the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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He Who Rocks and Puts Away Lives to Rock Another Day

The kiddo has had a pretty strong musical interest for a while now, but in the last week or so she's gotten really excited by my Rock Band controllers, which have been hanging out in the corner of the family room, right where they're easy for her to get at if she wanted to. I'm content (thrilled, in fact!) to have her noodling around with my original Rock Band 1 controller (of the woefully busted whammy bar), but I'd like to keep my pair of RB2 controllers in good shape for as long as possible.

So, off we went to Guitar Center to pick up a couple of guitar hooks to hang the controllers on the wall, safely out of reach from curious little hands.

I'm not sure if I'm more embarrassed by buying guitar hooks for my fake guitars, or by the fact that we'd worked up an elaborate tale of how I'd recently inherited a (fictional) ukulele collection (to explain my concerns about whether the hook would be narrow enough to hold the guitar head). Sadly, no questions were asked about my purchase, so we never got to try out the story.

So, here you go--photographic evidence that I am, in fact, pretty much a total dork. Enjoy.

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I haven't been posting much lately because I've either been too busy to write anything or too not-busy to have anything worth writing about. So here's a quick recap of what I've been up to, in more or less random order.

I'm thinking of moving our blogs to private hosting on WebFaction, partly because I like WordPress, and partly because the sale of LiveJournal to SUP makes me uneasy about paying LJ any more of my money. I've been hacking on a Python program to crawl my journal and re-emit it as a WordPress XML export file, suitable for slurping up into WP with just a few clicks, and it's pretty much done. I just have a few decisions to make (should I keep userpics attached to all my exported entries?) and then I think it'll be time to pull the trigger.

At work, we've wrapped up our first big run of cafeteria-free lunches (58 straight lunches, of which we had a repeat-free streak of 56 lunches before hitting some of our "greatest hits" before the end of the year). Naturally, we're blogging it so that we remember where we've gone.

Claire continues to grow and change. Having just passed the 100-day mark, she can now sit in her Bumbo chair, enjoys standing practice, and is really excited about grabbing her toes. I continue to shoot and post tons of cute photos.

We've been doing weekly videoconferences with my parents instead of phone calls. They get to see Claire, and Claire gets to stare at my screen and be confused. Plus my parents get to be the envy of all other long-distance grandparents that they know, who are in awe of their "technical savvy." So, kudos to iChat for making it stupidly easy.

I am in love with Rock Band and want to marry it. If that's not possible, I'd settle for going over to my friend's place to play it on a regular basis. (Turns out that after a couple beers, I am pretty decent on vocals--scary!)

Egad. I have almost 8 GB of music (over four days' worth!) in my "new and unrated" playlist needing review. When am I going to have time for that?

Last night we watched Paprika, the latest film from anime director Satoshi Kon. I'm utterly blown away by it. The coolest thing I've seen in a long time. It's a little bit Dreamscape, a little bit Ghost in the Shell. Good, good stuff.

Not sure if it's the kid (probably) or what, but I've fallen off the deep end of the Christmas season and am starting to scare Liz with my sunny holiday cheer. Usually I'm pretty down on the consumerism and not too hip to whatever religiosity seeps through the month-long shopping orgy of December, but this year things are different. I'm giggling as I wrap presents for Liz and Claire, and--much to Liz's annoyance--bouncing off the walls waiting for the big day to arrive. Is it Christmas yet? Is it Christmas yet? IS IT CHRISTMAS YET???

Speaking of Christmas, I'm happy that I managed to get the annual card produced and out the door relatively on-time. One of these years, I'm going to have inspiration and time in November so that I can get full-bleed, professional printing done, but I'll take what little victories I can get. I may post the images or a PDF at some point if I get motivated enough. (Here's your opportunity to convince me...)

Finally, if it's at all possible, I'd like to be your personal penguin.

Okay, enough of this foolishness. Time to go be Dad for awhile. Cheers!

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Claire: The Soundtrack

We had been encouraged, by our doula as well as by the hospital, to prepare some mix CDs for our birth adventure--for the drive to the hospital, for the hour or so after the baby had been delivered, and for the drive home. Finally, a parenting task that I knew was right up my alley!

About a week out from the big day, I put together four discs (two short ones timed, roughly, to the distance between our house and the hospital assuming a moderate amount of traffic and red light interferences). It was a surprisingly emotional task (then again, I am a big ol' wuss), and I'm quite pleased with the smoothly-flowing results (with seamless and carefully crafted DJ edits because harsh segues won't cut it for any kid of mine):

Now You're In the World

One: En Route
  1. "Prelude" - VNV Nation
  2. "In Your Eyes" - Peter Gabriel
  3. "Speed of Sound" - Coldplay
  4. "I'll Fall with Your Knife" - Peter Murphy
  5. "Airships" - VNV Nation
Two: Post-Delivery
  1. "Your Song" - Craig Armstrong
  2. "Heaven & Hell Part 1: Movement 3" - Vangelis
  3. "It Is Accomplished" - Peter Gabriel
  4. "Concerning Hobbits" - Howard Shore
  5. "Funeral/Rebuilding Serenity/Prep for Flight" - David Newman
  6. "Passacaglia" - Bear McCreary
  7. "Voices (Cello Version)" - Yoko Kanno
  8. "Everloving" - Moby
  9. "Avril 14th" - Aphex Twin
  10. "Over the Rainbow" - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
  11. "Here Comes the Sun" - The Beatles
  12. "Love Song" - The Cure
  13. "Solitude" - VNV Nation
  14. "Imagine" - John Lennon
  15. "Halcyon + On + On" - Orbital
  16. "Deja Blue" - Yoko Kanno
Three: Hanging Out
  1. "MLK" - U2
  2. "Celestial Soda Pop" - Ray Lynch
  3. "Blinking Lights (For You)" - Eels
  4. "Moments in Love (12" Mix)" - The Art of Noise
  5. "Dream in an Open Place" - Vangelis
  6. "The Grey Havens" - Howard Shore
  7. "As It Fades" - VNV Nation
  8. "A Warm Place" - Nine Inch Nails
  9. "Knee 5" - Philip Glass
  10. "Love Song for My Mom" - Moby
  11. "To Sheila" - Smashing Pumpkins
  12. "Wish You Were Here" - Pink Floyd
  13. "Stairway to Heaven" - Led Zeppelin
  14. "Let It Be" - The Beatles
  15. "Kingdom Come" - Coldplay
  16. "The Ballad of Serenity (Big Damn Movie Acoustic Version)" - David Newman
Four: Coming Home
  1. "Battlestar Galactica Main Title (UK Version)" - Bear McCreary
  2. "Now We Are Free" - Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard
  3. "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" - The Proclaimers
  4. "Love You 'Till the End" - The Pogues
  5. "Clocks" - Coldplay
  6. "Breathe Me" - Sia
  7. "Rainbow Connection" - The Muppets

I considered jotting down why I'd chosen each track and its placement, or the significance of particular selections, but decided against that in the interest of keeping the Internet that much less banal. I am of course willing to be persuaded otherwise if anyone is really that morbidly curious.

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Potter-Related Setbacks; 24 Hours With Apple TV; Shutterfly Freebies

I'm really excited by the amount of progress I've made over the last couple of weekends, hacking away at what for now is known as Shindig, a group management blog/calendar app written against TurboGears. Its primary purpose is to be something easier and faster for me to maintain than ClePy's current Plone site. I'm sure much of what it solves has already been done, but I want something exactly tuned to giving me the most streamlined workflow possible, and, let's face it, it's just plain fun to write code.

So ordinarily, I'd be psyched about how much I'd be able to get done this weekend... Except that the stupid Harry Potter book is showing up in the mail tomorrow, and that basically means that it will consume every waking, lighted hour until it's done. I love the books, I really do, but it's really putting a crimp on my Python geek-out sessions. But I have to be done reading by Monday, that's for sure, or else I will have to gouge my eyes out to avoid spoilers. My predictions: Snape dies (he's obviously been set up for a hard-core double-agent redemption arc, so he'll probably save the day somehow), Harry lives (and will be the best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher ever), and Ron and Hermione will finally succumb to the powerful call of teenage hormones and romantic comedy conventions and hook up in a major way.

Oh, yes, and I'm going to see Howard Shore conducting the Cleveland Orchestra in performance of his Lord of the Rings Symphony tomorrow night, so that knocks out a couple more hours of potential coding time. Which I guess I can live with; enjoying some of my favorite music, conducted by its composer, performed by one of the world's foremost orchestras, under the night sky, with a picnic and a nice glass of wine... Should be a real treat.


Tonight marks 24 hours since the arrival of the Apple TV. So far, I'm very, very impressed. I have modest needs, primarily to replace an aging SlimP3 that's prone to chronic buffer under-runs ever since I replaced my dying firewall, and it solves all of my most common use cases with total aplomb. I've been delightfully impressed by its streaming performance, which, even with an 802.11b/g setup, is nothing short of freaking amazing. I'm also very satisfied with the image quality out of the component video cables (chosen since our altar to the television gods predates HDMI by a generation or so). My advice so far, to any prospective owners, boils down to two points:

  1. Don't do your initial sync over wireless if you don't have 802.11n hardware. Wired ethernet is your friend by orders of magnitude.
  2. Its case serves as its heat sink, which is to say it gets hot like you wouldn't believe. Don't set it on top of your DVD player or other hardware (unless you want to cook your gear), and make sure that it gets plenty of airflow. Honestly, I used oven mitts to bring it upstairs to wire it into my switch to finish the initial sync. Yikes!

Beware of the YouTube integration; Liz and I must have spent an hour tonight watching videos of cats doing stupidly cute things. It is a powerful and addictive time-sink.


Finally, I'm happy to report that the first of two freebie poster-size prints from Shutterfly arrived today and it looks great. I picked up a 50mm prime lens for my Canon (Digital Rebel XT) recently, and the folks at Amazon threw in a coupon for one free 11x14 and 16x20 print. The 16x20 (which I expect sometime Saturday or Monday) will probably end up framed and in our dining room, next to some other wine-related art, and the 11x14 (which showed up today) will probably find a home in our living room. I'm really quite tickled--I've never printed any of my work larger than 5x7 before--but I fear that I could start going poor making prints of my better photos. Oh well; Liz said I should find a hobby.... ;-)

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Saturday: Photo Progress, DVD Recap

I spent most of the day doing the first big pass through the photos from our trip to Washington, doing some color correction and putting a rating onto everything. The next step will be culling through the good stuff--of which there is a surprising amount!--to find the things worth uploading to share. I can tell I've really improved with the DSLR; I made a point of never taking it out of 100% manual mode for the trip, and more than ever I am getting what I consciously want from what I'm shooting. Although I'm perfectly willing to enjoy the happy accidents, or the tragically awful shots that become beautiful after radical post-production alteration.

As a side bonus, I've also been plowing though a bunch of the music that I'd ripped but not really gotten around to listening to. I finally picked up a copy of the Cranes latest disc, Particles and Waves, which for the past couple of years has been import-only or completely unavailable (and which now seems to finally have some stock in the US). It's mellow and quite enchanting, and I'm really digging it.

Meanwhile, Liz and I are fighting a desperate battle to get caught up on library DVD's... Last weekend we watched For Your Consideration (better than I had expected) and Stranger Than Fiction (quite good but definitely not a comedy, no matter what the trailers would have you believe).

Thursday we watched Children of Men, which (in my estimation) is possibly the best science fiction film in the last ten years, and easily the equal of Blade Runner and Twelve Monkeys. Michael Caine's performance (apparently inspired by John Lennon) was a particularly nice surprise, a ray of sunshine in an otherwise grim and gritty world. I was especially amazed by some of the very, very long shots--including a nine-minute shot during an ambush and chase early in the film, and a mind-blowing six-minute shot near the climax (this article discusses the VFX work involved; use BugMeNot to skirt the mandatory registration). It's a bit heavy, so it might be some time before I can rewatch it, but it's so richly detailed that I think I'll definitely have to see it again at some point.

Last night was This Film Is Not Yet Rated, an entertaining, infuriating, often-humorous, strongly biased, and somewhat ethically dubious documentary that attempts to penetrate the veil of the MPAA's super-secret and rather arbitrary movie ratings system.

Tonight's film was Curse of the Golden Flower, a stunningly beautiful (and rather melodramatic) family tragedy that unfolds in the early 900's within the Imperial Palace. Truly, this is a movie with everything: Swords! Poison! Rebellion! Incest! Revenge! Ninjas! Embroidery! Betrayal! Gong Li's boobs! Suicide! Horticulture! Moral ambiguity! Janitorial staff like nothing you've ever seen before! Good stuff.

Unfortunately, in between photos and movies today, Liz and I took a two-hour nap, and now it's almost 0200 (again) and I'm wide, wide awake. I always have a terrible time readjusting to Eastern time after being out west, but this is really starting to hurt...

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Good, Bad, and a Little Funny

Good: Got first big chunk of big project delivered on time and more or less working as desired. Business folks are generally happy with what our team produced in the limited time available.

Bad: Had to miss the holiday party at German class in order to get there, so no Sekt and no beer for me.

Good: It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! We have the tree up and decorated, presents wrapped, and I cashed in some iTunes credit to pick up the new Twisted Sister Christmas CD (so deliciously, horribly addictive, it transcends awfulness, leapfrogs novelty, and lands, perhaps a bit teeteringly, just within the realm of totally kick-ass). Here's what I've basically been doing since then: \m/ >_< \m/

Bad: Thanks to global warming (or a giant cloud of liberal claptrap, take your pick), it sure doesn't look like Christmas... It's December in Cleveland; should we be having temperatures close to 60 degrees? I'm not the biggest fan of snow--especially when I have to deal with idiots who don't know how to drive in it--but do we really only get one week of winter this year?

Good: The Lost Room. Check it out in reruns or the inevitable DVD if you missed it.

Bad: The Lost Room left the door wide open (yes, a deliberately awful pun, deal with it) to become a full-fledged series. I'm not sure I have time to be obsessed over another long-form serial.

Good: New firmware for my router, maybe it'll solve my streaming audio throughput issues!

Bad: New router firmware makes streaming audio around the house even worse. My (admittedly venerable) SliMP3 now chokes after 9 seconds instead of 37. Bah, humbug!

Good: My tire was repairable, and still under warranty to boot, which means it was free! Yay!

Funny: I got a job offer from a headhunter today, very excited that I had Python experience. Turns out he's trying to place me into the company where I already work. (Woops!) After quite nearly LMAO, I shot back a polite rejection. I wonder what my boss would say if a headhunter slipped her my resumé...

Speaking of my resumé... where exactly should I list being named Time's Person of the Year?

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Being Uncle Mike

My recent vacation photos hiatus is in part due to spending last weekend being all responsible and grown-up and stuff--Laura, one of my nieces, came to visit us for the weekend. Note the use of the word "my," a big step for me, as for most of the past seven years, the girls have been "Liz's nieces." Maybe they're just growing up to the point at which I can relate to them, but they're really, finally feeling like family.

So! Laura braved the increased airport security, water bottle fascism and all, and arrived last Friday. Liz picked her up, and after getting settled in at the house, took us all out to lunch at Phnom Penh; to my amazement, Laura loved her loath chha! That evening we hit our local Winking Lizard and then went out to Will Farrell NASCAR movie (hilarious, recommended), got ice cream on the way home, and stayed up far too late playing Munchkin. Saturday we caught up on "Monk" and "Psych", then went out to friends' for their Wild Game BBQ, where there was much delicious food, frosty beverage, and wacky croquet fun, then zipped down to Blossom to chill out under the stars and experience the Cleveland Orchestra playing the scores to Bugs Bunny cartoons (and incidentally seeing a lot of folks that we don't always bump into). Sunday we had brunch downtown, spent a few hours at the science center (note to self: don't try the "virtual hang-glider" right after eating...), tried to get Laura hooked on "Firefly", and played a lot more Munchkin and Apples to Apples.

Laura was up and out the door early on Monday to get to her flight on time; by all accounts she made it back home safely. I'm still trying to wrap my head around her pronouncement that I'm "an awesome uncle," but for the most part I guess that's pretty cool. The entire experience has left me a lot more optimistic about the idea of being a parent, a mental paradigm shift that is simultaneously comforting and scary as hell.

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June Link-o-Rama

A day of bush-pruning and art-show-wandering has left me in the mood to close some browser tabs and have a happy little link-o-rama for June. Joy!

First off, how about 101 versions of "Stairway to Heaven"? And if your ears aren't bleeding too much from that, let's chase that down with the best 50 video game ending songs.

While we're on the subject of "top-N" lists, check out the top 10 strangest Lego creations; Han Solo frozen in carbonite looks pretty badass to me. (Now where could I put that?)

Thanks to some clever video editing, we can finally settle the debate about how it'd go down if the Enterprise tangled with the evil Galactic Empire. And even though Gnarls Barkley isn't really my cup of tea, I have to say that Chewbacca on drums totally kicks ass.

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Better Days

Luckily, fortunately, thankfully, I've had a string of pretty good days lately.

Liz had to work for most of Saturday, so I used the time to knock a bunch of things off my to-do list, including a trip to the library to refresh my influx of new music, and a half-day of being able to work in peace in the office. Saturday night, she took me to Grovewood Tavern for dinner, which was utterly fabulous (I had the "Quackitori", seared duck breast yakitori style, and I highly recommend it, especially paired with the Parallel 45 Cotes du Rhone). After dinner, we hit the Velvet Tango Room for post-dinner cocktails, where I was introduced to the shimmering delight that is the French 75. I totally dig VTR's vibe, and I got an especially geeky thrill from recognizing Winchester '73 playing on the TV by the bar. VTR is a bit pricey, but the experience--especially on the weekend, where your lady friend gets a perfect rose--is worth it.

On Sunday I managed to get more stuff on my list done, and then we hit the local movie theatre for a matinee of Thank You For Smoking, a cheerfully subversive little movie that anyone with two brain cells and a sense of humor should see as soon as possible. Seriously--run, don't walk; it's that good. My only issue was with the quality of the audience, as we seemed to be seated directly in front of, next to, and behind people who insisted on sharing their running commentary, explaining jokes to each other, and so forth. Sorry, folks, but if I wanted the commentary track, I'd buy the DVD, and you wouldn't be part of it. Though it was almost worth it to hear the person next to me try to explain a joke and then, verbally, loudly, not get it... (Seriously, she didn't understand why it might be funny that the firearms lobbyist set off the metal detector at a security checkpoint. "Must be something metal," my next-door Ebert observed.)

Monday marked a return to workplace madness, but it ended early as Liz and I had picked up tickets to see K.T. Tunstall at the House of Blues. It was a pretty much spur-of-the-moment decision a couple of weeks ago when I realized that she was in town. I admit, I'm a total poseur, and it took her solo appearance on NBC's "Today" show for her to arrive on my musical radar... I wasn't sure what to expect from seeing her live, but I figured I wouldn't be disappointed, and the ticket price was pretty fair, so I figured there were worse ways to spend a Monday night. We had a nice dinner at the HOB (assisted in part by a small parade of happy-hour mixed drinks), and then proceeded to be completely blown away by her live performance. She's touring with a band to back her up, which helps fill out her sound nicely, and there were particularly nice bits featuring various band members soloing on drums, keyboards, trumpet, guitars, and cello. Mellower tracks had a nice dash of psychadelia that reminded me of early Pink Floyd, while the more raucus, upbeat numbers struck me as the perfect soundtrack for blasting down a desert highway, windows down and stereo cranked. In short, even if she's getting mainstream radio (and worse, grocery store!) airplay, K.T. is the real deal, and you should check her out, especially live. Seriously good times.

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Of Rings and Regular Expressions

Keeping busy. More than a little stressed. The next couple of days are (as usual) critical. So far so good, though...

I've graduated from being assigned weird shifts for monitoring the farm during Val to being on call 24x7 for the duration; I'm not sure if this is an improvement or not, but it allowed me to attend the Lord of the Rings symphony on Saturday night. Liz and I met up with friends for dinner at the Severance Hall restaurant (tasty, though I had the world's dullest steak knife) and then marvelled at how tight the symphony had gotten since we'd first heard it. The Cleveland Orchestra brought their "A game" and really rocked my socks; I got all weepy-eyed in all the right places. Beautiful, and a great early Valentine's gift to ourselves!

I spent a bit of time today fixing up some geeky things that have been bothering me. I twiddled's CSS a bit to be better behaved in IE, moved my IE-specifc hacks into a separate stylesheet to help get me ready for IE 7. And I finally managed to hunt down the bug in that was causing it to mangle content so badly (any "<br />" ended up getting doubled twice by its "cleanup" routines, and some bits of nearby text and other tags would get similarly repeated). I filed a bug with a very simple patch, so hopefully it'll get folded into the main release at some point, so no one else will have to suffer. It's amazing how different <(\S+?)\s*?/> (bad) and <([^\s>]+?)\s*?/> (good) can be.

Other than that, nothing exciting (other than watching the Canadian women's hockey team annihilate pretty much everything in their path). At this point, I'm just hoping to survive the next two days!

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