Colorado part 1: Denver and art

I think I was about 10 years old when I decided I wanted to visit Colorado. I had read about a city called Boulder, where you could spend a warm and sunny morning in town and then drive an hour or so and be on a snow-covered mountain. I had never experienced an actual mountain, and that sounded like a good way to do it. In the mean time, I’ve had 15 years of South Park to mould my perceptions of Colorado.

More thoughts on AppleTV

I’ve worked out how to take a typical AVI file download (generic MPEG-4 with MP3 audio, such as XviD) and convert it to something the Apple TV should be able to play without re-encoding all the video. There’s also the elgato turbo.264, which approximately quadruples the speed of encoding video for AppleTV. I tried re-encoding a good quality downloaded show that’s unavailable in the USA, using the QuickTime AppleTV preset. The result was indistinguishable from the original.

Mostly for Dan

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed nicotine yield of cigarettes sold in Massachusetts from 1997 to 2005. The result: cigarette manufacturers have been gradually boosting the level of addictive nicotine by an average of 1.6% per year, or 11% over the 7 year period studied. Something to bear in mind while watching re-runs of the South Park episode “Butt Out“, in which Parker and Stone bravely defend the cigarette corporations for providing a little harmless pleasure to people, who after all smoke of their own free will.

Wii otter be skeptical

With the latest South Park being a time-travel story about Nintendo Wii, atheism, and sea otters, I must admit I did momentarily consider the possibility that either Trey Parker or Matt Stone had been reading my web site. However, it’s quite common that people think that TV episodes contain coded messages specifically for them, and 99.9% of the time it just means they stopped taking their medications. So unless there’s an upcoming episode with a squirrel named Frida, I’m going to assume it’s a coincidence.

À la carte TV myths

The controversy over à la carte cable and satellite programming keeps resurfacing. The basic problem is that cable prices keep rising, to the point where the basic level of digital cable is over $50 a month in many places. Prices have risen 40% in the last decade.

(As an aside, I’m amazed at the whiners in the UK who complain about paying £126.50 a year for a TV license that gets them the best premium programming from the US, as well as UK TV. I pay $588 a year to get a similar selection.)

Viewers find it galling to pay for a hundred channels when there are only a handful they watch on a regular basis. Hence there has been a campaign to get the FCC to rule that cable and satellite providers must offer the option of à la carte programming, where you can choose to subscribe to only the channels you actually want.

The cable and satellite companies don’t want to see that happen, as it would eat into their fat profits. Since the same companies own a lot of the mainstream media outlets, I’m constantly seeing astroturf coverage explaining why à la carte programming is impossible, would make your cable bills skyrocket, is tantamount to Communism, and so on.

This is my attempt to cut through a lot of the common bullshit spouted on the subject.

Vegas Day 4: Xmas Eve

At this point, we’d had three very active days with lots of walking. We were both pretty tired, it was Christmas Eve, and we were supposedly on vacation. It was time to slow things down a little and relax more. We start off with breakfast at Krispy Kreme. I pick out three doughnuts for myself—one chocolate glazed with cream filling, one “classic” glazed fresh from the cooling rack, and one festive donut with red, white and green Xmas sprinkles.

Vegas Day 2: The Strip

We wake up early, partly because of the 3 hour time zone shift, and partly because our room faces south and gets a spectacular view of the sun rising over the desert hills. We find the café on the casino level: Starbucks coffee, and the biggest bearclaws I’ve ever seen. Once we’re awake we return to the hotel room to get ready for the day. Sara turns on the TV to find the Weather Channel, and the first thing it blares out is that erotic movies are available on demand.

Three obsessive audio edits

The movie South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is a work of genius, and probably one of the best musicals ever. It also works well as audio. I’ve ripped the DVD and edited it into MP3s, with all the songs separated from the linking dialog, so we can either listen to the whole thing or just the music. I did something similar editing to MiniDisc a year or two ago, and we rather unwisely listened to it while traveling to Montreal, resulting in “Blame Canada” being in my head the whole time.

Trip report, day 1

In retrospect, it was my own damn fault. I should have gone for the peppermint. But no, I chose the raspberry Earl Grey, which is apparently full of caffeine. That, combined with worrying about the day to come, meant that I only got around four hours of actual sleep on Saturday night. Sunday morning, the taxi didn’t quite turn up. In spite of the fact that I had spelled out the street name, somehow the house number had been omitted again.