More Global Warming Myths I Get To Refute

I have no idea why I feel the need to respond to this sort of crap when it flies across my radar, but someone seeded a pack of ten great lies on global warming to Newsvine from Human Events. Anyway, here’s my quick whack at setting them straight (and hopefully, some links on where to learn more of the facts). I’m not going to bother to reproduce the list here, but do feel free to go on over and vote for my article (okay, list) if that’s something you feel compelled to do.

New World in Adverstising

Well, a lot of you may read this site via an RSS feed so you might not have noticed that I now have advertisements in the sidebar. It’s just a Google Adsense panel, so nothing you haven’t seen before if you’ve been using the web in, oh, the past few years. Now, just in case you didn’t know how Adsense works, it basically matches keywords on this site to keywords Google’s advertising clients provide them with their ads. I have nothing to do with the content of these ads, for good or bad.

For those of you who have seen them, you may have noticed a few anti-science ads for free books or Rush Limbaugh (like the one that claims “Global Warming is a Lie”). I can have ads from those sites blacklisted on a site-by-site basis and will certainly do so, but it is inevitable that some ads will pop up that will seem to be out of place or against me or the spirit of what I write about. You are encouraged to let me know (e-mail is best; jason at this domain) as this happens. The corrections should take place in a matter of hours.

In addition to marginally interesting Google ads, you may have also missed the fact that I’m selling t-shirts1 over in the sidebar as well. The design is my own, if you’ll allow me the liberal use of the word design. It’s far from the crappiest t-shirt I’ve seen sold and it’s made by Spreadshirts, who do very nice work. Do check it out.

Lastly, in one final plea for you money and attention, I’ve got a link over there for our baby registry which is all set up on this site. If you are interested and have any questions, just let me know. You all know that you are not obligated to do anything for us, but if it is something you want to do, it’s a great place to get some ideas or do your shopping. We also welcome suggestions (which we promise not to scoff at and ignore immediately).

  1. I recently received my own shirt and I’ll model it as soon as I get around to doing so. []

DIY Weekend: Hardwood Flooring

Not too long after we moved into our house, Angela and I tore out the old carpet in the sunroom and laid carpet tiles. We were actually very pleased with them; they’re good quality carpet and didn’t wear out. However, after getting a second puppy who had a large yet weak bladder (Maggie…), Angela quickly got tired of having to try and clean out the stains. She had wanted hardwood flooring in that room for sometime and last Saturday, my friend Johnny stopped by. We got to talking and decided that the next weekend (the past two days, that is) would be a good time for both of us to do just that. In order to maximize our time, we went to the big-box hardware store to find some materials.

We happened to find some bamboo hardwood flooring. It was at a really cheap price – roughly one third of typical 5/8″ hardwood – so we got five 24 ft2 packets. Another great thing about bamboo is that it’s fast growth material, which is great for the environment (and also the wallet).

Beginning New Floor

The bamboo flooring over a 30lbs. roofing paper as a moisture barrier.

We got started yesterday morning after helping Johnny bring over some of his tools: a miter saw, table saw (which we didn’t need), air compressor, and nail gun (which we couldn’t have done without). We laid down some building paper which probably wasn’t necessary but i supposed to help with preventing squeaks. We snapped out beginning line and then spent the next two hours getting the first two boards around the radiator laid. The rest of the room went much faster, though. We tried to spend some time getting the edges right and we cut off some of the older molding such that it would set on top of the wood flooring, which looks much cleaner. We finished up last night with all but three boards laid.

This afternoon, we went to the big-box hardware store once again to get some additional floor edge molding to go around the room. We used a 5″ edge molding with a piece of quarter-round at the toe, similar to what occurs throughout our house. It’s an edge finish detail that is very forgiving for un-even walls, which also occur in spades throughout this house. It also looks quite fancy and we ended up with really nice finish. That took about four more hours this afternoon and the finished product is something that we’re all really pleased with.

Finished Product

The finished product, except for now the room looks like it needs a fresh coat of paint even more than it did before.

Fighting ‘The Man’ – International Film Edition

Ever since I decided that purchasing a DVD of "Monarch of the Glen" at the BBC store at the BBC Television Centre just outside of London would be a good idea, I’ve been haunted with how to watch my legitimately purchased television show. Angela and I have purchased a number of other DVD from since and we’ve enjoyed getting to watch these shows instead of waiting to see if they’ll ever make it to this side of the Atlantic1.

VLC Playing Video_TS File

VLC Player can play Video_TS files from a ripped DVD, allowing you to check the file back-up was done right before burning a physical back-up disc. Here’s a scene from the second season of Monarch of the Glen.

First, some background on why all this is such a pain. Video formats differ between the US and Europe (and much of the rest of the world, for that matter). There are three different signal types: NTSC, PAL, and SECAM. Here in the us, we use NTSC and in the UK, it’s PAL (SECAM is French and not quite as common). The short version of this issue is the different signal rates, resolution, and encoding result in a PAL signal on a NTSC monitor as a black & white "rolling" picture (sound may or may not be affected). It’s like Andy Kauffman got a hold of your DVD player and finds the joke much funnier than you do.

The other issue, as it pertains to DVDs, is the "Region Code." As film studios get some sort of demented kick out of releasing films at different times around the world (or just not releasing them at all), the region code prevents discs made for one global region being played in another. There are some players which are made "region free" (or, more often, can be hacked to that setting) but most are not. DVDs in the UK are Region 2 where as the U.S. market is Region 1. Thus, we own several DVDs that won’t load on our DVD player and even if they did, wouldn’t be watchable.

All this, despite the fact that we legally bought them.

Trying To Be A Good Guy

I first learned about Channel 4’s The IT Crowd from a post Cory Doctorow made on BoingBoing. It was great that the studio was going to post the videos online to watch, but it sucked that only UK residents could watch them (your IP tells others where you are surfing from). I was able to download copies of the show via BitTorrent and so that’s how I first watched them. I really enjoyed the show a lot and felt it would be fair to pay them for making such a great little comedy. Therefore, I purchased the first season of the show from (similar to how I first got into Lost, by the way).

Now, having purchased the The IT Crowd in addition to having purchased all seven seasons of Monarch of the Glen, we have a fairly good collection of Region 2 discs. Up until recently, we had a hacked Philips DVD player that was able to play them without trouble. Unfortunately, that player gave out prematurely and we had no intention of replacing with an equally cheap one (only rich men can afford to buy cheap things, as they must buy them over and over; or so the saying goes). That meant we’d have to make Region 1 back-ups of our DVDs, though.

No problem, right? You just copy them like any other files on a computer, right? No, it doesn’t quite work that way. You’re thinking like a criminal, says Hollywood.

So We Have To Break The Law?

Mac The Ripper In Action

Mac The Ripper is an easy way to create back-ups of your DVDs

It is illegal to make a copy of a DVD as this requires "breaking" the Content Scrambling System (CSS) on the disc. However, that being said, there are a number of commercial and open source applications which will rip a DVD. There are some really great ones for the mac. Handbrake2 is a great piece of software for stripping out the video on a DVD and creating a single, portable file. However, it does not create an exact copy of the disc. MacTheRipper3, on the other hand, can extract the entire contents of a disc, menus and all, onto a computer’s hard disc. Both are handy applications, depending on what format you want your video in. We use Handbrake to create compact copies of a movie or shows to store on Angela’s laptop when traveling. This saves on space as well as battery life. I would like to point out that while we do rip Netflix rentals, we delete them after watching them (storage is far more precious on her iBook than the time it takes to re-rent a movie).

However, for my need to watch a Region 2 PAL disc on my Region 1 NTSC DVD player, I need Mac The Ripper. It’s a fairly dummy-proof piece of software: insert the disc, select a directory to store the files in, accept the default settings, and click "Go." However, you must have a drive that will allow you to load discs from different regions. Usually, that’s not a problem as it’s the Operating System that restricts the Region setting. However, on a lot of Intel macs, such as my iMac, the drive has the region in the firmware. Firmware that, at least as of yet, isn’t user hackable. Mac The Ripper doesn’t appear to be able to do anything with it.

If only I had a drive that didn’t care what Region the disc was…

Two Options, Neither Perfect

The first option was to reset the DVD Region on Angela’s iBook and use it to rip the discs, storing them via the network on my iMac’s hard drive. This worked well enough, but what if Angela wanted to watch a different DVD? We can only change the Region four more times, one of which kind of has to be back to Region 1. She’d not be too happy with me if I more-or-less broke the DVD playing functionality of her laptop. Sure, we rip a lot of stuff, but still; we’d both like it to function normally in case we’d like to just watch a movie.4

The second option was to find an external DVD drive (or burner, as external DVD-ROMs are all in museums now). Those are usually somewhat costly, but I lucked out and found a Sony DRX-700UL Dual Layer DVD burner on eBay for under $50. I was excited that it was FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 but unfortunately it’s a Windows-only device and for some odd reason only works with OS X on my iMac via USB, but not FireWire. Oh well, I have more free USB ports than FireWire anyway. Otherwise, this solution has worked flawlessly. Mac The Ripper is able to copy over the files from a 7.8 GB DVD in about 20 minutes. I use Toast 8 to select the Video_TS directory5 on the internal SuperDrive.

Sony DRX-700UL Burner

A Sony Dual Layer burner I was able to purchase for fairly cheap on eBay allows me to rip DVDs from Regions other than Region 1 onto my hard drive for creating back-ups.

I’m not thrilled that I had to spend $50 for an external drive (which clutters up the desk I’ve tried so hard to unclutter) not to mention about $2.50 per DL disc. Given that I have about 25 Region 2 discs to make back-ups of, this is about a $110 endeavor. All just to watch movies that I purchased legally!

Now, one final note on all this. I’m not suggesting nor am I condoning making copies for giving away or selling to anyone. I simply want to be able to watch the media that I’ve legally purchased in my own home and I believe you should be able to do the same. There are any number of reasons why someone would legitimately want to watch a foreign DVD (school research, learning a language, fan of foreign films, immigrants looking for a taste of the old country, etc.). Whatever dumb reasons that Hollywood, the MPAA, and others have come up with to try and prevent "piracy" seem only to have served to frustrate and demonize consumers. It’s unfortunate, but I have no intention of letting it stop us from enjoying the shows and films we love.

  1. Further, since we rarely watched some of the boutique channels anyway, we’ve long-since canceled our cable package which included BBC America. That channel is sorely missed (The Office, anyone?), but for the price we paid we could purchase or rent cheaper. []
  2. Winner of ‘most nonsensical icon of the year.’ []
  3. A program which deserves ‘worst icon of the year’ award. Also, you’re totally on your own using this one. []
  4. Of course, I could just change the Region on my iMac, but we do watch a lot of movies on this machine now. Front Row is really awesome and frankly, our house is freakin’ cold downstairs in February. []
  5. This is the file structure for a DVD movie. Incidentally, you can play Video_TS directories off of your hard drive with VLC, allowing you to check the files before burning them to DVD. Dual Layer discs aren’t cheap. []

Fame: Is It Any Wonder I Reject You First

Some of you are well aware of how much I use obsess over Newsvine (a news writing and link-blog site). Recently, one of the sites more prolific users, Mykola Bilokonsky, did e-mail interviews with a handful of other users. I was surprised that he asked me but I got a real kick out of answering his questions about Newsvine, science, work, and fatherhood. So, if you’re interested, please read the full thing here.

Learning French at Hogwarts

Kottke has a post today about a fellow who recommends reading Harry Potter in a foreign language in order to help learn that language. I thought this was interesting since Angela purchased Harry Potter à l’école des sorciers over a year ago for just that purpose. Further proof that she is just way ahead of the rest of us.

Baby Update: Whoosh, Whoosh, Whoosh! Edition

We visited the doctor this afternoon to have our first listen of the baby’s heartbeat. While not quite as dumb-founding as getting to see the first ultrasound, it was still really exciting. So much so that the nurse had to take the microphone (or transducer, whatever) off of Angela’s belly for a moment during a fit of the giggles on her part. The baby is still small enough that even through all of her guts, Angela’s heartbeat was nearly as audible as that of the baby’s. There was one clear difference between the two, though.

A human fetus, come to find out, has the heartrate of a rabbit.

"Woosh, woosh, woosh, woosh…"

About 150-170 bpm at roughly our point in pregnancy, or so I’ve read. Like you or me sprinting.

There are those who hope to use the heartrate to determine what the babies gender is, but that’s really not a valid method (the fetal heartrate varies, just as mine or yours does, regardless of gender). It was mentioned by the nurse that while a lot of people try to apply this-or-that to determine the gender, there’s really no point. At this stage, the fetus really doesn’t have a sex. Oh, sure, it has been predetermined genetically, but it’s not really manifested in any way that we can measure or observe. That comes in a couple more months and, believe me, we hope to determine what that is.1

Now, that being said, if we can determine the sex that does not give anyone license to douse a likely little girl in pink dresses nor a little boy in blue baseball gloves [?]. We aren’t the kind of parents who plan on raising our child in some sort of gender-neutral sort of way or anything like that. But at the same time, there’s no reason to torture our new family with a Pepto-Bismol-world for a little girl or a try to make a Charles Bronson man’s-man out of a infant boy.

Let’s just not get all carried away. That’s all I’m asking.

  1. As much crap as we’ve given our friends over their decision no to, we’ve already kind of forced our hand on that one. []

It Is a Delicious Library

Why am I so addicted to this program? It’s just catalogueing the stuff I already own! Never-the-less, I can’t stop scanning stuff. I had to fight the urge to purchase the Bluetooth barcode scanner when I bought a license for the software.

First of all, it’s simply gorgeous software. Note how the cover image is slightly altered between hardbacks and soft-covers to give the impression of book-binding. Also, the subtle shading effects are nice. I don’t like how albums and some games are given a CD jewel case image (not shown here), but that’s forgivable (and change-able; see below).

My Own Delicious Library

Screenshot of Delicious Library and the iSight barcode reader screen (which can be turned off to reduce your creeped-out level).

Now, I do have a couple of complaints about DL. First, the iSight scanner isn’t perfect on my iMac. Now, that’s probably not Delicious Monster’s fault, since they didn’t design the hardware. Still I find myself keying in about one out of every four ISBNs.

That brings me to something that is within DM’s control, though: the placement of the ‘Add a new item’ button with respect to the search fields. They’re all the way across the window. Now, I’m not trying to be super lazy or anything, but if you’re going to make me click then key, put the fields close to one another! It’s not as thought it would upset the aesthetic of the window or anything (and DL isn’t as bad an offender on this as say, Quicken).

Lastly, some items don’t have images in the Amazon database and we all know this. DL displays a kind of paper-wrapped box as a default image (far from the most unattractive default). However, there’s a very simple work-around: take advantage the user-supplied images that Amazon hosts. I attempted a scan of one of my BBC Pal discs (“Monarch of the Glen – Series 1“), and while it’s there on Amazon, it doesn’t show up in DL. This would be, in my opinion, a great way for DL to let it’s users fill in the gap for both them as well as So far, nothing, though. Of course, it’s simple enough to drag an image right into DL on your item once you’ve gone to the trouble of scanning it in. However, this is a less than perfect becuase my work only benefits me and I can’t benefit from the work of others. Come one people, it’s Web 2.0 time, here!

It’s a really straight-forward peice of software. It allows you to keep track of any item you loan to a friend (or anyone in your Address Book; friend, family, or foe). Other than that, it really doesn’t do anything. It’s not like you can watch a movie or listen to an album in this software; just note that yes, you do own it. Perhaps it’s my innate OCD tendancies, but I just can’t get enough of that, though.