The Pheonix Has Landed

NASA had put the odds at around 50% of hav­ing a suc­cess­ful land­ing near the North Pole of Mars. Their track record of Mars mis­sions thus far was­n’t even that high (55% of mis­sions had been lost). How­ev­er, with amaz­ing suc­cess­es like the two rovers who have sim­ply kept going, that coin-toss of chance seemed okay.

Today, after what was described as an excru­ci­at­ing sev­en minute time of decent, NASA report­ed a suc­cess­ful land­ing. What’s more, they even have the pho­tos to show for it.

Pheonix Lander Foot

Con­grat­u­la­tions to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ari­zona and NASA teams. Every­one is look­ing for­ward to some more great sci­ence from this mis­sion.

AudioBook Builder

I have learned that there is some­thing about the mac that makes for real­ly nice, easy soft­ware. It’s sort of a cross between a Unix ethos (that is, pro­grams that do just one thing and do them real­ly well) and an Apple ethos (it just works). One fair­ly sim­ple task that, in prac­tice, is a huge pain is con­cate­nat­ing .mp3 files togeth­er to cre­ate an audio­book (typ­i­cal­ly an .m4b file1). I had found a few scripts and such to do this sort of thing, but all were mul­ti-step process­es and often did­n’t pro­duce the results I want­ed (at least not for the effort I had put into them).

Enter Audio­book Builder by Splasm Soft­ware. In a nut­shell, it sim­ply col­lects audio files togeth­er and then puts them in a sin­gle, com­pressed .m4b file. Now, it does have a few more bells and whis­tles avail­able along the process, but the stan­dard process is as easy as:

  1. Name and option­al cov­er art.
  2. Add the audio files, like­ly from .mp3 or from rip­ping a CD right into Audio­book Builder.
  3. Click Build Audiobook.

Which are the steps laid out on the three main but­tons along the bot­tom of the win­dow. Once the pro­gram is fin­ished (and it might take a while), the fin­ished audio­book is added into iTunes for you.

Creating an audiobook of Wicked using Audiobook Builder

One of the first uses I had for the soft­ware was to put the 13 CDs of Gre­go­ry Maguire’s “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” for Angela. She had pur­chased this to lis­ten to on our move down from Rich­mond. For­tu­nate­ly, the audio­book being near­ly 20 hours, she did­n’t have time to fin­ish dur­ing that dri­ve (long as it was). Plus, with 13 CDs to fool with, hav­ing it all on an iPod seemed like a bet­ter way to have the con­tent, any­way.

As I described above, there’s not much to it. Insert­ing 13 discs for the rip­ping process was­n’t much fun, but all of that is done right with­in Audio­book Builder, so there’s no pro­gram switch­ing or hunt­ing for files. The only task that I did out­side of the pro­gram was go to Amazon.com to get the cov­er art and meta-tag infor­ma­tion.

I do have a cou­ple of com­plaints about Audio­book Builder. First, I’d like to be able to add more meta-data than what is cur­rent­ly pos­si­ble. I would rec­om­mend some sort of Add more info… but­ton on the first screen. Sec­ond­ly, you con­trol the indi­vid­ual file length2 by means of a slid­er in the Pref­er­ences dia­log. I find myself fid­dling with this a lot as I want to bal­ance file length num­ber of files. I think that there could be two options, with­in the third screen, for either lim­it­ing length of files or num­ber of files. I change this for every sin­gle audio­book I cre­ate, and try dif­fer­ent lengths for each, as well. Hav­ing to go to the Pref­er­ences dia­log each time is fair­ly cum­ber­some.

Ever want­ed to read some clas­sics? Well, go get the vol­un­teer-read files from Lib­rivox and put them togeth­er in Audio­book Builder (I’ve got the first half of Don Quixote already done, even with chap­ter art­work added with­in Audio­book Builder). For $9.95, this pro­gram is a steal even if you have even a cou­ple of CD audio­books lay­ing around. Rip ’em, and then donate them to your pub­lic library. Then you don’t have to wor­ry about them tak­ing up space and some­one else can get to lis­ten to them.

  1. The .m4b is a rel­a­tive­ly com­mon for­mat asso­ci­at­ed with audio­books. Most play­ers know to remem­ber the last stop­ping point on these files, which alone is impor­tant enough to mer­it using on a 6‑hour long file. []
  2. It would be nice if you had exact con­trol over the length of files, but basi­cal­ly it is real­ly set­ting an upper lim­it. Audio­book builder won’t split indi­vid­ual files that you have added or ripped into it, as it has no way of know­ing if the split is in an appro­pri­ate spot or not — most­ly like­ly not. []

NBC: We’ve Pretty Much Given Up

The Pea­cock Net­work was once a bas­tion for dra­ma and com­e­dy. Those days are long gone, with only a few bright spots in an oth­er­wise abysmal line-up (Scrubs, My Name is Earl, and The Office being most of those high­lights). Recent­ly, they announced that Uni­ver­sal (NBC and USA Net­works par­ent com­pa­ny) were mov­ing Monk and Psych from USA to NBC, as if that was going be a good thing for those shows. Why find new shows or tal­ent when you can just bring some up from the minor leagues? Just the oth­er evening, we saw some com­mer­cials for four new shows this sum­mer on NBC: all were reality/contest shows (includ­ing Amer­i­can Glad­i­a­tor, which pret­ty much sucked the first go around). Now, comes an announce­ment that they are going to start craft­ing shows around spon­sor’s prod­ucts. Of course, that’s assum­ing any adver­tis­ers are even con­sid­er­ing spend­ing mon­ey at NBC.

For The Last Time: The Plane Takes Off!

So, after months and months of online dis­cus­sion, Myth­busters Jamie and Adam put the physics where the rub­ber meets the road.

Lit­er­al­ly.

Almost two years ago, I (and most of the inter­net, it seems) saw a thought ques­tion at Kottke.org regard­ing an air­plane on a giant con­vey­or belt. If the belt moved the exact same speed as the air­plane’s wheels – only in the oppo­site direc­tion – would the plane take off? Well, the answer was imme­di­ate­ly clear to me, but that’s for the sole rea­son of I took sev­er­al semes­ters of sta­t­ics, dynam­ics, and physics in col­lege. I knew imme­di­ate­ly that the plane would take off, with­out any ques­tion. I did my best to clear­ly explain why this was the case in the ensu­ing dis­cus­sion on Jason Kot­tke’s web­site1.

Mythbusters graphic

Well, last night, I (and Kot­tke, along with a lot of oth­ers) were vin­di­cat­ed as we watched a lit­tle yel­low, sin­gle seat ultra­light take off from a 2,000 foot long con­vey­or belt on a new episode of Myth­busters.

Now, as just a brief – and par­en­thet­i­cal – after­thought: it always feels good to be proven right. How­ev­er, one of the most awe­some expe­ri­ences in sci­ence is when all com­mon sense tells you one thing, but the num­bers and sci­en­tif­ic log­ic tell you the oppo­site. In that case, when a empir­i­cal result sup­ports the unlike­ly or seem­ing­ly impos­si­ble, it is a mar­velous and won­der­ful sur­prise. Think about all the real­ly cool exper­i­ments you ever saw in sci­ence class or on Mr. Wiz­ard, and I’ll bet they fit into that lat­ter case. What you thought could­n’t hap­pen does indeed hap­pen right before your eyes. That very thing has made many a per­son fall in love with sci­ence for the rest of their lives and I sin­cere­ly hope that this exper­i­ment did the same for a lot of peo­ple last night.

Plane taking off.

In the mean­time: I told you so!

  1. Kot­tke has real­ly tak­en some own­er­ship of this ques­tion, too. He even live-blogged last night’s episode. I, unfor­tu­nate­ly, had to TiVo it and watch it this morn­ing. Hence, the some­what late post of mine. []

A New Direction For My Career

Bentley

As a result of our mov­ing, I have tak­en a posi­tion of Senior Tech­ni­cal Writer with Bent­ley Sys­tems, Inc. Specif­i­cal­ly, I’ll be work­ing with soft­ware in the struc­tures group. In the past three years, Bent­ley has acquired sev­er­al big names in struc­tur­al engi­neer­ing soft­ware: REI (STAAD), RAM Inter­na­tion­al, and more recent­ly TDV GmbH (RM). I think that a num­ber of engi­neers were sur­prised to see this move by Bent­ley (at least I was), par­tic­u­lar­ly giv­en the per­cep­tion that STAAD and RAM were major com­peti­tors. How­ev­er, as I’ve learned a bit more about the com­pa­ny and what the direc­tion of the struc­tures group appears to be in, it has become clear that they have in place a remark­able suite of struc­tur­al appli­ca­tions. What’s more, they are posi­tion them­selves to pro­vide soft­ware for vir­tu­al­ly any struc­ture type or size. Along the way of pol­ish­ing the ele­ments to build this tool­box, they are inte­grat­ing all of them so they are bet­ter equipped to work in the future world of Build­ing Infor­ma­tion Mod­el­ing, which is the new hot­ness in the con­struc­tion and engi­neer­ing world.

So, let me back up a bit and explain how I got here.

Though I have to admit it felt at first like tak­ing a long shot at the time, I sent out some resumes to some engi­neer­ing soft­ware firms to gauge their inter­est in hir­ing a struc­tur­al engi­neer to work remote­ly. I was pleased when two com­pa­nies, includ­ing Bent­ley, were inter­est­ed. I did my best to learn all I could about the posi­tions and prod­ucts of both (I have been a career user of the prod­ucts now in Bent­ley’s line, though). After learn­ing more about what they had in mind for both their soft­ware and this posi­tion, I real­ized that this was indeed the cor­rect career path for me. To put anoth­er way, I believe that while both are excel­lent posi­tions, I want­ed the job I felt was not just a good fit for me but a great one.

It is a bit daunt­ing to leave behind a career in design, but at this point it real­ly feels like the nat­ur­al back­ground for the work I’ll be doing in the future, rather than a total career change. The knowl­edge in design and work­ing in a con­sult­ing office will be indis­pens­able as a tech­ni­cal writer as well as to serve as a liai­son between engi­neer­ing clients and soft­ware pro­gram­mers; get­ting to talk to them about what they’d like our soft­ware to do and present to them how they can achieve that.

A cou­ple of weeks ago, I wrote about being so appre­hen­sive about total life changes. Well, when this job came togeth­er, some­thing inside me clicked and every­thing just felt right. It’s not most peo­ple’s idea of a dream job to work most­ly at home writ­ing and talk­ing about engi­neer­ing soft­ware, but it kind of is mine. I’m gen­uine­ly excit­ed about the work I’ll be doing as well as the com­pa­ny I’ll be doing it for; one that real­ly seems to be pro­vid­ing a great set of appli­ca­tions and is mov­ing the indus­try for­ward in terms of tech­nol­o­gy and how to ben­e­fit design­ers.

Also, for the first time in my life, being a nerd isn’t a social draw­back; it’s a lifestyle and a mar­ketable skill set.


Appreciating the Classics

iPod Classic Packaging

Our new iPod “clas­sic” – which comes in much more com­pact pack­ag­ing than old­er iPods. The large cube box has been replaced with a much slim­mer case. Also, you don’t get a charg­ing block with it any­more.

After much debate and self-reflec­tion in our home over the past cou­ple of weeks, we decid­ed to get an 80GB iPod Clas­sic. We new that we were due for an upgrade from our old 20GB 3rd gen­er­a­tion iPod. It’s tiny mono­chro­mat­ic screen was hard to see much on. The size was­n’t too much of an issue (of course, that’s part­ly because it could­n’t dis­play video or pho­tos). We played around with the iPhone quite a lot and debat­ed get­ting an iPod Touch. There’s no deny­ing that it has a gor­geous screen and sexy inter­face.

How­ev­er, once we start­ed look­ing at what we actu­al­ly use an iPod for, the Clas­sic was the right choice. I lis­ten to music most­ly in my car and that slick inter­face (you have to turn it side­ways) would­n’t work in a DLO trans­pod. Fur­ther, flick­ing around music prob­a­bly isn’t a smart thing to do while dri­ving. Also, we use the iPod as a hard dri­ve to back­up pho­to & video stor­age while on vaca­tions and 16GB was­n’t going to be enough (I can aver­age as much as 500 pho­tos a day, which is about 3.5GB per day when shot in RAW).

All that being said, it also came down to a judge­ment in val­ue. I sim­ply did­n’t want to pay more for some­thing that did less of what we need from it. We don’t have the extra dough to be spend­ing on friv­o­lous fea­tures that we’ll rarely take advan­tage of (i.e. – the iPod Touch). We real­ly did con­sid­er get­ting an iPhone, which would be nice to reduce the num­ber of gad­gets (phone, Palm, cam­era, iPod, lap­top) but in the end, I think that even the mighty iPhone falls short of any one of those devices when com­pared direct­ly. It’s not as good a cam­era as Ange­la’s Canon Elph, let alone my D50. It does­n’t have the third par­ty soft­ware that Ange­la’s Palm has (nor will it ever as far as Apple is con­cerned, it seems). We have mobile phones that do a good job of sync­ing with our macs (for con­tacts, cal­en­dars, etc.). Ange­la’s iBook is great for surf­ing while not at home (though, obvi­ous­ly for only one of us at a time should be we apart). Last­ly, I’ve enu­mer­at­ed why the iPhone is not the per­fect iPod for us. Sure, the con­ve­nience of one sleek gad­get ver­sus five bulk­ly ones is allur­ing, but ulti­mate­ly not a rea­son­able option for us. At least not for the present time (I prob­a­bly will get a iPhone if a 3G net­work ver­sion is avail­able when I decide to replace my w810i).

No Music

There’s been some typ­i­cal blog/complaining about the inter­face upgrade, which I sup­pose was the most sig­nif­i­cant change between the 5G and 6G iPods. Giv­en that I was using a (seem­ing­ly ancient) 3G, I don’t miss what­ev­er they are pin­ing for, to tell the truth. The “Ken Burns effect” on the album art in the back­ground does­n’t both­er me, though I sup­pose it looks more attrac­tive with some cov­er-art more than oth­ers. Per­haps Apple could allow for users to select which art gets used? I don’t find the Cov­er Flow fea­ture to be that great on the Clas­sic, but it’s also not par­tic­u­lar­ly slug­gish, either. Some recent reports have indi­cat­ed that the sound qual­i­ty has dropped due to a change in some of the inter­nal hard­ware, but only audio­philes are like­ly to pick up on this. Frankly, if the qual­i­ty mat­ters that much, I doubt these peo­ple lis­ten to music on an iPod they down­loaded from the iTunes music store. As I stat­ed above, I lis­ten most­ly in my car on an FM mod­u­la­tor; the sound qual­i­ty is at least as good as the FM recep­tion on my stock Ford stereo so I don’t get too uptight about that sort of thing. Audio­books and pod­casts sound just great, as far as I care.

All things con­sid­ered so far, I like the iPod Clas­sic so far. The inter­face is an improve­ment in my opin­ion when com­pared to the old one. The cost to val­ue ratio is great, giv­en how great a gad­get the ori­gion­al iPod form fac­tor is after six years (which is for­ev­er in gad­get time scales).

Here’s some visu­al com­par­isons between the 3G iPod (back when they essen­tial­ly only came in white) and the cur­rent 6G iPod Clas­sic (now that none come in white):

Ch-ch-changes

Okay, so the iPhone and Touch have much larg­er screens, but this is a big jump in screen space (not to men­tion gor­geous col­or).

Moore's Law?

Wow, that is a slim lit­tle device. Now why could they put a hard dri­ve in the iPod Touch?

Tennessee Tech in the Top 100

Ten­nessee Tech (my Alma mater) made ESP­N’s Top 100 “Great­est Beat­downs in His­to­ry.” Check out No. 70: “Loy­ola of Chica­go 111, Ten­nessee Tech 42, 1963 NCAA first-round game. Loy­ola went on to win it all.” Of course they were on the receiv­ing end of that beat­down. Wa Wa Waaaah­hh… (via Kot­tke)

Fixed The Washer, What’s Next?

With­in less than three weeks of our daugh­ter being born, our oth­er­wise reli­able front-load­ing wash­ing machine start­ed hav­ing some prob­lems. The wash­er would­n’t spin the clothes – leav­ing us to hand-wring out large piles of slop­ping wet laun­dry. How­ev­er, with some inves­ti­ga­tion and help, the wash­er I was able to fix the wash­er myself (as in: not the Sears repair­man).

The Problem

Dur­ing my mom’s vis­it with us a cou­ple of weeks ago, she explained to me that she was hav­ing to hand-wring out all the laun­dry before putting it in the dry­er. It seems that the wash­er would­n’t go into the spin cycle. Our wash­er and dry­er are about sev­en years old, but were top-‘o‑the-line May­tag Nep­tune mod­els when we pur­chased them. There is no rea­son they should stop work­ing now. How­ev­er, noth­ing I could do (at first) seemed to have any effect on the wash­ing machine. Angela and I decid­ed to call the May­tag repair man to have to have him come take a look at it (who was actu­al­ly a con­trac­tor for Sears, but what­ev­er). With­in lit­er­al­ly sec­onds of tak­ing off the face pan­el he stat­ed that the R11 resis­tor was burned out. I asked if this was some­thing he could just re-sol­der onto the oth­er­wise healthy look­ing print­ed cir­cuit board. “No, I’ll have to replace the entire con­trol board.” he said.

“So what caus­es this sort of thing to hap­pen?” I asked.

“Usu­al­ly light­en­ing dam­age or some oth­er sort of pow­er fluc­tu­a­tion.” he stat­ed very mat­ter-of-fact­ly.

Burned Resistor

Dam­age caused by the burned out R‑11 resis­tor (removed) on our May­tag Nep­tune’s con­trol board. The Q6 tri­ac to the right also must be replaced.

As it turns out, that’s a $300 part and it costs around $160 in labor to replace it. I real­ize that not every­one is famil­iar with the cost of elec­tron­ics and labor, so let me explain my shock at this. A resis­tor that costs less than 1¢ each at Radio Shack (or at least before they just became a cell phone reseller…) burns out and I now have to replace the entire con­trol board assem­bly? Fur­ther, I have to pay some­one $160 to spend 5 min­utes dis­con­nect­ing and re-attach­ing some wiring har­ness­es? I have nev­er in my entire adult life heard of some­thing more ridicu­lous, although that did­n’t occur to me as much at the time as it does now.

Well, in the end, Angela and I decid­ed that at worst we could just pur­chase the new ver­sion of our old wash­er for only a bit more than the $460 repair bill. We paid the repair­man his $59 ser­vice fee and he gave us a $65 coupon toward a new wash­er at Sears, which did­n’t seem like too bad of a deal.

The Solution

Still, it real­ly kept bug­ging me that it was such a com­mon, cheap thing that was dam­aged and that was going to cost me so much mon­ey to fix or replace. Why can’t I just replace the resis­tor with a com­po­nent part I buy myself at the local elec­tron­ics sup­ply store? I fig­ured that my friend Jason John­son (some­one I con­sid­er to be quite handy with fix­ing things) could help me diag­nose the prob­lem bet­ter when he vis­it­ed the fol­low­ing week­end.

We did­n’t get much of a chance to look at it dur­ing Jason and Sta­cie’s vis­it (there are things in this world more fun that fix­ing a wash­er, you know) until the morn­ing they had to leave. We quick­ly deter­mined that the resis­tor was so bad­ly burned up that we would­n’t be able to read it’s com­po­nent col­or code val­ue. In a last ditch effort, Jason sug­gest­ed we look online for a con­trol board dia­gram since the wiring schemat­ic in the wash­er did­n’t detail the con­trol board at all. Well, a search for May­tag Nep­tune R11 returned some very sur­pris­ing results. As it turns out, this isn’t an iso­lat­ed prob­lem and it has noth­ing to do with light­en­ing or pow­er surges. Rather, it is a direct result of May­tag using shod­dy parts for it’s door lock­ing mech­a­nism which, in turn, result in dam­age to the con­trol board.

What’s more, fix­ing it is some­thing that May­tag knows a great deal about, as they had a very large class-action set­tle­ment against them on this very fail­ure. Of course, the fail­ure had to occur pri­or to 2006 for them to do any­thing about. Just the same, we were able to find some­one who advo­cates just repair­ing the prob­lem your­self.

Well, this past week­end, that is exact­ly what I and my broth­er Stephen did. Our wash­er now works just like new. Fur­ther, I believe that the root cause of the prob­lem (the door lock motor, com­mon­ly called the wax motor) has been cor­rect­ed so it won’t hap­pen again. This appar­ent­ly is some­thing that the repair­man we had vis­it was­n’t going to fix for that rather large quot­ed price. Of course, why should I expect any­thing like that from some­one who either does­n’t know or was­n’t will­ing to tell me the actu­al cause of the prob­lem?

Stephen Soldering

Stephen works at get­ting the leads to the Q6 sol­dered onto the con­trol board.

The Big Complaint

So, to any­one who owns a May­tag Nep­tune wash­er which will not spin your clothes dry or the door lock light no longer comes on, warm up your sol­der­ing irons. The repair is as sim­ple and straight­for­ward as you could hope for. Set aside about an hour and get anoth­er per­son to help you out (not that it’s hard, just that a sec­ond pair of eyes and hands to get off the wash­er door is a good idea). I ordered my parts from Nep­tune Wax Motor.com. The own­er (?) of that site, Jeff, has some great instruc­tions as well as links to some videos of how to dis­as­sem­ble the wash­er and make the repairs. He seems like a very help­ful and hon­est per­son and I’d high­ly rec­om­mend buy­ing the parts (approx. $35 for the entire kit, includ­ing ship­ping) from him. He even has some sug­ges­tions if you don’t want to sol­der the com­po­nents your­self.

Neptune Wax Motor

The old, dam­aged parts. The wax-motor with the brown actu­a­tor is the prob­lem. The dam­aged resis­tor and tri­ac are the result.

Last­ly, I think that Maytag/Sears should be ashamed of them­selves for rip­ping off cus­tomers like this. I’ve read sev­er­al defens­es of the ser­vice tech­ni­cians online and they all seem rather weak to me. May­tag’s ads for decades have been about ‘Ol Lone­ly, who’s got noth­ing to do because May­tag is so depend­able. How­ev­er, when some­thing real­ly is going wrong, peo­ple have to sue due to faulty design. Worse, even for those who did­n’t (like us), the repair­men just take the easy (and extreme­ly expen­sive) way out rather than actu­al­ly fix­ing the appli­ance. Tak­ing an hour to do it right and charg­ing (what I fig­ure) around $150-$200 is much bet­ter than tak­ing 15-min­utes and charg­ing 2–3 times that much is the only right thing to do. I don’t sole­ly blame the tech­ni­cians, although I do believe they have a cer­tain amount of dis­cre­tion in the method of repairs they make. It’s bad busi­ness and, as a result, Angela and I have come to the deci­sion that nei­ther May­tag nor Sears are going to be anoth­er pen­ny out of us (and, yes, we have done quite a bit of busi­ness with them). If they had at least been open and hon­est about the issue, that may have been dif­fer­ent. How­ev­er, they treat­ed us like a bank account to just take mon­ey out off.

Here’s a parts list:

  • R11 resis­tor (3.9k Ohm, 1/4 Watt or bet­ter, 5% car­bon film) — about 20¢
  • Q6 (NTE5657) — $3.63 at Whole­sale Elec­tron­ics
  • Whirlpool wax motor with black actu­a­tor — $13.72 at PartStap.com

Some addi­tion­al links:

Five Fun Things Friday — June 1st Edition

Well, it’s been two weeks since I last did this, so I should have plen­ty of fun things, right? I’ve been soon busy with work and house stuff, I’m not sure…

  1. Watch­ing “Wait­ing for Godot.” After being pub­licly shamed, I fig­ured I’d bet­ter see what all the fuss is about. I tried to watch a taped ver­sion of the play on Google Video, but it was real­ly poor qual­i­ty (in all the ways it can be). How­ev­er, the ”
    Beck­ett on Film
    ” ver­sion I rent­ed from Net­flix was very enjoy­able. I found myself actu­al­ly laugh­ing allowed at some of the very dry humor (at least it was dry in this inter­pre­ta­tion).
  2. Big bud­get, sum­mer block­buster movies. Pirates 3 did­n’t make any sense plot-wise, but was fun. It seems like every­body’s favorite part was the sur­re­al­ist Davy-Jones’ Lock­er scene. A lot of that comes from John­ny Dep­p’s charm in the films but direc­tor Gore Verbin­s­ki deserves a lot of cred­it for putting a very odd scene in a block­buster film. Here’s hop­ing Trans­form­ers is equal­ly enter­tain­ing.
  3. Angela and I fin­ished up watch­ing “Freaks And Geeks,” the short-lived 1999 tele­vi­sion show by Paul Feig and Judd Apa­tow. The show’s 18 episodes are con­sis­tent­ly good both in writ­ing and act­ing. We just got the first disc of Apa­tow’s fol­low-up show “Unde­clared” and are look­ing for­ward to see­ing Knocked Up soon.
  4. Speak­ing of tele­vi­sion, I’ve been watch­ing some episodes of ABC’s “Notes From the Under­bel­ly” at their web­site. Appar­ent­ly loose­ly based on a nov­el of the same name, the pilot episode was ter­rif­ic and sub­se­quent episodes have been fair­ly good, although not great. The humor hits home, though, as it does it’s best when mak­ing fun of neu­rot­ic first-time par­ents-to-be like Angela and I. Sur­pris­ing­ly (main­ly just because I like it), the show will be back next sea­son.
  5. And final­ly, some­thing not relat­ed to film or tele­vi­sion, we’ve been real­ly enjoy­ing get­ting baby stuff togeth­er. We fin­ished up most of the nurs­ery for our lit­tle girl and on top of that, peo­ple have been send­ing us all sorts of cool baby stuff. We real­ly appre­ci­ate all the kind­ness and help (keep it com­ing, good peo­ple!). It’d be sil­ly to say I was enjoy­ing that a lot. We’re hav­ing our first baby show­er tomor­row and it should be a hoot.

Anousheh Ansari Space Blog

Anousheh Ansari is blog­ging, which might not be that big of a deal, except for she’s doing it from the Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion (and it’s a Word­Press blog, no less). She also has a Flickr pho­to­stream as well as a del.icio.us linkblog. Any­way, her blog over at the X Prize Foun­da­tion is a good read and I get the impres­sion she is not only hav­ing fun being up there but that she is gen­uine­ly doing all this for the love of space trav­el and to give us a bet­ter feel­ing of being there with her. Thanks, Anoush.