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I think it’s better to look odd than to look normal

Filed under: Life,Music,New York,Places — Thomas @ 3:54 am

2014-10-3
3:54 am

In the fall of ’98 I had a thing for a girl I didn’t want to have a thing for. I had also just seen one of my favorite movies, Much Ado About Nothing (the original Brannagh movie, not the Josh Whedon one that I didn’t know about until recently and have yet to see).

I decided to exorcise my feelings into a good old-fashioned mix cd (well, I guess that wasn’t old fashioned back in ’98). I cut up the movie dialogue into pieces, and interspersed them inbetween a song selection aiming to match the flow of the movie lyric-wise and, in places, matching them sound-wise too to the movie snippets. It ended up being two cd’s, and a bunch of my friends liked it as well so I think I ended up making about 30 copies of the thing.

Today I needed to recreate those two CD’s plus its original packaging. That means I had to actually buy CD-R’s (didn’t have any anymore after the move to the US), buy jewelcases (can you believe that I actually have actual boxes with actual empty jewelcases that I *kept* in storage in Belgium? These days if you want to buy them they’re a little harder to find than they used to be, even though I’m sure there must be landfills full of them all over the world), and go to a print shop to print the front and back covers.

Being the obsessive backupper that I am, it was easy to find the sound files back (actually, I took a morituri rip that I made at my best friend’s house, who has the CD’s, last time I was there – so that I would have a perfect .cue sheet that would stitch the tracks together). I knew I had the files for the fronts and backs somewhere as well, but they were a little harder to find because I couldn’t remember their names. But I trusted my OCD self that I had backups from fifteen years ago somewhere here with me in NY, and I started looking for files from the same timeframe, until I came across the files I was looking for hidden in a subdirectory.

But then when you find them, what do you do with .cdr CorelDraw files from 1998? I tried inkscape, which uses uniconvertor, which on my F-19 machine failed with a constructor with wrong arguments in Python, which seems like a silly bug. I rebuilt the F-21 version, which gets past that bug, but then doesn’t actually convert anything. I tried an online converter, and it only picked up on the images and none of the text.

So I went the illegal route – I downloaded CorelDraw 11 from the internet, installed it in wine (which was surprisingly easy, it just worked), and I could open the files. Except that it was missing fonts and so the layout was all wrong. Sigh. Hunt random font sites for the missing fonts, install them for wine, open again, rinse, repeat. Eventually the files opened with the right fonts, except that one of the titles was too big to fit on the CD inlay. Oh well, adjust them all manually, make it a little smaller, export to eps, load in gimp, adjust the page as it was perfectly measured for A4 printing but I’m in the US now and the US uses letter which is slightly different, export to pdf so I could go to any random print shop in New York and get it printed.

CD burnt, on to the print shop, fiddle with the printer as nobody in the store can figure out which tray number the tray is where they loaded the card stock paper, and it’s not like the driver on the windows machine knows either – I had to do 5 failed prints to different printers before we even knew which printer was the right one. Cut up the paper by hand with scissors (which I suck at), put it all together, and be on my way.

All this just to say that, while I can be as good about backups as I want to be to bring back to life something I did fifteen years ago, there is still a whole lot of real-world technology fails getting in the way, like outdated proprietary file formats, not having good interchange formats, missing fonts, paper sizes and general Imperial/metric nonsense, ages-old printer crap and just simple manual tasks, which we as humans will probably inflict upon ourselves for forever. I mean, I’d sure like to believe that in the future it will be as simple as pressing a button and getting this 15 year old CD project 3D-printed all at once, but experience has taught me that most likely I will be fiddling just as much with getting 2040’s 3D printer to work with 2025’s data files.

And so it is that I arrive just after 6 at Barnes and Noble in Tribeca, queue up in front of eight registers with only one open, buy a book, get a wristband, go to the back where Emma Thompson is reading from her Peter Rabbit book, in her perfectly English and genuinely funny way, queue after the reading, and hear her say “I think it’s better to look odd than to look normal” to the seven year old twin girls in front of me. I wholeheartedly agree with her. I hand her my copy to sign, give her my two cd’s and tell her what they are and say that I thought this was a good opportunity to give them to her, and she smiles and seems genuinely surprised and pleased.

I think my dad would be genuinely jealous at this point – he always seemed to appreciate seeing her on the screen, and after today I can’t say I blame him. I hope she enjoys the CD’s, and if someone can recommend a good website where I can put these online for others to listen to, that would be great!

So then that happened

Filed under: Life — Thomas @ 5:04 pm

2013-6-7
5:04 pm

I’ve been more quiet than usual lately. I guess that’s what happens when you get married.

Oh, yeah, so that happened.

natalia-thomas-060-low

When I first met her years ago at a friend’s birthday drink she sat next to me all night and completely ignored me.

Years later I crashed a women only outing where she happened to be as well.

A random party, a six-o’clock-in-the-morning omelette on a terrace watching the sun come up, a birthday party, a jaunt to the Gentse Feesten and a long Christmas in august later, we were already together for two months before we knew it. I took her to my sister’s wedding, and not even three years later we went to our own, three weeks after I proposed. (Tip for anyone thinking of proposing: maybe the sauna isn’t the best place after all)

Getting married to her ended up being the most natural decision I’ve ever taken. And the answer to the most-asked question? Yes, it does make a difference. No, I didn’t expect it to. But it does.

Thank you to everyone who ever dumped me – I had no idea better things were coming.

Organizing photo libraries

Filed under: Life,Pictures — Thomas @ 12:51 pm

2013-5-18
12:51 pm

The weather’s picking up so it’s time for spring cleaning around the house. When I moved back to Barcelona three years ago I took with me my old analogue photos and negatives, with the idea of sorting through them at some point and getting them digitized. And while I’m at it, maybe it’s time to pull all my various folders of photos together too and organize them.

Well, I finally started. I grouped the negatives, labeled them by year, put them in individual envelopes, and handed them off to a professional lab to scan them after doing a quick test run on one set (which turned out great, but it’s *really* annoying me that they scan to JPEG by default, charge 40% extra for TIFF, and use a non-multiple-of-8 resolution to scan at which means I can’t losslessly rotate the negatives. Yes, I’m anal.)

So now I pulled together all my various folders of photos, and before I start doing tagging and stuff like that, I want to organize them in a decent folder layout. Googling for ideas pretty much suggests that the way to go is

YYYY/MM/DD

with possibly some description together with the DD

I’m not really happy about that, however, because there are certain things I’d like to be able to do:

  • easily see where photos come from – did I make them ? did I get them from someone ? Did I download them from Facebook ?
  • Are these original files from a camera without editing ?
  • Are these the original scans ? From negatives ? From actual photos ? Or are they retouched, rotated, denoised, …
  • Are these photos SFW ? Can I point my media center slideshow to this directory and have it safely show any photos under it ? (What do you mean, you’ve never snowboarded at night in only your underwear, and mooning the photographer ?) Or maybe not even SFW, but simply watchable and reasonable quality or subject material?

I realize some of these issues can not be resolved simply with a directory layout. But I’m sure some of you must have had similar issues or come up with a slightly better layout ?

Point me in the right direction please.

Tripping

Filed under: Conference,Flumotion,Life,Music,Travel — Thomas @ 10:42 pm

2010-9-6
10:42 pm

I haven’t done much work/conference travelling in the last months (I even skipped GUADEC, boo!), but it seems now is one of those months where random rears its pretty head again.

Right now I am at the other side of the world, in Sydney, a Holiday Inn in King’s Court (interesting neighbourhood…) This is late notice and I might not read my mail anymore, but hey, if you’re around and I know you, drop me a line. I was hoping to see Jan, GStreamer’s release ninja, here, but apparently he lives on the border of New South Wales these days…

I’m here for two and a half days, and then I fly back to Barcelona, and then to Belgium for my sister’s wedding where I am the best man.

My next trip is to the Open Video Conference where I’ll be doing a quick overview of Flumotion and HTML5. The conference is 1/2 of October, so I’ll be going to New York a few days before. I hope to go to FOMS as well for at least a day, but I’m also going to the Business of Software conference in Boston because, hey, we’re a software business! And it’s just around the corner from New York…

Further down the line there’s Streaming Media Europe in London on Oct 13-15, where I will do another presentation and assist in a panel.

And finally I hope to make it to the very first ever GStreamer conference on the 26th of October in Cambridge, but I really should get my act together and book a ticket for that soon…

Now I wouldn’t be me if I wouldn’t try and squeeze a concert into these trips.

So far, I’ve gotten a ticket to see the Walkmen play in Boston on the 7th of October. I want to get tickets to see the XX and Zola Jesus on the 2nd of October in New York, but I can’t make stubhub or related sites deliver tickets to Europe… Anyone in the US feel like joining me for that concert and receiving the tickets ?

It’s going to be a busy fall…

Reasons to be cheerful, part 190284

Filed under: Spain — Thomas @ 11:35 pm

2010-6-15
11:35 pm

A bunch of good things happened to me recently, in quick succession. Today was particularly satisfying, so a quick list lest I forget that I am born lucky.

  • I spent the past weekend in Amsterdam, Groningen, Midwolda, and Amsterdam, for Sofie and Mariette’s wedding. A great time was had by all, and groups of friends mixed into one for a weekend of celebration. Life can be beautiful sometimes.
  • The first night in Amsterdam I went to a milonga all by myself for the first time and finally got round to asking complete strangers to dance. Win.
  • The last day in Amsterdam I spent with Africa and Alex, and among other things we had a great Kobe steak that really is worth the extra price – it melts like butter in your mouth.
  • Last night out of the blue one of my uncles called because he had heard ‘the news’ and wanted to check in on me and see how I was doing. I’m guessing he was surprised I was doing pretty much fine considering, but it was a good feeling to know someone out there in my family cares enough to call. It made the distance that much shorter for a little while.
  • Also last night, I familiarized myself with one of work’s projects that needed a patch which I’d been asking to be made since Thursday because of a customer problem (which ran like a red thread, sadly, throughout the wedding weekend). I spent five hours trying to get a first unit test written and running into that project (there were none before), then ten minutes patching the code and writing the code to show that my patch works. Today, that patch got deployed and attacked with six different use cases, and it all held up. This is on code I’ve never seen before, so win.
  • Today, I exchanged a work favour for a home favour with Fernando, and he immediately agreed to come home with me and help me set up the big IKEA closet. On the way we stopped at Angel’s to pick up these double bench chairs I’ve been dreaming about getting ever since he showed them to me:
    New chairs and table

    We took them home on our heads, and I cleaned them. They need some more cleaning, but I love them already. I got these specifically because someone old and wise recently pointed out to me that Barcelona has individual benches, and she was sad and angry at that little fact. So these twin seat benches are a raised fist against Barcelona’s soltero benches.

  • And, as usual, Angel didn’t let us go without at least a full glass of wine, and a bag with a huge chunk of tortillas and some freshly cooked gambas. Thank God for people with a passion for what they do.
  • After helping me put the closet together (we made it half way through, this particular IKEA set needs a power drill and a saw to put together!), Fernando took me to the Diseny Hub Barcelona because a good friend of him works there. Turns out they have a MakerBot there, he’s printing parts for a RepRap, and he’s willing to print my parts. So after being sidelined in my attempts to get one in Belgium, it turns out I will now be able to make one just ten minutes from my current living place!

    Also, the place seems awesome, has real industrial 3D printers and etchers and 3D scanners, offers workshops, and it looks like people can actually come in and use things. I have a feeling I’m going to be dropping by there…

It’s a big enough list of things to be cheerful about in a really short time, and I’ve left out some less practical more private things, so summer is looking good so far…

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