Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pre-Halloween schmooze report

Alex hosted a pre-Halloween industry get-together at Hurley's last night. I always get along great with Heidi and Doug, but I conversed with a few other people as well. Some dude name Martin was fascinated with my trouble with finding the spine of the "101" story, and was very helpful just by listening. I also met Michael Solomon, a 30-ish producer with whom I may co-produce a short, although not one of mine. (More on that as it develops.)

When Michael learned my last name, he asked me if I'm related to Mitch - who is my younger brother. Once upon a time at Camp Maromac, both counselors in Michael's bunk left camp early, and Mitch took over the group. Michael idolized my brother, he told me.

Michael is going to look for photos of that summer and if he finds any, I'll send them on to my brother.

Robert the director left a phone message today asking for my l33t editing skillz. He's trying to land a book-to-movie project and he needs help with the synopsis. That may lead to something as well.

Bonus aggravation of the week:

My Dell Inspiron 8100 gave up the ghost, to use a seasonal phrase. I'm not sure what's wrong, so I'm not sure if it's a permanent or temporary problem.

I had the machine on upstairs. I closed the lid and unplugged it, then took it downstairs. When I plugged it back in, the screen remained dark and the wireless card wouldn't light up. I turned off the laptop manually, with the power button.

Every time I start up the thing now, I get power lights, and I hear the hard drive spin up, but the screen remains black and the wireless card never gets power. The CD drive will open and close, so it gets power. I don't even know where to start. My Mac, I can troubleshoot blindfolded. The Windows laptop stymies me.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A weekend in Ottawa

I've just returned from two days in Ottawa with nine other WarBirds geeks players. Some I'd met before. Vlasov lives here in Montreal and we see each other occasionally. RC I've met at official WarBirds conventions and I've also attended one of his own Ottawa gatherings, in 1998 I think.

We met in the hotel lounge Friday night and watched Vonmc and Muzz get plastered in their personal styles. Vonmc was loud and eager to regale us with tales of his virtual prowess. Muzz was quieter, sarcastic, and eager to deflate Vonmc's balloon. Also, he dropped and broke a glass.

Saturday, we went to the new War Museum, which is much bigger than the museum's old crowded quarters.

Vlasov drove the two of us into downtown Ottawa, but our way was blocked by a demonstration. Some 20 people and a large blue balloon were marching with signs that said "Big Oil". I assume this was a protest against Big Oil and not for it. The Ottawa police were blocking streets as the marchers went on, and Vlasov had to loop this way and that to get to the War Museum, the old museum. A sign on the door told us the museum had moved.

Back in the car, we were again thwarted by the rolling blockade. We looped around the Rideau Centre, drove between the American and Kuwaiti embassies, and finally made it onto Wellington for the drive back west of Parliament, which is where we'd come from in our first attempt to avoid the protestors. We were late, and the other WarBirders had already gone in, but finally the weekend continued.

The museum has room for its amazing collection of vehicles, from all eras. With respect to World War II, the most fascinating pieces were a StuG IIIG that had been hit about ten times, a rusty Valentine that had been rescued from a Russian bog, and an early model Churchill Mk II (2-pdr gun, bow machine gun, and engine snorkels a la Dieppe).

Saturday was spent more soberly by some, again in the hotel lounge. I had to fend off repeated requests for me to join 400-series (i.e. Canadian) virtual RAF squadrons. I will not let the virtual 101 Squadron die!

That was about it. It probably sounds boring to you, but it was an entertaining way for me to spend a weekend.

Bonus news:

I'm up to page 53 in reading "Flyboys".

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More fun with the visitor log

Keratoconus International, a support site for patients who share my disorder, posted a list of personal anecdotes found online. This blog is one of them. I've started to see a trickle of visitors come from there.

A second set of visits is laced with irony. This semester, I teach Jour 319 from 9:15 to 11:30 Wednesday mornings. The class meets in the Mac lab, room 3.217 of the CJ building, which used to be the DS building.

My visitor log indicates that the computer known as journ-maclab5-ds3217.concordia.ca visited my site at 9:38 Wednesday morning, and stayed until near 10:00. That means that the computer identified as maclab5 in the class - while I was teaching there - spent 20 minutes at my blog. Whoever was using that computer spent about 20 minutes reading what I wrote because what I was saying was too boring. That cracks me up.

If the computers are labelled by the department on the outside with the same scheme the network uses, that means that the bored surfer was either Lucas or Gabriella. I'm not sure which Mac is #5 in the class, but I'll check next week.

Bonus comment on electronic voting:

Quebec's chief electoral officer has released a report on a trial of electronic voting used in municipal elections last year, and recommends that Quebec continue to ban the use e-voting machinery. We'll continue to rely on paper ballots.

With this in mind, it behooves anyone interested in the debate over the security of American e-voting machinery to read a new Ars Technica feature on how insecure these machines are and how one person of only moderate skill can hack election results. I hadn't previously been swayed by claims of insecurity, or by claims of security, although I've never figured out why people are so eager to abandon the slow but reliable paper-ballot system. Is the speed of results that important?

Go read "How to steal an election by hacking the vote" and shudder at the hypothetical as well as the evidence that such hacking has already taken place. The only thing preventing mass election fraud in the US this November is security through obscurity, and that's a mighty flimsy liferaft.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The hive mind makes - er, pays for a movie

Matt Hanson has launched a Swarm of Angels, an effort to create a film through massive collaboration.

He wants 50,000 people to help him make a £1 million film. He plans to release the final film online under the Creative Commons licence, which will allow anyone to recut it.

What does the help entail? Primarily a donation of £25, although Matt plans to open the scriptwriting process to a wiki style group project. In addition to joining a mob of script doctors, you'll also be able to take part in marketing and other creative decisions.

How will this work? Let me quote from the FAQ:

We started the project with a deliberately unpackaged project — to make it clear I wasn’t paying lipservice to the idea of members influencing the content — but we had some loose parameters.

The genre was to be thriller based with soft sci-fi elements. We are now developing two scripts, The Unfold and Glitch on the forums, based on member input into initial drafts written by me. Angels will then dissect and improve upon (script doctor, and rewrite) via dedicated script wiki’s. A vote will be taken by all members to decide which script is chosen for production. This is what we talk about when we say as a member of the Swarm you involved in MAJOR creative decisions.

I see ASOA as a benevolent dictatorship, so I will endeavour to give/take as much creative input as possible from The Swarm to make a better movie, and in so doing, I also expect The Swarm to give me a similar level of respect to make creative decisions and flex my own creative freedoms to make what I believe will be the best film possible.


Hanson is known for his study of film, but his IMDb portfolio is suspiciously thin.

Am I too cynical?

Here is the forum thread with the story-breaking of "The Unfold".

I don't have high hopes for this. On the other hand, the project involves talented folk like Cory Doctorow and Warren Ellis ("Global Frequency") - acting as advisors.

Can the hive mind build this movie? That's not the right question. The right question is: will they pay for it to be made by someone else?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

DUBB raves

Many local papers have reviewed Big Bad Bertha, thenew Disciples of Ursula album, and all have good things to say.

The Mirror gave the album a 7.5/10, and calls the band tailor-made for Jazz fest stages, which is ironic, because the Jazz Fest rejected the band's application to play two years ago. The Mirror says the album "doesn't just showcase their facility with brash swing, torchy lounge jams, Latin heat and snappy, uptempo ska, it also displays their collective knack for catchy melodies, vivid arrangements and carefully calibrated energy."

Ici says more or less the same thing, and gives the album four out of five dots. So did la Presse and Voir. We haven't seen Hour yet.

Take that, Jazz Fest.

Show tonight, 8 p.m.

CD Baby has copies of the first album for sale. You can listen to two-minute snippets of each song there, too. (That's Child Three on the cover.) The site, and the iTunes Music Store, will soon have the second album.

Bonus airplane stuff:

There's a group of hobbyists developing a simulation of the Israeli War of Independence for Microsoft's Combat Flight Sim 2. I've been helping them out with colours and airfields.

Here's an image of the work in progress. That's an Avia S-199 flying over what will be Aqir (a.k.a Ekron, a.k.a. Tel Nof).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Tonight's Montreal Film Group meeting was... underwhelming. I misunderstood the premise of the evening. The MFG invited members of the non-filmmaking public would come to pitch us their ideas.

It got worse from there.

The discussion devolved into artsy philosophizing over the nature of film and what it should strive for. Films that make money by their violent or gory natures are to be frowned upon. Millions of teenage boys can be wrong.

At least Robert the director showed up, and he tried to bring the topic around to filmmaking again. He didn't succeed, but he tried.

Big Bad Bertha

I could post the album cover, but I prefer this photo for some reason. Elvi, a.k.a. Mrs. Webs, is on the left. Gizelia, the lead singer, faces her. Doesn't it look like they are about to kiss? It does to me. Always. In the background is feathery former band member Lyne, who plays flute.

The media release Tuesday went well. With a band of 14, more or less, so much depends on the sound mix, and Tuesday's was superb.

The band has been interviewed by a couple of radio stations, too.

One of the journalists at the release was a young man from UQAM who hosts a ska show on the university radio station. He'd never heard of Me Mom & Morgentaler. Shocking, the ignorance of the youth of today.

See you at the DUBB Saturday night.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Oh blah di, oh blah dah

Saturday, I met with Tony the producer, whom I'd briefly met at the last Montreal Film Group (MFG) get-together. He wants to hire me as a researcher. I don't think he expected my price to be what it is, but I'm a professional, you know. If he wants to hire a student at substandard rates for substandard work....

That sounds too catty. We got along well, and he did close our meeting with the comment that he wants to work with me if he can find the budget. He also wants to see what I've written, and early 2007 is fine. Thank goodness.

He does some films with kids, and he showed me head shots of his latest lead. In sunglasses, this young boy looked very much like Child Two. It was uncanny. I mentioned this, and we started discussion of my kids, and their movie experience last summer. Tony asked me to send in some photos of them, because he may have work for them. I did. We'll see what happens with that.

The MFG is having another meeting Wednesday night, a meeting focused on pitching ideas. I plan to attend, although I'm not sure which pitch I'll pitch and which I'll ditch.

Wednesday is just another busy night in a long sequence. We have a houseguest, Devyn, staying with us in exchange for cleaning up the piles of stuff in our basement and garage. He's been a big help, especially with the kids, who adore him. We went out Saturday to see some short films, part of the Festival du Nouveau Cinema. Afterward, we had a few drinks at the Shed, across the street, then tried a club called the Main, where Sheewaz used to be. The Main advertised itself as a '90s club, but inside it was pure hip hop, uncluttered by people. It could have been '90s hip hop - I wouldn't know the difference. We stayed long enough to use the bathroom.

Sunday night, Elvi had her customary band practice. The Disciples of Ursula Big Band (DUBB) is launching its second album this week, Big Bad Bertha. The media launch is tonight, Tuesday. The band will play a concert for the general public Saturday, Oct. 21, at le Theatre Corona. Show starts at 8:30 pm.

Last night, we and Devyn went to see a DUBB member's side project, les Swompards de l'Est, play a small brew pub. Thursday, I have an interview to do in the evening. Friday is free, but we have our friend Stuart from California to entertain, and that probably means we'll all cook something up in the kitchen that night. Saturday is the DUBB show.

I've been busy, and the blog is lagging a bit. When I started, I promised myself not to let it go more than three days without a post. I don't think I managed that this past week, but I'll have more to write after the MFG meeting tomorrow.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Mouse update

I never put the traps out. I investigated and found no mouse scat, and while I was doing so, I pinpointed the sound to my window air conditioner.

Yeah, yeah, I'm taking it out soon.

The point is, I think either some animal was inside the air conditioner or is trying to make a winter nest. Elvi thinks the sound was dripping water inside the machine.

Either way, I won't have any more mouse heads to stick on metaphorical pikes.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Another victory...

...over the house.

We adopted a freezer when my mother-in-law sold her house, but the nice moving men discombobulated our manual thermostat in the process of moving said freezer into our home.

I took the opportunity to buy a programmable digital thermostat.

The cable coming out of the wall behind the thermostat was literally plastered in place. When I test-mounted the new box, the wire leads were too short to make connections inside it.

I went to Reno Depot and bought a meter of wire. I stripped the insulation off the main cable and liberated lengths of smaller coloured wire. I'd also bought some heat-shrink insulation and a heat gun.

I soldered the wires together and protected the joints with the heat-shrink wrapping. Here's a photo (I'd put it in the blog were Blogger behaving).

I'm quite proud of my work.It's not easy to solder loose wires above eye level. The new thermostat is working like a charm.

By the way, you can't use a heat gun to caramelize the sugar on top of creme brulee. The thing puts out sufficient heat, but it blows the sugar all over the kitchen.

Bonus call to arms:

I've been hearing scritching noises in my office area - it's a subdued sound, like the sound the scroll wheel of a mouse makes. I suspect the culprit is a mouse of the organic variety. Traps go down tonight.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

If it's not one thing...

Something always keeps popping up. I really do want to read "Flyboys" and report on it.

Yesterday I finally devoted some time to fulfill a promise I made to Robert the director. He'd asked me to write a logline and a brief synopsis for his latest short, "Killing Hostage". The challenge lay in his request that I not reveal any of the film's twists - which are at the heart of the film itself. On the other hand, avoiding weasel words that obfuscate points makes for stronger writing. I came up with four possibilities that I'm reasonably happy with (See, there's a weasel word: reasonably.)

When I turned in my latest Reader's Digest report Friday, I learned that the author had written a new ending. That's annoying. Now, I have to call back everybody mentioned in the new paragraphs, and verify new information. I hate working on items I'd already mentally filed under "done".

Today and tomorrow I'll be correcting papers and possibly updating Alex's Blog Fu.

So why post today at all?

Remember my obituary for Jim Baen? If not, go read it, or take my word that his project showed that releasing books for free online will increase sales of those same texts in hard copy.

Slashdot points to a similar conclusion (from Reuters) reached by publishers who have let Google Book Search archive their publications.

Some quotes from the Reuters article:

"Google Book Search has helped us turn searchers into consumers," said Colleen Scollans, the director of online sales for Oxford University Press (who) said that sales growth has been "significant."

"We suspect that Google really helps us sell more books," said Kim Zwollo, Springer's global director of special licensing....

"When we looked at the first six months of stats, we saw that 30 percent of Google Book Search clicks went directly to our site, while roughly 40 percent went to Amazon," said William Shepherd, Osprey's managing director. "Our sales through the Web are steadily increasing in proportion to our total sales, and we're confident that Google Book Search will accelerate this growth."

The article has more meat and anecdotes, but I'll stick to the rule of three.

Evidence continues to mount that free e-books do lead to an increase in paper book sales. Does the same hold true for music or video media? That remains an open question.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Scans o' fun

While I do some Reader's Digest work instead of reading "Flyboys", here are some scans for your entertainment.

First, the invitation to the "Borat" preview screening, above.

Next, a wonderful typo from this morning's Gazette. Peavy may have had a sub-par outing, but calling him a POS only adds insult to the injury of misspelling his name in the subhead.

(Allow me to explain for non-baseball types: Peavy is a member of the San Diego Padres, sometimes shortened to "Pods", which is what POS was supposed to be - I assume. That doesn't excuse the misspelling of his name, however.)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

One page intermission

Red Right Hand has issued a call for one page written in the last year. We writer types are supposed to supply it as is, without context or other comment. Here's a small piece of "72 Virgins" - which, by the way, has attracted the interest of Robert the director.

Franco and Bassil glare at each other.


I can’t leave.

Julia looks sadly at Havah. Julia rubs Havah’s arm.


I can’t go through the door. My children need me. I will not leave them.


Maybe they’ve...left before you.


If I pass and find them there, it will tear my soul in two.


You can’t undo what’s happened, Havah. Whether your children are alive or not, you can’t change that.


But if they’re not.... My faith ignores the issue of an afterlife. If I go through that door, maybe that’s all.


We’re all here, so there’s some sort of afterlife.


Maybe, maybe not. You saw me in the hospital. I’m not dead yet.

Julia chokes back emotion.



Julia prepares herself with a deep breath.


Havah, staying here won’t bring your kids back. You don’t want to be stuck here forever. If you go through, and they’re alive, maybe you can watch over them. You know, like a guardian angel.

Havah holds her head in her hands as if to block out Julia’s comments.


You might still be able to care for them that way.

Bonus procrastination:

Still plugging away at course work. "Flyboys" by the end of the week, maybe.

Monday, October 02, 2006

And the winner is...

All of us. No one. The Irrational League season ended in a three-way tie.

Although, had Sportsline applied the scoring correction to Greg Maddux's stats, I would have been in first place alone.

Still plugging away on coursework....

Bonus observation on television:

On DMcG's recommendation, I gave Showcase's Rent-A-Goalie a go.

Let me steal from my own comment on DMcG's blog: I watched - half the episode, anyway.

I was bored. Maybe there were just too many goalies hanging around. I liked Shorts, but Lance was cardboard. The squirrel-catcher seemed like an inconsistent mix of nut and understanding. The situations seemed forced.

Maybe there were just too many goalies hanging around. Maybe a more expensive set would help. It just doesn't compel me to come back.

Here in Canada, we get "Studio 60" on Sunday nights, and it followed the timeslot of "Rent-A-Goalie". You know what I noticed is a major difference between the shows? Foley artistry.

Sounds odd, but when Matt looks through papers in his writing office at Studio 60, I hear him look through papers. When Cake serves coffee at the cafe in "Rent-A-Goalie", I only saw him serve coffee. The sound, if there, was insignificant.

Is sound a key to attractive TV? Couldn't hurt.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The wire

The GIF shows Irrational League standings at the start of the day. I'm the Angels. Frank is House$$Money. Franks and the DJs are battling others in batting average. I'm battling in ERA, WHIP, and Frank for the league HR title.

As I write this, John Smoltz just pitched a run-free inning, and now I'm alone in first. It's tight, sports fans.

I watched "Flyboys" last night. I'll post my thoughts after I read the script, which will be after I make up a class quiz and grade class papers. My teaser: it's better than "Pearl Harbor". But then, so is finishing third in fantasy baseball.