al Qaeda safe havens - in Anbar and in Pakistan. He gave Zarqawi a second career, by refusing to kill him when had a clear shot in 2003, and then allowing him to run rampant across Iraq for several years. Islamists, moreover, are far closer now to getting their hands on WMDs than they were when Bush became president - the very casus belli I foolishly bought to go to war with Saddam. Given the financial boost al Qaeda has gotten from the Iraq invasion, the massive propaganda coup they have won by Bush's authorization of torture, and the triumph of Iran as a consequence of Bush's non-existent "strategy", isn't it simply a fact that Bush is the best thing to happen to al Qaeda since its founding? Is not the record now clear that, whatever their intentions, Bush and Cheney have actually advanced the day when Islamist terrorists will kill and murder more Americans?

If a Democrat had been responsible for endangering America in this fashion, the Republicans would have impeached him by now. If a Democrat had bungled a war as obviously as this president - a war, moreover, that he has described as an existential struggle for our survival - the Republicans would long ago have Carterized him. Look how the Israelis have held Olmert accountable for his feckless war in Lebanon. Compared to Bush, Olmert is Churchill. If Bush's record in this war is "offense," then the only sane response is: so was the charge of the light brigade.

Just to anger up the blood some more, it's now clear, thanks to the latest Congressional report, that this president was warned starkly about the dangers of "a surge of political Islam and increased funding for terrorist groups" as a result of an invasion of Iraq. He was told that Iraq was "largely bereft of the social underpinnings" for democracy. He was explicitly informed that there was "a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so." And yet he still sent a pathetically insufficient occupation force in 2003 - and refused to increase it for three years of growing chaos and mayhem. Even if you excuse the original recklessness, the persistence in it - until our current point of no return - is and was criminal negligence - a callous disregard for your security and mine.

The gravity of the mistake this country made in 2004 by re-electing al Qaeda's best bet is only now sinking in as deep as it should. I fear, however, that we have yet to experience the full and terrifying consequences of that historic mistake.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Pushbutton start.

We have put our global-warming money where our mouth is.

Yesterday, as we gassed up the minivan to go to Salisbury and visit my grandparents, I looked at the price--fifty-two bucks for three quarters of a tank--and something snapped. I got back in the car and said to K, "That's it. We need a hybrid."

Today, after glancing at the 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid, we drove off the lot in Carmax with a 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Forty-three MPG city, 37 highway. And despite being "used," it has less than 500 miles on it.

We're keeping the minivan for long trips, at least for now, so we are once again a two-car family (sigh). I'm fine with a smaller car--I would have been fine with a Civic or a Prius, for instance--but K is worried about it. It's my hope that we'll sell the Venture soon, though.

Funny how I get a "practical" car for my mid-life crisis! How lame!

Further impressions to follow.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Monday, May 21, 2007

A "review" of Five-Minute Dracula.

Shoot, I wish I had known about this back when I was doing those video podcasts...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Multiple choice.

A 35 year old man, embarking on an early midlife crisis, should do which of the following?
A. Buy a Mini Cooper.
B. Embark on a extramarital affair.
C. Grow his hair long and tie it back into a ponytail.

If you answered C, give yourself a point.

"It's over!" -- Strong Bad

Earnest closed last night with our most responsive audience yet. Now, I eagerly await the inevitable post-show depression.

It's strange, how one spends weeks rehearsing, bitching and moaning about what a pain it is to be staying up late and so on. But then the show opens and suddenly I could do it for ten weeks more. Instead, we close after only five performances! But that's the way PGLT does it.

Sometimes I wish I hadn't given up my dreams of being a Working Actor. One of my co-stars, who is about a year out of college, has that dream, but seems to be managing to avoid all the mistakes I made (and she has talent to boot), so might well make it. Nonetheless, I want to grab her and say, "Don't give up! Don't look for safety! Keep at it!" But honestly, I doubt she needs that exhortation, least of all from me.

Besides, the fact that I'm having success at a community theater level is, quite frankly, rather like being (as they say) the world's tallest midget. The moment I tried to make it professionally, I'd be swarmed with rejection, just like I was when I (briefly) tried it ten or so years ago.

(By the way, I misspoke in the previous entry. I have gotten reviewed more recently than college--for Hamlet, Revenge! But that particular piece, which appeared in our local, volunteer newspaper, was written by... the husband of one of the cast members. So I tend to not count it.)

Friday, May 18, 2007

"Like an Elephant Sitting on your Lap!"

It's my first review since college! And my first ever in a non-school newspaper!

From the Baltimore Sun:
Zachary Brewster-Geisz is a charming Algernon, creating high comedy as he first gobbles all of the cucumber sandwiches intended for his Aunt Augusta and later devours most of the muffins in an eating contest with Jack. Brewster-Geisz creates high comedy with Karl Heimer's Jack and displays genuine chemistry with Katie Keddell's Cecily.
"We did it, we did it, oh yeah yeah yeah... no eating here tonight, you on a diet..."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

How many unfinished novels do you have?

Occasionally, I get the silly idea that I want to be a novelist again, despite the fact that it's been nearly ten years since I wrote anything lengthy, prose or otherwise. Today I went through my laptop's hard drive and discovered two fragments, one of which was horrible, the other of which was actually pretty good, or at least had potential.

Both were for Nanowrimo (a concept which I love in theory but in practice drives me literally insane) and as such even the good one has its cringeworthy moments. Most annoyingly, the second one was conceived as a mystery, but now I have no idea what the mystery was about, or how it would have been solved. In fact, I could see it as a simple love story. Because it was Nanowrimo, I didn't make an outline or any notes or anything of the sort, and in truth I don't even remember writing it--were it not on my computer and set in a place based on somewhere I used to work, I'm not sure I would recognize it.

But maybe you would! Here it is. All rights are reserved at this point, but probably not for long. Read it and weep... or laugh, I don't care.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Seen this one yet?

1. Go to
2. Click on "maps"
3. Click on "get directions"
4. Type "New York" in the first box (the "from" box at the very top of the page)
5. Type "London" in the second box (the "to" box next to it with arrow)
6. Click on "get directions."
7. Scroll down to step # 24

Via Achenblog.

The weather report.

Today is my father's birthday. He would have been 69 years old. That's why.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I just read SF author John Scalzi's treatise on writing, You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop. I found it at the local library. While adding it to my "books read" list, I noticed the current selling price.

Now I'm afraid to return it, lest someone with fewer scruples than me steal it and sell it...

(How a limited edition, signed copy ended up in the Prince George's County library system is a mystery to me, anyway.)

Paging John Linnell! (Or is it Flansburgh?)

My friend Pat has been indulging in a Star Wars theme this month, in honor of the thirtieth anniversary of its release, and it's been a real treat to check in each day to see the new YouTubiness--including the very first trailer, which I had never seen before.

But I especially wanted to highlight today's entry, specifically the second clip, for its musicianship. Sure, it sounds like a medley of the Star Wars themes played on an accordion would be pure Mos Eisley (we must be cautious). But listen to the arrangements this guy came up with. He really paid attention to John Williams' orchestration and translated it beautifully. His playing is adequate--there are a few flubs here and there--but his attention to detail is breathtaking.

In other news, tomorrow's weather forecast shows a 50% chance of loneliness, with late depression and a slight chance of tears. (Don't worry. All will be explained...)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Lyric of the Moment.

A new feature, shamelessly stolen from Medley...

Here's "True Affection" by the Blow, from the album Paper Television. Draw whatever inferences you like from the choice...
I was out of your league....
and you were twenty thousand underneath the sea
Waving affections
You were out of my league
at a distance that I didn't want to see
Down to the bottom

I wanted a junction, and often there was one
You'd surface face first and we'd share thought bubbles
and I still believe in the phrases that we breathed
but I know the distance isn't fair to cross

I was out of your league....
and you were twenty thousand underneath the sea
Waving affections
You were out of my league
at a distance that I didn't want to see
wanted you nearer

Your depths made a pressure that punctured my works
and all your fluids couldn't tolerate the force of my thirst
I love the place, where we shared our tiny grace
But just because it's real don't mean it's going to work

I was out of your league....
and you were twenty thousand underneath the sea
Waving affections
You were out of my league
at a distance that I didn't want to see
wanted you nearer

and true affection floats
true affection sinks like a stone
I never felt so close
I never felt so all alone

I was out of your league....
and you were twenty thousand underneath the sea
Waving affections
You were out of my league
at a distance that I didn't want to see
wanted you nearer

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Five sandwiches; five muffins; sundry candy.

Come to the Bowie Playhouse and watch me stuff my face throughout Acts One and Two of The Importance of Being Earnest. Time is runnin' out!

EDIT: And whee, here's me!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


It's been a whirlwind few days--we're in final tech rehearsals for Earnest and as if that wasn't bad enough, on Saturday I flew to Michigan for a day for my cousin's wedding, getting back into D.C. at midnight. The next morning, I drove over to the Bowie Playhouse to do a put-in (where I BUILT A WALL!!!) and cue-to-cue 'til 10 P.M. Since then, I've been at the theater 'til at least eleven every night; "taught" Tuesday morning at my daughter's nursery school; driven my son to Annapolis to see a special doctor; and attempted to get The Cell-Phone in order for the Jacksonville Film Festival, where it may not show after all because I got them the screening copy late.

I cannot remember ever being this tired, even when my kids were newborns.

Monday, May 07, 2007

I'm back!

At least, as much as I ever am.

I had planned to go into detail about Dad's death (within reason); transcribe the eulogy, describe the grieving process, and so forth. But on further reflection, I think those moments... belong to me, and to my family (especially my wife, who has been a tremendous shoulder to lean on, and I thank her).

By most definitions, Dad raised me alone, for good and for bad. So much of my own self-image is wrapped up in him that losing him, even though there was much resentment and anger between us over the years, is a major kick in the gut.

I suppose that's the case for any parent's loss. But in any case, there are some things that should be journalled, and some that shouldn't. I can see arguments on both sides for journaling this experience. But, for now at least, these experiences shall remain within me.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

There's so much crap bumping around in my heart, I could write a novel. Just not a very good one.


There aren't exactly hordes of readers waiting on my next post, but it's gonna be a while before I can put my thoughts down on paper (metaphorically speaking). And when I say "a while," it could mean six hours, or six months. I'm just not sure.

Dad and I weren't Bestest Friends à la "Gilmore Girls" or anything. Nonetheless, I've found it difficult to get through today without thinking, "I should give Dad a call, he'd get a kick out of that" or "I wonder what Dad's up to?"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


I'm at a Holiday Inn Express in Waterbury, Connecticut. I had a good dinner last night with my sister and her boyfriend. We decided on Friday for the memorial service. He wanted to be cremated, and though I hate cremation--I don't feel I can say goodbye to ashes--it's not my decision, it's his.

The service will be a simple, off-the-menu lunch at Dunville's, a restaurant in Westport where Dad and I had dinner almost every night from the time I was in middle school to when I graduated from high school. (And Dad continued going until he moved out of Westport.) Many of the people who work there still remember him. It really was like a second home.

I'll be saying something. I'm not sure what just yet.

Thanks to everyone for your condolences. It means a lot to all of us.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

This blog entry has no jokes.

My father had been having, as he put it, some "trouble with the post office." You see, back in December, we sent him his Christmas box, and a month or so later it came back, having never been picked up from his local post office. He asked us to re-send it, noting "Please leave at door," and so we did. Then it came back again, marked "no such person at this address." So I called him, and he said, in a rueful tone, "yeah, I need to get in touch with them. I'll fix it, don't send it just yet, I'll fix it." I joked that maybe I should deliver it personally, drive up to Connecticut and hand it to him, y'know? He laughed.

That was several weeks ago, and the package, still in its Priority Mail box, was sitting by our desk. We had chatted several times since--he had recently found Rooster Spice and would occasionally call to tell me what he thought of an entry (using the Comments box never crossed his mind, I guess). We last spoke on Saturday--a week ago yesterday--and he seemed in good spirits. We compared notes on being Presidents of cooperative nursery schools--coincidentally enough, he was a President, just like me, when his first kids were in preschool. K was also chatting with him occasionally about his family, for her genealogical research, and he was very interested.

This morning, around 11, my older sister D. called me. Dad died sitting in his chair in his apartment in Woodbury. He may well have just fallen asleep there--there was no sign of a struggle. We're not sure exactly when it happened, or why.

I'm someone with a theatrical imagination and a melodramatic bent. There have been a few times recently when I hadn't been able to get in touch with Dad for several days, and I "rehearsed" my reaction, as it were, if I found out he died. When it happened for real, it was a bolt from the blue, an utter shock. I was thinking to myself that I should call him--today is Easter, after all--but I figured I would do so in the afternoon. An hour later, D. called.

Now, I'm still processing. I suppose I'll rent a car tomorrow and drive to Connecticut, but I don't know what will happen next.

In the meantime, I opened the package. There I found the presents I expected: a photo album featuring our kids over the past year, and a copy of Thomas E. Ricks' Fiasco. And also, a Christmas stocking. We had expected him to come down this Christmas, so we bought it for him. When it turned out he couldn't, we decided to send it. I had forgotten.

I think he would have gotten a kick out of the stocking. And I know he would have enjoyed the book. But I really wish he had been able to see the pictures. Even more, I wish he had gotten on the train and visited us for Christmas, like we were planning. Failing that, I wish I had hand-delivered the presents.

He was 68 years old. Goodbye, Dad...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

My main issue with vlogging... that I respected Matt Yglesias much more before I heard what his voice sounds like.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Rolling Stones on K's PDA?

Well, I'll be damned, Steve Jobs was telling the truth. In May, the iTunes store will offer DRM-free music from EMI's entire digital catalog (except the Beatles). OK, it's thirty cents more than the DRM-ed versions, but they're also higher quality--265kbps AAC as opposed to the current 128. Why not Apple Lossless, Steve? And when will indepedent artists get in on the DRM-free lovin' action?

Hey, Browncoats!

Did you know that the makers of Done the Impossible, a documentary about the rise and fall and rise of Firefly, have released the movie as a legal torrent under Creative Commons?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Houston, we have HD! In a very esoteric fashion, anyway...

As one might expect, grabbing HD frames from the MPEG-2 TS stream, and converting them to H.264 for the Apple TV, is a process fraught with danger, whether from the Long Conversion Time of Doom, the Horror of Out-Of-Sync Audio, or the Terror of Low Disk Space. But I tell ye, here are the programs you need on Mac OS X to make all your troubles vanish:
  • iRecord, as mentioned in this space previously;
  • iSquint, the iPod converter which also does a serviceable job converting for Apple TV; and last but not least
  • MPEG Streamclip, an absolutely essential editor for MPEG-TS files.

All three of these items are absolutely free. For best results, especially if you want to edit out commercials, you should also buy Apple's MPEG2 player component for QuickTime, which is $20. But if you're fine with fast-forwarding, à la TiVo, you can do it all for free. Read on...

First off, you need a compatible HD cable box. I have the Motorola DCT-2600, the standard non-DVR digital box from Comcast. If your cable box has a FireWire output, it'll probably work.

Set up your recording in iRecord's intuitive interface. For me, I was taping Bones (a guilty pleasure my wife and I share; I like Emily Deschanel, she likes David Boreanaz). Fox is a 720p network. If you're taping on ABC or Fox, no scaling is needed; any other network broadcasts at 1080i, so you'll lose some resolution, as the Apple TV doesn't play 1080. In any case, I set the machine to record on Wednesday from 7:59 to 9:00 P.M. 8 to 9 would have been fine, too, as it turned out. (Needless to say, you'll have the computer connected to the box via FireWire at the appropriate time.)

Once the recording is finished, open MPEG Streamclip. If you haven't already, go to the Preferences window and check the box marked "Fix streams with data breaks." This is absolutely essential to make sure the audio and video sync up throughout the stream. Now open the MPEG-TS file you just recorded. It may tell you the file is not legal; hit "Open Anyway."

Now, if you don't have the Quicktime MPEG2 component, you'll get a warning and a play bar will appear, but no picture. No worries. Choose "Convert to MPEG..." from the File menu. You're transforming it from a transport stream to a picture stream (like those used on DVDs) but with no loss of resolution. You need to do this conversion so the aforementioned "Fix streams with data breaks" will apply to the new stream. You could just as easily convert it to a new TS stream as well.

When you've got the new picture stream done, open iSquint and drag the new file to the iSquint conversion list. Select "Optimize for TV" and "H.264 encoding," then hit the Advanced button. Now, enter a resolution of 1280 x 720, a data rate of 4500 (or so... in my experience you could go down to 2000 and still have it look OK), and a frame rate--this is important--of 23.976. If you put in a straight 24, you can get judder, since the original stream is running at 59.94 FPS. You should also choose an audio bitrate of 160 or less. Hit Start. Several cups of coffee later, you'll have an .mp4 file suitable for dropping into iTunes and syncing to your Apple TV! (If you have Quicktime Pro, you can open the .mp4 file in Quicktime, edit out the commercials, and save the result as a self-contained movie; the .mov will also play on the Apple TV.)

If you have the MPEG2 component, you can take iSquint out of the equation entirely. Open the first file (the MPEG-TS you recorded with iRecord) in MPEG Streamclip and edit it directly. MPEG Streamclip uses an in-point, out-point system for its edits; see the in-program help for details. Pay special attention to where the MPEG2 keyframes are; you can use the Go To Keyframe command in the Edit menu liberally. (MPEG Streamclip will choose appropriate cut points for you if you don't do this, but I prefer to have the control.) Then, instead of choosing Convert to MPEG, you can choose Export to MPEG-4 to convert directly. Again, you need to make sure "Fix streams with data breaks" is ON in Preferences, otherwise you're doing absolutely no good.

The bit rate, frame rate, audio bit rate, etc. settings are similar to iSquint. Just be sure you choose the 720p scaling if you've recorded a 1080i stream. I haven't done a 1080i stream yet, so YMMV. In particular, I'm not sure whether the frame-rate would still be 23.976. But I think so. You may also want to choose "de-interlace" for a 1080i file.

Be warned, MPEG Streamclip takes a lot longer to export than iSquint. On the other hand, the second process takes up a lot less disk space.

I realize, with my teeny weeny readership, most of you are probably scratching your head and saying "whaaa?" But if this helped, or if you have any questions or corrections, please do leave a comment in this post.

Edit: after writing most of this, I finished the Bones export. After about a half-hour, judder appears in the stream, as though the exported frame rate is not quite synched with the original frame rate. Perhaps 23.976 is not the magic number after all. Working...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Another reason the well-off are different.

As long as I'm quoting other blogs who are quoting other people, here's David Iglesias (via Digby), on part of the reason he won't run for political office:
And, frankly, I’ve got a practical matter. I’ve got four kids—all girls—so I’m going to have four weddings and four college educations in the next 15 years, and based on what members of Congress make…just do the math! It’s not very encouraging.
A rank-and-file member of Congress makes $165,200.

Granted, unless you're within driving distance of the Capitol, you essentially have to have two houses (since, according to the Constitution, a Congresscritter must reside in the state which they represent). Nonetheless, give me break; $165k ain't chicken feed. Iglesias can choose not to run for office for whatever reason he wishes. But don't try for my sympathy because you'd be getting a pay cut.

Don't call me stupid!

Jacob Weisberg pulls a Jamie Lee Curtis:
I am seldom bothered by minor errors from a good writer, but Roberts' mistakes are so extensive, foolish, and revealing of his basic ignorance about the United States in particular, that it may be worth noting a few of those I caught in a fast read. The San Francisco earthquake did considerably more than $400,000 in damage. Virginia Woolf, who drowned herself in 1941, did not write for Encounter, which began publication in 1953. The Proposition 13 Tax Revolt took place in the 1970s, not the 1980s—an important distinction because it presaged Ronald Reagan's election in 1980. Michael Milken was not a "takeover arbitrageur," whatever that is. Roberts cannot know that there were 500 registered lobbyists in Washington during World War II because lobbyists weren't forced to register until 1946. Gregg Easterbrook is not the editor of the New Republic. "No man gets left behind" is a line from the film Black Hawk Down, not the motto of the U.S. Army Rangers; their actual motto is "Rangers Lead the Way."
"And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto; I looked them up."

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It's made of wood... A WITCH!

Oh, this is something I'd love to put together.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The adventure continues...

Another Apple TV resource site: AwkwardTV. Yowza.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Apple TiVo!

Thanks to an anonymous commenter for pointing this out:

It's looking like this thing could be a new homebrew platform. People have got XviD working, SSH and VNC, and of course upgraded hard drives. Yowza!

Personally, I doubt I'll be cracking open the case or anything, at least until a year from now when the warranty expires, but this is some cool stuff, man.

I've had some minor success using the FireWire output on my cable box, and a little app called iRecord, to turn my laptop into a DVR. Converting the resulting MPEG-TS file into a 720p, 24fps H264 .mp4 file, using iSquint, allows it to sync to the Apple TV no problems. And hey presto, there's the hi-def DVR that I wanted, oh, two years ago.

I tested it with eight minutes of Nova, which is broadcast in 1080i at 30fps. Although there was of course data loss--going down to 720p and 24fps--it still looked a heck of a lot better than the 640x360 AVI you'd get from BitTorrent (well, if anyone torrented Nova, that is).

It appears that Apple has changed its "maximum playback requirements"; before release they said the box could only play "progressive main profile" H264, whatever that means, and although the specs still say that, some of the other formats have expanded, notably MPEG-4. However, iSquint creates Simple Profile videos--for the iPod--and they work beautifully.

I can say, however, that the 24fps barrier for 720p is currently insurmountable--30fps wouldn't sync, and I doubt it would stream either. But I wouldn't at all be surprised if this barrier disappeared in a subsequent software update.

For reference, here are the settings that I used in iSquint to make it work (click the Advanced... button to open the drawer):
  • Resolution: 1280 x 720
  • Video Bitrate: 5000
  • Framerate: 24
  • H.264 encoding (of course)

Holy Samurai!

Rashomon is on the Internet Archive?!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

iTV was easier to type.

For the first time in a while, I'm an early adopter. I usually talk a good line--"Yeah, I'm gonna buy the iPod nano TODAY, and I'm camping out for the Macs with Intel too!"--but in actual fact, the purchase usually comes quite a bit later. But not so this time; yesterday at 3:30 I shouldered my bag of provisions, kissed my wife goodbye, and journeyed into the wilds of the Columbia Mall to hunt an Apple TV.

I returned an hour and a half later, trophy in hand, and immediately hooked it up to our gigantic (in depth, not screen size--it's a tube, y'see) HDTV via a horribly expensive HDMI cable. The device found our WiFi network instantly, I entered the WEP encryption code and then a shorter code to identify the iTunes on our iMac, and ba-ding, it began syncing to our iTunes library instantly.

Many people have complained that the resolution of the video sold by the iTunes store doesn't look very good on an HDTV. To me, it looks no worse than your average DVD, and that's good enough, given that we don't have a Blu-ray or HD-DVD player. But I did a quick test with one of my animations, specially rendered in HD for the occasion, and ta-da! it worked!

Karyl had just finished reading James Patterson's Along Came a Spider, so she was hinting strongly that we should buy the movie from iTunes--as a test case, don'tcha know--so, what the hell, we did. Although we only watched about half of it, being tired parents and all, we were pleasantly surprised to discover it streamed perfectly over 802.11g, no n required.

Coming up later--results of experiments in converting HD content! Can Apple TV actually play more formats than advertised?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I wonder, is it time for the Rooster Spice podcast to return?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It took a while, but I finally finished Enemy Combatant. It's one of those reads that is gripping, but so disturbing and depressing, that you need to read it in many separate sessions.

I wonder whether we'll ever find out the whole truth about what has been done in America's name during this so-called War on Terror. And I wonder whether we will ever stop it.

"We," he says. Like I couldn't take some steps myself, if I wanted to. But I guess I'm just an ordinary German...

Monday, March 19, 2007

Homeward sun.

Since this was posted on Crooks and Liars, I doubt my select audience of three hasn't seen it before, but just in case, here's a lovely video of two of my favorite musicians, Paul Simon and George Harrison, performing a duet of two of their best songs.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Mac OS bug you must know about.

Via Mike, a public service announcement. If you use Mac OS X, read this NOW. I'm serious.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Enlightened Bracketologist.

This is great fun. But they should have included Butch and Sundance, damn it.

OK, now I'm in a foul enough mood to talk about this again.

In comments, Godfrey wrote:
Upon re-reading and reflection, I'm not sure I really understand what you're saying after all.

"I wrote down my deepest feelings as a type of therapy for years, but it was only when I blogged that other people wrote back" sounds like you feel the writing back is a good thing.

And yet when people show concern — when they give a rat's ass about what you say and "[try] to help" — you call them "sensitive people" who "get unnerved", as though having people care about you is a kind of imposition.

So what do you want?
I DON'T KNOW. Which is, in a nutshell, the problem.

Do I consider it an imposition when people care about me? Yeah, in a way I think I do. Because deep down in my heart, I believe I don't deserve people who care about me. I mean, come on, look at me. I'm sitting here whining about how my life is So Damn Hard and I mean--come on, I don't even have a fucking job! Aren't I the kind of guy who just needs to be shunned and ridiculed?

I spent most of this evening metaphorically curled up in a fetal position, even as I cooked pasta and sauce for dinner (yeah, I can't cook worth a damn either). I have all these commitments this month which I won't detail here, but they are all way the fuck out of my comfort zone, and I'm just at sea about how to proceed. The only saving grace is that come April 21st they'll be gone, assuming I'm not straitjacketed by then. Yet I know--I know--that if I were qualified for these various things (all of which I signed up for of my own volition!) they'd all be a piece of cake. They are not rocket science.

I may have used this before, but in my friend Mike's breakout show, he made a point how everyone really believes they're competent at their job. Go on, raise your hands if you feel you're competent. It's a miracle! No one who reads Rooster Spice is incompetent! All the incompetent people are stuck at Eschaton or something! (This joke works better in a theater--"all the incompetent people are wandering the streets, wondering where 21 Dog Years is playing!")

Well, it's a horrible realization when you determine you are, in fact, incompetent. That's got to be the explanation, right? I mean, I've got a hundred-thousand-dollar education and I can't even manage being a professional parent, for God's sake! The only reason I'm not homeless (or dead) begins with a K and I'm married to her. (No, this is not hyperbole; without my wife my depression probably would have sent me to the streets. Or a Pulitzer, maybe.)

The lighthearted post from a couple days ago masked a real question: what am I going to do when the kids are in junior high? I don't fucking know. The idea of re-entering the workforce fills me with absolute terror. The notion that I could make a name for myself as an independent animator is utterly ridiculous, not to mention far too expensive to contemplate. (Travel and entry fees add up, and I have made exactly 100 dollars on any of my films over a four year period.) So what do I do? Continue leeching off my wife for the rest of my life?

(On the other hand, no one ever accused a housewife of leeching off of her husband, back in the day. But most housewives actually kept house. Ask my wife when the last time was I cleaned the bathroom, and then be prepared for the riotous laughter.)

I know this post is the adult equivalent of "everybody hates me, waaaah!" and it sure seems like I'll never get past that. So don't bother treating this as a serious call for help. I'll be over it soon enough, until next month when I get stressed and tired again. It never gets any better (or, indeed, worse), no matter how hard I try.
Emily Bazelon:
What's troubling about preschool admissions, in the end, is that they reveal how narrow the preferred range of demeanor for little kids is. We want 2- and 3-year-olds to be sunny but not loud, perceptive but not shy, energetic but not hyper. We want them to conform. Your genius friend who can't sit still or your tech-savvy officemate who avoids eye contact? They'd be in the reject pile.

Beware the ides of March.

Caesar: Dude, some dude wearing a sooth told me today's gonna suck.
Antony: Dude, why?
Caesar: Dude, I dunno. Yo, Brutus!
Brutus: Yo, me! (Stabs Caesar.)
Caesar: (Checks watch.) At two, Brutus? (Dies.)
Antony: I better bury him.
Brutus: That'd be honorable.
Antony: Yeah, you'd know about that. (Kills Brutus.)
Cleopatra: Get over here, you big stud.
Antony: No, that's the other play.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A great encounter.

One of the things I love about old Greenbelt is how neighborly it is. If people have seen you walking around town, it's like they know you instantly, no questions asked. We all have a common understanding, after all, in all these tiny, cooperatively-owned townhouses.

For instance, this morning as I was walking back from dropping E off at her nursery school, I passed a man and his daughter, who were (presumably) walking to her bus stop, or maybe their car, on the way to elementary school. I had seen them a few times before, and he must have gathered that I was a stay-at-home dad, because out of the blue he asked me where E was going to be when she's out of nursery school.

"Oh," I said, "she'll be at the elementary school."

"And what are you gonna do?" he laughed.

I knew this question well, so I just shrugged and laughed. He laughed, too, saying, "I tell ya, my wife would say to me, you gotta get out of the house and start workin'!"

"Well, I do some work from home, it just doesn't earn me any money."

"Oh, no," he said, "I don't mean now, but I mean, you know, when it's junior high, what are you gonna do then?"

"I don't know," I admitted.

"I tell you what you gotta do then," he said, leaning in conspiratorally. "Start havin' more babies...!"

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A decent article about reconnecting children with nature.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Thursday, March 08, 2007

If you can read this, you are too close.

Someone once said that you should write as if everyone you care about is dead, meaning that an author can't be encumbered by worry over what others will say about his or her writing. (Besides the usual, "damn, too many run-on sentences" and the like.) Whoever said it, no doubt they said it before the Internet age.

Take Rooster Spice, f'rinstance. I started blogging in 2002, long before Google was a verb, and I did so under my real name. I knew that it was possible that people I knew personally would find me, but I didn't care about it; if I had something to say, I said it, even if it made people worry that I was cracking up, or worse, suicidal. For one thing, I figured anyone who knew me would know that I was a moody type in real life and within a few days I would be back to my usual chipper self. Alas, my friends are not, in fact, equipped with telepathy, and so when I said that I was suicidal and/or a danger to others, they--gasp!--believed me, and tried to help. I wrote down my deepest feelings as a type of therapy for years, but it was only when I blogged that other people wrote back.

This was part of the reason that I quit blogging for several months, and then came back psuedonymously. Of course, by then, the damage had been done and the bookmarks had been set, so I went back to my real name eventually. And so, more and more people discovered the Spice: friends, brothers both close and long-lost (and if you're reading, Owen, send me your address because I owe you a Christmas card, damn it), and finally, mom and pop. Mom sometime last year, I think, and Dad very recently. Oh, and the wife, of course, but I never tried to keep it a secret from her.

So, that's fine, I can keep things to a civil tone so that all you sensitive people don't get unnerved. (If you detected some bitterness in that sentence, dear reader, that's your problem, not mine.) But jeez, on some days, I sure do miss the therapy. But when what I have to write would not only worry my friends, but most likely hurt and sicken my family, well, what's a therapeutic blogger to do?

(Cultivate real-life friendships, I suppose. Good luck with that.)

Monday, March 05, 2007

And that doesn't count the cardboard itself.

Recently I made a significant purchase: a new 3D animation suite. While I was able to get my old one for only $199 (plus yearly upgrades of $99 each), this one cost... shall we say, quite a bit more.

So when it came time to recycle the cardboard box it came in, I had mixed feelings... sure, it was so big that it contained mostly air, but still--that was two thousand bucks worth of air!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

If They Might Be Giants shilled for Chevrolet.

We're in a road movie to Berlin
Can't drive out the way we drove in
So seek out this last Suburban
And we'll go...

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cucumber sandwiches, anyone?

Thanks to all for your input during the Great Earnest Dilemma of '07. The result? I will be playing Algernon, the part I was shooting for, on May 11, 12, 13, 18, and 19. Come to the Bowie Playhouse to watch me make a fool o' myself!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The importance of being insane.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.

That can also, these days, define "foreign policy."

So, here's the quiz for my vast audience of five or six:

Last night I went to audition for a local production of The Importance of Being Earnest, one of my favorite plays since time immemorial. I'm thirty-five years old, and the male leads are in their late twenties, so it may be my last chance to play either of those roles, ever. Without sounding too cocky, I'd say my chances of landing a role are pretty good.

However, the final performances conflict with the Jacksonville Film Festival. I know the director of programming, you see, and she's all but guaranteed a spot for "The Cell-Phone" in their shorts programs. Anything could still happen, of course, which is why I'm not saying it's been officially accepted until it's been, well, officially accepted.

Now, given that for most festivals I have to buy my own travel, hotel, etc. this wouldn't be an issue. I'd simply elect to not attend. But Jacksonville is apparently unique; they pay the filmmakers to attend. Room, board, travel, the whole shebang. And given how important face-to-face interaction is in this biz, can I afford not to attend?

(Of course, I'm not sure whether shorts auteurs are given this treatment. It may only be certain filmmakers. The blurb I read wasn't entirely clear.)

The mercenary in me says, "OF COURSE you should go to Jacksonville! This is an opportunity to get ever-closer to your ultimate goal of taking over the world of short animation!" The social animal in me says, "But you've not acted since the summer, and you may never play this part again! Besides, wouldn't it be great to have a hobby outside the house again? What shall become of a man who gains the world and loses his sanity because he's stuck in front of a computer animating all the time?"

So that's my dilemma: Earnest or Jacksonville. For the sake of argument, leave aside the possibility that I won't get cast, or "The Cell-Phone" won't get programmed, either of which would solve all my problems. Here's your question: does deciding to do Earnest, as opposed to attending Jacksonville, qualify as a new definition of insanity?

Come on, lurkers, now's your chance to join in the fun! Just hit the "0 comments" link below! It's easy! And make it quick, because if I'm gonna not do Earnest, I'd like to let the director know tonight, which is the final night of auditions.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Danish Snow-it. (ugh...)

Tonight is Oscar night, and though I long ago tired of watching the event, I would be remiss if I didn't point out my pick for Best Animated Short. The Oscarspice goes to: The Danish Poet, a gorgeous little story, beautifully made, with which The Cell-Phone was lucky enough to share a screening at NYC Shorts. You can even buy it at iTunes. I highly recommend it.

And that's probably the closest I'll ever come to an Oscar nod. (But who knows?)

Meanwhile, in the real world, it's snowing again, and after nearly two weeks of having my daughter home (she had her winter break last week, and half the previous week was cancelled because of the ice storm), I'm ready to construct a giant umbrella above the entire county, just so the schools will open on time tomorrow. I NEED MY SPACE.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Paging George Harrsion, in the "My Sweet Lord" aisle...

How depressing is it to be poking through the iTunes store and listen to Camper van Beethoven's Take the Skinheads Bowling, and then come to the sudden realization that you unconsciously ripped off its chord progression for what you consider the best song you wrote by yourself (right-click, save as)?

Thursday, February 15, 2007


While we're certainly not as snowbound as NTodd, nonetheless the powers that be decided to give the kids a second day off today. This was a cause of great glee for D, but great sadness for E, who still enjoys nursery school at this age.

Prince George's is a big county, so I can only assume that south of us, it's still difficult to get around. But in our town, everything appears to be completely passable. All told, I would have rather had them at school. But what do I know...

Monday, February 12, 2007

First thoughts on Vegas.

I had been there before, but I hadn't flown in. I was wondering whether there were slot machines at the airport. I was not disappointed. Hell, there were even some beyond the security gates.

Worst billboard ever: "CARROT TOP--exclusively at Luxor."

Driving at night from Vegas to Boulder City was a scary experience for an Easterner. First of all, it's dark and clear. Really dark and really clear. Strange shapes float into vision and you can't tell what the hell they are, until you realize they're mountains--sitting right next to the road. This doesn't happen in the Appalachians--you're a part of the mountains. Out in Nevada, it's flat, until it isn't.

Upon sunrise, the mountains look like large-scale piles of quarry dirt. It's possible that's actually what they are. Lake Mead is man-made; why not man-made mountains, too?

Friday, February 09, 2007

We don't need no stinkin' liberty!

I'm currently reading a book called Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Kandahar, which is about exactly what its title implies.

It occurs to me this is probably not a good book to bring into the airport today.

On a related note, be sure to read this op-ed in the Post from a former interrogator in Iraq. Many on the right-wing will no doubt call him a traitor for writing this piece. I call him a hero, despite his crimes, for speaking out now.

I wish, I wish, I wish that this stain on America had never happened.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Business trip.

Tomorrow's the big day; leaving for Dam Short Film Fest. And as always happens just before a big trip, I'm wondering why I'm doing it. All expenses paid--by me. No money involved (though to their great credit, Dam Short does provide a $75 travel stipend, and one of their sponsors is providing me with a free hotel room). And almost no chance of winning any awards (I tend to do well at new festivals, and not so well at established ones).

All this... for a hobby, essentially.

Now, I know that it's a great privilege to be able to Follow My Art in such a fashion, and that I should be grateful that I'm well enough off to do so. But that, essentially, is my point.

For you see, there are so many other artists out there who are so much better than I am. In fact, they're so much better that they get paid, professionally, to animate. Which means they don't have time to make their own films, let alone travel to festivals. So why am I allowed to do so?


Anyway, I'll be leaving from Dulles tomorrow evening. Maybe I'll make the evening reception tomorrow night, but I doubt it. I'm not even sure if I'll bring my laptop, so don't watch this space for updates.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Apple Wins, Apple Loses.

Apple, Inc. and Apple Corps have reached an agreement, and it looks to be permanent. So does this mean we're finally going to see Beatles music and videos on iTunes? Let's hope so...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Day with the Duke.

Here's a lovely article from The New Yorker circa 1970, about Duke Ellington.

I love the Duke.

Raisin Toast.

About a million years ago, I wrote a blogoir (blogged memoir) about starting a theater in the wilds of central Maine. Well, here's another perspective on it--hat tip to Mike for finding it.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

"Boomer" is also the dog from Independence Day.

Damn, damn, damn.


(Translation: why am I getting addicted to Battlestar Galactica three years too late?)

Bought the first season on DVD with leftover birthday gift cards. As if I wasn't wasting enough time watching Heroes and Lost!

It just goes to show, those iTunes promotions make a difference. Wouldn't have even begun paying attention otherwise, since we don't have Sci-Fi.

Fortunately, though, Universal HD seems to be showing this season's episodes on Saturday nights. And I don't have a social life anyway, so...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Ruh roh, Raddam!

The debate over whether 24 is a Republican show continues with the following comment:
The right wing’s analogy that 24 proves the need for torture and reinforces that terrorist cells are in our midst is refuted completely by Scooby Doo who never had to torture to get the truth out of bad people, found that the people who wanted to scare everyone were always authority figures who would benefit financially from fear and are better than Jack Bauer because they could solve the misdeeds in a half an hour that Jack Bauer takes a season to do.

There! A complete refutation of their argument by fighting their imaginary characters with other ones. The solution to Iraq is the get the Mystery Machine over to Iraq as soon as possible. The war will be over in half an hour with hilarious highjinks along the way.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Shame on the wall.

My son went on a field trip to the White House on Tuesday. He had a good time.

He also came home with an 8x10 photo of the President and First Lady. And I'm spending each day hoping against hope that he doesn't do his usual thing and ask that we hang it up in his room.

I only really became an adult, politically speaking, during Clinton's presidency, but I'd like to think I could stand having him hang up Reagan or Bush I's picture, were one of them the current President. But this Bush....

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins has died.

She was the author of Bushwhacked, Shrub, and countless columns critical of the President.

And it's probably callous to joke about it, but I have to ask... have they checked her for polonium-210?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Dahlia Lithwick:
In order to win extradition for [Dutch citizen and alleged terrorist Wesam al-]Delaema to face trial in the United States, prosecutors had to make a raft of promises to the Dutch authorities that would be insulting to American perceptions of the rule of law, were they not so completely well-earned over the past few years. The defendant will be tried in criminal court, not by a military tribunal. He will not face the death penalty, even though under our law his crimes could warrant it. He will serve his sentence—possibly a life one—in a jail in the Netherlands, not here. And, perhaps most astonishing of all, the United States had to agree that Dutch courts will be able to review and possibly modify the terms of the American court's sentence once Delaema is returned to the Netherlands. The American judgment, then, is not necessarily final. And all this because, according to Delaema's attorney, the U.S. government no longer can be trusted to treat its prisoners humanely. Clearly, the Dutch authorities agree.