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.