The geek is back

I’m a librarian working with digital collections in the IT department. By definition, of course, the geek never really went anywhere. But I haven’t been working on personal projects so much lately, or at least not web-based ones. So this weekend, I updated all my WordPress installations for the first time in a year. I’ve been continuing the process of adding Google Maps links (automating them through CONCATENATE statements in Excel and this bit of wonderfulness) to all the location spreadsheets in Groceteria.

And tonight, just for the fun of it, I came home from dinner and began installing a new archival collection management system that I’m hoping will give me much better results than flickr for serving up photos and media with richer metadata.

For a really long time the thought of working on things like this at home after working with digital collections all day didn’t seem too appealing. Throw in the inertia of a major depression as well and you end up with some unfinished projects and some dying websites. To be fair, I did finish the big video project, although it took a really long time.

Does this mean that I need a life? Or am I just finding the old one again and realizing it still fits?

Only time will tell…

The H.264 thousand dollar question

So as the video project winds down for the holiday (and because I’m almost done), I’m finding that the stuff from 2010 to the present is taking much longer and requiring much more hand holding than the older stuff. And why is that?

  1. High definition video takes a lot longer to encode than standard definition. That one’s a gimme and it’s made worse by the fact that I really need to buy a new computer. Apple hardware lasts a long time but this one is really past its prime.
  2. Pre-2010. most of my stuff was identical formats at identical pixel dimensions. That’s really easy to batch and doesn’t really have to be hands-on at all.
  3. Post-2010, though, I use many different devices, all spewing forth different resolutions, codecs, audio formats, and wrappers. I merge all my video into one file per day and combining all this stuff has been challenging. I have a program that can edit and merge many types of MP4 files without re-encoding, so there’s no loss of quality and it’s much faster. But it doesn’t work for all of them.
  4. Some MOV files are pretty much MP4 files wrapped up with a different file extension. Change the extension and they’re fine. Not all, though.
  5. It’s especially cumbersome to mix DV files at VGA resolution with more compressed HD video files that have different dimensions. Mind-numbingly so.

The process is basically just as confusing and annoying as watching cable or broadcast TV on different devices for the past five years or so. But soon I’ll have nice MP4 access copies of all my home video (I’ve shot a LOT of video over the years) and I’ll be able to plug a hard drive into the Roku and watch them with ease on the TV in the living room.  but I’ve had. Assuming I ever want to see them again after this.

I could also stream them wirelessly but Ive had…um…mixed results with this.

On a vaguely musical Sunday

Nick Heyward
On a Sunday (1983)

It’s cold and it’s raining but the predicted icy Armageddon has not yet occurred. All the same, I’m staying inside cooking, watching movies, playing with databases, and otherwise being geeky and warm.

  • I don’t really either like or dislike this song but why is it that every time I hear it I think it’s the second coming of The Outfield? I guess the Saturday Night Live sketch a couple of weeks back helped me make the connection. Or not…
  • I do kind of like this “new” two-year-old song by Bear Hands although I’m not 100% sure why.
  • Despite the fact that I’m not really doing Christmas anymore, this is always worth a look.

OK. That’s enough. Back to my blankie now…

Randomly Monday night

It doesn’t matter how many times I look out the back door. There’s not going to be a cute orange cat there. And that sucks.

Happier thoughts and subjects:

  • I just booked my room for New York in January, although I may extend my stay by one more day since I got such a good deal. If anyone wants to hang out, please let me know.
  • Pondering my post-Christmas travel plans as well and whether I should continue my Virginia Beach tradition into its second year or opt for a different beach…or no beach at all. I really do like winter beach trips and Virginia Beach is a good choice because there’s a city there too, just in case I get bored. I opt for the cheap oceanfront room where I read all the books I didn’t have time to read the rest of the year.
  • In case you were wondering, I’ve had a really successful soup season this year. Okra seems to be the running theme.
  • For your amusement, the top twenty Toronto music videos of all time, at least by somebody’s count.
  • I’m finally getting back to the home video project. I finished digitizing all the analog stuff earlier this year and now I’m making MP4 derivatives from those masters for easy access on the Roku, etc. It’s much easier and “batchable” than the initial project was and I hope to be done by New Year’s. This will also make it easier for me to post old video on the site and/or YouTube if anyone cares (which I kind of doubt).
  • Despite my rotten state of mind Saturday night, my friend Jeff dragged me out to College Hill and other assorted destinations and I actually had a really great time. The secret to doing that in Greensboro is to remember never ever to go to the queer bar.

There are eight million stories

My new obsession this week is Naked City. I’ve been recording it off MeTV and now I have this (probably ill-advised) urge to buy the complete series on DVD in November.

It’s no big secret that I’m a sucker for old cop shows, specifically the ones that were shot on location in interesting urban areas, like The Streets of San Francisco (probably the best of the genre), Adam-12, Homicide, Cagney and Lacey, etc. Aside from being entertaining of their own accord, I love that they provide such a time capsule of what these cities really looked like at a specific time in the past, with diners and neon signs and dumpy furniture stores…and not an artisinal cronut stand in sight. It also helps that Naked City seems pretty consistent in its geographical accuracy; when they say they’re at Second Avenue and East Fourth Street, they really are. It’s always kind of a crap shoot on other shows.

Naked City is especially interesting, though, because it aired a good ten years earlier than most of my favorites and during a time when filimg on location was really unusual for a weekly TV series. It also has a sophistication that was lacking in most dramatic series of the time (it shared a creator with Route 66). All of this is making me wonder if it might actually be worth owning. I know you’ll be on the edge of your seats till November so I’ll let you know my decision as soon as possible.

Working for the weekend

Random thoughts on Canada, my new old neighborhood, food, etc.:

  • CanCon: The only reason any radio station still plays Loverboy.
  • The City of Vancouver Archives never disappoints me.
  • I’m warming to my newly rediscovered childhood neighborhood. It’s still not my dream ‘hood and I really hate the giant yard BUT I find that I actually have more useful stuff within easy walking distance here than I did in Winston-Salem–or maybe even South of Market, for that matter. I can walk to several decent restaurants and a supermarket (even if it is just an Aldi), and dropping my car off for its annual checkup this morning was dreamy. There’s hope, I suppose. And contractors next week…
  • Happy occurrence of the week: Buying jeans of a size that I haven’t purchased in fifteen years.
  • In case you were wondering, there is at least one German restaurant in the world that doesn’t sell beer and this is it. And yes, my friends and I were also amused by the idea of a German and Italian restaurant. Adding a few Japanese dishes would probably get it firebombed by Asheboro’s remaining WWII vets.
  • Cool thing of the week: This, via here.
  • Taking a four-day weekend next week. Destination suggestions? Anybody out there?

Close to the end

After more than two years and many starts and stops, I’m finally almost done with Phase One of my massive home video archiving project. This is seventeen years of video–nearly three terrabytes–that’s now completely digitized and organized into folders by date. It was no small task. I’ve shot lots of video over the years in multiple analog and digital formats. And I still have all of it, save for a defective tape from 1995 (shot in North Carolina) and one from 1996 (shot in Minneapolis and San Francisco) that I lent to an ex many years ago and never saw again.

I started working on this project right after Mark moved back to San Francisco and kept working on it off an on through the pretty thoroughly miserable two years of personal and family drama that followed. It may not have been the best timing since a virtual walk down memory lane was probably not exactly what I needed at the time. There were a few times when I stopped because things were getting too intense–I was in no mood to listen to romantic banter or my parents in healthier times–or because I didn’t have time, or I was experiencing equipment failure (e.g. the G5), or whatever other reason. All in all, it was sort of like watching my middle age unfold as sort of a documentary. And it wasn’t an altogether bad one, I suppose.

Phase Two will involve making MP4 versions so that I’ll have accessible copies in one consistent format. At that point, I’ll probably complete an index of sorts as well. Yes, I’m a geek and an archivist. If you didn’t already know that by now, you’ve obviously not been paying attention.

A few important realizations:

  • I’ve never been terribly social, but I’m even less so than I used to be.
  • I used to smoke a whole lot.
  • Radio used to suck less than it does now, but not by much. Particularly in places like Winnemucca.
  • I say incredibly stupid and repetitive things while driving.
  • When I look at video from the past few years, I can really see those forty pounds I’ve lost since September. I like that.
  • I hope that my love affairs with Pittsburgh and Los Angeles never go sour.
  • I used to be able to have my way (date, cavort, etc.) with lots of really cute boys. Not quite sure what happened there. OK, I have an idea what happened…

Geographically challenged 211 in progress

I regularly watch 1970s cop shows filmed on location (usually in LA or sometimes San Francisco) with iPad in hand, looking for current views of the locations on Google Street View. I know. I’m a big geek who has no life. We’ve already established that fact.

Sometimes, though, the geography on these shows is out of whack that it makes me laugh out loud. Even worse than a Streets of San Francisco where they make up streets that don’t really exist (e.g. Embarcadero Center being located on something called “Saint Andrews Road”) is the way some shows have used real street names with no regard to their actual locations. Tonight I caught a scene from Adam-12 that was allegedly taking place on Ventura, between Olympic and Washington, west of Melrose. I challenge anyone who’s familiar with LA to locate that particular bit of real estate on a map. It’s kind of like saying Detroit is on the Georgia side of Massachusetts, near Phoenix.

I realize that this probably amuses me more than you. I do not care.