Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pleasing composition

One of the advantages of snapping millions of photographs every time the camera is out is that some of the photos turn out quite nice - often by accident. Both of these pictures, taken at Denny's in Chch, have something about them that I like - in lighting, composition, capturing a sense of movement. They's neat.

There were also a lot of blurry photos of the back of Dom's head as he ran away from the camera, more often than not towards an employee only area or other hazard :P

Monday, April 27, 2009

Product Review: Edifier M2200 Speakers

So I bought some new speakers this weekend, as the old speakers I had for my computer kinda died. There was a loose wire in one of the speakers and it kept cutting out. Being as they were cheapy came-with-the-computer speakers anyway I wasn't sad to be upgrading.

I wanted 2.0 speakers as there wasn't much in the way of room on or under my desk for a subwoofer. I checked out the Warehouse, DSE and Harvey Norman and found a few options, but decided to go for the Edifier M2200's for the following reasons:

1. They were $50, right in the middle of the amount I wanted to spend. There were cheaper speakers, and some $80 Logitech ones that looked nice, but $50 felt like a good amount.
2. They felt like a good weight, where good = feel solidly constructed.
3. They're sleek looking, black and tall and simple.
4. Their output is apparently 4 watts RMS each speaker, for a total of 8 watts. This is more than any of the cheaper speakers by a substantial margin (3 watts combined for one $40 set). I think this means they are capable of going louderer.
5. They have a headphone socket and a mic socket on the front of one of the speakers. This is handy when Dom's napping and I don't want to scramble about under the desk looking for the headphone socket on the PC.

So I took them home and plugged them in. Result? They sound nice. Good amount of bass for some small desktop speakers, clear crisp sound, and they do indeed go loud. Much louder than I will probably ever need.

Even at relatively low volumes the bass is audible (as loud as the cheap 2.1 speakers I used to have a few years back with the sub cranked up, but cleaner). At medium volumes they sound quite warm.

Verdict? If your crappy sub $20 computer speakers fall over and you're looking for an inexpensive but not absolute bargain basement replacement, these are some good speakers to look at. I expect to get a good deal of listening pleasure out of these speakers - I just wish I'd upgraded years ago :-)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

And now, the end is near...

School holidays are great. Even when marred by extended sickness, not being at school is a lot cooler than being at school. Tomorrow I'm back for a day and a half before taking an afternoon off to take Dom to Porirua to see the specialist. Dom's having an x-ray before the appointment, which is a standard follow-up dealy, so it should be relatively stressless (though getting him to sit still for x-rays isn't always easy).

We are the proud owners of a new set of speakers for our computer - speakers which sound a lot better than the old ones and work in stereo :-) Our desk setup precludes subwooferness, so it's a 2.0 pair, and I'm happy to have them. They were $50, so not exactly high end, but given that the old speakers were probably sub $20 (they came as part of the package with the computer) it's still an improvement.

I have a small amount of marking I should probably do, but I'm feeling distinctly unmotivated. I don't need to do the marking today, it'd just be nice to be starting the term with a clean slate. I suspect it won't get done, though.

I have been thinking about my impending birthday, and whether I could make some suggestions for family about pressies I might want. Here's the working list:

- A4 visual diary (blank page sketch book)
- Armani Code smelly stuff
- Cheap USB flash drive (I have a big expensive one, but could always use a couple cheaper ones to have kicking around the house/in my bag etc)
- Interesting graphic novels
- Colourful/cool t-shirt (size M)
- Comfy black socks

I'm sure there are loads of other things I'd like...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Christchurch was fun!

Boys in Chch from Matt Cowens on Vimeo.

I have been sick for the last 6 days. Yesterday I was feeling almost OK - just a headache and a slightly off tummy - but this morning was horrible, with feeling close to vomitting and having a headache and no energy. No more stabbing stomach pains though, so that's awesome.

Hoping to be well again before school starts!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fun with Mixcraft

In preparation for the 48 I have been looking around online for public domain music. I'm also very curious about 'Garage Band', a piece of software available on the Mac which is apparently very easy to use to make your own music.

I googled 'Garage Band for PC' again yesterday (having searched for it last year and found no satisfactory alternative for the PC) and was very please to find references to a program called 'Mixcraft'. The best part is that it has a free, fully working 14 day trial (something like a 45mb download). I've been playing with it this morning and it is, as it promised to be, fairly easy to use. I'm not so interested in looping recorded audio samples as I am in building music note by note in the program and then looping it. Mixcraft has a handy piano-roll interface for composing loops and plenty of midi instruments to choose from. It also appears to be a multi-track recorder, so you can construct a bunch of midi tracks and then record vocals or instruments into their own tracks, mix them and save to audio file (mp3 or whatever).

There are probably a lot of these sorts of programs around and I've only played with a few but so far I'm impressed with Mixcraft. By the end of the holidays I should have some idea of whether I'm impressed enough to pay US$65 to register my copy. Apparently a lot of the functions still work in an unregistered copy post-trial, so I shall wait and see...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Smelly Elliot

A short piece of fiction from earlier this year. Where it was going is a mystery to me now :-)

I could see the neurons firing in his spiky head and I knew nothing good would come of it. For months he’d slugged at the back of the class, refusing to listen to the teacher or do any work, mocking those of us made the effort. He was a constant irritation in my peripheral vision and I knew he was a ticking time bomb. He couldn’t last a year without going completely off the rails. He knew it, the teacher knew it, we all did.

It started with the deodorant can.

He’d started spraying it on his crotch one day in class, his primitive caveman brain highly amused by the fizzing jet of spray and the sudden cloying lack of oxygen in his vicinity. God knows why he started doing it but as soon as the jeers of people sitting nearby and the stern voice of the teacher zeroed in on him there was no way he was going to stop. I was sitting by a window and I could barely breathe, not helped by the fact that the security bolts on the windows – clunky steel contraptions installed by a zealous caretaker – meant that the windows wouldn’t open more than a few centimeters.

Eventually he was kicked out of the room, trailing a cloud of man-spray behind him. Of course he started spraying again as soon as he was out in the corridor and we all had to endure the remainder of the lesson sans the luxury of breathing normally...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Not as different as I thought...

Hmmm, I thought this would look more dramatic. I guess I avoided or deleted bad photos a year ago. Still, I look fairly different to the way I looked last April holidays...

Confirmation code

Confirmation Code: GHDHCDV16424628

Monday, April 13, 2009

Enhanced history and comedy knowledge

This week I've been listening to The History of Radio Comedy, a BBC series presented by Peter Jones. So far it's a history of wartime and post-war radio comedy, starting in the late 30s and moving through to the 50s. I'm up to episode 8 of 13, so I suspect it may not go much beyond the 50s.

It's fascinating to listen to on both a historical and a comedic front. Hearing the changes in styles of joke and humour, as well as the history of wartime and postwar Britain through a comedy lens, is most educational.

At less than 7mb a half hour episode it's very good value-for-bandwidth, and I've found it excellent value for time too. Especially good listening for hanging out washing, tidying up and so on.

I stumbled on the series here, the same place I got the excellent Absolute Power.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Busy Easter

Happy Easter!

It's been a lovely start to the holidays and there's plenty of exciting fun stuff coming up too. Pretty soon we'll be heading down to Christchurch to visit family, and there are lots of other lazy holiday days ahead.

We've had a number of visitors in the past fwe days and it's been great to catch up with people. We don't seem to make it out to social events all that often at the moment so it's lovely when people drop by :-)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Visitin' Granny

And making a mess :-) Dom particularly liked throwing the pinecones onto the floor so the seeds fell out (in a large pile by the time he was finished).

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Zombie and Gorilla

Whilst doing starter activities for writing horror stories my students asked me how to draw a zombie, and how to draw a gorilla. This is what I came up with:

It's always a fine line for me when showing kids how to draw stuff - the line between making things look good, and making them simple enough for non-arty kids to copy. Capturing the essence of zombie without using any complex drawing skills. It's a fun challenge :-)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Fake RPG Cover

Hix pointed out an interesting thread where people are taking random images, titles and quotes and putting them together to make fake RPG covers as a vehicle for learning about cover layout, how to use photoshop and so on. I decided to give it a go, but ended up using photos we've taken and making up a title of my own. So not really doing the same thing at all, but I did learn some more about photoshop :-)

Friday, April 03, 2009

He walks solo...

At the gym and at my school afterwards (where we had tea and Dom had some hot cross bun).

Mountain Revenge

One minute per sentence, with the first word of each sentence being thick, cloud, had, pressed, down, on, Berlin, all, night, now, it,

Thick clouds surrounded the mountaintop as Jerry the Fin clambered over the body of a dead yak and glimpsed the hut. Cloud obscured everything but Jerry’s burning ambition, his desire to be the first man to kill a monk on the mountain. Had he been a less brave man he would not have dared to cross the deadly monks of the mountain and their sinister god, but Jerry was anything but cowardly. Pressed against the damp earth he inched forward, the sound of low chanting reaching his ears through the mist. Down at the base of the mountain his escape vehicle awaited him, though he knew his chances of surviving were slim.

On balance, Jerry felt he was prepared. Berlin had been a good proving ground, when he had fought the alligator cult in the sewers. All they’d had was knives and teeth and a dozen angry alligators and Jerry had triumphed without too much trouble. Night had been on his side, his approach and escape shrouded in darkness. Now it was daylight, grey and dim in the clouds but light nonetheless. It would be difficult, with the deadly monks and their hideous tentacled fiends, but he must try if he was to be revenged for the terrible crimes the conspiracy had perpetrated against him.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Debbie and I have been playing with photoshop a little to try to get the most out of photos before getting them printed out. A tweak or two with contrast, warming filter and such can make a small but noticeable difference :-)

Stoner Steve

Person: Stoner Steve
Place: Under a bridge
Weather: Rain
Time: 10am

The rain was lashing down onto the surface of the river creating endless ripples which spread for a moment before being bombarded by heavy drops, smashing them into pieces. Steve watched the surface of the water, entranced. His hands were numb with cold as the water dripped from his sodden jacket onto the ground.

He was stoned again.

He knew it would mean the end of his time at college, knew the drug test he had coming up would be his last, and he’d given in to temptation anyway. It was impossible to resist a cone of sticky buds, no matter what the consequences were. If he was offered a smoke, he took it. End of story.

It really was the end of the story, too. When he was kicked out of school he’d be kicked out of home, and without a job or anywhere to go the bridge he was sheltering under was going to become his home. He sighed, feeling the weight of every bad decision he’d ever made pressing down on his shoulders.

Why wait for the executioner’s axe to fall? Why walk willingly into that particular noose? Better to end it on his own terms.

Steve stepped to the river’s edge and took a deep breath. He couldn’t swim, which would make things simpler. Even if he had second thoughts it wouldn’t help.

He jumped.

A walk on a bridge