Archive for May, 2008

John W. McSame for president!

Friday, May 30th, 2008

During a few minutes I should have spent on something more productive, I recently designed a lovely McCain bumper sticker. I printed a copy, took it to my friendly neighborhood copy shop, had them make a bunch on adhesive-backed paper, and gave them to a few of my friends. Voila! Instant bumper sticker. Absolutely certain to convince those commie terrorist Obamabots of the righteousness of the McCain cause. Here’s a version you can print and share:

mcsame

Hmm… that’s a pdf file. If you click on the “mcsame” you should be able to download the printable file. For preview’s sake, here’s a jpg:

John w McSame for president

be afraid. be very afraid

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

This sign has been at many of the state park trailheads in the area for a couple of years:

scary mountain lion sign

Oooh,scary! Pay no attention to the triviality that there have been precisely no documented cougar/mountain lion attacks on people in Mendocino County, they attack without warning. Hiking alone causes instant death. Cougars will eat your children if you don’t keep the kids on a short leash and make a constant ruckus. EEk! Maybe it’ll be safer if we go to the beach…

But when we go to the beach, we see this frightening sign:

scary beach sign

Don’t walk on the bluffs, the ground will crumble beneath you or you’ll slip and fall and you’ll die.

Don’t fish from the rocks or you’ll die.

Don’t walk on the beach or a sleeper wave will come and suck you out to sea and you’ll die.

Wait a second, the sign makers forgot about the sharks! They’re really, really scary.

It’s far safer to stay home and hide under your bed. That way when you’re old, you can look back at your long life of paranoia and fear and think about all of the fun you’ve had and your interesting experiences and say “oh shit, what have I done with my life?”

montgomery woods

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

My girlfriend and I have gone for a couple of little trips to Montgomery Woods in recent weeks. Montgomery Woods is a State Preserve on a remote county road between Ukiah and Comptche. It has Mendocino County’s finest stand of old growth redwoods. I got a few decent shots there:

trail in montgomery woods

Some flowering dogwood along the stream:

dogwood at montgomery woods

A tiny waterfall feeds a cool pool in a side stream:

secret pool, montgomery woods

A trail by a giant:

trail by giant, montgomery woods

Pool with reflections:

pool and reflections, montgomery woods

creative vandalism

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

I’ve stumbling onto some amusing cases of vandalism on a couple of recent trips. Maybe they say something about the Mendocino/Humboldt culture, I dunno.

Hose Crossing in Cannabis Land

It’s not just cannabis keeping locals in an altered state:

swerving driver at montgomery woods

mendocino county measure b

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

It would be difficult to overstate the degree to which marijuana permeates the economy and culture of Mendocino County. The traditional foundations of the local economy—timber and fishing—are either dead or comatose, leaving us with a tourism-based service economy and a few wine grapes. We can’t all get jobs as $7/hour motel maids, even if we wanted to.

I’ve worked a few retail sales jobs since I moved to Mendocino 13 years ago. Frequently, people would come in to the store, make large puchases, and pay with cash. Often, I could literally smell the marijuana on the money. How many of the retail purchases in the area are paid for with pot money? How many of the people staying in the inns are celebrating their harvests? How many of the real estate transactions are for growing facilities? There’s no way to know for sure, but cannabis—and cannabis money—are omnipresent here.

Over the last several years, Mendocino County has liberalized its regulations regarding cannabis cultivation. As of last year, a gardener with a doctor’s prescription could legally grow 25 plants at a time as medicine. Inevitably, many people conjured up medical excuses to grow, and much of this pot wound up on the market for receational use. Is that a bad thing? It depends on who you ask.

There are always some law and order Republican types who think of cannabis as the evil killer weed and want it eradicated and its growers and users imprisoned. Another group opposed to liberalized medical marijuana is the the large growers. Their business was illegal before medical marijuana cultivation was allowed, it’s illegal now, and it’ll continue to be illegal for the foreseeable future. They’re opposed to medical marijuana out of economic self interest: all of those small growers flood the market and lower the price they receive.

From this only-in-Mendocino alliance has sprung Measure B. It dramatically lowers the legal cultivation limit to six plants. It’s billed as an effort to crack down on the large growers, but it actually benefits large growers; not only does it reduce their competition, but it diverts law enforcement to the Mom and Pop 25 plant gardens and away from real crime.

Meaure B is a big step backwards. I recommend voting NO.

You can read more about Measure B from the No on B Coalition, the supporters of B have a site, too of course, full of horror stories of how cannabis is destroying Mendocino County. It even has some feeble attempts at satire.

 

kayaking on big river video

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Last weekend, my girlfriend and I took advantage of a warm, calm evening for a little paddle on Big River. Big River’s mouth is right at the village of Mendocino here on the N California Coast. I took along my new video camera. One advantage of a cheapie cam is that I’m willing to take it on such trips where the chances of drowning it in brackish water are significant. If I had a really good video camera, It’d stay onshore.

Anyway, I took about 15 minutes worth of video on this little trip, and edited it down to 3 using Quicktime Pro and iMovie. There are lots of features and controls and codecs that I’m still trying to get a handle on, but here’s one web-friendly version of my little video:

bigrivkayak

OK, that’s mighty crude. I tried to use a larger field, but I wound up with either a whopping file size or so much compression that the image was just goo.

why not?

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Everyone else on the planet has a blog, so why not me? 

In my capacity as a web designer/developer, I need to get used to working with Open Source web applications, such as WordPress. What better way to familiarize myself with such things than to actually use it?

Plus, I’ve been a wannabe writer for about as long as I can remember, but I never seem to have the sticktoitiveness to complete a substantial project. Perhaps writing short blog posts regularly will enable me to accumulate  a body of work and develop some writing discipline.

There are lots of topics for me to explore babble about. I’ll review some of my gear. I’ll wax natural about my hikes. I’ll tell tales of web development problem solving. I’ll even touch on political topics. Maybe some of my semi-coherent ramblings will help somebody, somewhere, somewhen.

my new video camera

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Last week, my new video camera arrived. I’ve been contemplating a plunge into videography for many years. With my background in photography, theatre, and computer graphics, video seems like a natural grand synthesis of interests. But, the gear is expensive, and I’ve got way too many time commitments already. Oh, what a dilemma.

I finally settled on a temporary compromise. I’ll get a cheapie camera now, learn how to use it, and learn how to edit video. Then, when I’ve established that a video camera is more of a tool and less of a toy, I’ll somehow save enough $$ to get a good one.

After a coupla hours of research, I settle on a Samsung SC-DC575 from the Refurb Depot. For a smidge over $200, this seems like a great deal. It has some nifty features, like image stabilization and file storage on either mini-dvd discs or a SD memory card. Nearly all of the other options in this price range are mini-dv machines. Mini-dv sounds like a big pain, so I eschew those cameras.

A week after I place the order, the camera arrives. Mercifully, it arrives intact. The folks at Refurb Depot folks just plunked the camera’s box into a larger box for shipping without any packing material, so the camera box was just bouncing around loose. I get some mini dvd-r discs and a 1gb SD card locally, and I’m ready to go.

One curious thing about this camera becomes clear immediately: it’s quite a different beast when you’re using the mini dvds rather than the SD card. I’ll talk about the SD card sytem first.

With the SD card, widescreen 16:9 format is not available, and image stabilization is not available. The image in the viewfinder is blurry and extremely contrasty. It produces .avi files which at first I can’t view in my Mac. When I try to watch them in QuickTime or start a iMovie project with them, I get a white screen with sound. Poop on that.

After visiting Samsung’s site and Googling around a bit, I discovered a freeware program called deSEDG2, which converts these strange Samsung things into a standard DivX movie which I can view and edit. The movies are a bit better than they look in the viewfinder, but the mini-dvd movies still look quite a bit better.

In general, I’ll be using the mini dvd discs. The feature set is better, and the image quality is better. That system still has its quirks, however. In order to view the new movie on anything other than the camera, you must “finalize” the disc. Once the disc is finalized, you cannot record on it anymore (if it’s not a re-writable disc). Since it produces a dvd format movie, you can watch it on most dvd players (it might jam up on slot loading players, I’m not sure). But, do I really want to watch my raw footage on a dvd player? Not very often. Mostly, I want to edit it before burning it to dvd.

To get editable movie clips from the dvd discs, I have to convert them to a Quicktime-friendly format using HandBrake, another wonderful freeware program.

Enough for now. I’ll post some sample clips and write more about the features on this beast later.

 


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