the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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Better Living Through Photoshop

I've been totally stressed out by work lately, which means that, at some point, my head exploded and I found myself with a desperate need to play with Photoshop for a while. Thus: a crapload of new LJ icons!

Art of Noise x3
Mike Oldfield x5
Firefly/Serenity x9
Princess Bride x17

Art of Noise
(because I had no music-related icons)

Mike Oldfield
(because I had no music-related icons)

(because I just can't get enough)

The Princess Bride
(in honor of Valentine's Day)

Typical LJ netiquette applies--please credit me in your userpic keywords or comments if you snag any. Enjoy!

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January Link-o-Rama Redux

Some part of today managed to melt what's left of my brain, so I settled for skimming rather than chiseling away at my reading, and that has degenerated into a need to close browser tabs and assault you all with another installment of...

LINNcircle k(idd valley)One Letter / ORAmA

My cool flickr-based link du jour is Spell with flickr, which lets you spell words using letter images found on flickr, just like what you see here. Nifty!

Some geek reading: Joel Spolsky on "Great Design" and Michal Zalewski on "Cross-Site Cooking" (potentially dangerous shortcomings of how cookies have been implemented by pretty much every browser).

While we're on blogs, who would have ever thought Chewbacca needed his own blog? I guess you could consider it a scathing satire of "the blogosphere" (a term I really loathe), asserting that any random bloggish drivel is about the same as Chewy grunting and growling unintelligibly (and you probably wouldn't be too wrong). It's really, really daft, but it makes me giggle. What a Wookiee!

Artie attempts to scan your iTunes library, find tracks that are missing album art, and fetch covers from Amazon for you to review and drop into iTunes if they are what you're looking for. As my iTunes library--currently closing in on the 45 GB mark--continues to grow, this seems like an utterly brilliant solution that will save me much time, hassle, and pain... Too bad it doesn't seem to like my increasingly ungainly iTunes Library.xml file. Mostly it seems to time out trying to upload or process the data. Your mileage may vary--let me know if you have success!

Which leads me to the obligatory Mac geek section... I have a new favorite browser: Shiira, a nifty treat from Japan that so far seems lighter and faster than Safari and Firefox, and which sports some wicked visuals (I particularly enjoy the page forward/back that peels the webpage away like a piece of paper). I also ran across a pretty good list of must-have Mac software.

Some amusement for the gamers among us: a library of video game endings for those of us (like me) who were too lame to ever finish most of their games, and, when you have eleven minutes to kill, perhaps this short film will help you conquer your "Fear of Girls". (I'm glad to say I overcame that a long, long time ago!)

Finally, something to get us all ready for lovey-dovey season: SVU Valentine cards. Gosh. Um. Yeah. That's not creepy or anything.

Next time, I promise some real content, even if it's lame, or pictures of the cats doing stupid things.

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January Link-o-Rama

Now that I've gotten caught up on my huge backlog of email, it's time to close some tabs and share some links, because it's more fun than doing anything productive. Submitted for your approval:

Chunk Norris Facts will teach you all sorts of interesting things about Chuck Norris; for example, "the chief export of Chuck Norris is pain." Not to be missed.

Learn all about sushi with the Sushi Eating HOWTO. (Kind of self-explanatory.)

Can't get enough "Firefly?" I certainly can't. Check out Escape Key's "Mal's Song", an expanded version of the "Firefly" theme. It's a bit filkier than my tastes usually run, but I've gotten it stuck in my head anyway. Plus, if you didn't fill your belly with sushi (see above), you probably have room for a tasty Fruity Oaty Bar!

When you're done watching the Fruity Oaty Bar video (and putting the MP3 on a loop for a few hours; don't be embarrassed, it's perfectly normal), some of you might be amused by IBM's Linux cartoons. While I was entertained, my inner shareholder wonders how much they paid for those.

Transformer di Roboter present "Stranger in Moscow", a musical gem that uses the Macintosh startup chord as its bassline. No, seriously!

Retrievr lets you search Flickr by sketching. It's wickedly mind-blowing!

I hooked up my new keyboard (a Christmas present) today to see how effective I'd be at typing without any labels on any of the keys. It turns out, with the exception of well-formed (aka tricky) passwords, I'm quite good with it. I also really like how different regions of the keyboard have different resistance to touch, so your hands get a good feel for what keys are what as they are being struck. The only thing that kind of pisses me off is that the Scroll Lock and Caps Lock lights don't seem to light at all (the Caps Lock would probably be helpful, don't you think?), and the Num Lock light seems to be flaking out--typing causes this LED to flash and sometimes go completely dark. I guess I wouldn't particularly miss these if they went away, but they are kind of annoying and really detract from the overall quality of the keyboard. Alas, I think my search for a new "perfect keyboard" must press any key to continue... (Time to find someone who makes a USB equivalent of the old Apple Saratoga keyboard.)

Finally, Minifesto is a cute tool for making animated icons out of your favorite snippet of text, suitable for generating excellent customized LiveJournal icons.

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Better Living Through Impending Deafness

I've found myself not listening to my iPod as much over the past year or so, even though I love it and it has done more to preserve my sanity at work than any three other gizmos, and I lay the blame on headphones. I disliked the original iPod earbuds (uncomfortable, crappy); my over-the-ear, fold-up replacements sounded great and traveled well, but were painful to wear with glasses (which is to say, they were always uncomfortable), and the wire flaked out last spring; the series of cheap earbuds that followed were both uncomfortable and flaked out quickly. I won't do the gigantic, over-the-top-of-my-head style headphones because they either don't fit well, don't sound good, or are too expensive (*cough*Bose*cough*)--plus I'm more than a bit sensitive about my hair, and I hate things that squish it.

So Liz wins first prize this Christmas for dropping a pair of new headphones in my stocking. I've been dubious of in-ear headphones for a while, but I have to admit that these have really surprised me with how much I'm enjoying them. They sound great, and the bass is shockingly full. They seal out the exterior world quite nicely--I find the office's white noise to be almost deafening when I remove them to head off to a meeting--and I'm able to turn the volume way down and still enjoy listening. They're comfortable enough that I can wear them for most of a day and not feel any fatigue or discomfort. Plus, Target had them for a price far lower than what's suggested on Sony's online store.

As a consequence, I have been listening like a fiend this past week; highlights include:

The Signal, a podcast about "Firefly"/Serenity that I've subscribed to but haven't listened to for several months. If you're turning into as much of a "Firefly" geek as I am, then you'll probably enjoy this--news, interviews, music bits, episode reviews, and even lessons on useful Chinese phrases (such as "the explosive diahrrea of an elephant"). And it's strangely shiny to have my usual mish-mash of NIN and VNV Nation interrupted by an hour of sci-fi geekery.

Seu Jorge - The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions. Seu Jorge, from the cast of The Life Aquatic, covers David Bowie songs, translated into Portuguese, and plays acoustic guitar. Yeah, exactly. This is a transcendantly interesting record, its excellent novelty value far surpassed by how downright good it is.

The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan. Every now and then, I break down and pick up something "popular" and "mainstream," and this is one of those occasions. I must confess, I hadn't even heard the White Stripes until their recent "Daily Show" appearance. This album is warm, bluesy, raw, and a damn lot of fun, and I never expected a glockenspiel to rock so hard.

VNV Nation - Pastperfect. Okay, so this hasn't left my iPod since I originally fell for it, but the live version of "Electronaut" came around on shuffle play on Friday afternoon, and with the deep bass and sealed-in feeling I get from the new headphones, it was mindblowingly awesome at a level only second to being at the live show last summer. This track sounded so good that when I closed my eyes, I was transported to a place of serious ass-kicking goodness, a sort of glorious EBM nirvana. Most excellent!

Okay, enough for now -- I have to get up early for jury duty in the morning (whee!).

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King Kong

This December... you will believe a giant ape can beat the crap out of three angry tyrannosaurs!


I was going to write some more about my impressions of the film, but I'm too jumbled right now. Suffice it to say that you should see it, soon, and on the biggest screen you can find. Peter Jackson "gets it" in every way that George Lucas has shown he no longer does. Any doubts about Jackson making anything significant after Rings can safely be put to rest. Kong is audacious, dazzling fun. Amazing. Jaw-dropping. Creepy. Beautiful. Heartbreaking. Wow.

And when I have the inevitable nightmares about being attacked by giant bugs, I'm sending my therapy bill to Jackson. *shudder* Bastard.

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I've been, in a bloggish sense, a bit backed up of late, due to rampant schedule craziness. It's time I do something about that. So... Here come lots of random and largely unrelated things that I've been meaning to post! (Oh, how lucky you are!)


After I managed to almost ruin a sweater last week, we finally got fed up with the door closer on the screen door in the garage and its wanton spree of greasy terror. You will be pleased to know, should you ever have the opportunity to avail yourself of this door, that we have purchased and installed a replacement closer, and you shall travel safely across that threshold without fear of horrible black marks on your back. Huzzah!


It's now officially winter in the Pirnat household--tonight we prepared the first gigantic pot of chili, guaranteed to warm your spirits (as well as various other parts that come into contact with it). The fun part is that it's a bit different every time; this batch has a deep, round, smoky heat that I find reminiscent of barbeque, but without the sweetness. Of course it needs a day or two to really mature correctly, so we'll see how it develops.


Walk the Line... We intended to see the new Harry Potter but ended up at the Cash biopic instead when Potter was sold out. Walk the Line was perfectly serviceable, and a fine film, just nothing that really blew me away. It seemed to lack some of the cinematic expressiveness of films like Shine or Ray (the latter of which really blew me away). I was quite impressed with the vocal performances (who knew that Phoenix and Witherspoon could convince me that they were just lip-syncing to the originals?), but I was bothered by the story structure, which seemed to imply that Johnny Cash's life was over, done, and of no more interest after June finally relents and agrees to marriage, which seemed like a bit of a cop-out to me. And I would have really liked his cover of "In My Life" over the end credits, but I can't have everything.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire... Entirely too many shows were sold out, so I it took a couple days before I got around to it, and at that point I found myself largely disappointed. Sure, it's pretty, and it's spooky and dark, and there are some really great bits... But it seems to have fallen back into the too-literal feel of the Chris Columbus Potter films. Also, it's about time that Harry got a full three hours (or more) or got serialized into multiple parts ala Kill Bill, because the amount of discarded material is really starting to detract from the filmed stories. In this case, the film might as well have been ...and the Triwizard Tournament, because just about everything else during the school year is just plain gone.

Miscellaneous other gripes... The confrontation with Voldemort was completely and totally devoid of tension or scariness; and Voldy really comes across as a poorly-costumed wuss in bad makeup; he's just silly, and not even remotely terrifying. Cedric Diggory's death? Nowhere as effective as the book, since we didn't spend nearly enough time getting to know him. I never would have expected a girl named Cho Chang to have such a thick Scottish accent; I'm not sure what I had imagined, but it wasn't her. There wasn't nearly enough done to establish the budding sexual tension between Ron and Hermione. I didn't remember the British retro-punk band at the Yule Ball, but it has been a few years since I read the book. Dumbledore's performance seemed to be all loud and shouty, merely a phoned-in cariacture. Oh, and excuse me, but there was nowhere near enough Snape.


I've been ripping a huge pile of CD's that have been building up on my desk for a couple of months, mostly stuff that I either haven't listened to in forever, or that I never gave enough of a proper listen in the first place. It's really a treat to rediscover a lot of this stuff! Some of the real winners have been:

  • My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult - A Girl Doesn't Get Killed by a Make-Believe Lover... 'Cuz it's Hot
  • Juno Reactor - Bible of Dreams
  • Warren Zevon - Mr. Bad Example
  • Various Alan Parsons albums
  • Vangelis - Oceanic


CSS geeks might enjoy learning how to create bar graphs with CSS. Now I just need stuff to graph!


And remember, kids, if you're giving it up, you're going steady with Hitler!

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Righteous Hacks and Other Warm Fuzzies

Last night: MirrorMask with Liz, Brian, Marie, and John, a mind-blowing treat somewhere between Labyrinth and The Neverending Story crossed with a Dave McKean visual acid trip. Slightly hackneyed plot, but clever and charming and funny in all the right spots, and absolutely absorbing visually. We followed it with burgers and yummies (bacon bleu cheese dip so good it ought to be illegal) at a nearby pub, and a good time was had by all.

Today: some righteous hackery to resolve complicated scaling issues that involved gluing a moderately horrible system implemented in Perl into our somewhat-less-horrible Python universe to integrate with a desktop app. It was overall pretty trivial, but dang if it wasn't more coding fun than I've had in quite some time!

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The Sleepy Cat Health Care Plan

Originally uploaded by mikepirnat.

It's funny how much better life is when you have cats pin you down in bed for several days on end. I'm feeling significantly better, and quite thankful to have shaken off the worst of what by all accounts is the Cold From Hell. Everyone seems to be getting it, and it seems to be a uniformly miserable experience. It does make for some fun conversations, though--"Have you gotten The Headache yet?" and similar.


In other news:

I thoroughly enjoyed the Wallace and Gromit movie, which is not so much laugh-a-minute as it is a constant good-natured chuckle. It's a delightful little film.

I was not prepared for the "Madagascar Penguins" Christmas-themed short cartoon though--is it just me, or does Christmas start sooner every year? It was a cute cartoon, but it probably won't even be playing when it's even remotely seasonal. Can we please, pretty please, with Jack Skellington on top, please not start with the holiday cheer until after Halloween?

I determined that my lack of forward motion on experimenting with TurboGears was the lack of a proverbial itch to scratch (well, that and the whole coughing up my lungs thing). Luckily, I think I've managed to uncover an itch from some ages back, so at least now I have a little direction and focus. It's also been a bit of fun to hang on the #turbogears IRC channel and occasionally have something useful to contribute.

On house-related matters, not only am I now the proud owner of attic insulation (installed even), we are halfway to having bathroom fans that are actually effective at circulating air and moisture out of the house. Much rejoicing! To counterbalance this otherwise sunny progress report, however, it seems that our lawn mower has, with a saddening sigh, released the last of its Magic Blue Smoke, and try as we might to convince it otherwise, it seems that it shall mow no more. The timing was oddly perfect--the first dry day that both of us have been in good enough health or schedule to allow us to partake lawn maintenance, and boom! It wouldn't be that bad, except both neighbors mowed their lawns this weekend, so ours bears an increasing resemblance to jungle foliage. Definitely not high on the curb appeal scale.

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Iconage: Nausicaa + Serenity

I have occasionally been bored enough or in need of something completely different from my normal mode of being focused on code and servers and misbehaving software. When it gets really bad, I end up staying up too late playing with Photoshop.

A couple months back, I did a few Nausicaa icons; last night I was overcome with the compulsion to do some Firefly/Serenity icons. For those who haven't seen Serenity yet, do note that some of them may be borderline spoilers.



Typical LJ netiquette applies--please credit me in your userpic keywords or comments if you snag any. Enjoy.

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For ages, I have pooh-poohed Joss Whedon's "Firefly", thinking it a silly trifle of network TV, the kind of thing that can't stand up to "real" sci-fi. "It's no 'B5'," said I, despite how my coworkers tried to change my mind. Then the trailer for the movie arrived, and I started to wonder what I'd been missing all this time. And then I bumped into the Serenity in LEGO, and I thought, Damn, that's pretty neat. There might be something to this... And then even my mom told me it was outstanding.

So, I figured I ought to watch at least a little of the show before the movie comes out, so that I'm not completely clueless among the throng of browncoats who will surely be in attendance. A coworker has been trying to remember for about three or four weeks to bring in her DVD's. Finally, the waiting got to be too much, so I broke down and bought the damn thing.

And, I have to say, I was pretty much dead wrong about this show. It rocks! Snappy dialogue, great FX, good stories, a fascinating blend of cultures, top-notch acting... In a way, it's a lot like Cowboy Bebop, only without the jazz music. And completely, utterly addicting--we've watched over half the series since about eight o'clock last night.

So -- "Firefly" fans -- I admit it! I was wrong! It's a freaking great show!

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